Our chocolate lab and slavery

Tony and I used to have a dog called Sugar—a faithful and loyal companion, though of dubious parentage and limited intelligence. Sugar had one major character flaw. She loved to wander. We live in a house with a fenced yard and an electric gate across the driveway. Sugar used to hide, lying in wait, until a car went through the gate. Then, just as the gate was closing the final few inches, she would make her bid for freedom. She would return several hours later, exhausted but happy.

When we decided to put a stop to her adventures, we installed an invisible fence across the driveway. If dogs approach an invisible fence too closely, a little battery on their collar gives them a small jolt of electricity. They soon learn their boundaries.

After a couple of, shall we say, shocking experiences, Sugar learned to stay within the confines of our yard. In fact, long after the battery in her collar had died, Sugar would sit, wistfully gazing at the liberty that lay on the other side of an open gate without making any attempt to escape. She had become conditioned to her limitations.

Chocolate lab

Photo Credit: teakwood via Compfight cc

As women in the church, we too, have been conditioned to live within boundaries.

Harriet Tubman, who led many slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I would’ve freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

After the Emancipation, most slaves stayed where they were. Some had no idea they were now free, and others had no idea how to survive outside of slavery. Many entered into sharecropping arrangements with their former masters, getting paid a pittance for the same work they had formerly done as slaves. It took generations for the reality of freedom to take effect.

The worst kind of prison is that of the mind, where a person accepts adverse circumstances as the natural order of things without realizing the perceived cage bars don’t really exist. They are held captive only by their own thoughts.

As women, many of us are imprisoned by what we have known from the past.

(Excerpts from The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church by Felicity Dale)

The Path of Freedom

Brandon Chase is a frequent contributor to House2House Magazine Online.  I always enjoy his posts which I find insightful and thought-provoking. He also writes about Life, Love and Church – and how Jesus is all of these – on his blog Zōē Perissos. He has recently written an ebook The Path of Freedom: Few find it; Fewer walk it; Be one of the few. As I read this book, I was caught up in his story of how, from a churched background  Brandon found the freedom he longed for. I know others long for the same.

Felicity: I know from personal experience how important motivation is in writing a book. Why did you decide to write The Path of Freedom?

Brandon: The Path of Freedom was really a private wrestling I had with the Lord long before it was ever an eBook.

I had observed something that “bothered” me – in my own testimony, and in years of ministry with and to Christians – that is: the lack of real understanding of and living in the Freedom we are supposed to have in Jesus.

I was a “Christian” half of my life – and had no concept of what being Free was. I have witnessed countless Brothers and Sisters taste this Freedom in some area of their life – only to seemingly fall out of it, return to old sin patterns, wrong belief, or other bondage.

The fruit of Freedom is too often not there, or fleeting.

This eBook is the culmination of my wrestling with the Lord in asking the question, “Why?” and my understanding of what He showed me about Freedom – what It is, how It is entered in to, how It is remained in, how It is grown in, how It is Lived from – and why It matters.

You are not getting another “how to” book here. Rather, this is an unveiling of “what already is,” and what it means to “see” that reality, and Live from It.

Felicity: How has this process of writing a book changed you?

Brandon: That’s a really insightful question. As you probably can relate, writing is a wonderful fellowship with the Lord – I hear from Him and learn from Him in the “classroom” of the keyboard.

But before I ever get to the point of actually writing, for me, the process of writing about the things of God begin in the abiding in Him and seeking His things. When I did this for the specific purpose of understanding Freedom, He was faithful to show and tell.

This process has changed me eternally in that I now “get” Freedom. Please don’t hear me to say I am an expert, or have fully reached the bottom of understanding. That would be like reaching the end of the Lord Himself – and He is unsearchable in His riches! But I grasp what it means to realize His Freedom, and more importantly, what Living from that Freedom looks like, far better now than before this process started.

Those who take this journey with me will too.

I believe any sincere and seeking follower of Jesus who desires the fullness of relationship, intimacy, Life and Freedom in Him will benefit from this book.

Felicity: My blog focuses primarily on simple, organic church life, and on empowering women who follow Christ. How would these audiences benefit from your eBook?

Brandon: Great question.

Religion, and the institution of “church” has had a very negative, mostly unintended consequence of doing the precise opposite of what it proclaims to do – that is, set people Free via the Gospel. It has instead become one of the most significant prisons keeping people from that Freedom. Even in the organic/house/simple church movement, there is a great temptation for the “fellowship” or “community” itself to become its own special bondage.

