Jesus Has Overcome The World

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John 16:19 – 33

19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

25 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”

    

29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”

31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

                                

Three Powerful Statements

1.  Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”  (v. 24)

In the verse right before this statement, Jesus tells the disciples that they can “ask the Father directly”.  This was and still is such a profound statement.  Up until the time of Jesus, the practice of the Jews was to approach the priest and bring an animal sacrifice and have the priest intercede on behalf of the worshipper or petitioner before God.  And once a year, at the Day of Atonement, only the High Priest was allowed to enter in the Holy of Holies in the Temple to intercede before God on behalf of the people.  (Read Hebrews 9:1-8)

But now Jesus is telling the disciples that they could go directly to the Father to lay their requests directly as the feet of God, no longer needing to go through a human priest to reach God.  What an awesome promise this is.  And we read in Matthew 27:51-52, when Jesus died on the cross:

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.

Most curtains when they are torn, will tear from the bottom to the top.  But Jesus’ death opened the way between God and man through His death.  And God supernaturally reached down and tore the curtain in the Temple from the “top to the bottom” so all might know that they could now come in to the Most Holy Place and lay their petitions before the Father.  Hallelujah!!

    

2.  “From this we believe that you came from God.”  (v. 29)

Finally, after 3 1/2 years of teaching the disciples and showing His divine power through miracles, the disciples state their belief that Jesus came from God.  So what was it that caused them in this passage to make this statement?  Look carefully at the context of this chapter.  Jesus was trying to explain that he would die (“you won’t see me”) and then be raised to life again (“after that you will see me again”).  They did not understand this statement, but they were sure thinking a lot about what this must mean.

And it says, “Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it”.  From this, they realized that Jesus knew exactly what was on their hearts and minds.  It was as if he could read their very thoughts.  And from that, they knew for sure He was divine, for Scripture tells us that only God knows the thoughts and the hearts of men.  (Romans 8:27)  Does that frighten you?  Or does that comfort you, knowing that God is aware of your inner most thoughts, and thus is an intimate and caring God.

    

3.  “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (v. 33)

For three chapters now, Jesus has been telling His disciples what lay ahead for Him and for them.  Chapter 17 is His final prayer to the Father on behalf of His disciples.  Jesus predicted for them that people would hate Him and kill Him, and treat the disciples in like manner.  Jesus would go away for a while, and there would be great sadness and grief.  But then come His final words to His disciples, “Take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Even in the very face of death itself, Jesus is confident that He would be victorious.  And we know that three days after Jesus died, He did in fact rise again to prove that He was the Son of God, able to defeat Death itself, and give us the hope and promise that we who believe in Him will also one day be resurrected from the dead to join Him in Heaven as His people.  What a tremendous promise that is.  What hope and joy it gives to us who may be facing terribly dark days here on earth.  But have no fear, we too will overcome the forces of evil that are in this world.  We too will be overcomers.  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!!

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 5

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In the article two weeks ago, I mentioned that I struggled quite a bit during my first long-term period of being a missionary.  That was when I was serving with Teen Missions and my summer experience turned out to be 18 months in length as I kept extending my time with the mission group.  There were so many new issues to deal with, both cross-culturally and in the relationships I had with my fellow missionaries.

It is now coming up to 35 years for me of being involved in mission experiences, so I guess you could say that I am a “veteran” missionary.  I think I can say that I have grown quite a bit over the years and am able to handle the hard issues that a missionary faces on a regular basis.  And yet at the same time, there are some things that don’t change.  Life is still challenging on the mission field, the Enemy does not let up on his assault, and people can still be difficult to work with.

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I just recently shared with some of my colleagues that there are times when it is good to have a focused time of prayer and fasting.  This would be true when we seem to be facing difficulties that are physically and emotionally challenging, but also when we sense that there is spiritual opposition and/or oppression that is coming against us.

I reminded the group that fasting was a spiritual discipline that was regularly practiced by God’s people throughout the Old Testament period and has continued up until today.  As you might already know, Jesus Himself did not say, “If you fast…” but rather “When you fast….”  One of my translator resources said that “the three primary expressions of piety [for Jews] were charity, prayer and fasting.” (Translator’s Handbook on Matthew for Mt. 6:16-18)

Fasting is normally considered to be a voluntary abstinence from food for the purpose of dedicating one’s self to a time of prayer and drawing close to God.  I certainly recommend this practice as a way to face the difficulties of life and the attacks of the enemy.  James 4:7-8 aptly ties two important spiritual truths together: when we resist the Devil, he will flee from us, and when we draw close to God, He will draw close to us.

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We are encouraged in Scripture to have faith in God, to worship Him and be a praying people when we face difficult times.  James 5:13-15 mentions all of these things as a means to deal with sicknesses that can hit us and sins that we may have committed.  We are also encouraged in Scripture to do battle with our spiritual enemy, the Devil.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to understand that many battles we face in life may be spiritual in nature and must be dealt with spiritually.

There are so many more verses that could be mentioned in this whole topic of learning how to stand strong and do battle against the forces that hit us and wear us down.  We must always be ready in our prayers to fight against sickness that disables us, sin that entangles us, and Satan who want to destroy us and our faith in God.

All of this is true, but we must not keep our attention focused solely on the negative side of this great battle that we are in.  If we were to only think about the challenges and difficulties that we face when sickness, sin or Satan come at us, then we probably would end up feeling spiritually fatigued all the time.  I believe that we must also have our focus centered in on the positive side of the victory that is provided for us in Christ.

