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.

healing

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.

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.

Don’t go near the edge

Such simple advice. One would think it shouldn’t be too difficult to follow.
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Many years ago I traveled with my family to the Badlands of South Dakota. The rugged beauty of this unforgiving landscape took my breath away. Yet I was alarmed to realize how easily a person could slip over the edge of any number of buttes (not sure what a butte is?). I firmly instructed my teenage children to stay well away from the edge, while I locked my grip on the smallest child’s hand. As I stood looking across the flat tops of the steep formations stretching for miles, I suddenly heard, “How far away should I be?”

Over the past few months I have wrestled with issues that have dragged me to my knees. I have been a bloody mess, crying out to God and grasping for the nearest hand, literally reaching for a lifeline. No one who has not experienced the devastation of divorce can fully understand the reality of the image these words paint. Yet as God’s healing continues, the moments, even hours, of hope each day increase.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. Psalm 130:1-2

The losses, changes and uncertainty have brought sorrow, despair and fear, taking me to depths of a darkness I haven’t known before. So I have recently been surprised when a fleeting thought passed through my mind and I didn’t plummet over the edge, free falling as I certainly would have just a few weeks ago. This realization is an amazing and uplifting thing. I am awestruck and humbled by God’s Presence in my life. He has shown me how much I have to learn about really letting go, laying my burdens at Jesus’ feet – and leaving them there!

How often we bring our troubles to God, yet continue to dwell on them. Whatever it may be, we toy with it and dissect it from every possible angle. But this shouldn’t be! My feeble attempts to control or manage a situation are wasted energy that is better spent seeking God’s face.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. Psalm 130:3-4

God in His grace and mercy brings healing as we draw near. I understand more fully now the need to pray without ceasing, and I do. Throughout the day even simply uttering the name Jesus brings peace. He is ever faithful and filled with compassion for the wounded and weary. We need only seek and be accepting of His unfailing love.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

How far away should you stand? It really depends on how steep the slope and how unstable the terrain. But what God has taught me is that when I bring to Him my burdens – even again and again – He will shelter me in His arms, protecting from the edge that so easily crumbles.

Read more devotionals on Psalm 130 at SheReadsTruth

Proof of God’s Faithfulness

As I head toward the house, I look back at the wood, now stacked and ready for the week’s use, and I feel a sense of accomplishment at this weekly chore. Looking at my watch I see that it has only been a few hours, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without my teenage son and daughter helping. I also remember that the wood wouldn’t be split and ready for stacking without the three men from church – all in their 70’s – who split logs and cut kindling for me this fall.gods-faithfulness-wood-stacked

I recognize the Lord’s hand of provision and the blessings He has poured out. I have experienced His faithfulness in meeting all our physical needs, in part through the kindness of others. 

These physical challenges I now face are tangible evidence of the fact that things at home have changed. I have reassurance, though, that God is unchanging, His love and strength unending.  Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Less tangible but far more debilitating, are the emotional struggles. 

My sleep is disturbed by Fear creeping in and I’m constantly tired, waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and loss. I’m adjusting to changes in finances, work, parenting, and more. With so much going on in my life right now, I’m walking a high wire and it doesn’t take much to tip me.

People who don’t know the facts (don’t need to), but think they have all the answers, say insensitive things, wrong things. I try to brush it off, pray, give it to the Lord, but it comes back (I’m working on letting go more fully). The enemy knows exactly where to attack. Pressure builds, things converge, and I begin to panic. I don’t want to free-fall again, but down I go, sinking into the mire, going under. This scares me more than anything. I look to the Father and beg for help, and I know He is with me.

I praise God that although I am weak, He is strong. He never lets go of me. God is faithful, giving comfort and hope; and blessing me with dear friends who provide encouragement, strength, love and Godly counsel. 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.

Why then do I fall apart weekly? Why can’t I hold on tighter to the hope that I have in God?

We were not made to carry a weight like this alone; nor were we designed to hide it, bury it, or brush it off. God wants us to rely on His strength, to cry out to Him for help as the Psalmists did:

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 143:7
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17
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he Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is the depth of my Father’s faithfulness reaches far beyond any pit I sink into. Jesus holds me near and doesn’t let go; He stays with me through each storm and sees me through to the other side. He wipes away every tear.

I have come to understand that as I walk through this valley, it is not a test of my faithfulness to God, but, rather, it is proof of God’s faithfulness to me.

Comfort and Hope

Utterly at the end of myself in recent weeks, I have cried out to God many times. During this time God has blessed my life in ways I could never have imagined. He has surprised and amazed me – working miracles, moving mountains, and being undeniably present in my life! He has heard my cry, and responded in very immediate, unmistakable and specific ways. And I have found how real the promise of this verse is: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8

In the last few months, as I have been overcome again and again with grief, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in a very physical way, more powerful than anything I have experienced before. He has rescued and comforted me when I have been spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Sin – not God – causes pain in our lives. Not always our own sin. Sometimes the sin of another can touch us and have drastic consequences. Free will makes that possible. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, but like dominoes falling, the devastation can be far-reaching. Other times, the offense is due to a direct sin against us. Can you think of a time when someone, either directly or indirectly, sinned against you? Or maybe a sin in your life caused pain for someone else? If possible, you should go to that person, either to confront their sin or to confess your own, as Matthew 18 instructs: If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (verse 15)

Regardless the outcome, take comfort and find hope in these words from Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

My Hope is in the Lord. He is bigger than all my troubles. Jesus understands life’s pain and He knows my heart. He weeps with me and He comforts me. He is my rock and my refuge. I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned recently is that God’s grace and mercy in my darkest hour is awesome and amazing!

Have you placed your Hope in Him?