Sunday, August 18, 2019

Overcome Part 6 - Rest

Hello everyone,

I’m not sure if any of you enjoy camping?  One year, when our children were quite young, we decided to go camping.  Now if you know anything about my husband, you’ll know he lives by the slogan, “Go big, or go home!”.   There is never any small measure in his scope for anything in life.  I’ve come to realise over the years that one of the reasons God paired us together was to keep me right out of my comfort zone, and stretch me beyond my own limitations.  And what an adventure it has proven to be!  

Having said that, the camping trip we were about to embark on was no ordinary one.  We were going to load up and go up Africa!  Let me tell you the planning and plotting and preparation for this trip was extensive to say the least. Road maps, border crossing requirements, survival paraphernalia, medical supplies, malaria medication, shots against yellow fever and other strange diseases, the list of necessary preparation goes on...

We’ve been taking a close look at the advice James gives us concerning the correct  preparation needed for facing any trial or difficulty we may face in life.  Now just like preparing for our trip up Africa, there are always things we must be sure to do that will help us and prove invaluable during our spiritual journey in this life.  

Things like spending time in the Word and continuously fellowshipping with the Lord.  Things like learning how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly, so we can follow His lead, and walk in His ways.  When we gear ourselves up in these foundational principles of faith, we really do become equipped to face every day life victoriously.

This way, when unforeseen circumstances and challenges come our way, we already have something solid and substantial at to draw from to receive the extra strength we need to overcome.

On our journey through some pretty remote places in Africa, we faced having to navigate through very difficult terrain.  At times it was late at night and the road was almost non existent.  Because we had good spotlights and the correct off-road tyres, we were able to move slowly but safely along dangerous rock faces, and giant, gaping holes where the road used to be.

And when we found there was no fuel available on route, we could draw from the reserves we had brought along with us, to keep us going to our destination. Fresh water was often scarce, but our spare containers of clean, drinking water kept us hydrated and healthy, until we could find a suitable source to replenish them.

In James 1:4 it says we are to, “...let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  In the previous letter we learnt that patience is one of the many qualities of the Holy Spirit that goes to work inside us, as we fill ourselves with the truth of God’s Word.  When these qualities work in our lives they bring us to a place where we are spiritually strong, and our faith in God and His Word is unconquerable - so we are able to push forward into victory, no matter the circumstance.

Now, when we encountered those dangerous challenges up Africa, no matter how well we were prepared for each challenge, if we didn’t have the quiet confidence, knowing we would get through each ordeal if we trusted our equipment and acted wisely, and calmly, it would end up disastrously, in spite of our efforts to prepare.

Just the same, no matter how much Word you have stored up in your heart, or how much time you’ve spent praying, unless you know how to enter the place of quiet confidence, faith will not work. 

You can learn how to calmly and peacefully trust the Lord and His Word in your heart, so that all your spiritual preparation will be effective and help you in the time of crisis.

That place of quiet confidence is called rest.  And it’s here that patience and all the other powerful qualities of the Holy Spirit go to work for you, and carry you through whatever storm you are facing.  But while your mind is overwhelmed with panic, or worry and fear, the Word, and these qualities are powerless to go to work for you.

So how do we enter this place of rest, where God’s Word and powerful qualities are able to actively go to work for us?

Look at what Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

Jesus tells us the first requirement to enter into the place of rest, is to come to Him.  In the book of Hebrews we are told to approach the throne room of God confidently, with boldness, knowing that we are welcome and cherished and will not be disappointed for doing so. (Hebrews 4:16).

That’s because this place of rest is where we make an exchange - we cast all our cares and concerns at His feet and receive Him!  Jesus says that He will cause us to rest.  The person of Jesus, through His Holy Spirit is the One Who becomes our rest.  He eases, relieves, and refreshes our souls!

Now the definition for the word rest here, is to be fortified with peace, having soul harmony with God, being fully confident to trust Him and His love for you, knowing full well that He will do exactly what He has promised you.

If you remember, we’ve already learnt that our soul is the area of the mind.  It’s our intellect, the place we reason from.  It’s also our emotions and our free will.  When our souls - our thoughts, emotions and will, are in harmony with God’s thoughts, emotions, and will - peace reigns, and the result will always be life! (Romans 8:6).

Another way to understand rest is to understand what it’s not. Any anxious, fearful, or dread filled thoughts are the exact opposite of rest.  As a born-again child of God, these kind of thoughts are to have no place in our minds, because they will always produce death.

So how do we enter this place of rest?

Well, in Matthew 11:29 Jesus said, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls….”