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When we face great difficulties (whether physically, spiritually or emotionally), we need to pray like Elisha did for his servant when the vast armies of Aram were totally surrounding the city they were in.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see the “REAL” reality of the battle.  God heard that prayer and suddenly the servant saw the vast army of God’s angels who would win the battle for them.

We also need to have our minds opened and attuned to God’s way of thinking.  Romans 12:2 says that we must no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world.  That means that when it is natural to worry, to be afraid, to seek for power, wealth or fame, we are acting in a worldly way.  Instead, the verse says that we can be transformed people when we have our minds renewed by God, and then we will see and understand how good God’s will and God’s ways are and we will be able to follow in that path.

The third part of our selves that we need to focus in on to have a victorious life is to open up our hearts to the full measure of the love of God.  Read Ephesians 3:16-19.  Paul is praying that we all might come to understand just how broad, deep and wide the love of God is for us.  And when we do immerse ourselves into His love, accepting all that the Father has done for us and will do for us out of that love, then Scripture says that our inner being, our heart and soul, will be strengthen by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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So what am I saying in all of this?  I do understand that all of us will face difficult periods in our lives due to the effects of sickness, sin in the world, and the attacks of Satan against us.  But we must not keep our attention focused in on just these problems.  We need to open up our eyes, our mind and our hearts, not physically, but spiritually, to see the victory that God through Christ has obtained for us.  And then we need to walk in the power of that victory as a transformed person, able to overcome these discouragements by our faith.

Sunset Cross

Pursue Your Dreams For God

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Keep Your Dreams Alive – Part 2

“Right now, you must understand that the distance between you and the fulfillment of your dream can grow a little smaller every day if you keep taking steps in the right direction.  You may not be able to take big steps.  Indeed, the hard road you’re traveling may make even the smallest steps very difficult.  But if even a little progress can be made, make it.”  (pg. 154 from “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry)

In Part 1 of this two-part article, I shared some details about the struggles and disappointments each of us within my family has had in these past three years to experience the fulfillment of our personal dreams and hopes in life.  At the conclusion of this article I have some good news.  But I would guess that some of you who are reading this are still walking along on a dark and difficult road and are not seeing your dreams fulfilled.  I believe that Atteberry has some good advice for all of us.  He offers three suggestions as to how we can keep our dreams alive.

1  Keep Talking About Your Dream

I believe that God is our Creator.  He created each one of us to be uniquely different.  Just look around and you will know that this is true.  The Psalmist says that God knew us and was uniquely forming us from the time of our conception in our mother’s womb.  (Psalm 139:13)  And part of this unique individuality He created involves our personality, our interests, our desires, our hopes and our dreams.  These are all a part of what makes us who we are.

Accepting that as a given, we should also accept that we would naturally want to speak out about these interests and dreams that we have to other people.  In fact, I believe that when a person truly discovers what dreams they have for life, they will feel so passionate about these dreams that they won’t be able to contain them and keep them secret. but will constantly be telling others about what they hope to accomplish in life.

And that is as it should be.  Sometimes we may not clearly know how to fulfill these dreams, but just by talking to others will help us to clarify the dreams and what steps we need to take to accomplish them.  And don’t worry about negative or pessimistic people who for whatever reason are constantly shooting our ideas and dreams down.  There will always be people like this around.  Even if you are not seeing the realization of your dreams now, as Atteberry says, just talking about your dreams will help keep them alive.

2.  Keep Praying About Your Dreams

Not only should we be talking to others about our dreams, but we need to constantly be talking with God about our hopes and aspirations in life.  Notice how I said we need to talk “with God”, not “to God”.  Too often we make our plans and goals in life and then we ask God to bless all that we do.  But in Proverbs 16:9 it says, “man plans his steps, but the Lord directs his path.”  When we pray, it is important to talk over our hopes and plans with God, but it is even more important to be listening to the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit.

When life is difficult though, and things don’t seem to be turning out like we had always dreamt and hoped they would, Atteberry advises us to pray to God in two very specific ways.  First, as we go through a difficult period, he advises us to pray and ask God for strength to endure the hardships we are experiencing.  And secondly, he tells us to ask God to still bless our dreams and make them a reality.  What is amazing is the fact that God does want to bless us and give us these good things.  And more often than not, as Scripture says, we have not because we ask not.  (James 4:2)

3.  Keep Moving Toward Your Dream.

Now after all this good advice, there remains just one more thing to do: find out what you can do, even little things, and go out and keep pursuing your dreams.  You may feel like it is hopeless, or that it will take forever to get to where you want.  But remember the famous saying of, “How do you conquer the mountain?” Answer: “One step at a time.

In a previous article I share how my one son waited and pursued after his desire to be in the Army.  It seemed like every time he talked with the recruitment office they told him to fill out another application, or some new form.  He could have given up.  But he dutifully filled out each form.  And he called back once or twice every week for a few months.  And guess where he is now?  After a two-year waiting period, right now he is in Quebec just about to finish the first month of his Army Boot Camp training.

For me too it has been a long, slow process to get to where I am now today.  Three years ago, I thought my missionary career was over when the full force of my muscle disease hit me.  But in time, by some trial and error of different medications, and by continually adjusting my environment around me to make me comfortable, it has become possible for me to continue doing my Bible translation work.

And so what about you?  What obstacles are standing in your way.  Jesus said metaphorically that even with tiny mustard seed faith we can conquer mountains that stand in our way.  You have to believe first that your dreams and aspirations have come from God.  Then believe that He can empower you to get to your goal.  And then finally, we all just need to take a step forward and start walking towards our dreams.