Are You an Overcomer?

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1st Corinthians 15:57Victory-in-Jesus-596x200.jpg

Victory in Jesus” is a beautiful old hymn that tells the story of The One who seeks us out and buys us with his redeeming blood on the cross. But do we stay there at the cross?

Friend, victory doesn’t end there; in fact, that is only the beginning of our stories. We have victory every day, and Scripture affirms this:

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4-5

Jesus spoke these words of authority: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

It is unfortunate that we sometimes forget this foundational truth. We allow the trouble of this fleeting life to weigh us down. It’s true we face many trials – and there is no small trial when you are the one facing it, but Christ says bring it to me, rest in me. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Do we bring to Him our burdens – wholly, completely laying them down at Jesus’ feet? Or do we try to keep one hand on them, afraid to let go completely? Jesus says, Trust me. This requires total surrender. We lift up empty hands because we have nothing to bring. And through a process of refining, He brings us into Kingdom Living:

1. Humility

Have you been there? Empty hands, broken heart, crushed spirit? Psalm 34:18 promises us that God is near, The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. There is nothing more humbling than the moment you finally understand that you cannot do this life on your own. Then comes reassurance that God is near, wrought from a humble heart. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6

2. Surrender

Total and complete. And again God is near, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6 For when we are weak, then we are strong.

Do we lay our problems at Jesus’ feet only to pick them up again? Do we raise one hand to God, while the other remains locked onto the issue? Do we grasp at the pieces as they fly centrifugally away from us?

And then the dawning of a new awareness: we were never in control of anything.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

3. Trust

So we bring the only thing we have, the only thing He asks for – this empty vessel. We say in a small quiet voice, “It’s me. Here I am Lord. Here I am. I am yours and I will trust. Not my will, but yours. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

4. Victorious Overcomer!

I’m not staying at the cross. He isn’t there, my friend. This life won’t chain me down. I am looking toward heaven because Christ is risen! I’m looking toward heaven because Christ is seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father! I’m looking toward heaven because Christ is the Sovereign Lord of lords and King of kings! I’m looking toward heaven because I am a child, an heir, of Almighty God!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 1 Timothy 1:7

The enemy and his demons are real, and they prowl over the earth seeking to steal, kill, and destroy; but the enemy holds no power over the child of God who takes hold of this promise: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Reading and praying through Scripture is a powerful way to Victory! So, Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12

Also, Psalm 56:3-4, Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 112:4, 7

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Just As I Am

without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me,  and that thou bidst me come to thee,  O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

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Just As I Am – a familiar old hymn to many. At the church I attended in my childhood we sang every verse during the closing each Sunday morning. It is more precious to me now than it was then, as I could never understand the full meaning in those words until walking a few decades on this planet.

Sadly, we diminish what God has done and all that we sing about when we call into question the working of Christ’s blood as redemption for the sin of any individual. Not me, you think? Have you ever looked at someone’s life and thought “Wow, they have made such a mess of their life. And they really need the grace of God“?

Christ is the Great Equalizer. Do we not each really need the grace of God? We live in a sin-ravaged world, one in which the enemy will take every opportunity – from regret and self-loathing to pride and self-sufficiency – to separate us from the Father’s love.

Once upon a time, there were two people. One person, feeling pain and despair from the wrong choices he had made in just a few short years of his very young life, cried out for God’s grace and healing from the depths of the miry pit, accepted His forgiveness and love, and walked with a grateful heart in close communion with Him.

The other person cried out to God from the alter of the church in which he grew up and had never strayed very far, and in which he now served. Having made good choices in life, he didn’t understand why this devastating circumstance had fallen upon him. It didn’t seem fair, but he knew he needed help from above.

Is one more worthy of God’s help? Aren’t we all unworthy? Which one has more richly experienced God’s grace? I will be bold and ask you to examine your heart. Have you ever needed the Physician? Do you need him still?

