Tag Archives: Free

Free – A Poem

Sin once held me in darkness
separated from Your glory
unaware of Your mercy
But from sin I now am free
You set me free

Sin once made me a failure
alienated from Your story
ignorant of Your grace
But over sin I now have victory
You gave me victory

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Celebrating Freedom Reminds Me of Those Who Aren’t Free

Happy Fourth of July! It is a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. We are celebrating and enjoying the freedoms of our wonderful country. One freedom that I particularly appreciate is our religious freedom. Because I live in the United States I am free to worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am free to own multiple copies of the Bible, the Word of God. I am free to write this blog in which I can express my belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there is no other name by which people can be saved. I am free to attend church and my church is free to hold worship services any time we want.

But as I joyfully celebrate these freedoms, I am reminded that not everyone in the world is so blessed to live in a country that offers them religious freedom. So I decided to share a “Prisoner Alert” that I received via email from Voice of the Martyrs just the other day. The following is copied from their website. If you want to help, Voice of the Martyrs provides ways to help persecuted Christians throughout the world.

Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his 8- and 9-year-old sons, to study the Quran in school. Youcef told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice. As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.

The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.

After Youcef refused to convert to Islam, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.

Death Sentence Upheld
The Iranian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pastor Youcef. He has been in prison since October 2009, and the appeal of his death sentence was rejected by the Iranian Supreme Court on June 28, 2011. He is to be executed by hanging. If the death sentence is carried out, it will be the first court-ordered execution of a Christian in Iran in 20 years.

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Psalm 146 – The Lord Sets Us Free

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States, and since if falls on a Monday it’s a three-day weekend for a lot of people. All weekend we will celebrate our freedom and our country. With the idea of freedom on my mind, I did a keyword search on Biblegateway for a Psalm with the word “free” in it. Of the seventeen search results, I decided on Psalm 146 to post because it is a reminder that true freedom comes from God above. Although our country is great, we cannot put all our trust in those who run it and be sure that we will always enjoy the freedoms our forefathers fought hard for in the Revolutionary War as we declared our independence from England. But no matter what happens with our rulers and our country, we can always be free in Christ.

Psalm 146

1 Praise the LORD.

   Praise the LORD, O my soul.
 2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
   I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

 3 Do not put your trust in princes,
   in mortal men, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
   on that very day their plans come to nothing.

 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
   whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 the Maker of heaven and earth,
   the sea, and everything in them—
   the LORD, who remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
   and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
   the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the alien
   and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
   but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

 10 The LORD reigns forever,
   your God, O Zion, for all generations.

   Praise the LORD.

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Jesus Sets Me Free from My Own Prison

When I first started looking for and listening to Christian music, I came across the music of a band called Creed. They are not technically a “Christian band” because their music covers a number of different themes and they aren’t on a Christian label, but they definitely have some songs that are faith-based. One of my favorites is “My Own Prison.” When I was getting ready for work yesterday, it came on my iPod (currently on shuffle of my Christian playlist). I’ve been pondering doing a post based on this song for some time, and decided today is the day. I found this great acoustic version on YouTube to share. Listen carefully to the lyrics.

Although the band is not a “Christian” band, the individual band members do all identify themselves as Christians. The themes of many of their songs touch on Christian theology and spirituality. “My Own Prison” speaks of the cross as the key to freedom. It is in Christ that freedom is found. So many people live in a prison of their own making. They live in prisons of addiction, hatred, greed, selfishness, and more. They are held captive by sin. They don’t know that there is a way to not only escape, but to be truly free.

Luke records this account of Jesus’ teaching about why He came, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 (NIV).

Jesus came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and to “set the oppressed free.” But do we, as Christians, help those who are captive in a prison of their own making find the key to freedom? Or are we so busy pointing out their sins and faults that we forget that we were once like them, if not in degree at least in kind. We were all once sinners in need of grace to set us free.

