Posts tagged ‘freedom’

Set Me Free!

In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5

When I was 10 years old, I yearned for the day I would be free. I suspect this thinking has been pretty common among kids since Adam & Eve were expelled from the Garden. As a child, parents make rules that seem to restrict freedom. That was certainly true for me. When I wanted to play, my parents had chores for me to do. When I wanted to stay up late at night to watch TV, I was told to go to bed. When I didn’t want to eat liver and onions, I was told that I had to because liver was good for me. (Not everything parents tell their children is in their best interest! But that is another topic for another day.) And so I yearned for the day when I could be free to make my own decisions. 

Well, that day came all too quickly. Before I knew it, I was an adult with the ability to choose how and where I spend my time, and in what activities. Sometimes those activities were uplifting. And sometimes they were self-destructive. As I look back at my own life and the decisions I have made, both good and bad, I find that I make them in the pursuit of freedom. I want to be my own person. I want to do and think and be what makes me happy, what I want to do, without any encumbrances from outside influences. In other words, I want to make my own rules. Perhaps this is the human condition, the pursuit of freedom that we think can only come if we make the rules and disregard any other rules. 

It is my observation that addictive behavior comes from a disregard of God’s rules in favor of my own rules in the pursuit of freedom. One reason it doesn’t work to make our own rules is that they often come out of our deepest fears and greatest dysfunctions. The fear of rejection, the need for approval, the desire for success can cause me, and I’m sure many others, to write some crazy rules. Work can become an addiction as I forever seek one more accolade, one more “atta boy”, and one more impossible task made possible.

But true freedom does not come from our fears. True freedom is not in doing more things to make us feel better about ourselves. True freedom does not come from attempting to rewrite the laws of nature, as if we could. True freedom comes from living within the rule of love that brings life, happiness, joy, and peace. Said another way, when love rules, freedom reigns.

King David knew something about writing his own rules for life that brought heartache rather than peace, bondage rather than freedom. And so he wrote Psalm 118 as a hymn to be sung on the way to a festival of worship. It is an anthem to be sung when we go to worship God. And part of this anthem is an acknowledgement that freedom emanates from God, not us. The circumstances of life that are outside of us and the demons of life that are within us can make us feel like we need to rewrite the rules of life in order to experience freedom. But this is a lie from the devil, himself.

The truth about freedom is that it is given to us every time we call out to God in distress. When we reach out to God, spend time with Him, talk with Him, and clear some space in our heads to be with Him, we experience freedom. He will replace our misguided thoughts about ourselves and our self-destructive beliefs about life that enslave us with thoughts of unconditional love and abiding acceptance that will set us free. True freedom allows us to live in joy and peace as we are motivated by faith, hope, and love. These are the eternal rules of the universe that bring everlasting freedom. May we live by His rules. May we lift one another up in our pursuit of freedom. May we never again write our own rules, but rather submit to the rule of our all powerful, all loving, indwelling God.

The Journey to Freedom

We would drive by the home of our dentist on our way to church every week. It was a large brick home with a slate roof. I can still picture it in my mind today as a symbol of wealth, status, and position. This beautiful home backed up to the most prestigious country club in town. Very fitting for such a stately home. And so began my quest for the comforts in life that only money can provide. Turning away from God’s calling into pastoral ministry, I pursued a degree in medicine. But what I was really pursuing was wealth, status, and position that I had seen on my way to church week after week throughout my childhood.

At first it may seem unusual that God’s calling in my life would be derailed on the way to church. But in actuality, my journey is quite typical. You see, it’s the distractions along the way that often derail us from the path God knows is best for us. When we focus on the distractions in life, we lose our focus on God’s path. We may be on our way to church, we may even get to church, but if we are focused on the distractions along the way we will not be free to focus on Him. We celebrate our freedom to focus on the distractions not realizing we are becoming enslaved by them. This is why Paul writes in Galatians 4:9, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

It doesn’t matter how good and even noble the distractions happen to be, like a career in medicine or a lovely home on a golf course. If they displace your focus from God’s path, then they will enslave you. The reality is that God knows your heart better than you do. He knows that I struggle with wealth, status, and position – all the things a career in medicine could give me. That is exactly why He called me into pastoral ministry. Wealth, status, and position are “worthless elementary principles of the world.” I have found freedom in Jesus Christ to be the enduring principle of life and the path I truly desire to follow. It’s a journey of faith. It’s an adventure in trust. Ultimately, it is the pursuit of freedom.

This is why I find the $1.8 million capital campaign for the expansion of our church to be, for me, an exercise of my freedom in Jesus. Today I drive by beautiful homes occupied by physicians on my way to church every day. But rather than distractions, they are now reminders of my calling and the freedom I have in Jesus to stay on His path for me. This is why I can give to this capital campaign from my retirement plan funded by my career in medicine. It has a certain poetic justice. It is an expression of the freedom I have found in God’s way for my life. 

This week in the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Ron Sydney will be sharing his journey to freedom in Jesus. If you are in the area, come each night at 6:30 pm, March 15-23. You might just discover what distractions are derailing you from God’s path for your life. May you find freedom from the distractions of the “worthless elementary principles of the world.”

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