Tag Archives: victory

April 12 -It’s A Giant!

I Samuel 15-17

So often Scripture gives us examples of God’s power demonstrated through individuals. Like Moses through whom many miracles were performed. Like Gideon who took only 300 men into battle and won the war. Like what we read yesterday about Jonathan, and again today as we read about David’s victory over Goliath.

When David heard Goliath’s threats and saw the reaction of the Jewish soldiers, he didn’t get it. “Who is this Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

I think that, in a sense, we 21st century Christians are a bit like that army David was talking to:

The media is against us. The government is against us. The laws are against us. People say mean things about us.

Scripture says that when faced with the giant, the Israelite army “fled from him and were greatly afraid.” (17:24)

It took one person – David – to recognize that God is greater than anyone. David could face Goliath with confidence, because David’s confidence wasn’t in himself.

David’s confidence was in the living God!

We are facing a giant here in 2016. Do we believe God is more powerful than our enemy? Just where have we put our confidence?

Stay With Me

Have you ever seen a frightened toddler? Maybe a barking, nipping dog scares the little one, or a spider crawling out of a flower he’s just put his nose into takes him by surprise. The natural reaction is to jump into Daddy’s arms. Then what? That baby climbs frantically higher to get away from that which is scaring him. And if he could, that child would crawl right into his Daddy’s skin for safety. At that moment of fright, the child just can’t get close enough to his father.

I was reading I Samuel 22 this morning and like what David told Abiathar when Saul was trying to kill them both: “Stay with me. Don’t fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.” (vs 23)

I hear Jesus saying the same to me about our mutual enemy, Satan. Jesus, whom John describes as the Word, Creator of all that is made, who came to earth in the flesh and blood body fully God, fully human. Jesus, who willingly went to the cross so that I can be forgiven. Jesus, who died, defeated death and the power of sin, and rose again. Jesus who bodily went to heaven and sits on the throne from where he whispers in my ear:

“Stay with me. Satan is my enemy, too. And if you stay close to me, you shall be safe.”

Jesus. My Protector! My Savior!

Dear Abba Father, Thank you for your protection. You’ve told us to come to you like little children, and I see that in what I read this morning in your written Word. Sometimes it feels like I can’t get close enough to you. I want to crawl right into your skin. So I thank you for reminding me that YOU are my protector. It’s not, how close can I get to you. But how much do I trust your strong arms. So as I jump into those arms through reading your Word and praying, I want to thank you for your promise for my soul’s safety. Keep me close to you where I am safe from Satan’s snarling teeth. I trust you completely.

Stormy Seas

I’ve never been in a storm at sea. I don’t even want to imagine the fear of being that exposed to danger out there surrounded by water miles deep. I’ve never been in a tropical storm or lived through a tornado. In fact, there have been only a few times I’ve even come close.

But as I read about the terror the passengers and crew experienced in the ship carrying Paul to Rome, I can relate. (Acts 27) Not because I’ve been there, but because I know to an extent, what it’s like to face storms of life.

Getting laid off from my job, Mom’s cancer, financial struggles, my sister’s cancer, my nephew Geoff’s death, Dad’s death. I can’t hold my storms up next to anyone else’s and say mine were harder or that mine were less significant. I only know there have been times that I felt hopeless and lost, when I found it hard to breathe, when fear of the future (or present) caused me sleepless nights.

The account of Paul’s storm at sea reminds me that, no matter how bad the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future appears, when I am tossed about and can’t find the sun, God is standing next to me.

My only hope is to stay in the boat, holding on to my Savior, riding out the storm together. In this account in the book of Acts, God didn’t calm the storm. But the people on board made it safely to shore. This tells me that my circumstances might not change. The cancer diagnosis might not be a mistake. A broken relationship might not heal. Whatever the cause of my anxiety, depression, fear, might not magically disappear.

But God can see me safely to the other side. I can trust him. And I will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Presence. You are stronger than any storm I have to face. And I find comfort in knowing that… knowing You. I pray for those reading this today who are being bounced around in a frightening storm. I pray your strength, your comfort, your direction will be evident in the midst. I pray they will hold on, that they will trust you to see them through. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do in the lives of those of us who are facing stormy seas.

