Overwhelmed or Overcomer

"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:21

In Christ we are overcomers! Actually the Word says in Romans 8:37: 

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him which loved us."

If we are already more than a conqueror; Then why don't we live like one?

Our attitude or perspective in life will ultimately make or break us. Many times it will even influence how long a trial will last in our lives. We don't live in a make believe world where nothing is hard and nothing goes wrong. We live in a real world with real challenges, pressures and problems. Christians often get disillusioned when a crisis comes their way because they think, “Why did God let this happen?”

The first thing I share with them is that bad never comes from God. The Bible says,

"It is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy; but I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly." John 10:10

The first step to being an overcomer is to understand who our enemy is:

Satan. We also need to realize that God is for us and all about answers, deliverance, help, blessing and abundance. We have to stop blaming Him for the bad stuff! The Bible also says that,

"Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning." James 1:17. 

We need to get the right perspective! When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, "He's so big we can never kill him." David looked at the same giant and thought, "He's so big I can't miss!"

It's just like the old adage that the glass is "half full" or "half empty". Those who see a glass half empty tend to view things from a negative perspective rather than a positive one. Negative thinkers lock arms with their buddies; doubt and unbelief! They hang out together all the time. This group of folks rarely find themselves on the victory side because of their perspective. If they get there at all, they won’t stay long. Their mouth will always pull them backwards.

It's all about perspective. Are we approaching our life from a perspective of faith or of doubt, negativity, and fear? If our perspective is through the filter of God's word, then we will walk in victory as an overcomer!

We may think to ourselves," I am a born again believer. I am a faith person, or at least I started out that way."

See, what we believe shows up in what we say. What we believe is confirmed by what we do. The proof is surely in the pudding! Are we speaking what the word says or the problem and how big it is? Are we trusting in God each moment, every day for each breath; for every victory? Or do we feel like the Israelite soldiers who said this giant is just too big for us to overcome? They saw the reality and circumstance and chose to let it overwhelm them. 

Our perspective can make the difference whether we are overwhelmed or overcoming.

Definition of overwhelmed: To submerge, to overcome by superior forces or number, to cover up or to crush.

Many reading this devotional today may feel overwhelmed by the economy, gas prices, or even their electric bill. Some may feel overwhelmed by problems in their marriage, raising their kids, or any number of numerous pressures that this world can bring. The challenges start looking so enormous that it is easy to be overcome, crushed or submerged beneath them. But, remember our first scripture, "To him that overcomes..."

We overcome when we are in Christ! We overcome when we take Him at His word and trust in Him. We overcome when we throw our heads back and hold our shoulders up high and say "Greater is he that is in me than He that is in the world!" It wouldn't hurt one bit for you to say this out loud to yourself right now: "The greater one lives in me therefore I cannot fail or be overwhelmed to the point of destruction because I am an overcomer in Christ Jesus my Lord!

The word of God says,

"The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:17

We have to get into the word until the word gets into us!

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17

It's so important to get the word in our heart and on our lips. Speak it out! Shout it out! Sing it out! I love singing out the word! God gave it to me and then I sing it back to Him. Yep, right out loud.  You'll sense faith rise up in your heart and the Presence of God sweetly fill the room wrapping you up like a blanket. Then faith drops in your heart to realize you're in His presence and in His Presence is every answer and fullness of joy. It's wonderful to know that God always has your back and you're never alone. You are never without help. You and I have divine supernatural help no matter what we face. Speaking, singing, and shouting the word is vital to the overcomer.

Revelation 12:11 "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony."

Jim Cymbala, the author of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, has said, "The cross, as poignant as it is, is understandable from a human perspective: an innocent man was murdered by crooked politicians and religious leaders. But an empty tomb- what can you say? Only a supernatural God could accomplish that."

It's not enough to see through a human perspective. Actually, anyone can do that, born again or not. How do we become overcomers? Through our perspective of faith! Through trusting a supernatural God to accomplish what is impossible with man!

Jesus is our Savior, our Rock, our fortress, our healer, our provider and our deliverer! When we begin to feel overwhelmed, run into His presence. Run and dive into the river of His word that washes us clean and establishes our faith. Worship, sing and shout! Some of you may even do a little dance before the LORD! You will not be overwhelmed, but you will overcome because of your perspective of faith!

"Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." Psalm 61:1-2

-Kim Connor

limitless

What you focus on will grow!

David had this ability to hyper focus on only what God had promised him. This meant that opposition had no place in limiting the course of David’s life. When I think of Goliath squaring off with David, initially, I think nothing David will face in life could ever compare; A boy in a fight to the death with a man of war, the champion of an entire army and literally a giant! However, David knew he was not alone. This meant there is no limit to what he can do knowing that God was with him. However, this was just the beginning of the challenges he would face. 

When Saul lost the anointing of God, that didn’t mean Israel was doomed. It meant God had another plan. His Spirit left Saul and rested upon David from an early age. Just like in our lives, if we love God, He will bring about the good in any situation.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

We may feel confined or limited where we currently are, but just remember that David was a Shepherd. This was a lonely and despised job in his culture. Yet, that’s where God began to transform him into a king. His first assignment happened when his father sent him to deliver food to his brothers on the battlefield. Little did David know that this was his last day on the job. He left the sheep in the care of another shepherd, but when he returned everything was different… after all, he was the giant killer. Often times we think we are headed to do one thing, yet God has a way of promoting us in another way IF we are willing!

David chose to see every situation in his life as an opportunity to the road that God had promised him, to become the King. He didn’t try to make things happen out of order because he knew God was the source of his limitless potential. Better yet, when it was David’s time, even Saul knew that David was to be King over Israel:

So it was, when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. Then he said to David: “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. - 1 Samuel 24:16-20

I would encourage all of us to stay on the path to our purpose. Walk with God, not ahead of him. We are very limited in the power we have over our lives, but when we surrender ourself to God… the possibilities are endless. No one can disqualify what God has qualified! 

-Jason Smith

Winning The Lost

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! John 4:35-36

One million years from now what will be the thing matters most? Think about that for a moment. What will be the one thing about today that will matter most then? Will it be how much money you made? Will it be the car you drove? Will it matter then who was in the Final Four this year? One million years from now the only thing that will matter is who is in heaven and who is in hell. And if that is the one thing that will matter then, shouldn’t it be the one thing that matters most now? Jesus said that He came to save that which was lost. If it was Jesus’ priority to reach the lost, shouldn’t it be ours?

Eternity can be a hard thing to talk about. Most people seem to put more effort into planning their weekend than they do their retirement, let alone their eternity. And because they are uncomfortable talking about it, they shy away from the subject. “I’ll wait until there is a better time.” “Why bring that up now?” You may not get a “better time,” why not bring that up now?

Don’t let this lie keep you from sharing Jesus with someone: “I really like having this person as a friend, and I don’t want to run them off.” I don’t know about you, but I want my friends to go to heaven. I want people I don’t get along with to go to heaven. “Well I don’t want to be seen as shoving my beliefs down someone’s throat.” I’m not talking about shoving a belief down anyone’s throat. I’m not talking about forcing my views on anyone. I’m talking about an active demonstration of love and concern. 

Let me ask you a very strong question: How much do you have to hate someone not to tell them about everlasting life?

Maybe you are saying, “I don’t know who I should talk to about Jesus.” I am going to give away a secret of mine. I can tell within a few seconds, 100% of the time, who I should talk to about Jesus. I am going to share this with you, and you will never again have any doubt as to whether or not you should talk to them about Jesus. Get your pen ready. I have never been wrong using this method. It’s fool proof. Ready?

If they’re breathing they need Jesus. If they can still breathe talk to them about Jesus! If they know Him already, you will build each other up. If they don’t know Him already, you are doing the work He called you to do.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Yes you have specific gifts and callings, but one of the works He prepared you to do is to share Him with others.

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Luke 10:2

While I believe that we are to continue to pray for laborers, I submit to you tonight that you are the laborers that all of the past generations have prayed for. I’m not trying to get you to believe that we have GOT to do this. I’m trying to get you see that we GET to do this. This should be viewed as an awesome opportunity and not a chore. This is no different from any other part of our walk with Christ. I don’t see it as I have GOT to spend time in His Word. I GET to. It is not that we have GOT to go to church. We GET to go to church. It is not that we have GOT to give our tithes and offerings. We GET to. I don’t believe that we have GOT to worship. We GET to worship. Change the vowel, and you will change your whole outlook.

