"If we cannot believe God when circumstances
seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at
all" (Charles Spurgeon).
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:8-9 - NIV).
Please keep the following individuals in your prayers:
1) "I am thankful for all the many blessings God has provided me! I pray that God would continue reminding me of these blessings and eliminate the worry that Satan places in my mind. Thank you for praying!" -Mark;
2) N.N. asks for our prayers. He writes: "I have been in this situation for over 3years now. It used to be I had joy and a peace of mind in my life. Some how some way,That all stoped. Since then I have been trying to rid my life of negative energy, but no matter what I do, I always somehow look to the wrong solutions to solve my trials. I ask you my friend, if you can Pray to our Lord that I may find my strength, inner joy, and peace in my life once agian. Please, if you can, ask Jesus to forgive my ways and help guide my path as a father/husband and man in his most Holy name. Thank you and God bless.";
3) "God please let me know if this is what you want me to do. I know you don't ever want a marriage to end, but I don't see things changing for the better. I have prayed and prayed for change in me and him, but it always ends up the same way. I love him Lord with all my heart, and I have apoligized for all I have done but it is not good enough. I have prayed for us to have a change of heart and to soften our hearts to hear you and what you want us to do. He doesn't want to hear anything I have to say Lord. You know my heart and I just don't understand anymore. I am so tired. Do I let go Lord? I don't know what else to do. I want our family to stay together. Please give me a sign as what to do and please help him Lord, he needs you too. He won't listen to me anymore. Please help us Lord. I have prayed to be who I should be and prayed for you to give me the words to speak to his heart. Please God help me to trust him." -Frances;
4) Tamara asks for our prayers. She writes, "Me and my boyfriend want to get marry and start a family.";
5) "Please watch over MIke and GInny. Mike is having a colonoscopy and has had some related health issues and Ginny is concerned. Operation is at 9:30am tomorrow. God Bless, Janet";
6) Mickie asks to be remembered in our prayers. He writes, "Please Pray for my Nanny who is in surgery at this moment; That the Almighty Surgeon will take control; and Let her heart be strong enough to get her through it. Thank you God, and Everyone.";
7) "Please pray for my brother in law Justin --. He is in ICU with pneumonia Please pray for a miracle." -Ana;
8) Rick writes: "Pray for a financial miracle for Rick.";
9) "I'd like to request prayers for the following: Jackie, Melanie, Irene, Joni, and Tim." -AN;
10) "Please pray for me that I can overcome this depression and let go of the way my life has been almost all of my life. I was actually happy at one time...for a short time, please pray that I can regain this happiness and keep it with the Lord. Oh please pray that my children and myself, as well as my mom, can move away from this crime infested area into a house that is comfprtable for the children mainly. I want them to know more than just the ghetto. Please pray that we will get out of financial hardSHIP And break the chain that goes on in this family. Please pray that God will guide me and let me know my purpose in life on top of having my children. Please pray that I will find a husband that is truely good to all of us, especially my kids, and we can live happily. Please pray that my children wont fall victim to the negative influences in school and that they will continue to do good in school by the grace of the Lord. Thanks again." -Nikia;
11) Gloria asks to be remembered in our prayers. She writes, "Please pray with me for my great-grandson Gabriel who is only 2 months and has developed a skini disorder that the DR's say he wil suffer from forever. It is called Seborrheic wrong spelling I know) but nonetheless it is a type of disorder that is scally and he is very uncomfortable. The medicines are beginining to ease the pain a bit, but, I know that our Lord Jesus Christ can cure him. I have that much faith. So, if you will see yourselves with a few extra minutes, please help me. I would pray for your baby. God bless you all. Thank you.";
12) "Please pray that we find a way to ease our financial burden. My husband worries so and it's so stressful for him. Bless you!!" -CJ;
13) Eleanor asks for our prayers. She writes, "Please pray for me and my family..and my husband. Both of us suffer from chronic back pain and also our knees are getting affected from our back. His knee is worse off than mine, his minuscus are torn and have to have surgery to fix but I'm the only one working and provide for my 3 kids, my husband and myself and just barely make enough to cover my bills. I've been struggling and getting very tired and stressed out. I feel like I'm a single mom, working, cooking when i go home and cleaning, going to to go wash my laundry @ the laundry mat, shopping for our food, paying bills, bathing our 2 young kids. Please pray that I may love my kids unconditinally, i don't like who i'm becoming..always having back pain, my responsibilities, taking care of my kids, i've become short tempered and easily angered, plwase pray that i may pay more attention to my kids even i have never ending chores to do. I feel overwhelmed and tired and getting very stressed out. PLease pray that my kids may get along and love each other even me. thank you daily posts for coming back to my email, i look forward to reading them and they also give me inspiration and lifts me up too. Please also pray that i may have enough money for christmas, i enter my kids names for Christmas name exchange every year and i do have a big family and live in a little village.";
