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prison

“Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering . . .
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds . . .
for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron” (Psalm 107:10-16).

My dad volunteers his time to guide incarcerated people toward transformation. He visits the jail at least once a week, and courthouse staff know him by name. Those who complete the Transformations Program have such a marginal rate of reoffending, judges recommend and celebrate their work. Dad often expresses the immeasurable rewards he experiences through guiding those lost souls to a renewed life. Their freedom extends beyond the removal of bars. Liberty defines their healthy lifestyle, a victorious state of the soul.

Bars and cell walls make some types of imprisonment clear. Whether or not the bars can be touched, other strongholds bind the soul with tenacious chains. Destructive thought cycles. Emotional quicksand. Toxic relationship patterns. We can step inside various spiritual strongholds and feel unable to escape on our own.

All the while, the One Who loves us most stands at the cell door. He extends the key in His nail-scarred hand. Our first step to freedom is reaching out in prayer to accept His help.

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Transformations graduates won’t testify to an effortless escape. Anyone with a life story of empancipation recognizes the journey’s challenges. Spiritual freedom requires us to change, which proves an intense challenge to habit-captives. Though we face tough work, Jesus Christ takes on the heaviest lifting. Soul liberation remains impossible without God’s power.

As the psalmist proclaims, the Lord never ignores a heartfelt cry submitted to Him. When we lay ourselves out in surrender, acknowledging our need for Christ’s transforming power, He shows up. Every time. Regardless of the circumstances, which might not change, Jesus renews, sustains, and frees each soul to the extent of its surrender to Him. The deep chains fall away, and His children celebrate inner victory.

What’s holding you hostage today? Will you consider praying to surrender all before the One Who waits to set you free forever?
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Silas twisted on the uneven stone floor and squinted through the cell’s dank shadows.The rough hewn stocks chafed at his swollen ankles. Pain raked across the raw flesh of his back as his shoulders rolled into a sticky puddle–his blood mingled with Paul’s, no doubt. Sour and metallic odors weighted the air between their bodies.

With trembling hands, Silas pressed the grimy floor to sit himself upright. His wrist shackles clattered as he pressed the throbbing lumps on his skull. Scurrying noises echoed around a grate near the corner. Furry creatures as long as his thigh squeezed through the bars. Tails whipped like scourge cords behind them. Crimson dots flashed near the wall. He blinked. An army of rats crept toward them, sniffing.

His heartbeat clinched his throat and pounded into his ears. Silas squeaked a whisper to his friend. “Do you see them?”

Paul’s wrist chain jangled as he clutched onto Silas’ hand. “It’s time to pray and sing. We praise and worship You, Lord…”

Silas closed his eyes. The nibble at his toes faded out of his thoughts as they sang in praise. Light filled his mind. He sang in harmony with Paul’s rattling voice, but another melody chimed in. From the back of his mind, he pictured a thousand gleaming soldiers who joined their song. The angelic voices lilted like the sounds of ethereal birds floating on island breezes.

A deep rhythm stirred beneath them. The ground shook the floor, walls. Silas opened his eyes to a brilliant flash. The stocks and chains exploded from his limbs. A roar of voices swept through the room, blasting the bars from the cell.

He and Paul stood, legs quivering. They strode out of the shadows toward a wailing man. Now, to set the jailer free…

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

-Philippians 4:4-8