November 16 Esight, 2008

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”—Mark 8.36Since we began in the spring of 2007, we are quickly coming to the end of the first full year of Renewed Heart Ministries (RHM). And with this milestone, looking back at birth pains and now at the inevitable growing pains of every ministry, I am personally soliciting prayers for wisdom as we face 2009. I must confess that I am away from home too much. I have spent too many days, weeks and months on the road this past year. And although I long to have as many as possible see God for who He really is, I cannot continue to do this at the cost of my family. Both of my daughters recently called me while I was on the road. I will spare them the embarrassment of revealing the details of our conversation, but it is evident that they miss their Papa.

Recently, I heard the story of a father who was in a position much like mine. He decided to pull away from his ministry as a traveling preacher and dedicate himself to a local congregation where he could get to know his family once again. Time does not permit here to express the difference this made in this traveling preacher’s son’s life. From that day forward this preacher’s family became his first priority. And that preacher’s son grew up to be none other than Billy Graham.

Does this mean that I will pull away entirely from traveling and speaking? No. But it does mean I will be pulling back some. As I look at 2009, I am currently scheduled to be away almost every weekend until the spring of 2010. I cannot—and will not—do this any longer to my kids and my wife. I am praying that the public will understand. I’m also praying that the support we have received as a ministry will continue while we seek as a ministry to put our priorities in a better order. What will this mean? Although I will continue to do meetings every month, I am actively praying for wisdom to know how to limit the amount of time I am away. Inevitably, this means some churches must be cancelled or rescheduled. I know this is not going to be pleasant. We currently have openings starting in the summer of 2010. Please understand, of course this does not mean that all travel will be suspended. However, in 2009, some meetings will have to wait. I cannot spend another year watching my children grow up without a father.

We are also going to be dedicating more time to the projects that enable the gospel to be shared without as much travel. My speaking schedule has not permitted me to spend half the time I desire this year on many of the projects we as a ministry were supposed to have out by now. The DVD’s alone of Life Unlimited were supposed to be ready by June; instead, they are just now being released. The book we were scheduled to release by January is now scheduled for 2010 from the Review and Herald. The first three Bible Studies we wanted to finish are edited; however, my speaking schedule has prevented our team from continuing this project with any efficiency. Please understand, we at RHM seek not just balance, but effectiveness. And although we have been incredibly busy, we have not been as effective as we desire in providing resources for others to use as well. Thus for the sake of family, and for Renewed Heart Ministries as a whole, please pray for us as we seek wisdom in 2009.

I wish you God’s best this week!

November 11 Esight, 2008

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 17-19, NASBWhat does it mean to be rooted and grounded? I’m very familiar with how these words are normally used in the context of the denomination to which I belong. Whenever we say that a person is “grounded,” we usually mean that this person is convinced beyond all argument of the teachings of his or her church. The denomination with which I fellowship holds 28 beliefs to be fundamental. To be rooted and grounded in this context means that we have considered for ourselves, studied for ourselves, made our decision, and are unable to be convinced otherwise. But this is not exactly how Paul used these two words. It was not the doctrinal teachings of Christianity or some denomination within Christianity with which he was so occupied.

Paul’s desire—his wish, his prayer—was that we would be rooted and grounded in love! That we would become settled, beyond all argument, in the truth that God loves us! That we would be unwavering, unable to be convinced otherwise. That we would be “rooted and grounded” in the fact that God loves us, no matter what others might make us feel, or, even more importantly, how our own shortcomings and mistakes might make us feel. That we would be beyond any capacity to be convinced of anything that would even hint at contradicting the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, could ever make God love us any less. This is referred to by some as the “sealing”:

Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads—it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved—just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already. (E.G. White, Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1161)

John saw this event:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. Revelation 7: 2-4

And notice what the result of this sealing truly is:

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. Revelation 14: 1 (emphasis added.)

God’s “name” is the Biblical way of referring to His Character! (For more on this, please listen to Two Pictures Collide at www.renewedheartministries.com.)

God’s character, God’s name, can be summed up in three words. God is love! (1 John 4:8) To be sealed, or rooted and grounded in this, is to not only believe that God is love, but also that He loves me! And nothing can convince me otherwise!