14) "For the last 10 years, we have worked with -- @ -- College, especially with "Kids Gift Day" that allows children to come and choose gifts (new or gently used) to give their parents for Christmas. The student volunteers help them wrap the presents. My husband and I provide the children each get a bible, a nativity or ornament depicting the nativity, and a coloring book about the nativity, and other small items. There are usually 300 children. Because of the economy, my husband and I are having a hard time providing those items for the kids. And the college is esp short of items for the kids to choose from for their parents. Please pray for God direction in where and how to get these items for the children. The date of this year's event is 6th." -Lynda;
15) Albert asks, "that Kay and the kid's receive JESUS, and that HE would heal our relationship and bring us back together. I lost her because of my drinking. I ask that GOD would heal me of drinking.";
16) "I am 60 and my husband is 62. He is losing his eyesight due to diabetes. He has mascular dengeneration. I am required to do most of the driving, keeping up with appointments, medicine etc. I am asking for prayer for my mind. I can't remember anything. I argue that he has not told me soemthing or that I didn't see something and it ends up that I just can't remember. I worked for 33 years on a missile command and had to keep up with where thousands of missiles were. Now I can't remember a conversation I had with my husband. I want to be able to take care of our business so that we can stay independent. Thank you for your prayers." -Bernice;
17) TWalsh asks to be remembered in our prayers. She writes, "First I want to Thank God For who he is and for all he has done for my husband and I. We own a small business and this past year has been tough financially. We are now playing catch up with paying our vendors. Please pray for wisdom and direction as we pay them. We want to be a blessing to our customers and to our vendors. Please pray for the customers who owe us a large amounts of money that they will follow thru on their commitment to pay us.";
18) "Please pray that I am on Mark's heart and that he will not let me go. Please pray that I am worth it to him." -Beth;
19) Nathan asks for our prayers. He writes, "Hi i have a friend named baylie. She and i are really close i care for her alot. But she is with with this guy named keith. He hits her curses her and cheats on her. I have tried to get her to go to church but every time she gets up the nurv to leave him he keeps calling her and yells at her till she comes back. id like you to pray for her. Pray that god will help her get out and stop hanging with this crowd. get over him and move on to someone that will take her to church and show her how god will change her life. I love this person very much the only thing I can do is pray and ask you to do the same.";
20) "This prayer request is for a coworker of mine who is currently going through a very rough time. A few months ago his father was found with many blood clots and has been hopitalized since then. His wife has been found with what could be breast cancer a few weeks ago. His mother of 82 years is very ill at this time. My co-workers name is Dan and he himself has had many health issues this year requiring surgeries. However, on top of all this going on, his grandson Ryan, 2 years of age, has been hospitalized recently. Just what appears to have happened overnight, the child developed two tumors behind his neck and two tumors behind one of his eyes. The diagnostic confirmed that the child has a form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. It is in stage 3 or 4 and his progressing rapidly. You can imagine how hard it has been to go through daily life for Dan these days and now to have his only grandson sick with such a horrible diseasse. I ask that we pray for Ryan his grandson, for Dan and his well being, His wife Virginia, and all of his family members who are coping with this time of their lives. Thank you." -Ruben;
21) Please pray for Donnie. His health has been deminishing over the past year.;
22) "Pray for Richard and me. He is in the hospital getting blood. Please may he start feeling better. Pray for Rick,Nancy,Anne,Mary,Greacen,Louise,Louise and Floyd sr.and all others needing God's help in their time of need." -Susan;
23) Lorna asks for our prayers. She writes, "Please pray that Art and I will be able get a gym membership at the best possible price. Please pray that I become serious about losing the weight that I need to lose(50pounds and also to lower my blood pressure. Lord I want to give you praise and glory for all that you do for me and all the blessings you provide.especially today my birthday. I give thanks that the kids remembered and celebrated it and me with their thoughtfulness. Continue to bless my family with good health.I pray especially for my grandchildren that they are well and developing according to their age groups.Be with Ben and Ryan,heal them of any illness that they have.Be with Justin and Grace give them both character and self esteem.Please help Grace learn to read. Ben and Ryan ages 3 and 2 have not been very well lately,please lay your great physician hand on them and they will be healed. Please be with Justin 4 and Grace 6 as they go to school. Help them to learn and adjust,especially Grace help her with her reading and self confidence. Justin also.. Tthank you Lord for my family and friends.";
24) "Please pray for my puppy Buster. He was hit by a car last Wednesday night. He has a dislocated hip, a shattered pelvis and some internal bruising. Please pray for God to bring healing to my sweet boy and relieve his pain. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Nicki";
25) Kim asks to be remembered in our prayers. She writes, "Please pray for our finances and me to find job - very scared thanks" -Kim;
26) Please keep Reagan & Anna in your prayers. They are little ones that have become very ill.; and lastly ...