I address these in the eBook.

The Daughters of God, Sisters in the Lord have been in a “cage” for far too long. That’s why I rejoiced over your recent book, The Black Swan Effect, and its prophetic message.

While certainly not the only cause of this “imprisonment,” part of the reason has doubtless been because (along with men) women have failed to apprehend and believe in their identity in Christ, and Live from it.

In my eBook, identity is addressed, and will bless women and men who have been lied to about, or who have failed to agree with God about who they are for far too long.

Felicity: How can readers who are interested get your eBook?

Brandon: You can get a FREE copy of The Path of Freedom by joining my newsletter list. This will automatically subscribe you to free updates to my blog, Zōē Perissos, as well as any other future eBooks and will give you a link to download the book.

Felicity: Any closing thoughts?

Brandon: I’m praying that this eBook opens eyes to more – More Freedom, More Life, More Jesus – and inspires us to Live, really Live Free.

The world and the Church are hungry, starving, for the people of God to realize their Freedom – and to Live It.

Thank you, Felicity for this opportunity to share. Blessings!

When women champion men…

As part of some correspondence, a pastor’s wife, Kathy, wrote the following. I LOVE what she says here!
My prayer is that one day, women will “champion” the men who are brave enough to come out of the “male only” leadership box.

I believe that women who are free are the ones who will be used by God to open the doors for men (and other women) — so that they walk in freedom.  The slaves cannot free themselves.  I am no longer enslaved by the lies of the enemy about my position in Christ.  

I have permission from God– God’s Female Image is free and equal to His Male Image.
Complete freedom and peace came for me to live and minister as God’s Female Image — when the Spirit clearly revealed to me that God had opened the door and I realized satan was keeping me in bondage because I thought that my husband or “the Elders” had to give me permission to be free.  

I stand on Galatians 5:1 — 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Organic church in Jose’s hospital room

Hospital church
For those of you who are not aware of the extraordinary story of Jose and his mother, Rosaura, you can read it here.

Jose has been in hospital for two weeks now and he and Rosaura miss church–so last night we took church to them. It was a precious time. We ate and shared and prayed with Jose and Rosaura. A new friend had brought his guitar and we worshipped together. 

Rosaura shared with us how, just a few weeks ago, if she hadn't met with Jesus, she would have dealt with the current situation by getting high. She is now completely set free and is fearless in sharing with others what the Lord has done for her. Just a few days ago, she had us praying with one of the other patients–a young girl with inoperable cancer–and her mother.

Another of the young men shared how his life has been transformed by meeting Jose–how his life used to wracked with fears and anxieties, but now he wakes up every day spontaneously praising Jesus. He and Rosaura agreed: liberty is the best description of what Jesus has done for them.

Jose is not out of the woods yet. I've delayed a report on his situation because there is, as yet, no definitive diagnosis. For those of you who are praying for him, here is a medical update. The tumor was about 85% removed. Pathology shows that most of it was a benign tumor that can be treated with medication, but there were also some undifferentiated cells present that may represent something more sinister. The doctor was not happy with the initial pathology diagnosis and has sent the biopsy off for a second opinion.

Jose's pituitary was destroyed by the tumor and it has left him with a host of hormonal complications.  For example, he no longer produces the hormone that regulates his fluid balance. During the year before his diagnosis, because the tumor destroyed the part of his brain that tells you when you have eaten enough, he gained over 100 lbs. Jose now has to measure everything he eats and drinks and has to take hormones to compensate for the absent pituitary.

Please continue to pray with us. Jose will be discharged in the next day or so. He and Rosaura have to work together as a team as he tries to live within the necessary food and fluid restrictions. (Jose is a 16 year old teenager!) And obviously we continue to seek the Lord for his complete healing.

Breaking free from guilt-based religion

Man in field freedom

"How did you break free  from religious Christianity?" I asked Tony early one morning last week.  

"There were two things," he said. "George Tarleton was the first. The second was the role of the Holy Spirit in my life."

It's interesting how often in the New Testament, living according to the law is contrasted with living by the Spirit.

For example, Romans 7:6 says:

But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:6

The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

Galatians 5:18:

But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

Can you imagine anything better than living at the time of Jesus, able to see him, speak with him, touch him?

Jesus told his disciples that it was better for them that he went away because if he did, he would send the Holy Spirit to them. (John 16:7) The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth; he brings glory to Jesus by telling us whatever he receives from Jesus. (John 16:13-15)  This Holy Spirit dwells in every true believer. (John 14:17; Acts 2:38-39)

So why is it that so many believers still live a life of rules and regulations?