In Rick Renner’s study on this particular scripture, we find the word yoke describes the wooden yoke that joined two animals together so they could combine their strength to pull a load that generally would have been too difficult for one animal to pull by itself. This yoke made the team inseparable.  As a result, they were stronger, and their combined strength made their task easier.

When Jesus says we must take His yoke upon us, He is telling us that to enter this place of rest, is something we do deliberately.  We choose to enter into a living partnership with Him, where we choose to keep our thoughts, and perspectives in sink with His.  We refuse to be swayed and distracted by worry or fear, or unbelief, by keeping Him and His thoughts in the forefront of our souls - continuously.

Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves],...”

Labouring to enter our rest doesn’t involve our struggling to earn our way into it through our own human efforts.  Jesus has already earned you the right by the finished work of the cross.  Our part is easy, it involves us putting effort into our relationship with God, and keeping our thoughts in line with His Own.

When Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you...”, He is implying that we must deliberately step into the harness with Him, so He can help us pull the plow. 

Becoming “yoked” to Jesus is a determined choice to know Him more and include Him in every area of our lives, it’s not something that occurs accidentally.  

Which brings us back to our chief portion of scripture for our series on Overcome, in the book of James.  

The moment you find yourself in a tight spot, where you know the only way to overcome is through Devine intervention, it’s time to make a conscious decision to get right along side the Lord and draw from Him.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.”

The key word in this scripture is ask. In the original Greek translation, this word means to come close and alongside someone, expecting to receive.  More than anything, we serve a God Who earnestly desires to be the One we choose to come close to, and draw alongside, to receive His wisdom, protection, comfort and help.  He doesn’t want a mechanical relationship where we just learn to recite a bunch of scriptures and throw them around.  

He wants us to find our trust and peace in drawing close to Him first, and then the investment we made by meditating on His Word becomes active and powerful.  That’s because as we draw near to Him, His Holy Spirit reminds us of the exact scripture we need for our comfort and peace.  He also reminds us of the scriptures we can use as a weapon against the devil and his attempt to hurt us.  And all of this is done in the safety of us being in the shadow of His wings.  

James says when we approach God like this, we will find He is openhanded - giving His wisdom liberally, without finding reproach.  That’s what it is to be in this place of rest!

But if we don’t first enter in, our minds will be distracted and become double-minded.  Struggling between trust and fear.  James warns us that this kind of mindset will never do us any good.  

Look at what he says in James 1:6-8, “Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind.
For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord,
[For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].”

So, to summarise this powerful series on how to overcome, we must understand that our inner strength, peace, and victory comes from our decision to deliberately enter our place of rest.  This is where we surrender all our concerns to the Lord and confidently draw from His wisdom and power through drawing close and remaining vitally connected to Him.  This is where our thoughts come into harmony with His, and instead of our emotions being influenced by worry, fear and dread - they are filled with an undeniable peace and unsinkable joy!  

I want to end this series with a promise from Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.”  This is how we overcome!

All my love,

Jenny






Sunday, August 11, 2019

Overcome Part 5 - Let Patience do its Work

Hello everyone,

In our series, Overcome, we’ve discovered how the spiritual force of joy is released in our lives when we make a deliberate decision to keep our minds focused on what the Word says our outcome will be.

According to James 1:3, facing trials this way will produce the excellent qualities of endurance, steadfastness, and patience.  Today, I want to show you just how powerful the spiritual force of patience is!  

Apparently, in the early church times, patience was known as the “Queen of all virtues” amongst believers.  That’s because they were often faced with the most horrific persecution for their faith.  Being burned alive, hunted down, badly beaten, and thrown to the lions for public entertainment is far more than any human can think to endure.  

Yet, these believers, when faced with this kind of stress and pressure, had come to understand how to shift their minds onto the truth of Who their God was, and His promises concerning them.  Their faith, even in the face of death, proved to be so strong, that the peace and joy of the Lord was more real to them than any horror they had to endure.  

We may never have to face the dangers and trials they had to face, but the principle rings true for us, just as much as it did for them.  When we keep our eyes focused on the Lord and His promise to never leave us, but instead, produce extremely powerful qualities in us, while our faith is being tested - the spiritual force of patience goes to work.

Patience is a force that undergirds our faith and holds us strong under the heaviest of loads.  It resolves to never lose hope or sight of God’s Word and it refuses to be moved on what it believes to be true.

James 1:4 says we are to, “...let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Patience goes to work to undergird our faith when we choose to keep our focus on God’s Word no matter what. It’s rock solid and anchors us securely in our faith.  

