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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My feeble attempt at fireworks photography.  Last night our neighbors were celebrating the 4th of July.

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"Free Indeed!"
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
Today is the Fourth of July and a very special day here in the United States of America.  On this day each year we celebrate our national independence and especially celebrate the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S.

Last night Brooksyne, Ester, and I joined with others in our small group in the host's back yard for a study on the parables of Christ. We arranged our lawn chairs in a circle on their deck and were refreshed as we gathered in the great outdoors among the chirping birds, colorful flowers, and green trees that towered over us.  I considered this morning, as I was thanking God for our freedoms, that we would not have been able to gather in such a way in many closed countries.

As we opened with a hymn we sighted a young boy who was riding his bicycle next door.  It was a pleasant, wholesome sight.  But I consider that, had we been in a closed country, he very well could have been a spy and the entire group could have been reported to the authorities.  We could have been arrested late into the evening.  It happens on a regular basis in many godless places and we need to remain prayerful for those who hold to true faith in surroundings such as this. (See below for a link to a riveting testimony from a daily encouragement reader who has experienced such persecution.)

As I prepare today's message I am aware that this devotional perspective goes all over the world and in many places July 4 is just another day.  Readers live under various degrees of political and religious freedom.  Most live in countries with relative freedom. Others live in places with religious oppression and in some cases outright persecution. However I really doubt if this material reaches those living in slavery, although millions live in such places.
Today I want to share about a freedom that is available to all that is infinitely greater than any political or religious freedoms we may or may not enjoy for the present. One hundred or one thousand years into eternity I suspect that where we lived during our brief earthly sojourn will be of little regard.
In John 8 Jesus confronted the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day who had challenged His authority.  The encounter specifically began when Jesus asserted, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).  The Pharisees challenged Jesus and the validity of His testimony and that has been at the heart of resistance to God's redemption plan ever since.
Those who "hold" to His teaching are truly His disciples (v. 31).  Jesus said to them "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).  This especially insulted the proud Pharisees who responded, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" (v. 34). 
But Jesus was speaking of a slavery that impacts the entire human race, from the richest to the poorest, from the most powerful to the weakest, from the most brilliant to the dullest mind, from the most politically free to the most oppressed.  Slavery to sin!  And this is the very slavery that Jesus came to free us from: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
Today, are you free indeed?
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, how glorious it is to enjoy freedom from sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ on my behalf.  My life, once enslaved to sin, now enjoys the freedom from that which once held me captive to Satan's bondage.  I live in victory because You have set me free and I am now free indeed.  Thank You, Father, for delivering me from the domain of darkness and transferring me into the kingdom of Your Son in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sin!  Amen.

The faith Of Donnie Lama The victorious testimony of a Daily Encouragement reader who has experienced persecution for standing up for Christ.

Amish steel-wheeled tractorYesterday afternoon I helped my Amish friend Jesse put up his alfalfa hay.  I used some muscles that I haven't used for awhile and am sure feeling it this morning, as well as some blisters on my hands. They cut, rake and bale the hay using machinery pulled by a mule team but for some reason they use the steel-wheeled tractor to pull the full wagons into the barn. I wonder how many readers have driven an authentic Amish steel-wheeled tractor!  Ester joined me on the hay wagon as I took the hay to be stored in the barn.

Amish mule team
Amish mule team

Today's suggested music:
"I am free" (listen)  up-beat contemporary
"He Set Me Free" (listen) urban
"He Set me Free" (listen) country
"He Set Me Free" (listen) real country

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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