December 23 Esight, 2009

But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.— Micah 5.2Part Two:

Last week we began by looking at the above verse. We began pondering how Love, which has no beginning and has no end, no reason for it’s existence, how it became Incarnate, took on itself a “beginning” that it might also find an “end” through which we might see with our eyes, understand with our hearts and be healed. (Isaiah 6.10, Matthew 13.15)

If we will simply pay attention to what the following passage is telling us, we will begin to see that this verse truly captures the core mission of why God Himself, in human flesh, would come to this lonely planet.

FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’- Matthew 13.15

Since writing to you last week, I have read (over and over again) the first chapter of one of my favorite books to read this time of year. I would like to simply share a selection with you and hope that between now and Christmas, if even only on Christmas day, you might take the time to go back and read the whole chapter with me. It has truly stirred my heart with the deepest resonating emotions. I am filled once again with deep heart gratitude and appreciation, “Awe“, for the type of being who has pursued me all my life, that I might simply see what was in His heart for me. Truly we are the offspring of an incredible God. And truly He is worthy of our deepest love in return.

“By coming to dwell with us, Jesus was to reveal God both to men and to angels. He was the Word of God,–God’s thought made audible. In His prayer for His disciples He says, “I have declared unto them Thy name,”–“merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,”–“that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” But not alone for His earthborn children was this revelation given. Our little world is the lesson book of the universe. God’s wonderful purpose of grace, the mystery of redeeming love, is the theme into which “angels desire to look,” and it will be their study throughout endless ages. Both the redeemed and the unfallen beings will find in the cross of Christ their science and their song. It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which “seeketh not her own” has its source in the heart of God . . . In heaven itself this law was broken. Sin originated in self-seeking. Lucifer, the covering cherub, desired to be first in heaven. He sought to gain control of heavenly beings, to draw them away from their Creator, and to win their homage to himself. Therefore he misrepresented God, attributing to Him the desire for self-exaltation. With his own evil characteristics he sought to invest the loving Creator. Thus he deceived angels. Thus he deceived men. He led them to doubt the word of God, and to distrust His goodness. Because God is a God of justice and terrible majesty, Satan caused them to look upon Him as severe and unforgiving. Thus he drew men to join him in rebellion against God, and the night of woe settled down upon the world. {DA 21.3} . . . The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, “with healing in His wings.” Mal. 4:2. {DA 22.1} . . . The work of redemption will be complete. In the place where sin abounded, God’s grace much more abounds. The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, where the Son of God tabernacled in humanity; where the King of glory lived and suffered and died,–here, when He shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, “and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” And through endless ages as the redeemed walk in the light of the Lord, they will praise Him for His unspeakable Gift, —God with us.” (White, The Desire of Ages, Chapter 1)

I wish you the merriest Christmas during this holiday season . . .

For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2.11

December 14 Esight, 2009

But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. —Micah 5.2, ASVFew things in this life are eternal. It is said all good things come to an end, but this is not altogether true. For there is one good thing that always has been and always will be—love.

The above verse from the prophet Micah reminds us of that. He who is love (I John 4:8), and has always been love, has also always been. He is from “everlasting” (see above). His love is eternal, everlasting, and unquenchable (Jeremiah 31:3, Song 8:6,7). We cannot change it (James 1:17), we cannot stop it (Psalms 100:5), and two thousand years ago, that same love became incarnate (John 1:14). That which knew no beginning nor no end “began,” for the very first time in universal history, in a small manger in Bethlehem so that it might also, for the very first time, find and “end” for you and me (Hebrews 2:9). He was the fullness of that love in “bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

“The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, ‘with healing in His wings’” Mal. 4:2 (White, The Desire of Ages p. 22).

These are thoughts, well worth dwelling on. We will continue next week, but until then, may these thoughts be present on your mind and in your heart, during this time of year especially.

Happy holidays.

December 8 Esight, 2009

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.—James 1.26,27Recently on Facebook, I posted the above verse on my personal page, and the question was raised, “What does it mean to keep oneself unstained by the world?” It produced a lot of responses, but as I’ve thought about it, I’m convinced that our definition of “worldliness” has too often been far too shallow.

You see, in this world, there are really only two principles striving for the mastery. I don’t want to oversimplify it, but it really is this simple: self-centeredness or other-centeredness. Each is awakened by its own demonstration. Each grows exponentially based on its own expression. They are both contagious and grow very rapidly once set in motion.

