Freedom from Our Chains

“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Like most of you, for the last several weeks I’ve felt somewhat chained at home. My frequent roaming habits have drastically changed.

I spent January driving to and from the white, sugar-sand beaches and crystal-clear springs of Florida; now my travels consist of walking to and from the brown creek running along the back edge of my great aunt’s 100-acre depression-era farm.

These walks are special because this is time I spend alone with God. I expect to learn something new, and each day I’m richly rewarded.

During my walk yesterday, something sticking out of the ground caught my eye: a rusty chain.

Sensing this wasn’t merely coincidence, I asked, “What do you want to teach me?” After all, I came looking for lessons.

“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:2)

I hadn’t given much thought to being a captive, but the message was clear. That chain lying in the dust symbolized my own captivity.

I paused to reflect and lament my ignorance to my own condition. I let myself become a captive without realizing it.

I thought about my weekly screen time notifications. How could I possibly spend seven to nine hours a week on my phone? I thought about the early mornings and late nights reading and writing, and the time between that was wasted.

I thought about relationships I neglected so I could spend more time working. But what was I working towards? I believed I was working towards freedom, which to this point proved an elusive dream.

What had I to show for the precious time God gave me?

I was held captive by vanity.

My life lacked balance and the type of order that brings fulfillment.

Then excitement began to build. I sensed God telling me it is time- God’s time- to set me free and restore order in my life.

Passion Week

My mind became fixed on understanding what God was saying to me, and I sensed it had something to do with His timing.

With this being Passion Week, my thoughts turned to Jesus’ mission: to set the captives free.

“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.” (Luke 4:18)

Rethinking Freedom

I know Passover is celebrated to remember God’s deliverance of His people from enslavement.

Before they were freed, though, God exposed the Egyptian idols as false hopes and symbols of vanity. I think he’s doing that in our culture right now. We’ve replaced God with so many things. Think of our vain idols: our careers and wealth, sports and entertainment figures, and whatever else keeps us occupied and away from God.

By the time the ten plagues were over, the newly-freed Hebrews had a good sense of God’s sovereignty, His protection, and His plan for them.

Freedom Found in Uncertain Times

For the Hebrews whom God delivered from Egyptian oppression, what followed was a wilderness experience. Like hearts around the world today, theirs were filled with uncertainty and thoughts of what seemed like certain doom. Yet God delivered them.

If you find yourself without a job, call upon Jehovah-Jireh, which means, “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” (Genesis 22:14). This name calls to mind Jehovah as the God who sees our condition and longs to bless us.

Listen to Him. Maybe you need to change directions and get off the path that keeps you in chains.

God is Faithful to His Covenants

Remember when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac? It seemed completely illogical, but Abraham knew somehow God would do something to keep His promise to bless Abraham and his children.

Are you wondering how God will provide for you and your family? I don’t think the story of God seeing Abraham’s willingness to be obedient and providing what he needed is insignificant to us.

Instead, God’s covenant promise to Abraham was at stake, and we are heirs to that promise.

Our Moral Rebellion

I don’t think the fact this virus hit during such a morally-rebellious time in history is insignificant, either.

Are we not also heirs to the promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience? Are we not children of God and subject to the discipline of a loving Father?

Deliverance from slavery is inherent to God’s promises to us. Let’s not be surprised our Redeemer is both disciplining us and setting us free.

As bad as this virus is, there are many silver linings, one of which is we’re having a discussion about the proper nature of freedom.

True vs. False Freedom

While Rousseau was right about mankind everywhere being in chains, he erred in advocating freedom from any and all moral constraints.

Like Rousseau, the world tells we should be free from moral judgment. That’s a dangerous snare.

Rousseau’s philosophy led to thousands of morally-good people losing their heads during the French Revolution. Those were the people who dared to speak against the moral abominations among them.

Contrary to Rousseau’s philosophy of unrestrained moral freedom, the prophet Isaiah suggests we ought to exercise moral restraint. Isaiah 24 tells us the earth is cursed because of our morality:

The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. (Isaiah 24:20)

I think we’re dangerously close to that point again.

Where most see the horrors of the coronavirus, I see it as a double-edged sword. Yes, it is terrible; I wish it on no one. However, I see God’s grace and mercy shining like I’ve never seen before.

I believe God Himself is calling us to throw off those rusted chains and be free- free to obey His moral constraints so our chains and this cursed virus might be removed.

Solitude with God

There are times when I crave solitude with God. If you’re reading this, I trust you know that feeling.

Creating Solitude with God

St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109, felt it too:

“Come now, little man! flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put away your laborious pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in Him for a little. Enter the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek Him. Speak now, O my heart, O my whole heart, speak now and say to your God: My face hath sought Thee: Thy face, O Lord, will I seek . . .”

This weekend I finally got away to a place where I could be completely alone and have some unobstructed God time.

Yet I almost missed it. Life has a way of keeping me super-busy. Between my full-time jobs as a professor and parent, taking care of older relatives and working on a book, my time is stretched pretty thin.

Nevertheless, God knew I needed this time, and God compelled me to go anyway.

God Invites Us to Spend Time with Him

I admit, I was quite amazed when I recognized how God orchestrated this whole trip. I couldn’t help thinking about Esther’s story. Although God’s name is never mentioned in her story, His actions behind the scenes are evident.

Similarly, Elijah knew it was time to leave when the water dried up and the raven stopped coming around to bring him food. Likewise, when my shower’s tub cracked, I needed to find a place to shower for a few days while my bathroom underwent some emergency remodeling.

That led me to visit an old friend who needed me just as much as I needed him. It wasn’t long before we both realized God called this meeting.

Jesus explains how this works in John 6:44: “No one,” he says, “can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . .”

