Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

Crumbling Foundations © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.83 Evee

Psalm 11:2 – WHAT TO DO WHEN THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY CRUMBLE – Part 4

Psalm 11:2 (NLT) says, “The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”   

Although the Ten Commandments were given specifically to the nation Israel, they provide an outline for the preservation of freedom for any country. The first four commandments provide a basic spiritual code for believers and the final six commandments provide a freedom code not only for Christ followers but society in general.

The book of Galatians in the Bible explains why the law was given. Not only for freedom of countries in terms of a strong foundation of law, but in Galatians 3:19-22 (NLT2) it says, “Why, then, was the law given? It was given … to show people their sins. … If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.”   

God, it seems, is even more interested in the freedom of the soul than in simply giving us a freedom code for society. He sets out principles to preserve a nation in order to maintain the freedom of sharing the freedom that comes by believing in Christ.

That’s why the first 3 commandments define the relationship between God and man. They are designed for anyone to find the ultimate freedom of recognising that God has authority over our lives.

COMMANDMENT 1

Exodus 20:3 (NLT2) “You must not have any other god but me.”   

1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT2) says, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.” This is very exclusive.

COMMANDMENT 2

The second commandment is also designed for those who follow God. Exodus 20:4-6 (NLT2) says, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. … I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands.”

A Christ follower shows respect and the love of God for people in other religious systems in our culture, but this is clearly not acceptance of these religious systems. The Biblical God is not the same as the Hindu gods such as Brahma or Vishnu, or Buddhist gods such as Vaiśravaṇa or Kubera or the god of the Islamic faith, Allah. Christ followers exclusively follow God as found in the writings of the Christian Bible.

COMMANDMENT 3

Exodus 20:7 (NLT2) “You must not misuse the Name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse His Name.” Again, this is for followers of God and Christ, but has application for anyone positive towards God.

COMMANDMENT 4

Exodus 20:8-11 (NLT2) “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. …”

Saturday is a rest day, as outlined in the Old Testament. Sunday as outlined in the New Testament is the Lord’s Day. In New Testament times Christ followers met after work on a Sunday. Most countries have a six-day working week, which is based upon God’s creation of the heavens and earth in six days.

THE FREEDOM CODE

The final six commandments define the cultural relationships. This code provides freedom, protects private property rights, and protects and preserves the first four laws. In fact for the last six commandments to have real application in a society, then a recognition of the right for God’s authority in our lives is a great freedom.

By the way, when you come to know Christ personally, the laws are a matter of heart rather than a legal deterrent for sin. They help us realize that we need Christ in our lives above a mere moral code of laws.

What are these general laws for society that provide a strong foundation? Commandment 5 is significant for everyone in society.

COMMANDMENT 5

With the fifth commandment, divine foundations are laid for all nations.

Exodus 20:12 (NLT2) says, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Ephesians 6:1-4 (NLT2) gives us a commentary. “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”

What are the implications of this commandment? (See Part 5)

Pastor Ross

Crumbling foundations © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.83 Evee

Psalm 11:2 – WHAT TO DO WHEN THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY CRUMBLE – Part 3

Psalm 11:2 (NLT) says, “The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”   

2020 Belarus: A rigged election has awarded Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term as president. Lukashenko is an autocratic ruler since Belarus gained independence. It is an authority which has no teeth, and huge numbers of protesters now defy him. They say that Lukashenko has lied to the people and he is paying the price. A nation engaging with truth is asserting itself by demonstrating in the streets and this is being met with brutal violence. Flower-waving women, all wearing the red and white colours of the opposition movement flooded the streets after the violent response. Those released from custody speak of torture and abuse of power by the police. 

Freedom without authority is anarchy but authority without freedom is tyranny. Successful governments maintain freedom in the context of authority. It is heartbreaking when we see corrupt governments infringing the rights and freedoms of a people for the sake of power. It is just as heartbreaking to see violence erupting on the streets.

Every country has a Government. A successful government provides its citizens with freedom in the context of responsible authority, not tryranny.

GOVERNMENT

The Bible speaks of God’s interest in many nations, not a single one-world government ruled by a tyrant. This is made clear when God judges the Tower of Babel, the first “United Nations” building, where the descendants of Noah were divided by language in order to get them to spread out over the earth (Genesis 11:1–9). God values diversity and freedom in the context of authority.

FREEDOM IN THE CONTEXT OF AUTHORITY.

