Monday, July 4, 2016

NOW LIVE IN FREEDOM!


It's the Fourth of July!

Sparklers for everyone!!

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Today is the 240th birthday of our United States of America!

It is a day of fun and celebration, but it's also a good day to reflect on the concept of freedom.


Freedom is: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily; the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing); the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity; unrestricted use of something.

(Synonyms: independence, self-government, self-determination, self-rule, home rule, sovereignty, nonalignment, autonomy, democracy, liberty, liberation, release, deliverance, delivery, discharge, exemption, immunity, dispensation, impunity, right, entitlement, privilege).


Every war the United States has fought in has been over the issue of freedom  (at least in theory, let's not get stuck talking about political agendas here!).  

We seek to maintain it for ourselves, and we fight to secure it for others.

There is nothing frivolous about freedom – even when we sometimes take it for granted.

Today we should take the time to remember what it cost, and continues to cost, to maintain freedom in our country and in our lives.

We should remember, and be thankful.

But let's also expand on the idea of freedom, and ponder the concept as it applies to the believer's life.


Last week I talked a lot about battling in the spiritual realm.

I talked about *standing* after the battle.

About the importance of not only winning spiritual territory, but also in occupying it so the enemy can't take it over again.

This is what I want to focus on today.

I have a picture in my mind –

A war-torn, battle-weary soldier standing in a muddy battlefield.  He's dirty and scraped and bruised, maybe a bit bloodied by the fighting.  He stands, barely balanced, but he stands strong nonetheless.  In his right hand he holds a pole with a flag attached to it reading, "The LORD is my Banner!"  This he has firmly planted in the soil, claiming the new land of victory.

Then I see the General quietly approach him.

The General looks long and hard at the soldier.  

Finally, he gives him a firm handshake as he states, "Well done."  

Then he gives the soldier a hearty salute, and just before he turns to leave, he issues this command:

"Now live in freedom!"


You do see the spiritual parallel here, don't you?!

I think of how often the Lord and I win a spiritual battle, just for me to cede the territory again at a later date.

I talked last week about following up, about occupying the *just-won territory* with something other than what the enemy wants.

And part of this *occupation* must certainly be the idea of living in the newfound freedom that the battle won!

We all know what it looks like when it fails.

A battle won, a victory secured, freedom is established.

But then, occupying forces leave.

And all too often, the country and its people return to their old ways.  And sometimes this leaves them in a position to be overrun by enslaving powers once again.

Take politics out of it, and we can see the same principle occur in our spiritual lives, too.

That's why today I'm thinking about this *fight after the fight* idea.

I'm thinking of the General who tells us, "Now live in freedom!"

It's no use if we are set free, if we don't use that newfound freedom to live free!!


Thinking about this idea of being set free, and then not living free, I thought it might be interesting to see how many prisoners who are set free actually return to a life of crime.

I found a report from the U.S. Department of Justice (2005) that detailed the recidivism (relapse into criminal behavior) rate of federal prisoners upon release (about 400,000 prisoners in 30 states):

More than a third of released prisoners were arrested again within six months of their release.  That number rose to 56.7% by the end of the first year, 67.8% within three years, and 76.6% within five years.

I find that staggering, don't you?!

But are we any different?

How often do we win a battle against sin, only to be tempted to sin in the same area once again?

And how often do we succumb, once again falling into the same trap of enslavement?

Rhetorical questions, because we know the answer is – we do it all the time.

How come?

Why do we return to enslavement, imprisonment, reoccupation?

I can think of several reasons:

1. The outside world is too tempting
2. We don't think we deserve freedom
3. We don't know how to function in freedom
4. The old ways and old places are too familiar
5. We associate with the wrong people
6. We're afraid of new choices
7. We return to comfortable, instead of making change
8. We try to do it all alone


On the surface, we might think it foolish that anyone who, once having tasted freedom, would willingly return to a life of captivity and restriction.

It's easy to point fingers at people who fail in this area, who "relapse" into old habits and sins.

(My opinion?  We all tend to be a motley bunch of "log in the eye" pretenders who delight in bringing to attention the "motes" in others...)

