In August of 2022 I had the pleasure, along with my good friend Doug Bonebrake, to release our first episode of Relaxed and Free. A new podcast produced by Lakewood Family Therapy. It’s a pretty cool story how all of that got started. To hear you’ll want to check into the first episode of the podcast here.
In this piece I want to focus on the title of the podcast. Because the Lord has been honing in, or better said “rubbing it in my face”, this idea that there is freedom in His presence. Specifically, a freedom given to us from the Holy Spirit. As many of you know, one of my favorite preachers is Charles Swindoll. His ministry has changed my life. And God has been using Chuck to drive this notion of freedom home for me as well. His podcast on the Holy Spirit, listed here, has been a major source of encouragement in the last 2 months. And much of what I am going to say has already been said, more eloquently, by Chuck in his series.
As is always the case. A short story is in order. Because I remember my first experience with the freedom of God. It was the first real “taste” of His liberating presence. And it was the summer of 1990. I was 10, or thereabouts. And I went to summer camp at a beautiful place called Camp Sumatanga. This was not my first camp experience. In fact, I’d had a horrible experience at another camp in Alabama. I want to say with humorous tones, "A camp that shall not be named!".
So suffice to say, there was a great deal of bullying at that particular camp and for a small fry who had a fire in his belly it was a nightmare. I could never seem to stay out of trouble, particularly because I had a proclivity to speak my mind. In this way I was really a victim of my own passions. Always inserting myself but never having the body mass to truly back up my desire to protect those who I thought needed my help. So the story goes, my mouth got me into trouble, but it couldn’t get me out.
Regardless, my summer week at Camp Sumatanga was nothing like that. It sounds strange now to call it magical. But in all reality. It was the first time in my life I can remember feeling empty when I left a place. Feeling like I was leaving something behind that, in my young mind, could only be found at that camp. Looking back on it now, I know it was not the trees, or the fields, or the rock climbing. The wonderful counselors, the hike to the top of the mountain, or even the “warm fuzzies” (small pieces of yarn campers and counselors would give to one another to tie onto their name tags). While all of these things were special, and part of an amazing culture created at Sumatanga. There was something else. An encounter with the true and living God. I believe that in all reality the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, was present at that camp. And that the intense freedom in my spirit was a manifestation of His presence. Sounds crazy doesn’t it?
But look at what Paul writes to the Corinthians in his second letter,
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
So in my own personal way, a piece of the veil was removed from my eyes that summer. I experienced God, and developed a craving for the freedom I felt when in His presence. I cried for two days after leaving. I felt empty. Like something was missing. I remember laying in the back of our Chevy Astro crying and asking to go back. My mom was worried that something was the matter with me. I chuckle at that, because it would not be the first or last time she felt that way.
Now what is most important for me to tell you is that freedom I experienced is available to you. It is available to anyone who walks through the door of our counseling center. It is available to anyone reading this post or listening to the podcast. When you accept Christ, you receive the Holy Spirit in total. He is with you. He is bound to your soul like He was a part of you that cannot be removed or you would die.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul puts it this way,
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
My point is this. If there is freedom that comes from the Spirit of the Lord. And I believe that there is. And if you have the Spirit of the Lord inside of you. And I believe that you do. Then even in the midst of trial and tribulation. You have access to that freedom. And I believe that you can earnestly feel that deep in your heart, soul, and mind when the time comes for you to endure suffering. I believe we all can. And that belief gives me hope. Hope that no matter what you are facing, and no matter what you are feeling. You will be okay. And I believe that can inspire us to keep getting up. To keep getting better. To keep pushing forward. Paul tells the Romans, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).
And it has come to my attention that we cannot succeed in these things without the Holy Spirit. And so the best counsel I can give you is that. Feed the Spirit. Be close to Him, and in Him you will find freedom. And from that freedom, peace. And from that peace, strength. Strength to overcome the darkest of trials, and the most difficult times.