Romans 13 outlines the responsibility of a government to uphold society with a set of laws which are just and right, not corrupted by power, and yet the book of Romans was written in a world ruled by powerful and corrupt emporers who saw themselves as gods.

What can a Christ follower do when the foundations of society are crumbling? The simple answer is do what is right whatever government is in power. One of the foundational elements of divine establishment is government. So the rule of thumb for a Christ follower is,

Be subject to civil authorities, good or bad, in the context of doing what is right. They are to be obeyed but when the laws of civil government conflict with the clear teaching of the Bible, then for a Christ follower, Acts 5:29 (NLT) “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”  

In Australia we have Prime minister and a Government. They do not have divine rights to rule over their citizens. The Bible indicates that they have been delegated by God to do the right thing. A Christ follower is to say yes to all matters that do not conflict with the clear teaching of the Bible.

Government leaders are not delegated by God to stop people from doing the right thing, but to restrain evil.

Romans 13:1-7 (NLT) in the Bible says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.

For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong.

Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.

The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.

Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”

From the Bible’s vantage point, Australia’s government has some very strong and good laws and like every country some very weak and poor laws. As Australians, we elect a government, and we get the government that we deserve. Some governments are going to be oppressive, intrusive and overbearing. Others will encourage freedom within the context of authority.

Government authorities represent and maintain the functions of taxation, law enforcement, justice, the military, and enforcement of law and order without the destruction of human freedom.

Government is not to be corrupted by those with the loudest voice or popularist opinions. Good government protects the choices, privacy and property of its citizens.

The foundations of society crumbles when authorities are ignored. The existence and perpetuation of freedom demands respect for authority.

Although the Ten Commandments were given specifically to the nation Israel, they provide an outline for the preservation of freedom for any country. The first 4 commandments provide a basic spiritual code for believers and the final 6 commandments provide a freedom code for Christ followers and society in general.

What are these commandments? (see Part 3)

Pastor Ross

Crumbling foundations © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.83

Psalm 11:2 – WHAT TO DO WHEN THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY CRUMBLE – Part 1

Psalm 11:2 (NLT) says, “The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”   

It is clear of late that the structures on which the society is built will only be as strong as it’s foundations. Christ followers observe that the spiritual foundations from the Bible, of which much of our culture has been based over the last few thousand years are indeed being attacked. They always have been challenged, of course, but particularly today, not only outside the Church but also within.

It is an alarming but fascinating picture of what happens in our world when spiritual foundations “have collapsed”.

Isaiah 59:1-21 (NLT2) in the Bible speaks of the foundations of Society crumbling.

“… Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest.

The people’s lawsuits are based on lies.

They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. … there’s danger even in getting near them. … nothing they do is productive.

All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark. … Misery and destruction always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. … no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.

So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. …We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us.

For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us. Yes, we know what sinners we are. We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord. We have turned our backs on our God.

We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies. Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found.

Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.”

FREEDOM WITHIN BOUNDARIES

When I was younger I listened to cassette tapes (anyone remember Cassette tapes) by Reverend Colonel Robert Thieme. Reading some of his books also helped me begin to understand the concepts of the Bible in those early days. One book was called called Divine Establishment.

In that book, he outlined beautifully how God has ordained certain laws for the survival and freedom of the human race during the course of human history. Those laws are found in the Bible.

The foundations of society are strong when these Divine laws of Society are embraced. Anarchy exists when nations ignore these laws. Where such laws are rejected incrementally, then the country is in danger of being eroded from the inside and havoc ensues.

When they come under attack it causes havoc in our world. The emphasis of these commandments or laws is to protect the freedom, privacy and property of believers and unbelievers alike. Adherence to these laws both protects and advances a society.

The laws of divine establishment provide the freedom for those who love God to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives under many different types of Government. Of course, these laws are primarily written to give freedom for people to come to know God through Christ. This kind of freedom for a society builds strong foundations not only for Christ followers, but for those of no faith and even other faiths, allowing our society to function well. Without them there is only Nihilism.

These laws apply to everybody – those in the community and business world and to those who enforce the laws – judges, lawyers, police, politicians etc, etc. The Bible outlines laws designed for work, marriage, family, communities and country.

Choice is important and when choices are made towards these laws there will be freedom, but it will be in the context of authority. In Australia most people value the freedom to worship, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but rights are not equivalent to being free to violate God’s laws. The authority of these laws ensures freedom. The corrosion of these laws brings anarchy.

