January 31 Esight, 2011

John answered and said, Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us. But Jesus said to him, Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you. Luke 9.49-50Let me start by clarifying what I’m not saying this week. I do not believe we should sacrifice passion for what we sincerely believe to be Truth. My concern is rather how we treat those with whom we find ourselves in disagreement about what is Truth. The Bible seems, from what I have witnessed, to contain two types of teaching. One is purposeful. It is clearly the intention and passion of the author to communicate, and it is expressed with such clarity that most people find themselves in agreement with. The other kind of teaching is one that we derive by observing the authors as they write about a different topic than the one we have questions about.

An example of the first type of teaching is that Jesus is the Christ. This is clearly the New Testament’s central passion.

One of many examples of the second type of teaching in the Bible is church organization. None of the New Testament authors sat down and composed a church manual for us. We are left piece together how the church was organized from what the authors say about how the early church was organized and functioned while they are passionately speaking on other topics. Another example (and I want to be clear that I am a Sabbatarian, if labels mean anything) is the Sabbath. Nowhere in the New Testament do the authors forsee the church’s history of transitioning from a Saturday celebrated day of worship to a Sunday celebrated day of worship. They do not forsee it, and thus they do not address it DIRECTLY. What we do have from the New Testament authors are gleanings that they themselves and the early Christians were Sabbatarian in their day of worship. But we have no DIRECT writing on the topic in which it seems to be the author’s passion to give us a complete dissertation of the Sabbath in the New Testament, its meaning, and how it should be celebrated by New Testament Christians. Does this mean it isn’t a concern for us simply because they were not concerned with it then? No, it simply means that those writing the New Testament lived before events they could not forsee took place, and thus they did not address the issue.

But this is not my point at all. I simply what you to begin thinking about these two types of truth in the New Testament. The first kind is clear, and most Christians today agree about it. The second is the “gleaned” kind in which there is room for misunderstanding, misapplication, and disagreement. My point is, how should we relate to others who we find ourselves in agreement with on the first kind of truth, but disagree with on the second? Does it mean we write off what we believe about the second category as unimportant? NO, it simply means that we understand that these two different types of teachings in the New Testament exist and we still extend the right hand of fellowship to those we disagree with about the second kind of teachings. Follow John’s statement closely:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 1 John 5.1 (TNIV)

If someone in our post-modern, evolutionist, atheistic-tending society believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, then we already, simply by that belief alone, find ourselves having something very special in common with that person. I guess my concern is an attitude I see too often in our churches (and I’m in a different one each weekend). There is this “us and them” kind of spirit. It is not espoused by all, but it is definitely more present than I like to admit. There is something inside us that wants to set up a criteria, a list, of what makes a person “in” or “out.” It’s an attempt to find a kind of false assurance that we ourselves are “in.” But in doing this, we reject God’s love for us as being the basis of our assurance, and we establish our own criteria in its place. Our religious beliefs and practices take the place only God is to have in our hearts and become nothing more than idolatry. We go about establishing our own ideas of what is the identifying mark of who is “with” us or who is still “outside.”

This attitude is fundamentally flawed on many levels, but the greatest problem, in my opinion, is that in thinking and relating to others according to these principles, we deny the very fabric of what God’s kingdom is all about. Jesus was much more inclusive than what we find many Christian communities, including my own, being today. (For evidence of this, just look at the types of people Jesus attracted. Those are the folks that churches today repell.) I’m simply being honest, and I’m speaking from my heart. The more familiar I find myself becoming with what Jesus was all about, the more questions and concerns I have about how modern traditional “Christian” communities fit into that. Just questions. Not doubts. Please don’t label me too as being “out.” I’m simply asking questions and voicing concerns. I want to be different. Not that I have by any means arrived, but I want to live in relationship to others with that radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered, inclusive love that characterizes the life of Jesus and the kingdom He came to establish in our hearts.

I’ll close with a story a dear friend of mine from Minnesota shared with me recently that I believe expresses my point beautifully.

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said, “Stop. Don’t do it.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.

“Well, there’s so much to live for!”

“Like what?”

“Are you religious?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Me too. Are you Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist?”

“Christian.”

“Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

“Protestant.”

“Me too. Are you Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, or Baptist?”

“Baptist.”