This generation, the modern day church, was created in Christ Jesus for the good work of winning the lost. God has prepared us beforehand to walk in this calling. We are the generation that GETS to bring in the end-time harvest. But what if they reject me? I don’t like rejection. Who does? What are the only three things that can happen when you share Christ with someone? Only one of three things will happen.

a)    They accept your message and accept Jesus

b)    They reject your message and reject Jesus

c)     A seed is planted and they accept Jesus at a later time.

Those are only three things that can happen. Two of those things we will call a win. If they accept Jesus or if the seed is planted for a later acceptance, these are wins. The only bad thing that can happen is that they reject you and Jesus. So 2/3 of the time you are successful. Only 1/3 of the time is there a rejection. But we get our focus on that 1/3 and don’t reach out for fear of rejection. But we are successful 2/3 of the time. A major league baseball player is paid millions if he can hit the ball 3-4 times out over every 10 times at the plate. If I could keep the ball in the fairway 2/3 of my drives, I would enjoy golf a whole lot more.  But we shy away from sharing Jesus because of the 1/3 of the time when the other person rejects our message and our Savior.

Can I show you something?

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 1 Peter 4:14-15

Jesus, Himself said this from Luke’s gospel:

Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. Luke 6:22-23

Ok, so they reject you, what you have to say and Jesus. According to the Word of God, He gets glorified and we get blessed. Jesus tells us here in Luke’s gospel that we are to leap for joy. 

So now we have:

a)     They accept Jesus-win

b)    A seed is planted-win

c)    They reject Jesus-win

By simply knowing and applying the word of God every time we share our faith and the message of Jesus Christ, WE WIN!

Now, go win the lost...you have nothing to lose!

-Murphy Hanley

Choose to Connect

I sat in my car for five minutes. Then ten. Then almost twenty. I can’t do this God. I cannot do this. They’ll see. They’ll see the real me and they’ll hate it. I scrolled through my Instagram as I tried to talk myself out of it. I have friends. I’m good. I don’t really have to do this. Right? I had led small groups before. Leading is easy for me. Leading gives me a sense of control. But this was different.

I made the decision earlier that year to get involved with a life coach to try to help me create a plan for some areas of my life I wanted to work on and grow in. Side note: a counselor helps you try to figure out what’s wrong with you. A life coach works with you to help figure out what’s right with you and how to expound on it. You should try it. It’s awesome.

Part of my homework from this life coach was to join a small group of ladies who were meeting in a home once a week. All different ages, from all different backgrounds, but with two things in common. They all loved Jesus, and they all had been through something they wanted to overcome. They were looking to take the next step and to grow spiritually. “It’s going to be a safe opportunity for you to really open up and be vulnerable and honest with others about how you feel and what you’ve been through.” Yikes. She might as well have offered an opportunity to swim with sharks or skydive without a parachute. I was terrified.

Even the greatest extrovert among us will agree that there are parts of ourselves that we never share with others. Vulnerability takes work. It takes guts. It can be rough to commit to meeting with a group of strangers and purpose to be honest and show your heart to them. Relationships can be scary in an age where we have allowed technology to replace them. Social media can be a powerful tool, but it’s also poisoned the well so to speak. The phrase “click to connect” can be misleading. There’s no substitute for face-to-face human interaction. The Bible says so in Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So I sat in my car and waited for the rapture. I literally prayed that Jesus would come back in a cloud of glory right then and there so I wouldn’t have to get out of the car. But I had said that I would join this group. I gave my word. So after 20 minutes I got out of the car, walked to the door, and knocked. And so began one of the greatest experiences of healing the Lord has ever lead me through.

Almost a year later, my Thursday night group still meets. We laugh together. We worship together. We pray together. We cry together. We study God’s Word together. These women have heard some of the darkest secrets of my heart. And they love me for it. They have helped to awaken dreams within me I thought had died. They are a life line. And I almost didn’t get out of the car. That’s the scariest part. What if I had never gone in the house that first night? What if I had missed this connection? I shudder to think of where I would be if that were the case.

The new semester of Connect Groups launches this Sunday, August 25th. It’s not too late for you to join a group! With 66 groups, there’s something for everyone. Sure, it can be nerve wracking to think of opening up to a group of people you may not know well. But it’s even scarier to think of all you might miss out on if you don’t put yourself out there. Sign up for a group today. Choose to connect. You might be surprised at what happens!

