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A Matter of Faith: Understanding the paradox of freedom

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american-flag-and-christ

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“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” – Galatians 5:1 (NIV).

To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. american-flag-and-christConstitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.

According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are; indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.

Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?

“At the very heart of the Christian gospel is the strange truth,” he continues, “that real freedom is found only in giving up everything secular culture touts as freedom. The gospel, it turns out, requires a distinction between the enjoyment of true freedom and the mere possession of ‘free will.’ Not that free will or independence from tyranny is a bad thing; they’re just not true freedom. True freedom, the gospel tells us, is trusting obedience, the obedience of faith. That’s not exactly the image one finds portrayed in popular culture.”

So, what does true freedom mean for those who choose to follow Christ? According to St. Augustine, true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be.

For too many years of my adult life, I was a slave—a slave to other’s opinions, a slave to the false image I portrayed as someone who had her life together, a slave to the identities I slipped into because of cultural demands. I wasn’t experiencing true freedom. I wasn’t completely free until I embraced the woman God has created me to be.

“Humans were created in the image of God. True freedom, then,” writes Olson, “is not found in moving away from that image but only in living it out. The closer we conform to the true image of God, Jesus Christ, the freer we become. The farther we drift from it, the more our freedom shrinks.”

Only Christ can set us free.

Photos courtesy of Carol Round and Anglican Pastor

Need a speaker or workshop leader? Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Round: Make the most of your new year

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“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”—3 John 2(NIV).

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

A New Year has arrived and with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and quit smoking. Some look for quick fixes through crash diets, new exercise crazes or so-called “magical” pills while others seek a solution through surgery, bringing with it a host of possible complications and side effects.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I don’t recall seeing as many overweight people as is prevalent today. I also don’t remember seeing a fast-food restaurant on almost every corner. MyCarol Round mother was a stay-at-home mom who cooked healthy meals. When we did eat out, it was a treat. Today, eating out seems to be the norm as the choice of restaurants and fast-food places have grown as fast as our waistlines and hips.

Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by making resolutions each January, what if we turned to scripture for a permanent solution to our health problems?  What if we chose to do the following?

Make wise choices concerning our health. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the wisest choices are when we get conflicting information via the media. We must educate ourselves through reliable sources, including those from reputable organizations. (see Proverbs 2:6)

Practice self-control.  With an abundance of food choices in our country comes stress. How is that possible? Just walk down a supermarket aisle and check out the options available. It can be overwhelming. Too many choices can lead us to make hasty decisions. We don’t take time to study labels nor educate ourselves about the best food for our bodies. (see Proverbs 25:28)

Honor God with our bodies. How do we do this? By choosing wisely what we eat and drink and letting go of bad habits that lead to disease and early death. (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Ask for accountability. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, seek an accountability partner who will help you stay on track until your new lifestyle becomes a daily habit. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Rely on God’s power rather than our own strength. A new year brings resolve to do better for most of us, hence the word ‘resolution.’ However, we usually set out to accomplish them in our own power. That’s why most people fail. (see Philippians 4:13)

Choose to exercise our bodies. Say the word “exercise” and most people run in the opposite direction. Why is that? Do we equate it with hard work? Is it because we don’t want to make the time, instead preferring to vegetate in front of the TV? Exercise should be fun. Fun? Choose something that interests you and will keep you motivated. (see Romans 12:1)

Quit making excuses. Just do it! (Luke 14:17-18)

Start your New Year right. Commit all of your goals and plans to the Lord. Ask for His direction and guidance for the coming year. Make the most of 2016.

Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Round: Why did He remain silent?

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Jesus before Pilate

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate” (Mark 15:1 NRSV).

What if you knew tomorrow would be your final day on earth? How would you prepare? Would you spend time eating a meal—or maybeCarol Round two—with those you love? Would you prepare them for your death? What would you say?

During Jesus’ final day on earth, beginning with the last meal He ate with His disciples and ending with His death and burial, those 24 hours changed our world.

Jesus had been betrayed by Judas, deserted by the rest of His disciples, denied by Peter—not once, but three times—and put on trial by the Sanhedrin. Jesus knew what was ahead. But did that make it any easier?

When the chief priests handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, he asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” How did Jesus answer? “You say so.”

And when those chief priests continued to accuse Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.”

Mark tells us in his gospel that “Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed (15:5).