“Wow. Me too. Are you Southern Baptist, General Baptist, Northern Baptist, or Separatist Baptist?”

“Separatist Baptist.”

“Me too. Are you Original Separatist Baptist, or are you Reformed Separatist Baptist?”

“Reformed Separatist Baptist.”

“Me too. Are you Reformed Separatist Baptist, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Separatist Baptist, Reformation of 1915?”

He said: “Reformed Separatist Baptist, Reformation of 1915.”

I said: “Die, heretic scum,” and pushed him off.

Within our churches, we already have so much in common with each other, especially within the denomination I belong to. On some of those secondary areas of Biblical teaching, can we not administer a little more grace toward one another, trusting that God is at work in all of our lives and that He will complete this beautiful work He has begun in us? Patience, love, and forbearance—these are the staples of the kingdom. Love that will not let each other go, but at the same time, gives each one his or her own space to grow in.

Thank you for your patience with my heart’s cry this week. It comes from a sincerely troubled, weekend-church-visiting, traveler.

I wish you God’s best this week.

Love like the sun. Love like the rain. And go enlarge the Kingdom.

In love,

Herb

January 24 Esight, 2011

I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, and they are cut off from Your hand. (Psalms 88:4-5)First, I’m on my way back from Oregon tonight and I’m writing this on the airplane. I don’t have time to send this to the editors and wait for it to come back before I have to get it posted in order to go out in the morning. So, for all those who are grammatically astute, I am apologizing in advance. I have seen three new verses this weekend and I am beside myself in wanting to share them with you.

The verses I’d like you to consider are four amazing psalms (one I share almost every weekend, the others I have just seen). Simply ponder them for a moment for me. I believe that these psalms are not simply relaying the experiences of their author, but that they also have a prophetic purpose pointing forward to the future experiences of the Messiah too. (Theologians call these “Messianic Psalms”) But what they reveal, I believe, is life changing.

Psalms 69.15

May the flood of water not overflow me nor the deep swallow me up, nor the pit shut its mouth on me.

Looking at these as a window into what was transpiring in the heart of Jesus as He hung on the cross for you, I’m asking these questions: Why such desperation here? Doesn’t He know He’ll be resurrected on Sunday? Why the sense of pleading? (For more insight into this please listen to the presentation The Awakening on our sermons page at www.renewedheartministries.com)

Again,

Psalms 39.13

Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again before I depart and am no more.

Did you catch that last statement? “Before I depart and am no more.” What does He mean “no more?”

Again,

Psalms 41.8

A wicked thing is poured out upon him, that when he lies down, he will not rise up again.

NOT RISE UP AGAIN? What is being said about Jesus here? Wasn’t He resurrected?

Psalms 88:4-5

I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, and they are cut off from Your hand.

Without a doubt I believe with all my heart in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But whether He was resurrected or not, that is not the issue here. My question is was there a time on the Cross where Jesus FELT, regardless of what He may have known intellectually going into the cross, was there a time on the Cross where Jesus FELT utterly forsaken of God, that Sin was so hateful to a holy God that if He went through with saving you and I it would be goodbye to life for Him forever? I have had some very zealous folks argue with me over the years about whether or not Jesus died the second death or the first death in redeeming us from our sins. And I want to be very clear. I’m not writing this to argue that point at all. My question is which death did Jesus FEEL like He was dying? One where He would be remembered and resurrected in two more days? Or was there a point on the cross, even if for only a small period of time, where Jesus FELT that if He gave His life for you and me, it would be at an eternal price to Himself? I believe the answer according to these psalms is a resounding YES!

Think of this dear reader. What does that mean about your value or worth to the God of this universe? What does this mean about how much He must love you? That the God of this universe would look at all the glories of Heaven, the reuniting embrace with His Father, and all the adoration of the angels, and still say, “Heaven is not a place that I desire to be if YOU cannot be there with me.” That God would decide, when faced with either saving Himself at your eternal ruin, or saving YOU at His own eternal ruin, that He would, out of deep inestimable love, decide to save YOU in utter abandonment of Himself.

