Freedom (unabridged)

Do you hear that? The drumbeat? Between Easter and Independence Day my internal rhythm invariably turns toward the cost of freedom. The thumping drub in my heart comes from everywhere.

Do you remember the final scene from the movie, Braveheart? How about the final scene in Christ’s crucifixion? Do the similarities strike you?

Let me refresh your memory. Braveheart is the Hollywood rendition of William Wallace, the Scotsman who led the catalytic uprising for freedom against the tyrannical, Edward, King of England. In the final scene, the executioner is disemboweling Wallace but grants him a moment to collect his strength and utter a final statement. Wallace summons his comportment and screams, “Freeeeeedommm!” It cost him his life.

The final scenes of Jesus Christ’s life are equally gruesome. Like the liberator of Scotland, the liberator of mankind summoned his reserve of strength and composure to utter words of freedom: “It is finished!” It cost him his life as well.

Freedom is precious.

It must be treasured and hallowed lest it become hollow and the entitlement of those with vague recollection.

Freedom is not easily obtained.

I have peered out upon the sea from the gun tubs on Pointe du Hoc. Strode the beaches of Normandy. I have retraced the steps of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Stood in the squares that spawned the revolts against Communism. I have listened to the silent voices at Bull Run, Pea Ridge, and LookOutMountain. I have stared into the azure waters entombing the USS Arizona. I have climbed the tower of the NorthChurch.

Freedom is not easy!

Freedom is not cheap.

I have visited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach. Walked through the tombstones at Arlington. Touched the names at the Vietnam Memorial. Shaken a hand maimed by a grenade. Stood where King stood and dared to dream. Stared into an eye blinded by shrapnel. Witnessed the handing of a folded flag to a widow and heard the rifles fire their final salute. Prayed with women whose husbands and sons and daughters died fighting tyranny.

Freedom is costly!

Freedom is easily compromised.

Sacrifice, pain, loss, and wounds dim with time. They are even romanticized. Witness that we think little of wearing a cross around our neck, commemorative of our Savior to be sure, but symbolic of the most horrific torture and execution ever devised.

Freedom must be memorialized. But not just in our histories. Freedom must be enthroned in our heart! While our intellects and emotions play a part in properly valuing freedom, neither are capable of elevating it sufficiently beyond the ravages of time, entitlement, and diminished worth. Only the heart can care adequately for freedom—because invariably a heart was yielded so another heart could escape tyranny.

The Galatian Believers compromised their heart’s freedom with legalism. Angrily Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1).

What does it matter if I tolerate a little legalism with grace? What difference does it make if I accommodate a bit of self-effort within my testimony? Is it essential that I comprehensively believe life is encapsulated in the declaration of, “Christ, and Christ alone?”

What would it matter if we did not celebrate Independence Day this year? What difference would it make if we concluded there were enough memorials in D.C. and that another honoring veterans of World War II was not necessary?

Why should it matter if we simply went to the lake on Memorial Day? Must we have school children memorize the Gettysburg Address and digest each of Lincoln’s words? Why should it matter if politicians use freedom’s fields for political purpose?

What would be the harm in our minds drifting during the quarterly taking of Communion on the church calendar? Why would it matter if Easter was diminished only to the symbol of a new set of clothes or Independence Day to hotdogs and beer?

Do these treasures of freedom matter? Of course they matter!

But. But, freedom is fragile.

Oppressors are constantly attempting to subject us to the yoke of bondage. If freedom is diminished, then those who died to procure it are at risk of having died in vain. If freedom is not treasured, then it is not worth fighting to recognize or elevate—either as a nation or as a Believer.

Freedom. It is won, but it is not impervious to diminishment.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free!”

Here’s to the sacrifice. May you always live true to your freedom! And, may I also follow suit.

Freedom (Part 2)

Have you thought any more about freedom? It’s been on my mind since my last note a couple of days ago. Part 1 is here if you missed it. The Galatian Believers compromised their heart’s freedom with legalism. Angrily Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1).

