April 30 Esight, 2009

   This is God’s message to Hosea, son of Beeri. It came to him during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam, son of Joash, was king of Israel. The first time God spoke to Hosea, He said, “Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.” Hosea did as he was told. He chose Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and bore him a son.

   Then God told Hosea, “Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel. I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.” Hosea 1:1-4, The MessageWhat powerful imagery, vivid enough to make every one of us slightly uncomfortable. The sad events of Jezreel were the direct result of the wife of God being a whore. Is that too blunt? There are parts of the Bible from which I’m sure we all seek to avert our gaze. But the message in the book of Hosea cannot be ignored. I’m pretty sure my “Inbox” is going to be filled to overflowing with responses to my thoughts this week but, forgive me, I’m concerned.

The Massacre at Jezreel was actually a response to another injustice. After all, Jezebel and Ahab had used God’s laws, intended to preserve life, and twisted them to their own gain of Naboth’s murder and the acquisition of his vineyard.

Injustice on top of injustice: This was Israel’s history. This was the history of God’s chosen. Her history is a steady progression from rebellion to full-on whoredom; and the result? People were hurt.

Recently, over dinner, the heated topic of divorce came up. Everyone looked and me—as though just because I’m a preacher, I’m also the expert—and asked, “What do you think, Herb?”

To be honest, I come from the wrong side of the tracks. I’ve seen both my parents go through multiple marriages. I’ve seen the abuse that takes place when the ideal doesn’t match up with the reality. I’ve heard pie-in-the-sky explanations of and positions on the subject. Then I’ve looked the subject straight in the eye, in the real word, as well.

Without creating argument, I simply said, “God Himself is divorced and even re-married.” Everyone at the table gasped. (I’ll never understand why pride, gossip, and false witness go so unnoticed in the church, but things like divorce and remarriage attract so much attention.) But the truth is, God made a marriage vow to Israel. He entered into a marriage covenant with her. And yet, today, He and she are no longer married; in fact, He’s moved on and is now married to Gentiles.

What does this mean for us today? Well, for me, it makes me look at the injustice I see from the hands of many who claim to be God’s people. It makes me look at their boastful claim that they are “God’s people” and always will be. It’s as if we take His name, yes, but today we take it for granted. It breaks my heart when I hear horror stories of how people I am trying to reach with God’s love are hurt by someone who claims to follow Him. I wonder how secure our claim to being God’s special people really is. However, I do have hope; for the same God who inspired Hosea also wrote:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes . . .’”

Ezekiel 36:22-27

Something to think about.

I wish you God’s best this week.

April 20 Esight, 2009

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6)Certainly we are in the age of the iPhone (although I personally am a Blackberry fan). This last weekend, I was speaking in a church where the Pastor gave his cell phone number out to the congregation. As I preached, they could text the Pastor questions about anything I was saying. When I was finished speaking, we took about 5 to 10 minutes to answer the questions that came in. It truly was a cool thing. So interactive!!!!!

Well, as always, a question came in concerning the balance of faith vs. works. I would like to simply say that if those are the only two variables to consider, faith and works, whether we are saved by faith, works, faith plus works, or a faith that works, the issue will never be settled among us as a people. What we are missing is a third ingredient, which if understood, will settle the question forever in each honest person’s heart. That ingredient is—Love!

As long as the only thing well meaning folks are arguing over is faith or works, then the issue will never be settled! But if we can understand love, then it all becomes clear.

“Love is that which activates faith and sets in motion a heart that desires to no longer live for itself but for Him Who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). “Love, causes the heart level response of faith” (Romans 10:10) and that heart level’s response is always expressive! It manifests itself in works, but not just any works. Not only is faith mightily set in motion by love, but love is the way faith is expressed as well! Love fulfills the whole law. Love, being expressed in our life, is the image of God reproduced in His people. It is the image of Him who is love restored once again in us! (I John 4:8, 9 and Ephesians 5:1, 2) Or as brother Peterson expresses it:

“For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” (Galatians 5:6, The Message)

So rather than us arguing over faith and works, trying to have enough faith, or enough works, we should rather, stop wasting our time and instead focus simply on how much the God of the universe passionately loves YOU!!!! And then His love for us, believed by us, will awaken in us love for Him and everyone around us as well. (I John 4:19)

My hope is that we are living in the dawning of a new age, where, “above all” (1Peter 4:7,8) we will be known best for understanding the character of our God and how intensely His love is found in the way we relate to one another. This all begins, truly, by understanding what is in His heart for us. May His love for us awaken in us all a faith which works by that love and purifies His church, restoring us into the image of that love once again.