I’d like you to ponder these thoughts this week. You are the object of the radical, self-sacrificial, selfless, other-centered, love of your God! He will stop at nothing to make sure you are in the kingdom. You mean more to Him than you could possible understand. Just as the woman at the well discovered, He knows everything there is possibly to know about you and He is looking at you today saying, “The gift is still on table”

Won’t you receive it? Won’t you embrace this radical kind of love? Not just as a the gift that it is from Him to you, but also as the way you want to live this life He is giving you?

I wish you God’s best this week.

Love like the sun. Love like the rain. And go enlarge the kingdom.

In love,

Herb

January 18 Esight, 2011

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.—James 5.16This last weekend I was in Wheeling, WV conducting our Awakening weekend seminar. Leading up to this event, I sent out an email message (and posted one on Facebook) for folks to be praying for this event simply because prayer is “powerful and effective.” This generated some responses and questions that I would like to address in this week’s E-sight, as I am quite positive that they reflect the concerns of a number of folks out there who didn’t write in as well.

You see, any time we talk about prayer, inescapably, there will always be questions about the prayers we have so desperately prayed and felt as if God did not come through for us. The subject of prayer touches a raw nerve for many and I, too, find myself in that category. Culturally, within modern Christianity, there are two extremes. One is the vending-machine type of understanding that says, “Ask anything in Jesus’ name and it will be done,” and the other is the viewpoint that “prayer doesn’t really change God or things, but rather it is for the purpose of changing us.” Both views have their pitfalls and subtle lie about the character of our God. I believe that prayer actually does change things. It changes what is possible for God even in some circumstances. But I also believe that prayer is not the only variable in many situations. Yes, prayer does make a difference, always, but there is also the free moral decisions of those involved that we have to take into account.

There are four points I want to give you this week to think about in relation to the subject of prayer.

1. God’s promises are principles, not formulas.

When the Bible promises something, too many times, we translate it as a formula. We think that if we do what the Bible says, then we are guaranteed a certain outcome. Then when the outcome fails, so does our faith in the promise. But again, God’s promises are principles, not formulas.

A common example that I run into all the time is in Proverbs 22.6:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This is a principle about being purposeful in our child training. It tells us that raising our children with a determined purpose is effective. But remember, this promise is a principle. Not a formula. It does not negate the free will of the child itself. It is possible for the child, even rightly trained, to turn and rebel against that training. But for the majority, the training does pay off and is the largest determinant in the life a person chooses. But how many parents of wayward children have I met who beat themselves up over the decisions their kids have made? We need to remember that, first, every parent makes mistakes, and second, that every child has the freedom to be responsive to proper training or to rebel. The principle in Proverbs 22 is for parents to do their part.

2. We live in a world that is unfathomably complex.

Too many times there are only two possible reasons given for why a prayer was not answered. Either it must not have been God’s will or the person praying did not have enough faith. I believe that both of these answers can be very destructive if this second point about the complexity of this world is also not understood. Many times we are left either blaming God for not coming through for us, or blaming ourselves for not having enough faith to bring about the desired outcome for which we prayed. Both of these are very destructive to a relationship with God. There are two examples of this I’d like you to consider. One is in Daniel 10 where neither God’s will nor Daniel’s faith was the problem. Rather it was the complexity of another being’s free will preventing Gabriel from answering Daniel’s prayer for 21 days. Someone else was getting in the way. And the second is in Matthew 17 (17:21), where the casting out of a certain kind of demon required much more than God’s will and the faith of the Disciples. The casting out of this demon was much more complex than average.

Whatever one makes of these two examples, it becomes very clear that the free moral decisions that are made on this planet make life here a lot more complex than we understand. One day, God is going to pull back the veil so we can understand. But on that day, He will not be showing us why He DID intervene in one situation and why He DIDN’T intervene in another. But rather, He will be showing us why He COULD intervene in some situations and why He COULDN’T intervene in another. And that is a very different understanding of what it means for God to give us free will.

3. Prayer, because of the free will of all who are involved, never guarantees we will automatically get what we prayed for. But it DOES make a difference.

We have no way of knowing how things would have turned out if we had not prayed. But just because we do not see that exact outcome we prayed for, our prayers did make a difference. The situation was different. The substances God had to work with were dramatically different. So pray, and get everyone you know to pray too. And believe that you ARE making a difference. And if it doesn’t turn out the way we, and God, desire, as hard as this may be, know that this situation must have been very complex. We must trust that God did do all He could, and that our prayer enabled God to do more than He could have had we not prayed. This leads me to my fourth and final point.

