January 20 Esight, 2010

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on.” Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.” They said, “Where is this so-called Father of yours?” Jesus said, “You’re looking right at me and you don’t see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.”— John 8:13-19, The Message

I have purposely quoted this week’s passage from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, because although I know I will get a few emails from those who don’t like this paraphrase, I happen to like the way he puts these verses particularly well. I believe he hit the nail right on the head here. There are two phrases I’d like to bring to your attention specifically.

First, Jesus says here, “If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.” Over and over in John’s gospel this is the theme. Jesus came to show us the Father, to explain Him to us. Jesus came so that we might encounter the truth of God’s character of love, that we would see him for who he really is, and that this truth might set us free.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”—John 14:9-10

Therefore, Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.”—John 5:19-20

The more familiar we become with the kind of person Jesus was, the more we will truly come to know what the God of this universe is like. For Jesus and his Father are “One” (John 10:30).

Second, Peterson chooses a unique phrase to paraphrase what he feels Jesus is really saying here.

“My judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father.”

We must remember, Jesus knew who he was only by Faith. He had no recollection of the Eternity past. All he knew of himself, on his own, was from the time of Egypt on. (I don’t think he even had a personal memory of the famous story of Bethlehem.) Which leads me to my question. (This is more than Jesus simply saying “I have more witnesses than you to who I am.” He is saying basically, “Listen, I’m not saying this about myself; the Father is!”)

When it comes to truth, specifically the truth of God’s love, how many of us rely on the “narrowness of our own experience” when it comes to our understanding him rather than simply taking him for what he describes himself to be. David records God as telling us, “You thought that I was just like you” (Psalms 50:2). But God and His love, I am convinced, are so vastly different than everything we have grown accustomed to and conditioned by in this world. Many times, we tend to transpose our own past, our own interactions with others, onto him. We make him answer for how others have hurt us when truly he is altogether different.

The question remains, will we allow the person we see in Jesus to radically transform our understanding of the Father, or will we continue to see Him through the mist, dimly and largely misunderstood?

Something to ponder.

I wish you God’s best this week.

January 14 Esight, 2010

” Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13).Years ago, while doing a weekend series in New Jersey, I believe, I was asked whether or not this verse was actually true. After all, it’s one thing to lay down your life for your friends and quite another to do so for your enemies.

At the heart of this question, which we’ll attempt to answer in a moment, is a vital principle of love. First of all, the older I get, the more I am convinced that genuine love, whether for friend or enemy, and self-sacrifice are synonymous. One truly cannot exist without the other, for genuine love “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13.5). True love is not simply concerned with what it wants, but also on the needs of the other as well. Paul advised the Philippian believers as follows, saying “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2.4). . To the degree that principles of self-preservation are followed rather than those of self-sacrifice, genuine love begins to splinter. This statement does not imply that self-preservation is always evil; sometimes it is a necessity. The point is simply that it is incompatible with genuine love.

I realize that this idea strikes at the very core of all that we have been taught. After all, in our modern Darwinian culture, circumstances often reduce to a survival of the fittest mentality. Self-sacrificing human behaviors still confound many adamant atheists, while altruistic practices, which many have lost faith in entirely, cause the multitudes to stand in awe and scratch their heads in wonder.

“The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian” (White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 470).

All of this leads us to our answer.

From our perspective, God surely was once our enemy:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5.10).

But from His perspective, God has no enemies. He loves everyone, giving to all, including the “just and the unjust,” the “kind as well as the unthankful.” Truly, He considers no one His enemy, as the following verse demonstrates:

“And one shall say unto him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he shall answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends’” (Zechariah 13.6).

His friends. Wow! Someone once said to me that true love does not entail finding a person who will never hurt you. Instead, true love involves deciding whom you will allow to hurt you and yet choose to love them nonetheless as a result.

Consequently, I am convinced that many of us waste too much time trying to win God’s favor, when the question was never about whether or not He is our friend. On the contrary, the real question is whether or not we are His!

“Here was fulfillment of the words of scripture: ‘Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘God’s friend’” (James 2.23).

May all of us be called children of Abraham. In light of the truth regarding His great character of love, may we all embrace God, no longer as enemy, but as our Friend.

I wish you God’s best this week.

January 8 Esight, 2010

Have you ever felt haunted by a deep heart longing for something more fulfilling, more meaningful, or simply more satisfying? Yet, if someone asked you what it was you actually wanted, would you be able to discern what it was that you really desired? I have experienced that longing too, and like many others, it has happened too many times to mention. The story of my life is strewn with my personal attempts to satisfy an ever-present, aching hunger in my heart.

