I Have Overcome the World

    Brooke is the wife of Rev. Charlie Holt. She is a personal life coach, public speaker and inspirational person. She is the owner of Cross Train, LLC. and is a certified Take Shape for Life health coach. She is the founder of the Abundant Life Dinner Series at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

    John 16:33

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    This morning I was talking to a favorite friend of mine. We enjoyed light talk then moved into the realities of a chaotic and challenging summer.

    I loved her question: “Don’t you just want to take a break from growing, a break from being transformed?”

    “Yes!” I answered, “I love breaks and I do believe God gives us those. However, I want abundant life even more than the break.”

    This is what I have come to understand. The world showcases the glamorous lives of the rich and famous through movies, TV and tabloids. Facebook or “Fakebook”, as my friend refers to it, portrays problem-free life. What the movies, TV, tabloids and Facebook do not properly portray is what is underneath all the glamour shots. With a close up view, there are things that even facades and make up cannot hide.

    Struggle and Pain. Most of the time our lives have some element of struggle and pain. Yes, we can hide it behind facades, make up, busy schedules, exercise addictions, eating disorders, alcohol and anything else used to escape the reality of life. Nevertheless, underneath all the addictions and facades lay the same things — struggle and pain. It is the truth that we desperately don’t want to hear.

    Look at the life of Jesus. He shared many wonderful, joy-filled moments with his people. There was also struggle and pain. Jesus experienced much rejection, being misunderstood, anger at those who did not understand his Father, mistrust of his own family, abandonment by his closest friends, then a trip to Calvary and an agonizing death on the cross.

    Jesus understands struggle and pain. He did not die to guarantee you a pain-free life. He died to guarantee you a resurrected life. The struggle and pain in our lives are agents of change, agents to take us deeper into that resurrected life. They can be the means to our healing and freedom.

    Here is the question: are you willing to trust God with your struggle and pain? Are you willing to allow Him to take you deeper into His heart, His plan, His way? If so, you have to embrace the struggle and pain and allow God to convict, heal and set free. This is our cooperative work in transformation. Like Jesus, we can overcome the world. We can overcome the pain. To overcome, we have to be willing to walk through the process of transformation. The awesome promise of God is that through that transformation we are moving from one degree of glory to another.

    Yes, I know we all want a break from the transformation process God works in our lives. But brothers and sisters, we have to take heart. The victory has been won for us in the cross. It will be won in us through the Holy Spirit. We, too, will overcome the struggle and pain. In the meantime, we get to move deeper and deeper into the heart of our heavenly Father who loves us beyond comprehension and deeper into the abundant life he has planned for us.

    Gospel Power and God’s Plan

    The Power of the Gospel for Salvation

    “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” By the time of Paul’s letter to them, the Roman church had become something of a missionary outpost and hub. As the capital city of the Roman Empire, the church had a global reach for the mission of the Gospel of God. Paul expressed gratitude to the church for their strong global witness saying, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

    Paul Writing His Epistles, painting probably by Valentin de Boulogne, 17th century

    From the letter it is clear that up to the point of his writing, Paul had not yet personally visited the church in Rome–though he deeply wanted to do so.

    Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. -Romans 1:13

    The letter is a way of laying the groundwork for that future preaching-teaching visit, and it may have ultimately served to be a surrogate for a more personal instruction. The reason for Paul’s delay is revealed in Romans 15:22-29 where he describes his journey to Jerusalem to deliver a gift to the impoverished saints in Jerusalem:

    22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

    30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

    It is long appreciated that Paul’s delay in visiting Rome actually became the occasion for writing a letter which has had a tremendous impact for the Gospel. Had Paul actually gone to Rome accruing to his own plans and timing, the letter to the Romans would not have been written. That is why one commentator calls Paul’s Jerusalem gift, “The Gift that Changed the World”. Sometimes God prevents us from doing what we want to do so that he can accomplish an even greater unexpected purpose through us.

    Paul would eventually make it to Rome but his time there would be as a “prisoner in chains” for Christ. The Lord himself revealed to Paul that he would one day personally bear witness for him in Rome:

    Acts 23:11 That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”

    From prison in Rome, Paul would write several more influential letters known as the “prison epistles”. Out of all of the Apostle Paul’s writings, the letter to the Romans stands to this day as one of the most influential books in the entire Bible. Many of the greatest church leaders in the history of the Christian church were converted or deeply influenced by the letter. People such as, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley all trace their initial conversion and spiritual awakening to verses from the letter to the Romans. Rightly so, the letter is Paul’s most clear and dynamic presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    While a deep theological work, it is also deeply personal. For this reason, it has proved to be life changing in its application for everyone who has undertaken to study it with faith in Jesus and a desire to receive the power available in the great Gospel of God.

    Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ….

    Including YOU!

    May the Gospel of God speak to your heart and mind by Word and Spirit that you might experience the fullness of power of God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, The Lord. Amen.

