Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cast Out the Slave Woman and Her Son!

Morning light was filtering through my kitchen curtains, bread warming in the toaster and the coffee maker gurgling to life while my oldest son and I were discussing the recent developments in his film career. We were marveling at the continued divine favor that is resting on his life and looking at a current situation. Though the situation on the surface looked like a missed opportunity, Ben was expressing complete peace and confidence in the sovereignty of God. He was marveling at the difference between himself and others in his sphere who were bound by anxiety, trying to impress people, frantically trying to “be in the right place at the right time”.

“You know, Mom,” he said cheerfully, “sometimes I think I don’t worry enough.” We chuckled together.
“It’s because you don’t have the pressure of the ‘self made life’, son.” I replied, “You are receiving a career from heaven out of relationship with your Father.”
And because you are sons, God has sent the Sprit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. Gal. 4: 6-7 (RSV)

Because we have been crucified with Christ and are living a life of “no longer I, but Christ, living in us” we have to reorient our understanding of how to live. It is no longer by our works, trying hard, achieving by natural means. We are no longer supplying God with use of our natural gifting, asking Him to bless our striving for success. We are no longer trying to curry favor with Him by the performance of “godly Christian disciplines”.
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. Gal. 2:21 (RSV)

No, we have been place within the body of Jesus Christ in His death and been completely judged and punished for all our sin and imperfections. Now, we are raised completely righteous, in total favor with our Father! Nothing, can cause me to gain MORE favor than the favor I have received on Christ’s behalf. Nothing. No fast, no hour in prayer, no quota of tracks handed out or verses memorized, no number of self inflicted stripes on the back. Nothing. Our favor does not come from the Cross + plus our good works. Our favor is complete. Our Lord said, “It is finished” as He absorbed the last of our judgement. Now, our job is to enjoy, explore, and worship with the whole of our beings as we enter into this complete unity - oneness with Christ. And as we enjoy knowing and experiencing Him to receive the life that our Father has prepared before hand that we would walk in.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:8-10 (RSV)

This way of “receiving our life” rather than “making something of ourselves” is foreign to the world, to most of Christendom and to many of us. But now that we are New Creations (2 Cor. 5:17) we need to learn the new and living way to walk. Most of us have been raised in a world which teaches “the Lord helps those who help themselves” and the power of the “seven habits of a highly successful person”. From here many of us were saved into a mixture of “do-it-yourself”, self help and trusting God. What does that make? Look around. How much of your thinking about your life is balanced on what you can do for God with your skill-set, gift-mix, education or passion of devotion? I fasted and prayed for years for God to open the heavens in our region, only to find out Jesus opened the heavens 2000 years ago, and that there is no barrier in our region to the risen Christ. What I was doing was the equivolent to 2nd grade “busy work”. Now I am entering into what He has already done. Now, any open door before me relationally, I walk through --- both “spiritual doors” and “natural doors” as I receive my life from Him, in the meantime, I enjoy, experience and worship my Lord.

I want to take a moment and emphasize that this is not just about “praying for people in the market place”. This is about how to live life in its totality. All of life from when, where and how to turn in your lease car to healing the woman ahead of you in the line at the grocery store, to making vital career connections, to disciplining your children is a whole. Life is a whole. Our spiritual life not separate from our natural.

But . . . but does this really work?


But only if you get rid of the slave woman and her son!


How do we receive our life from heaven?

How do received our inheritance as sons?

