This is the Day

Field and sun.

Psalm 118:24 (ESV) This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

After receiving some challenging news, a friend text me, “Are you okay?” I confirmed that indeed I was just fine. I have been through enough seasons like this to know that “it is what it is”. If I fell apart every time the enemy threw fiery darts at me or dropped smoke bombs in my camp, I would be a worthless wreck right about now. Walking with the Lord can feel like skirting through a land mine field sometimes trying to avoid pitfalls and trip wires, but sometimes they are unavoidable. I would be a liar to say that I am unaffected. It is hard to maintain joy in the midst of adversity. It is our privilege in Christ to live in constant rejoicing but one must find such a place first.

This is the day the LORD has made. Today. This one. The day you woke up in. It has every bit of potential and purpose God saw fit to pack in it just for you. You do not have to just endure it, go through or be held captive by all the things that want to suck you in. This is the day the LORD made for you. He captured each second in handwritten form before you were born. He knew exactly what you needed to make it to the end of it. He prepackaged enough mercy to see you on your way and grace to catch you as you fall into bed tonight seeking rest and refuge from all its worries and cares. The faith in you has room to grow today. Hope can add another link the anchor that holds our soul. God’s Goodness can reach us right here and now. His Glory can surround us if that is what we desire. We have a choice to make today. Will I rejoice and be glad in today?

I know what you are thinking. I hear your sarcastic smirk even though silently crossing your face. What do I have to be happy about? What could there possibly be to rejoice over? I will be honest, I have no idea what it is or how you will do it but I know that joy is always possible in Jesus Christ. The night our son was diagnosed with cancer – I was there with his older brother. In that moment, the carefully constructed and controlled life that I had built came crashing down. However, about an hour later, there was laughter coming from our room. The nurses came down to check on us. Surely their ears were deceiving, as it must have been tears and wailing they were hearing. When they came in the room, it was indeed laughter. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He is our refuge. To rejoice is not just words written by a psalmist to make us feel better but the reality is it is a place that will hold us when life is hard and the struggle real. They smiled in awe as they shut the door and allowed us to continue. I wonder if that is what the others thought when Paul and Silas sang praises to the Lord from their prison cell. Could it be that our light shines brightest in the dark? How can it shine if there is no joy in the hope we have? Faith is evidence of what we cannot see that manifests in the impossibilities of life. We must learn to take each day and make it a time to rejoice.

Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV) Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Is it even possible to “always be full of joy in the Lord”? Life is tough. The unexpected hidden in each twist and turn. Disappointment lurking in the dark corners. The struggle real. The thoughts overwhelming. Responsibilities endless. Distractions plentiful. Doubt logical. Fear real. How do I remember that the Lord is coming soon? How do I choose peace over worry? When can I find time to pray about every little thing? God knows what I need, right? He knows my heart and can see all its good intentions. If I want the kind of peace that God provides…the peace that passes understanding it means I must stop trying to figure it all out and choose joy in every situation. Where do I find such a thing? When I decide to rejoice, pray, and let God be the source of my hope again…I will find perfect peace just like He has promised. (Isaiah 26:3) To live in perfect peace – I must trust the Lord and keep my thoughts fixed on Him.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

If it is true (which it is) that faith is the reality of what we hope for and evidence of things we cannot see, we must learn to trust what we know rather than what we see, feel and experience in this life. It is to begin to look at things through God’s Word, His Will and His Way. To apply Jesus to every situation in our life is to apply the Word because Jesus is the Word of God. I will not rejoice in my situation or circumstances – my joy comes from the Lord so if I am constantly fixated in what I see rather than living out what I know – I will not grow in my faith but be surrounded by fear. Hope is elusive to the human eye most of the time. If I can see it or imagine it – it is smaller than what the Lord has planned for me. What I can do in each new day is choose to fix my thoughts and eyes on what is true. God’s Word is the Truth concerning my life. To focus on living an honorable, sincere and authentic life. To do what is right. Live what is pure. Devote myself to what is lovely and loving. To fix my thoughts on what is admirable or that which is deserving of respect and approval – I can think of only one thing – Jesus Christ. When I decide to devote my focus and energy on that which is excellent and praiseworthy it always comes back to Him. No matter how hard life is and terrible it seems – the joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV) Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Again, I have no idea what you might be facing today. It could just be another day of the same old thing. It could be the day you decided to throw in the towel. Maybe it is the moment you thought things will never change. There is a knock on the door of your heart. It is the Lord. In His Hands, He offers new mercy and the opportunity to turn things around. Why? No matter how bad today is – God is still good. No matter how testing the trial – He has the answer. No matter what comes your way expected or unexpected – He knew it all along and prepared you with everything you need to go around it, through it or to overcome it. Nothing surprises the Lord so He can remain our confident hope. He has provided all that we need and ordained us to have every spiritual blessing. I am well-equipped for victory today. It comes when I set the Peace of God as my priority.

