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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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Since childhood, my eyes have gleamed at the enormous jewel descending at the close of each year. Confetti blizzards and cheers herald the fresh start we hope will bring us toward a better life. Though we mark time’s passage with electronic calendars and clocks each hour of the year, New Year’s Eve takes the celebration to a magical level.

We list regrets, praying the late hours do not slip away with our dreams. Repentance and resolutions blare across the earth like millions of paper horns. The hour of second chances and fresh starts stirs the world to effervesce with promises.

Time, our guest of honor on this holiday, soon erodes the passions offered to it. Commitments fail and hope fades before the next holiday colors our calendar.

I still enjoy New Year’s Eve. Instead of honoring the passage of time, I celebrate the One Who holds time in His hands. As millions cheer at the glittering crystal globe, I rejoice and thank God He will never drop the ball. His promises of redemption never fail. The brilliance of hope born at Christmas does not fade with the turn of a calendar page. In the eternal Kingdom, each day offers an opportunity to celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Pentacost all at once. As an heir to everlasting life, I know His dreams for me will prevail against the entropy of time. What better reason to ring in the coming year with soul-deep joy?