And what will be the glorious result of this conviction, this faith? According to our original passage, we will then be “filled with all the fullness of God!”

John wholeheartedly agrees with Paul:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4: 7-8 (emphasis added.)

When we become convinced of the vast dimensions of God’s love for us, this love will awaken that same love in us! We will be filled with all the fullness of the very God who is love!

God wants to seal you in His love, dear reader! He wants you to be rooted and grounded in His love for you so that nothing will ever be able to convince you otherwise. So that you might say with Paul, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39

Nothing! Nothing! Nothing will ever make Him love you any less! You are loved. Only by being rooted and grounded in the vast dimensions of His love for us can He restore this same kind of love in the hearts of humanity once again. Love is not just the result; it is the very means by which the result is accomplished. Only by love is love awakened.

I wish you God’s best this week.

November 2 Esight, 2008

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” -Hebrews 9:14I would like you to consider things differently for a moment.

1. Sin, through the presence of God, produces an intrinsic shame and guilt that, if we were left to bear alone, would crush out our life.

2. Forgiveness, from a biblical perspective, is not preoccupied with the appeasement of any ill feelings harbored against us by the Divine.

3. Forgiveness is occupied with cleansing the conscience of the sinner from the intrinsic, life crushing shame and guilt set in motion by our sin, thus enabling us to enter into God’s presence once again.

4. Forgiveness always comes at a price to the one who has been violated.

With these thoughts in place, consider the above verse taken from the epistle to the Hebrews. The author here states one of the purposes for the shedding of Christ’s blood. Now I want to reassure you that I do believe the primary purpose of Calvary was to reveal the character of the Father. But its secondary purpose, and thus the medium through which we see God’s character, is His Divine act of forgiveness for the purpose of cleansing our consciences through the gift of repentance in response to His shed blood.

With this in mind, consider a text that has troubled far too many.

“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

The Greek word for “remission of sins” is aphesis. It is the feminine singular nominative form of the Greek noun aphiemi. Aphiemi refers specifically to the release of a prisoner or someone who is indebted. Many have read the above verse and assumed that Calvary was purposed for the assuaging of some ill feelings being harbored toward us by the Divine. By the phrase “remission of sins” we have assumed a reference to some Divine “letting us off the hook,” so to speak. This paints a very relationally destructive picture of God, to say the least. With this picture we will, at best, be thankful for Jesus while subconsciously harboring fear, wondering what God would have done to us had Jesus not stepped forward.

This is not at all what Hebrews 9:22 is saying. The “remission of sins” is not referring to appeasing some thirst for blood harbored in an angered God. Aphiemi is talking about releasing us, and cleansing us on the level of our consciences from the life crushing guilt and shame that will cause God’s presence to us to be destructive rather than life giving. It was to “cleanse our conscience” (Hebrews 9:14) for which Christ’s blood was shed. It was in order to send sin’s intrinsic shame and guilt into “remission” that Christ died. Calvary was for the purpose of “releasing” us so we can enter into God’s divine, other-centered presence once again. Otherwise, the same glory that is life to the angels, will be death to us!

Understand, Calvary was to save you “from your sins,” (Matthew 1:21) not God. God is not the enemy, sin is! God is not the one we should fear, sin is! Yes, God loves you no matter what you do, but Sin doesn’t! Sin is intrinsically life destructive. Everything in nature functions according to God’s principle of other-centered love. Only when something turns inward does it begin to die. This is no different for us.*

The amplified version of Hebrews 9:22 is quite amazing. It recognizes these two opposing perspectives held by many in the interpretation of the verse:

“[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.” -Hebrews 9:22

Notice that this version defines “remission” two ways: a release or cleansing from sin’s intrinsically destructive guilt and the Divinely imposed punishment merited by our sins. But could the punishment for our sins be more intrinsic? Could sin’s life crushing guilt and sin’s punishment be truly one and the same?

God is not saying to this world, “Serve me or I’ll kill you!” He is crying out, “You’re dying! Let me save you!”

Thoughts to ponder.

I wish you God’s best this week.

*This is not to imply that God never has nor never will take a human life. But simply looking at what these specific texts in Hebrews are communicating to us.