The Bible encourages choice and this includes the choice of choosing towards God and towards Christ. Acts 17:26-27 (NLT2) says, “From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.”

The Bible makes it clear that Christ followers are meant to preserve a nation spiritually through the way they live.

Matthew 5:13 says,  “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

What are these absolute laws that preserve a nation? (see Part 2)

Pastor Ross

Genesis 37:36 – DIARY OF AN OVERCOMER – Part 7 

Victim or Overcomer? © Image by Ross Cochrane

I imagine that this is the diary of Joseph, writing about the events of his new life in Egypt, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative, and with my personal reflections.  

Diary of Joseph: I am still alive. That’s something, I suppose. No amount of pleading, either with my brothers or my distant relatives, the Ismaelite and Midianite traders, would persuade them to let me go. We may have a common ancestor but obviously business is more important to them than blood ties. I am now twice sold.  

I have been sold to a man called Potiphar. He is some kind of high-ranking officer in this land called Egypt. I am picking up the language quickly. There is no means of escape and I am missing home and even my brothers more than I could have imagined.  

Egypt 

It seems as if my dream of leadership is on a journey in a strange land. God is all I have left in whom I can trust. What is He trying to teach me? What lessons of leadership and service am I to learn from these strange circumstances in which I am found? 

This place and culture is truly amazing. There are beautiful homes, great pyramids and a sophisticated form of government. Most Egyptians are farmers. They are not nomadic.  

Egyptian homes are constructed of mud-brick designed to remain cool in the heat of the day. The walls are painted white and covered with dyed linen wall hangings. The floors are covered with reed mats. It’s all very clean and ordered.  

I am expected to bath in the Nile river using a pasty soap, and to shave all hair from my body for cleanliness. Then I must use perfumes and ointments to cover any body odor. My clothes are very simple, bleached white material. Potiphar and his family wear wigs and jewelry and paint their faces.  

The food is good and varied, bread, vegetables, fruit, wine and meat. 

There is obviously a well-organized trade between Egypt and other lands. Egyptians depend upon merchants for many different kinds of supplies, including slave labor.  

Learning and intellectual pursuits are valued by the Egyptians but their religion binds them to continually think about death rather than life. I have never before seen such craftsmanship, carvings and idol worship. They have an idol for every sphere of life and a dark spiritual blindness that pervades their thinking. 

Victim or Overcomer? 

I think I have good reasons for feeling victimized, but I will not be ruled by such unhelpful emotions. Yes, I was obviously not liked by my brothers. Yes, they rejected my overseers role given to me by my father. Yes, they were negative and cruel and I was thrown into a pit. Yes, they sold me as a slave. Yes, I am miles from home with no way of getting back.  

I could become negative about my circumstances but I will not. I still have God, who loves and cares for me. I still have a God-given dream, and a bent towards leadership. I will seek to line up with the destiny God has chosen for me, not get depressed about what I don’t have. I will lift my thinking to the level of my belief and seek to serve Him and others around me rather than build my life around my problems or my past.  

So rather than continually trying to get free and asking why, I have chosen to live free and ask what God is saying.  

Lord, help me wage a war on my negative thoughts, the strongholds of my human reasoning that try to enslave me and to war against every obstacle that keeps me from trusting in the freedom I have in knowing You. Just as I have been captured physically, I pray that You would help me capture my rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey You. And after I have become fully obedient, I will truly live free inside. 

What will happen to me? I don’t know. Only God can answer that question so I will not be ruled by what may or may not happen. Today I decide to fix my thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. I will think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. I will not be conformed to this world in which I find myself, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind as God shows me each step of the way ahead. 

TO BE CONTINUED… 

Pastor Ross 

Galatians 3:28-29 – FREEDOM FROM THE ENEMY WITHIN

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

He is a little man with an enormous smile and such wise, almond shaped, sad eyes. His unkempt hair makes him Einstein-like in appearance. His beard troubles his face, defining his features making this fragile soul appear more secure.

As a cadet in 1939 Raoul was subjected to anti-semitism in Poland. His discouragement and hurt went deep and he made a decision never to call himself Polish again. He joined a youth Zionist organization.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says Jesus was familiar with discrimination and rejection. “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” In Luke 22:37 (NLT) says that prophetically “He was counted among the rebels.” 