What does it matter if I tolerate a little legalism with grace? What difference does it make if I accommodate a bit of self-effort within my testimony? Is it essential that I comprehensively believe life is encapsulated in the declaration of, “Christ, and Christ alone?”

What would it matter if we did not celebrate Independence Day this year? What difference would it make if we concluded there were enough memorials in D.C. and that another honoring veterans of World War II was not necessary?

Why should it matter if we simply went to the lake on Memorial Day? Must we have school children memorize the Gettysburg Address and digest each of Lincoln’s words? Why should it matter if politicians use freedom’s fields for political purpose?

What would be the harm in our minds drifting during the quarterly taking of Communion on the church calendar? Why would it matter if Easter was diminished only to the symbol of a new set of clothes or Independence Day to hotdogs and beer?

Do these treasures of freedom matter? Of course they matter!

But. But, freedom is fragile.

Oppressors are constantly attempting to subject us to the yoke of bondage. If freedom is diminished, then those who died to procure it are at risk of having died in vain. If freedom is not treasured, then it is not worth fighting to recognize or elevate—either as a nation or as a Believer.

Freedom. It is won, but it is not impervious to diminishment.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free!”

Here’s to the sacrifice. May you always live true to your freedom! And, may I also follow suit.

Freedom (Part 1)

Do you hear that? The drumbeat? Between Easter and Independence Day my internal rhythm invariably turns toward the cost of freedom. The thumping drub in my heart comes from everywhere.

Do you remember the final scene from the movie, Braveheart? How about the final scene in Christ’s crucifixion? Do the similarities strike you?

Let me refresh your memory. Braveheart is the Hollywood rendition of William Wallace, the Scotsman who led the catalytic uprising for freedom against the tyrannical, Edward, King of England. In the final scene, the executioner is disemboweling Wallace but grants him a moment to collect his strength and utter a final statement. Wallace summons his comportment and screams, “Freeeeeedommm!” It cost him his life.

The final scenes of Jesus Christ’s life are equally gruesome. Like the liberator of Scotland, the liberator of mankind summoned his reserve of strength and composure to utter words of freedom: “It is finished!” It cost him his life as well.

Freedom is precious.

It must be treasured and hallowed lest it become hollow and the entitlement of those with vague recollection.

Freedom is not easily obtained.

I have peered out upon the sea from the gun tubs on Pointe du Hoc. Strode the beaches of Normandy. I have retraced the steps of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Stood in the squares that spawned the revolts against Communism. I have listened to the silent voices at Bull Run, Pea Ridge, and LookOutMountain. I have stared into the azure waters entombing the USS Arizona. I have climbed the tower of the NorthChurch.

Freedom is not easy!

Freedom is not cheap.

I have visited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach. Walked through the tombstones at Arlington. Touched the names at the Vietnam Memorial. Shaken a hand maimed by a grenade. Stood where King stood and dared to dream. Stared into an eye blinded by shrapnel. Witnessed the handing of a folded flag to a widow and heard the rifles fire their final salute. Prayed with women whose husbands and sons and daughters died fighting tyranny.

Freedom is costly!

Freedom is easily compromised.

Sacrifice, pain, loss, and wounds dim with time. They are even romanticized. Witness that we think little of wearing a cross around our neck, commemorative of our Savior to be sure, but symbolic of the most horrific torture and execution ever devised.

Freedom must be memorialized. But not just in our histories. Freedom must be enthroned in our heart! While our intellects and emotions play a part in properly valuing freedom, neither are capable of elevating it sufficiently beyond the ravages of time, entitlement, and diminished worth. Only the heart can care adequately for freedom—because invariably a heart was yielded so another heart could escape tyranny.

And what of our freedom as followers of Jesus Christ? That’s next.