4. When we pray, it is vitally necessary to remember that God looks like Jesus Christ.

Jesus healed all. He didn’t make them muster up enough faith first. And He never looked at suffering as part of God’s will. He saw it as an enemy element which must be overcome. There was only one place Jesus did not perform the miracles He did everywhere else. Nazareth. But remember, it was not by choice that Jesus did not perform His miracles there. The complexity of the situation in Nazareth prevented Jesus from being able to perform miracles there.

Please, know and believe that your prayers are powerful and effective. They really are!! Does that mean that everything we pray for will just happen? Even if it’s God’s will, the answer sometimes can still be no. I’m sorry. Prayer is a powerful variable, but it is not the only variable. There are many variables in each situation: God’s will, faith, prayer, AND every free moral decision that has ever been made by free moral agents that went into creating this situation (free will). And that’s just to name four; I’m sure there are even more variables than that.

There is so much more I would like to say about prayer, but this is already the longest E-sight we have written to date. I apologize for its length, but I felt it was needed.

In conclusion, should we pray? Absolutely!! It changes more than just ourselves. It makes a definite difference in the outcome of the events that transpire around us, whether the DESIRED outcome transpires or not.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.—James 5.16

I wish you God’s best this week.

Love like the rain, love like the sun, and go enlarge the kingdom.

In love,

Herb

January 10 Esight, 2011

“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16.14).This week I received an email expressing concern that we as a ministry have an unhealthy overemphasis on “love.” “There is a lot more to the Christian life than love,” the email stated. I have spent much time in prayer over this, and honestly, it brings me great concern. This is not an isolated issue; rather, it is one that I meet (especially in our weekend seminars) more often than I would like to admit.

I have no desire whatsoever to defend our emphasis, as a ministry, on love. (If anything, when one reads the New Testament, one finds that in reality, we as a ministry are actually guilty of not emphasizing love nearly as much as the scriptures themselves do.) Rather, my burden is to defend love itself.

First, remember, Jesus did not come to establish the Christian religion (a religion, remember, that in the eyes of the world has been guilty of more bloodshed than any other religion in human history). Jesus came, instead, to establish a kingdom—a kingdom where love is not simply an element among many others but rather is the centerpiece from which everything else flows.

Isaiah prophesied:

“In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness” (Isaiah 16.5).

A throne, or kingdom, established in love. Listen to the words of Jesus Himself:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13.34,35).

Love, according to Jesus, is the distinguishing characteristic by which we know who is part of the kingdom and who is not. It is not a label, not a set of intellectual facts; rather, all who genuinely love are the ones who comprise God’s kingdom.

In the words of the apostle Paul:

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love . . .” (Ephesians 5.1,2).

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12.10).

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5.13).

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4.2).

“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16.14).

And the apostle Peter:

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4.7,8).

Above all! Did you catch it? Above all? What does that really mean? Are we willing to allow it to truly have this kind of significance in our hearts?

I will say this, that my dear friend who wrote me is correct. There is much more to the Christian life than simply knowing God’s love for us and allowing that love to be reproduced in us toward others. So much so, in fact, that Christianity has too often become occupied with all that other stuff. But the more familiar I become with Jesus and His teachings, the more questions I find myself asking about how modern Christianity fits into Jesus’ mission, and the more passionate I find myself becoming about helping others see the truth about God’s character of love and being a part of a kingdom of love that is being established in people’s hearts today.

Finally, I will close with the apostle John’s incredible statement. Meditate on it, if you will, and simply let the Spirit speak to your heart right now:

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (John 4.16).

Wow, whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Wow!

I realize that we cannot love by simply trying to love others. I know that what is needed is not more effort but rather a deeper encounter with God’s great love for us, which will awaken, in our hearts, love for all who are around us. Therefore, in the light of God’s self-sacrificial, other-centered love for each of you this week:

May everything you do this week be done in love. In the light of His love for you, may you too, love like the rain, love like the sun, and go enlarge the kingdom. (see Matthew 5:44,45)

I wish you God’s best this week.

In His extravagant love for us all,

Herb