Sometimes I think it's because we're so ingrained in our propensity to "rate" sins.

We like to reproach the alcoholic or addict who falls into addiction again.  Or the cheater who gives in to infidelity again.  Or the criminal who keeps committing crimes.

However, if we're honest, we do the same thing, because we turn a blind eye to our own shortcomings.

For how often do we return to gossiping, or lying, or self-righteousness, or criticizing, or complaining, or anger, or...the list goes on.

We don't judge our own "minor" sins as harshly as those we point out in others.

But there is no such thing as a *sin scale* in the eyes of God.

SIN. IS. SIN.

It's ALL falling short of His standardno matter if it's practiced in big or little ways.

Therefore, *reoccupation of the land* can occur with a marauding army of invaders, or by one little voice that sows doubt and discontent.

This is why it's very important, very necessary, to attend to our hearts after a battle against the enemy.

Especially when we start feeling too secure in our victory.


So, how do we occupy the land?

Our pastor recently gave a message about God's peace, and about how He promises that it will guard us.  It was a study on the first part of the 4th chapter of Philippians.

Let's listen in to Paul’s words:

"…in this way stand firm in the Lord."


OK, Paul, tell us how to do that!

(Verses taken from The Amplified Bible)


1. "Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice!" (verse 4)

2. "Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people." (verse 5) 

3. "Do not be anxious or worried about anything…" (verse 6)

4. "…in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God." (verse 7)

5. "Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God's word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]." (verse 8)

6. "The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life]…" (verse 9)


Fantastic!

What's the payoff, Paul?

"The Lord is near…and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you…And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]." (verses 4, 7, 9)


I am beginning to see…


Go back to my image of the soldier on the battlefield.

The General has just said, "Now live in freedom!" – and he is turning away.

If the soldier lets him go, he's left alone to hold the territory, in his own power and strength.

This scenario most likely ends in reoccupation by the enemy.

End of story.

But wait!

What if there's a different ending?!

What if, as the General begins to walk away, the soldier shouts out:

"Wait!!  I cannot maintain this victory alone.  I need a guard, a trustworthy sentinel who will protect the borders of this territory.  I need someone who will keep watch, and warn me of impending danger."

The General turns back...

The soldier speaks once more, "Please send help."

At this the General smiles.

"Yes, it is the wise soldier who understands the importance of a watchman."

At this, he motions forward another person.

"I present to you the one who will guard and protect you.  Always listen to him."

You do know who the *watchman* is, don't you?

The Holy Spirit.

Might these words from Paul also be the parting words of the General?

"Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me – a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you." (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NLT)

Oh yes, amen.


In that all-important aftermath of battle, in that *fight after the fight,* in that time of victory, might we recognize our deep need of The Watchmanor as my pastor called Him, the "Silent Sentry."

And might we depend on Him to guard and protect us.

For the enemy will approach once againloudly and softly, with an army or a whisper.

Tempting us to cede territory, and to return once again to a state of occupation.

We must not listen.


Focus on these things (from my pastor's sermon, reflecting Philippians 4:8):

What's real vs. what's phony
What matters vs. what's frivolous
What's right vs. what's convenient
What's clean vs. what's dirty
What's unifying vs. what's divisive
What's helpful vs. what's harmful
What's best vs. what's inferior
What's positive vs. what's negative


Happy Fourth of July, my friends!

May you have a wonderful day doing what you do to celebrate!

Barbecues, pool parties, fireworks.

Maybe even a main street parade like our little town!

But might we take a moment or two (or many) to reflect upon the idea that this is a day when the cause of freedom in our country became a reality.  

Therefore, let this be a day when we ponder the meaning of freedom.

It's a day that's also called Independence Day.

And in every real sense of the word, our own *Independence Day* occurred when we believed in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having won His victory on the cross, He now encourages us to fight on as conquerors.

To battle for the faith, to stand our ground, and to claim our territory.


I hear His parting words…

"Now live in freedom!"


Yes.



Are you living in freedom, or are you ceding territory to the enemy?






