At the Intersection of Freedom & Hope

(also posted on The After-Oakdale Chronicles)


“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians 5:13 NLT

When we have found the path to true freedom, we have discovered the joy found in service to others. By exercising our individual freedom serving others, we become beacons of light for others to follow.

“Serve one another in love.”

In those five words can be found the steps we need to take to follow Jesus. In those five words is the key to understanding the true nature of Christ. Those simple words contain the road map to the complexities of living on this earth that will lead us to eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

Following the admonition of the Apostle Paul, we discover a way to use the talents and gifts God gave us in a manner that serves Him and glorifies His name. God never said we couldn’t own things. God never said we could not be successful. In fact, God gave us the ability to design, develop, and build the images of our dreams into the reality of successful businesses, but He also gave us the ability to do it in a way that gives Him glory and serves our brothers and sisters with love.

In a post from August 24, 2013, I wrote about the freedom that comes with allowing God to open the ‘eyes’ of our hearts:

“God has opened wide the eyes of my heart, and He can open YOURS as well. With our eyes wide open we can see many things we could not see before: We can see hope; we can see peace, happiness, joy, love, and forgiveness; we can see the goodness that lives and breathes all around us.

And with our eyes wide open we can also see the hunger, the pain, the suffering, and the desperation of other people. But these are not bad things to see, because once our eyes are open, we can also see our place in God’s plan to HELP those who are afflicted. Seeing our place will allow us to take the action necessary to improve the condition of our brothers and sisters who are all God’s children.

And THIS, my friends, is freedom.”


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Imagine a place where leather goods, pottery, jewelry and other quality hand-crafted items are produced and sold; a place where a variety of unique restaurants are clustered; a place where tasteful Christian-themed apparel is printed and embroidered, then offered for sale in an attractive shop containing other Christian books, gifts, and music; a place where fine herbs and a colorful variety of gourmet tomatoes and other select produce items are hot-house grown and sold the day they are picked; a place where beautifully re-upholstered sofas and chairs and professionally refinished and refurbished dressers, tables and other furniture can be found; a place where you can take your car to get an oil change or perhaps even a custom paint job; a place where vehicles laden with workers and tools leave daily to go out and assist those in need while helping to make the community a more beautiful place; a place where you can drop off a load of canned goods to be distributed to area food banks and then park your car and peruse some locally produced Christian-themed paintings and sculptures; a place where adults can go to learn how to read and then enroll in a group to read about God; a place where Christian musicians are offered training, the opportunity to join with others to create music and then afforded the opportunity to record that music while others learn the art of doing the recording; a place where anything that can be produced by the hands of man is produced and sold in an environment of restoration and renewal of the human spirit; a place where anything is possible if it can be imagined; a place where no one is refused the services or the opportunities offered, regardless of their faith, but where everything is done in an attitude of Christian service and love.

Such a place will be built by people who believe that there is, indeed, hope and a future for those who are ‘hopeless’ and cannot see the future. Such a place will be called “HOPE CITY”.

Imagine that you are a part of it.

Imagine yourself standing at the intersection of Freedom and Hope.

“A TOAST TO FREEDOM” by Tony Casson

It seems appropriate to think about freedom as we approach the day on which we commemorate our independence.

I have written before about the “Toastmasters” group here at Oakdale, and I have posted speeches that I have given at some of those meetings. The following is a 5 minute speech I gave at a recent meeting. I thought I would share it with all of you.

I hope you find something in it that speaks to you.


“USE WELL THY FREEDOM”. Those four words adorn a low wall located in an older section of the Penn State University campus.

“USE WELL THEY FREEDOM”. A seemingly simple admonition to put to good use the freedom paid for in blood by so many American men and women since the founding of this great nation.

But is it something we do? Indeed, is something we even think about?

In the state of Florida, a well known professional football player and his equally well known super-model wife spent a reported $25 MILLION dollars on a 50 THOUSAND square foot home for them and their 2 children, while in the state of Louisiana ALONE, at the beginning of the last school year, there were 22 THOUSAND children who had no home at ALL.

