Monday, January 28, 2013

True Freedom

Our Own Freedom DEFINITION

In our culture, we have become very confused about what freedom really is. We have come to believe that freedom is being able to do whatever we want to do, without any restriction or restraint at all - from anyone or anything. This is not unique to our day and time, but has been allowed to more fully permeate everything in our society, and to be taken to amazing extremes everywhere!

Our Own Freedom DIMINISHES

The problem with this way of thinking is that we are actually diminishing our own unrealized potential, because we cannot possibly know what the end results of this type of freedom will bring us. We may falsely hope that whatever choices we make now will take us to certain places or help us in some specific way, but as our lives unfold the consequences may end up being much different or possibly far worse than we could have ever imagined.


By giving into our strong desires to be absolutely free in whatever way we want, we go along making choices and creating for ourselves new circumstances constantly. When we put our lives into new parameters, we force ourselves to make new decisions, so that our next steps put us farther and farther out from where we started, and not so sure where we are going. Sadly, this whole process may take us to a point where we have lost all control, and begun to spiral downward to unknown and unwanted destinations.

Our Own Freedom DECEIVES

This negative outcome becomes more likely when we take into account another huge compounding problem: we cannot possibly control all the factors that might come into play as our lives and choices progress, whenever we decide to go a certain direction or do something we have not done before. We are not even able to control what might happen the next time we do anything, although we may have done it many times before.                                                                            
Nothing in this fragile life we lead is certain, so we are constantly risking some possible difficulty or tragedy in whatever we decide to do.

Our Own Freedom DISTORTS

Our ability to be free is not only limited by these uncontrollable factors, but it is also fatally flawed. We have distortions in how we perceive ourselves and everything around us, because we can only view our surroundings and construct our conceptions in a self-centered fashion. Our worldview, colored by this selfish and limited focus, can never direct our own freedom in the way that is really maximal for us, nor truly be a benefit to anyone else in the best way possible.

Our Own Freedom DAMAGES

Without guidance and positive insight, and left to our own selfish devices, we will almost always err on the side of what we desire, although it may hurt or hinder others. To be released from this natural inclination we must be impacted in some way by a higher point of view, filled with goodness and grace. Also, when we harm others, we are creating consequences which will negatively impact us further down the roads of our lives.

Our Own Freedom DESTROYS

Getting everything we want, in itself, may actually become the very downfall and worse consequence we could never have believed would happen, when we decided to make the choices and to go that particular way in the first place.

Freedom from JESUS Beyond Our Human Abilities

Jesus offers a greater freedom than anything we or even the whole world can give us, because He is above and beyond this world system in which we live out our lives. When we choose to trust Jesus as our Savior and as our Lord over all else, we are acknowledging that He has entered our world from above, with knowledge and insight that is eternal, knowing everything from beginning to end.

Freedom from JESUS Benefits Everyone

Jesus can also lead us, to go for what will benefit others, even ahead of taking our own advantage. Although this may seem totally counterproductive from our earthly vantage point, when seen in the light of eternity, losing something or everything now may bring us glorious returns beyond our ability to comprehend!

Freedom from JESUS Based in Infinite Love and Power  

Jesus’ freedom is the freedom to trust ourselves and our entire lives to Someone Who loves us more than anyone on this earth, is more powerful than anything that has ever existed in this universe, and is able to see and fully know our future.

This is why His freedom is true freedom:                                                   

JOHN 8: 32 You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.   33 The crowd answered Him, We are Abraham’s offspring (descendants) and have never been in bondage to anybody. What do You mean by saying, You will be set free?   34 Jesus answered them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin. 35 Now a slave does not remain in a household permanently (forever); the son [of the house] does remain forever.  If the Son liberates you [makes you free people], then you are really and unquestionably free.

Freedom from JESUS Brings Direct Access

We gain this kind of freedom only in direct, ongoing relationship with Jesus Himself through His Holy Spirit. Our greatest foundation for all other eternal freedoms, is the liberation from our earthly bonds to have free access to Him at all times. It is in freely going to Jesus continually that we are transformed to become like Him:

HEBREWS 10:13 Therefore, brethren, since we have full freedom and confidence to enter into the [Holy of] Holies [by the power and virtue] in the blood of Jesus

EPHESIANS 3:11 This is in accordance with the terms of the eternal and timeless purpose which He has realized and carried into effect in [the person of] Christ Jesus our Lord,  12 In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear).

Freedom from JESUS Begins New Understandings

Jesus’ freedom pulls off the chains of our selfish, limited thinking, and places us into an eternal perspective of trusting Him as we go forward. We are offered daily opportunities to trade in our slavery to ourselves and our own ideas of what we should do or how we should do it, for His greater wisdom and freedom. He also frees us from our fears of how we will be seen by others, along with all the peer and societal pressures that cause us to conform to other’s expectations of us. We begin to gain His infinite perspective, which is the root of an amazing wisdom and discernment about what we are to do and not to do:

2 CORINTHIANS 10:23 All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all are constructive [to character] or edifying [to spiritual life]. 24 Let no one then seek his own good and advantage and profit, but [rather] each one for the other [seeking the welfare of his neighbor].