Anyone who has followed the messages of Renewed Heart Ministries closely is already familiar with the concept that “by Love is Love awakened” (Desire of Ages, p. 22). I’m reminded of the now-famous story of how a single customer at a Starbucks during a holiday season, early in the morning, paid for the coffee of the person in line behind him, and how that continued all day long until closing, each person paying for the next. Each was “paying it forward,” so to speak. (I know coffee isn’t good for you; don’t miss the point of the story, though!) Love awakens love. This is a small example of the universal principle that John the beloved shared with us in his letter: “We love, because He first loved us.” —1 John 4.19

However the opposite is also true: by selfishness is self-centeredness awakened . Out of self-preservation when we encounter selfishness in others, it is very easy for us then to protect and focus on ourselves.

To live “in the world” but not be “of the world” (John 17:14, 15) is quite possibly the greatest challenge for those who believe in Love. To remain a source of other-centered love in the world, to pass love along in the face of a world almost wholly “self” preoccupied is what it means to keep one’s self stained by the world. It means to refuse to allow self-centeredness to become our focus but to follow the Lamb, to embrace the principle of the Cross, to remain, in a world where iniquity (self) abounds, but to be instead, other-centered. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end [whose love endures to the end], he will be saved.” —Matthew 24.12, 13.

Now that we understand what it means to remain unstained by the world, how do we do it? Well, we really need to understand that we, alone, cannot do it. What we need is something outside of ourselves to accomplish it for us. We need something greater than ourselves. We need a love that so far eclipses this world’s selfishness that it continues to awaken and keep love alive in us. Thus, quite simply, we keep our eyes on the Great Lover of the Universe; we keep believing and focusing on how much He loves us, and His Love does the rest.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. —Ephesians 5.1, 2

I wish you God’s best during this holiday season.

Happy Holidays.

November 29 Esight, 2009

They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” —Acts 1.11Right now my son is going through major separation anxieties. Not only is he going through the emotional stage of separating his identity from his mother’s (what many call the “terrible twos”) but his mother is also in Colorado visiting family, and he (along with my two girls) is here with me. I found him today walking around the house calling for Mom.

Have you ever missed someone really badly? So badly that it hurt? You longed to be with them, but your current circumstances did not allow it? Someone you really loved, and who you knew loved you, but time and space were simply not shining on you at the moment?

I wonder what the disciples must have been feeling when the kindest, most giving friend they’d ever had suddenly disappeared into the sky one day. Do you think they missed him? Of course they did, badly. But all of this brings me to one single question: What’s it going to take for us to miss God, whom we’ve never even met, that intensely? So intensely that we would do anything to be with Him?

I want you to first notice the common thread in each of the following verses:

Exodus 25.8

“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”

Exodus 29.46

“They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.”

Psalms 68.18

“Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.”

John 1.14

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

1Thessalonians 4.17

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Revelation 21.1-3

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

Revelation 7.15

“Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”

Genesis 3.8

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day . . . then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

Could it be this simple? That in order for us to really begin to miss Him, we have to first see how much He misses us?

I wish you God’s best this week.

November 10 Esight, 2009

Jesus said unto him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.”—Mark 9.23I have spent countless weekends emphasizing to audiences that what many consider as behavioral problems are truly the fruit of a much deeper issue and that the behaviors we most often criticize “in church” are really only the fruit of feelings, unhealthy thinking, and ultimately, an erroneous picture of whom we believe God Himself to be. (For more on this, please listen to the presentation on our Web site, Who Do You See?)

Someone recently asked me, “How does Faith play into this model of Seeing, Thinking, Feeling, and Behaving?” And though I have answered this many times, this week I thought I’d share it in writing. You see, many believe we are saved by faith and lost through focusing on our behavior instead. But I’d like to invite you to consider it more broadly than that. We are actually both saved or lost by Faith because it is ultimately what we believe about God—about His character, right or wrong—that sets in motion the final outcome. If I have a correct understanding of God’s character, I can be told a lie about Him all day, and it won’t do any damage whatsoever if I don’t choose to believe it. If I am believing lies about God’s character, I can be told the truth all day and it won’t do any lasting good if I don’t choose to believe it. Ultimately, it is what we are choosing to believe about Him that determines how, in our heart, we picture or see Him. Our concept of Him, in turn, affects our thoughts and feelings toward Him, and thus our behavior in relation to Him. Everything then, even your picture of God, how you see Him, is determined right now by what you are choosing to believe.

This week take some time, sit down, and consciously take a look at what you are choosing to allow yourself to believe about God. Does it correspond with what Jesus taught us He is like? Is it shaped by the Scriptures, or is it being shaped instead by our Christian culture, which sometimes is quite self-destructive? I am convinced that what we are choosing to believe about God could quite possibly be the most important question we can address in this time of earth’s history.

Jesus Himself said that all things are possible for the one who believes. Good or bad, everything is made possible; everything is the fruit of our beliefs. It’s never been a question of whether someone is a believer or not. We are all believers! The question is not whether or not we believe. The question is rather What are you believing?

I wish you God’s best this week.