This is what Paul is making every effort to teach the Galatian church who had begun so well, but got muddled up, confused, bewitched, bothered and bewildered and who in effort to fix the situation entered into MORE and MORE performance behavior. Have you ever been there? I have. Here is what Paul says to them.
“Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman.” (Gal. 4:22)

What happened here? Abraham had a desire and a calling to have children. This was natural. Then God came along and added a supernatural promise to this natural desire. He showed Abraham that not only would he have children but as many as the stars of the sky and sand of the sea! With this prophetic word he defined Abraham and opened up the deep recesses of the natural longing in his heart, coupling it with divine destiny. Then nothing happened. Nothing at all, for years! Finally Abraham decided to use his “skill-set” with another woman to bring about the promised life and destiny of being a father. I believe he did this with all sincerity. Though we look at it through the lense of history as an act of ignorance think about this: how many times have we tried to figure a way out or fix our own situation and asked God to bless our plan? Let’s look some more at what Paul is saying:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory; these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, is bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one that dost not bear; break forth and shout (or cry), thou who art not in travail; for the desolate hath more children than she who hath a husband.: Galatians 4:22-27 (RSV)

Under the old covenant (Hagar) the way to live was to work hard according to the flesh. Under the new covenant (Sarah) the way to live is to receive the promise. Look at that phrase, “Jerusalem above is free, she is our mother. . .” As one under the new covenant you no longer strive but you receive your life of promise from above, from heaven. This is the way the free woman lives she receives her life and provision from heaven, from the unseen. One minute she doesn’t show any signs of being pregnant and suddenly she cries out in the last stages of transition and pushes out the child of promise, the life of promise, the career of promise, the car of promise, the transformed teen of promise, the miraculous provision of promise. But there is a catch:
But what does the scripture say? “Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman” So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Gal. 4:30-31 (RSV)

For the new creation, the old system no longer works well. It doesn’t produce a harvest of blessing. You might say, I’ve tried trusting before and God didn’t come through. Well, if we have a mixture of Hagar and Sarah no one gets nothing. Why? Why not just let them all live together and give special favor to Issac? Because if you are relying on your own “do-it-yourself” methods you actually enter into the curse (Gal. 3:10). God is not going to bless that. He wants you to rest, delight in Him and receive from heaven all that He has promised you. What is this received from heaven bit? Look at this scripture:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear . . . (Rev. 21:1-4, RSV)

Why does the slave woman and her son be cast out? Because God wants to dwell with us. That is the point. That’s what He’s always wanted. That’s why He created mankind and you in particular, to dwell with you! That’s why Jesus came to break down every barrier to that happening. Now, God wants to settle down over our lives with a heavenly city of promise which is comprised of all provision in every way primarily because He is dwelling in our homes, our lives. He wants us to receive from His open hand the gift of our day to day. He wants to be trusted and known in the process. This is the way the free woman lives! Receiving from the unseen realm through the veil into this realm with our tangible senses. So today, whatever your need large or small --- cast out the slave woman and her son, so that you can receive your inheritance for this day and know your Lord in the process.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is in your hand?

After Moses had been wandering the desert as a shepherd for 40 years, God confronts him. God asks him, “What is in your hand?” to which Moses replies, “A staff.” (Exodus 4) I imagine that Moses replied with the same tone and emotion as if he had said, “Nothing. There is nothing in my hand.” But God knew better. The staff was something – and as Moses had gripped that staff for 40 years, God had gently fathered him. As Moses held that wood (a symbol of the Cross that would later be the item extended outward as God’s people were led from bondage to freedom), in situations that seemed insignificant and situations that were terrifying, he was being changed, humbled, formed to be like God, and prepared for more. The 40 years were training for another 40 years in a desert that was to come. All the lessons of shepherding – care, service, and patience – had equipped him to lead an equally difficult people. The staff – Moses place of comfort, support and protection – is then thrown down at God’s command, becomes a snake and Moses fearfully reaches out to take hold of it. There was more in that staff than Moses had realized. The mighty power of God was manifesting in and around that staff. Moses had been trained, without knowing it, by the Great Shepherd Himself, and now Moses was being invited to see himself with new eyes and to see the how full and extensive the Father’s intimate training had been.

