October 26 Esight, 2008

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat?’ But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink?’ He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” -Luke 17:7-10Is there a difference between the relationship between mutual friends and the relationship between a slave and their master? Go one step further! Is there a difference between the closest of friends, between spouses, and that which exists between a slave and their master? There should be!

I was reminded, once again, while reading through the gospel of Luke, of this distinction. I believe it would be well for many to keep this distinction in mind as they go about what they feel is their religious duty.

You see, a slave behaves out of fear of the master’s punishment or in hopes that a job well done will be rewarded. This is where many are today in their relationship with the Great Lover of this universe. They are working hard in hopes to either escape hell or earn a rich reward. Regardless, both are lethal to the relationship for which God created them. Additionally, it lacks logic.

Watch carefully.

First, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” (Romans 4:4) Under this mentality, whatever you get is simply what was owed to you. But it goes a step further. Notice the implication this makes of the Master! The Master only rewards the servant because he desires certain behavior. He really doesn’t care about the servant outside of what that servant can do for him. In this paradigm, the Master is truly more egocentric than the slave! And if God is the Master, then these words begin to sting. Under this line of reasoning, our “reward” would be to “feed the Master,” so to speak, once we get there. Once we do “all that’s been commanded” we are not to expect any reward, but rather just to still be unworthy slaves having done what we should have! Is this really the type of relationship you want with the God of this universe?

Me neither! I’m thankful that God is interested in more, as well. Take note of the following passages.

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” —John 15:15

“At that time”—this is GOD’S Message still—”you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me,‘ My slave-master!’” —Hosea 2:16

And finally:

” Whoever seeks to keep his life [acting as a slave with only self-centered concern] will lose it, and whoever loses his life [the way one spouse does for another, out of love, not hope of reward or fear of loss] will preserve it.” —Luke 17:33

God is interested in much more than simply being your “Lord and Savior.” He wants to be your friend, dear reader. No, He wants to be your Husband! Will you allow Him to change the way you see Him? The way you’ve been relating to Him? He made you for so much more than what you’re presently experiencing. He made you for something much more intimate between Himself and you. Will you let Him take you within the veil?

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 19 Esight, 2008

“I am free and own no master; but I have made myself everyone’s servant, to win over as many as possible. To Jews I behaved like a Jew, to win Jews; that is, to win those under the law I behaved as if under the law, though not myself subject to the law. To win those outside that law, I behaved as if outside the law, though not myself outside God’s law, but subject to the law of Christ. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. To them all I have become everything in turn, so that in one way or another I may save some.” —1Corinthians 9:19-22This is quite a difficult verse for many to swallow. It sounds too much like Paul is being a politician. “Shaking babies and kissin’ hands,” so to speak. Is this really what Paul is saying? It sure sounds like it at first.

To the Jews I behaved like a Jew . . .

To win those under the law, I behaved as if under the law . . .

To win those outside the law, I behaved as if outside the law . . .

To the weak . . . weak . . .

Paul became, “All things to all people, so that by all means, he might save some.”

At first glance, this flies in the face of all the pulpit discourses throughout the centuries that have admonished the church to not be “like the world.” That’s exactly what Paul was doing, being like the world, in hopes that they might listen to what he has to say. But this sounds so scary. Well, it does take spiritual insight and maturity to know in which ways we are to be like those we are trying to reach, yet remain true to what or whom we are trying to lead them. First, you must decide what you are really about. What are you not willing to change? How are you going to be different? How much will you remain the same?

There are quite a few areas in which we must remain unique. We have a core message to give to the world, but there are a lot of peripheral, cultural, and traditional things that could stand a little adjustment. Knowing which things are which is where the rub lies. I’m going to focus on the one thing we are to be truly unique in.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another; as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” —John 13:34

Disinterested benevolence. Other-centeredness. Concern for the welfare of others with no thought of what we might get in return. A no-strings-attached kind of giving. This is where we are to be unique. And we will be. Everyone in this world is looking out for number 1. “I’m ok, you’re ok . . . well, it doesn’t really matter if you’re ok, just as long as I am.” When others see you caring, giving, and doing things for them without wanting anything in return, they will take note! They will want to know why. This, alone, will separate you enough without adding anything else. Whomever you are trying to reach will want to listen, when they know you genuinely love them.

Consider what this means. There are some Christians who believe that the way we are to be different is in our externals. Many believe that we are to look different from the world. No! We are to be different from the world. Act differently. But in which way? Specifically, in how we relate to others. This will be our mark of distinction and it will not go unnoticed.

Pay close attention to the difference. What does it mean to look like the world, but live in accordance with the benevolence of heaven? The best example is Jesus. Jesus was accused of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. Not because he acted that way, but because he appeared that way. He looked like He was because He was socializing with prostitutes and the IRS, not to mention a few crooked lawyers. Consider John the Baptist. They would have never accused John of being a wine-bibber and a glutton. John was known for what he ate and what he wore. The externals. But notice the approach that Jesus took. Get as close as you can, even if those looking on lose sight of the difference between you and them. Those whom you’re trying to reach will see the difference. They see how you treat them in contrast to how others do and they will gravitate toward you and the love of our great God who is so passionately fond of them too.

Disinterested benevolence!

