Saturday, November 30, 2013

Victory Day Fifty: Inheriting a Fortune!

Here we are at the last day of the Victory series, and if you haven’t gotten the idea by now - all who stay true to Jesus Christ in this life not only enjoy His love and guidance now, but are victoriously rewarded in heaven!

The scene there won’t be like the movies where nasty, greedy family members gather like vultures to see what they’re going to get “from the old man.” To their dismay they discover he hasn’t left them anything. They didn’t really care about the guy when he was alive, except for his money, and he knew it all along. That’s when the sweet and unsuspecting niece, grandson, or maid finds out their years of loyal, loving service are paying back – a million times over. They have inherited enough to take care of them the rest of their days.

If we remain God’s loyal, loving servants, what we see in the movies is only a taste of what our inheritance from God will be. The twist is that we are the ones who must die before we inherit. If we give up our own selfish desires and live to please Him instead, we will forever live as victorious children of God.

All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings,
and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Rev. 21:7, NLT

Are you celebrating a victory today? What has God done in your life this last year? Has God helped you defeat an addiction or attitude? Has God healed a relationship? Have you grown in your relationship with the Lord, or started a brand new relationship with Him? I hope you will share with us. Your story will encourage others and give them courage to stay strong and keep aiming for victory too.

To leave a word of testimony, click on the word “Comments” below and type in the box that appears. If you have an Internet account, choose the appropriate one on the list, if not, click on the word “Anonymous” and then click “Publish.” You will see some letters and numbers that say “Copy the text.” Copy them exactly with a space in between and then select “Publish” and you’re done. Your comments will be sent for approval and appear later on the blog.

Thank you for joining me in the "50 Days of Victory." I can’t wait to hear your victory stories!  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Nine: Rider on a White Horse

If you live in the United States, or are from the US, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for in Christ Jesus our Lord! Our family gathered round the table and our sharing time could have gone on for much longer, if there hadn't been the promise of pie afterward. Somehow, that sped it up just a little.

Kelly and I will be celebrating once again with our kids tomorrow. So we are doubly blessed.

We're getting down to the last two days of the Victory series. I hope it has been a blessing to you. While it has been a challenge for me to post as often as I wanted to, it was amazing how the scripture I had planned for that day always touched my heart all over again. Next week I will begin posting a few Advent devotions from a book my pastor asked me to put together for our church family. It was such a fun project and I can't wait to share it with you too!

Years ago, I was going through one of the worst times in my life when I read the following verse from Revelation. It came alive like never before.

I looked up and saw a white horse standing there.
Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head.
He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory.
Rev. 6:2, NLT

Suddenly I saw my Savior, our strong and mighty conqueror, riding out to the last earthly battle. But also, I saw Jesus in heaven, as my hero against all fear and worry in this life. It gave me comfort like never before. This is what I wrote in my journal:

Oh my soul, do not give way to fear.
Trust in the One who loves you, who has saved you and keeps you.
Look into the eyes of your Lover and trust Him, my Beloved.
He will care for you; He will provide.
Do not fear, little one, or be intimidated by the enemy's attacks.
Satan is the loser and he already knows he has lost.
That is why he fights with such vengeance against the Almighty, and against you.
Lean back into the strong chest of the Rider who is faithful and true,
whose name is the Word of God,
the King of kings and Lord of lords.
He will carry you, protect you, and take you home when the battle is over.
Just rest now and trust.
Hang on to Him in all the striving until the final battle is won.
Beth Vice, October 11, 2005

I pray this vision encourages you to see Jesus as your conquering hero. He has already won the victory and is ever-present to be our strength and mighty warrior. Trust Him. Lean back on Him. Worship Him.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Eight: Don’t Cry, the Lion Has Won

Remember the baby shampoo commercial that showed pouty faced babies with soap in their eyes? The slogan was, “No more tears.” That’s what today’s verse promises us; we don’t have to cry anymore. Our reason for hope is much better than a gentle shampoo that won’t sting our eyes. Jesus, the mighty Lion of Judah, has already won over the forces of evil that bring tears in this life:

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.
He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Rev. 5:5, NLT

This was one of the elders already in heaven, reassuring John that everything was going to be okay. Jesus would take care of it. John was weeping because no one in heaven or earth was worthy to open the scroll in God’s hand that was sealed shut. Unless someone did, there was no way to know what was going to happen at the end of time. John couldn’t bear it.

It would be like watching an action movie to the final climactic moment, then having the power go out. There, in the darkness, we would sit tense and frustrated. Did the hero and heroine make it out alive? Did they get the bad guy? Save the earth from annihilation by aliens? Find the cure before the child dies? What happened?! Imagine then, John’s torment, knowing the end of time was coming in real life. He had been told to write everything down for future generations. He longed to give his readers hope. What would he tell them?