Do not be deceived by the enemy. Whatever you are facing and wherever you have been need not keep you from running to the One who cares for you. The perfect Lamb of God, born in the humblest of circumstances, left the glorious presence of the Father for 1 reason, 1 purpose – to bear our sin, our shame, our burdens. His blood poured out for us, Christ conquered death and lives victoriously, patiently, lovingly waiting for you to come. O Lamb of God.

Matthew 9:12, On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”. This important truth can also be found in Mark 2:17, and again Luke 5:31.

Where Worship Begins

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12a
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The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

I’ve been meditating on John chapter 21. There is so much packed into that Scripture! One of the things that really speaks to me is the physical, flesh and blood, resurrected Christ. How human, how relatable he is.

I keep thinking about it: Jesus – God in the flesh, having just conquered death – knows he has limited time on earth before he will ascend to be with the Father…yet here he is.

Here He is – sitting on the beach.

His friends have been out on the water all night, catch nothing. Now they come to shore, towing a net filled with over 150 fish which Jesus just provided. There is Jesus, relaxing on the sand with his campfire blazing. Food hot and ready!

Who is this man? Savior of the world! Lord of lords! God! That he would care about my comfort! My needs! My desires! Jesus, with a servant-heart, understands relationship. And he says to his friends, “Come and have breakfast.”

When is the last time someone cooked you breakfast? Perhaps there was coffee, warm bread? A little campfire breakfast cooked by Jesus for his friends…

This is fellowship. This is rest. Jesus simply says, Come on over. Grab a place to sit. Warm yourself. Eat. Rest. Talk with me. This is where worship begins. Come with a grateful heart.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Called to Boldness: A Sister, Wild Swans and Nettle

“Tender-handed stroke a nettle, And it stings you, for your pains:
Grasp it like a man of mettle, And it soft as silk remains.”
Aaron Hill’s Works, circa 1750.

This metaphorical phrase to grasp the nettle, to tackle a difficulty boldly, is one I only vaguely remember prior to several years ago when I had a painful encounter with nettle. Watering a plant in a hanging basket on my deck, I suddenly felt a pain as if stung by a bee. I looked at my hand and at the plant but could find no stinging insect. Upon a closer inspection I saw a small stem of a plant that was clearly not part of my flowering fuschia. I could only detect very small hair-like “brushes” growing along the stem. It didn’t look intimidating, but I didn’t want to test it.

The pain in my hand where I had been “stung” grew worse throughout the evening. It became red and somewhat swollen. An avid perenial gardener, I pulled out my plant books determined to learn what it was, soon declaring that it must be nettle!

Nettle. This rang a bell from long ago in my childhood, and memories slowly crept back.

nettle

There are stories we read as children which have such a profound impact on us that they linger deep within. One such story which I had not thought about in decades, was about a selfless sister who gathered nettle from a graveyard by night, and with her bare hands knit it into magical shirts for her eleven beloved brothers who had been cast by a spell into wild swans. Furthermore, this young girl had to take a vow of silence until her task was complete, because to speak of what she must do would bring immediate death to her brothers. People did not understand why she gathered nettle at night and knit in silence with blistered hands, so they called her a witch and sentenced her to death by burning. Risking their own lives, the swan brothers swooped in to rescue their sister who continued to knit even as she was taken to execution. At the last minute, she flung the woven shirts to her brothers, the wild swans. They were restored to men, all but the arm of one, and she was finally free to speak. The Wild Swans was written by Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1838.

Self-sacrificial love at any cost. Boldness.

God does not call us to be timid. He gives power through His Spirit to stand boldly against sin and oppression, and to share the burdens of our brothers and sisters in their time of need.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Lifted

I sing praise to God for his faithfulness, compassion, gentle mercies and unending love! He carried me through the darkest valley, and renewed my strength and hope. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters who listened and prayed with me. For those who never stopped encouraging me: “Thank you” seems inadequate.

For any Believer who is still learning the charge we have been given within the Body, which I originally wrote about in a post entitled Humility (see below), this resource may be helpful. Brad Hambrick writes with far more eloquence and authority than I ever could.

Blessings.