27) Keep Scott in your prayers. He recently had two back operations. At present, he is healing and recooperating.
**God bless you for caring enough to pray!!!**
A real friend is always and under all circumstances a friend (Proverbs 17:17a).
*** Prayer request from one of our prayer partners:
"Dear Beloved Brother in Christ Mark Seay,
Warm greetings to you in the most precious name of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for your continuously prayers about us. Since 4days we did our floods relief work various villages near by us these four days we hired a pay auto those areas and have seen their miserable condition. Hundreds of villages were drawn and houses also are filled water. Flood was affected mainly in three districts. 1. Kurnool2. Guntur (not in our place Bapatla) other part of our district. 3. Krishna (Vijayawada. So we went to our district Guntur Repalle area. Repalle mandalam zone consists many islands and so many villages. So we went to some villages and small Islands. As I shared with you in my previous mail about it, I could raise some money and bought 8 bags of rice and biscuit packets, some medicine and we went villages called Epuru lanka near by Kullur, Repalle. All the roads were covered with water so there is no transportation to go to that village. From last ten days those villagers are not able to come out side due to continues rains, floods and struggling food materials and drinking water packets. Also there is no power supply from that day so they are living darkness in the nights.
Few of our church members and we took those rice bags on our shoulders and other things with us. We walker around 5 kilo meters by walk carrying those things on our shoulders. After walking 5 kilo meters a boat came to take us to that island, so we kept all those things in side the boat and reached that village Epuru Lanka. All our people were tired with heavy luggage. Finally we reached that village, when we reached there many people were waiting people who can help them, give them some thing to eat & drink. But we have little their need is very big, so we went there and prayed for those villagers and told them our situation. We gave them what ever we brought for them. They were so happy by seeing our love and hospitality. I told them we are doing these things because of love of Jesus.
I have taken some pictures I am sending to you by through this attachment So that you can see them and pray for those victims. Flood effected not only one place and one village. Three districts of Andhra Pradesh were effected by flood. So need is very much. Still people need cloths, blankets, and food materials and medicines financial support to rebuild their houses. So please pray and share yours friends, family and church members and ask them to pray for these flood victims. Our orphan children and our widows and we all are continuously praying for you and for your blessed family. Especially our orphan children are gladly sending their lots of love and their lovely hugs to you and to your blessed family. Closing here for now. Waiting for your prayerful reply. Thanking you. Your’s in his service. President. K.Syam Sundar. Voice-President. John Mani, New Beginning Missions / Workers for Christ, India"
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18 - NIV).
What God Looks Like
A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork. As she came to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."
The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied,. . . . "They will in a minute."
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly realms," (Ephesians 1:18-20 - NIV).
(Part 1of 2)
HAGAR AND SLAVERY vs. SARAH AND FREEDOM
By John Piper
Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? 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, 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 who does not bear;
break forth and shout, you who are not in travail;
for the children of the desolate one are many more
than the children of her that is married."
Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 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.