You and I also weep with frustration and grief over the consequences of sin in ourselves and our world. We can’t see what’s going to happen. We wonder, Is there any hope? Are we going to make it? The answer is the same for us as it was for John. God has written the end of the story and He holds the future in His hands. Only One is worthy to reveal that future and save us from the dire penalties of sin. And He’s already done it.

The Lion of Judah has already won the victory. He has conquered sin and death. If we accept His forgiveness and trust Him today, and each day as it comes, we don’t have to weep with fear over our eternal destiny. Even though we cannot see what our future holds, we know who does, and He has taken care of it. After these times of trouble on earth, we will be safe with Jesus in heaven. Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the Morning.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Seven: Better Than a Lazy Boy

People jokingly refer to their Lazy Boy or comfy chair as their throne. Of course, there’s also the one that sits in the bathroom. No matter how much time we might enjoy spending time on them, none can compare to the throne Jesus describes in today’s verse. The victory seat.
“Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne,
 just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”
Rev. 3:21, NLT

The books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation give us glimpses of what heaven looks like, and the glory surrounding the throne. God the Father sits on His throne, and Jesus the Son of God is on a throne next to Him. In this verse, Jesus says the victorious will sit with Him on His throne. I’m not sure I understand all this. If you take it literally, it sounds cozy and amazing, but also
a little crowded.

I think of King Solomon’s throne. He built: “a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold.  The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom” (1 Ki. 10:18-20).

That sounds magnificent and ornate, like a splashy display of power and wealth. But it also sounds cold and uncomfortable, but then I’m sure he had a lot of richly embroidered cushions too. Jesus’ throne will be even better.  

What does all this rambling have to do with our sitting with the Father and Son on their thrones? I think it will not only be breathtakingly beautiful and filled with glory, but also comfortable. Companionable. It won’t be like a never-ending family visit, where everyone runs out of things to say, yet continue to fill the space with awkward conversation. All of them long to be anywhere else, except the bore who talks on and on, seemingly unaware no one is interested.

No, when we get to heaven, we’re going to have so much to talk about; so many questions to ask. We will be so full of wonder and praise in the Presence of our Lord and Savior, that we might even just sit there speechless for a time, adoring Him. It definitely won’t be boring or tiresome.

And finally, it will be restful. Although there will be lots to do in heaven, we won’t have the pressure of time. There will be opportunities for worship, action, and for savoring the delights created for us, the children of God. The victorious. I want to experience this, don’t you?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Six: I Don’t Want it to End!

Have you ever spent time with friends or family you just didn’t want to end? Ultra romantic dates when neither wanted to say goodbye? What about books or movies so good you could hardly pause to eat or sleep? With Thanksgiving this week, many of us will be enjoying special dishes we don’t get every day - delights that make your mouth water just thinking about them. And how about worship times so amazing you wish it would go on forever and ever? We feel clean and free, like we’ve touched a piece of heaven.

Today’s scripture reveals that Jesus understands these longings, because He promises five more rewards that never end. He wants to make sure we know the riches of heaven are worth standing firm for here on earth. At first, they will sound strange. So give this time to percolate through your brain.

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.  All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.”
Rev. 3:10-12, NLT, italics mine

“Yea! I get to be a pillar,” you say. “Just what I’ve always wanted.” Think about it, though. What do we call someone who is respected by everyone; whose reputation is flawless? We call them a pillar of society. So reward #1 is respect, honor, stability and permanence to grace the place where God is.

We Get to Stay
The second thing He says is that we never have to leave the Temple. Remember those great times of worship that we wish would never end? In heaven they don’t. That glorious emotional high and feeling of safety with God and His people is eternal.

What do people do when they get a really special gift for a loved one? They get it engraved. A card is too temporary to show the depth of their love. That’s what Jesus does with His faithful ones; He writes His Father’s name - tattoos the family crest on us - for all to see.

If you’ve ever immigrated to another country, you treasure the title of citizen more than those who were born there. Earth is not our home; we’re looking forward to our citizenship in heaven. When we immigrate, God assures our citizenship there.

Jesus’ New Name
Apparently we’re going to have a lot of writing on us. If you’re not a tattoo fan, don’t worry, I’m sure it will be tastefully done. Jesus doesn’t tell us what His new name will be, but we get to share it. We’ll be forever identified as His Beloved, belonging to and cherished by Him.

These five blessings give us much to think about. What love! Jesus wants us to know the tremendous sense of belonging and security we’ll have with Him. It will never end.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Five: Forever the Cherished Bride

I believe the deepest wounds we inflict on one another in this life are not physical, but emotional. Worst of all, is the pain of being rejected by a close loved one – a child, parent, or mate. A man or woman whose spouse chooses someone else over them suffer a pain so profound, so personal, that it seems nothing can ever heal the scar completely.

