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

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

Unworthy

The Ninevites were the worst of the worst, an evil society that committed unspeakable crimes. I’ll be forthcoming in saying that I would have probably wanted the Ninevites to perish, too. In fact, I struggle with these emotions whenever I hear another news story about an abused child or woman.unworthy-reliance

Yet, all sin separates us from God; and Jesus died once for all who will accept His gift of salvation. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24

But passages in the Old Testament show us that there were different penalties for various sins. And in the New Testament it is pride that Jesus spoke out most strongly against. However, I am not writing to debate the degrees of sin or how God will judge. Others speak to this issue far better than I could ever hope to.

Instead, I want get to the heart of what seems to be the point. Jonah, who fled from God yet was given a second chance, was judging. The Ninevites weren’t his to judge.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 3:10-4:4

In recent months, my eyes have been opened to how often we set ourselves up on higher ground and judge others – even amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps we are unaware that we are doing it. When your life is running smoothly, it is easy to become prideful and give yourself far too much credit. It is also easy to become judgmental toward those whose lives turn a bit messy. But there is no need for me to compare myself to anyone except Christ. I always fall short.

As my focus shifts away from myself and more fully onto God, I see how unworthy I am.

I am grateful for God’s amazing grace and immeasurable love. When we reach a place of total reliance on Him, we understand how truly needy we are. That is when we are most able to serve with humility and extend grace to others who are struggling.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. Romans 15:5

Read more Jonah 3&4 devotionals at #SheReadsTruth.

A Fork in the Road

Several years ago I traveled with a friend to the Keweenaw Peninsula – one of the most beautiful areas in the country. At that time, I had never been to Copper Harbor, but my traveling companion had. North of Hancock, there is only one main route, US-41, that will take you there. However, if you are so inclined, when you reach Eagle River you can turn off the main road onto State Route 26 which eases slowly up the shoreline offering breathtaking views of one of the most spectacular bodies of freshwater on Earth – Lake Superior.Keweenaw Peninsula

My friend, having been to the Keweenaw previously, was quite adamant about staying on the main route because it was faster, more direct, and that was the way they always went. But I remembered hearing something interesting about Eagle Harbor, which is along the lesser route, and really felt we should go that way.

Unfortunately I discovered that as I continued to suggest this, my friend went from mildly annoyed at my naivety to increasingly frustrated at me for questioning their wisdom in the matter. In no uncertain terms I was told that the main road was THE road leading directly to Copper Harbor and to take the turn-off would not only slow us down, but offered nothing that would make the time worthwhile.

For them, the issue boiled down to this: their experience trumped my opinion. They were right – I was wrong. I learned something about my friend that day. I also learned something personally beneficial, but it didn’t click until much later.

As I think back on this and similar situations, I remember feeling defeated. It’s disheartening when you try to convey your thoughts or opinion about something, and are met with hostility by people who have to be in control. Maybe I will discover that I am wrong, but at least be willing to listen to what I have to say. Discuss it with me and help me to understand your view as you try to understand mine. Healthy communication requires at least two people be engaged in an exchange of ideas and thoughts.

It can be even more disheartening when this happens among Believers. Respect grows when Godly authority and leadership is willing to listen and ready to pray about an issue together. But there is another lesson to be learned here; one that is becoming more glaringly obvious to me lately: Just let go.

God is the final Authority. Just as God handled the situation on the Keweenaw, He will handle the important issues in life. In fact, He already has. He has plans for our life that are for our good, and no matter who comes along to tell us “It’s my way or no way”, God will work things out for our good when we seek His will.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I have certainly been wrong before. I’ve made bad decisions. I will not hesitate to admit that I have been heading down the wrong path, stubbornly running into road block after road block before God can get my attention. As I learn to let go of the issues I cannot control anyway, it frees my spirit to say: Your will, Lord, not mine.

And if the other person needs to learn some things then God will take care of that, too…

Giving up, I closed my mouth. We took US-41. Then we came to a dead stop 8 miles in. Cars were not getting through and we were forced to turn around. We went back to the turn-off at Eagle River and meandered up the shore.

As you pass through Eagle Harbor you will come to Jacob’s Falls and a turn-off where there is a small bakery called The Jampot. This bakery is operated by monks of The Society of St. John Monastery. They mix it, make it, and bake it…and it is amazing! Trust me when I say you have not experienced anything like this.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is to let go and let God take care of me.