The allegory of Hagar and Sarah is written to persuade us (along with the Galatians) not to follow the Judaizers into slavery with Hagar and Ishmael but to follow Sarah and Isaac into freedom. So I want to begin with a definition of freedom that I think is implied here. Then we will look at the allegory and learn from it how to have freedom.
Full freedom Is what you have when no lack of opportunity, no lack of ability and no lack of desire prevents you from doing what will make you happiest In a thousand years. In order to be free in the fullest sense you have to have opportunity, ability and desire to do what will make you happy in a thousand years. Another way to say it would be that there are four kinds of freedom, or better, four stages of freedom on the way to the full freedom all of us long for: the freedom of opportunity to do what we can, the freedom of ability to do what we desire and the freedom of desire to do what will bring us unending joy.
Let's take skydiving, for example. Suppose you are on your way to the airport to go up for your first real jump, but your car hits a pothole on Hiawatha, you have a blowout and run into a telephone pole. You are no longer free to jump whether you have the ability or not because the opportunity passes while you wait for the tow truck. You lack the freedom of opportunity.
Or suppose you do make it to the airport but you have no ability at all -- you have never studied skydiving and never learned the first thing about how a parachute works. The opportunity is there, but you don't have the freedom of ability -- you are in bondage to your own lack of know-how.
But suppose that you make it to the airport, you've been to school and been trained and have all the abilities needed. and you take off for your first jump. But as soon as you look down all your desire vanishes and in its place comes a tremendous fear. The opportunity is there, the ability and know-how are there, but you don't have the freedom of desire. The interesting thing about the freedom of desire is that you might be able to go ahead and jump without it, but it won't be a free act. For example, you might feel so humiliated in front of your instructor (or girlfriend) that the desire not to be humiliated overcomes the desire not to jump. So you jump. But the emotional experience is not what we call freedom. You are acting under very uncomfortable external constraints. You are like Herod when his step-daughter asked for the head of John the Baptist. He didn't want to kill John but he wanted even less to be shamed before his guests. So he acted, but not with the freedom of desire. You have the freedom of desire when you do what you love to do.
That's the way a lot of professing Christians try to keep the commandments of Christ. They don't really delight to do them but they feel some uncomfortable constraints like social pressures or fear of hell or desire to impress someone. So they go through outward motions of obedience but the desire of their hearts is fixed somewhere else. They do not enjoy the freedom of desire which Christ gives when he is being formed in the heart (Gal. 4:19).
But there is one last requirement for full freedom. Suppose you get to the airport with no obstacle; you have all the know-how necessary; you look out the door at the tiny clusters of silos and barns and farmhouses and just can't wait to jump. You have freedom of opportunity, freedom of ability and freedom of desire. So you jump. And as you free fall unbeknown to you, your parachute malfunctions and will not open. Are you free? In three senses, yes. But in that critical fourth sense, no. What you are doing so happily, so freely, is going to kill you. Whether you know it or not, you are in bondage to destruction. It would be a mockery to exult in the freedom of an exhilarating free fall if you knew it was leading to destruction. In order to be fully free it is not enough to have opportunity, ability and desire to act. The acts you desire and perform have to lead to life indeed, eternal life not destruction.
This is why it is naive for a Christian young person to envy the so-called freedom of those who pitch themselves out the window of sin and exult for a season in the exhilaration of free fall sex or free fall greed, or free fall drugs or free fall luxury. They will pass away like a vapor but those who do the will of the Lord will abide for ever (1 John 2:17). True freedom is not just the opportunity and ability to do what you desire to do. It is the opportunity, ability and desire to do what will make you happy in a thousand years.
Therefore, true Christians are the freest people in the world. And Paul is fighting with all his might in Galatians to expose the teaching of the Judaizers for what it really is: slavery. For Paul, the experience of freedom is not icing on the cake of Christianity. Freedom in Christ is Christianity. It is a matter of eternity. That's the first point of the allegory. So let's see if we can understand it and strengthen our stand in freedom.
In verse 21 Paul simply says that those who are turning back to the law of Moses as a job description for how to earn the wages of blessing from God, should listen to what the law says. Note this well, lest anything I or Paul have said sounds anti-Semitic. Paul only wants to teach things that are implied in the Jewish Bible. His problem with the Judaizers is not that they are Jewish but that they aren't Jewish enough. Paul himself was a Jew and never surrendered his allegiance to the law. What does it teach about freedom?
