2 Corinthians 3:17 (Amplified)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).
They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it!
In my twenties, before I had my first baby, I made two trips to the country of Guatemala on medical mission trips. Each trip was special and altered my perspective of the world. This morning I was reminded, as Rivers and I were looking at pictures in her National Geographic, of what I remember most about my experiences in Guatemala.
This particular issue was about the twelve apostles and what countries they impacted as they spread the Gospel. As we turned the pages I was stunned and struck by the image of a beautiful woman worshipping Savior in a house church in India. They say that the apostle Thomas preached the gospel in India (I have no idea if that is accurate). What I instantly recognized and knew to be true was my same living God so obviously a “personal presence” in this woman’s life. Her eyes were closed. One hand was raised to Heaven, palm open, and the other hand clutching at her heart. Face wet with tears streaming down her beautiful brown skin. In India. In a house church because she could not openly worship Jesus in public. Rivers stood beside me as I stared at the picture. The memory of another brown-skinned and beautiful woman rising to the surface of my heart. She had responded to in invitation to know Jesus under a tent at night in a very primitive area of Guatemala high up in the mountains after receiving medical care earlier in the day. I don’t speak spanish and so I had not understood a word of the message. Didn’t understand the lyrics to the songs that had been sung. But I certainly understood what was happening in her life as I witnessed from a few feet away her “emancipation.” The Spirit of the Lord was making himself known and like the Indian woman, she began to weep and lift her hands toward Savior in Heaven. Freedom. Under a tent. In a house church. Because indeed where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty…emancipation from bondage and sin…freedom, room if you will, to be filled up with the love and personal presence of God.
Backing up a bit, I have been reading a bit about North Korea lately. Actually, I am reading a book about a young man’s escape from a prison camp that he was born into in N Korea. For some reason, when I saw a clip of his story on the news I wanted to know more. What I am reading is unbelievable. Last night I told Shannon, my husband, how it’s hard to know people are suffering this way right now, today. When we studied Nazi concentration camps in school or when I read “Night” by Elie Wiesel as an adult I could not understand how these things were possible but I was reading about history. When I read about the concentration camps, political prisons, in N Korea I can’t get away from the fact that it’s happening as I pour myself milk before bed. As I watch Cupcake Wars on Food Network with my girls. As I type this bog post.
As I read Shin’s account, through an American journalist and author, my heart asked the obvious. How can this be happening, God? How can human beings do these things to other human beings, especially children. You know what thought I had as I wondered how concentration camps and political prisons can be a fact in our world? I thought about how “Camp 14” (which the N Korean government denies exists yet can be seen on google earth) is barren of the Spirit of the Lord. And for me, it is the only explanation. The presence of our God in the hearts of men is a restraining force against evil on the earth. Simple as it sounds, I prayed for Shin who made it to China, then S Korea and then the USA. In an interview when asked if he was happy now his response was so sad to me. He said no, I will never be happy. I pray Shin experiences the personal presence of a Creator who not only made a way for him to escape the bondage of a prison camp but can free him from the mental bondage of his life.
Kind of heavy stuff for a Monday morning. But I don’t want to not know. I don’t want to live my spoiled, “fat baby” Christian life here where there is a church on every street corner, more food than can be consumed and every creature comfort those sleeping on concrete floors working 14 hours a day under armed guards and beaten for missed quotas could only imagine. I don’t want to feel sad for a few minutes and then forget all about it as I finish the laundry and drink my diet Sunkist. Goodness but for how long can I contemplate my self-esteem issues and lack of square footage before I trip over the images burned on my mind and heart. What His presence means for the earth as well as each man, woman, boy and girl who are born onto it.
House-churches in India. Remote mountainous villages in Central America. Prison camps in N Korea. A white house with green shutters on .48 acres in NC. Every inch of creation cries out for the Spirit of the Lord. For liberty and freedom. For healing. Emancipation. And if we know Him, if we crave Spirit filled living, we must live our fulness out loud and on purpose for our neighbors, co-workers, family members and those scattered all across the globe who need to know freedom exists and is possible.
Palms turned upward with hearts torn open in the sweetest of ways as they “suddenly recognize” that God is a living, personal presence come to fill and free them. And me. And you. No chain too strong. No geographic location too far out of reach. No past too ugly.
See, the blood of the Cross preaches emancipation. And His empty tomb whispers sweet relief…