Why Evil?

Last Sunday, the pastor posed a question in Sunday School: Why is there evil and has it always existed?

I guess to truly understand all the details of the answer to that question, you would have to have the mind of God. Our understanding is limited to what he inspired men to write in Scripture.

Like I Corinthians 15:56. Paul tells us the law gives sin its power. We wouldn’t know what sin was if God hadn’t spelled it out in the law.

We wouldn’t know what light was if it wasn’t for the darkness.

And we wouldn’t know what good was except for evil.

If there was no law, sin would have no power because sin, by definition, is the breaking of the law. But if there was no law, no sin, we wouldn’t know forgiveness, would we? There would be no choice. We would be puppets, robots.

It was important to God that his creation choose him.

Why?

I don’t know, except to say the love someone chooses to demonstrate toward me is precious, personal, more meaningful than if that someone feels obligated or forced. Being made in God’s image, I can only imagine he feels the same.

Dearest Heavenly Father, you are good. You are holy. And I thank you that you have made it possible to choose you. It’s hard to thank you for sin. It’s hard to thank you for sickness, wars, evil. But if it weren’t for those things, I wouldn’t understand what it is that you offer through your Son, Jesus. I wouldn’t appreciate grace. So, Father, I want you to know that I choose you today. I love you because I can. I resist temptation because I can. I deny Satan because I can. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Thank you!

The Show Must Go On

I remember, when Mom was dying of cancer, I would drive to work with a heavy heart. Most mornings I would cry as I talked to God about Mom. But when I got to the stop light a mile from school, I would dry my tears and take a few deep breaths. And before walking into the office, I’d put my hand on the doorknob, breathe again, put a smile on my face, and pray, “God, let’s do this. I need you to go in there with me today.” I didn’t want to be there. I wanted time with Mom. I wanted to be alone in my grief. But I was a middle school counselor, and I had a job to do.

It was hard. And listening to the familiar complaints of 11-year-olds tested my patience like never before. Suzie took my pencil. Billy made fun of me. Nobody likes me. The teacher yelled at me. Even the: Mom grounded me or worse, didn’t separate me from my own pain.

But I loved my job, loved those children, and it wasn’t their fault my mother was dying.

I realized today Jesus knows exactly how I felt. His cousin, John, was murdered. His heart must have hurt like mine did. And he needed to be alone. He needed time to grieve. So he went off to a remote place to be by himself.

But the crowds followed him. They had needs only Jesus could meet. So Jesus put a smile on his face, and preached, and healed their sick.

Did you know the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and 2 fish happened in the midst of Jesus’ grief? (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) He had compassion on those needy, demanding, insensitive people, even when his own heart was broken.

I know some of you are going through hardships of your own. Sickness, finances, relationships can cause us to live with the burden of grief on our shoulders. Yet that doesn’t stop the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”, or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” demands from your children, or the deadlines your boss gives you at work, or the electric from being turned off for lack of payment. Life goes on even when we want it to just stop for one minute.

Jesus knows what that feels like. Jesus shows us by example that sometimes the show must go on. Sometimes we have to choose to let God pick us up and help us meet our responsibilities even if we don’t feel like it.

But here’s something else Jesus teaches by example. He made time to get alone and pray. (Matthew 14:23) He didn’t go off to “find himself”. He spent time talking to God.

That’s where our society might be wrong. It says we’ve got to be happy before we can make someone else happy. Put yourself first and things will get better.

But doesn’t Jesus teach us something different? Didn’t he take “self” out of the picture? Didn’t he place God first, others second, and himself after that? I’m thinking if it worked for him, it probably will work for us, too.

Pray, dear one. Pour yourself out before God, give him yourself and your circumstances. Ask him to empower you to be who he wants you to be in the midst of your pain. Bathe yourself in prayer, then trust God to be exactly what you need him to be. Yes, the show must go on. But you don’t have to go on solo. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have someone who has been there, to guide you, to strengthen you, and to love you like no one else can.