Verses 22 and 23, "It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman 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." Let's go back to Genesis 15 and remind ourselves of what happened to Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 15:1-6 Abraham is downcast because he and Sarah have no children, no heir to fulfill the promises of becoming a great nation (12:2). There is only Eliezer the slave. But God says in verse 4, "This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir." God's intention was to give Abraham a son and an heir when it looked humanly impossible so that Abraham would have to rely solely on God.
The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World:
**Article Content Spinner**
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13 - NIV).
Faithful With Much
At a Wednesday evening church meeting a very wealthy man rose to give his testimony. "I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I can still remember the turning point in my faith, like it was yesterday:
I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God's work or nothing at all.
So at that moment I decided to give my whole dollar to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today."
As he finished it was clear that everyone had been moved by this man's story.
But, as he took his seat, a little old lady sitting in the same pew leaned over and said: "Wonderful story! I dare you to do it again!"
By Bill Keller
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21
A test for where your heart is. In today's world of modern medicine, there are numerous tests to check the condition of your heart. However, today I have a very different test for your heart. Jesus said many profound things during His years of ministry. One of those profound sayings is our anchor verse today that binds together your treasure and your heart. What you spend your money on is a great indicator of where your heart really is. I want to challenge you to let God speak to you through these words today. This is like one of those pop quizzes you used to get in school. How you score on this test will give you a great indication if you are on the right track or if you need some work in this area. Please know that I will be praying for you.
Every day we have many choices to make. One of the choices we make each day is how we will spend the money God gives to us. Never forget, all that we have is from God, it is simply on loan to us. We have been given stewardship over the resources God gives us during our life. How we manage and utilize those resources becomes a test of not only our ability to be a good stewards of what God entrusts into our care, but where our heart is. As Jesus stated in today's passage of Scripture, you can get a great measure of your heart for God based on how you spend the money God blesses you with.
Ok, here is your test. Get a piece of paper and something to write with. You don't need to be an accountant and detail every penny, but in round numbers, figure out how much money you have made in the past year. You need to include all of your sources of income. What you made working, what you may have made selling something, any money people gave you, include everything that you have had come into your hands over the past year. Now, roughly figure out what you spent. In this part, break it down into two columns. Column one is basic living expenses and column two is everything else.
Basic living expenses include what it costs you to live each month, where you live, utilities, food, insurance, transportation, medical, clothing, all the basic necessities of daily life. Everything else is all the money you spend outside of your basic living expenses. This is the key element of the test, so it is important to do your best to include EVERYTHING you spend money on, no matter how trivial it may seem. Most people are actually shocked as they fill out this column regarding how much of their money they spend on so many different things. A very small percentage of people have ever done this before, actually sitting down and listing all of the things
they buy and how much they spent. I assure you it will be an eye opening experience for you.
After you have finished putting everything down on paper, it is time to take a look at where your heart is. Listen, the purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel bad or upset you. It is a great exercise to see exactly where your heart is, since what you spend your money on gives you a great indication of where your priorities are, what is really important to you. Zero in on the everything else column. Look carefully over what you are spending your money on and how much you are spending on different things. Out of that total dollar amount, what percentage is going to support the Lord's work through your church or some ministry you have been led to give to? Is it 5%? Is it 10%? Is it 25%? Is it 50% or more?
I can't sit here and tell you how much you should be giving to the Lord's work. That is an amount you and God have to work out. All I want to do today is help you see in black and white what you are spending your money on, how much you are spending on different things, and what percentage is actually going to God. Now it is time to get alone with the Lord and pray. Ask Him to show you through these figures if your heart is where it needs to be. I know most will be amazed at the things they buy, at how much money they spend on things that seem so trivial, and how much more they could be doing to support the work of God. Those in bondage to smoking and/or alcohol will quickly see a huge amount of money that is acutally being spent to kill yourself slowly. No doubt you will see other areas that you are spending a great deal of your resources on and it will force you to ask yourself how much of your heart is really God's.