I think it's sometimes because we don't trust the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We've never learned to listen to those inner promptings of the Spirit within us and  to act on them. If we dare to trust those inner whispers really are the Holy Spirit, and to respond to them, we will learn what it is to live life in the Spirit.

Under the new covenant, we can live a life of freedom from the law by following the Holy Spirit. 

What does it look life for you to live in the Spirit, to be directed by the Spirit?

Taking the leap to freedom from guilt-based religion

Many religious people live their lives by the Scriptures. So why is the fruit of their lives  sometimes legalism and guilt rather than life?  They feel like they continually fall short of God's standards for their lives. 

Jesus said to the religious people of his day, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. (John 5:39-40)" Jesus is the source of life, not the Bible. But the Bible points us continually to Jesus.  We find him there.

Is our relationship with the Bible or with Jesus?

Does the written word bring life or death? Several people have commented on the last couple of posts that they found freedom from legalism and guilt-based religion through their study of the Scriptures.  If we truly believe what the Scriptures say we can take the leap to the freedom of living by the Spirit.

Man leaping over chasm freedom

The Bible is very plain. The Old Covenant has ended.

Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in (Luke 16:16)."

The old covenant is obsolete (Heb 8:13). Until Jesus came, people's only hope of salvation was through keeping the letter of the law. Now we are under a new covenant. With our sins forgiven through Christ's death on the cross, we have a relationship with God and are not led any longer by written laws but by the Spirit.

He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life." (2 cor 3:6)

Under this New Covenant, the law is written on our hearts.(Heb 8:8-12)  Now it's natural for us to live a life pleasing to God.

In the context of the New Covenant, 2 cor 3:17  says this: 

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

 And Romans 7:6:

But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

So we have a choice: we can live by the law or we can live by the Spirit. I've made my choice. How about you?

How did you come to make that choice?

How to set yourself free from guilt-based religion

In my last post on this subject, I looked at my personal journey  and how God set me free from guilt-based religion. For me, that liberty came many years ago during my medical school days. I've not always lived in that freedom, but it has formed a basic backdrop for my life.

Man on beach freedom

My advice to people wanting to be set free from legalism and guilt/shame-based religion today would be a little different.

Guilt-based religion relies on keeping a series of laws whether external  (a good Christian is expected to have to have a daily quiet time/speak to other people about their relationship with Jesus/ pray at least one hour per day) or internal (I'm going to get closer to God; therefore I will pray for one hour every day/read my Bible through in one year etc.). Note these are all good things that will enhance your walk with the Lord. And over the years I've made many a promise to myself to do them, tried for a few days/weeks and then lived with the guilt of letting God down.

These days I do it differently. I make an active practice of listening to God.

Most days I try to journal. This is a skill I picked up from a book by Mark Virkler many years ago called "Dialog with God." He outlines four basic steps to hearing from God. 

  1. Free yourself from distractions
  2. Focus on Jesus
  3. Listen for the flow of spontaneous thoughts
  4. Write down what you hear

After I have written down the flow of thoughts, then I go back and weigh what I wrote. Is it Scriptural? Does it bring a sense of peace? (Col 3:15)

Most of the time when I journal, what I write is good and Scriptural but not earth shattering. Often I sense the Lord expressing his love and approval of me. Sometimes I ask him specific questions and get very relevant answers. Sometimes I sense him telling me to focus on a particular subject which will form the basis of my studies in the Word for a while. Sometimes I go back through what I have written and put a large question mark beside it because I'm not convinced I heard the Lord accurately. Sometimes I write things that make a profound difference in my life.

For example, a few months ago, I sensed the Lord saying, "Lean into me," with the sense of having to rely on him for strength, courage etc. Within a couple of weeks, I found myself in the middle of all kinds of events I couldn't have foreseen including being with my mother in the UK as she went through major cardiac surgery, a cardiac arrest, collapsed vertebrae and a house move, Tony's mother in a coma for a few days (both mothers are now doing well), a week trip to India without Tony speaking for several hours a day at conferences and so on. The number of times I said to the Lord during that time, "Father, I don't have what it takes, but I lean into you!" were too numerous to count.

For me, listening to God (and doing what he says) is the antidote to legalism because it creates a two-way relationship. Jesus said to his disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).

Having a friendship with Jesus is not a chore or duty. It's a desire.