Where am I looking?

It’s easy to look to the things we see or the people we know to be our source of assurance. People are created to have hope. We cling to whatever we can in desperate moments. We seek all our lives to find the things that bring us comfort and confidence in our present circumstances. Be it a person, a place, a thing, a status, a relationship, or even an accomplishment, everyone hopes in something or someone.

There’s always needs arising for people to find hope. At any given moment in history there have been wars, famines, pandemics, economic turmoil, slavery, and the threat of evil ideologies and the effects they have on human life. They may not always look exactly the same but our world is always in need of hope.

God’s people are supposed to be known for finding their hope in one source alone-God. The Bible is full of stories where that did not happen. Look at any believers life and you will see moments when that did not happen. None of us are immune from the plagues of self-reliance and materialism. In my reading this morning I came across one such story. It’s in the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is rebuking the nation for trusting in Egypt rather than God for their security. In chapter 29, God promises to bring down Israel’s neighboring powerhouse so that they will no longer have them as a weak crutch to lean on.

“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’ ”” Ezekiel‬ ‭29:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God takes seriously His people’s tendency to misplace their trust and hope. Jesus rebuked those who trusted in anything other than God…like those who trust in money (Matthew 6:19-21), in religious heritage (Matthew 3:9), or in their religious ‘goodness’ (Mark 13:1-2). Confidence in anyone or anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness is an issue of misplaced loyalties. Like the Israelites of old, we have to safeguard our hearts from wandering the path of false security.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Self-defeated

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*Image from Generationchurch

There exists a conflict that runs the length of the Bible. I’m not talking about the wars to take back the promised land or even to defend it from the Assyrians or Babylonians. Neither am I referring to the struggles to throw off the oppressors in the book of Judges. Nor am I speaking about the war to end all wars in the book of Revelation.  I am talking about the one that began within the very first humans and continued in every human after. The conflict is with ourselves.

I will be right up in the front of the line with those arguing in support of spiritual warfare. It’s all over the pages of the Bible and all through the years of everyone’s story. However, where I tend to veer off is when I hear people passing along what I consider too much blame.  Let’s be clear, the devil doesn’t make us do anything. The buck stops with us. We make the choices that steer our lives, for good or for ill. We choose whether or not to sin. We choose to believe lies or seek the truth. We choose whether or not to get educated on why we believe the things we do. We choose to hate or to love. We choose to forgive or to hold on to offenses. We choose how to let the things that happen to us mold us. There are rare occasions where people can be possessed. Jesus set several people free from demons during His time among us. But that does not translate to the vast majority of our stories.

The good news is, all of us can have victory over ourselves. What I  mean by that is, our natures can change. How we view our existence can all be commonly viewed through the same lens. Our experiences do not dictate our place in this world nor our value. Our origins (being made in God’s image), our purpose (to be with and love God forever), and one extreme act of love (Jesus giving His life for us) can change everything for you and me.

When Jesus was addressing the churches in the book of Revelation he made a statement to each one about how to have victory. Not all of the churches were following Him as they should. Just like not all of us are following Him as we should. But He left that beacon of hope for every single one of us.

Jesus said, “To him who conquers…

  1. I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7 (ESV)
  2. will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:11 (ESV)
  3. I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev 2:17 (ESV)
  4. I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26 (ESV)
  5. will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Rev 3:5 (ESV)
  6. I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:12 (ESV)
  7. I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21 (ESV)

What are we conquering exactly? We’re conquering the enemy (the satan) by not listening to his lies or modeling his character. We’re conquering life’s circumstances by not letting them dictate our own view of ourselves. We’re conquering the world by choosing a higher path and not conforming to the patterns of godlessness celebrated in the world. We’re conquering persecution and trials by enduring till the end. And we’re conquering sin by not choosing it and repenting in the times we fail. This sounds like a heavy load and tremendous responsibility. But it comes with an incredible series of promises to all those who give their lives over to Christ. The even greater news is, we’re not alone in this endeavor. As Paul tells us in Romans, our life circumstances cannot separate us from the Love of Christ. The times we fail to glorify Him don’t even separate us. When we choose Him, we are His. We can rejoice in that security and the strength that Christ gives us to be conquerors in His name.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)

On our own, we will be self-defeated. But through Him, we are more than conquerors! rejoice, believer, and go and live in that freedom.