For a woman, it is forever connected with her identity as a bride. Her white wedding gown, that proclaimed she was loved and desirable is now cast aside. The name her husband so proudly gave her is now taken back, and given to another. And it seems that she herself has been erased from the book of his life, his memories of her gone.

What a joy it is to know then, that Jesus will never un-choose His Bride – the Church. Men and women alike, we are the Bride of Christ. I have known the pain of rejection. So these verses are especially meaningful to me. However, even those who have never experienced divorce or a family member turning against them, have been abandoned at some point in their life, by someone they loved. And the pain is never forgotten.

But Jesus says to us,

“All who are victorious will be clothed in white.
I will never erase their names from the Book of Life,
but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.”
Rev. 3:5, NLT
He will never stop loving His Bride. To those who love Him Jesus has given His name, and will never take it away. He won’t give it to another in our place. He is proud to announce to His Father and all the angels that we belong to Him. Forever. That’s a promise we can count on.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Four: I Finally Get to Be in Charge!

In the middle of her presentation our speaker paused and sighed. “After all these years of being a Christian, I still struggle with giving God control.” It’s true with all of us. We know Jesus is Lord; we know God is perfect and capable and loving, and yet we can’t quite pry our fingers off the steering wheel of life.

That’s why it’s an amazing thing that one of the rewards for victory in this life is authority in heaven.

“…hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations.”
Rev. 2:25-26, NLT

This was the Spirit of God's message to the church in Thyatira. Their biggest problem was over authority. A woman in the church claimed to be a prophetess, but was taking away from God’s authority and parceling it out to others gods. Some people were giving in to this false religion and blending the truth of Christianity with the so called “mysteries” of the pagan priests. This was a repeat of Queen Jezebel’s wicked rule years earlier. She had vied for control over Israel, and their allegiance to God, by introducing her own brand of worship.

The message for us is the same. God will not share us with any other god or worldly belief. Not even if that god is us, trying to take over the controls of our life. However, in an amazing turn of events, if we obey and give Him control in this life, He will bless us with authority over others in heaven. I’m not sure I understand all this, but it gives me something to ponder.

Our God and the wonders He has awaiting us in heaven are too wonderful to comprehend. So I think I’ll just keep following Him and learn as I go.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Three: Triple Whammy Reward

Today’s verse in our series promises a three-fold reward for those who are victorious in this life. Apostle John, the only one of the twelve disciples that wasn’t martyred (not that they didn’t try), was banished to the Island of Patmos. There, during a time of worship, Jesus revealed heavenly mysteries to John about the end times, instructing him to write them down.

Jesus mentions so many blessings in the first three chapters of Revelations that it’s mind boggling. I can imagine John trying to remember it all. So much beauty! So much praise! So many colors and sights and sounds! How could he describe them to those who haven’t been there?

Jesus describes phenomenal rewards, mixed with warnings not to give up until the end. He knows the pressure feels like more than we can sustain, the temptations enticing, and we get weary of choosing the right when the wrong is easy and popular. So He opened the door, just a bit, to show much our efforts will be rewarded..

“To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”
Rev. 2:17, NLT

Perhaps you’re thinking, “So, we get mystery bread, a rock, and a name. Hmm, that’s…nice. What else? That was my first thought until I discovered what those three things include.

Manna was the miraculous food God provided the Israelites in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. It represents life, daily provision, nourishment, satisfaction, and a free gift for the taking. It has been hidden away in heaven until the end time.

In John’s day, a white stone meant ‘yes’ and a black stone ‘no.’ When God gives us a white stone He is saying, “Not guilty.” You are innocent because you have accepted the forgiveness my Son bought with His blood. Here you go. Your ticket to heaven has been paid.

The third reward is a new name engraved in the stone. A name of affection; a nickname. Something that has tremendous meaning to that individual that no one but Jesus could possibly understand. It might heal a deep wound inflicted on that person because of cruel name calling or attacks on their character. Perhaps the new name helps them overcome a label applied to themselves they could never remove. Ugly, Crazy, Stupid, Lazy, Worthless, become Beautiful, Imaginative, Clever, Motivated, Treasured. Each name is chosen to fill a profound need.

Don’t you want to dine on secret food held back for conquerors only? Wouldn’t it be a relief to get rid of the gnawing ache of guilt and shame? And wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a name more intimate than Snookums or Love Muffin? Something that really makes your heart skip a beat? It sounds great to me! Good enough to keep on fighting the fight until the day we see Jesus face to face.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Victory Day Forty-Two: Sweet and Juicy Rewards

In ancient battles, it was all about the plunder, the loot, the treasure. Even soldiers, who didn’t care about their king were plenty willing to go to battle, if they could carry home gold, jewels, women, clothing, and all the worldly wealth of their enemies. In our case, it’s a little different. From this point on in the series, I’m going to highlight scriptures that talk about the heavenly rewards God promises for the victorious.