Here in the power of Christ
I stand.



(From "In Christ Alone" by Stuart Townsend) 




"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV)

"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me…Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" 
(Romans 7:21-25, NIV)

"Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God!  Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living." (Romans 6:15-18, NLT)

"When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us,…evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power.  Now we can serve God…in the new way of living in the Spirit." (Romans 7:5-6, NLT)

"'For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe – until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.'" 
(Luke 11:21-22, NLT)

"'…if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.'" 
(Genesis 4:7, NLT)

"…you are not controlled by your sinful nature.  You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you." (Romans 8:9, NLT)

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1, NASB)

"'…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:32, 36, ESV)

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT)

"'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.'" 
(John 14:16-17, NLT)

"…for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth." 
(1 John 2:20, NLT)

"I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the LORD says…" (Habakkuk 2:1, NLT)

"Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong." 
(1 Corinthians 16:13, NLT)




Linked with:

SMALL WONDER, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, LIFE GIVING LINKUP, GOOD MORNING MONDAYS, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY, THE ART OF HOMEMAKING MONDAYS, MAKING YOUR HOME SING MONDAY, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, MOMENTS OF HOPE, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, MONDAY OF MANY BLESSINGSTITUS 2 TUESDAY, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, RA RA LINKUP, WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY, UNITE LINKUP, TELL HIS STORY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, COFFEE & CONVERSATION, WOMEN WITH INTENTION, SITTING AMONG FRIENDS, WEDDED WEDNESDAY, THE LOFT LINKUP, GRACE MOMENTS, GROWING IN GRACE, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, LIVE FREE THURSDAY, THURSDAY FAVORITE THINGS, PARTY AT MY PLACE, SHINE BLOG HOP, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, FROM HOUSE TO HOME, GRACE AT HOME, THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS, LITTLE THINGS THURSDAY, COZY READING SPOT, NO RULES WEEKEND BLOG PARTY, 100 HAPPY DAYS, FUNTASTIC FRIDAY, BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT PARTY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, EVERYDAY TESTIMONY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, FAITH 'N FRIENDS, GRACE & TRUTHMAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, DANCE WITH JESUS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP & FAITH, FRIDAY FEATURE PARTY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, TGI SATURDAYS, WEEKEND WIND DOWN PARTY, LET US GROW, WORD OF GOD SPEAK, SMALL VICTORIES SUNDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SOCIAL BUTTERFLY SUNDAY



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

29 comments:

  1. Amazing reflection, Sharon, and great advice on how NOT to cede territory once freedom in the Lord is won. We need Him ever and always to hold our banner high!
    Blessings on this Fourth of July!

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  2. Happy 4th of July Sharon (and readers)!!! Thanks for the sparklers, the lessons on freedom, and an aMazing reflection and inspiration for this day! Many blessings and much love for a super special July!
    240 years ... WOW! ... Peggy (and as per the question, I plead the 5th because sad to say, I cede more territory to the enemy in my life than live in freedom as I should but thanks to your words, I'm holding Jesus banner above me and waving it high-er and I am awakened to how I need to live this freedom He won! Hallelujah! Love reading your grateful thoughts this past week again.

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    1. {sorry for messing up your comments again, it was a duplicate} and I just wanted to add that your excitement shows beautifully and ever so elegantly! Glad you went from 'frantic' to finally elegant. Tears on 'sentimental'... aww, so sweet! You have such a way with descriptions as you write ... suspense in 'mystery' and 'protection'. I get those 'junk' cravings too ... more easily taken care of then yours (that's partly why I live where I live, close to places that are USA junk for when the need arises) and I'm thankful for the debt paid and the credit invested in me (us)... thanks Sharon for your update and grateful heart!

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  3. Great analogy, Sharon! Thank for the encouragement and tips to stand my ground in the spiritual battles of life.

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  4. Great post, Sharon! I especially think #8 reason is huge. Why don't we understand that God's grace is also power (not just pardon). We can't but God can. God's grace empowers us for living in freedom of Christ. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you!