I wish you God’s best this week.

April 14 Esight, 2009

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For, if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. Not legislation, but liberty. Ponder the following comment:

“The joy of the Lord in the companionship of His people is that they of their own free-will choose Him above all others” (E.J. Waggoner; Foreknowledge, p. 5).

God’s fulfillment in being with us throughout eternity is truly knowing that we were free, at liberty, could be anywhere else with no manipulation from Him, no coercion from Him, truly to know that we are free to be wherever we should choose and then that we freely choose to be with Him. I know this is quite different from the arm twisting most of Christianity puts potential converts or life-long members through. I believe with all my heart that our approach needs to be re-evaluated based on Love’s principles of action. Truly, God wants us with Him only if we want to be with Him. How fulfilling would it be for Him if we were there only because we were being forced to be? As a religion, Christianity has a long history of motivating decisions based on Fear of Hell or Hope of Heaven. But this approach smacks of manipulation. And it doesn’t work. Oh, it does increase our numbers, but it simply fills the ranks with those who are motivated to save their own skins. That’s not conversion, dear reader; that’s self-preservation. It fails to usher us into the dynamics of a relationship based on the love that God created us for. Even Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it . . .” (Luke 9:24).

Today, we must find something that exceeds, excels, our self-centered fear of loss or hope of reward. What is that something? I believe it’s the greatest true motivator in the universe. The greatest power to change lives from the inside out—Love.

Love wins at the deepest soul/heart level, where, given the option to be anywhere else in the Universe, you want to be, long to be, and where you want nothing more than to be with the One who loves you and the One you love in return. This, and only this, is Heaven.

Something to ponder,

I wish you God’s best this week.

April 10 Esight, 2009

E.J. Waggoner”For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” The word “predestinate” is the same as “foreordain,” which is found in the Revised Version. Volumes of speculation have been written about the terms, but a few words are sufficient to set forth the facts. With respect to these, as well as to the other attributes of God, it is sufficient for us to know the facts. We have nothing to do with the explanation.

That God knows all things is plainly set forth in the Scriptures. Not only does He know the things that are past, but He sees the future as well. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and know me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and my uprising; Thou understandest my thoughts afar off” (Ps. 139:1,2). Thus, God can tell what men even yet unborn will do and say.

This does not make God responsible for the evil that men do. Some men have unwisely thought it necessary to apologize for the Lord and to relieve Him of the charge that, if He is omniscient and if He does not prevent it, He is responsible for the evil. They say that He could know if he wished, but that He chooses not to know many things. Such a “defense” of God is both unwise and wicked. It assumes that, if He knew about a particular evil beforehand and did not prevent it, God is responsible for the evil. They further imply that, in order not to be in a position to prevent it, He deliberately shuts His eyes from it. Thus, their “defense” really puts the responsibility for all evil upon God. Not only that, but it limits Him. It makes Him like a man.

God knows all things, not by study and research, as man learns the little he knows, but because He is God. He inhabits eternity. Isa. 57:15. We cannot understand how this can be anymore than we can understand eternity. We must accept the fact, and be not only content, but glad that God is greater than we. All time, past, present, and future, is the same Him. It is always with God.

The fact that God knew the evil that men would do even before the foundation of the world does not make Him responsible for it, any more than the fact that a man seeing by means of a telescope what another man ten miles distant is doing makes him responsible for that other one’s actions. God has, from the beginning, set before men warnings against sin and has provided them with all the necessary means for avoiding it; but He cannot interfere with man’s right and freedom of choice without depriving him of his manhood and making him the same as a stick.