We’re not in this war against the forces of evil for the booty, unless of course you count the captives set free when we convince them to follow our Commander. No, we fight because we’ve fallen in love with our King and His cause – the salvation of mankind. Also, because we hate how our enemy destroys everyone he rules. Yet (because of the glorious grace of our God) after the Great War is over, we do get to enjoy plunder. When we leave our earthly body or Jesus takes us home, we will experience rewards we can’t even imagine.

Here’s the first:
“To everyone who is victorious
I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
Rev. 2:7, NLT

Does that have a familiar ring? Where have you heard about the tree of life before? Genesis chapter three tells us it was in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Those who eat fruit from the tree of life live forever. It’s like the legendary fountain of youth only in handy fruit form. You might wonder, if God put it in the Garden, why isn’t it still available? Because of sin.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sin entered our world. Since God is too merciful to doom us to an unending life of sin and all the pain it brings, He removed man from the Garden and provided the antidote to eternal death – Jesus.

So, in the end, we get to go back to that Garden existence, only we will have the gratitude of knowing what Christ has done for us in order to enjoy this gift. Don’t you wonder what it tastes like? Sweet and juicy, fresh and pure, satisfying like nothing we’ve ever had on earth. And that’s not all. To the victors go the spoils! Check in tomorrow to find out what else God has in store for those who fight faithfully to the end.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Victory Day Forty-One: Faith is the Victory

For every child of God defeats this evil world,
and we achieve this victory through our faith.
And who can win this battle against the world?
Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:4-5, NLT

If you recognized this blog title from the old hymn, you probably couldn’t resist humming the chorus - especially since the photos provide the lyrics. It’s been a while since I sang it, but it kept popping into my mind as I prepared for today’s post. The song is old, written in 1891, and the scripture even older, written around the year 98, but both state a timeless truth. Faith in Jesus is what gives us victory over the world.

A familiar song and Bible verse wasn’t enough to nail it down for me though. I had to ponder this and do some digging to grasp the full power of this claim. How does faith, I wondered, do battle for us against the world? And what does it mean to win against the world? Why are we at war?

I found that “the world” refers to spiritual rulers, not earth itself or the people who live here. The spiritual forces of evil that war against God also war against mankind. They’ve been at work since the Garden of Eden trying to take us captive to sin and imprison us in destructive lifestyles. What better way to hurt the Creator than to torture and pervert His beloved children and convince us He either doesn’t exist, or has no power or desire to save us.

Having faith brings us back into right relationship. We can’t get victory over addiction, pornography, same sex attraction, gambling, gossip, stealing, lying, pride, selfishness, greed, ingratitude, or any other worldly passion without faith. Anything else is just legalism and self-help programs. Those can only give a certain degree of success. They might curb our outward behavior, but they cannot change our heart, and that’s where true victory takes place.

We can only get victory when we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and then live our lives accordingly. In other words, stop trying to be our own gods (as if we’ve done such a great job of it), and let Him lead. If we say we believe He is God, but continue to do whatever we want, we deny our own claim. Do we really believe He loves us; that His plan is good; that He knows what’s best for us? If we do, and act on it, our faith will be the victory.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Victory Day Forty: Cross Action

[Jesus] canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities.
He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Col. 2:14-15, NLT

Whenever you see paintings and sculptures of Jesus on the cross, He appears to be passively hanging there at the mercy of the Roman soldiers, waiting for death. It looks like He’s done for; evil has had its way. He is the epitome of the sacrificial Lamb.

Much of the time, I think we picture ourselves the same way. Our sinful tendencies have us nailed to a cross and we feel helpless to escape them. We try to encourage each other to “hang in there,” but it’s not much of a consolation.

Yet these verses reveal that Jesus was not just the Lamb of sacrifice, but also the Lion of Judah. He was totally in control over the events of that day, actively defeating sin’s power over us for all time. Just look at the action-packed phrases in this passage, He:

·         Cancelled the record of Satan’s charges against mankind
·         Took away any sign of our guilt by nailing it to the cross
·         Disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities
·         Publicly shamed them with His victory over the power of evil

That’s great news for us. When we choose to accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, we don’t just “hang in there” until we die, like wimpy victims of the demon hoard. When we died to sin, that choice set certain things in motion. If we have crucified our sin nature with Christ, then we also get to join in the victory He won there for us. The charges against us have been wiped out and Satan has no power over us anymore.

Jesus’ work on the cross provides us with a life of action, empowering us to live not as victims, but as victors.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Nine: It Takes the Sting Out of Death

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:54-57, NLT

There are two different kinds of funerals: services for people who have lived for God, and for people who have lived for themselves. At the second, a lot is said about the person’s accomplishments, their wealth, their travels, their wild and crazy sports adventures. Some are even philanthropists who have given to others beyond their own small sphere, but somehow it all comes back to honoring them, rather than God.