I love you and care about you so much. I will be praying for you today. I will be praying for the Lord to use this test to really show you where your heart is. God's Word teaches us to be good stewards of what He entrusts into our care during this life. After our basic living expenses are taken care of, we need to be wise to invest some of our resources for the future. How we spend whatever is left gives us a good insight into where our heart is really at. I challenge you today that if your heart is God's, you will find that a good portion of your treasure is being invested in the work of the Lord since it was Jesus who told us, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
(Part 2 of 2)
HAGAR AND SLAVERY vs. SARAH AND FREEDOM
By John Piper
But in Genesis 16 Abraham and Sarah weaken in their faith for a time and devise a plan by which they will use their own resources to help God fulfill his promise. Sarah gives Hagar, her handmaid, to Abraham so she can bear him a son (16:2). And in Genesis 16:15 it says, "Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore to him Ishmael." So when Paul says in Galatians 4:23 that Ishmael was born "according to the flesh" it means that he was the product of self-reliance. Abraham ceased to rely on God's power to fulfill his word and instead relied on his own power and ingenuity to get a son.
Then, fourteen years later, in Genesis 17:16 God says to Abraham that his wife, Sarah, will have a son. God intends to fulfill his promise in a way that removes all ground for boasting. In verses 17-19 it says, "Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, 'Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah who is 90 years old bear a child?' And Abraham said to God, 'O, that Ishmael might live in thy sight!' God said, 'No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him."' God rejects what Abraham was able to produce on his own and promises again that in spite of Abraham's age, he will have a son by his own wife. So in Genesis 21:1 it says, 'The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised." Isaac was not born according to the flesh because his birth was the result of God's supernatural intervention in fulfillment of his own promise. Abraham had learned his lesson: the only acceptable response to God's merciful promise is trust in that promise, not works of the flesh that try, to bring down God's blessing with our efforts. So Galatians 4:23 sums up the story: "The son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise."
Verse 24 says that Paul sees an allegory in these events, that is, he sees them as apt representations of something more than their literal meaning. I don't think Paul would say that the original meaning of Genesis had reference to Mt. Sinai or to Jerusalem. I think he would say that the truth implied in the stories about Hagar and Sarah is the same truth that we can now see in what happened at Mt. Sinai and continues to happen in the present Jerusalem. So it is fully legitimate to use those stories from Genesis to symbolize and illustrate the later events.
According to verse 24, Hagar and Sarah represent two covenants. First, he focuses on Hagar and says, "One (covenant) is from Mt. Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." The key question here is: how is Hagar and her affair with Abraham and their son Ishmael like the covenant of Mt. Sinai - the giving of the law through Moses? There are two similarities at least. Hagar's giving birth to Ishmael is done "according to the flesh" (v. 23); Abraham and Hagar tried to get God's promised blessing by their own strength without relying on God's supernatural enablement. That is just what happened when the law was given at Mt. Sinai. Instead of humbling themselves and trusting God for help to obey his commands Israel says confidently, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 24:3; Deut. 5:27). But they did not have hearts inclined to trust in God (Heb. 4:2) or truly depend on him (Deut. 5:29). And so like Hagar and Abraham they depended on their own resources. And just as Ishmael was born according to the flesh, so the law offered was not received because (as Romans 8:3 says) the law was "weakened by the flesh." All that Abraham and Hagar produced on their own was a son who would not be the heir. All that Israel produced when they tried to keep the law on their own was a legalism which would inherit nothing.
Which leads to the second similarity between Hagar and Mt. Sinai -- both of them bear children for slavery. Verse 24 says that the covenant Hagar represents is from Mt. Sinai "bearing children for slavery." Since Ishmael was not accepted as an heir he was no better than his mother, a slave. And when the Israelites take the law upon themselves without trusting God for gracious enablement, they become slaves because they have no freedom to do the law from the heart and because their unbelief locks them into disobedience and excludes them from the inheritance.
Then to bring the allegory up to date at the end of verse 25 Paul says, "She corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." This is a direct attack on the Judaizers who have come from Jerusalem (cf. 2:12). They are the children of Jerusalem and they are slaves to the law and to the demonic forces of the world (4:3,8). So you can see Paul's point: don't follow these false teachers -- they may show you how to become sons of Abraham, but beware! With them you will be an Ishmael, not an Isaac. A slave, not an heir.
