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Archive for March, 2013

Spoiler Alert | Galatians 4:28-31

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 50 of 70

Reflect

Do you see yourself in this picture? You’re Isaac, laughing yourself all the way home with the Promise. And history repeats itself: Ishmael, the servant boy born just like everyone else, couldn’t wait to spoil Isaac’s party, making sport of him. And looking at those spoiling your party now, we can see that some things never change. But what’s the caption beneath this scene? “They’re out of here, the both of them: servant girl and her son; the servant girl’s son will never share the goods with free-born Isaac.” Get the picture? Brothers, we’re not standing at sulking Ishmael’s side sharing slavery’s chains with him; we’re standing tall and proud right there alongside gloriously free and laughing Isaac.  Galatians 4:28-31  MAV

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A child of trusting faith and promise. A child of calculating flesh and improvisation. Rivalry and one-upmanship will naturally sprout among siblings – but such sproutings can be in toxic abundance in a home with rival mothers. The name “Isaac” is a play on the Hebrew word for “laughter.” Abraham and Sarah both laughed when foretold of his birth – a laughter of incredulity and joy. Ishmael laughed in scorn and derision at the party when Isaac was weaned. God’s scandalous reversal of grace doesn’t leave everyone happy (scandalous because it offends our religious sensibilities). The elder brother sulks at the edges of the celebration, resenting every cheer, every joy. He’s a spoiler. “I was here first, I have worked hard, and you never rolled out the red carpet for me like this!” It’s a scene replayed again and again, wherever God’s grace is manifested. That’s who these false teachers really are, Paul is telling the Galatians. They are Ishmael resenting the celebration of God’s grace as you have been weaned from the milk of pagan religion and have started feasting on the Bread of Life, the true spiritual food. They just had to spoil the party. They are envious and jealous, interrupting the party, derisively overturning the table of grace, and offering the soured milk of their own religion. The verdict over the first Ishmael and his mocking mother now hangs over these later Ishmaels spoiling the celebration of grace. Only the broken can enjoy this feast of Bread. The verdict can seem harsh, but it merely echoes once more the pronouncement of Jesus: “Many from the east and west will sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out.” May we keep the feast. No spoilers.

Relate

Looking back over Abraham’s family portrait this week, where do you see yourself in it now? Do you see yourself at God’s table of grace, chowing down on the Bread of Life? Why or why not?

Respond

Jesus, thank you for setting before me this table of grace “in the presence of my enemies.” Thank you for the overflowing cup of grace. Thank you for pursuing me in your goodness and mercy. No matter where I am or where I go today, let me drink deeply at this table – and pass it around.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Blessed are the Barren | Galatians 4:27

ea_series_galatians_header_2THURSDAY
Reflection 49 of 70

Reflect

Another God portrait from so long ago but still there hanging on Isaiah’s wall:

Shout for joy, barren woman who’s never birthed a thing.
That’s right, scream and cry out, woman who’s been a stranger to the maternity ward all her life.
Scandal! The childless, lonely woman crying herself to sleep every night has more kids
than the fertile woman in bed with her man night after night.

Galatians 4:27  MAV

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The prophetic portrait from Isaiah (see Isaiah 54:1) is one originally of the Jewish exiles returning from Babylonian captivity. All of their dreams of nation, temple, king, and promise were literally dashed to the ground. All seemed over and done with. A dispossessed, barren, people who ultimately had birthed nothing. The great empires and nations around them seemed strong, vivacious and fertile, in the prime of their youth, with imposing cities filled with “children.” By comparison they were the barren, infertile, divorced, woman with nothing to show for her life, living in total shame. And then the great reversal of grace. An exiled people and shamed city outshines them all. The barren woman ends up with a sea of humanity for children flowing into a city that now stands head and shoulders above them all. Paul now applies this to the Galatians. They have been shamed by the false teachers as spiritually barren nobodies – false teachers putting themselves in the role of the spiritually full and fertile trying to help out the pathetic spiritually barren gentiles. Paul turns the tables with the Isaiah portrait, very much in line with the beatitude of Christ: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is from the spiritually barren and distraught that fertile, spiritual life springs in glorious abundance. “To the one who has not, more will be given; to the one who has, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.” Jesus had announced this truth from the beginning. Paul is simply holding the mirror of that reality up before the Galatians. Perhaps we could stand to take a long, reflective look into that mirror ourselves.

Relate

Where have you experienced barrenness in your life that has suddenly seen this great reversal of blessing? Where are you currently feeling such barrenness? How will you entrust this into His hands?