Freedom from JESUS Best Way of Life

Walking in this higher level of discernment, with a supernatural knowledge and wisdom, is what the Bible speaks of as,”putting on the mind of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 2. Living in God’s will, guided and led by His Holy Spirit will take us beyond our own limited potential, and will bring good results, for our own lives and for those we impact.  This is the outgrowth of letting Jesus increase to us, within us, and then out from us.  We begin at some point to realize, either from seeing bad consequences of our wrong decisions or from receiving revelation, that only Jesus knows what will be out best path onward and upward:

GALATIANS 5:13 For you, brothers and sisters, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.  1 PETER 2:16 [Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness; but [live at all times] as servants of God.

Freedom from JESUS Breaks Off Bondages

Jesus has also freed us from the bondage of self-made religious regulations, false self-centered rules, and traditions that are really destructive and do not bring His true freedom. Jesus calls us to freely follow His leadings and promptings by His Holy Spirit, which will always correspond with the broader outlines of His own Scriptural mandates.

These leadings will also take us personally beyond godly Biblical guidelines, to make Christlike choices that require an even greater sacrifice. As our spiritual obedience outpaces the law keeping of others who try to do it on their own, we will find a greater freedom, even as Jesus exhibited in the Gospel accounts of His earthly life and ministry.

We actually begin to look like Jesus, by closely and intimately following Him in what we think, feel, say, and do, both as individuals  and with others: GALATIANS 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery to humanly energized law keeping [which you have once put off].

2 CORINTHIANS 3:16 Whenever a person turns [in repentance] to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom). 18 And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

ROMANS 6: And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action).

Freedom from JESUS Banishes All Fears

Ultimately, we are brought by the Word and the Spirit of the ever living God, into His fullest freedom from the fear of death, which haunts every human being. This is not a longing for some kind of escape from this world through death, but a transformation into never being afraid of anything that this world, or our supernatural enemy, can do to us. This level of true freedom is not simply a recognition of eternal realities, but a gracious work of preparation so that we are completely free to do our heavenly Father’s will, no matter what it may be, just as Jesus’ did:

HEBREWS 2:14  Since, therefore, [these His] children share in flesh and blood [in the physical nature of human beings], He [Himself] in a similar manner partook of the same [nature], that by [going through] death He might bring to naught and make of no effect him who had the power of death—that is, the devil 15 And also that He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the [haunting] fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives.

Freedom from JESUS Beckons Us Into Eternal Reality

The final result of living and loving in Jesus’ full freedom here in this world, is our transformation into His own brothers and sisters, fellow heirs with Him, as children of God who will rule and reign with Him, over His redeemed new creation (Romans 8). Every step we take, in obedience and submission to the eternal leadings of God, make us decrease in our selfish desires for false, self-destructive, so-called freedoms. These false freedoms can be what we conjure up within our own deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:5-10), or can be foisted upon our minds by the world system that seeks to control us through them.

Jesus came to live among us, a life of true freedom above and beyond this world, even as He walked on water above the natural law of gravity. Jesus showed all of us His perfect life of total freedom from all sinful and negative inner cravings, and from any successful allurements by dark spiritual forces or by the machinations of the world system.

Jesus constantly desired only the intimate oneness of His supreme love shared by His Father God and the Holy Spirit, which then continuously flowed out from Him, into the hearts of everyone around Him who chose to receive His ineffable light and grace, and to walk with Him into the same eternal fullness of freedom.

Following this eternal freedom led Him to become a bondslave to all, and to fully embrace His trial, torment, torture, and death on the cross for us, so that we can be set free to live free forever with Him, as resurrected, ascended, and glorified sons and daughters of almighty God:

REVELATION 1:5 Jesus Christ is the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead [first to be brought back to life] and the Prince (Ruler) of the kings of the earth. To Him Who ever loves us and has once [for all] loosed and freed us from our sins by His own blood,    6 And formed us into a kingdom (a royal race), priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion throughout the ages and forever and ever. Amen (so be it).
Neil Uniacke, Executive Director

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Tribute to My Mother, Ruth King Horst

Shared by Tom Horst at his mother's memorial service on January 20, 2013

Dearest Mother:
Where does one begin to thank you in a few minutes for all  you have meant to me and to Thelma and our sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren? There are a few highlights I'd like to share out of many I could choose from.

