Who Do You Think You Are: Overcomer

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing thoughts and scriptures on the theme of identity. Week one we looked at how we are called to be God’s messengers and representatives to the world (ambassadors), and last week we saw that God masterfully designed us to do good works in His name. This week, I want us to think about a pretty challenging topic, and that is one of overcoming difficulties. 

As the year 2018 comes to a close I am reminded of the many challenges that have come my way in 2018. On April 19th the country where our family serves erupted into socio-political chaos that resulted in over 500 deaths, thousands of injuries, extreme transportation difficulties, and food and gasoline shortages. Personally, this situation created one of the greatest challenges I have faced in my life. In June our family decided it was best for my wife and children to spend a year in the States to wait out the crisis. Try as I might, I simply could not shake God’s calling to serve the people here in Nicaragua. Therefore we made a decision I never dreamt we would: we decided to live in two different countries for a year. Before I go further, let me just say I don’t necessarily recommend this course of action! We did this because we felt 100% certain God was calling us to do it in this very unique circumstance. But, it certainly has not been easy. There have been definite struggles here in Nicaragua, and being apart from my family has been far from a picnic. As I’ve gone through all of this I’ve taken real solace from the following verses:

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

First of all, no matter what challenges any of us encounter God’s love is always there. Nothing can take God’s love and presence away from us. I have had to lean on that love so much these past six months, and I’m here to tell you God’s sustaining love is a real thing! Second, the gift of eternal life God gives us can never be taken away. The ultimate victory over death, that gives us the gift of eternal life, has already been won once and for all by the ultimate conqueror, Jesus. Finally, if you look at the original Greek to be more than conquerors means to be overcomers. It means to not only succeed in the tasks we are doing but to overcome the challenges along the way. God calls us to be overcomers when it comes to following and serving Him. He understands that our life will not always be easy and that we will face many challenges as we follow and serve Him. Yet, he has ensured that we can overcome the challenges of the world by Jesus’ death on the Cross.

From a Stump

Isaiah 11:1 New International Version (NIV)

The Branch From Jesse

11 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Have you ever seen a tree that has been cut down and it appears to still have life in it? Along the sides of the stump you will see shoots that start growing. It appears to still have life in the stump.

This is the analogy the Prophet Isaiah uses to show that out of a stump, Judah, the shoot reflects that the Messiah will come. Even though the stump appears to be dead, life will come from it.

I see this analogy can be used for us as men. God has to literally cut us down to leave only a stump that is the only evidence that we once lived. From our stump, if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, a shoot of life will appear.

Like Jesus, the Spirit can rest on us. We too can be empowered by the Holy Spirit. New life in us can once again grow. Out of the brokenness, a new man appears.

We all have our brokenness. Like Israel, we need a Savior to lead us. As we begin this Christmas Season, let’s continue to remember the ‘Reason for the Season’. It is all about Jesus. He came once, and he is coming again.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

Vital Men will start back up the week of January 7, 2019.

We will study the Book of John.

We will see how John portrays Jesus as the Son of God, and we will answer the question hat has been passed down from generations since, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord?”

 

Peace, Prayer, Provision

James 5:13-18 (NASB) Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

I got a bit of bad news this week.  I started feeling poorly off and on over the past few weeks.  It came to a head on Tuesday, so I went to the doctor.  Things are not good.  The disease that I have battled off and on since 2012 has reared its head.  I’m writing this from my hospital bed.  I don’t tell you this to arouse pity.  I tell you this to illustrate the way I choose to view this situation.  Our initial reaction to being dealt a hand like this usually falls somewhere in fear, anger, self pity, anxiety.  I think that is to be expected and hard to combat.  The last couple days have been tough, and I’ve allowed those types of thoughts to take root, but only in fleeting instances.  When those thoughts come, some would say they’re justified, but why?  What good does it do anyone to take such dark paths?

Thankfully, I can praise God for steering me toward thoughts of peace.  I can praise God for leading me down faithful paths of knowing that I reside in His loving embrace.  Regardless of the fork in the road this disease takes, it is what it is, and that’s ok.  I can have peace knowing that God has me through the entire process.  He hears my prayers, as well as the mant prayers of the righteous lifting me up.  I’ve seen Him work miraculous things in my life, as well as what I’ve witnessed Him work for so many others.  What do I have to fear?  Nothing… 

The other thing that this has strongly illuminated for me is how richly God has blessed my life with very dear and true friends and family.  The outpouring of support, the genuine concern and desire to help and love me is overwhelmingly powerful.  Praise God for my wife, brothers, mother, father, daughters, a great many dear friends that have come from all directions with a willingness and desire to do and provide anything within their power to provide.  I am a very fortunate and blessed man.  Most importantly, there is a great many people faithfully committed to prayer for my peace, healing, protection and recovery.  And… they know its power.  Praise God.