As World War 2 loomed, Jews were placed in an internment camp. But Raoul escaped. Many of his friends who remained would die during the holocaust as the German army advanced. Thinking he was safe after liberation on 22 January 1945, and still refusing to call himself Polish, Raoul was again imprisoned for saying he was a Jew, this time by the Russians.

Now Raoul, at the age of 91, resides in an Aged Care Facility. He has dementia. Once again there are locked doors which remind him of the internment camps during WW2 and he dreams of escaping, just as he escaped the holocaust. He says that in the internment camps at least he had hope of freedom and now he refuses to resign himself to a life behind locked doors.

In our conversation always seems to revolve around his imprisonment. I try to help Raoul accept his accommodation as his home. One day as we were talking about being imprisoned, I told Raoul that it appeared to me that he was truly imprisoned, but not because of the locked doors. When he inquired as to how this could be, I said that he was not free on the inside. He had real difficulty with the concept of inner freedom.

Jesus spoke of imprisonment and freedom on the inside to a Jewish audience in John 8:32-47 (NLT). He said “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Romans 8:2 (NLT) says “And because you belong to Him (Jesus), the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Knowing the power of forgiveness and inward freedom from the tyranny of sin, when Paul spent time in a Roman prison he was able to say, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB). In Philippians 4:11-13 (NASB) he says “… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

True freedom is not freedom from authority. It comes when we change allegiances to the One who has designed us. 1 Peter 2:16 (NLT) says “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” Romans 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.”

Raoul and I often talk about the differences between Jews and Gentiles, but for followers of Christ “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” Galatians 3:28-29 (NLT). Colossians 3:11 (NLT) says “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” 

In Acts 26:22-23 (NLT) it is clear that this message of the Messiah is extended to all who will receive Him. “I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to JEWS AND GENTILES alike.” 

In Acts 3:12-26 (NLT) at Pentecost Peter addressed a crowd of people who have gathered in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world, “… Repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. … For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants ALL the families on earth will be blessed….’” Acts 4:11-12 (NLT) goes on to say “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

Prose, Poetry and Photos © By Ross Cochrane

Cross = Love

Cross = Love

In the Aged Facility where I am a Chaplain, I meet many people who, when finding themselves in high care, move through a process of grief over the losses that come with age. Life changes dramatically after a stroke or a fall or when dementia makes it impossible for people to live at home. All of a sudden they are living in a building with locked doors with keypads and nurses writing care plans, careworkers showering, lifting, and doing everything for them. It’s all a little confusing, confronting and unfamiliar. It can feel as if they are trapped.

It is often the inward prison of negativity that traps people more than their outward circumstances. This is true through life but can come to the forefront when someone comes into high care.

I have also noticed what happens when someone finds Christ. All of a sudden the prison on the inside is opened and they are free. Free to live as God intended. This prose and poem talks graphically about that journey. I have not tried to water down the grief. Isaiah 53:4 speaks of Jesus. It says “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”

PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

DAY 1 – LOSS OF YOUTH 

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

As to where I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. But the diary I hold in my hands claims my name on the cover. Inside I find this verse from the Bible – John 21:18 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

Lifted like a mist on mountain slopes
The haze clears enough for me to see. I am old,
And wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall.
I cannot fathom how distant hopes
Ended, broken and bruised, torn, homeless and cold
These words I leave to journal such a fall.

A care worker and a walker, seem strange,
Whoever is crippled, cranky, unconvinced,
With soft, sweet, sure, safe, assuring words,
Is greeted, treated kindly in exchange.
Absurd!

DAY 2 – LOSS OF FREEDOM

Key to Life

Key to Life

I am able to walk with the help of a walking device. A Care Worker attended to me today, and when I asked her where I was, she said “You are in a safe place.” Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! Files and Records. No privacy. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.

On the next page of my diary I read Psalms 118:5 (NLT) “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.” If only.

I know I am meant for other things,
Not lies and patronising tones, and these locked doors.
My ears, dulled to all the other sounds around me
Hear freedom’s constant calls. Flightless wings
Refuse passage from this sad prison. It causes
Hope to fade, and fear fails to set me free.

Their care invades, interrogates, ensnares,
While ever I remain, constrained to live now,
What life is left, in this single room.
My private things in folders are shared, theirs
To Consume. 