The disciples were instructed in it:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘ . . . And as you go proclaim the message: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is upon you.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. You received without cost; give without charge.’” —Matthew 10:5-8 (emphasis added)

Paul also applied it:

“Then what is my pay? It is the satisfaction of preaching the gospel without expense to anyone; in other words, of waiving the rights my preaching gives me.” —1Corinthians 9:18 (emphasis added)

This may very well be the reason why North American, post-modern, secular, materialistic capitalists are unknowingly not listening. What our culture today needs is a church that looks like them, but treats them as God does.

Something to consider.

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 12 Esight, 2008

He has told you, O man, O woman, what is good and right, and what is the most important thing to Him:

Always do what you believe is right! Love showing mercy and kindness to those around you who may not always do what you think is right! And then, be humble about it, walking through this life with Him who loves you. —Micah 6:8 (Personal Paraphrase)

This week I would like you to consider the following story:

“At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.’ But He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.’” —Matthew 12:1-7

Recently, I received a well-timed reminder about what is most important to God. What shocked me is that God used this reminder to show me, once again, how many “Wrong-God-Picture” roots were truly still left in me.

God did this for me through an insight into Mt. Sinai, which I had never before considered. Here, God was getting the million plus people’s attention with a display of shock and awe. Lightning, thunder, smoke, fire, an earthquake. No wonder He told everyone to “back up.” He wanted to get their attention but didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The point is that after all this display of fire-works (no pun intended) He proceeded to personally, with His own voice, declare what is the most important thing to Him! Out of all the things He could have said at that very moment, what He chose to say was . . . relationships.

He proceeded to teach them how to love: how to love Him and each other. I have to admit that at first I recoiled at this thought. I was used to seeing Sinai as a list of rules. Things God required of me . . . sacrifices to be made to keep God happy. Now I was sensing what Jesus shared with the mislead religious leaders of His day, “What I want is Compassion in how you relate to each other, not greater sacrifice and religious duty! No more lists of rules. Learn to love!”

They had made this mistake with the Sabbath especially. They had made the Sabbath, of all things, about religion instead of relationship.

“Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. They questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ – so that they might accuse Him. He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” —Matthew 12:9

Over and over Jesus tried to explain that people are most important.

“Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom” — Matthew 5:20, The Message

Our religious conditioning has left us incapable of truly seeing God as He really is, but Grace is sufficient. He came to give sight to the blind.

Thoughtfully ponder the “picture of God” that Jesus reveals.

“A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY.

AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.”

“He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings, won’t push you into a corner. Before you know it, His justice will triumph; the mere sound of His name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”

—Matthew 12:20-21 NASB and The Message

I wish you God’s best this week.

October 5 Esight, 2008

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” -Romans 1.17Confidence inspires confidence. Courage rouses courage. Love awakens love. Respect begets respect. Faith enables faith!

You can learn a lot from watching people. I’ve noted that there are two types of people in this world: Those driven by fear and those driven by confidence. The contradiction of these two can be easily seen in how each plays out in their relationships with others. Those whose driving motive is fear usually resort to tactics of control, manipulation, sometimes guilt, but always a gnawing sense that they must ensure certain outcomes or suffer loss. Those who are governed by confidence realize the possibility of loss, but they are ever at peace. They trust in the eternal principles of how things work. They understand that confidence can’t be demanded, love cannot be forced, and respect will never be awakened in others by it being required of them. Their relations with others are uniquely characterized by a strange sense of freedom . . . leaving others free to live as they so choose.

In the wake of these thoughts, I would like you take note of a small statement made by Paul in the beginning of his letter to the believers in Rome. A small statement with huge implications, nonetheless.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’” -Romans 1.17 (emphasis added)

Did you catch it? Not only is love only awakened by love, but it appears that faith is only enabled by faith! Now consider the implications. God is not afraid or threatened. God is confident. But notice what He is confident in! He is confident that His love is powerful enough to win our hearts! He does not need to demand or require love. He truly believes this and thus is not interested in forced obedience, as the religious masses would have us believe.

This point is repeated over and over in the New Testament. The object of faith is always love. Love is that which faith is believing in, and although we all agree that God is endeavoring to awaken our faith in His love, do not miss the numerous times in the New Testament that our faith is not the focus, but rather HIS.

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” -Romans 3.22

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” -Galatians 2.16

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” – Galatians 3.22

Faith (Pisteos) in each of these verses is in the genitive (possessive) case, which means that it’s not necessarily faith in Jesus but rather the faith of Jesus. As we allow our gaze to trace the path of cause and effect, as we follow with line of sight to that which inspires His faith, we find a love beyond description that inspires Faith within each of us, as well. It is from faith to faith.

God is confident. He truly believes that love will accomplish far more than fear, control and manipulation. Thus, He continually gives us freedom. God trusts that when He lovingly whispers to us and tells us that He genuinely only wants to give to us, that He truly wants nothing from us, His generous, other-centered love alone will inspire in us a deep, unquenchable desire to give Him everything.

Take time this week to meditate, not just on the faith He wants to inspire in us, but the faith that is preveniently in His heart. As you dwell on this, may you find faith in Him as well as the Faith of Him who did not count heaven itself a place to be desired while you and I were outside it’s gates.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” -Revelation 14.12 (emphasis supplied)

I wish you God’s best this week.