Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

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 

Advertisements

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