In Adam Hamilton’s book, “24 Hours That Changed the World: 40 Days of Reflection,” he tells us more about Pilate. “Philo of Alexandria described Pilate as cruel, corrupt and violent.”

Yet, Pilate saw through the Jewish ruling council’s apparent interest in attempting to uphold Rome’s authority. Hamilton says, “There they presented Him to the governor, charging Him with the capital offense of claiming to be a king—a crime tantamount to treason and insurrection.”live streaming film Life 2017

Hamilton adds, “He knew they tolerated Rome’s authority and accommodated to it, but their presentation of Jesus to him was not out of a concern for Rome. Pilate knew they were jealous of this man who had challenged not Rome’s authority, but their own.”

Why did Jesus remain silent when questioned by Pilate? Why didn’t He defend Himself against the accusations? Hamilton says, “Some see His silence as another occasion when Jesus was intentionally fulfilling the words of the prophets, in this case Isaiah 53:7:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

Hamilton asks his readers to picture the expressions that might have crossed Jesus’ face as He listened to the charges against Him?

Hamilton says, “I picture dignity; resolve; a certain righteous disdain for the high priest; and an awareness that the trial will end in His own death, regardless of what He says, and that God will use His death to change the world forever.”

Born in a stable, sought out by shepherds from the fields and wise men from the east, Jesus was born for just this moment. That’s why He remained silent.

Email carolaround@yahoo.com for information about speaking at your next event.

 

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Round: Do you know God’s will for your life?

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By Carol Round
Special to ASSIST News Service

CLAREMORE, OK – “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well“-Matthew 6:33 (NRSV).

We humans are a selfish bunch. We want everything our way. We want God’s blessings but we don’t want to surrender anything, includingRound Gods Will our time, talent and treasure.

We want to know God’s will for our lives-at least some of us do-but we don’t want to take the time to discover what His will is. That would mean sacrifice on our part.

Recently, our pastor’s sermon series was titled, “How to Know the Will of God for your Life.” Although I’d read articles and books on this topic, I needed a reminder. We easily become distracted by busyness and the chatter of life. Pastor Ray’s five-part series included the following:

First, we have to seek God’s kingdom, remembering we are coming on His terms, not ours. Matthew 6:33 says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Second, we need a plan that offers better reception, meaning if we can’t hear t hat still, small voice we need to examine our Christian practices like prayer, meditation and worship. These three are like phone plans designed to help us stay connected and communicate more clearly with God. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Third, we have to invest ourselves in God’s kingdom. This takes a commitment. Pastor Charles Swindoll reminds us that “More than onceCarol Round Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.”

Don’t run ahead of God. This is where my patience is tested. Remember Abraham and Sarah who didn’t want to wait for God’s promise of a son? The couple took things into their own hands and what a mess they created. While waiting, we need to seek Godly counsel, meditate, pray and read the Bible. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let you r heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Don’t lag behind. Although we are urged to wait on God, we must not lag behind either. When God told Abraham to go, he did. Moses argued with God about returning to Egypt, but he obeyed. It requires taking that first step and trusting God even when what He is calling us to do might be scary. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Another Swindoll quote says, “Your call will become clear as your mind is transformed by the reading of Scripture and the internal work of God’s Spirit. The Lord never hides His will from us. In time, as you obey the call first to follow, your destiny will unfold before you. The difficulty will lie in keeping other concerns from diverting your attention.”

What is God calling you to do?

Round is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

Round: What will it take to stop the madness?

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it”—Proverbs 22:6 (NIV).

Did you know the recent school shooting at Reynolds High School inFei Wilkening leaves flowers at a growing memorial at the entrance to Reynolds High School on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Troutdale, Ore. (Statesman Journal) Troutdale, Ore., marked the 74th one since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012? In 2014, so far, there have been 37 school shootings and as of February, about half of the incidents were fatal.

In the latest shooting, at least one student was killed and a teacher was injured by a lone gunman who later took his own life. According to police the teenage gunman had an AR-15 type rifle, a semi-automatic handgun and nine loaded magazines in his possession.

Have school shootings become the norm in our country? According to press reports, each gunman, including the ones involved in the Columbine High School massacre, occurring in 1999 were outsiders – loners who didn’t fit in or who had been influenced by our culture of movie and video violence.