Everyone tries to be upbeat at these gatherings. Many times people talk about heaven, but it’s a general, wistful, “everyone goes there” tale. It feels hollow, plastic, and dreadfully sad.

On the other hand, funerals for people who had a personal walk with God focus on relationships. A lot is said about their love for God, His Word, their family, and other people, and how their faith affected others. People tell how this person blessed their life. There’s laughter, happy memories, funny stories. The focus is on the heart of the individual and the legacy of love they have left behind.

When I leave funerals like this I’m inspired to live a life that reaches others for Christ. The stories reverberate in my head like a satisfying movie. I know I will miss them, but only for a while. I know I will see them again in heaven, where there are no more goodbyes.

There’s even a wistful jealousy of all they are now enjoying – they are with God, looking at His face, hearing His voice, out of pain, at rest, enjoying delights we can only imagine. That’s how I felt after the funeral of my young friend and her daughter, who died in a car accident a couple years ago. The school auditorium was packed, there wasn’t a dry eye. We were in shock at how suddenly it had happened. And yet, the music, slide show, and testimonies were filled with joy and wonder at the lives they had lived for God. It doesn’t wipe away our grief, but it takes the sting out of death.

Death holds no power over such a life, because what comes next is more glorious than anything we experience here. Those who seek a relationship with Jesus Christ in this life are victors over the fear of what comes after death. They can look beyond the grave to a life with God for which He created us.

In the last year I’ve read two accounts, and heard another man in person who were clinically dead and came back to life on earth. They attempt to describe what they saw and felt by comparing it to what we experience on earth, but admitted it can’t do it justice. They were understandably sad to find themselves back on earth in their mortal bodies, but their stories fill us with wonder and anticipation. They further verify the truth of what the Bible tells us - death has no power over those who are forgiven.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Eight: Despite All These Things

Despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Rom. 8:37, NLT

In order for victory to be possible, there is the inevitability of war. When Apostle Paul penned this verse he and other Christians were facing opposition and rejection from their own people because of their faith in Christ, and imprisonment, torture, and death from without. People all over the world today are experiencing the same things. Yet, it’s still true that they possess overwhelming victory, because they have Christ.

In comparison, my trials seem so small, yet threaten to take me under. This week our immediate family is dealing with auto immune disease, debilitating back and hip pain, unremitting viruses, financial difficulty, overbooked schedules, doctor and chiropractor visits, chronic insomnia, homelessness, addiction, sibling jealousy, and disappointments.

The last few hours of my overnight trip to visit family in another city ended at the tire center. There I had to spend hundreds of dollars on new tires before I could get home safely. I am feeling overwhelmed by all the things I have promised to do and want to do and feel like I should do. None of these things seem very spiritual when compared to persecution. However, they are battles we can either respond to with trust that God will use it all for good, or anger at Him because of the discomfort and inconvenience.

On my drive home I contemplated this verse. Despite all these things, as followers of the living God, we have overwhelming victory over whatever circumstances war with our faith. We do not have to fear anything this life hands us because Jesus took away their power to destroy our relationship with God. These troubles we deal with are vexing and discouraging and exhausting, but when compared to what we will enjoy for eternity, they are only a breath in time.

That gives me courage to face these things. They will pass. God will carry us through. We will learn from our mistakes and trials, and hopefully, even our responses to them will show the world that we really believe what we say we do.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Seven: Tender Mercy for the Crushed and Doubting

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.
Matt. 12:20-21, NIV

picture by Selaphotography
Dysfunctional, addict, needy, whore, broken-down, abused, abandoned, resistant, unreliable, lost cause. These are just some of the names we might give to people the scripture refers to as bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. Jesus doesn’t give up on people and cast them aside as easily as we do. His compassion for the down and out is so important it was not only predicted in Isaiah 42:3 of the Old Testament, but repeated in Matthew to introduce Jesus as the true Son of God:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”
Matthew 12:18

I’m so glad we serve a God who gives us chance after chance to turn to Him. I’m especially grateful when that tenderness extends to the ones I love and long for so much it aches.  For one reason or another, some people have a harder time accepting Christ’s love than others. He will do whatever it takes to reach them.

We’re surrounded by bruised reeds - people who have been hurt or abused. They have memories and scars that hinder their ability to trust in a faithful, loving God. The smoldering wicks are the ones who want to believe, who start to believe, but then the winds of worldly passion and lies keep the flame from burning bright and true. Jesus understands these frailties and doesn’t give up on them.

One day there will be justice. The unrepentant will get what they wanted – eternal separation from God - the forgiven, will rest forever in the presence of the One they love. In the meantime, God will not turn away anyone who trusts in Him and calls out for forgiveness, no matter how many times they have rejected Him before.