So let’s recap, and summaries what we’ve learnt about James’s strategy to overcome:

Even before trouble comes, we must choose to have an attitude of joy.  What are we joyful about?  We are joyful because we understand and are completely convinced that whatever we go through is never going to be greater than our God (Who is on us), or our faith in His Word.  We are also joyful because we are convinced that our faith will be tested, and proven; and we are going to come through as those who powerfully overcome!  

With this predetermined resolve, patience is released to do her work in us.  Patience rises from our spirits and begins its work from the top - in our thoughts, and works it’s way right down throughout our beings.  It pulls on that spiritual force of joy, and together they divinely energise us - spirit, soul, and body, infusing us with powerful, inner strength.  

This is where God joins Himself with us, working His supernatural power in us.  A power that produces exactly what James 1:4 says, “...that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Now, with this kind of power going on inside us, we are finally able to enter that place of peace and rest.  Where we are in soul harmony with God, and are ready to hear His voice, and see His perspective on whatever we are facing.

Paul knew all about this place of rest in the toughest of circumstances, Jesus did too, and both men, by the power of the Spirit working in them, were able to victoriously overcome all they were faced with.

When James said that patience would make us perfect, he was saying that at the end of the trial, we would not be found broken, or unhinged, but rather, our character would be fully intact.  Because we had refused to give up believing in the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the dependency of His Word, we would finally attain what we were promised.

The word complete speaks about a stage of spiritual maturity and muscle, or staying power.  Where we are able to endure anything because we we posses every part of our inheritance in Christ.  What is that inheritance?  It’s the kingdom of God in us. Where we have a personal revelation of what it is to be the righteousness of God, to stand for what is right, pure and true without compromise, when it’s extremely unpopular to do so.  It’s when we personally experience His peace that passes all understanding, when there is chaos and turmoil all around us.  And it’s where we have learnt how to experience His unsinkable, unquenchable joy, that infuses us with powerful inner strength to endure until the end.

Lastly, Paul says that patience will cause us to lack, or want nothing.  We will know no deficiency of any kind, because we have learnt how to enter that place of rest, where the Lord is our portion.  Where we are not moved because His Word has the final say, and our faith is mature and strong enough to believe Him for every need.

In the next letter, we’re going to learn how we can practically enter that place of rest to be in soul harmony with God.  Where patience does its best work in us, so we can be perfect, complete, and lacking nothing.  

Until then, determine to keep your eyes focused on the Lord and His promise to never leave you. You can trust Him to produce extremely powerful qualities in you, while your faith is being tested.  So hold on, keep your head up and let patience go to work.

All my love,


Jenny

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Overcome Part 4 - See Your Outcome


Hello everyone,

From the previous letters, we’ve come to understand the powerful spiritual force of joy, and its ability to cause us to overcome the difficulties we face in life.  Today we’re going to look at how our attitude to God’s Word activates this spiritual force and releases it to go to work in our lives.

In the book of James, we are told to consider it joy when going through our trials.  In other words, we are supposed to have a predetermined resolve to have an attitude of joy even before trouble comes.  Then, we are to maintain that choice of attitude through the storm, until we are carried on to victory !

Thankfully, James tells us how we can actually do this in the very next verse.  Let’s see what he says in James 1:3, “Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith brings out endurance and steadfastness and patience.”

James explains that if we find ourselves fallen, head first into trouble that has us surrounded on every side with trials too difficult to bear alone, there is a sure hope!  In spite of how difficult or hopeless it may seem, if you are a child of God - there is more than just light at the end of the tunnel - there’s a glorious victory waiting for you!  

If you just do things God’s way, you will find this trial will test and prove your faith to be more than equal to the opposition piled up against you, and this journey will produce qualities in you that you never even dreamed possible. Qualities that cause you to stand strong and true and undefeated no matter what comes against you. James calls those qualities endurance, steadfastness, and patience.

Now, James begins verse 3 by telling us to be assured and understand that if you don’t give in to fear, but hold onto your trust in the Lord and His Word, these qualities will most certainly be established inside you. In other words, the truth that your trial will not defeat you, but rather improve you, is what you have to keep in the forefront of your mind at all times!  

This means we must make a deliberate decision to shift our thoughts off the reality of our troubles and to a place where we know, understand and are completely assured that we will come through on top!

No matter how bad things seem, if we hold on to what God’s Word says, we will walk right out of the trial far stronger, wiser, and taller than we were before we entered into it.

Keeping our minds focused on that truth alone, will cause that joy to begin to rise up inside our spirits.  James is telling us that we can either see what we are going through as an opportunity to have our faith proven, and our lives improved with His excellent qualities developed in us; or we can see it as a time to become fearful, to give up, and to fail.  It just depends on what outcome we decide to keep our minds fixed on.