God Renews Our Minds

What Anselm’s inner chamber of the mind is to him, the beach is to me. There’s something about being alone in nature, with just the sights and sounds of the gentle waves massaging pure white sand, that calms and renews my mind.

Navarre Beach, Florida, December 2019

As we started walking along the beach, I suggested we walk separately to spend time alone in prayer and reflection. For four miles down and back I walked with God. My friend did the same.

You know what really blows my mind? That craving in my soul to connect with God originated with God’s desire to connect with me.

How amazing it is to know the Creator of the universe invited two old friends to reunite and step inside His throne room! Psalm 15 says, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” That day, we were both there- not because we barged in, but because God called us to Himself.

Knowing God is Key to Solving Climate Crisis

Knowing God is key to solving the climate crisis. If we want to know what God is like, we need to go the primary source.

Knowing God: A Lesson from Job

The book of Job is counted among the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon as wisdom literature. But why? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and Job’s story is an epic poem that revolves around the knowledge of God.

As Christians, we’re attuned to the covenant idea of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Ironically, this was where Job’s friends spoke wrongly about God. And that angered God. Whereas Job’s friends understood the concept of cause and effect, blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, God is not confined to such a manipulative mechanical construct. They knew some things about Him, but they did not know Him.

The modern church has the same problem. Too many Christians know about God, but don’t know God.

Job lived far beyond what most people could count as a righteous life. Yet God allowed him to be cursed. Was this fair? Should he have just cursed God and died as his wife suggested?

As Job’s story unfolds, we discover the main idea of the epic isn’t about who God chooses to bless or curse, but is about knowing who God is. We also discover God is angry with Job’s friends because they said things about God that were not true. That should make every well-meaning Christian pause for reflection.

Mankind’s original sin involved believing things about God that were not true. Notice how Satan manipulated the knowledge of God. First, he caused doubt about God’s logic: “Did God really say . . . ?” Then Satan contradicted God’s words: “Surely you will not die.” Finally, Satan convinced Adam and Eve they could determine for themselves what is Good or Evil: “You can be godlike, knowing Good and Evil.” They were deceitful words; they misrepresented God, and they had unimaginable consequences.

Job’s story warns us against saying anything that is not true about God. Mankind is not like God; our ways are not God’s ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. What seems logical to man may be contrary to God.

Knowing God is particularly relevant for what may be the biggest global issue the world has ever faced: man-caused climate change.

Population Control

In 1991, the French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau was interviewed by the UNESCO Courier for an issue themed mankind’s impact on the environment. Cousteau believed Earth’s biggest problem was human overpopulation. The human population, he thought, was like cancer to the world’s resources. “Our society is geared to increasingly useless consumption. It’s a vicious circle which I compare to a cancer.”

Cousteau calculated the world’s population should be maintained at a maximum of 700 million. That 700 million cap, he believed, would ensure everyone could enjoy the lifestyle of the typical American living in the mid-1980s. At the time, Earth’s population was 4 billion.

“It’s terrible to say this,” Cousteau said. “World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn’t even say it. But the general situation in which we are involved is lamentable.”

Cousteau discussed his findings with an acquaintance at the University of Southern California. His acquaintance had done a similar study and concluded Cousteau’s numbers were generous, considering his sustainable population estimate was much lower.

Cousteau didn’t reveal his acquaintance’s estimate, but the Georgia Guidestones, anonymously erected on a rural farm in Georgia in 1980, calls for a world population limit of 500 million. Like Cousteau, the Georgia Guidestones also likens humanity to cancer on the Earth: “Be not a cancer on the Earth- leave room for nature- leave room for nature.” 

Georgia Guidestones

If you aren’t alarmed yet, consider many of our younger generations are convinced human interaction on the environment could result in an apocalyptic demise for humanity.

More plainly, many of our young people believe obedience to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and use it is unsustainable- the cause of our own demise. Worse, they believe population control is vital to averting a global disaster. Among Christians, population control tactics such as abortion are being normalized. The church must take a decisive stand now. Too many young Christians believe the lie Earth is already overpopulated.

What Seems Logical to Man May Be Contrary to God

Did God really say in Genesis 1:26, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and use it”? Yes, He did.

Therefore, it’s a dangerous thing for Christians to promote population control. As the climate debate intensifies and the world grows more contentious against God, let’s step back and heed the lesson of Job: Speak only what is right about God.

The Truth About Climate Change

How should Christians approach climate change and population control issues?

The Bible has a lot to say about these issues. We know the earth was cursed as part of the Fall. We also know enmity was established between the seed of the woman and Satan. From this curse, Satan has attacked children ever since. Cain killed Abel, Pharaoh killed the Hebrew children when Moses was a child, Herod killed all the male children two years and younger, pagan deities required child sacrifice, Hitler exterminated millions of Jews, and today Planned Parenthood is a globalized baby-killing network funded greatly by American taxpayers. The enmity between Satan and the seed of the woman has only intensified through time.

It’s time for the church to acknowledge humanity’s actions are leading to an apocalyptic climate and population disaster. Isaiah 24 is a sharp warning from God about a dreadful coming judgment upon the world. A careful reading of the chapter reveals the earth mourns and fades away; it languishes; it is defiled because of its inhabitants. As a result, the earth “shall be like the shaking of an olive tree,” and “the earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again.”

What have we done? Did our carbon emissions cause this? Will a Green New Deal or a globalized government save us? No! God says, “The earth is defiled under its inhabitants because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broken the everlasting covenant. We’ve abandoned God’s natural order and created a new one- one that replaces God and redefines Good and Evil.

Humanity’s True Hope is Knowing God

Humanity’s hope won’t be found in reduced resource production and consumption or population reduction. Our hope lies where it always has been: in knowing God.