Respond

Father, I marvel at your scandalous grace that so meets us in our brokenness, our complete barrenness, and transforms the dry desert into a fertile field. Do that in the barren places in my life today. And use me to bring it to others. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: What a Mess | Galatians 4:24-26

ea_series_galatians_header_2WEDNESDAY
Reflection 48 of 70

Reflect

This picture can be viewed symbolically, metaphorically, allegorically – there’s much more here than initially meets the eye! For these two women, these two mothers, are stand-ins for two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and only births children in chains. This is Hagar, totally. Hagar = Sinai, that famous mountain in Arabia, and furthermore, Hagar also equals Jerusalem here and now. For the city of Jerusalem is nothing but a slave to Rome, along with all of her kids. And in another surprising turn, Jerusalem above is the free woman – and this is our true mother.  Galatians 4:24-26 MAV

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What a mess. When he was 75, Abraham had been promised by God that he would have an heir that would inherit the land of Canaan, and who, much more than that, would become the means through which all of humanity would be blessed. So Abraham stayed. And waited. And waited. Ten years pass. Still no hint of an heir. He’s now 85. Sarah is now 75. Time is seemingly running out on the promise – if it’s not already gone. Abraham’s wife Sarah makes what probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Make her Egyptian slave girl Hagar a surrogate mom and thus Abraham’s legal wife as well. It made sense. It’s what people in that culture did in such situations. Abraham listens. A son is born after travail on multiple levels. But still the plan worked! Or so it seemed. But then God announces to Abraham that no, it’s not through Ishmael or through Hagar. And when Ishmael is about fourteen years old, Abraham has the long-awaited son through Sarah that was in God’s playbook the whole time. Soap operas can’t make this stuff up. So much of the history of redemption reads like a soap opera – too much of it like a bloody, violent soap opera. Messy spirituality. Messy people with messy families in messy situations through which God brings healing to the comprehensive mess of all humanity. Our God is a God of the mess. Perhaps now is a good time for us to acknowledge his presence in the midst of whatever mess we are facing.

Relate

What messy, sticky, icky situations are you facing right now? How can you seek God’s presence in the midst of it?

Respond

Lord, thank you for being a God who is in the midst of the mess as an empowering, transforming presence of grace. In the mess of this day, let me seek your face, pursue with faith your best for me and all those in the midst of it. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: Allegorically Speaking | Galatians 4:21-23

ea_series_galatians_header_2TUESDAY
Reflection 47 of 70

Reflect

And this picture can be viewed symbolically, metaphorically, allegorically – there’s much more here than initially meets the eye! For those two women, these two mothers, are stand-ins for two covenants.   Galatians 4:24  MAV

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In his book, Eyes Remade for Wonder, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner observes that there is “an important difference between literalism and metaphor. Literalism is clear, unequivocal, complete. Metaphor is suggestive, illusive, unsure of itself, unfinished, if you will, a little foggy. ‘And the Lord will appear in a cloud.’ In a cloud everything is up for grabs. According to the rabbis, each word of the sacred text has seventy faces and 600,000 meanings. Scripture, like Freud taught of any dream, is infinitely analyzable. And all the parts are essential – every word, every letter. There is, in principle, no distinction between the ten commandments and chapter 36 of Genesis, which delineates the progeny of Esau.” Most of us in western culture are only trained and therefore comfortable, mostly, with the literal. Every sentence has only one meaning. Clear, unequivocal, complete. God said it, I believe it, that settles it (someone should really make that into a bumper sticker). Scripture consistently attests to the fact that there is more. Every turn, every jot, every tittle matters. Not that we want to be weird with that. Just aware. This is where Paul goes when he explores Abraham’s family portrait. There are layers. There is more here than meets the eye. Victor Hugo describes one of his characters as examining life “with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest,” i.e. someone who not only reads between the lines, but who can see underneath them. Eyes remade for wonder indeed.

Relate

How do you tend to handle Scripture? Do you see it with layers of meaning potentially to be unpacked with the Holy Spirit’s help and illumination? Do you see it as something a bit more literal and straightforward? What are the potential pluses and minuses present within each approach?

Respond

Lord, let your Word be more of an open book to me. Open wide my heart to you as I encounter you in its pages – in, between, through, over, and behind the lines on each page of the Book and of my life.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Daily Reflection: Family Portrait | Galatians 4:21-23

ea_series_galatians_header_2MONDAY
Reflection 46 of 70

Reflect

So how’s this for a different tack. Tell me this one thing, you who are so eager to put your necks under the yoke of Law: aren’t you paying attention to what that Law actually says? This is the picture the Law paints, and the original is still on display after all this time: Abraham and his two boys. One of them was a child of a servant girl; the other of a free woman – his full and free wife, Sarah. The servant girl’s boy was conceived and delivered the same way everyone else is; the other boy was unique from the start – a child of Divine Promise.  Galatians 4:21-23  MAV

