On December 31, 1862, the African American community, slave and freed, gathered together in anticipation of the realization of their future freedom, hence the name -Freedom’s Eve. They were waiting for the clock to strike midnight in order to seize the promise of freedom outlined in the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln declared that on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1863 all slaves would forever be free (McIntyre). Can you imagine the atmosphere that night? What would it have been like to know that a lifetime of hardship, suffering, forced labor, and deprivation would be coming to an end? And moreover, where did President Lincoln get such an idea—that all people deserve to be free? This truth is self-evident because our Maker wired us for it. Jesus said that freedom is the very reason He came in human form over 2000 years ago.
In Luke 4:18-19, He announces,
“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.”
It is God’s design that you and I walk in freedom of every kind. While this certainly includes freedom from human tyranny, it also includes freedom from our own self-destructive behaviors. What if tonight you and I could celebrate a personal Freedom’s Eve? Through Christ this is entirely possible. Ephesians 1:13, “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit..” and “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…” (2 Corinthians 3:17). We could know freedom from unforgiveness that keeps us shackled to bitterness and hate; freedom from selfishness that keeps us locked away from the joy of generosity; freedom from overindulgence that keeps us under the bondage of compulsion; and freedom from pride that locks us away from the ability to both give and receive.
Because of Christ, we can be free.
What if January 1, 2014 could be a personal celebration of Freedom Day?
I am a lover of old hymns and I think this one captures the freedom message well.
Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters;
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain.
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain.
Glorious Freedom! Wonderful freedom!
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator—
Now and forever He shall be mine.
Freedom from all the sinful affections;
Freedom from envy, hatred and strife;
Freedom from vain and worldly ambitions;
Freedom from all that saddened my life!
Freedom from pride and all sinful follies;
Freedom from love and glitter of gold;
Freedom from evil temper and anger;
Glorious freedom, rapture untold!
Freedom from fear with all of its torments;
Freedom from care with all of its pain;
Freedom in Christ, my blessed Redeemer—
He who has rent my fetters in twain.
Glorious Freedom! Wonderful freedom!
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator—
Now and forever He shall be mine (Lillenas).
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…” (John 8:36).
Happy New Year!! Let the Lord’s favor rest on you this year.
You were made for it!
Lillenas, Haldor. “Glorious Freedom”. 1917. Public Domain.
McIntyre, Dean. “Watch Night of Freedom.” gbod.org. 31 Dec 2013. 31 December 2013. Web.
I so love weddings! But they can be a mixed bag of emotions when you’ve walked the road of betrayal and divorce. The dress, the rings, the music…sometimes they bring up sad memories long forgiven but not quite forgotten.
Last weekend, my husband and I attended a beautiful wedding. As the lovely young couple exchanged their vows, instinctively, I reached for my husband’s hand. His grasp was warm and reassuring.
I’m still here. I always will be. This time it’s forever.
As the celebration went on into the evening, I continued recounting my painful past. Jarred back into the moment by applause, I noted the grandparents now entering the dance floor. The DJ highlighted their fifty plus years of marriage and the music began to play.
So precious. What a legacy this new young couple inherits!
I smiled through tears.
These grandparents will leave an inheritance of faithfulness…and I will leave an inheritance of brokenness.
On the long car ride back home I sat with the heartache. No anger, no defensiveness, no sugar distractions, no lashing out at unsuspecting people who happen to be in the vicinity. My husband and I talked a little…and he held my hand again. But for the most part, I just quietly reached out to my Father. Dear God, I can’t believe after all these years, the past can still affect me so much. Help me to see You and Your plan in the midst of the loss. Increase my faith…
Next morning I awoke to the same history. Funny thing about the past—it can’t be changed. However, as picked up my Bible, a new truth began to unfold in my heart and new healing soon followed.
I realized it’s time to redefine of my idea of inheritance.
Lamentations 3:19-24 says…
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
1 Peter 1:3-5 says…
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth
…instead of ongoing grief and pain
into a living hope
…this means hope for today, like right now
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade
…unlike imperfect relationships here on earth
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
…now that’s some safekeeping!
who through faith are shielded
…I am protected
by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”
Beautiful as life-long marriage may be, it can’t compared to glory of my eternal inheritance. Perhaps its time to move some emotional stock to the investment being kept in heaven for me. My spiritual inheritance will never be lost. My brokenness has been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus.
So bring on the music, I think that’s a pretty good reason to dance!
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy” Psalm 30:11
Black or white. Right or wrong. Cut and dried. I used to be a big fan of these phrases. They simplify the complexities of life making things just a little more manageable…or do they? C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon recalls a time in his childhood when this kind of thinking didn’t work out so well.
Charles grew up in the mid-1800s, a time when authoritarian parenting was expected and respected. His father cared deeply for his family and took the raising of responsible children very seriously. Any form of foolishness would not be tolerated. Charles’ younger brother, James, had a habit of stumbling and bumbling–the kind of behavior that often results in broken dishes, torn clothing, or chores left undone. After several attempts to correct the boy’s behavior, his father presented an ultimatum: after any such event, James could expect to receive a lashing.