Next week, I’m going to talk about those excellent qualities being formed in us, and how they work together to see us overcome victoriously.

Until then, practice keeping your mind focused on what the Word of God says your outcome will be, instead of what those worrisome, fearful thoughts are shouting.  

You’ll be amazed at how you can train your mind to become fixed on the truth.  It will release that strong, inner joy from your spirit, and infuse you with great inner strength.  

All my love,

Jenny


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Overcome Part 3 - The Force of Joy!

Hello everyone,

We’ve been learning how to overcome those tough times, where we feel like we’re surrounded by problems that threaten to steal our peace, and bring trouble into our lives.  

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are pressed in on every side, and are battling to stand your ground in faith and keep your peace, this message is for you.  There is a strong and dependable power you can tap into that will not just strengthen you; but safely and surely carry you right out of your struggle and into victory!

I’ve mentioned before how Jesus warned us of difficult, stressful, and frustrating situations that we are bound to face in this life. Most importantly is that He also promised that if we stay vitally connected to Him, we would be well able to overcome each one.  

Let’s take a look at His Words in John 16:33 (AMPC), “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Now look at what Philippians 4:13 says, “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].”

The power to overcome any difficulty or trouble in this life has everything to do with our inseparable connection with the Person Who has already overcome all.  When we learn how to tap into the life and peace we have in intimately knowing Jesus, and draw from His endless reservoir of life, we will be able to overcome, just as He has.   

The book of James gives us clear practical wisdom on how we can draw from that supernatural power and inner strength of the Holy Ghost, Who lives inside us to do just that.

Recently, I spent time studying James 1:2-6, and with the help of my Sparkling Gems from the Greek, by Greek scholar Rick Renner, I found truth that will practically teach us how to tap into our Source of life and peace, and depend on Him to lead and even carry us out of our mess, and into victory.

Let’s begin with James 1:2 that says, “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.”

This statement is quite laughable really.  Who in their right mind would consider the trouble and distress they are trapped in as wholly joyful?  Well  the truth is, this very statement holds the key to unlocking the door that leads us right out of trouble and into victory.

Did you know that when James instructed us to be joyful, it wasn’t a casual statement?  In fact, he made a very deliberate choice of words here.  Being  joyful in the heat of crises is more powerful than we might realise.  What’s more, being joyful is not something that just spontaneously happens, it’s a deliberate, intentional choice we have to make.  But oh my,      the results of choosing joy - are so worth our while!

Today I want to tell you about the carrying power of joy.  When I say joy, I mean real joy, that is a divine force given by the Spirit of God, that rises up strong from inside your spirit.  A great way to understand the durable, sustaining force and power of joy is to compare it to happiness.  

Scientifically speaking, happiness is a wonderful emotion that releases healthy hormones called endorphins in our bodies. These endorphins enable our immune systems to fight off disease and maintain a general good sense of well being.  

I heard Rick Renner use this example in one of his teaching videos, and I loved the vivid picture it planted in my mind.  

Imagine a pebble being thrown into a lake of calm water.  As it hits the water it immediately sends out ripples that begin strong and obvious, then spread out quickly, and become less and weaker as they travel out.  

Happiness is similar to that pebble.  It’s an emotion that sends out good ‘shockwaves’ inside us, positivity charging and affecting our well being.  It‘s also quite contagious and tends to ‘rub off’ and positively affect those around us too.  

However, on the downside, this emotion is rather fleeting, because it’s dependant on circumstance.  When things are going well for us, or we hear good news, or a good report, we feel really happy.  Then the moment our circumstances change for the worse, that happiness disappears as quickly as it appeared.

Now joy, on the other hand, is entirely different.  Instead of it being something that suddenly comes on the tail of a favourable circumstance, joy is a character, or quality of the Spirit of God Who lives inside us.  It’s nature is eternal.  It doesn’t come and go, it’s always there, waiting for us to draw from it and depend on it. 

Unlike happiness that sends out ripples on the surface of the water, joy acts as a powerful current beneath the surface of a raging river.  Even without physically seeing this current, it’s very real, and constant. The force of this Godly emotion has the power to carry us through any ordeal,  into victory.

The joy that comes up from the Spirit of God inside your spirit literally is your strength to overcome.

Joy is unaffected by outward circumstances and usually thrives best when times are tough. I love this description I read the best, “Joy is God’s supernatural response to the devil’s attacks!”.

Now we can see an example of how this spiritual force worked for the believers in First Thessalonians 1:6.  When we take a good close look at it, we’ll find a clue that leads us to activating this joy in our lives to the point where it becomes more than just a light nudge, but a mighty flow!

