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What Is Freedom?
"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." -Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. -Isaiah 61:1 MSG
Dorothy was awakened by a jolt as the house was firmly set down on solid ground. It was no longer dark; sunlight was pouring through the windows. If you have seen the movie The Wizard of Oz, you likely remember that breathtaking scene when Dorothy opens the door and steps from her gray world into a world of vivid color. She was not in Kansas anymore. I know the feeling!
Our family moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to Frisco, Texas, in the summer of 2004. Tennessee is known for country music, Elvis Presley, and the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our old home was in the countryside just south of Nashville. My favorite thing to do was watch the sun set each evening. It would disappear like a fiery ball behind the rolling hills, which were a prelude to the mountains behind. In the fall, I would often drive up into the Smokies and watch as the leavesbegan their graceful turn from green to the spectacular reds, oranges, and golds of autumn. It was a breathtaking sight.
Now we are Texans, and we no longer have a fall. We don't have much of a winter either. We have hot, hotter, and "Help me, Lord Jesus!" It was immediately apparent to Barry, Christian, and myself that just as Dorothy and Toto were no longer in Kansas, we were no longer in Tennessee.
There are no hills where we live. The landscape is flat and stretches out as far as the eye can see, which makes the sky seem huge. I now understand why Texans do everything in a big way-there is a lot of space to fill. You need big hair and big cars to fill out the big landscape.
The popular country song certainly got it right:
The stars at night are big and bright, Deep in the heart of Texas, The prairie sky is wide and high, Deep in the heart of Texas.
I found this quite disconcerting at first. My homeland of Scotland is a country graced with rolling hills and spectacular mountains. As a young girl, one of my favorite things to do was to climb to the top of the Carrick Hills, which overlooked our small town, and gaze out across the ocean. I did a lot of thinking up there. God always seemed close as I looked out at the beauty spread like a fully laden tablecloth beneath me.
In my new home, I had a dilemma. Where was I supposed to do my thinking? I think God must have seen my angst, for suddenly one day I discovered Freedom Hill!
Our family calls it Freedom Hill. It's not very tall, but it is definitely a hill, and it seemed to just appear one morning. We live in a rapidly expanding neighborhood where it seems as if the builders frame a new house every other day. Cement trucks and earthmoving machines arrive every morning and begin attacking the land. When my dog, Belle, and I get back after our morning walk, I always feel as if I am chewing fresh dirt. In the evenings before supper, Barry and Christian join me on my little dog-walking jaunt.
It was Christian who discovered our hill. He suggested one evening that we should go left instead of our usual right turn at the bottom of our street. Always up for an adventure, we took off. As we passed unfamiliar homes and walked into a new area just prepared for building, we stopped and stared in wonder. There it was before our very eyes-a hill!
"How did that get there?" I asked.
"I have no idea," Barry replied.
With all the wonder of Dorothy as she opened her door and stepped into Munchkinland, we began to climb the gentle incline. As we reached the top, we actually had a bit of a view. The land had been cleared to build fifty new homes, but for the moment there was nothing there but one lovely tree. The builders decided to spare its life, and it stands tall, presumably also enjoying the view.
For the first time since we moved, we let Belle off her leash. Behind us lay a busy world of noise and traffic, but ahead lay a canine playground. She stood and looked at us for a moment as if to say, "You're kidding, right? Don't tease me!" But Christian took off at an athlete's pace, calling her name. Like a flash of pure white lightning, Belle was airborne. They ran and ran, while Christian cried to the wind, "Freedom!" It was a wonderful sight. Every now and then he would look back to see if we were still watching them, and Barry and I would cheer. We christened it that first evening-Freedom Hill!
There was something joyful and wild about watching those beloved six legs flying across freshly leveled ground. I see that picture in my mind's eye when I think about freedom.
The Truth About Freedom
The ability to dream and to believe God's dream for our lives requires a liberty of soul and spirit. Although our circumstances may be confining, our spirits do not have to be confined. Internally, we can be free!
I wonder what comes to your mind when you reflect on the word freedom. Perhaps your first God Has a Dream for Your Life thoughts are of happy memories, going off to college, or driving your first car. You may think of external freedom, of someone released from prison or hostages liberated. As world events are piped into our homes every day, you may think of images from overseas. I will never forget the pictures of high school girls in Afghanistan who were able to take off their traditional burkas after the liberation of Kabul. Their smiling faces told a story of what it felt like to finally be free to expose their faces to the sunlight.