If you’re wondering today if God even wants to rescue you from the mess you have made or the damage that’s been done to you, you can be sure, He does. That’s His idea of the ultimate victory. Now is the time; today is the day, to let Jesus come in and heal the broken places of your life. He will make you clean and new, and stay with you through this life, and into eternity.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Six: All Eyes Will See

The Lord has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations.
All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God.
Isa. 52:10, NLT

My friend reminded me that sometimes it’s a victory just to get out of bed and face the day. Today has been one of those days for me. It may not seem like a triumphant victory to anyone else that I spent time in the Word, exercised at the Y, and dissolved into tears in the arms of a friend. Yet, all three were victories over my inclination to remain alone in my pain, too proud to admit I was distraught with worry. The Lord provided me a friend and prayer warrior who has walked this road before me and she was a great comfort.

I came away with a firmer grip on the truth. Even when I cannot see how God is working - even if my worst fears should come to pass - God is good and merciful and present in the situation, even though I cannot be there for the one I love so dearly.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe God demonstrates His power before all the nations not just in spectacular and miraculous events, but also through the individual lives of His servants. The fact that we do get up every morning and choose to trust God, even when our emotions run rampant and we feel unproductive and weak. Each step we take is a victory over the lies and discouragement of the enemy.

If you pile up all those little victories happening in the lives of millions of believers all over the world, it adds up to quite a demonstration of God’s mighty power. Through us all the nations will see the victory of our God. Our tenacious faith demonstrates His holy power.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Five: Victim or Victor?

 I am learning from experience that if I see myself as a helpless victim, powerless in my circumstances, fear and anxiety can take over. Life becomes unmanageable. However, Christ has already defeated the enemy and has come to be with us to equip us for every battle, one by one. They are just obstacles along the way. When fear closes in, trust in our ever-present God is the answer.

“See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”
Isa. 12:2, NLT

Last week our Sunday school lesson was on one of the benefits God intends for all His children – to enjoy His presence. We can’t enjoy His presence unless we first recognize that He literally is with us all the time. As the verse says, God has come to save us. He came in the person of Jesus Christ, and after His resurrection, He sent the person of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to come live in us. You can’t get any closer than that.  

His presence doesn’t mean we don’t face storms in this life, but knowing He’s there gives us courage to get through them. He will either calm the storm, or calm His child. Trust in Him quiets our spirit and gives us strength. And amazingly, a song springs from our lips. In the pleasure of His presence God gives us victory over two of our worst enemies - fear and doubt. Choosing faith, we sing, until the storm is over.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Four: Seek Counsel Before Going to War

The wise are mightier than the strong,
    and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger.
So don’t go to war without wise guidance;
    victory depends on having many advisers.
 Prov. 24:5-6, NLT
My parents are top on my list of advisors
My husband, full of wisdom and experience

Many wars throughout history could have ended differently if those in command had consulted wise counselors before heading into the fray. They might have reconsidered a few important factors:
  • Can we sustain this war as long as necessary?
  • Do our troops believe in what we’re doing?      
  • Can our weapons compete with the enemy’s
  • Are we prepared for the weather and terrain?    
  • Is this the right time to attack?    
  •  Is this the right place to attack?
We know for certain that good will be at war against evil until Jesus returns as King. But there are a lot of variables until then about when, where, and how we should fight. It can get a little confusing sometimes. That’s why God not only instructs us to seek His wisdom for each situation, but also the counsel of godly men and women. When we barrel ahead doing whatever we think is right, we can blunder into situations we’re not prepared to handle, or spend our energy unnecessarily, leaving us too exhausted to face the real threats. Believe me, I know from experience.
My sister and counselor
“Two heads are better than one” is true, but only if the other heads have more insight or perspective on the situation than you do. If all they know is what you know, then you’re basically just asking yourself what you want to do and agreeing with yourself about it. Better to choose someone who has more training and experience, more knowledge, an unbiased opinion. Look around for those who have nothing to gain from your decision; those whose greatest desire is to do God’s will, who exude the presence and fruit of the Holy Spirit.  
My sister and counselor

This applies when getting advice about marriage, parenting, addiction recovery, business, investments, friendship, and more. Many of the famous battle blunders throughout history have occurred because of pride. One or more commanders thought they knew how best to win the war and didn’t bother to ask anyone else for input. The results were tragic loss of life, wasted effort and resources, and prolonged war and suffering.

I have a couple “war efforts” on my doorstep right now that I’ve been praying about, but still have no clear direction about what God would have me do. These verses have been the reminder I needed that it’s time to look for godly counselors, prayer warriors, and those experienced in these fields. I am so thankful we do not have to live the Christian life alone; there is help available for those willing to seek it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Three: Suit Up for War

The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
Prov. 21:31, NLT

Do you ever feel like nothing you do makes a difference in the unseen spiritual war? The victory may belong to the Lord, but we have the essential job of getting our horses ready. What does that mean? I’m glad you asked.