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  5. Pastor at church talked about freedom yesterday at church. He said we all serve some type of master, he said to make sure we are following the right one so we can be free. Definitely want that freedom. Hope you had a nice 4th!

    Betty

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  6. I heard about a gal who just kept repeating a sin pattern over and over and couldn't break free but one day she got a revelation that she is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, 2 Cor 5:21. She kept confessing that over and over in her prayer time and that horrific sin pattern lost its power over her. I think sometimes we just don't believe who we are and to whom we belong. But when faith kicks in, freedom comes! Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:17

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  7. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free...so stand firm then and never again be burdened by a yoke of slavery....Gal. 5:1
    Great post and reminder for the need for a watchman. Sounds like you had a great 4th. It was a nice day here too and with my sister and her hubby here we enjoyed a good meal off the grill. God bless...

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  8. Sharon this is a brilliant post on true Freedom in Christ. I like your warnings and reasons why people tend to loose ground. I am glad you provided another ending for the soldier, who now has a watchman to stay along side him to keep freedom. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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  9. Sharon - such a good picture, that drives home the point of fighting for and maintaining our freedom. I do like the things you pointed out as to some of the reasons we don't stay free and sadly the one I see the most, is that people don't feel they deserve freedom. Thank you for sharing today, your neighbor at #coffeeforyourheart

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    1. and neighbors at #womenwithintention today too.

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  10. Like what goes on in a country, we must be diligent to hold onto freedom that is won, because the enemy never relents, never gives up, and never stops his assault. when we become careless is when we fall. thanks!

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  11. Preach/teach on my sweet sister. The voice of one crying in the desert - we are free! We don't have to live like the world, listen to the world or set our feet in enemy territory. I'm a retired Army officer and have seen my share of sweating in the training field so I would have to bleed in the battle, but we walk in this battle field every day, but we don't walk alone. The Commander-in-Chief fights for us and His banner over us is love.

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  12. Sharon, I'm so glad I found you on Leah Adam's The Loft! My husband and I were just speaking about the very subject of "staying free" and not drifting away (Hebrews 2:1). Thank you for words of confirmation and all of the wonderful scripture references. A very powerful post!
    Blessings,
    Beckie from Spotlight, beckielindsey16.com

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  13. Great picture, Sharon. I think so often we believe the lies of the enemy. We allow a defeated foe to have a seat at the council, but it's our choice to take up the truth and live it by His grace. Inspiring words! Happy belated 4th to you too, Sharon. Thank you.

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  14. Outstanding post, Sharon! Yes, I want to now live in freedom, but your are so right, we need that watchman to help us and to warn us.

    I think your Pastor was brilliant when he chose that passage from Philippians to help us continue living in freedom. It's all about the thought life!

    Thanks for sharing at The Loft today!

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  15. Sharon, what a powerful post! I am currently doing Priscilla Shirer's amazing study entitled, The Armor of God. You post dovetails with what I am studying so very much. We have everything we need to live free through the Spirit of Christ. We must walk in our freedom and use the armor God has given us to do it. Thank you for sharing your post at The Loft. What a blessing!

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  16. being free and living free are two different things, sadly enough. may we both live in our freedom today! blessings from CA

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  17. I praise God for my freedom to come! :) Love this post!

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  18. Inspiring words for this sacred week, the one our Father chose to create a nation formed by and for Him. May we see our weaknesses and call on Him and see our sin for what it is; covered by His blood and grace. Happy 4th sister.

    Sorry I'm so late. I'm out of town.

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  19. These are some phenomenal thoughts and reflections on freedom, Sharon! The comfort of the familiarity always draws us back, even when its dysfunctional or sinful. Stepping away and not going back is so intentional. It reminds me of my recent series about stepping into our "Something Better"!

    Thank you so much for sharing this hope with me at #MomentsofHope!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

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  20. With the turmoil around our nation right now, our freedoms are being challenged everyday. With the uncertain political turnout in a few months with the quacks running for office makes one even more scared of what's around the corner. With that said, our freedom in Christ is what keeps us believers sane. HE is in control.