The freedom that we are looking at here, however, is not simply external freedom. What we are pursuing, by God's grace, is the internal liberty that comes from Christ alone.
"But wait," you may be saying to yourself. "Aren't all Christians free? Isn't that the message of the gospel?" After all, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!" (MSG). Isn't this freedom, you say? The answer is yes. And no.
Let me explain what I mean by asking you a few questions:
Do you ever feel trapped in your circumstances?
When someone is unkind to you or treats you unfairly, are you unable at that moment to respond with the love of God?
Is there any habit or behavior that you are unable to control?
Are there times when fear completely controls your life?
Do you still hear old messages from the past that fill you with shame? Is it hard to control your thoughts and bring them under the lordship of Christ?
Do you still feel like a victim?
Do you ever think that you will never get it right and that you have let God down one more time?
Have you abandoned your dreams?
Has your world changed from multicolor to gray?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are not free.
There are many things that hold us captive even as Christians. One of the greatest lessons that God has taught me over the last few years and continues to teach me day by day is that freedom is not the absence of bars but the presence of Christ. Freedom is not a changing of my circumstances but a changing of my heart.
Have you ever thought, If I could just get away from this situation or these people, then I would be free? I remember very clearly thinking that. I perceived that the bondage, sadness, and depression I felt as a believer were because of external circumstances and people. But I was wrong. Eventually my circumstances changed and I was no longer associated with those people, but I felt exactly the same inside. The problem was not "out there"; the problem was inside me.
Through this book, I will share how God has set me free and continues to set me free to experience the dream he has for my life. I know now that it is possible to be anywhere with anyone and, because of the power of the risen Christ, be free in your spirit. I promise you, this is possible!
What Does Freedom Look Like?
It is feasible to be physically confined but free as a bird. It is equally possible, and more common, to appear free as a bird but be in an internal dungeon.
For Dorothy, freedom existed somewhere out there-over the rainbow. She imagined that she could find a place where all the troubles of this world would be left behind. It would be a place where the sky is always blue and every single dream that you dare to dream really does come true. In this world, every trouble and care would melt like ice when the sun comes up.
Well, I don't know about you, but for me that concept of freedom has not worked. I am discovering, however, what freedom truly looks like-not over the rainbow but in relationship with Christ.
Let me give you a powerful example of what that radical freedom looks like from the life of the apostle Paul.
In Acts 16, we read that Paul and his traveling companions were in Philippi on a mission trip. In each city and town they visited, they looked for the local congregation of those who loved and honored God. It was the purpose of their mission to tell as many as they could that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had risen from the dead. Not only that, but Paul was about to show those he encountered in Philippi what it looked like to be transformed by the internal freedom that only God can give.
Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke found a small group of women gathered by the river, and Paul began to teach them about the risen Christ. One of the women, Lydia, was deeply impacted by Paul's message and gave her life to Christ. She and her entire household were baptized, and then she invited Paul and his team to stay at her home. I love that God used a woman doing all she knew to honor God to birth the church in Philippi. What Lydia and the other new believers did not know was how God was about to honor their humble faith and demonstrate miracles through Paul's life.
The story moves on. A few days later, Paul and his friends were on their way to meet with Lydia and the new believers when a demon-possessed girl began to follow them. As she continually cried out that Paul was a servant of the Most High God, a crowd began to gather to see what was going on. This girl was a slave, and the men who owned her made money by using her to tell fortunes. The demons in her recognized Paul and would not be quiet.
After some time, the girl's cries became such a distraction that Paul turned to her and in the name of Jesus cast out the demons. This made her owners furious, for now she had lost all her fortune-telling powers, and therefore they had lost their ability to use her to make money. Her freedom would soon cost Paul his.
Excerpted from GOD HAS A Dream FOR YOUR LIFE by Shiela Walsh Copyright © 2007 by Shiela Walsh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 12, 2007
I enjoyed her book. It was very easy to read and understand. It shows how similiar we are to the movie 'The Wizard of Oz. Very compiling story. Bringing Gods word to a different level of yearning to know God and trust in him. To follow your dreams and once you forgive someone who has hurt you - you are set free and can live your life to the fullest and enjoy the journey of knowing God and believing his love for us.
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