So, if you are experiencing anything yourself, or know of anyone experiencing a difficult physical or spiritual struggle, know that there is endless power and possibility in the heartfelt prayers of the righteous.  Be that prayer warrior for someone.  Allow someone to be that prayer warrior for you.  Love them, provide for them and be there for them.  Peace be with each and every one of you and have a blessed weekend!

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

Sharing is Caring

When someone openly coughs or sneezes in your general direction, do you consider that impolite?  This past week, over Thanksgiving and the weekend, I had a not-fun cold that I really didn’t want to share with anyone else, because it is the gift the keeps on giving, even when you don’t want to.  Someone gave it to me, and I felt obligated to pass it on, not.  At some point, you have to make a call whether or not you should go to the store, and then whether or not you are well enough to go back to work and rejoin ‘normal’ society.  Granted, I spent hours raking, hauling leaves, wood, and garbage on Saturday, then hours shoveling snow for my Winter workout on Sunday and Monday, so I felt well enough to work, just not with other people.  Whether we intend to or not, we may share a cold or virus with others, even if we try to limit our exposure.  Our words, attitudes and enthusiasm, good or bad, may even be as equally contagious.  What do you pass on to others and what do you keep to yourself?

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.  Acts 4:32

I always thought of this verse from Acts as the Christian ideal of how to live with others in community.  Not to the degree of a society of communism or socialism, because historically (e.g. USSR, N Korea, China) they try to exclude most religious practice from the ranks of the populous.  It would almost have to be a small community, where everyone lived by similar guidelines, like the Christian faith, but with people involved, there are bound to be exceptions and instances where love is not the primary motive.  For nearly a decade, I had a VW Jetta that became a communal car that I shared and let others use on probably over 10 different times.  Sometimes it was to a friend or co-worker who needed a vehicle for a few days while theirs was being repaired, and once for the whole Summer to a college student named Oscar from Estonia, who put thousands of miles on it.  Each time, if we didn’t stipulate a timeline for how long it would be loaned, it was assumed indefinitely, until I had to ask for it to be returned after a few weeks, not always in the same shape it was loaned.  The last time it was loaned was a couple years ago to a fellow who was driving 125 miles back and forth to Des Moines for work each day.  He was driving back after a snow storm and made it within 4 miles of home when he went into a ditch, and hit another car in the ditch totaling the VW, and the car-share program was over for that car.  I’ve shared other vehicles since, but not to the degree that this one was used.  Do you treat things you borrow with the same respect as other things you own? 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.  Proverbs 15:1-2

We can share good things in the form of money, time, kind words, and knowledge, just as easily as we share bad things in the form of harsh words, gossip, bad advice, and video games.  The things we have, or can buy, are not always the best gifts to give to others.  We have been having discussions for a while about a concept called Redemptive Compassion, which proposes that simply giving money or things to those in need, is not always what is best for them.  Often, they need help to get out of difficult situations, and skills to work and become more self-sustaining.  The way to get there is not always through an outer transformation of ‘getting their act together’, but often from an inner transformation of a changed heart through the work of Christ, which then gives them hope to transform the outer parts of their lives.  When we are able to share time and knowledge with others who need that from us, it is often more helpful than just giving them what they think they need and wishing them well.  We invest considerable time, money and energy into our own children, and hope that we have done well, with no guarantees for what will result.  Have there been any things you have received that have been more valuable than you originally thought? 

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.  Psalm 89:11

In my experience, the closer I am to God, the more willing I am to share and give what I have to others in need, and the further I am from God’s heart, the more selfish I become.  It’s just a general rule that I have seen more often than not, which is more of a gauge for what my spiritual life is like.  So, whether you are thinking of giving good gifts to others over the next month, or just looking for something to give that will make a difference, also consider what being a good steward and giving things away does to you.  Each time I give away money, things, time, or helpful knowledge to others, it often helps my heart in more ways than it helps others.  I am always reminded that none of these things I currently possess will be mine forever, nor will they make a difference unless they are used to benefit others.  We may not always get it right, but we will never get it right unless we try.  May you be blessed as you share the most valuable gifts, including the saving knowledge of Christ with others. 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

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