Then in verse 26 Paul turns his attention to the other half of the allegory -- Sarah and her child, Isaac. But he skips over any mention of the (Abrahamic) covenant and gets right up to date: "But the Jerusalem above is free. and she is our mother." He contrasts the present Jerusalem in verse 25 with the "Jerusalem above" in verse 26. What he means by the Jerusalem above can be seen in Colossians 3:1-3, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God." The Jerusalem above represents the dwelling place of God. Our life and our freedom flow down from him and our lives are already secure on the citizen books of that city. Sarah represents that city because she gave birth to Isaac not by reliance on herself but by an act of God from above in fulfillment of his promise. Therefore, spiritually speaking, she is the mother of all Christians -- of people whose lives are not merely the product of human resources but of God's supernatural work in their heart. So Paul says in verse 28, "Now we brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise." Our real life is not, like Ishmael's, simply owing to the work of man. Our real life is owing to the work of God in us fulfilling his promise to make for himself a people (Gen. 12:1-3) and to put his Spirit within them (Ezek. 36:27) and write his law on their hearts (Jer. 31:33).
This is confirmed by the contrast in verse 29. It says, "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now." Recall how in verse 23 the contrast was between one born according to the flesh and one born through promise. But notice here in verse 29 that the same contrast is between one born according to the flesh and one born according to the Spirit. "Born according to the Spirit" is interchangeable with "born through promise." This confirms that "children of promise" in verse 28 refers to people whose inner life is the work of God's Spirit in fulfillment of his promise. The difference between Ishmael-types and Isaac-types is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God.
Then verse 30 assures us that not the Ishmael-types -- not the Judaizers -- but the Isaac-types will inherit the blessing of Abraham, even though they may be persecuted. Finally, Paul concludes in verse 31 that we -- that is, we who live by faith in the Son of God and don't rely on what we can achieve on our own -- are not in the slave category but in the category of the free.
Which brings us back to our definition of freedom. Freedom is what you have when there is opportunity. ability and desire to do what will make you happy in a thousand years. Surely everyone here wants this full freedom -- to have occasion and ability to do what you love to do with the result that you live in perfect joy forever. If that's what you want, then this text is crucial for you, because Paul says the Ishmael-types don't have this freedom but the Isaac-types do.
Why aren't the Ishmael-types free? They are not free because they lack the desire to rest in God's promises. They lack the desire to show their own resourcefulness. It's not that they desire to reject God. They simply want him on their own terms. Abraham and Hagar wanted God's blessing but not on his terms.
The Judaizers want God's blessing but not on his terms. Ishmael-types in every age rely on human resources and don't desire to feel like children in need of a father, or like a patient in need of a doctor. Ishmael-types think you can outgrow:
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
We are weak but he is strong.
Therefore, when it comes to saving faith, Ishmael-types do not have the freedom of desire. They do not want it. Therefore they also lack the freedom of eternal life, because no one who prefers to live in his own strength rather than trusting God will be saved and go to heaven. And what's more, the hardness of heart that spurns childlike dependence on God will also darken the understanding. Every one of us knows that the most common use of the mind is to justify our desires. Therefore, deeply wrong desires will deeply mislead the mind until it is not able to understand what is right. So Ishmael-types are not free because they lack the freedom of desire to rest in God's sovereign grace; and therefore they lack the freedom of ability to understand God's will, and finally, they lack the freedom of eternal joy, because the life they have chosen leads to destruction.
But we, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise (Gal. 4:28). We have been born of the Holy Spirit. The essence of Christianity is the miracle of new birth. The hallmark of the Isaac-types is that we have been converted, changed, transformed at the center of our lives so that we desire to rest in God's sovereign grace. We desire to become as little children and receive the power and wisdom and holiness from our all-sufficient Father. We hate the remaining tendencies in us to be proud and to trust in ourselves or other people instead of God. Our delight is in the law of the Lord and our choicest food is to do his will in reliance on his power. This is what it means to be born according to the Spirit. This is what it means to say I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). His passion becomes our passion.
Therefore, Isaac-types have the freedom of desire. We don't labor slavishly under the burden of having to do what we don't want to do. We are free to do what we love to do and to do it forever in perfect joy. For God has caused us to be born again by the Spirit of his Son, and is shaping our desires according to his will.
"For freedom Christ has set us free! Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
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