Breaking Free

This summer we took our family to the charming town of Manteo to a place called “Island Farm.” It is a recreation of an 1840’s era family farm, utilizing the land and some of the original buildings from that time. We saw a blacksmith make iron nails, explored the family home with its primitive furnishings, and enjoyed a wonderful storyteller who made the entire experience come to life. We even got to feed a very loud rooster, who snuck up behind me and tried to sample my shoe, much to the delight of the children.

I had been to the farm two years earlier, when the gracious owner allowed my colleague and I to film our Christmas Eve service on the property. We were not able to meet in person due to the pandemic, and so we staged various scenes to bring our service to life. I was filmed reading the children’s message while sitting in the middle of a sheep field, and my partner read the nativity passage standing in front of an open sheep stall as three sheep listened intently.

The stalls by the field were larger, and as we began to film my portion, the keeper opened the stall door. Suddenly I was besieged by an entire flock of sheep, lured to come into the camera range by the placement of sheep food that had been strategically strewn around my feet. I was almost knocked over by their enthusiasm! Lesson learned … don’t get in the way of hungry sheep! Or roosters!

In today’s passage, Eugene Peterson cleverly compares a miraculous healing to being led from a stall in which Satan had bound a woman in for eighteen years:

Luke 13 (The Message)

10-13 He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

14 The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as workdays. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”

15-16 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”

As usual, the Pharisees were locked in a stall of their narrow understanding of the Law and their extreme piety, unable to see or accept the freedom that God authorized Christ to bring to his people. They would rather see the woman suffer than to have her healed on the Sabbath. But Christ is greater than the Law of small-mindedness, and he set the woman free.

Are you tied up in a stall, locked in by Satan himself? Have abuse, addiction, anger, revenge, jealousy, envy, adultery, or some other sin got you so entangled you can’t open the door to get free?

Take heart. Jesus has the key to the stall door. If you pursue him, he will let you out. All you have to do is ask.

17 When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.

Freedom by Becca Ziegler

Freedom Through Adoption

My brother-in-law was adopted as a baby and knew nothing about his birth family until recently. Out of curiosity, he began a search of his ancestry and discovered that, lo and behold, he has a sister. They were able to connect and finally met a few years ago. Now they make regular trips to each other’s home as they discover who they are in the context of who they were. One look at a picture of them with their cheeks pressed together assures us of what the DNA confirmed: their large, beautiful eyes are a perfect matched set. This is the evidence of their blood tie.

In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul writes about adoption. He contends that it was God’s plan all along to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 1 (The Message)


3-6 
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

The Message translation is exuberant in calling this a “celebration of God’s lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” Jesus’ activity on the cross is all paperwork that was needed to finalize our adoptions. His death and resurrection enable us to enjoy the freedom of knowing that our sins are permanently forgiven, and we can be a part of God’s long-range plan:

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

Do you know who you are? You are an adopted child of God. Our brother Jesus has been watching out for us since we were conceived. What does it mean to you to know that you are part of God’s plan and his purpose?

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

For me, it means freedom. I am free to love, free to seek God, free to find forgiveness, and free from sin and death. Being part of the family of God allows me to be a part of what’s coming next, and I can’t wait.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Do you know this freedom? If you don’t, you are just one prayer away from having it all. When we confess Christ as Lord, put our whole trust in his grace, and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. Is today the day?

Welcome to the family.

Sunset Freedom by Michelle Robertson

Freedom

How would you define freedom? Is it a political thing? Does it have the force of law? Is it a state of mind? Is it defined entirely by the country you inhabit, or the company you keep?

Paul talks about freedom almost exclusively in terms of spiritual matters. For him, freedom is the end result of salvation and forgiveness as we leave the enslavement of sin and death and live under the openness of God’s grace.

Romans 6 (The Message)

15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

OK, hang on a minute, Paul. Do you mean to say that we have just traded one master (sin) for another master (God) who gives commands?

Read on…

19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

God’s freedom comes with some conditions. For one, you will be healed. And your life will be expansive in holiness. I don’t know about you, but I think I can live with that.

20-21 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.

22-23 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

A whole, healed, put-together life is the freedom-gift God offers. His gift is real life, eternal life, given to all who choose to receive his offer of salvation and believe in him.

Where is God offering you freedom from sin right now? Are you ignoring him? Living a life under the tyranny of sin results in less and less freedom. You may think you are living life on your own terms, but the end result is nothing you can be proud of. It’s a dead end.

Choose true freedom.

Flowing Freedom By Michelle Robertson