Tag Archives: Recovery

Freedom with a Twist

By Eugene C. Scott

Oppression is chameleon. Throughout human history it has changed its color and adapted itself to every age and every need or right we humans must have. And it’s disguise is always—at first—beautiful, promising. This chameleon usually first promises us safety in a dangerous world, then maybe protection of beloved values, or true peace, or more food, or better wages, and even—paradoxically—freedom. Then somehow, slowly—maybe even unintentionally at times—it changes its color. The trap slams shut and we are caught.

The ancient Israelites came begging Egypt for safety from a famine and wound up enslaved for over 400 years. That was one expensive meal.

In 1789 the French Revolutionaries began an overthrow of a corrupt and absolute monarchy. Freedom, they cried. They wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Then only four years later the Committee of Public Safety began what is now called the Reign of Terror. Up to 40,00 people were killed. The dictator Napoleon followed.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 turned out worse, with an estimated 30 million killed by Stalin’s government. Communist China and North Korea, so-called democratic nations in Africa, and the theocracies of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran have followed suite. To name a few more recent oppressive chameleons. Even the theological American ideal of “manifest destiny” turned murderous.

What is the common denominator in all this oppression? Some today say religion. Others corporations. Some governments. And these are all elements to be sure. But religions, corporations, and governments are made up of people. You and me. Humans are the root of all this oppression.

We are each capable of wreaking it on others or releasing it in the name of getting something we think we need. When I visited that horrific reminder of human oppression, The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, I realized it was not Nazis or Germans who killed six million Jews. Yes, the murderers wore Nazi uniforms and were mainly German. But beneath those uniforms they wore human skin. This the Bible calls sin. And on this level it is hard to deny.

The good news is we are also capable of resisting oppression. Freedom also comes in many different varieties. Though true freedom is never deceptive nor makes promises of mere safety. Some varieties of freedom come harder than others. With a cost.

Political, economic, religious, personal freedom are the most common freedoms we cry out for. But maybe the most precious freedom is one we avoid at almost all cost: The freedom to not be safe, to cry, to struggle, to suffer. This is the freedom Jesus chose as an expression of his love for us. He freely gave his life for you and me.

Note the difference? Oppression promises to give but really takes. And leaves us no choice in the matter. Only God gives expecting nothing in return. Because God needs nothing.

If anyone ever could become a demanding dictator it is God. Often our cries to God for safety, mere happiness, contentment, a cessation of pain and worry are just that, invitations for God to declare universal marshall law in the name of public safety. But how much more would God’s mighty fist crush us if mere humans such as Pharaoh, Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler did such thorough work?

So God continually grants us the freedom to suffer. Knowing this then gives us the freedom to love and live as creatures of love.

The ancient Israelites were mud and brick, hard labor, economic slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. But when God tells Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go,’” their freedom is not escaping human oppression. God goes on to say, “Let my people go . . . so that they may worship me.” Worship is an expression of love. Soon enough, faced with a barren and dangerous desert, however, the people are crying out for the safety of Egypt. Give us the leeks and onions of Egypt they tell Moses.

Finally, as these people then stand on the edge of the “promised land” which contains not only “milk and honey” but suffering too, Joshua says, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Those gods, like our gods of protective governments and human systems only take because they cannot give us what we truly need. The freedom to receive and give love.

This freedom is costly. But not as costly as choosing safety and other chameleon promises.

Eugene C. Scott is enjoying the freedom he has and is thankful for both the joy and the suffering it brings. He is also trying to see God in daily life, even in tragedy. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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The Secret To Overcoming Our Addictions

All Bill Wilson needed was one drink for him to be hooked. “I had found the elixir of life,” he wrote. But soon his elixir escorted him down a very dark path as alcohol became the driving influence in his life.

He failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma. So instead, he became a stock speculator and enjoyed success traveling the country with his wife, Lois, evaluating companies for potential investors. Lois, however, had a hidden agenda: she hoped the travel would keep Bill from drinking. However, his constant drinking made business impossible and ruined his reputation.

Four times he was committed to a hospital in hopes that he could find deliverance from his addiction, which he was told would lead to an early death.

Eighteen years after his first drink, he met an old drinking buddy who had been sober for several weeks—something Wilson was unable to do. The influence of his friend led to his sobriety, and their friendship resulted in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.

While regularly criticized by the medical community, Alcoholics Anonymous has achieved success far beyond their critics. What is the secret to their success?

Please join us as we explore this topic in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
Psalm 81:1-16
Proverbs 25:6-8

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Jeremiah 16:16-18:23. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) As western culture moves from modernism to post-modernism, the heart becomes an ever-increasing influence in our beliefs and the decisions we make. We’re told to “follow our heart.” While ignoring our hearts is foolish, we need to remember that our hearts can also lead us astray. In fact, according to this verse, our hearts can deceive us, too.

At the end of our reading (Jeremiah 18:18-23), we see a veiled reference of retaliation toward Jeremiah. He’s been thrown into a pit because he called out the sin of Judah’s leaders. Jeremiah paid a price for obeying God.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3. Paul’s words in 4:1 echo Jeremiah’s choice to obey God: “live in order to please God.” I wrestle with this because my deceptive heart wants to please people or live for myself. In this particular context, Paul is referring to sexual purity. “Avoid sexual immorality” he writes. The Greek word for “sexual immortality”—porneia—applies to sexual acts outside the boundaries of marriage. Our society and deceptive hearts try to convince us that our sexual practices don’t matter. But they do. Paul addresses a root problem underlying our sexual habits. All too often we don’t want to live with self-control. Again, we want to follow our deceptive hearts, which only lead us to destruction—both spiritually but also relationally.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

In his final hospital stay, Bill Wilson reached the end of himself. While lying in his hospital bed depressed and despairing, he cried out, “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!”

Suddenly, Wilson was engulfed in a sensation of bright light, a feeling of ecstasy, and peace. Not only did he experience an encounter with God Almighty, but he later considered this an important step in following Jesus. He never drank again for the remainder of his life.

This experience provided the foundation to recovery for every alcoholic:

  1. We are powerless over our addiction.
  2. Only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
  3. In order to recover from our addiction, we must turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.

Originally, Alcoholics Anonymous was a Christian organization, heavily influenced by an intriguing Christian movement called the Oxford Group.

The secret to recovery from addictions should really come as no surprise. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength” (Jeremiah 17:5–6).

We want to save ourselves. Heal ourselves. Relying on outside help is an admittance of weakness. We’d like to overcome our sins and demons on our own. Yet the truth is, we can’t save ourselves. Nor can we heal ourselves and make ourselves better. Friends are important, but they can’t cure us. Our help only comes from above:

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7–8

When we battle addictions or demons like depression or discouragement, we must recognize that the solution to our problems never come from within: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).

Sometimes working harder at our problems only makes them worse. Surrendering, working less, yielding to God, helps us realize that true change can only come from God.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what areas of your life are you trying to hold together on your own?
  3. What prevents you from surrendering them to God?
  4. What lies do you choose to believe?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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