“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” (Galatians 5:1).
Freedom was a word mentioned a number of times by different delegates at the first Foundations Regional Conference. Although Christ has set us free we seldom experience freedom in church life. Freedom has been sung about; it has been danced to, but at Foundations it was a fundamental experience. I have had the blessing of attending all the Foundations conferences, and it has been of immense interest to me to observe how changes have developed, and the way the Spirit of God is leading this movement.
Like Israel being led out of Egypt and into the Promised land, there have been times of blessing, times of opposition, times of pain, times of moaning and complaining. It is a work that is led by the Lord and we have experienced so much together that one would not have in any other type of conference.
Of particular interest in the last two conferences has been Steve’s role as organiser and leader, and Jo’s role as worship leader. Both could be described more as enablers and facilitators by courageously standing back and encouraging the congregation to open up and engage with the Holy Spirit. That takes courage because things can go wrong. It didn’t go wrong and people opened up to God in ways that were new to them. It takes courage (and wisdom) to stand back and allow the Lord to lead His people in His way. His way should be our way. Gradually, the gifts the Lord has given His Body are being unwrapped; and with eyes wide open in thankfulness, people are purposely putting those gifts into operation. Foundations is a movement of the Body, for God, under the Spirit of God. It is a Body that is reaching out and learning to sit, walk, and stand with the Lord, through the enabling of His Holy Spirit.
An enormous amount of background work to these conferences takes place, and I encourage prayer for Steve and Monica, for Jo, for people such as Michael Oakley that freely give of themselves rather like the Tabernacle erectors! Pray for Peter Sammons, the organiser and main speaker at Belsey Bridge. Others to pray for include – David and Keila Macrow in the music team; pray for the dance leaders, Rosie, and particularly Ginnie (her mother died on Sunday evening, Rosh Hashanah 5777). Pray for the women, God takes note of them.
Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה)
According to the Talmud, on Rosh Hashanah, Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah were remembered.
Their stories are punctuated by an act of divine intervention: God “remembers” or “takes note” of them. Rabbi Eliezer connects the mysterious name of the day, called “a memorial of trumpet blasts [זכרון תרועה; zikhron teruah], to God’s “remembering” these women.
None of these women are mentioned in the nine acts (i.e., verses) of “remembering” [zikhronot] in what has become the standard liturgy of the Musaf prayer, but their stories are at the centre of the Torah and haftarah readings. – Dr Rachel Adelman
God remembered these barren women, and God sees and remembers those that are barren of life in the Spirit, and freedom in the Spirit. We lose the joy of the Lord when we become distracted by the enemy; we lose the Freedom of the Spirit through the enemy leading us into legalism. We lose our sense of direction when we take our eyes off the Lord – Jesus/Yeshua is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). We come to the Father through Jesus the Son; not through circumcision of the body, but through a circumcised heart by the Spirit, not the letter or written code (Romans 2:29). The apostle Paul explained, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The life we live in our earthly bodies, and the life we live as members of the Body of Christ, is lived by faith in Jesus.
Ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. Some people we have had contact with in Israel are frustrated with one of their in-laws, an orthodox Jew. The daughter of the family, all believers in Yeshua, married an orthodox Jew. He steadfastly refuses to work, choosing instead to spend all day, every day, studying Torah. He is the father of many children (so he finds time for other things… but not work!), but he refuses to provide for his wife and children. This means the family of believers have the burden of providing the needs of this man’s family. Some would describe this fellow as being very pious as he studies Torah studiously…but Torah doesn’t describe such a man in such a way.
What of those in the West that are described as the Messianic roots movement? In an overview of the Hebraic scene, there are a number of different ministries that focus on Israel and the Hebraic-ness of the Christian faith, ministries that I have learned from and appreciated, but are they ever learning for the sake of learning? While speaking of being Hebraic, they sometimes appear to do so with a Greek mind-set. The same suspicious, distrustful nature that one sees in churches and denominations can be witnessed among so-called Hebraic ministries. Is this the way to honour Christ? We have lost not only the ability to love, but the will to love one another as Christ loved us. Are we honouring Israel but not the God of Israel?
