December 28 Esight, 2010

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).Doing Good Versus Being Good

With the new year almost upon us, I’d like to share a few thoughts this week that have been bumping around in my head. In the above verse, Jesus, having been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power, went about “doing good.” I am fully aware that what I am about to share may not have been everyone’s experience, but it certainly has been mine. I have too often experienced religion’s emphasis being more about “being” good than about “doing” good. “Being” good is usually more restrictive in nature. It’s about refraining from things that are bad. Don’t do this, and don’t do that. (Naturally, the list of what those things you are not to do can vary depending upon one’s religious persuasion and interpretation.) Instead of the focus being on the good that we should be going about “doing,” it too often has a singular focus on the bad that we are NOT supposed to be doing.

Read the following verse with what I’ve just shared in mind:

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, 27).

Did you catch it? Pure religion in the eye’s of God is more about what one does, rather than what one refrains from.

Please don’t misunderstand. Certainly there were things Jesus Himself abstained from and things we are called to abstain from as well. But too often this is ALL someone’s religion is about. It is this self-centered concern about “being good” while remaining passive about the plights of others around us in need that has left such a bad taste in so many peoples mouths about Christianity. (You can see this principle illustrated by Jesus in the parable of the good Samaritan. The Levite and the Priest possessed a religion whose focus was on refraining from evil, rather than focused on what it really means to do good, in contrast to the religion practiced by the Samaritan.) You see, too many times, religion possesses a very genuine lack of love, active love that goes about “doing” good to those it comes in contact with. The Kingdom Jesus called us to be a part of is a kingdom based on radical, self-sacrificial, proactive love. It’s a love that reaches outward and is other-centered in focus.

Jesus did not come to start a new religion, or any religion at all, for that matter. Jesus came to establish a kingdom, His kingdom, in the hearts and lives of all who would receive it. A kingdom whose very principles run counter to all we know in this world, both religious and secular.

So this new year, in the light of God’s radical self-sacrificial love for us that is revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we, too, spend this next year not religiously “being” good, but instead, lovingly going to and fro like Jesus: “doing” good. May we be intense in our effort to do good to all those we come in contact with. Love like the rain! Love like the sun! And go enlarge the Kingdom (Matthew 5:44,45).

I wish you God’s best this week, and throughout this upcoming new year.

Happy New Year to each of you!

In love,

Herb

December 20 Esight, 2010

Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high will visit us . . . Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:78)From all of us here at Renewed Heart Ministries, to each and every one of you, Merry Christmas!

This week, with Christmas just upon us, Id like to take a brief moment and look at the reference that John the Baptists father makes to Jesus in the above verse. Zacharias refers to Jesus as the sunrise from on high.

What strikes me as interesting is that this is not the only time Jesus is described in this manner. Consider the following:

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. (Malachi 4:2)

Or as the TEV translates it:

. . .like the sun and bring healing like the suns rays . . . (Malachi 4:2, TEV)

Over and over again, in the scriptures, Jesus and His life here on earth are likened to the dawning of the sun in the darkness of early morning.

So we are even more confident of the message proclaimed by the prophets. You will do well to pay attention to it, because it is like a lamp shining in a dark place until the Day dawns and the light of the morning star shines in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19, TEV)

What does all of this imagery mean?

It makes perfect sense when we understand three things in Peters statement here.

Where is this dark place Peter is referring to?

What is this light which Peter desires will dawn there?

What is the darkness and why is it in this place?

First, the dark place is obvious to the careful reader. Its the same place Peter is awaiting the dawn itself. Its our hearts.

And what is the light? Well, in short, its Jesus and the new picture of God, He brings to our understanding. Its the truth about what type of a person our God really is. Its the light of His love. And just as the sun dispels the darkness in the early morning mist, so the coming of Jesus, to this world, but more importantly to each of our hearts, dispels the lies that have longed resided there concerning our God, and what He thinks and feels toward us.

What is the darkness? This is simple too. If light is truth, then darkness must be lies. Specifically all the lies weve ever believed about the character of our loving heavenly Father.

The God who said, Out of darkness the light shall shine! is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of Gods glory and character of love shining in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Jesus is the light of the world. He is the exact representation of God Himself, so complete and full, that when we see Jesus, we are seeing the Father Himself as well.

And what does this do in our hearts and lives? Ill give you a hint. When one truly submits to Gods great love for oneself – when one stops believing the voices in their head and instead begins to believe the voice of Gods Spirit to their heart – the first fruit of that Spirit is love. By love, is love awakened. But well cover more of that at another time. It is enough for now to remember: the Woman of Revelation 12 is clothed with the same sunlight that has dawned in her heart and set her free. She has allowed the suns rays to now be reflected off of her own person as well.

May each of us be just that this holiday season. May we find ourselves, this Christmas, reflections of that sunrise from on high till the day dawns and night is no more.

Believe His love, share His love, and go enlarge the kingdom.

Happy Holidays to each of you!

We wish you Gods best this week,

In love,

December 14 Esight, 2010

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

       “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

       The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  (Luke 2.25-35)

Merry Christmas! 

It’s that time of year again, like it or not, when the attention of our world is drawn to the coming of God to us, in the form of a baby in a stable in Bethlehem.   Too often though, this historical event takes on a kind of fairy tale quality during this season.  More of a ?“once upon a time” feel, rather than the actual event that it was.  But it really did happen.  It’s not a mere legend or conspiracy, it’s truth, historical truth.  If you have any reason to believe anything ever happened in history, by those same standards, you have every reason to believe that God actually visited us on this planet in the person of Jesus Christ.

