“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 (NIV).
To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. Constitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.
According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”
Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are, indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.
Only Christ can set us free.
Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?
The Indian Express
When I was in sixth grade, I was diagnosed with myopia or nearsightedness, meaning I had the ability to see near objects more clearly than distant objects. To compound the diagnosis, I also had astigmatism, an imperfection of the cornea preventing part of it from focusing light onto the retina.
At 10-years-old, I was fitted for glasses. Because my eyesight was so bad, the lens in my glasses were thick in appearance, almost like the bottom of the classic soda pop bottle. As usual, children forced to wear glasses earn the nickname, “Four Eyes.” I was no exception. I admit, it hurt at the time.
When I reached high school, my vanity led me to ditch the glasses out in public. My parents wouldn’t buy contacts until I graduated and headed to college. I put up with the hard lenses in my eyes for three or four years until allergies made me forgo them. I returned to glasses.
During the next three or four decades I tried contacts again, this time the soft ones. Again, allergies made me miserable and the contacts were uncomfortable. Finally, I decided to stick with glasses. By this time, the material used for lenses had improved. Although I still needed a strong prescription, the lenses were thinner. I no longer looked as if I were sporting pop bottle bottoms in my frames. I actually looked forward to picking out new frames each time I visited my optometrist. It was almost as good as shopping for new shoes.
I have all the time in the world.” After reading this quote from a 25-year-old, who had just won a six-figure payout in a tournament competition, I wanted to tell him, “No, you don’t.”
His comment was in response to a reporter’s question about the young man’s plans for the prize money he had won. He planned to save it, for now, according to the newspaper article, but was considering a vacation with a college friend.
While some of us may live 100-plus years, others are taken away much too soon. As I write this, my heart is sick for the loss of an elderly neighbor and friend. In his late 80s, Dave was killed in a car accident on May 30. His wife, Josie, had to undergo surgery for a broken leg and is still in critical condition.
My last glimpse of them had been that morning when they drove by my house. They waved and Dave honked as I was standing in my front yard visiting with other neighbors. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would ever see him—at least on earth.
This couple has experienced their own share of loss. Before they met and married, each had lost spouses at an early age. Dave had also lost a daughter to cancer. He once said to me, “You’re not supposed to outlive your children.”
Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.
Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.
While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.
When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.
While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.
Social media and 24/7 news programs have added a new dimension to the cacophony of voices clamoring for our attention. While there are some advantages to having this access, I am beginning to think they are surpassed by the negative weighing us down and often leading to wrong choices.
As fabricated stories, also called fake news, continue to proliferate on these social sites, it has become more difficult to discern the truth. Although some are outright unbelievable, many will fall for the false information and share it as the truth. Seeking the source of these posts helps if we are wise enough to seek it.
How do we know when to act and when to be still?
Our best source of wisdom is God’s Word. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Because so much of the world’s wisdom is foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19), it is imperative, as believers, that we seek His guidance. A recent devotional shared by a friend addressed the fast pace of most of our lives. The writer said, “We find ourselves being driven by rapidly changing circumstances.”
The lyrics to an old Frank Sinatra tune come back to haunt me sometimes. Part of the song goes, “I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway and more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
Why do these words resonate with me? Before Jesus got ahold of me, I tried to chart my own course. I tried to do things my way. Looking back, I can see my way wasn’t always the best. I didn’t consult the Maker of the Universe before making a decision, especially those affecting not only me, but others as well.
Even though God gives us free will, I want to do life His way.
My confidence was in my own ability to get things done. My faith and hope and assurance rested solely on what I could perceive with my own eyes. I resisted change unless I was in control.
In 2001, a life-changing experience opened my eyes. I began seeking God. As I have grown to trust Him more, my confidence now lies solely in Him. Do I still I have doubts sometimes? Yes. Do I still question God? Yes.
I listened as a friend prayed with me over the phone about a family situation. Melita is a true prayer warrior, and I treasure our bond as sisters-in-Christ.
I had called, leaving a voice message when she didn’t answer. I didn’t expect to hear back until the next day. It was late. However, my friend returned the call before she retired for the night. I was humbled by this beautiful friend’s willingness to return my call so late, even though she has to rise early each morning for work.
Having friends who will stand with you during trials is important. Even more important are those who will drop what they are doing to pray with you when asked.
We must believe our all-powerful God loves the people in our prayers.
I’ve learned to pray immediately when someone texts, emails or calls asking for prayer. If I don’t pray at the time of the request, I forget. I also add the person’s name and request to my list so I can continue to pray for God’s intervention or direction for an individual.
God instructs us to pray for others in several places in the Bible. In James 5:16, the apostle writes: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”