June 29 Esight, 2009

Herb MontgomeryMay they be blotted out of the book of life; And may they not be recorded with the righteous (Psalms 69:28).

At Renewed Heart Ministries we offer a series of presentations on the book of Revelation that we present from time to time, and there are two verses that have been bumping together as they roll around in my head and heart. These two verses are found in chapter 13 and 17, respectively, where it speaks of a book, a lamb, and something taking place from the foundation of the world. It is quite evident to me that Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but the Greek language also lends itself to another possible reality as well. And I’m walking gently here. I’m only saying it’s a possibility. The Greek implies that it may very well be that the Book of Life was also written from the foundation of the world as well. If this were true, the implications would be profound!

First, the Bible elsewhere speaks of books about us being written before we truly ever exist.

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written/The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them” (Psalms 139:16).

You have one of two options with verses like this. Either all the events of our lives are pre-ordained in a non-alterable nature, and thus we are simply robots, or, God has pre-ordained us for spectacular things, even before we are born, but He gives us the choice whether to follow what He has ordained for us, or to let us write our own book, to follow our own way. I know verses like this exist, but none of them say that they are ordained in a non-alterable way. We can alter them! God has ordained all people to be saved, in fact, but we can resist that because of free will and go our own way.

But, when it comes to the Book of Life, it is interesting to me that there is not one verse in the Bible about names being added to the Book of Life, but every one of them is solely about names being removed.

“He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the Book of Life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).

“But now, if You will, forgive their sin-and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32).

The implication of this is profound! It is possible that, by virtue of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, every person’s name has been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world as well. God has ordained all to have life! But he also allows us to take our names out of the book if we should so choose.

The verse quoted this week (Psalms 69:28) is David’s prayer that the wicked’s names be blotted out and not remain there with those of the righteous! How did the wicked’s names get into the Book of Life to begin with?

Pay close attention to what the following verses say.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17, emphasis added).

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 (1Timothy 4:10, emphasis added).

Did Jesus save the world? Is He truly the Savoir of all? And could He especially be the Savior of the believers because they simply accept Him as their Savior, receiving the gift of salvation rather than throwing it away by resisting the abounding grace of our God?

What the judgment will reveal-it may very well be-is that salvation, full and free, was given to every man, woman and child, and that those who are lost are in that position because they, like Esau, have deliberately thrown away their birth-right possession.

Something to think about.

I wish you God’s best.

June 28 Esight, 2009

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27–28)This week, I want you to ponder what Paul wrote next. Read it over and over again until the full weight rests upon your heart as it is upon mine right now.

“All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 12:29–13:31).

Is this really true? We regard apostles and prophets so highly— pastors and teachers too—those who can do miracles and those gifted with the ability to heal. We would pay to meet them. We look at tongues as a supernatural phenomenon; and, frankly, despite Paul’s warning to not overly emphasize or desire tongues (see 1 Corinthians 14, particularly verses 4 and 19), we often do just that, elevating them to the status of the must-have sign/gift. Incomprehensibly, some churches even say that one must speak in tongues as proof of one’s salvation! Paul must be turning in his grave.

According to Paul, the greatest, most miraculous, most supernatural gift was NOT tongues, nor was it any of the other sign gifts; rather, it was for God’s love—in a fallen, self-centered human being—to be present once again in the way we relate to each other.

Recently I spent some time discussing the hot topic of Christian perfection with a dear friend. The subject is so mired in religious abuse and misunderstanding that it’s hard to talk about it honestly. We all think people are saying things they are not. I guess that, for me, the real question surrounds altruism. Is altruism even possible among human beings? Is self-centeredness just something to be managed, or can it actually be reversed?

Are altruism and love even possible for humans? Can we live for something greater than ourselves, the gratification even of our own needs. Is God’s love strong enough to awaken genuine Love in the human race once again? These are the questions worth pondering.

“Unselfishness, the principle of God’s kingdom, is the principle that Satan hates; its very existence he denies. From the beginning of the great controversy he has endeavored to prove God’s principles of action to be selfish, and he deals in the same way with all who serve God. To disprove Satan’s claim is the work of Christ and of all who bear His name.” (E.G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 154.

I’m going to close this week with my favorite passage of Scripture—1 Corinthians 13—taken from Peterson’s The Message:

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always ‘me first,’

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in 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. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

I wish you God’s best this week.