Good God (unabridged)

May I be brutally honest? Of course I can. I know the relationship we have, but I wanted to be sure before I penned the following paragraphs. You probably get tired of me telling you of the battle I wage against distrust of God. Nevertheless, I struggle to trust. I know it is irrational, circumstantial, and unbiblical. But, aren’t your struggles as well?

Two weeks ago, events lined up in a gauntlet of life that left me so stressed I was having chest pains. Yes, I know I should trust the Lord; I was trying! But therein lay much of the problem.

Suffice it to say I felt abandoned by God and hunted by the enemy. I was on the defensive with God and on the run from the devil, both of which, by the way, are losing propositions. I desperately wanted to hide out and hunker down, but not even a retreat to the garage eased the barrage. (When a man can’t hunker down in his garage, you know life is tough!)

Circumstances degenerated from bad to worse. Ten days later I was dazed and shell shocked. Finally, a break in the action occurred and I grabbed a couple of hours (you thought I was going to say, beers, didn’t you?) to sit down and process the previous day’s casualties, the most significant of which was God.

I had given up telling God what I thought of Him earlier in the week. It was clear my opinion was having little motivational effect getting Him to do what I felt was right. The conclusion appeared evident: God is supposed to be good, but from my vantage point His goodness is speculative and in jeopardy.

It is a therapeutic discipline for me to sit down and write since putting words to paper demands clear thinking and leaves little room for generalization and assumptions. As I began to form words into sentences and examine the presuppositions penned before me, I realized I had fallen into a familiar pit. Like Daniel, I was not devoured by the lions, but I sure had a lot of slobber on me.

For the umpteenth time I came face-to-face with my expectation that God should treat me differently because I am trying hard and doing a good job. Not only is He being unreasonable, it is not fair of Him to show such little regard for my yeoman effort to be good. If I am working so hard to be good, why should He not follow suit?

You may recall some earlier words of mine: “God is not fair, and we don’t want Him to be. If He is fair, then we will all wind up in hell.” Have you noticed that just because you write something down and believe it, doesn’t necessarily mean you will remember it when you need it the most?

I know God is not fair, neither is he predictable or safe. And I don’t want Him to be fair, predictable, and safe. But God is good, and I desperately need to know and believe this about Father God.

I had defined “good” using the term “fair,” and that was a critical mistake. Because I failed to define “good” correctly, and believed goodness to include fairness, I wound up with a perspective of God that rendered Him neither fair nor good. Oy vey!

God is not fair.

He is not safe.

He is not predictable.

But God is good.

I realized as I worked my way back over the battlefield, picking up the pieces of my composure and my theology, that I know a great deal about fairness, safety, and predictability. But, I don’t understand goodness nearly as I need to.

I dropped my perspective, ceased reconnoitering the battlefield, and voiced a new question: “Father, you have listened patiently to me berate and misjudge you and cast you in my own image. I apologize. Jesus said, ‘None is good except for God.’ I believe what He said. Father, would you help me understand your goodness?”

Good God (Part 3)

I know God is not fair, neither is he predictable or safe. And I don’t want Him to be fair, predictable, and safe. But God is good, and I desperately need to know and believe this about Father God. I realized that I had defined “good” using the term “fair,” and that was a critical mistake. Because I failed to define “good” correctly, and believed goodness to include fairness, I wound up with a perspective of God that rendered Him neither fair nor good. Oy vey!

God is not fair.

He is not safe.

He is not predictable.

But God is good.

I realized as I worked my way back over the battlefield, picking up the pieces of my composure and my theology, that I know a great deal about fairness, safety, and predictability. But, I don’t understand goodness nearly as I need to.

I dropped my perspective, ceased reconnoitering the battlefield, and voiced a new question: “Father, you have listened patiently to me berate and misjudge you and cast you in my own image. I apologize. Jesus said, ‘None is good except for God.’ I believe what He said. Father, would you help me understand your goodness?”