In the case of the Columbine massacre, 12 students and one teacher were murdered by two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Although Harris and Klebold’s motives still remain unclear, their personal journals reveal they wanted their actions to rival the Oklahoma City bombing. USA Today referred to the Columbine massacre as a “suicidal attack [which was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing.” The two had also been influenced by violent movie and video games, according to the press.

School shootings have sparked debate over gun control laws, the availability of firearms in our country and gun violence involving youths. Discussion has also revolved around the nature of high school cliques and bullying as well as mental illness.

Why has no one stopped to consider that ultimate responsibility not only lies with the parents of the shooters but our society as well? Government cannot fix our broken country. We can’t enact enough laws to stop the madness.

What can we do? As Christians, we have a responsibility—several actually—to not only make sure our own actions reflect our Carol Roundmorals but to help others who are struggling. Can one person make a difference? Yes!

Reflect on these choices:

  • Do your values reflect God’s Word or do you allow culture to define who you are?
  • Do you allow your children to watch television shows or movies or play video games depicting violence or behavior that society deems acceptable?
  • Do you read and study the Bible and pray with your children? Do you attend church regularly?
  • Do you teach your children the value of human life, including accepting others who might be different? Do you tell your children it is wrong to bully others?
  • Do you spend quality time with your children in wholesome activities?
  • Do you teach your children about peer pressure? Do you emphasize the importance of following godly principles instead of the crowd?
  • Are your life choices the ones you want your children to emulate?

This list is only the beginning.  I urge you to reflect on your life and help stop the madness.

Need a speaker for your women’s event? Email carolaround@yahoo.com.

 

 

Round: Every morning is Easter morning

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Resurrection Sunday

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end; He will stand upon the earth” Job 19:25 (NIV).Resurrection Sunday

Holy Week dawned with a cloudy sky, rain showers and the threat of freezing temperatures in Oklahoma. It was mid-April. New plants were pushing their green heads through the soil in my flowerbeds. Would they survive the predicted late freeze?

The previous day, our church had celebrated Palm Sunday with the children marching into the sanctuary, waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.”  Not only do our children look forward to this day, the congregation enjoys celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

In his Palm Sunday sermon, our pastor said Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies—some of them between 400-700 years before Jesus was born—including his arrival on the back of a borrowed donkey. Traditionally, entering the city on a donkey symbolized arrival in peace, rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse. As Pastor Ray said, “The purpose of that first Palm Sunday was to demonstrate the Kingship of God, and to offer peace. It was a non-violent challenge to a very violent (Roman) regime!”

He added, “Palm Sunday was no accident.” Neither was the crucifixion nor Easter Sunday. The events that took place during theCarol Round first Holy Week were all part of God’s perfect plan, a plan to help us focus our hearts on the cross of Christ and His empty tomb. God’s perfect plan was to save humanity.

Evangelist Billy Graham said, “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” But His love didn’t end on the cross. He further demonstrated His amazing love through an empty tomb, offering hope to those who believe.

Remember John 20:1-3? “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’”

Some see Easter as no more than jelly beans, colored eggs, cellophane-covered baskets and giant candy bunnies but it is so much more. Easter is our symbol of hope, renewal and new life.

I came across the words to a song called “Every Morning is Easter Morning.” The chorus follows: “Ev’ry morning is Easter morning from now on! Ev’ry day’s resurrection day, the past is over and gone!” The first stanza includes the words: “I am one of the Easter people! My new life has begun!”

For people of faith, every day is Easter Sunday. When we accept the unconditional love of a Heavenly Father, who gave His precious Son for our sins, we can delight in what this youngster said, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but Easter is everybody’s birthday.”

Easter was no accident. It was the Pinnacle of God’s Plan.

The author is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

Round: Waiting on God is hard

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope.”—Psalm 130:5 (NIV).

We wait in line at the grocery store, the post office, a concession stand and other places requiring us to be patient. Waiting is hard. WeWaiting don’t want to wait. We want it now.

In a 1978 edition of “Good Housekeeping” magazine, a recipe for Hummingbird Cake appeared. Submitted by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of North Carolina, the cake took only 60 minutes of hands-on time. However, the cake—made from scratch—required 8-10 hours before it could be sliced and served.