Psalm 16:8-9 (ESV) I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

As I set things in order, ready to face this crazy day, I am encouraged by the Word of God today. If I choose to set the Lord always before me, he is always at my right hand. I must set the Lord always before me. To see life through Him, the future through Him, and make better choices through Him. I will not be shaken in such a position and faith will make me immovable. Therefore…my heart is glad. It begins in our heart. The place where faith grows into confident hope. My whole being rejoices. As my soul prospers, it spreads. And finally…it is important to note that the flesh is the last to be secured. Our flesh will always war against the peace of God in our life. To give up its right to understand all of the “what ifs” and “whys” to fully expect the great I AM in all situations. When I decide to rely on what I know about the Lord and focus on my champion – I will beat my feelings and frustrations today. I will find peace and joy as my refuge. THIS is the day the Lord has made with all its ups and downs, bumps and bruises – I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Philippians 4:4 (ESV) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Chasing Victory

Chasing Victory

I John 5:4-5 (AMP) For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God]. Who is the one who is victorious and overcomes the world? It is the one who believes and recognizes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.

Yesterday. Oh my goodness! Where to begin and yet not bore you or even overwhelm you with the details. The only reason that I even dare to share it is to encourage someone who may be facing the same. His voice broke through the darkness like a huge hand shaking me violently from sleep, “Honey, it’s 6:30!” How can that be possible? I set the alarm. No, I didn’t. I must have forgotten. We got in late. Our routine not the same. Ugh! No Jesus for me this morning, or so I thought. Running through the paces of what had to be done over what my heart desired to do, I bypassed the study to grab the dog and wake up the girls. My poor little had quite a shaking the day before while tubing on the river. Her head slammed into the water and the pressure made her earache. Now her body was sore from the impact, no worse for wear but exhausted from a long weekend without much sleep. Work has been crazy. Do I stay home with her? Is she okay? What should I do? Why is this so hard? She gets up and begins to get ready so I do the same. My husband and I run over each other in our morning routine which is usually hours apart. I am struggling with my attitude. I have so much to do lingering from last week into today. It seems no matter how much I mark off the list more keeps piling up. Running around in a flurry, I remember that I need to change the sheets in the guest room. The laundry is piling up, too. I grab some frozen chicken for dinner and head for the shower. I have to leave in less than an hour. I promise the Lord that we will talk on the way to work. The long commute is good for quiet time with Jesus unless work meets you in the car with your office manager. My mind is racing and my heart is sinking. Lord, help me today. This day is going to be a booger. I feel it inside me. I hate days like this. “Lord, I need you!”

Arriving to work and reviewing the que, all the projects due that loom over my head present as a little black rain cloud. “God, I need you!” I grab the Bible out of my purse. Surely, there is a word for me somewhere in this little blue book. I read Ezekiel the first chapter. Let me summarize. God calls Ezekiel to bring a Word to the Children of Israel – a strong retort to stubborn people who will not listen. Okay, thanks Holy Spirit that is encouraging…no seriously I get what you are saying but I need to hear that you will rush in to help me today, calm my racing heart, ease my anxious mind, and still this chaotic day. Leaving around six, two hours later than the norm. I am so tired and drained as I crawl to the car. My brain is mush for lack of better terms. My job is not physically strenuous at all, but mentally it is brutal. Holding the steering wheel tight in my hands, I whisper, “God, I need you!” I call my husband to let him know I am late. Hinting at fast food, his disappointment clear, I decide to cook even though it’s getting dark. Let’s not forget that the taxes are due. I have to submit them tonight. The to-do list for tomorrow may not leave room so prudence says, “Now!” While dinner is cooking, I slide into my desk chair. The place where I seek Him, but now just keep doing. The sheets in the guest room still calling – in between dinner and taxes – I strip it and put them in the washer. The timer sounds from the oven and I rally the troops. Sitting around our table, I look at their faces missing the ones who are not there. Thankfulness floods my heart. I made it. We made it. I begin to think about the things that have gone right today. All the small victories won. All the challenges overcome. I am thankful. So I ask each one to share just one thing no matter how big or small they are thankful for, too. The tension breaks as our family meal begins… Lord, thank you for being so much greater than me.