If we take the world’s advise and concentrate on ourselves, we are concentrating on the wrong person. Concentrate on God. Notice the opportunities he gives you to minister to someone else. Take him up on his offer to never leave or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-8)

Is that a recipe for a trouble-free life? What do you think?

It is, however, a recipe proven by Jesus himself, to be exactly what we need to face the worse life hands us. And to be victors. And to let others see Jesus in us.

God, I pray for grieving people today. Some have burdens that are breaking them. Father, I pray they will come to you and lay that burden down. Give them strength. Give them purpose. Help them to look to you instead of looking within themselves. And may they find peace from allowing you to be exactly what they need to get through today. May they feel your love right this minute. And may Jesus be seen in and through them as they walk through this storm.

Jesus Gets Me

The birth of Jesus is undoubtedly the second most important event in history, the first being his death on the cross. (Read about his birth in Matthew 1 and Luke 2).

Jesus. God in the flesh. He chose to come into this world as a human, from the fertilized egg inside his mother, to the screaming little baby boy emerging from her body at birth. Did God choose this route to becoming human so he would know how it feels, so that he could experience things to better understand us?

Not a bit. He chose this so that we would believe he gets us. We can go to him and tell him about our financial woes, knowing he gets what it is to grow up poor. We can be assured he knows what physical pain is, what rejection is, what anger and temptation are. He gets me like no one ever could.

The truth is, he could always understand us humans from Adam on. The difference is, after Jesus, we can identify with him.

All of creation, everything about life is about God, created by him and for his pleasure. This one act, Jesus in the flesh, is about us. God loves us that much. And him becoming one of us proves that.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for becoming human and living this life here on earth for 33 years. Thank you for the times you faced the same temptations I face, for the fatigue your body felt, the pain you endured at the hands of those who killed you. Thank you for the times you laughed and cried, for the friendships you developed and for the pain their betrayal caused you.  Thank you for loving me so much you wanted to assure me that you do get me. And ultimately, thank you for dying for me, for offering forgiveness for my sin, and for wanting to be in my life today and forever. I love you.

 

Battles and Victories and Battles

Adonijah didn’t get what he wanted. He did everything he could to be king after his father David but we know God and David had other plans. Solomon was to be king. But Adonijah couldn’t let it go.

With Solomon on the throne and their father dead, Adonijah goes to Solomon’s mom. (I Kings 2) You know the people wanted me to be king, he tells her. So do this one thing. Go to Solomon and ask him if I can marry Abishag.

Sounded harmless enough. But when Bathsheba asked her son he was mad. Adonijah’s request wasn’t as innocent as it sounded. Abishag had connections and Solomon said it would be like handing the kingdom over to Adonijah. Solomon not only refused the marriage, he ordered Adonijah’s execution.

Satan wants your soul. And just because you may have had a victory over sin yesterday, don’t think for a minute he’s given up. He’ll try another route, another temptation. He’ll even make it appear innocent, try and trick you into turning yourself over to him.

Ours is a daily battle, a moment by moment battle. Sometimes we will defeat the enemy in our lives. But the war continues. We who know Jesus as our Savior know that he has won the war for our souls, that heaven awaits those who have repented of sin and accepted his grace.

But we need to put on the whole armor of God and prepare for battle today, this afternoon, tomorrow, right now. Satan is just as determined as Adonijah to be king. Satan wants to be king of your life. Beware. Be ready. Victory can be yours.

Father, I thank you that Jesus defeated Satan when he died on the cross and was raised to life again. I know that one day this life on this earth will be over and I’ll be in your Presence forever. Oh glorious day! But until then, may I never turn my back on my enemy Satan. May I never fall for his clever tricks, his innocent sounding temptations to sin. As I put on your armor today I ask that you go with me into battle. Grant victory today in Jesus’ name.

 

Samson: Too Good to Sin?

Samson is such an interesting man. He lived a life set apart for God from a very early age. Even his mother, while pregnant with this baby boy, didn’t drink wine or eat anything unclean. Samson must have grown up to look like a crazy man with all that hair. And even though God was with him in a very visible way, Samson wasn’t perfect.

