I Have Overcome the World

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.

Healing for the Broken Heart

by Brooke Holt

Brooke’s Blog: Healing for the Broken Heart

Psalm 147:3: “The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

None of us avoids a broken heart. We walk through life getting wounded. Some of us are wounded severely in childhood. From a very early age, we learn the defence mechanism of building walls to protect our hearts. Nevertheless, even guarded hearts get broken. Broken hearts are part of life in this fallen world.

The best intended mothers try to mend broken hearts. They make cookies, buy treats or take special trips to a store or to the movies. With good intentions and deep desire, they try to fix their child’s broken heart. The pain can lessen or be momentarily forgotten with the physical distractions, but the brokenness remains. Adults use the same diversions to numb the pain of their broken hearts: food, alcohol, sex, shopping, etc. Again, the surface pain can be forgotten temporarily, but the deeper brokenness remains.
In Psalm 147, we read about the character of our God: He determines the number of stars and gives them their names; He is abundant in power and has understanding beyond all measure; He lifts up the humble but casts the wicked to the ground (verses 4-6). Our God has all power and all understanding and He cares about our broken hearts; He longs to bind up our wounds.
Unlike the well intended mother, God has the power to heal the broken heart. In fact, He is the only One who has that power. God sees inside each one of us. He knows the brokenness; He understands why it is there; and He desires to heal. The God of all creation longs to heal our broken hearts. God’s care for the broken heart is awe-inspiring!
We don’t hesitate to call on the doctor when in need of physical healing, yet we seldom call on the great physician when in need of soul healing. Earthly doctors have limited understanding and power. Our great heavenly physician has all understanding and all power. Why are we not in His office? The Lord heals the broken heart and binds up the wounds of those who seek Him, who trust Him, who humble themselves before Him. Verse 6 says, “The Lord lifts up the humble.”
May we humbly approach our almighty God trusting Him with our broken hearts. Every broken piece of our heart is an opportunity for God’s healing touch, for light to shine in darkness, for God to be glorified. Let’s stop walking around brokenhearted. There is healing, but only in One person, One place – the Great Physician who made us, knows us and loves us infinitely more than we could ever imagine. Our hearts are His home, His treasure!

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’

by Brooke Holt

from Brooke’s Blog: “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and
have it abundantly.” –John 10:10
I grew up on Mick Jaggar’s words in his song “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. Mick didn’t seem to experience satisfaction in life so why could I expect to? He was the famous one living a life of fame, wealth and privilege. If his life was lacking, how could I expect more for myself?These words ring true for far too many of us today. We live surviving, and we think that is the way it is supposed to be. I believe that Jesus’ words in John 10:10 say something else. Jesus came to bring us life–abundant life.

Does abundance equal satisfaction? What I have found for myself and for the many women with whom I have worked over the years is that we have holes in our hearts. Blaise Pascal called these holes “God shaped vacuums”. In our desperation to find meaning in life, purpose, peace, we seek to fill these holes or vacuums. It is like the young child trying to fit that piece in the puzzle. She tries each and every piece except the one that fits.

That certainly has been the story of my life. I have tried to fill my “God shaped vacuum” with everything: performance, money, success, a husband, children, food, alcohol, shopping, affirmation. Sadly, the list could go on for days. Like the frustrated child, I have found that while those things brought a temporary fit or filling, they never truly filled the void. The puzzle piece just wouldn’t stay; it didn’t look right and it definitely didn’t feel right. My hole was still there. My hole hurt!

When I look back to the passage in John, Jesus had been teaching about the sheep and the good shepherd (John 10:11). I understand that there are many things and people in life who make promises. These things or people try to fill the vacuum, but they fall short. Instead of satisfying, they rob me of peace and purpose. These are the thieves. The thieves are different in each person’s life. Now, I understand why “I can’t get no satisfaction” — I am not looking to the true shepherd!

The call of Jesus is to follow the true shepherd. He is the true shepherd. He is the answer to our God-shaped vacuum. The path to abundance is one of trust, surrender and faith. When I follow the Good Shepherd, life may not always be easy, but it is full, full of God’s promises, provision and His wonderful plans of redemption and purpose. It is in His plan that I find the satisfaction, the abundance that I seek. It is here that I learn to thrive instead of survive.

What Defines You?

By Brooke Holt

From Brooke’s Blog: What Defines You?

The great debate began for me the day before our half marathon – wear the Garmin watch or not. Part of me wanted to run free, free of numbers, times, distances. Part of me wanted to make sure that I was running smart, and the other part of me wanted to make sure that I was running fast. I had a goal time. In order to reach that goal, I had to maintain a certain pace. Minutes before walking out to the race, I put on the Garmin. Freedom is not something I am especially good at; that morning, freedom was too risky!

Throughout the race, I was delighted by the awesome scenery and the supportive crowds cheering us on. The crowds’ cheers made me feel like a champion. Despite that, I found myself constantly looking down at that Garmin watch to see if I was performing up to my standard. Most of the race, I was disappointed in my pace realizing that I was not on track to meet my goal. Occasionally, I was pleased with myself feeling like I was measuring up, but that never lasted long as I saw my goal become more and more unattainable.

In the Donna marathon and half marathon, the last bridge is the final great hurdle. As you run, it feels like you are headed up forever. I was struggling, struggling not just to keep pace but struggling to keep going. In the midst of that struggle, I kept looking at the Garmin. At this point, I knew that I wouldn’t reach my race goal. Knowing that, how did I press on with the race? Everything within me said you failed. Walk. Quit. This hurts too much. You didn’t make the goal so why continue the torture of this climb. There was a silent battle going on inside of my mind.

In the midst of that silent battle, God asked me a question: “What defines you?” Does this race define you? If you make the goal, are you then good enough? I wrestled with this question and began doing some soul searching of the many ways I have defined myself: athlete, coach, mother, wife. The list can go on and on as I have sought to prove my worth as a person through my performance. On that bridge, God asked if I could let Him define me. God asked if I could take my goals and entrust them to Him. He had the audacity to even ask for my race. Struggling, I had no other option but to give it to Him.

That decision to give God the race was the highlight of my run. God came alongside of me and assured me that I had met the goal, His goal, for my race. He was able and willing to define me. Fortunately, His definition was so much greater than my goal time. I was flooded with peace. My bodily challenge did not go away. The bridge remained and there was still another mile to run once that bridge was crossed. But, I ran differently. I didn’t look at the Garmin anymore. I kept talking to my daddy, the one who chose me, loved me and defined me.

A man had been running in front of me just within my view for many miles. On the back of his shirt was the sign of the Christian fish with the cross in it. The top of the shirt posed the question: “Why do you run?” I smiled and told God that I run because I can feel His presence when I do. It is a gift, and I am called to run with freedom and joy in the race that is set before me.

Our training group had just concluded a Bible study on Ephesians the day before the race. As I looked back on that book of the Bible, I read chapter 2 verses 8 and 9 with new understanding:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

All I am and all I have is a gift from God. Whether I meet my half marathon goal of not, I am still “his workmanship” or as the New Living translation writes, “his masterpiece”. What an amazing way to have God describe me! When I talked to my children about what this means, each had wonderful thoughts to share. My youngest child, Saxon, had a great insight at the end of our conversation: “Mom, we are awesomely made!” My heart swelled. Saxon got it. We are awesomely made and we are awesomely loved.

Now, if I can live as if that were true. No race should define me. My appearance does not define me. My performance does not define me. All the good things in my life do not define me. God defines me. He is the Creator; He is the King. That Creator and King decided to call me his daughter. In fact, I am His masterpiece–awesomely made!