DAY 3 – LOSS OF HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS AND THE FAMILIAR

Key to life

Key to life

I have exchanged my friends and family with inmates and guards. The inmates are all very old. The guards all very young. Different generation, different cultures, paid to be friendly. I still shudder to think that young women take me to the toilet and shower and dress me in the morning. My son says I have no choice.

Sentenced, I seek for my release, reach
For keys to other kingdoms with a future sure
Where heartfelt cries are answered and I once more walk
Free, unfaltering, fearless. Each
Footstep closer to friends, fam’ly, and cure,
Where old mates, tried and true, gather to talk.

I have exchanged familiar with strange;
Whatever is diff’rent delights to devour
The sure, safe, secure and stable things,
And whispers words of warning of the change
It brings. 

DAY 4 – LOSS OF HOME AND HOPE

Boxed TimeMy family avails themselves of visiting rights occasionally, but it seems they think I deserve a life sentence and have abandoned trying to advocate for my release. Today I cried when they left. I learned that my beautiful four bedroom home, where I have lived for the last 40 years, is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a big back yard for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting.  Inheritance draining. A burden to my family. Set aside. Abandoned.

The Bible verse for today is Psalms 71:9 (NLT) “And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.” Don’t abandon me.

Today, I have cried for life bereft,
For loved ones advocating not for my release.
For homes sold, taken, traded, forty years of waste,
Tears tasted forfeit fall, failed, unblessed.
Escape plotted and plans, so hollow, they cease
To make sense. My dreams in shackles, erased.

DAY 5 – LOSS OF MONEY, WORK, RESPECT, MEANING

Discovered today that I have no money to spend. A successful business, millions earned over a lifetime, money to burn in the bank but I am broke. My son told me that he is now my power of attorney and he will pay for everything. Enforced poverty.

I said somewhat foolishly “Have more respect! Don’t you realise who I am?” Has he forgotten? Have I forgotten who I am? A doctor, an army officer, Prisoner of war, a Businessman, a Mayor! Was I the Mayor? Who am I? No-one seems to care who I am anymore. I am just a grain of sand on the beach, a tiny ripple in an ocean. “Don’t laugh at me!”

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”” It seems even God wants Power of Attorney!

Power taken from me, enforced lack,
Where is my million dollar wealth? Has it dwindled now?
It evades, is inaccessible evermore,
A prisoner of time. Send me back!
Respect, honour are scorned, sold, shallow, but how?
And my trade, my craft, sawdust on the floor.

Sand sifts, hourglass-like, survival slips, slides,
Sedation is stable, settled, soothes for now.
Closed door, house of straw, coffee cups.
An imposed life where meaning from me hides
And ducks. 

DAY 6 – LOSS OF CHALLENGE

I was so pleased when one guard said she would take me home today, but she simply proceeded to take me back to my one room prison cell. Is she mad! Am I mad!

Tablets everyday. Surviving but not living. I have been issued a walker to get around, but there is nowhere to go, no challenges to face, no future to plan, no contribution to make, nothing truly meaningful that I can do in terms of work. Closed doors. Imposed routines. I have come to consider a cup of coffee as one of the most important events in life. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. If I fall, a monstrous piece of machinery turns up to pluck me from the floor and place me on the bed. It seems the worst enemy around here is gravity.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT) “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“Please, can you take me home!” Insane hopes,
But I am trundled, bundled to a prison cell,
Where assessed risks are guarded and no dangers lurk
Sentries pencil their paperwork, ropes
To choke challenge are wound, and sound the death knell
On all threats, and on adventure. Their work
Is to protect, to reduce all life’s dare.

Whoever has fallen, is plucked safe and well,
With swift, safe, sure, artificial arms.
No hazards here, but superficial care
Hurts, harms.

DAY 7 – FAITH FOUND

Cross

Cross

Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Chaplain says God doesn’t have a band-aid for the wounds I have on the inside, or a drawer full of pills to help me cope, but God does offer His total healing, forgiveness, friendship and direction in life and in eternity. He can be trusted to keep His promises. He will never leave me or forsake me. He can set me free on the inside.

Today I read about Abraham. Romans 4:19-22 (NLT) says “Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.”

Jesus loves me this I think I know. I better take it to the Lord in prayer. I’ve been invited to devotions by the Chaplain tomorrow. Pierced hearts cannot somehow with band-aids and pills and magic potions be healed.

DAY 8 – FREEDOM WITHIN

Old

Old

The Chaplain read from Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” That’d be right. Even the road to heaven is too narrow. Hopefully it has wheelchair access. Better take my walker and hope for the best.