Receive

Any notion that Abraham is the “father of the faithful” because of a spotless record or a perfect home life is quickly dismissed when we look at his family portrait in the book of Genesis. The prophetic words from Belshazzar’s wall could have been written on Abraham’s with regard to his home life: weighed and found wanting. We’d even help the angel with that bit of divine graffiti if we weren’t thinking about how well the same graffiti would fit in our own homes. Abraham had two rival wives who gave birth to two rival sons. Sarah and Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael. In history, many lessons can be derived from observing this family portrait – most of them negative. So Paul does a surprising thing. He pulls out Abraham’s family portrait and turns it on the Galatians and their Law-hungry teachers. ‘You’re so hungry for Law? Then eat this, my friends,’ he seems to say. He then proceeds to do what all good rabbis would do: he takes that family portrait, cuts out the faces (as it were) and puts us in the picture. The shocker for all concerned is where we all fit. There is a great, scandalous reversal at work in this story, whatever else we may think about it, whatever other significance we see in it. And it mirrors the scandalous reversal at work among zealous law-keepers and former pagan believers. The question is, where are we in the story?

Relate

As you take time to reflect on the lives of Ishmael and Isaac this week, ask yourself where you see yourself in this story: Barren Sarah? Enslaved Hagar? Seemingly bewildered Abraham? Rejected Ishmael? Chosen Isaac? Where are you in this story and why?

Respond

Abba, keep me from making the mistakes and misjudgments that Abraham and Sarah made in their home life. Work through the mistakes I do make. Grant me the faith of Abraham, the boldness of Sarah, the eyes of Hagar, the laughter of Isaac, the submission of Ishmael. Through Jesus.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:21-31. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. You can get the full background of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 16-21.

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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Study in Galatians: Week 10

This week’s text:

Galatians 4:21-31 (ESV)

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Prepare for your journey through this text each day this week by reading the entire text from several translations.

Enter into the story Paul relates from Genesis (you can read it directly from Genesis 16-21).

Observe each character in the story.

Ask the Lord to speak to you through this story, and through Paul’s application of it in Galatians.

As you go through each daily reflection, reread the entire text as time permits.

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Daily Reflection: Contractions | Galatians 4:17-20

ea_series_galatians_header_2FRIDAY
Reflection 45 of 70

Reflect

But then here are these knife-wielding religious rivals of mine, hungering for your attention like a crowd of religious paparazzi. And that’s all fine and good – it’s great to have people hungering for a glimpse of your face, wanting your autograph (or more accurately in this case, wanting to autograph you!), hungering for your company just like I do, provided it’s not, well, creepy.

You’re all just like my own kids – and it’s as if I were once again going through intense birthing contractions all over again, screaming out in pain until Christ is formed within you again. Listening to myself scream, I so wish I could be right there with you now and try a different tack and tone – because I’m totally clueless how to get through to you!  Galatians 4:17-20 MAV

Receive

I know nothing of what it’s like to have contractions and give birth. But I have had teens. My wife does know something of birth pangs and labor. She’s done it five times and I at least witnessed each. I think she pretty much agrees with me that for parents those teenage years can be remarkably like labor in themselves. Only it’s a labor that lasts years. And you often don’t know whether a man or woman was successfully birthed through it until those teens are somewhere in their twenties. The Galatians were Paul’s teens. They skipped the terrible twos and went straight to teenager. And Paul literally doesn’t know what to do with them. His angst reminds me of God’s expressed angst over Israel of old: My people are hell-bent on leaving me. They pray to god Baal for help. He doesn’t lift a finger to help them. But how can I give up on you, Ephraim? How can I turn you loose, Israel? How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah, devastated like luckless Zeboim? I can’t bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest (see Hosea 11:7-8). Israel: God’s teens. And he doesn’t walk away. It’s good to remember that on those occasions we wake up and realize we’ve been putting him through our own teenage dramas. We might turn him every which way but loose – but he will never let loose of us, no matter how bad the birthing contractions get. Until Christ is formed in us.

Relate

Where are you in your walk with God? Innocent infancy? Terrible twos? Blissful preteen? Roller coaster teen years? Maturing 20’s? Seasoned 30’s? Really seasoned 50’s or 60’s? How is God meeting you along this stretch of your walk with him? How would he display his grace in and through you in this season?

Respond

Jesus, thank you for bearing with me through all of my own birthing contractions. Thank you for your faithfulness to birth your Life in me. Form Christ in me today.

Additional Reading
The whole text this week is Galatians 4:8-20. Read it daily in it’s entirety from a few different translations if possible. Also, as suggested in Sunday’s teaching, you can read and reflect each day this week on our new identity in Christ as set forth by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 (particularly verses 3-14).

For all of this week’s resources on Galatians including this week’s DG video on Galatians, check out the Vineyard website.

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