Freedom

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners- Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah 61 has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It is the same passage Jesus read in the synagogue when he first began his public ministry. The fourth chapter of Luke shares this. For me, these are very powerful words that describe just what Jesus set about doing when He came to earth. The prophet Isaiah had written these words several hundred years before, and when Jesus read them aloud He added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21, NIV).

I am fortunate to live in a place that allows me great freedoms; the freedom to marry a husband of my choice, the freedom to have as many children as I desire, the freedom to worship God, the freedom to meet, the freedom to be educated, the freedom to teach what I have learned, the freedom to pursue a career of my choice, the freedom to live where I desire, and the freedom to travel wherever I wish and the freedom to vote for my leaders.

I realize, however, that this is a special perk of living in the United States, and not everyone has these same freedoms. This freedom is amazing and I am thankful that this is the place God chose for me to live. But, unfortunately all who are free at least physically, are not free spiritually.

Many of us struggle with the freedom from whatever has control over us. We try to free ourselves from life’s pains, sorrows, doubts and fears by our own strength. This is weary work. We try to find freedom in organized religion or a self- centered religious practice, only to find it lacking any true release. What we need is help from God to be free from this pursuit of freedom. This pursuit of spiritual peace.

This is precisely what Jesus offers. Jesus came to set men free from the sin that binds them, from the endless religious rituals that were only a temporary staving off of the darkness and hopelessness felt by men. The sacrifices offered in the Temple were only good for a year, for a short time, for it was just a foreshadowing of what was to come through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus set men free from the captivity and hopelessness of sin, the thing that keeps us from peace with God and ourselves and others. We no longer have to be prisoners of this world, in darkness and without hope. We can and have been set free, if we will only realize this. Jesus opened the prison doors, but we must acknowledge it, and trust Him for our salvation and be reconciled to God. It does not take any additional religious working, or sacrificing or reading ten chapters of scripture per day. It is realizing our need for His sacrifice, believing in His work, confessing Him as Lord and Savior, for us, for you, personally, that opens our eyes, redeems us, and enables us to see the doors of the prisons we have created are already open. God does not force us up on our feet, dragging us out of our prison cells against our will but rather, He proclaims freedom. He declares that what the world had long waited for, a Savior, a Messiah, a deliver, was here, freeing us from religion and declaring that sin and Satan had no more control over us.

Whether or not we have personal freedoms or political freedoms, does not matter, for we can experience true freedom- spiritual freedom by accepting Jesus’ proclamation of our release and walking in faith in Him. This my friend is true freedom. God Bless- Nancy

Night Light

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

– Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

I really enjoy driving around the neighborhood looking at all the Christmas lights. Some people seem to have gone all out and bought every light strand and inflatable Santa available. It amazes me how some people will even risk life and limb to put lights on their roofs. But I’m glad they do. Christmas lights on the houses and the tree reminds us of the light of the world that came into a dark world. It certainly brightens up what would ordinarily be a dark season of the year, at least here in the northern hemisphere.

Without the lights, it would be pretty dim around the neighborhood except for a few streetlights. I grew up in the country, which means no streetlights and it was in a valley and surrounded by trees. What this means is that it got really dark, really fast in the winter months as the sun went down. If you didn’t have a flashlight in hand to walk between the house and the barn/garage it could be kinda scary for a little kid.  You couldn’t see where you were going, much less where you were stepping.

But the years since then have made me braver, if not wiser and I don’t fear the dark as much. I live in a neighborhood with streetlights and porch lights to guide my walks out at night. The light is great for walks, but not for sleeping, so we have blinds to block the light coming into our house. This is great for sleeping , but not walking around inside the house. I still need light inside for that. But, sometimes I try to risk it and walk around without turning on a light. Yay for me! I have overcome my fear of the dark. Yes! I have conquered it! Watch out world, I now believe I can do anything! I don’t need a light!

Yeah right! I wish I hadn’t been so brave and bold the other night as my foot became entangled with a chair leg. Who put that chair there, anyway? Oh yeah it was me. My second thought was why? As I looked down at my foot which was in pain, I noticed that my pinky toe was no longer where it should be. It looked like it was trying to run away from my foot. Seeing my broken toe was disturbing. But I also felt a tremendous amount of regret for not turning on a light before I ventured into the living room. I thought I knew where everything was. I thought there was a clear path ahead. But, I was wrong. I needed light to see where I was going. I had walked into the living room and through it so many times, that I was certain I could make it safely without needing light. But, reality is often different then what we think it is. We need light to safely travel on our paths. We need clarity, direction and safety. Things can change, obstacles shift and if we are trying to navigate by memory or trust the things are the same in the dark, we’re going to stumble and fall.

Life is full of changes and what we need is some light on our path so we won’t fall. Psalm 119 gives us the answer to that light; the Bible. It’s easy to get brave and try to rely on ourselves for our own direction. We know what we are doing and we can figure it all out on our own, or so we think. We made it work before, so we should be able to do it again. We don’t need to read the Bible or seek God’s plan, we can handle it all, until the obstacle we didn’t see ahead blocks our path. Walking through life without seeking God’s plan is like trying to walk in the dark.

As you see all the Christmas lights out there, take time to reflect on what it means. Jesus came into the dark world that was without hope to shine light and reconcile men to God. Without Jesus the world is stumbling around in the dark trying to make sense of all this. Jesus came as the light of the world and exposes the darkness of the world. He offers a clear path that leads to life. Time to stop bumping into stuff in the dark and turn on the lights. -God Bless Nancy