First of all, thanks for being a wonderful Mother to me. I have already said to Dad how much I appreciate how he loved you and provided a stable, loving environment in which to grow as children. Thank you for loving Dad and providing a good model to follow in our marriage. I always remember you supporting Dad and having a unified front when it came to family matters. I felt loved by you, even in the times when we dis-agreed. I also recall you and Dad travelling together to Costa Rica to visit Nancy and me when we were there in Voluntary Service. Thanks for the letters you wrote while I was away those 2 + years. I felt affirmed by you in the choices I made, especially when I chose to marry Thelma and then to enter the ministry.  It also meant a lot when you and Dad moved to Mississippi back in the late '80s, so that you could be close to Nancy and Spencer and Thelma and me and our children, and also serve the Mennonite churches in the Gulf States area.

That's something I remember about you, too. You were always ready to make the most of opportunities to touch people's lives on a deep level. As I read over sympathy cards with Dad the other night, that came through strongly in what people wrote. Mom, there are souls in the kingdom of heaven today, because of your influence...what an eternal treasure! I know you can see all those people now that you helped and ministered to over the years.

But getting back to your role as our I have thought of all you've done over the years, I think of a verse in Mark 14, where a woman came an anointed Jesus with expensive perfume and people were indignant about it, saying this was a waste of money. Jesus said in her defense: "Leave her alone...she has done a beautiful thing to me...she did what she could." I think these words typify your life, Mother. You did what you could as a wife and mother. Were you perfect? No. But you did your best as a woman of faith and as our Mother. You did your best and to me, your best was what we needed and it was certainly enough.

There were some things that you did the best in, hands down! I don't think anyone could have done better: like baking bread, making pumpkin and shoofly pies, taking care of my clothes ( I can still see you darning my socks), canning and freezing, keeping flower beds, and providing good advice. I remember one time when I came to you, experiencing emotional stress and anxiety over a decision I had to make. I said to you, "What if the decision I make isn't the right one?" And you said to me, "Son, don't be so afraid of making a mistake. Just move ahead, trust God and he will guide you."

You also did your best as a woman in the places you found yourself: as a pastor's wife in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and then as a bishop's wife in the 70s and 80s. You were always supportive of Dad, even in a day when your support meant some sacrifices for how you dressed, in how much you could let your voice be heard in a day when women's voices were not heard, in the time Dad gave to ministry opportunities which took him away from you and the family and in the opportunities that were available to you as a woman with many gifts. Some of those gifts certainly had to placed on the back burner. I personally think you would have made an excellent school teacher! I wonder what that was like for never really talked about that, but I wonder what you were thinking and feeling inside. Thank you for your sacrifice.

So thanks, Mom, for investing your life in me as your son, and in the lives of my sisters and our families. A significant part of who and what I am today, as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a husband and father, and in my role in the people-helping profession, is because of your influence on my life. Having you as my Mother was/is truly a priceless treasure.


Your Son,

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Trust You, Jesus

    A friend of mine blessed me with a devotional entitled "Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence" by Sarah Young. I want to share the following entry with you that contains some powerful truths that remind me about the need to wholly trust in Jesus:

    I WANT YOU TO LEARN A NEW HABIT. Try saying, "I trust You, Jesus" in response to whatever happens to you. If there is time, think about who I AM in all My Power and Glory; ponder also the depth and breadth of My Love for you.

    This simple practice will help you see Me in every situation, acknowledging My sovereign control over the universe. When you view events from this perspective--through the Light of My universal Presence--fear loses its grip on you. Adverse circumstances become growth opportunities when you affirm your trust in Me no matter what. You receive blessings gratefully, realizing they flow directly from My hand of grace. Your continual assertion of trusting Me will strengthen our relationship and keep you close to Me.

Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year Resolutions

     How many of us come up with New Year resolutions every year and wind up trying for awhile or just never "get around to it"? As Christians how many times have we tried to read the Bible in a year, learn memory verses, or join a Bible study? Probably more times than we are ready to admit! I find it is no different than trying to get in shape, losing weight, or eating healthier.

     A recent devotion I read in Our Daily Bread gave me a new perspective on our Christian walk. The author of the devotional, David Roper, shared a unique practice he implemented several years ago to draw closer to God. He reads some verses out of one of the Gospels and then puts himself into the story. David writes, "Put yourself in the story--in the place of the leper He healed with His loving touch, for example (Mark 1:40-45). Think about how much He loves you and then thank Him!" As a therapist, clients come to me for assistance with coping in their day to day lives and issues that plague them. I try to look at their lives through their eyes to help and I am in constant communication with God during a session. I encourage them to do the same.

     What about outside of sessions? I need to keep that vertical communicaiton with God open for all of my day to day issues. Every day I need to constantly remember to thank God for getting me through all of life's challenges no matter how big or small. Like everyone else I am not perfect and there are many times I try to take matters into my own hands; however, it always leads me back to Him. God reminds me that I can't do it without his love and strength to get me through each and every day. A good reminder as we start a New Year!

Have a Happy & Healthy New Year!

Elaine Campbell, MA