Freedom to do right implies freedom to do wrong. If a man were made so that he could not do wrong, he would have no freedom at all, not even to do right. He would be lower and less than the brutes. There is no virtue in forced obedience, nor would there be any virtue in doing that which is right if it were impossible to do wrong. Moreover, there could be no pleasure or satisfaction in the professed friendship of two persons, if one associated with the other just because he could not avoid doing so. The joy in the Lord in the companionship of His people is that they of their own free-will choose Him above all others. And that which is the joy of the Lord is the joy of His people.

The very men who rail against God for not preventing the ills that He foresees, since He is all powerful, would be the very first to charge Him with cruelty if He did arbitrarily interfere with their freedom and make them to do that which they do not choose to do. Such a course would make everybody unhappy and discontented. The wisest thing for men to do is to stop trying to fathom the ways of the Almighty, and accept the fact that whatever He does is right. “As for God, His way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30).

Predestination

The text shows that “whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among brethren.” God’s thoughts toward men are thoughts of peace, and not of evil. Jer. 29:11. He ordains peace for men. Isa. 26:12. We read nothing about men being foreordained to destruction; the only thing that God has predestined is that men should be conformed to the image of His Son.

But it is only in Christ that we become conformed to His image. It is in Christ that we come “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Therefore, it is that men are foreordained or predestined only in Christ. The whole story is told in the following passage of Scripture:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good-pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Everything is in Christ. We receive all spiritual blessings in Him; we are chosen in Him unto holiness; in Him we are predestined unto the adoption of children; in Him are we accepted; and in Him we have redemption through His blood. “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:9).

That is God’s purpose and foreordination concerning man. Still further, “whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Whom did He foreknow? There can be no limit; He must have foreknown all. If there were any exception, then God would not be infinite in knowledge. If He foreknows one person, then He foreknows every person. There has not been a person born into the world whose birth God did not foreknow. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Therefore, since every person has been known to God, even before the foundation of the world, and those whom He has foreknown He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, it follows that God has purposed salvation for every soul that has ever come into the world. His love embraces all, without respect of persons.

“Then everybody will be saved, no matter what he does,” some will say. Not by all means. Remember that the purpose of God is in Christ. It is only in Him that we are predestined. And we are free to choose for ourselves, whether we will accept Him or not. Man’s will has been forever set free, and God Himself will not presume to interfere with it. He holds the choice and will of each individual sacred. He will not carry out His own purpose contrary to man’s will. His will is to give man whatever man decides will best please him. So He sets before man life and death, good and evil, and tells him to choose which he will have. God knows what is best, and has chosen and prepared that for man. He has gone so far as to fix it beyond all possibility of failure so that man shall have that good thing if he chooses it. But the wonderful kindness and courteousness of the great God is seen in this, that He defers in everything to man’s wishes. If man, in his turn, will but defer to God’s wishes, there will be the most delightful and loving companionship between them.

Called, Justified, Glorified.

“Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This is completed action. We need not stumble over it, if we will but remember that everything is in Christ. In Christ we have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings. All men are called to that which God has prepared for them, but none are “called according to His purpose” unless they have made their calling and election sure by submitting to His will. Such ones are predestined to be saved. Nothing in the universe can hinder the salvation of any soul that accepts and trusts the Lord Jesus Christ.

And all such are justified. The death of Christ reconciles men to God. “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). His death has secured pardon and life for all. Nothing can keep them from salvation except their own perverse will. Men must take themselves out of the hand of God in order to be lost. Much more, then, those who accept the sacrifice, are justified. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

“And whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Have we not read in the prayer of Christ for His disciples, not only for those who were with Him in the garden, but also for all them that should believe in Him through their word, and therefore for us that “The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them”? Peter said that he was a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. God has left nothing undone. Everything that Christ has we have, if we accept Him. All that remains is that it should be revealed. “The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” When God asks, concerning His people, “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” who shall presume to say that there is something that He has overlooked?