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  21. Sharon, I love this post! Thought you might like this song as much as I do...it's called Freedom, Love, and Forgiveness from 1996...there is a link included at the bottom after the lyrics...

    Freedom, Love, & Forgiveness

    The illustrated lesson is a parable of truth:
    Mr. Lincoln bought a slave girl off the auction block.
    She walked with him, unchained, down a Southern avenue,
    Much to every genteel belle's and gentleman's great shock.
    Old Abe turned to the girl and said, Young lady, you are free.
    Looking at the sky, she asked him, What does that word mean?

    Can I say whatever I want to say? / You can say whatever you want to say.
    Can I do whatever I want to do? / You can do whatever you want to do.
    Can I go wherever I want to go? / You can go wherever you want to go.
    Then what I'd want to say is what I'd want to do is go with you.

    Lovers share some shiny things like rings and tears and stars,
    And sadly sometimes share a shiny gilded cage.
    Though safe and warm, soon heads will bang against the bars.
    Tonight last night's dreamers lie awake planning tomorrow night's escape.
    Trust and commitment are the keys that set us free.
    If this love is our world, it will hold us in its gravity.

    Can I say whatever I want to say? / You can say whatever you want to say.
    Can I do whatever I want to do? / You can do whatever you want to do.
    Can I go wherever I want to go? / You can go wherever you want to go.
    Then what I'd want to say is what I'd want to do is go with you.

    The man listened, kneeling, drawing perfect circles in the sand.
    The one accused stood pale and quiet in her fear.
    The man's judgment hit the crowd like the stones held in their hands.
    As the woman watched in wonder, one by one they disappeared.
    When the man said, Go forgiven, and you will not go alone,
    She was staring at the ground, at three circles and some scattered stones.

    Can I say whatever I want to say? / You can say whatever you want to say.
    Can I do whatever I want to do? / You can do whatever you want to do.
    Can I go wherever I want to go? / You can go wherever you want to go.
    Then what I'd want to say is what I'd want to do is go with you.

    http://faculty.etsu.edu/.../song_freedom_love_and...

    MP3 version performed by Thom Shumate with Ashley Cleveland; © 1996 Questar/Mission Records

    Words & Music: Michael Cody
    Publishing: Window on the West

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  22. Sharon, apparently the link to the song Freedom, Love, and Forgiveness didn't go through, so here is the link:

    http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Ffaculty.etsu.edu%2Fcodym%2Fsong_freedom_love_and_forgiveness_TS.mp3&h=fAQGgSmMG

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  23. It's no use if we are set free, if we don't use that newfound freedom to live free!! YES, YES, YES!! Thank you for this reminder, Sharon. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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  24. Sharon, This was such an excellent post!!

    I loved your analogy of the soldier from start to finish!

    I also loved how you broke down Philippians in a way that brought a whole new level of encouragement to those verses.

    I'm so glad I stopped by here today!

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  25. Yes, it's easy to fall back to old habits, old sins and cede victory. Reminds me of the Hebrews walking in the wilderness. Even after God performed miracles, parted the Sea and guided them, how often they fell prey to grumbling and complaining. Because I'm a newer Bible reader, I try to remind myself of my spiritual immaturity so I'm not tempted to cede the victory of finding His Word! Thank you for sharing!

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  26. Sharon,
    Such weighty thoughts on freedom. I love the liberality of this post, the way you balance the significance of knowing our position when set free. I think that sometimes the responsibility of our freedom becomes a burden that is difficult to carry and we find ourselves unable to feel adequate to make those decisions that go along with that purchased liberty. But we can, because in truth, in Christ we have been given both authority and the wisdom to pursue godliness in our freedom.
    Thanks for sharing this profound post at #GraceMoments Link up!
    Blessings!
    Dawn

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"So [I] have been greatly encouraged in the midst of [my] troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives [me] new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How [I] thank God for you!" (1 Thessalonians 3:7-9)

Thanks for your comments - it is such a joy to be sharing my journey with friends like YOU!

(NOTE: Anonymous comments will be removed. Thank you for understanding.)