Over the last few weeks I have had this question churning around in my spirit, “What kind of training did King David have to be king?” I look at the Bible and I don’t read about a King School and it’s not like he was raised in a very kingly household. He was a shepherd. Maybe a good modern-day equivalent would be to say that he was an elementary school teacher, or auto mechanic or even a Starbucks barista. What he did was good. What he did was needed. What he did was valuable but it could be easily diminished and viewed as nothing. So where was this training to become this heralded and unequivocal king? I don’t see a formal training that he submitted to that helped him “achieve his destiny” or “unlock his potential.” I don’t see where he read, “10 Keys for Ruling God’s People.”

No, his training was right there in the field. Like Moses before him, David’s training

was intimate and it was right in his hands - it was near him. David was a tree planted in Bethlehem and in Bethlehem is where God watered and pruned him and it is where he grew (John 15). We get a clear sense that David knew that the Lord, his Deliverer, was with him in the field. David was being intimately fathered and trained. Time with the King, in worship and in praise, had reproduced a king in David. So much so that when we read David’s first conversation with King Saul, we are struck with how it sounds peer to peer. This is not a timid and unsophisticated shepherd boy – this is someone who has been raised to reign. Let’s listen in – and let’s get a snapshot of David’s training while we’re at it:

“David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you." 1 Samuel 17:32-37

What does David say? I killed bears and lions. I have been trained for Goliath. “I seized the lion and bear by the hair,” and soon he held Goliath’s head by the hair. His revelation of the presence of God and what God was doing in that hidden season lead to a nationally televised God-moment that no other person in Israel had been trained to overcome – only David had received this intimate fathering.

As we continue to read about David’s life, we are stunned at all that God had unlocked in that young, ruddy boy. He was a king, a priest, a prophet, a warrior and a son. David “humbly accepted the Word planted in him” (James 1:21) and that Word – the person of Jesus Christ – manifested the beautiful Christ. We see this again when regarding the life of Joseph. Joseph’s expression of leadership in Potipher’s house and in the prison could have been easily diminished in his eyes as he longed to be understood and to be freed. Yet, in it all, he had been so sweetly humbled that he could be trusted by God to have all of Egypt under his authority. (Genesis 41) We see into the heart and revelation of Joseph when he shares with his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) All of it was for good.

What is in your hand? And don’t say nothing! Are you employed, underemployed or unemployed? It is all being used for good. Are you single, married, married with children or married with 10 children? God is fathering you and God is using each relationship and relational dynamic – yes, the ones that feel good and the ones that don’t – for good. What are those bear attacks all about? God has a Goliath in your future and you being trained for the “saving of many lives.” What are these hidden years all about? If you can see it, the quiet and peaceful outworking of the Cross is at work in this season. The seed that has been planted in your heart is sprouting. Hold the staff and see that the Cross is more than you imagined – it is the power for those who believe! Can you see your own life now – where God has uniquely planted you and the people you have been surrounded by – it is all for good! Yes, you are in Detroit and it is good! Everything is working together to form you and to reveal the Son, the King, the Shepherd, the Priest in you. The hope of any such thing is only found in Christ the Son – Christ in us.

Oh, praise Jesus that we can save our time, our money and our energy. We don’t have to go running here or there to get this or that. God has come to us. Christ has made his home in you and in me. Now, God, in His miraculous majesty, is using each and every feature of our lives – our family, friends (or maybe some of them need to be ex-friends), work, home, marriage, the economy, everything – to draw out of us the Son. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is trivial. Every moment has value. Oh, Praise Jesus! The King School has come to you. The “training for reigning” is happening in your kitchen and at your workplace and when you are trying to balance your checkbook. At every moment Christ is on the scene. Then the Son says in our hearts, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:17) Our stewardship and understanding of this time – right now – is of the utmost value and importance. All the training we need for life, our true and substantial expression of the Cross, and all the work of the Kingdom is in our hands right now. And while we continue to hold the Cross, we too can say that we understand any difficulty we face. Yes, God has a huge plan, and everything that is at work in our life… “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Deliverer

I’ve had this phrase of scripture echoing around inside my spirit for a few months now. It comes to me during worship and during prayer times. This phrase has a life all its own. It feels living and active and loaded with supernatural strength. It feels like someone stands up inside of me, with feet planted on solid ground, and makes a strong statement within me to my body, my soul, and my surroundings. It is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself, taking His rightful position in me and making a declaration into the atmosphere. He stands strong in me, like a fortress, in the midst of a world full of trouble, He looks right at what’s going on, and says . . .