Worse yet, many Christians continue to live in a prison of their own making and struggle to take hold of the freedom that Christ offers. They hold the key, but instead of using it to unlock their own prison they “drop and kneel” as their demons continue to taunt them, trying to do penance for their own sin. They can’t quite accept that Jesus would and did pay the full price for all their sin. Each new transgression or failure results in a crisis of faith, leaving them locked in a prison of doubt wondering if they are truly saved.

Are you still living in your own prison? If so, take hold of the key to Life itself, Christ Jesus our Lord, and unlock the door. When you walk free, slam that prison door shut behind you and walk with Him who set you free. And don’t forget, when you see others still imprisoned in their sin, don’t judge and point out their sin. Show them the key that will set them free. Tell them that “if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36 (NLT)

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Liberating Restrictions

This past Sunday was our last sermon in a 4-sermon series by Chris Nye. It was another great sermon. Again, nothing new that I didn’t know, but he said it in a different way that I thought was worth sharing. I want to be clear that the ideas in this post aren’t original with me; they are all lifted from Chris’ sermon, though not necessarily in his exact words. But it’s basically the Gospel and I know Chris wouldn’t mind me sharing. In fact, I told him after our church service that he had inspired another blog post, and he thought that was great. He also posted his own great blog post when he was preparing for this sermon that is a great discussion of this topic.

The Gospel lesson for Sunday was from John chapter 8.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36.

First, I want to point out an interesting thing about this passage that I never focused on before. Jesus is telling all of this to “the Jews who had believed in him.” These weren’t unbelievers whom He was trying to tell the truth about who He was. This suggests that the “truth” that will set us free is not simply knowing and believing who Jesus is. That knowledge and belief will save us — scripture is pretty clear on that point (but that is a whole other blog post).

So what “truth” is Jesus talking about in this passage? How many times have we heard this: “The truth will set you free”? We all want to be free, so it’s important to understand what Jesus is talking about in this passage. How, exactly, can we find this truth so that we can be set free? Generally when we think of being free we imagine having no restraints. We think we are free if we can do anything we want.

But Jesus claims that this isn’t true freedom. A lack of restrictions doesn’t really make us free. Consider your diet and exercise habits. You could eat whatever you want and only exercise if you feel like it. But if you want to be healthy and feel good, you must restrict your diet to healthy foods and you must put restrictions on your activity levels. You can’t be a couch potato eating cookies, cake, and potato chips, and expect to feel good. When we live the kind of lifestyle that some people think of as free — the partying life, the high life, the gluttonous life — we become slaves to our selfish desires and do not experience true freedom. Chris summed it up like this: “The truth about the restrictions we were made to thrive in will set us free.”

If you read any of my other posts about Chris’ sermon series, you will know that it was a series on finding Jesus in the Psalms. So where does the Psalm come in? The Psalm reading for the day was Psalm 37:1-7. But Chris focused on verse 4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” For many people, this verse means that if you delight in God, He will give you whatever it is you want. But that’s not what it means at all. That would simply be to experience that no-restriction type of freedom some have been deceived to believe is what they want.

What Psalm 37:4 means is that if we delight in God, He will give our hearts new desires; and these desires will be for what is good for us and what will set us free from being a slave to our own selfish nature desires. He will put in our hearts a knowledge of and desire for liberating restrictions on our lives that will make us spiritually, as well as physically, healthy. We will experience a freedom no other person or government can take away. Because when “the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

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Wacky Advice – Forgiveness

It’s only mid-January, and already I’ve hit a day where I don’t know what to write about, but I committed to posting every day in 2011. So I thought I would check out the ideas at The Daily Post at WordPress.com. Today’s writing prompt was:

Describe the wackiest but most useful advice you’ve ever received.

The best advice I’ve ever received is to forgive others even if they don’t deserve to be forgiven. This idea seems so wacky and counter to all that society teaches us. After all, society says that when people do something wrong we should want to see them get what they deserve. The millions of men and women who are in prison or on probation in the U.S. attest to the fact that we are a nation that desires that justice be served, and justice requires punishment, not forgiveness.