What God is Teaching

“You act like you are the 1st person to go through a divorce”.

This was the chastisement I recently received from a fellow Believer. This friend has, by their own account, never experienced any major grief events in their life. This is a first for me.

I’ve discussed Encouragement from the Body of Christ in a previous post, and it is clear that God instructs us to carry the weak and be patient and longsuffering with one another. The “one another” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a Believer, my Hope rests in God’s faithfulness. I trust Him to provide for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. There is no doubt in my mind of my salvation through Christ Jesus, or of God’s ability and desire to supply all my needs. My Father wants the best for me, not just the best from me.

This hope…

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Grace and Discipline

Godly discipline always involves grace. However, when we focus too much on grace, neglecting discipline, sin can go unchecked. That’s a slippery slope; one which often leads to misery and self-loathing.

Discipline and Grace are intermingled, working together. God’s laws are a blessing, given to protect us because He loves us. 1 John 5:3 Recently, someone shared with me the truth that if we will not self-discipline or receive godly discipline from others, we will be disciplined by God.

God has brought this point to the forefront of my mind lately as I have seen His will worked out in many areas of my life. I have also learned that there is a point when I must let go of my effort to correct rather than continue on a path that may destroy a relationship. I can choose to extend grace and simply give it over to God.

For the past three years I have pleaded and debated the reality of a loving God with someone who seemed to once love God but, after suffering heartache in life, grew angry, resentful and rebellious. I have prayed countless prayers.

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I believe that God will pursue us to the end. That He will bring us to our knees if we will not humble ourselves. I have prayed that this would happen sooner rather than later, and that there would be no missed opportunity for me to be used by God in this situation…that we will not run out of time whatever the cost. I continue to pray that the prideful spirit becomes broken and God is acknowledged, obeyed.

Submission to God’s will brings an abundance of blessing. God disciplines us out of love, just as a loving father disciplines his son, so that we may share in his holiness and live in peace. Hebrews 12:10 I am called Daughter of the King, blessed with Father’s relentless love.

Read more devotionals about God’s amazing love for us at #SheReadsTruth.

He is a Good Father

Psalm 139, Phillipians 4:5-7, I Peter 5:6-9

Overwhelmed by God’s great love for me, I sent a text to a friend that said: I don’t know why God loves me so much.

The reply, just these 5 simple words, made me cry: He is a good father.

Indeed. He is.

Daily, I see God’s provision. I’ve felt His presence and have been amazed and humbled by His blessings. I continue to experience His gentle patience with me as I adjust to and maneuver through major changes and losses in my life.

Life’s struggles can leave us wounded and weary. And although I am living in God’s love and grace, I sometimes lately feel isolated, and succumb to fear and stress.

In my darkest hour, when I am overwhelmed with life, overcome by despair, and operating only on emotion, no amount of reason can make me see clearly. Logic is no longer part of the equation.

You can tell me that things will get better, that my kids still need me, that a lot of people care about me – and right now I know that to be true. But the reality is that when I go over that edge, I lose hope and no longer am able to believe those things, nor do I care. Life is too heavy a burden and I begin to see the Exit ramp as a very appealing alternative.

I shared my struggle last week with a trusted friend and this was her reply:

You don’t have the right to enter into the Lord’s presence until He calls you home.

She said this gently and with love. Time and again, she has spoken wisdom and truth into my life, but this resonated with me more than anything else. Like an arrow hitting its mark, her words went right to my heart. The gravity, reverence and power in that sentence took me completely by surprise.

I don’t have the right…ouch. So true. How could I forget that God is at the center of the universe? And He is always in control!

I took my eyes off of Him. I stopped trusting Him. As I prayed for God’s forgiveness, I knew He already had. God the Creator of the universe chooses to know me intimately, to have a relationship with me. He chooses to set His love on me and my worth is defined by Him:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:1-7

He will protect me from the attacks of the enemy, provide friends to come alongside, and He will give me strength, wisdom and discernment to navigate life’s crooked path. I love Him because He first loved me…and I know He always will.

Yes. He is a good father.