And once one surrenders to this mighty truth, something strange and miraculous transpires in a person’s heart.  Follow closely.  Once we accept the truth that Jesus really is who He claimed to be, the person we find in Jesus makes us reassess everything we have ever believed or been told about God.  Jesus is not only deeply kind, and wise, and sensitive with a quiet resolute, purposeful strength.  He is radically other-centered, a servant, looking out for everyone else even when at expense to Himself.  He is a giver. He is truly defined by a self-sacrificial quality, that gives even love itself a new definition The life of this man named Jesus climaxed in Him giving His life as a ransom for every person in this world.  Without getting into the complexity of this, simply stop and let the reality of it sink in. Every person on this planet has been ransomed and redeemed.  And although God will not force anyone to accept this gift, it is an accomplished fact nonetheless, and is ours, each of ours, for the taking.

But what this really accomplishes in our hearts in truly miraculous.  You see, the radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love we find in the person of Jesus, takes on completely new meaning when one realizes that who we are seeing in this person named Jesus, is the God of the universe, incarnate.  This is God Himself come to us in human form. Jesus in not just what God is like.  No no.  Jesus IS GOD, come to us so we can see Him for what He truly is.  This is exactly what Simeon told us this baby in Bethlehem would be:  a “light of revelation” revealing the “thoughts of many hearts”, including the heart of God Himself.    A divine heart, if you will, wrapped in human flesh, so we can see, not just what He is like, but specifically what exactly is in His heart for us, dear reader.

Meditate on this great truth during this holiday season.  Let it’s transforming power go deep.  Let the love found in the person of Jesus, the love that is there for YOU, in the heart of God for YOU, bring healing and life transforming change from the inside out.  Let it do it’s work, it will, our job is simply to listen to it, and when it speaks, to believe.  You truly are precious in His sight.  He loves you, regardless of what the voices in your head tell you, more than you could possibly ever know.

May His kingdom of love be more deeply established in each of our hearts this Christmas season.

We at Renewed Heart Ministries wish you a happy Holiday.

In love,

December 6 Esight, 2010

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:8-14).

Holiday Greetings and Merry Christmas!!
 
Despite the materialistic association of reducing Jesus to simply the commercialistic frenzy of our mass consumerism, despite the fear of the religious association of Jesus with paganistic elements to a holiday that cause some Christians to question why we even celebrate such a holiday, and despite the temptation to treat Jesus as little more than a symbolic civic function, this seasonthrough Christmas songs, holiday decorations, and everything else that goes with this time of the yearwe, nonetheless, are reminded once again of just how amazing Gods love for us really is. I want to challenge you this season. This year, dont just get caught up in the traditional holiday hustle and bustle of preparation and celebration. By all means celebrate, if you feel so inclined! But I want to inspire you to make time, also, not just for celebration but meditation as well. What is this season really reminding us? What was the gift of Jesus all about? And what does it reveal to our hearts about the great Heart thats at the center of this event we call the Incarnation.
 
Ponder with me, if you will for a moment, that little baby wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a feeding trough. There He is, in a messy, overcrowded, commercial, smelly, manure-filled, unventilated, unbearably hot and humid stable in the middle of the summer, in the little town of Bethlehem. Nothing could be more contradictory to think than that this little baby is God Himself, come to us in the form of little human baby and born in these conditions. God Himself enters our human family as one of usbut also as one of us in the worst of circumstances. And to top it all off, He comes to establish His Kingdom of unsurpassable other-centered love, in a territory of His creation that has abandoned that love and set up a rebellious kingdom of self-interest and self-concern. You see, the real Jesus isnt about all the stuff mentioned in the first paragraph, and following the real Jesus isnt, either. Following Jesus is about having a realnot symbolic (and certainly not religious)relationship with a real God, through a real Savior, who brings about real transformation in and through our life through association with and reception of His unsurpassed, other-centered love for us all. Its about having a heart that, in love, is fully surrendered to a much larger Heart that, in love, is fully surrendered to us. Its about living with intentionality and purposeto swim, as it wereupstream in the ever-increasingly self-centered culture in which we find ourselves living, committed to living each day of our lives in radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love, replicating Calvary (and Bethlehem, too, for that matter) to everyone we come in contact with. (Some have called it Loving like the rain. Loving like the sunshine. See Matthew 5:4445.) Its about responding to His other-centered, self-sacrificial love for us and living out the other-centered principles of a kingdom that were historically injected into this world through a lowly (and messy) manger in Bethlehem.
 
But dont think for a moment that any of us can live a life of unsurpassed love like that by simply pulling up our bootstraps and trying. Lets take a quick look at 1 John 4:7, 8, 19. (My comments will be in italics.)
 
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
 
Notice that this radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love proceeds and comes from God. It does not come from us. It may flow through us, as it does throughout the entire unfallen universe, but it does not come from us. It comes from God Himself.
 
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
 
This radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love is the natural fruit of seeing, believing in, and knowing God Himself.
 
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
 
Therefore, if we find ourselves not loving in this radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love to everyone we meet, the solution is not to try harder, but rather to turn our attention on seeing, believing in, and knowing Him who IS love more accurately and more deeply.
 
We love because he first loved us.
 
We need NOT strive to be more loving, but rather to know more intensely how deeply we ourselves are loved. Then, by that Love for us, the same love in us will be awakened and flow forth to all we come in contact with.
 
This holiday season, set aside some time to become reacquainted with what that little stable in Bethlehem reveals. From that messy stable, and in perfect harmony with that stable, flowed the incarnation of Gods radical, sacrificial, other-centered love for us, a revelation that climaxed on a cross. Everything we see in Gods heart, as revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, began and flowed out of the truth of that original, small, dirty stable in Bethlehem. May we truly begin to see, believe in, and know Him as He really is. And may His peoplethrough that seeing, believing and knowingbecome that radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered Love, incarnate once again.
 
From all of us here at Renewed Heart Ministries: Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!