The plan worked.
Or did it?
Years later, the father was recounting his successful correction of the younger son’s clumsiness. He recalled, proudly, that after having laid down the ultimatum, James never fell again. His older brother, Charles, now an adult, felt the freedom to correct his father’s misconception. “Father,” he said, “Actually, James never stopped falling down, but I always managed to wash his knees, and to brush his clothes, so as to remove all traces of his falls” *[Spurgeon, The Early Years, 24]. Later, it was discovered that James was not so irresponsible after all. He had a real medical condition that caused his ankles to function improperly.
You and I may think we have solved a problem when we manage to make the symptoms go away. However, sometimes it’s more advantageous to actually sit with the mess for a while. Perhaps the issue is not so cut and dried. Leveraging ultimatums often drives the problem into hiding where shame spreads like a field of thistles in the deeper places of the soul.
Loving relationships value the content of the heart more than keeping up appearances. “What will people think?” is replaced with “What do you think?” “Now look what you’ve done!” is replaced with “Please tell me how you are doing”. Loving relationships create places of safety and acceptance where failure creates opportunities to give and receive grace.
We love more fully when we love others in their places of greatness and not-so-greatness.
This is the way Jesus loves. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).
What a relief! God loves me according to His grace not according to the measure of my performance.
How does this translate on the relational level? I am discovering that I can give to others only what I have first received from the God the Father, through His Son, Jesus. “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
He washes my knees, brushes off my clothes, and removes the traces of my falls. I love the best as I learn from the Best.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
*C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography: The Early Years: 1834-1859
Plenty a married woman might dread an extended stay with her in-laws, but I don’t. My husband’s parents are two of the most gracious people I know. They are chock-full of surprising kindnesses simply because it’s the way they roll.
While we were all enjoying a dinner out a couple nights ago, Mom and Dad Angles decided to order a little dessert. Mom Angles got the pie and Dad Angles the ice cream. When their dishes arrived, my father-in-law immediately scooped up a heap of ice cream from his bowl and offered it to his bride.
“I bet you would like some of this for your pie,” he said with a twinkle.
She smiled back at him. Just for just a moment I saw her as a twenty-something sweetheart being courted by her suitor. With just a bit of ice cream, my father-in-law lavished a little kindness on his wife for the sheer enjoyment of watching her reaction.
He reminds me of Someone else I know.
I was scrolling through iPhone pictures today and noticed seven different sunrise/sunset snapshots I’ve taken over the past few weeks. I remember how I smiled while taking each one. Watching a beautiful sunrise feels like being lavished with kindness from my heavenly Father…and I smile back. God doesn’t have to make the sun rise in such a lovely fashion; I’m sure the sun could perform its warming function without all the artistry. But I have a theory…I think He delights in designing a painted sky for the sheer enjoyment of watching His children take it all in.
Love does stuff like that–just because.
Here’s a few of God’s “just because” moments to me over the past few weeks…
Florissant, Colorado (Pikes Peak in the background)
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8)
Cape Coral, Florida
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)
Normandy, Tennessee (Normandy Lake)
The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth” . (2 Samuel 23:3-4)
Tampa Bay, Florida
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:9-10)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Paducah, Kentucky (Ohio River)
Observing the love between my in-laws and the beauty of God’s handiwork makes me wonder who might enjoy a “just because I love you” from me today.
When I was a little girl our family lived next door to an elderly woman whose living room was filled with curio cabinets and trinkets. When her granddaughter would visit, I was often invited over to play.
The grandmother would bring out a little toy box and a few old dolls, but oh how I longed to get into those curio cabinets! There was an antique collection of ceramic roses and another cabinet with finely-dressed 18th century figurines that were perfectly poised and poetic. I pressed my nose against the glass doors imagining the feel of those delicate pink rose petals…
And wondering what it might be like to see that lovely couple come to life!
However, my daydreams were usually interrupted with a stern warning not to touch. Those cabinets were strictly off limits lest something get broken.
Sometimes it seems like many of us are living the curio cabinet kind of life. We press our noses against computer screens, TV screens, movie screens and cell phones. We long to connect, but we’re desperately afraid of getting hurt or hurting someone else. The glass walls between us keep us from life and from knowing what real feels like.
Jesus is the perfect role model for this kind of dilemma. Unlike the off-limits curio cabinets, He makes Himself completely accessible. John says that He “became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14 NLT). He unlocked the glass doors of heaven and came to earth so that He could bring life to the curious, the selfish, the disenchanted…and even the overly pious. He came to release captives, heal the brokenhearted and bring dead hearts back to life. Jesus was willing to be broken so that we could know what it means to really live.
What if we accepted His invitation to came out from behind our own glass doors and get real? It would mean vulnerability; it would almost certainly involve some brokenness. But in exchange for this risk we would get reality. We could quit hiding, posing, and day-dreaming. But most importantly, we could finally know what real feels like.
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. ” John 11:25