1 Thessalonians 1:6, And you [set yourselves to] become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit;”.

Besides confirming that this joy comes from and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul indicates that it was activated during times of persecution, which were tremendously stressful and dangerous times for the believers.  He also gives a hint of one of the end results, or benefits of joy working inside the believers, saying they were set up to become imitators of Paul and Christ.  In other words, when joy had done its active work in them, it had produced in them the same quality and maturity of those who overcome.  

So let’s do a quick summary of what we’ve learnt so far about the spiritual force of joy.

  1. Joy is a character or the Holy Spirit that resides in every believer, giving it an eternal, divine nature.
  2. Joy is especially active under times of pressure, where it thrives.
  3. Joy is able to rise up strong inside a believer and carry them through their trial to victory.
  4. One of the benefits, or end results of joy is the overcoming, character of Christ formed within us.

The clue to how we can activate this joy is found when Paul tells the believers they had welcomed the message, in spite of the persecution.  Joy comes when we willingly embrace the truth of God’s Word, in the midst of our trouble.

That’s where we are going to start off next week.  Understanding how our attitude towards God’s Word causes joy to rise up as a strong, and unstoppable force of strength to overcome in life!  

Much love,


Jenny

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Overcome Part 2 - Prayer and Praise

Hello everyone,

There is always something hopeful about starting fresh isn't there?  It just seems to give us a new perspective on things.  Like shaking off the dust, or turning a new leaf, or cleaning the slate. Either way, a new week, or day, or moment, means a new beginning. Sometimes, that's exactly what we need to overcome what lies behind us, as well as what lies ahead.

In last week’s letter, we spoke about the profound perspective Paul and Silas had adopted to overcome the terrible situation they found themselves in.  They chose to shake off the issue of the injustice done, and instead, dwell on something entirely different.  There perspective of choice was the good, and merciful character of their God - and the results were staggering!

Paul and Silas chose to  PRAY and PRAISE.  Now that’s a pretty good pattern to follow. Regardless of whether our trouble or conflicting circumstance is self inflicted or not, the fact that we are willing to take on a new perspective of prayer and praise is the very best place to begin.  

Let’s first look at the perspective of PRAYER. Essentially, prayer involves us surrendering everything to God, and seeking out His wisdom and mercy.  That includes laying any issue down before Him, expecting to receive His wisdom concerning it.  It may even involve repenting of any self-induced mistakes.  As long as there is a will to surrender, and a will to listen and obey - a new beginning is in site!   And when we choose God’s wisdom over our own lack of it, everything changes, bringing fresh, new hope in its wake.  

God's Spirit and His Word will always provide the wisdom we need to overcome any situation, every time. But sometimes, before we can hear or see it clearly, we need to wipe away the clouds of despair and worry that cause us to become easily overwhelmed.

That's where PRAISE comes in! Deciding to place our focus on Who the Lord Jesus is, and not on our own brokenness or inadequacy is what empowers us to have an overcoming attitude where we don’t feel overcome by our circumstances. We can choose to get caught up in the glorious hope we have in the person of Jesus Christ as we praise Him from the depths of our hearts, in spite of the trouble or circumstances that surround us.

So what really happens when we praise?  Since the presence of God inhabits our praises, our choosing to glorify Him, brings His glory and power straight into the heart of our circumstance.  God's power on the job, will overpower every fearful thought and supernaturally turn our 'mourning' of the situation into dancing.  It will even destroy the enemy’s power over the situation, making whatever was purposed for our downfall an opportunity to see the glory of God in action.  

So, our praise supercharges us with the power, faith and hope we need to have an overcoming attitude when we pray. It clears away the clouds of doubt and confusion as it silences the enemy, and allows us to hear God and clearly see His perspective. Instead of the flesh having the upper hand, our spirit man is now dominating the battleground.

A person who has surrendered to the Lord with a heart full of praise, becomes a magnet to the goodness and favour of God!  Even goodness and mercy follow him around wherever he goes!   Like an earthquake in the middle of the night, where God’s Presence shook the very foundation of what was intended for Paul and Silas’s demise - God’s Presence that rises from your praise will shake the foundation of what the enemy planned for your despair. 

Now that's what I call a victorious ending!  It all begins with a decision to start fresh - with a new perspective of PRAYER and PRAISE.  We may never have to face the kind of life threatening ordeals Paul and Silas had to face, but their testimony gives us the kind of practical wisdom we need to face every challenge the right way.   

Next week I want to share some practical wisdom James talks about, where we can walking out of the devil’s trap into victory!  It will be well worth your time, teaching you how to remain in a place of overcoming victory, instead of being overcome.

Love you dearly,


Jenny