-Aly Croy

Responding to The Call to Pray

“If My people which are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,  and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  - 2 Chronicles 7:14

It is such an awesome thing when God says of us, “My people.” Since we have been born again and washed by the blood of Jesus, we belong to Him. We are His possession and He is our Father!

With this awesome privilege comes a great calling. We are called to enforce heaven here on earth! 

Our Heavenly Father has put out the call, but it is up to us to respond to it. He promised to hear us, forgive us and heal our land. Notice, the first word of the verse above is the word “If.”

If we respond to the call to pray, things will change in our lives and in the lives of our families and friends. If we respond to this call, we can bring change in our churches, our state, our government, our nation and even beyond our borders. If we truly believe that prayer changes things then how can we neglect this call? 

James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (makes tremendous power available, dynamic in its working).”

This kind of prayer described in James is not, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…”. It is not a prayer prayed every now and then. The prayer of a righteous man or woman is full of passion and power. It is a consistent force that is effective!

We need the spirit of prayer to come upon us as the body of Christ. Here at Winter Haven Worship Center I believe that is just what is happening! The people of our church are coming alive and getting fired up. We are pressing into prayer and seeing results! 

 Let’s stay fervent in prayer, seeking his face, and together we will see the power of God! We will see what God is longing for, the precious fruit of the earth. And that good will triumph over evil

Proverbs 15:29 “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Proverbs 15:8 “…but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

When we respond to the call of prayer as the early Christians did in the book of Acts, we will see the move of God’s Spirit.  In the 14th verse of the first chapter it says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer..”. The Holy Spirit anointed the disciples to preach and thousands were born again and many were healed. There were many signs, wonders and miracles performed in their midst as they…“devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” Acts 2:42. The disciples were even set free from prison with the help of angels because of the prayers of the church.

Do you need a breakthrough? Do you need an answer or direction? Are you ready to see God move in your life and the lives of those on your heart in a fresh way? Find scripture to stand on and then pray! Thank you Lord we don’t have to pray; but we get to pray! We get to push back the kingdom of darkness. We get to partner with you to see your will done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus prayed that way in Matthew 6:9-10; “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We have the key to revival. We have the key to the power of God and for every break through if we respond to the call to pray!

-Kim Connor

Pray Intentionally

If you’re anything like me you may have difficulty concentrating at times. Never is this more true for me than when I sit down to study my Bible, or when I decide to set aside time to pray. It seems like I’ll go into my bedroom, begin to talk to the Lord, and before I know what’s happened I’m folding the laundry that’s on my bed and using my prayer journal to make a to-do list. I don’t mean to do it, it just always seems to happen.

Paul talked about this in Romans 7:15. He said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” The Message version of this same passage says, “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes Paul, yes it is.

I’m not saying you can’t pray while doing laundry or making a to-do list (Eph. 6:18 says to pray always) but there is something to be said for making time and space for one-on-one intimate, personal time with God. Like a “date” if you will. 

If you have a spouse, I’m sure you love talking to them as you’re making breakfast in the morning, walking the dog together, playing with the kids, etc. But it’s not quite the same as when the two of you set aside appointed time to intentionally connect, like for a date night. It’s times like that, when other things that could be taking up your time are set aside, that real intimacy happens. It’s the same in our relationship with God.

God expects us to pray intentionally – and we are to expect things to change when we pray! Prayer should never be passive. James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (emphasis is mine). So what does fervent prayer look like? How do we pray fervently? How do we pray single-mindedly? Intently. Intentionally.

It might look different for one person than it does for another. I once had a friend that would say things to God like, “I’m going to meet you at the coffee shop today at 3:30 so we can spend some time talking to each other.” She said every time she was intentional about creating space like this, God would speak something to her heart. For me, one thing that has worked well is keeping a special notebook where I write my prayers down. The physical act of writing simply helps me to focus.

Another great way to pray on purpose is by joining a group of people that pray together at an appointed time every day or week. WHWC has lot’s of small groups launching this week that will be doing exactly that. Also, August 19th will kick off our summer Week of Prayer. It’ll be a great opportunity to set special time aside to communicate with God, and give Him space to answer you as well.