As I look back, one thing becomes painfully clear. The many attempts in my past to satiate my heart’s hunger have always been just that—attempts. Each vain pursuit was short-lived, leaving my soul’s thirst unquenched and in greater want than at the start. My own personal journey has left me with two heart-searching questions. First, “What is this longing that seems to be part of the very fabric of my being?” And the second, “What is it that I am really longing for?”

In my search for answers, I have been surprised to find that my experience is not isolated. In my eternal, never-fully-satisfied longings, I have found that I am not alone . . . Surprisingly, King David shared these sentiments as well. At the height of monarchal success, King David penned the words, “My soul thirsts . . . my flesh yearns . . ., In a dry and weary land where there is no water…” Growing up, I remember hearing countless times that if I could just have three things I would be happy: money, power, and sex. What is surprising is that King David had money, he had power, he even had women in his life, but he realized that his heart was thirsting for what he could not find. And here is the most shocking realization: David has the audacity to claim what he was thirsting for . . . God.

To be honest, when I first realized this, I questioned whether David really meant what he wrote. Was he just trying to be pious? So many times we say what we are supposed to say rather than what we are really feeling. But the more I pondered David’s statement, the greater I became haunted by a nagging sense. Have I missed something? Could this longing in my heart really be a longing for intimacy with God? Why was my heart so averse to this? Is there something unfulfilling about God or is the real problem similar to what I had encountered with my Dad? Maybe I just don’t see Him as He really is. Could I have the wrong picture of this God with whom I am trying to have a relationship?

I found myself in a world of doubt. Nothing I had ever heard about God was appealing, much less deeply satisfying. Then, I stumbled on other statements that caught my attention. “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” “In Your presence is fullness of joy”; “In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” At this point, I had to come to a conclusion. Either these verses were just foolish notions, or maybe, in all the time I’d been a Christian, I had never really encountered God as He really is. I chose the second option, and embarked on a journey of discovery—a quest of seeing and believing, a journey of epoch dimensions in my heart and life. I fell to my knees with one prayer, “Dear Lord, help me to understand You, not merely on an intellectual level, but help me to see You with my heart.” I came to the conclusion that I had erred in my heart. I knew a lot of doctrine. I was well versed in the standards and lifestyle of a devout Christian. Yet, as religious as I may have been, on a heart level I had been blind to the “ways” of God. Could this be why my heart felt so empty? I wondered and prayed, “Lord, what am I missing in my religious experience?”

(Taken from the new book Finding the Father by Herb Montgomery, available now in our online store at www.renewedheartministries.com.)

I wish you God’s best.

January 1 Esight, 2010

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” —John 15.9, 10What does it mean to keep Jesus’ commandments and therefore abide in His Love? I think this is a worthy question that welcomes our thoughts as this new year is upon us.

There are two statements I read this morning; one of them weighs heavy on my heart each time I run across it.

“There ought to be a term that would designate those who actually follow the teachings of Jesus, since the word ‘Christian’ has been largely divorced from those teachings, and so polluted by fundamentalists that it has come to connote their polar opposite: intolerance, vindictive hatred, and bigotry.”—Philip Stater, Huffington Post

“If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.” —Mahatma Gandhi

Jesus said in John 15 that if we truly keep His commandments, we will abide in His Love. This must mean that His commandments and the life of Love are intrinsically connected. Honestly, this is truly a no-brainer. So many times it is repeated in scripture:

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is similar: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these two commandments the whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets are based.” —Matthew 22.37-40

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” —Romans 13.10

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” —Galatians 5.14

And yet I can hear some right now asking the important question, “Yes, but what about truth? Does this mean we sacrifice truth in order to be loving?” But this question itself reveals how deeply we have misunderstood the work God came to begin on this tiny planet.

“No eloquence of words, no force of argument, can convert the sinner.” —Acts of the Apostles, p. 239

“Christ came into the world to bring all resistance and authority into subjection to Himself, but He did not claim obedience through the strength of argument or the voice of command; He went about doing good and teaching His followers the things which belonged to their peace.” —Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 4, p. 139

“Do not once forget that you are speaking for God’s truth. Your spirit, if kept gentle under provocation, will speak louder than any force of argument. Do not imperil the truth by an unwise word.” —Letter 9a, 1894, pp. 2, 4

“Love will do that which argument will fail to accomplish. Love is power.” —Review and Herald; April 26, 1887

When we care more about being right than being righteous, when we care more about being correct than being Godly, or God-like, when we are concerned about proving Biblical facts more than the heart of the one we are trying to reach, it is then that we need simply to remain silent until the spirit of Heaven once again can grace our efforts.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Renewed Heart Ministries.