June 21 Esight, 2009

“All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. (Exodus 20.18-21)What an interesting verse: “Don’t be afraid. God has come so that you will be afraid of Him.” Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Once again, much is lost in translation. I’d like to take a minute to look at the two very different Hebrew words used for fear as we begin this week. I think it’s relevant, and they make a huge difference in our picture of the God we are in a relationship with.

The two words for fear are: Pachad and Yirah. Pachad literally means “livid terror.” It carries a meaning similar to our modern idea of fear. Yirah, on the other hand, simply means “awe.” That’s all. Now consider the polytheistic culture of the Hebrews. In their culture, the New Testament idea that “God is love” would not have won the respect and awe and worship of these 16th-generation slaves of Egypt. In a world where Divinity was defined by shows of strength, power, and might, God must show that He is God above all others and that there is no other god like Him, thus leading to the display on Mt. Sinai.

There are two points that I believe we need to understand, then. God never wants us to feel Pachad of Him. Perfect love drives out this kind of fear (I John 4.17). However, we must also be careful with Yirah. God wants more than for us to simply hold him in awe. For “the fear [Yirah] of the LORD is [only] the beginning of wisdom . . .” —Psalms 111.10 (emphasis added).

However, before the Hebrew slaves could be moved by this God’s love, His position as God had to be established. Only when they knew who He was would they be moved deeply enough that He, as God, actually would loved them. However, the sad reality is that most of the Israelites never made the transition from Yirah to Love.

My prayer is that that God’s people today will. Fear as terror is never what God desires, but reverence and awe, although not enemies of love, are not the things that lasting relationships are made of, either. They may be involved, but a relationship must encompass more than just Yirah.

Love is Power, but of a very different type.

“From a worldly point of view, money is power; but from a Christian standpoint, love is power. Wealth is often an influence to corrupt and destroy; force is strong to do hurt; but pure love has special efficacy. It prevents discord and misery, and brings the truest happiness. It gives intellectual and spiritual strength, and truth and goodness are its properties” (White, Bible Echo, December 15, 1893 par. 6).

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment” (Mahatma Gandhi).

June 17 Esight, 2009

Announcing a new book by Herb Montgomery from Autumn House Publishers, release date: December 15, 2009. Thought we’d share the introduction to the book with you this week:We are commissioned by the apostle Paul himself in his letter to the believers in Ephesus,

“Therefore be imitators of God… and walk in love…” (Ephesians 5:1,2 NASB) The Today’s English Version (TEV) translates Paul’s words, “You must try to be like him. Your life must be controlled by love.” The Revised English Bible (REB) exhorts us to, “Live in love.” Eugene Peterson (The Message) paraphrases Paul’s words, “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.”

This is what life is truly all about.

Today, loving relationships seem to be the weakest perceived quality of those who claim to be “His” people. We have become more concerned with being correct than godly, right rather than righteous. Intellectually and behaviorally correct, while love, both in our understanding of God and as the principle by which we relate to those around us, has been largely left by the wayside.

I believe this is largely because we have failed, not in our treatment of others, but in our own perception, our own heart level understanding, of what truly it means that God Is love. The root of both our misplaced spiritual zeal, or our religious malaise is that deep within our hearts, silently and subtly we have embraced, even unknowingly, a wrong picture of God.

God is shining in our hearts. (2 Cor 4:6) In hopes that we will understand with our hearts. (Isaiah 6:10) John states that, “Everyone who loves…knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7,8 NASB) This is how Jesus stated we would be able to tell who is really God’s and who has yet to truly see Him. (John 13:35) How we define God’s love, and how that love is reflected by us to those around us, will be the defining identity that sets His people apart from all others in the end. (1 Peter 4:7,8) Yet, how can we imitate that which we do not know or understand? What does it mean to truly believe that God is love? What is love? What does it look like? Once we find it, do we have the courage to truly believe that THAT is what the God of this universe is?

It is to this aim, 1) that God’s character may be truly encountered by you, 2) that the revelation of Himself would leave, not only you, but He Himself as well, with a sense of being over-joyed and a feeling of being over-loved, and 3) that the above questions may truly and sincerely be answered, that the following pages are dedicated. His desire is not as much to be in your heart, as that you would see, and believe, how deeply you are in His. I invite you then, dear reader, with this in mind, into a new world: A world of Extravagant Love, Amazing Grace, and an Intimate Friendship with the most incredible being in existence. It is not enough to know He is love, He would have us understand what that really means. I wish you His best in what is about to follow. May the truths within this small volume you are holding usher you from darkness, once and for all, into His marvelous light.