Seriously though, perhaps it’s not that I am in a prison. It is that the prison is in me. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” His death on the Cross for my sins has set me free. Thought about this all day.

I read from Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) and it spoke to me. God says “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”

John 8:36 (NLT) says “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” 

DAY 9 – NEW REFLECTION

So I embark on the adventure of faith, with it’s challenges and potholes and narrow roads. My faith is still a bit bumpy and it is a challenge everyday. But today I choose life.

I look in the mirror. The old man who stares back at me is the real diary. My faith, written on my life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 

DAY 10 – THE TRUE DIARY

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

Ascending like mist on mountain slopes
The haze has lifted. I still see that I am old,
My wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall,
But now I fathom who I am. Hopes
Fulfilled I see, reflected in that form so bold,
A shining light to journal such a call.

Fresh life written in that face revealed. True
Diary of faith, forgiveness I behold,
God’s grace for grief’s wounds, freely poured.
His faithful touch heals, redeems, makes me new,
I am restored.

Matthew 14:1-12 – BRAVEHEART VS THE MAFIA

Braveheart vs the Mafia

He is drawn to the MAN IN THE DUNGEON. Beliefs are tested in the dark dungeon experiences of my life where everything is ripped away to expose who I really am. A dungeon is that place where everything is pointless without the purposes of God. Yet when all I have to offer to God is a dungeon it becomes a place of His presence, a throneroom, a place where His authority and intentions overrule my circumstances. A place of FREEDOM.

 The Godfather is dead. “Herod the king”, psychopathic mass murderer who killed the baby boys of Bethlehem in a last ditch attempt to destroy Jesus is now gone (Matthew 2:13-18). Long live the Dons. Long live “HEROD THE TETRARCH” who has survived to rule a quarter of his fathers kingdom. His tetrarchy extends from the Sea of Galilee to the northern part of the Dead Sea. Ambitious and just as deadly as his father, HEROD ANTIPAS has now been ruling about thirty-two years. In the luxury and excess of his kingdom he is imprisoned by a dungeon of his own making, far more oppressive than John’s. What a mess.

Meet his comare (mistress). Granddaughter of the late great “Herod the King”, HERODIAS is niece to both her husband PHILIP, and her lover. Herod and Herodias? Days of our lives! She seeks to justify her relationship with Herod but the man in the dungeon DENOUNCES it saying that it is against God’s law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). He is anything but politically correct and his influence is far-reaching with the people. He lives out Ephesians 5:11 (NLT) which says “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, EXPOSE them, even in the presence of a Godfather figure like King Herod. He may be in a dungeon but the dungeon is not in him. He declares that sin separates me from God, that genuine repentance is needed and that I need to come under the authority of Jesus whose way he is preparing.

With a heart as black as a dungeon wall, Herodias tries to rid herself of the irritation, but what mother would involve her own daughter in such a quest? What kind of trauma will result from such a gruesome plan?

Herod doesn’t hold back when it comes to his birthday party or in celebrating the anniversary of his accession as king. He holds a magnificent banquet. Good food, questionable entertainment. He lives a life of debauchery.

Salome dances seductively before Herod. She is the daughter of Herodias and Herod is not so much seduced by her dance as he is obligated to her mother to give her whatever she desires. He makes a foolish oath to grant her any wish, up to half his kingdom, but her heart too is imprisoned, and she too is drawn with malicious intent to the man in the dungeon. Salome consults with her mother.

Herod is deeply grieved by her request but doesn’t want to lose face. So, with only a moments hesitation, he grants her desires and orders John the Baptist to be BEHEADED. This is quite a table that has been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sit together at the kings table as John’s head is brought in on a platter.

Why did John have to die? The key to understanding this is found in Acts 20:24 (NLT) – “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Courage. Humility. Faithfulness. Selflessness. Reformer. Servant and Ambassador for Christ. Martyr. Who says it’s easy being a follower of Christ? Would I be willing to stand boldly with the message of repentance and faith in Christ that God has give to me in the face of death? In the words of BRAVEHEART “You have come to fight as free men. And free men you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? …Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

Galatians 5:1 (NIV) puts it this way – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Philippians 1:20-21 (NLT) could well be used as John’s vision and his epitaph – “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, TO LIVE IS TO LIVE FOR CHRIST AND TO DIE IS GAIN.” 

Pastor Ross