In the Bible, horses represent strength, advantage, wealth, and pageantry. Foot soldiers wielding sticks are not very impressive, but an armored soldier riding horseback, with the banner of his king flowing behind as he rides, stops the opposition in its tracks.

We “prepare our horse” by putting on the armor of God from Ephesians chapter six. Why is it necessary? Two very good reasons (vs. 11-13):

·         so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes
·         so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand

            Verses 14-18 tell us what we need:

1.      The belt of truth holds everything together (vs. 14). If we don’t know the truth, we’ll lose more than just our pants in battle. We will “expose” ourselves to strange beliefs that leave us vulnerable to injury and death.
2.      The breastplate of righteousness (vs. 14) protects our heart. If we love anyone or anything more than God, our heart will be unprotected from the arrows of the enemy. God knows only our love for Him can shield us from destructive affections.
3.      Proper footgear is also important (vs. 15). We need to be ready to run – not away from battle, but to spread the Good News of peace. Those who surrender to God find release from servitude to a dark and cruel lord. God’s captives become children of His kingdom and heirs to the wealth of heaven. So we need to be ready to run with the news.
4.      The shield of faith (vs. 16) is what we use to put out the fiery arrows aimed at the gaps in our armor. Whether it’s intellect, unbridled emotion, physical strength, wealth, or skill we’re counting on, Satan knows every weakness. Only a steadfast faith in God can deflect these arrows and keep us from falling.
5.      The last piece of armor is the helmet of salvation (vs. 17). You can’t get very far without a head. A chicken may run around with its head cut off, but it doesn’t know what it’s doing and its destiny is the dinner table. We must decide in our mind whom we will serve. That’s why salvation is essential; without it we will mindlessly run in circles until the enemy cooks us up for dinner.

Did you notice that we get five pieces of armor for protection, but only two for fighting?  But what weapons! Our sword is the Word of God (vs. 17) and prayers led by the Spirit of God (vs. 18) work together to defeat the enemy, both for us and for others. Through them God can bring the victory.

So let’s suit up for battle and ride out with the Lord for victory today. He has given us everything we need to win.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Victory Day Thirty-Two: A Crown for the Humble

For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
Psa. 149:4, NLT

God’s way of looking at things certainly is a mind-bender. He says His thoughts are not like our thoughts, nor His ways like our ways. All you have to do is look around and know it’s true.

Think about the world of sports. All this posturing and talking smack is part of the game. You’ve got to rev up your teammates and intimidate the opposition. Not to mention stir up your own courage before going out on the field. Our war heroes are even more confident.

Before riding out to battle, the leader canters back and forth on his war horse waving the banner, or works the men in his army division into a we-can-do-this froth. He encourages the men to fight for their country and families. “We have them now,” he yells. “The enemy can’t defeat us!” If energy alone could win, they’ve got it in the bag.

Yet, God says that He grants victory to the humble. How backward is that? You mean the person who isn’t at all sure of his or her strength to resist temptation is the one who is going to win? The person who doesn’t think they know much is going to have godly wisdom? And the one who is weak and needy is going to be the one with spiritual strength and the riches of heaven? Yep.

Apostle Paul said that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in Christ. It is the admission that we can’t do this on our own that allows God’s power to work through us. When we admit we can’t defeat the enemy of our soul and the sins that drag us down; when we ask for His help, God is free to move, unhindered, in the situation. That’s when victory happens. When we get out of the way.

Then the most amazing thing of all happens - God gives us a crown to wear! A crown that says we’re children of the King, the ruler of all. Not because we have earned it, but just because that’s the way God likes to operate. He likes to reward those who look to Him for help.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Victory - Day Thirty-One: An Attitude of Gratitude

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.
 Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!
Psa. 118:14-15, 21, NLT

Every Thanksgiving, each person at our table receives three pieces of candy corn, commemorating the three day feast the pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared in 1621. The first year in North America, more than half of the colonists died of starvation and disease. Only 52 of the original 102 passengers of the Mayflower remained alive. If not for Massasoit and his people’s help teaching them what to plant, how to hunt and fish, and build solid homes, perhaps none would have survived.

They weren’t aware that they were celebrating the first Thanksgiving, but they were very thankful that God had supplied for their needs. They had endured spiritual persecution, the tumultuous passage by sea, and a year of deprivation. But they survived and their natural response was gratitude to God.

I love hearing what everyone says when we take turns saying one thing we’re thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, until all three candy corns are gone. No blessings can be repeated, but we have so many to choose from it’s not a problem!