However you choose to do it, purpose to set apart some special time this week to pray intentionally. You’ll be glad you did it!

-Aly Croy

Get Some Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

(Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)

Growing up I spent most of my summers at my grandparent’s house. We had a summer tradition I loved; every year on the last day of school they would pick me up and take me to the mall. There I would get to pick out a new swimsuit and ten (ten!) new books. I swam all day and stayed up reading all night. Somehow I also managed to squeeze in sleepovers, beach trips, church camp, BBQ’s, and all kinds of other summer activities. I would start strong, but by the end of the summer, I’d be sleeping until noon and spending my days in an exhausted daze on the couch. The one phrase I can remember hearing most from my sweet southern grandmother was, “You look a little peaked, honey.”

Rest is so important, and it does a lot more for us than we give it credit for. The concept of summer break was created so that children and families would have an opportunity to settle down and get some rest. So why does it seem like so many people are exhausted by the time Fourth of July is over? 

Our modern culture values activity and movement. When there is a lull in our schedule, we feel a compulsive need to fill it. So much of the time we find ourselves needing rest, but we don’t know how to seize the opportunity when it arises. 

I think God wants us to understand the importance of rest, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. God is a God of rest! Think about it, in Genesis chapter 2, God rests after He finishes His creation. In exodus chapter 20 He commands His people to rest one out of every six days. Psalm 127:2 says that God gives rest to those He loves. In Mark chapter 6 Jesus invites His disciples to “come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest”.

The most obvious reason God wants us to rest is that when we are tired, we make tired decisions. Think about it. How many things have you said or done just because you were tired that you later regretted? How many times have you compromised just because you were tired? If you’re interested in adding to your summer reading list, I suggest you check out Genesis 25:29-34. It’s a crazy story about a guy who ruined his life because he needed a snack and a nap!

I know in the summer it’s tempting to get as much done as possible before it’s over, to try to knock out as many to do lists as we can before a new school year begins. It feels great to get a lot accomplished. But let’s remember that rest is productive! When we are rested, we are more likely to make decisions that are life giving to ourselves and others, and that honor our relationship with God. 

If you’re like me and you want to be intentional about getting some rest but don’t know how to get started, here’s a prayer I think will help:

Father, thank You for giving me opportunities to rest.

Help me to recognize those opportunities when they arise, and to make the most of them.

As I choose to rest in You, thank You for speaking to my heart and drawing me closer to You.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

-Aly Croy

James 1:2-4

James 1: 2-4 Says to Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

The testing of your faith, believe it or not is actually a good thing if we allow it to be. You may ask well who tests us, and why? Verse James 1:13 gives us the answer as to who it is not. It says that God does not tempt anyone with evil, and He himself cannot be tempted with evil. James goes on to say that each person is tempted by his or her own desires. If left unchecked this will ultimately lead to sin and death. 

We must look at adversity and challenges as an opportunity to move on to the next level in our walk with Christ. As christians we know that trials and tribulations will come our way, it is up to us how we respond. Job is a perfect example of facing extremely difficult times and never once blaming God for what happened. 

Job chapter 1 gives us insight into a rare case of an interaction into the spiritual realm. Satan makes a claim that the only reason Job loves God is because he protects him and blesses the work he does which increases his wealth and land. God allows Job to be sifted by Satan for a time and things got really bad for Job. All of his animals and children were killed by Satan. Job obviously did not have the book of Job at the time to know that this horrible attack on him is the doing of Satan. In fact it could look like it was God, a tornado killed his kids and fire from heaven consumed his flock. Nonetheless Job fell on his face and worshiped God. 

Because Job never placed blame on God and continued to love God through the storm God added back to him twice as much as he had before Job 42:10. That is such a testament of Job’s character and something we should all strive to emulate. We must have a perspective change when facing the storm, instead of asking, “God, why is this happening to me?”  We should be thanking Him for the opportunity to become complete in our faith, lacking in nothing, and giving him praise throughout the process.
James 1:12 lets us know that after we have stood the test of the trial we will receive the crown of life. Testing will happen throughout our entire life so that we will become closer to Christ. We can use this to reach back and help other believers as they go through the trials of life, and together we can run the good race that leads us to heaven.

-Jason Smith