“We have this Hope/We’ve got this Treasure.”

I’ve been meditating on the book of Hebrews for a few months now. I’ve been digging into it like a treasure hunter, looking for something really precious—a treasure. I drank in the pages of scripture, which poured into me a consistent reminder in every chapter, that I have a hope, and I have an inheritance. Every page seemed to lead me closer to learning about this “pearl” that I was longing to grasp with both hands. My inheritance in Christ.

I read and read and read and then finished the book of Hebrews with a kind of ‘Did I miss something?’ sort of feeling. I remember getting to the end of the book, sitting back in my chair, and exclaiming, “So what is my inheritance??!! What exactly is IT?” I emailed Pastor Pete and asked a load of questions, which he graciously answered, but we both agreed that all these questions and a feeling of “I’m missing something,” was just a sign that I was about to have another encounter Jesus and Him crucified.

The next weekend, our family was sorting through some really dynamic and challenging circumstances. It came on suddenly, from many directions, and we encountered challenge and distress on many levels. There seemed to be pressure on every side of us, kind of like being surrounded by sharks in an open sea. In the thick of this, there was a strong temptation in the midst of crisis to feel helpless, get frustrated, and turn on each other.

I remember getting to church service that night, feeling like I could not bring myself to a place of peace. I could not find it in myself to stop blaming and forgive. I couldn’t find any shred of light in our circumstances. I couldn’t find hope in my knowledge of scripture to ‘rise up’ above it all and enjoy the worship going on around The Throne. I felt weighted down, I felt unable, I felt weak and human, and I felt disqualified to even enjoy Jesus as He was walking among us in this beautiful time of worship.

I tried and tried to focus on Christ. I tried to quote scripture to myself. I tried and tried to preach Truth to myself. I just couldn’t bring myself out of the feeling of being swallowed up by sin and circumstance. So, I fell to my knees and just whispered, “Help me, Jesus. Help me.”

Immediately, a tidal wave of light washed through me and I heard it. I heard a body being broken. On every sensory level I heard and felt and saw The Body of Jesus being broken—like a large grape being popped under tremendous pressure and crushed—and blood and water and grace poured out from the fresh wound in Jesus’ side. It flowed out from His body to me and my whole household. As this blood and water flowed out, I felt the very specific grace provided in Jesus’ death for our family in this moment in history and it was portioned specifically for this moment of circumstance and trial. I felt the provision of salvation and grace poured out 2000 years ago, here, for our family, now in the very moment of distress, and it filled my entire person out with life and peace and love again.

Then Jesus came into our corporate worship service. I saw Him appear, on the platform just a few feet from Shelley on the keyboard. He was standing in Kingly robes, offering a large piece of flesh, sopping with blood and water, from His side to the congregation. There was provision and salvation, being offered from His sacrifice for our now moments of crisis and sinful thinking patterns. The strong arm of the Lord came in and began to destroy patterns of thought to set us all free.

I reached out and took my portion of Jesus’ flesh into my body and I remembered. I remembered the book of Hebrews. I remembered my search for ‘the pearl’ of revelation in my inheritance and hope. I remembered!

Jesus then began declaring the Hope of the ages inside of me. I saw the world, I saw our country, I saw the spirit of the age and its effect on the inhabitants of this world. I saw the depression, I saw the fear, and I saw the hopelessness. In the same moment I saw the condition of the earth, I became very aware of my real condition. Jesus began declaring from within me, my inheritance in Him. He said,

“You are not a people called to deliver yourselves.”