This month, as we look forward to this day to gather, whether with biological family or friends nearby, there are many who just can’t wait to begin “going round the table.” Last night at small group, we each shared one thing we’re thankful for. Many are posting each day this month on Facebook. Others, through blogs, emails, and text messages are choosing to celebrate a season of gratitude all month long.

Why not? We too have endured storms, sickness, hardship, and loss, but God has brought us through. Many of us have received the help of friends – old and new – and learned important lessons along the way. We praise God who is behind every blessing.

God is our strength and our song. He has given us victory over financial loss, death, disappointments, and shattered dreams. We will sing songs of joy and praise. He has answered our prayers – maybe not the way we had hoped or expected, but He hears our cries for help. He sends His angels of protection to shield and guide us through the darkness. He gives His Spirit to comfort us as we grieve. He comes personally to be among us day by day. He has done glorious things! I will be thankful.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Victory - Day Thirty: Rest is Essential for Victory

But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.
He will be victorious.
Psa. 110:7, NLT

Apparently I think I’m some kind of superhero that can work every minute of the day and flawlessly accomplish super human feats. Then reality comes crashing down and it’s all too apparent how limited my powers are. Do I really think that highly of myself? No. It’s what happens when I ignore God’s command and Jesus’ example to take time out for refreshment.

Jesus was both fully God and fully human, so He got tired just like we do. Notice throughout the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that He regularly, purposefully took time out to refresh His body and spirit.
Since He was able to quote scripture fluently, Jesus obviously spent time reading and memorizing it. He also got away to fellowship with friends – the twelve disciples, the “inner three” Peter, James, and John. Plus He spent time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He also got away by himself to be with His Father, to pray and be encouraged. And He took time to eat and sleep to nourish and strengthen His body.

Eight days after announcing to His disciples that He would suffer death and be raised again, Jesus took the inner three on a mountain to pray. There God sent His buddies Moses and Elijah and they talked about all that was to come. It must have been nice to talk with His Father and these ancient believers who had true understanding of the divine plan (Luke 9).

How else could Jesus have had the strength and will to face the worst suffering ever known to man? It wasn’t just physical and emotional suffering He endured either, but the spiritual agony of bearing the sin of all mankind from beginning to end. And at that crucial point of betrayal and death, His own Father would have to turn away from the sin heaped on His only beloved Son.

Yet Jesus was victorious because, as Psalm 110 prophesied, He made time for refreshment along the way. How can we follow His example?    

·         Get away with God – to talk, to listen, to soak up His presence
*     Go to church regularly to worship with other believers
·         Spend time with close friends enjoying fellowship
·         Read the Bible to feed your heart and mind, encourage yourself, and share with others

What else refreshes you for times of intense temptation, sacrifice, and giving for the sake of others? Do you see a difference in the amount of victory you enjoy when you refresh yourself compared to when you don’t?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Victory - Day Twenty-Nine: Sing a New Song

Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds.
His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!
The Lord has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation!
He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel.
The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Psa. 98:1-3, NLT (emphasis mine)

My girls used to laugh at the ridiculous songs I came up with to entertain them. Some were motivational - to inspire them to clean up, get ready for school, come for snack, and or just to celebrate a happy moment. They often sounded suspiciously similar to the latest commercial jingle or Sunday school song, with new and “creative” lyrics to fit the occasion.

They especially remember the “entertainment” I provided on our boat in the middle of Detroit Lake while we waited for it to get dark enough for the fireworks show. The kids were getting restless and feeling cooped up, so I grabbed our friend Tyler’s stuffed Putty Tat and began a long and ridiculous rendition of “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue.” However, since those were the only real words I knew to the song, it morphed into descriptions of the kids, our long wait, what we could see in the semi-darkness, and the anticipated fireworks. They loved being the subject of Putty Tat’s impromptu performance.

Have you thought about how much our Father loves to hear each new generation’s new, original songs of love for Him? He treasures the old ones too, many of them classics, still as powerful and true today as when they were written. The psalms, hymns, and contemporary music throughout the centuries all bring joy to His heart. Yet we each need to praise God again in our own voice, in our own style, with a new song.

In fact, we’re encouraged to do that. It keeps the message fresh and alive and personal. His character and message do not change, but our experience of Him does. We relate to the fears and struggles expressed by past generations, as well as their praise for all God has done. But we need to express it too, thanking Him for personal victories, even if only for His ears.

God is more than worthy to receive all the praise we can give Him. He loves to hear our expressions of gratitude for the daily victories He brings our way. The world needs to hear our fresh stories too. Our faith is not a dry toast kind of existence, but alive and vibrant, active and ever-new.

So savor the old songs that remind you of God’s provision in the past, but add to them new songs about His work in your life today. Keep your praise fresh and as up to date as the newness of our Lord in every rising sun.