From a societal standpoint, it does make sense that there should be consequences to breaking the law, especially laws designed to protect the citizens of the nation. But from an individual standpoint, the anger and bitterness that goes hand-in-hand with wanting those of have committed some offense against us to be punished is not a good thing. For the individual, forgiveness is the far better option. It’s a wacky idea, to forgive a drunk driver who killed your son or the robbers who murdered your parents or the arson who burned down your house and everything in it or the rapist who violated your very body and soul.

It’s a wacky idea; it’s advice that many refuse to take. Instead, they hang onto the anger and bitterness that eat at their mind and their soul. Partly, I think this is because of a fear that forgiving the transgressor means that you must admit that what they have done is not that bad. But forgiveness requires no such admission. In fact, forgiveness would not be necessary at all if the transgression were not a transgression at all, if it fell within the realm of acceptable behavior.

Rather, forgiveness is the act of giving up our right and desire for vengeance. The ability to forgive starts with the recognition that we ourselves need forgiveness for something we have done. Now most of us have not committed a terrible felony, but we have all done things that have hurt others in some way. And we have all, at some point, turned our backs on God and are in need of His forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37. This sounds like pretty wacky advice, but it is the best advice I have ever received.

For many years, I refused to forgive. I held on to anger and bitterness towards someone who had hurt me. My unforgiveness didn’t hurt them in the least because they knew nothing about it. But it only made me more and more unhappy. Though I had a good life, a wonderful husband, a small child who loved me, a nice house, and a terrific family, I was miserable. I was gripped by depression and negative thoughts. But then God revealed to me that the core of my unhappiness was my unwillingness to forgive. It wasn’t easy to forgive and I needed God’s help to do it, but once I made the decision to forgive it was as though a black cloud was lifted from all around me. The world was bright again. I was able to enjoy the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with God began to blossom.

Did my decision to forgive mean that what had been done to me was okay? Certainly not! But it did set me free from a life imprisoned by anger and bitterness. The truth is that vengeance belongs to God and He will deal with the person who hurt me as He deems appropriate. And that truth has set me free.

Is there someone you are holding a grudge against? Take my advice and make the decision to forgive them. As Jesus said,

“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:24-25.

God wants to set you free, He wants you to have an abundant life. But to enjoy that life, you must be willing to forgive and let God take care of justice.

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Forgiveness Brings Life – A Poem

Yesterday I had to attend an all day seminar on advanced estate planning. Suffice it to say it was less than scintillating and I had to do something to stay awake. So I wrote this poem about forgiveness. It seemed appropriate, since much of what was being discussed in the seminar was the disputes in wealthy families over what would happen to an estate when someone died. Such disputes often are filled with anger and bitterness, leading to broken families and lives.

Forgiveness Brings Life

Hurt and pain
Pour down like rain
From friends and strangers
Throughout our life

We react, anger welling
In our hearts bitterness dwelling
Holding us hostage
Stealing our life

If we forgive through Him
Let go, sing a hymn
He will set us free
To love, enjoy life

 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36.

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Innocent in Christ

This morning as I was getting ready for work I was listening to Third Day on my iPod. The song “Innocent” came on and it made me feel very blessed to know that Jesus has saved me.

It seemed like I had run out of second chances
And they sentenced me to die
And I was just like a dead man walking
I was running out of time

But you came to me and opened my eyes
You gave me a brand new life

I am innocent and I have been set free
I no longer have chains around my feet
And no matter where I go or what they say
I am innocent

I can still remember what it feels like to be in spiritual chains, to feel like there was no hope. I once was “just like a dead man walking” as I lived in the darkness of depression without the saving grace of Christ in my life.

But now I have been set free. No matter what comes my way, I am innocent in the eyes of God. I have chosen to accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and so when God looks my way, He sees the Righteousness — the innocence — of Christ instead of my guilt. This thought just makes me smile.

The Apostle Paul is one who was guilty of persecuting Christians before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. But after that encounter, he became zealous for Christ and understood that it was Christ only who makes us righteous. He wrote to the church at Corinth:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.

He knew that he would receive his praise from God because of his faith in Christ, and because of that faith alone. Even though he lived an upright life and his conscience was clear, he knew this was not what made him innocent in the eyes of God. It was because of the brand new life he had found in Jesus that he was set free.

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