I was overwhelmed with my portion in this simple statement. If I am not called to deliver myself, then that means I have a Deliverer. This is my portion in Jesus.

I felt a sudden and obvious separation from the things and people of this world. I felt the pearl of greatest price. I felt the Great Divide. I felt my name in the Lamb’s book of Life. I felt my place and position in heaven in Jesus. I felt my Father. I felt the Son. I felt the Blood that purchased me from hell and ransomed me out from under the world and sin. I felt the Son of God, entering into the thick of it, in a world full of hopelessness and pulling me out of it all through His own broken body into heavenly realms. I saw that I had been violently ripped out of an earthly existence through the veil of his broken body and I tasted my inheritance. I was experiencing my life in unbroken fellowship with God, through the Son, and I tangibly encountered the HOPE for which I had been reaching as I read the book of Hebrew the previous week.

We have this Hope!!! People without this hope have to deliver themselves! They have to bring their sheep and bulls to offer sacrifice for sin. They have to search out new and better ways to pull themselves out from or avoid calamity, crisis, and failure. They have to toil and pour their sweat into the earth and then eat the fruit born from thistled ground. They have to read advice books and listen to self-help tapes and attend seminars to teach them a better way to hold relationships together. They have to attend conferences on the latest and greatest idea for gathering wealth in storms of economic crisis.

They have to do, they have to go, they have to try. They are offered recycled ways and old formulas with new packages promising success, but are only an end in themselves. They have to stare in the face of ominous generational curses, coming down the line as their inheritance of a previous generation’s investment, and expect the full return in their lives.

They don’t know this Hope. The earth is their home, their portion is toil. They don’t know about the One God sent to Deliver them. They are still dragging their offerings from their own labor to the table trying to atone for something that can never be removed by human hands or ideas. They are still lugging the fruit of their own efforts to the crisis of life and coming up short and empty. This is the life of a person who has to deliver him or herself. Ugh. Can you feel that empty portion? Whew.

HOWEVER, we have this Hope:
But when the proper time came, God sent His son, born of a human mother, and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that He might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God. It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of His son into your hearts to cry, “Father, dear Father!” You my brother, are not a servant any longer. You are a son. And, if you are a son, then you are certainly an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:4-11 Phillips

God didn’t stand aloof from our condition. He didn’t stand far off in heaven and hope for the best as we dragged our bulls and goats to the outer court to atone for sin we couldn’t cure. He sent His very own Son, Jesus and entered full into it. He dove right into the thick of it. He came right into the middle of it and offered Himself as a final sacrifice once and for all for our sinful condition. He drew up into Himself, the very condition of sinfulness in which we walked about contaminated and contaminating the world around us.

Jesus drew up into Himself the very specific circumstances and crisis that cause us distress and He allowed the sacrifice of His own body. A body broken outside of time and inside of history, so that at any given moment, the Truth of this superabundant act of grace and love can break in and deliver us in the new and living way.

We are not a people called to deliver ourselves. We’ve entered into the solution and the salvation through His very body--broken and crushed--so that blood and water and grace could pour out in the moment of crisis and say, “Mercy! There is provision in this Body for this. Here, receive the sacrifice for this one crisis, or ten problems, or 50 issues of distress. There is grace for this, and therefore, receive your deliverance.”

This is our inheritance. So, this is “This Hope” we carry around within us. This hope is that He is our Deliverer, then, now, and forever. We have been given way out through Jesus, our Lord. A God who has entered fully into the thick of it for us, to bring us into right fellowship with Him, in Him. What a gift. What a treasure. What a Father. What a Savior. He is our Deliverer.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf. . . Hebrews 6:19,20 (Phillips)

Written by Melissa Williams (with a bit of publishing help from Pastor Lisa)