Everyone born of God IS victorious and overcomes the world. It says, “Everyone.” There are no exceptions. If Christ lives in me, I am enough. If He lives in you, you are more than enough to overcome every challenge and temptation that comes your way. It is our continuing and persistent faith in Jesus that gives us victory every day. My strength is no match for the enemy. However, His Grace is enough. It is sufficient. It is exposed when my weakness leads me to the Cross and I exchange my inability for all of His Possibilities. We become victorious and overcome by believing in the Power of Jesus Christ and its potential in us. I didn’t do the things I normally do including spend a significant time in my study and prayer room. Discipline puts me in this place daily so that on those days when life comes hard and pressures are overwhelming – the Christ in me is enough. I believe not because I everyone is in my favor but on the simple and active belief that all things are working together for my good because Jesus Christ is alive and well inside me.

What does it mean to overcome? Jesus overcame the world. It would be a good idea to know what He did. Overcome means get the better of in a struggle. To conquer or defeat something. It means to prevail over or persist in one’s effort. It is to overwhelm or overpower the mind, will and emotions to hold on to our faith. It means to gain victory. Victory is just on the other side of overcoming. We must overpower that which is fighting against us to live in the constant state of winning that Christ promises. How do we overcome? We must fight for our faith despite the constant conflict with our flesh and relentless adversity by the enemy.

John 16:33 (AMP) I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

Jesus was honest. He did not sugarcoat the truth about life in this world. It’s going to be hard. Difficulties will rise up. Challenges will be faced. Temptations will greet us at every turn. It is not going to be an easy journey, just a worthwhile one. You will have “tribulation, distress and suffering” BUT be courageous, confident, undaunted and filled with joy. There is joy in Jesus Christ. What I failed to mention in my dissertation about yesterday is there was laughter. There were friends who encouraged me. Keep running! You’ll catch up. Jesus overcame the world. God is greater than my feelings. Many of the things, I give a high priority are not as important as I think compared to the more than I can think, imagine or ask (Ephesians 3:20) that the Lord is doing in me and through me at the very same time.

My conquest is accomplished. My victory abiding. I love these words so much today. They give validity to my hope that I hold so dearly and tightly to my chest. As if to let my beating heart, help revive it in tough times. Yet, I know that my hope is established by faith and not anything that I can do. I cannot boast of the breakthrough today. The kind of accomplishment that allows us to lay down and sleep in perfect peace even in the midst of crushing pressure and countless deadlines. Jesus keeps telling us these things, encouraging us to believe, empowering us to hang on because He is building, shaping and molding our heart to live in victory rather than chasing it all the time. He is filling us with more of His Spirit and the inexpressible joy that is evident in perfect peace. God is with us. He lives in us. We are victorious.

I John 4:4 (AMP) Little children (believers, dear ones), you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind]. 

It’s funny that these words of encouragement are sandwiched between warnings about false teaching. When I missed my quiet time in the Word this morning and did not go into my prayer closet, but conversed with the Lord on the go. I was tempted to take an invisible bat and beat myself in the head. I have to do this – I always do this – the Lord has instructed me to do this. No, He has simply asked me to follow Him wholeheartedly. All the “to do” things are of my own design. I believe that the enemy works on both sides. The world places a high demand on our time and attention. Sometimes the people in church can do the same thing. We must be faithful to the fellowship. We must “serve” the Lord and “do” the right things. Is this really the Voice of the Lord? Because His Word says that the “blessing of the Lord brings true riches and He adds no sorrow for it.” There was no more important place I went or task performed yesterday than to sit down with my family at the dinner table and join hands to pray. To speak our thankfulness to Jesus because no matter how difficult it was – we made it. Overcoming the world’s pressures and gaining victory over the enemy’s attack – our family sat together in the Presence of the Lord, filled with His Spirit, covered with grace and shared a meal together. We made it. It was in the moment of perfect peace that victory is secure. The knowing that God is with us – Immanuel and stopping because nothing is chasing us but His Unfailing Love and Goodness. It will find us if our heart and mind are set on Him.

I Corinthians 15:57-58 (AMP) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [as conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].

Can I just encourage you a little today? You are victorious. You don’t have to chase victory or try to overcome. The Victor and Overcomer already lives in you. By trusting and believing that He is enough and continually pushing every care, worry, need or burden over to Him, it builds our faith into confident hope so on days when all hell breaks loose, nothing goes right, and everything seems to be falling apart – His Chaotic Love sweeps us up and envelopes us in perfect peace. The kind that our heart, mind, will and emotions can rest in even when our body is on the go. Life will continue to be full of temptation, pressure and responsibility. Jesus didn’t promise to take these challenges away but that in each one – His People overcome. Victory belongs to us if we choose to claim it, step in it and live in each day.

Psalm 117:2 (AMP) For His lovingkindness prevails over us [and we triumph and overcome through Him], and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)