Using over-ripe bananas, toasted pecans and crushed pineapple, along with the other necessary cake ingredients, the batter was poured into three well-greased and floured 9-inch cake pans, baked and then cooled for at least an hour. The next step called for a homemade cream cheese custard filling, a decadent mixture to be spread between the cake layers. However, after boiling, the cream cheese mixture had to cool at room temperature for at least an hour before being placed in the refrigerator to be chilled for another six to 24 hours. The final step in this famed cake recipe is a browned butter frosting, which required another hour to an hour and half prep and chilling time before completion.

 

That was 35 years ago. Times have changed. Most of us don’t want to spend that much time preparing, let alone waiting over 24 hours, to eat a cake. Most of us grab a cake mix and canned frosting off the grocery shelf to make a cake in less than two hours.

Waiting on God is also difficult. It’s frustrating. We want answers now. Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the phone, dial a number and get God on the other end to give us an immediate answer? However, it doesn’t work that way. He always answers in His timing with good reasons for making us wait. For example, Mary and Martha waited on Jesus to come heal their brother, Lazarus. When Jesus finally shows up, He is accused of taking too long. In the wait, His plans were perfected.

Waiting is one of God’s tools to develop His people. If you look at Psalm 130:5 closely, the psalmist mentions not only waiting for the Lord but also placing his hope in God’s Word. If we read and study the Bible stories of those who waited on God, we can find encouragement. Remember, Abraham waited 25 years, Moses waited 40 and Jesus waited 30. God uses the times of waiting to transform our character but He never asks us to wait without Him. The great heroes of the Bible went through difficulties and hardshipsCarol Round but God was with them in the trenches.

Pastor John Ortberg said, “Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”

While waiting, trust God in the process.

Carol Round is author of the weekly syndicated column “A Matter of Faith.” She resides in Claremore, Okla.  Need a speaker for your women’s event? Email carolaround@yahoo.com.

 

 

Round: And He will be called Immanuel

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By Carol Round
ASSIST News Service

CLAREMORE, OK (ANS) — “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, andCarol Round will call him Immanuel“-Isaiah 7:14 (NIV).

When I was a child, I loved to read. Without being aware of it, I often curled my toes under in anticipation of what would happen on the next page before I turned it. Mysteries were my favorite.

Today, my favorite book is the Bible. Its pages are filled with mysteries, never to be solved by the limited capacity of the human brain. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christ follower who anticipates what God will do next.

Wrapping our minds around a virgin birth requires us to lay our disbelief at the entrance to the stable. To believe God would come to earth in the form of a tiny baby to save the world requires us to suspend our own understanding and to trust in the One who created everything.

In the days leading up to His birthday, I love rereading the events preceding Jesus’ birth. In Luke 1:41, the author tells us, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Just like the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, an unsurpassed joy fills my being in anticipation of this Holy Mystery. However, just as Mary anticipated the birth of this special child, we are required to wait patiently for His return one day.

Children have a difficult time being patient when brightly wrapped packages under the Christmas tree lure them to shake the contents. My grandchildren are no exception. They can’t see the gift tightly wrapped underneath the tree, but they hope it’s something on their wish list.

Mary no doubt had a wish list. As most mothers, she had plans for her baby to be born among family, where he would be welcomed with gifts of warm clothes and other necessities. And what about Joseph? I’m sure, as the family’s provider, he would have wanted only the best for this holy child. But that wasn’t God’s plan. God often surprises us, as He did this couple-with a stable, a manger and swaddling clothes. It’s not what they anticipated but it was enough.

Many are disappointed when they open their Christmas gifts because it’s not enough. But imagine Mary and Joseph’s delight when God gave them more. After hearing the angel of the Lord proclaim the Good News, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to find the Christ child. After seeing him lying in the manger, they left to spread the Good News. In Luke 2:19, we are told, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

While we celebrate this beautiful season, let us ponder the treasure of a baby sent from Heaven for each one of us. His birth, still a mystery, should fill our hearts with joy. No other gift we have received or will receive can compare to this. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that we might have eternal life.”

Carol Round is a syndicated columnist, author and speaker. She has been writing her weekly column, A Matter of Faith, after retiring from a 30-year teaching career in 2005. Her five books include three collections of her columns: A Matter of Faith, Faith Matters and by FAITH alone. In 2012, Westbow Press released her book, “Journaling with Jesus: How to Draw Closer to God” with the companion workbook, “The 40-Day Challenge.” All of Carol’s books are available through Amazon.com or by contacting the author through www.carolaround.com.