Tag Archives: Freedom in Christ

Freedom within

Independence Day.

A day of celebrating liberation from oppressive forces, and of remembering with bowed hearts the unthinkable sacrifices made to secure that very freedom we enjoy today.

But can you imagine a scene where the liberating troops came marching home to find those for whom they fought remaining in bondage? In fact, insisting on living war-torn lives even after their freedom has been won?!

After all the wars that have been fought, so many do continue to live such defeated lives. On the surface they might appear normal, even productive. But if you were able to look a little deeper into the dark crevices of their minds or could hear the silent cries of their hearts, you would at once come to know the terror of their imprisoned lives. Maybe this is a picture of your life right now, free but still at war within yourself.

Who are their invisible oppressors? What are the names of these terrorists who war against us? They are called by many names: worry, anxiety, irrational fear, underserved guilt. Their cousins are apathy, greed, bitterness, and selfishness. How many other of their names come to your mind?

Our eternal victor has flung open the prison doors, having won for us peace, joy, calm assurance, real purpose for living meaningful lives, and satisfaction beyond what we could imagine.  But here we remain imprisoned alone in our self-locked cells, insisting the war rages on within us. It is as Pascal said: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Jesus has won the war over our sin. He’s overcome the grave. He’s given us his own Spirit to teach, comfort, convict, and empower us, and to remain within us always. And yet we sit in a cell as if we were all alone.

He has given us what Victor Frankl called that miraculous and wondrous “freedom within.” It is the freedom to allow a space between what we see with our eyes and what we know in our heart. It’s the freedom that allows a space between what happens to us and how we respond.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

No longer does a hurtful word spoken in haste have the power to demand my own hurtful response. No longer do past hurts dictate my future joys. No longer does worry and constant anxiety command authority over the self-chosen peace afforded to me by the assurance that God really does hear my heartfelt prayers. He does in fact see us where we are. He has truly written our names on the palms of his hand. He catches ALL our tears in a bottle and so pain, while it demands our attention, is not wasted.

True, it sometimes appears as if I’m losing the battle, but even the pain that wars within my body this very moment cannot silence the truth and grace that our good and loving God speaks to my spirit and soul. My desire for a comfortable life of having everything my way is strong, but it cannot compete with the desire to see others experience this same freedom within – to choose to be thankful and find hope even when circumstances offer only sorrow and despair.

Today can be your Independence Day. Believe the victor Jesus for all he has accomplished, not only the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation, but also for your present and future joy.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1


The monkey trap



There is an old fable about how to catch a monkey where cherries in a jar, with a rope tied around it, are used to trap the animal. A wise old monkey will not fall for the trap, however a young immature monkey, tempted by the thought of possessing sweet cherries, would put his hand in the jar and grab as many cherries as possible.  But once he grabbed all the delights he could not pull his hand out of the jar because the opening was too narrow for the monkey’s fist AND the handful of cherries. Of course, the monkey COULD free himself by dropping the cherries and pull his hand out. But he won’t let go of his prized possession! So he remains captive, his hand in a jar, connected by a rope to the hunter. Hence the term “monkey trap” came to be used for any clever invention that would trap an unsuspecting and gullible victim.


We might look on the fable and think to ourselves, “What a foolish monkey! If only he had let go of the fruit, he could have been free.” But then, can’t you think of a time in your life when this story applied to you? The things we possess sometimes end up possessing us.


Now, this is not always the case. Possessions are not inherently evil. There is plenty of fruit to be had and enjoyed in life while remaining free. But the wise among us will recognize a ‘monkey trap’ and let go of the things that entrap us.


I remember a man who told me he would like to give a tithe to the church but he had this new boat he was making payments on  and that kept him from his commitment. Another said he would invest his money and give a big gift when he was old, instead of giving more humble gifts now to help alleviate present needs. Someone told me they wanted to go on a mission trip with us but they couldn’t afford it, yet they ate out regularly at restaurants and had an abundance of new fashionable clothes and crafty nick knacks.


I don’t use these examples to judge anyone; only to illustrate that when we pick up one thing, it often prevents us from picking up something far more valuable. After all, one can only hold on to so many things at once.


What are you holding onto? Look not just your possessions but also your attitudes toward others, your ‘right to be right’, your clinging to relationships that just won’t be yours. Be careful not to fall into the monkey trap. Let go of everything that enslaves you.


“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1



Shredded memories


I was reading an old article about “Good Riddance Day” in Times Square at the end of 2013. Visitors to the famous tour spot stood in line to write down and shred their bad memories of the past year.

Gimmicky, for sure, but I’m guessing the event is based on something many of us face: we tend to hold on to bad memories that only serve to tear us down and limit the joy God wishes us to experience. Maybe it is a grudge against someone who maligned you, or perhaps an inadvertently spoken word you interpreted as negative. Maybe it was a loss of job, money, possessions, or friendship. Maybe it was an unusually bitter summer, a flood, or other natural event that wore you down. And you keep remembering it! Face it, bad memories are for real and we have to decide what to do with them: learn from them and move on, or dwell on them and imprison ourselves in their grasp.

Actually, a small group of friends discussed a number of years ago how holding on to negative memories weighs on us and drags us down. We were invited to reflect on something that irritates us about someone we love, someone for whom we care deeply. Maybe that irritating act had become the focus of countless discussions or arguments. But in the end, we had to admit that it really wasn’t all that important. IF we were willing to give that up in a forgiving attitude, we were asked to write that down on a scrap of paper, pray for strength and wisdom to give it up FOREVER, and then drop it into the burning fireplace, never to bring it up again. The fire represented the destruction of the consuming force the memory had on us and the refining fire that would make us whole again.

I wonder if you have bad memories that you need to shred or let go into such a refining fire. Better to be better than bitter. Learn from the past and let go that which imprisons you.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Commemorating Freedom

Happy Fourth of July!*

For our international readers, July 4 commemorates the 1776 Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Since inception it has been a day to celebrate freedom. Freedom that was won and secured by countless men and women who gave their lives so that we could live free.

So as you go to your parades, picnics, reunions and fireworks, pause to give thanks for those who continue to pay the price to protect our freedom across the globe, and to God the Father who sent His own Son into this world so that all who accept this free gift may enjoy ultimate freedom.

* (and 3 Month Anniversary of my stem cell transplant)