September 30 Esight, 2009

“. . . May your heart live forever!”— Psalms 22.26 NASB”Inspired speech will be over some day . . . tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.” —I Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message

I’d like you to take some time this week and look around you. Everything you see, even when you look in the mirror, everything is temporary. Nothing we see will last forever. Everything will change, at some point, for eternity. There is only one thing in the universe that never changes, only one thing that remains the same. Only one thing is eternal. And that is Love. For God is love (I John 4:8).

Thus the question must be asked. What is it that really matters? What does it all boil down to?

We will not take anything with us into eternity but our hearts. (I’m not talking about the organ in your chest, but something much more interior, see the above verse.) Thus it is only matters of the heart that will endure. And only one thing in existence changes hearts, awakens dead hearts, stimulates the heart, bringing the heart of an individual to life and keeping it alive throughout eternity . . . “with the heart man believes” (Romans 10:10). And “belief is awakened by love” (Galatians 5:6).

It’s that simple. Paramount to all else is a heart-level encounter with the truth about God’s love for each of us, an encounter so clear and powerful that it awakens our hearts, changes our self-centered orientation to other-centered love, restoring our hearts into the image of our Heavenly Papa once again, and bidding our newly restored and renewed heart, to live . . . and live forever in an intimacy with the great Lover of the Universe for Whom each of us was made—an intimacy that no words can describe, that can only be experienced.

The fruit of such an encounter is that we truly begin to love, not just this incredible God, but all with whom we come in contact, indiscriminately. We take no thought of the state in which we encounter them; we simply begin to love as we have been loved.

This is eternity. Eternity really isn’t about self-preservation. It’s not about the quantity of life as much as it is about the quality. The only thing eternal is love. And thus Eternity is rooted and grounded in a living, breathing, dynamic encounter and experience with the greatest Love that has ever been. This is why Calvary is so central and will become even more so as we get closer to when this age ends and the next begins. For Calvary is the clearest, most powerful encounter with the Love that flows from the heart of the God of worlds fallen and unfallen alike, and that ushers us back into the love for which we were made.

So, in short, take some time with His love for you this week. Take some time to ponder this. To meditate on what is truly in God’s heart for you, how He thinks and feels for you. For in these themes, eternity begins . . . today.

I wish you God’s best this week.

September 20 Esight, 2009

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love . . . ” — Ephesians 3:17I don’t plan to write a lot this week. A friend of mine that I’ve known since high school sent me three quotations on Facebook the other day, and I want simply to pass them on to you. They truly are quite profound. Each is taken from the book Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing.

“The very first step in approaching God is to know and believe the love that He has to us (1 John 4:16); for it is through the drawing of His love that we are led to come to Him.” P. 104-105

“The one thing essential for us in order that we may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has to us.” P. 115

Know and believe the love that God has to us, and you are secure; that love is a fortress impregnable to all the delusions and assaults of Satan.” P. 119

It would seem that our salvation, our security, our growth in Christ—everything is rooted and grounded, dependent simply on knowing and believing in the love God has for us. Not just knowing that He loves us, but coming to a knowledge of, an encounter with, and a belief in the kind of love, the nature of the love He has for each of us.

Do you know what love is?

Do you know the love with which He loves you?

Better yet, do you have the courage to believe it?

These quite possibly are the most important questions we could answer. For it seems that everything depends on them.

May knowing and believing His love become paramount in your life this week.

I wish you God’s best.

September 13 Esight, 2009

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. — Luke 6.32I am continually asked, “Herb, how do we reach our post-modern, North American culture with this message of God’s love that you preach?” I often wince inside when I hear this. Most of the time people are expecting to hear about some new method or technique, but in truth, life is simpler than that. Jesus gives us the secret in the above verse to reach others for all time and in any culture: “Sinners love those who love them.” Could it really be that simple? It actually is.

How do we love those with whom we come in contact every day? Those we work with, play with, encounter in our recreation and daily activities? I have come up with only one answer to that. First, in all honesty, we can’t. All we can do is come to grips with our own identity as one who is passionately loved by God Himself. Only when this happens will love spring forth from us spontaneously to those we meet. This is the promise Jesus made to the woman at the well. If she could just taste the living water of God’s unconditional love for her, then that love itself would become a well-spring of living water (unconditional love) springing up and overflowing to all those around her. John said it, too.

We love because He first loved us. — I John 4:19.

All God ever asks us to do is love. But truly, all we can do is believe how much we are loved, and then simply let His love spread out to the world around us. How will people respond? Why don’t we just try it and see? I close this week once again with the words of the apostles Paul and Peter.

Therefore be imitators of God . . . , and walk in love — Ephesians 5:1, 2

The end of all things is near . . . . above all, let your love for one another be intense. — 1 Peter 4:7, 8

I wish you God’s best this week.