    “Invitation to Unload”
    by The Rev. Charlie Holt

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    The Great Exchange:

    Jesus takes your burden, you get rest!

    Come unto me

    Life is a struggle! Those who lay down legalistic laws to deal with sin, guilt and shame, add to the burden. Jesus came to take the burden and set us free. He gives an open invitation to unload our sin, shame, guilt, fears, stress. In exchange he give us his peace and righteousness!

    Matthew 11:28-29English Standard Version (ESV)

    28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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.

    Independence Day Reflection: The Long Term Vision

    The Long Term Vision

    As I consider the state of both the Church and the United States of America, I see that there will be no quick fixes or short term solutions to address the besetting challenges. It will take a group of dedicated people who will understand the opportunities for God’s vision and persistently pursue a more faithful, hopeful and free future.

    Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868)  
Washington Crossing the Delaware (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)

    The first step is to pray about what that desired future might look like. Does the Lord desire the reformation and renewal of the Church and the nation? Perhaps….let us pray so.

    So many have surrendered the church and nation as a lost cause. Read the book 1776 by David McCullough and you will learn that General Washington and the Continental Army spent most of that year on their heels in retreat. In Christmas of 1776, hope was growing cold. In that moment, Thomas Paine spoke to the heart of the courageous and the freedom loving:

    THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Thomas Payne, The American Crisis, December 23, 1776

    God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. Many in Jesus’ time thought that they had rightly diagnosed the problems of their day, and in doing so their solutions were not God’s solution. God’s way is one of costly sacrifice–Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    Our battle is not fought against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6), and so the weapons for the battle will be deeply spiritual in nature requiring spiritual aid. Jesus re-framed the battle lines away from the human vs. human fights of his day to reveal the true battle as between Satan and the spiritual forces of evil vs. himself and the Holy Spirit of God. Matt 12:28 Jesus says, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

    The critical next step becomes making sure that we are on the side of Jesus Christ in addressing the Goliath challenges that face us in our day. When we join the Lord in his battle, then we tap into the power promised in Acts 1 to be poured out on the Church at Pentecost (see Acts 2).

    What do we need to be doing now to move forward toward God’s desired future? Taking inventory of my life…I have 29 more years until I hit mandatory retirement as a priest. If the Lord wills, I am willing to faithfully labor for Him in whatever ministry context he places me–to do whatever needs to be done for the long term future of His kingdom. Some have more time, some have less time. No one of us truly knows the number of our days. The key for all of us is that we make the most of our days now, for the sake of not only the salvation of our souls, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

    May those of us who serve Jesus through the ministry of the Church and on behalf of the vision of freedom, work together intentionally for the long haul–”a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson).  The range of our missionary field is multi-generational and not “my-generational”. Our understanding should discern both the nature of the root challenge and the mighty strength of God for those who believe.  As Jesus promised in Acts 1, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the Earth.” Jesus will use us to the praise his name.

    As you contemplate the Declaration of Independence, what do you see is necessary for freedom to reign under God in this great nation? Leave your comments, thoughts and feelings here.

    Prayer in the midst of the Insurmountable

    Hezekiah’s Prayer Against all Odds

    (Read: 2 Kgs 18:13-19:37)

    Prayer

    Prayer in the midst of the Insurmountable

    So now, O LORD save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone. 2 Kings 19:8

    By studying the prayers of Scripture, we can learn a lot about how to pray effective prayers. Constantly through out the Bible we see prayers like the one Hezekiah offers to the LORD.

    Things are looking bleak for Judea and Jerusalem. The hoards of the Assyrian army are mocking YHWH God and his people, threatening at the gates. Yet, Hezekiah does not resort to bravado; no, he encourages his men NOT to answer the Assyrian mockers (2 Ki. 18:36).

    He does resort to prayer. THAT he prays in this situation is instructive in and of itself. The forces outside the gate of Jerusalem appeared to be insurmountable in shear numbers. Why even hope? Why even pray? There is not a chance. But that is precisely the moment to pray!

    The LORD loves to show his hand on behalf of his people in seemingly insurmountable situations. Hezekiah knows the LORD well enough to understand that if he so chooses he can overcome such odds and forces. But notice the way Hezekiah makes his appeal to the LORD to act. His humble request for salvation comes with a purpose or motivation for the LORD– “…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

    When the LORD acts on behalf of his faithful people by overcoming insurmountable odds in spite of their weakness, his strength is revealed, his name is glorified.

    The LORD desires to be worshiped and obeyed to the ends of the earth. Human beings are made to do that very thing. In your prayers appeal to the LORD’s preeminence over all other powers and forces. God loves an opportunity to reveal his power and glory through the weakness of his faithful people. When we are at our weakest, God delights to show himself strong. Pray to that end.

    LORD, I am not able to save myself, but you alone have the strength and power to forgive, to heal, to restore. Please show your strength in my life that others may see that you alone are God and that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.