Is THAT freedom used well?

In another part of the country, a man brags about the birth of his new child. Nothing unusual there, except that this is that man’s TENTH child, brought to life by SIX different women, none of whom he has been married to, a couple of whom were pregnant at the same time, and none of whom receive any emotional, spiritual, or financial support in the parenting and educating of those children.

Perhaps THIS is freedom used well.

In still another part of the country, a woman and her children are asleep in their beds late at night. In another room of the house, the husband and father reflects the glow of the computer screen he sits in front of as he engages in inappropriate sexually oriented “conversations” with people he doesn’t even know. Maybe he spends hours looking at ‘adult’ pornography. Perhaps he has even crossed the line and is looking at images of child sexual abuse referred to as child pornography.

Maybe THAT is an example of freedom that is being used well.

Since the founding of the United States of America, almost 2 MILLION men and women have sacrificed their lives to establish, preserve, and protect our freedom.

Are THOSE the freedoms they all died for?

In a recent Wall St. Journal report on how the average American uses the time in his or her day, it was stated that 2 hours and 50 minutes were spent watching television. Another 2 hours and 32 minutes were spent on sports and other leisure activities. Combined, the numbers equal 5 hours and 22 minutes of ‘me’ time each day.

Compare that to the 31 minutes that we spend caring for household members, and 11 minutes spent caring for non-household members, for a total of 42 minutes taking care of people other than ourselves.

We DO spend a whopping 30 minutes each day engaged in educational activities, although for many I think that is quite high, and when it comes to being involved in civic organizations or religious activities, we manage to spare an astonishing NINETEEN minutes each day.

Again, I believe that to be quite high in many cases.

If I have done my math correctly, the average American spends 91 minutes per day engaged in learning, taking care of other people, and taking part in civic organizations and religious activities. while we spend FIVE HOURS AND 22 MINUTES engaged in self-centered, self-serving, self-indulgent, and self-gratifying activities.

Which leads me to this question: Did all of those sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives make the supreme sacrifice of their LIVES so that we can each think only of OURSELVES?

Is THAT using our freedom well?

As inmates in a correctional facility, we probably think that freedom is what we lost when we entered this place. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth, because it was our FREEDOM that got us here. It was FREEDOM that was NOT USED WELL that closed the door behind us. It was the FREEDOM that we mistakenly believed gave us the right to think about OURSELVES to the exclusion of everyone else around us that keeps us behind fences and razor wire. We have convinced ourselves that FREEDOM is what makes the things WE want to do more important and more justified than what anyone else wants to do.

It stands to reason, then, that because we do not understand what freedom IS, it is impossible to understand how to use it WELL, and because we do not understand what true freedom is, we have all made ourselves SLAVES to those self-centered, self-serving, self-indulgent, and self-gratifying activities I spoke about.

Alright then….If freedom is NOT the “ME-dom” that we have made it, then what IS it?

The apostle Paul wrote, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

I understand that people have different beliefs – or NO beliefs – when it comes to God and when it comes to the Holy Bible, but I challenge ANY person to find fault with that statement.

Imagine for a moment that YOU have a son or a daughter wearing the uniform of the military of this country. None of us would want our child to die at all, but if he or she must, I for one would pray to God that the life he or she gave would be sacrificed for a nation of people who cared about one another and NOT for a nation of people whose concept of freedom has made them slaves to selfishness.

You see, my friends, freedom is NOT about the rights that YOU have to do what you want to do.

Freedom is NOT about the rights that I have to do what I want to do.

This is because freedom isn’t a RIGHT at all. Freedom is a RESPONSIBILITY.

Freedom is the responsibility each one of us has to look out for one ANOTHER.

It is only when we truly understand what freedom IS that we can then begin to understand how to use it well.

Until we have learned to escape the slavery of our own selfishness, we will never be able to make our freedom even BEGIN to come close to being worth the cost of the life of someone’s child, parent, or spouse. Until such a time as that, ANY life lost will have been lost for nothing, and life is NOT worthless.

We only make it so when we insist on not using our freedom well.

I thank you.