When you read about him in the book of Judges, it becomes clear that he suffered from a sense of entitlement, pride, a short fuse. Samson was more than a little cocky. And as good a life as he lead according to the Nazarene Law, Samson was not too good to sin.

His life reminds me that none of us are immune. Temptations exist. And too often we fail. We sin. 

Reading the Bible, going to church, abstaining from ungodly activities, even sharing Christ with others, do not prohibit Satan’s arrows from attacking us. Sometimes we can get proud of ourselves for living such good lives. And pride is a sin.

Living a sinless life is not a one time decision that occurs when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Living a sinless life is a daily, moment-by-moment choice. You don’t submit yourself to God at an altar, than walk away in a bubble that shields you from sin.

But we do walk away with the armor needed to fight sin. God would have us recognize sin in our lives, confess it, repent of it, and be forgiven every day. 

I wonder what kind of story we would read in Judges had Samson recognized his own sin and repented early on. I wonder what other amazing things God could have done through him.

Father, I pray for your children today. May we recognize sin in our lives and be quick to confess it and receive your forgiveness. May we turn from sin and live lives pleasing to you in every way. Make us useful for your kingdom for Jesus’ sake. You have an amazing plan for each of us that involves leading lost souls to your saving grace. May you find us faithful.

Step Aside, Satan

Some areas of the Promised Land were more difficult to capture than others, as we read in the book of Joshua. Sure, Israel’s reputation for being God’s chosen people was well known and God’s miracles on their behalf was legendary. But let’s face it. There were people who owned land there, who lived and worked in those cities and not everyone was ready to just step aside and let the Jews take it all. Satan had a foothold in that area and he was not giving up without a fight.

And he hasn’t changed.

When we accept Jesus as Savior we are offered a relationship with God himself, our own private Promised Land. And God wants us to enjoy it all. However, sometimes sin is so deeply rooted in our lives we have trouble conquering it and we miss out on the blessings that are intended to be ours. An addiction or an ungodly relationship pulls at us. A vice, a hobby, a lifestyle is so important to us we don’t want to let go. Jealousy, hate, pride, anger are so ingrained in us we don’t recognize ourselves without them. We end up trying to live with that sin right inside the Promised Land. Satan loves that.

The truth is if we want everything God intends for us in our relationship with him we need to defeat the enemy in our lives. It’s a matter of choice. And often a very difficult daily choice.

God told Israel: There is the land I promised you. Go clear it out and enjoy living there. Defeat the enemy, rid yourself of him. I’m right here with you.

He’s saying that to us today, too.

So step aside, Satan. Or get ready to battle. God and I are taking the land! 

September 24

Nehemiah 9:38-11:36

84 men signed a detailed pledge, promising they and the rest of the people would live by the law of Moses. They bound themselves with a curse and an oath and boldly stated, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” 

Was it like that when you came to know the Lord? Were you determined to change your ways, be faithful in your service, to love God and obey him for the rest of your life? How long were you able to hold up your end of the bargain?

The Jewish men we read about today were no doubt convinced that they and their families would be able to do everything in the pledge they signed. But history tells us eventually the promises were forgotten.

One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t make a promise to obey God for anyone but myself. These Jewish leaders spoke for the nation of Israel. It was doomed from the beginning. I can’t promise God my sisters and their families will love and obey him. Each of those dear people have to do that individually. 

I can’t even promise I’ll be faithful every day until I die. I can give God today, though because that’s all I have. I know me. And so does Satan. I have struggles and temptations and I am human. I will fail. 

But I can go to my Heavenly Father and confess my sins and know he is faithful to forgive. I can determine to cling to Jesus for strength and the ability to obey him. And he will answer my prayers. 

As I go into my day today I pray that there will be victories over temptation. I pray that God will make himself known to me and I will obey. I pray that I will have the courage to make choices that allow me to be the woman God intends for me to be today.

I can pray the same for you. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Let’s choose Jesus today. I’m going to.