September 8 Esight, 2009

And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? (Luke 7.42)This week I thought I would share an excerpt from my upcoming book Finding the Father, to be released this December. Enjoy!

The nature of a violation is that one party inflicts loss on an unwilling recipient. For example, we have a violator (for the sake of illustration we’ll call her Nancy) and a violated (we’ll call him Ted). Ted has two options.

Ted’s first option is to appeal to a higher power, such as civil government, and ask them to inflict a reasonable level of loss on Nancy in order to restore fairness. This would not necessarily be revenge, but restitution. Nancy (the violator) would be prosecuted.

In his second option, Ted could rise above the loss and willingly choose to bear the loss that Nancy inflicted. Nancy would thus be let off the hook and forgiven.

In either option, justice must be maintained. In the first option, if Ted called for Nancy to be punished but instead someone else was punished for the crime, this would be unjust. If someone other than Nancy is punished, then balance, equality, and fairness are not achieved. Many times, Christians have given the impression that God (the violated) demanded that we (the violators) be punished, yet, because He loved us so much, He sent His only Son to be punished in our place. If this were true, it would be problematic on many levels, and would be unjust, to say the least, according to the principle that “he who does the crime does the time.” In the second option, if, against Ted’s will, someone other than Ted let Nancy go free, this, too, would be unjust.

So, we meet with a challenge. The solution must be just and merciful and we must resist injustice. In the case of the Christian gospel, the result of the sacrifice of Jesus is that the violators (us) go free. How is this not injustice?

In our illustration, if Nancy is let off the hook it comes at a price to Ted. Because it comes at a price for him, Ted must voluntarily choose to bear the loss inflicted by Nancy and to relinquish his right of restitution. There is no such thing as forgiveness that doesn’t cost the forgiver something.

Now, notice that God’s decision to let us, the violators, go free was not made by someone else against His will. God, Himself, embraced the loss and chose to bear our sins against Him. In a word, this is forgiveness. Calvary is as if God is saying to the world, with open arms (literally), charges have been dropped.

This begs the question, was our debt to God repaid or forgiven? Our sins are either repaid or forgiven, they cannot be both. And yet scripture uses the language of both. How are we to make sense of this?

We must abandon a model of three-party substitutionary atonement and begin to understand the nature of forgiveness, which is two-party substitutionary atonement. God forgave our sins against Him! Someone else did not repay Him the debt. Yet remember, there is no such thing as forgiveness that doesn’t cost the forgiver something. It cost God something to forgive us. The cost of forgiving is a payment not received but made by the one doing the forgiving. This is why we see God on the cross, and not us! God, the violated party, recognized the injustice done, realized His cost to forgive, and willingly bore that cost out of love so that you and I, the violators, could go free.

But what about justice? We must include justice for the picture to be complete. In the scenario with my Muslim friend, if he should rise above the infliction of those who stole money from him, one person would still suffer. Who? Him, the violated. Yet something would have changed. Instead of someone else letting them off the hook and dropping the charges, my friend himself would voluntarily and willingly drop them. No third party would innocently step in and substitute for the guilty ones, nor would someone else let them off the hook unjustly. Rather, the violated party himself would choose to bear the loss and to put himself in the place of the violators. Justice cannot say a word against this. It is the right of the violated to drop charges if they so choose. No one else can justly let the violators off the hook, only the violated, and only voluntarily, for it will cost him everything.

This is still an act of substitution, a type of substitution that is acceptable and just—it is forgiveness. The violated willingly and voluntarily puts himself in the place of all the violators, willingly bears what was done against him, in order for the violators to go free.

This is exactly how Jesus sought to explain the act of Calvary.

Be watching for the release of Finding the Father at www.renewedheartministries.com this December.

I wish you God’s best this week.

September 1 Esight, 2009

But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.— 1Corinthians 12.31This week, I’d like you to go through a simple exercise with me. John gives us the sublime statement that “God is love.” (I John 4:8)

But, I want you to stop for a minute and take the following list of descriptions of love (taken from 1 Corinthians 13). Meditate on each sentence. Contrast it with your personal picture of what type of a person God is, along with how Jesus revealed the Father to be. And then, take the time to write down your thoughts, your questions, what this exercise reveals about your picture of the type of being God really is.

It’s a simple exercise, but some pretty phenomenal heart-level discoveries can come as a result. (The first few are easy, but, as the list goes on, it becomes pretty challenging.) Enjoy!

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is not jealous.

Love does not brag.

Love is not arrogant.

Love does not act unbecomingly.

Love does not seek its own.

Love is not provoked.

Love does not keep records of wrongs suffered.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

Love rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things.

Love believes all things.

Love hopes all things.

Love endures all things.

May God do rich things in your heart this week.

I wish you His best.