One dear lady at the conference (Jean) spoke to me about reconciliation and how she longs to see Jew and Gentile reconciled. She has an orthodox Jewish friend, and they pop in and out of one another’s homes. Her enthusiasm for reconciliation was infectious. Jesus came to reconcile us to God and to one another, but our distrust and suspicion is placed above God’s commandment to love one another (John 13:34). “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We have a long way to go if our Hebraic faith is to be nothing more than cerebral.
Some love to rub shoulders with important people in Israel, particularly in the political arena, but is this what Jesus calls us to? Jesus had important people follow Him in His time on earth, He didn’t follow them. He never made it His aim to live in the presence of those in authority. Others spend time studying Hebrew, and the culture of Israel. Dancing and singing according to their understanding of Hebrew dance and song is another development; but Jesus came to show us how to live in God’s world in God’s way. If we only use our faith to entertain ourselves, we are missing the point. “For none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8). Jesus is all in all. We live and die to the Lord, not to Israel, and not to Hebraic roots with a Greek twist to it. To use a good old evangelical expression, we are to be doers of the Word, not just hearers. Having come into an understanding of the Hebraic foundation of Christianity, some perhaps feel that at long last they have entered the promised land. It’s worth remembering that Israel faced various dangers on entering the Promised Land. The pitfalls are many, and many are they that fall into the pit, surrendering their freedom in Christ for the legalism of a form of Judaism. That is not what Steve Maltz or Foundations are about. Their foundation is built firmly on Christ the Rock.
The expression of our faith in bodily form as the Body of Messiah met together included what I thought of as the “we-ness” of the Body. This expression came to mind when one of the delegates reminded those worshipping that the Jews use the word “we” when addressing God, not so much the “I” word. This is the essence of the Foundations regional conferences. We are one Body with many members, each gifted by the Holy Spirit to work out God’s purposes in the Body, on earth. It is not a matter of ever learning full stop. It is the practice of our faith; putting what you learn into practical living and worship of God in the presence of the Holy One of Israel. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another. We have different gifts according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). It was not a matter of the ‘mouth’ dominating the meetings, it was the operation of the whole Body. Sound teaching was involved as Peter Sammons used his gifting, but it was not the sole gift in operation.
Thinking ahead to Rosh Hashanah, we had the blowing of the shofar; we had apple and honey – one lady wished Steve a sweet new year as she tasted the apple and honey. Also provided were two challah loaves that we could break and share together during the course of the weekend.
The Lord was remembering women as one spoke about the pain she was in when she arrived at the conference. The pain was due to a trapped nerve, but it had completely healed and she was pain free. Another dear lady spoke of how it was her job to milk the cows, and ever since those days, she woke up every day without exception at 5.30am. Another delegate had prayed for her during the conference, and the next morning she slept in until 7.30am! It might not sound much to some, but it was a miracle in that lady’s life. There were accounts of emotional breakthroughs.
Someone else mentioned how easy it was to speak to people at the conference. Fellowship has been a foundational feature of Foundations from the beginning. The warm, genuine fellowship is always evident, and something we particularly appreciate. There were almost sixty people in attendance, with old and new faces (if you will pardon the expression). Half had never been to a Foundations conference before and had not experienced such freedom of the Spirit, but they embraced all aspects of the conference with enthusiasm. They were all mature believers with some facing great adversity in their lives. They took part in artwork, singing, preaching, prayer walks, yeshiva, and dance. The dance had a prophetic edge to it which was beautiful in its interpretation and expression. Including the introduction, Peter Sammons gave four teaching sessions, some of the content carried over into the yeshiva discussions and debates. It was an excellent beginning to the Foundations regional conferences.
Another conference is planned for November in Devon; bookings are being accepted already. A further regional conference in the planning is that in the Lake District during February 2017. There will also be the annual conference in April next year. You can find more information on the Foundations website. Foundations is expanding well beyond its original borders as God’s people come into the blessing He is pouring out upon this ministry. It is hard work for the small team involved. At the Belsey Bridge conference, Michael Oakley took care of all the technical side of the work; and he designed and provided all the advertising. He has put in an immense amount of time and energy which we all benefitted from. We thank God for those men and women that responded to His call, and for helping to create a joyful time for us all, and a pleasant time of unity in the Body.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.…” (Psalm 133:1-2).