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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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

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. 

Do you trust me?

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s Aladdin? Aladdin, standing on his flying carpet, reaches his hand out to Jasmine and says, “Do you trust me?”.

God wants us to have loving homes rooted in His Word where relationships are built on trust. We begin to learn about trust long before we can talk or walk. A baby cries and, in a loving home, is picked up. A child’s first steps, holding a hand to cross a street, learning to ride a bike…require trust…build trust. Dad is loving, strong, and protective. Mom is loving and gentle. Siblings you fight with at home have your back at school. Healthy families provide safety and shelter from the world, and without even realizing it, kids learn what trust is.

Trust. It’s a common word, overused and taken for granted most of the time. But it is one of the most powerful words in our language, established through a process that we don’t give much thought to. A process filled with events and conversations that, done right, establish trust as a natural outcome over time. You’re not even aware that it’s happening, but you suddenly realize that you can be yourself with this person, you can be honest – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and it’s okay. That’s trust.

On he other hand, it takes very little to break trust. And once trust is broken, it is difficult to rebuild. Sometimes trust is destroyed, and only through God can it be restored.

I am so glad that God never changes, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring. In Him I can always trust and depend. God is always faithful, patient, full of love and grace. And this I know without a shadow of doubt – His Spirit dwells within me and strengthens and comforts me. God is my protector in times of trouble. He weaves a safety net around my life.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ Deuteronomy 33:27

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112: 4, 7

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 8:38-39

Jesus stands before me with an outstretched hand and asks, “Do you trust me?” And I will place my hand in His with a childlike trust each day.

 In whom have you placed your trust?