All Things Ours.

But we have anticipated the apostle. Hear him: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

“How shall He not?” That is, how can He avoid giving us all things? In giving Christ for and to us, God could not do otherwise than give us all things, “for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16,17, R. V).

“Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23). This, then, answers the question, “Who can be against us?” Everything is for us. “All things for your sakes” (2 Cor. 4: 15).

A general once telegraphed to the seat of government, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” This is what every child of God is privileged to say: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15: 57). “This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5: 4, R. V). This is what makes us know that all things work together for good to them that love God. No matter how dark and forbidding the things may seem, if we are in Christ, they are for us, and not against us. –Apples of Gold, No. 41, 1897

April 8 Esight, 2009

Herb Montgomery

“Thus, Esau despised his birthright.”

—Genesis 25:34

A “birthright” is a right or privilege that one is entitled to at birth. I would like you to ponder a few texts this week, in light of the concept of a birthright.

Romans 5.18:

“So then, as through one transgression, there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness, there resulted justification of life to all men.”

Corinthians 15.20-22:

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive.”

Timothy 4.9-10:

“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

John 3.17:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

I believe two things are needed for a person to be saved throughout eternity. The first is a “title.” In legal terms, a title is a legal document showing the right of ownership of a particular property. In other words, something that shows ownership. That object belongs to the holder of the title, and he or she has full rights and privileges in reference to it.

This title, this ticket, this right of ownership, this gift, according to the above verses, through Jesus’ death on the cross, has been given to every man, woman, and child! They are born with it! It is their birthright by virtue of the life, death, and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ!

The second thing is “fitness.” This must not be overlooked because, if left in our self-centered state, it doesn’t matter how much heaven belongs to you, you won’t be happy there and your birthright will be despised. Heaven’s other-centered environment would be a place of sheer torment and torture. Thus, what good would a title be to something you don’t even want?

But, notice how it all works! When we “believe” in the birthright God has given to us outside of our doing anything to obtain it, we see past His gift, to His heart from which the gift was given. We begin to see the generous other-centered selfless love of our God! This belief in His love for us awakens in our hearts and in our other-centered love for Him. We begin to love because He first loved us. By His love for us, our love is awakened. We become transformed or converted from self-centeredness to other-centeredness, and, thus, through faith in the already given birthright that we are all born with, we are changed, restored back into the image of our unselfish God.

What a truly wise and loving God we worship. I’m amazed every time I see Him.

April 5 Esight, 2009

Ephesians 5:1-2:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”Last week we focused on the words of the Apostle Peter with respect to “above all” (which means “above everything else”), LOVE. This week I would like you to consider the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.

According to Paul’s missive, we are invited to be “imitators of God.” Just stop and think about that for a minute. What does that mean? This might possibly be the most relevant “lifestyle” question that a Christian can ask! When correctly comprehended, we are truly only asked one thing of God, and that is to be an imitator of Him. He has shown us how, which we will get to in a minute. First, consider what it looks like to be an imitator of God. Paul’s reply is in the statement, “live the life of love” (verse 2, NIV). This is it! It is an invitation to live a life of LOVE! It means being loved by God and responding by allowing that love to awaken our love for Him and those we come in contact with.

Love is patient,

love is kind

and is not jealous;

love does not brag

and is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly;

it does not seek its own,

is not provoked,

does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness,

but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

A word of warning: We CANNOT live like this by simply trying to do so. You cannot love by trying to love. What is needed is a heartfelt, dynamic encounter with His love for you. His love for us is the compelling force (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We will only love, because His love for us has first awakened love in us (I John 4:19).

Would you, dear reader, like this kind of life? We are invited to be imitators of the greatest Lover in the Universe. How? By simply allowing oneself to be loved by Him and letting His life-changing love accomplish all the rest.

Would you like that? When the next week begins, regardless of how busy you may be, take a moment and tell Him about it. He will be overjoyed and feel over-loved to simply show you how deeply in His heart you truly are.

I wish you God’s best this week.