Celebrate, The Weeping Time is Over

wailing wall“…be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” -Nehemiah 8:10 (AMP).

If you look at the context of the above Scripture and the time period in which it was written, the Jews had just completed a hard process of reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem that had been torn down for at least 70 years. The whole city, including the beautiful temple constructed by Solomon, had been reduced to ruins by the Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BC. The Jews been exiled (or “carried away”) to Babylon, and those who’d been left as stragglers had endured unmentionable atrocities. A huge proportion of those now back within the borders of their homeland hadn’t even been born yet when it had all been destroyed, to remember the grandeur of how things used to be in Jerusalem. Now the wall was back up, and the fact that it went up in a mere 52 days was enough to shake the rumor mill and put the fear of God into their enemies. Jerusalem was back, and it would be restored. And it was known that they had God’s strong arm on their side. So as the people were gathered and the Word of God was being read by Ezra, they just began to weep uncontrollably. Ezra comforted them and told them, “Today is not a day for crying–it’s for rejoicing! Go home and prepare a feast for celebration!”

Sometimes when we have been oppressed for so long, the response we have when the cloud has been lifted is just to weep uncontrollably. It’s like all that time you were having to be strong, putting on a tough act; and once you can relax, the natural reflex is to just begin to cry. I’m like that. I’ll be a rock until a crisis is over then I just turn into a weepy mess.

But for God’s people that day, the reading of the text of the law seemed at first to grieve them–they were reminded of where it all went wrong, the choices they’d made, the God and His blessings they had taken for granted, and the people who were lost along the way.  But then, as they deliberately began prepare for a time of joy, the hope of those Scriptures begin to soak in and they understood that, even with judgment, God’s ultimate plan is for our deliverance. I think that this as the perfect example of putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…something that involves choice. See, God was never NOT for them–and He was bringing them full circle because He loved them! And He had just enabled them through supernatural means, good leadership, and favor from unexpected sources, to rebuild what seemed impossible. Yeah, He’s all about that restoration. All things new.  True repentance does indeed take us through a feeling of grief over what we didn’t get right, but it also shifts to rejoicing when we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us that there’s a chance to move forward.

Reach for the joy of the Lord, at wherever on the timeline of trial you find yourself today. I don’t know if your situation arose from bad choices, or whether you have just been facing one attack of the enemy after another.  Lots of different scenarios can bring us to an emotional pitch-point.  And maybe now that you don’t have to be so strong, you find yourself unable to stop crying. Let it out…and then let it go.  The joy of the Lord is earmarked for you–has your name on it. It’s in reserve for the taking. It will not only empower you, but it is a safe place whose walls hold off the enemy’s attack! Thank the Lord today that He is doing for you what He did for the exiled of His people–He is setting you free, He is sending help from the most unlikely people/sources, He is strengthening you to start all over again, and He is setting you up for safety in His presence.  Why not take a moment, right now, and call those things out specifically in a prayer of thanksgiving?  Thank Him especially for those items on the list that haven’t materialized just yet…they’re on the way.  God wants you. He doesn’t care that you have had years of bad decisions, bad circumstances, bad everything–He wants you to be His “comeback kid” with a testimony that glorifies what He’s done in your life.

Think once more about that 52 days it took to rebuild the wall. It was hard work. Their enemies were interfering. There were grumblings and disagreements among themselves. And it still went up and the gates still got hung and pulled shut and order restored! Right now you are at a potentially pivotal time. What if the answers to your biggest prayers were only 52 days away from coming to pass? Another Old Testament prophet wrote this: “The vision will still happen at the appointed time. It hurries toward its goal. It won’t be a lie. If it’s delayed, wait for it. It will certainly happen. It won’t be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3 NET) Whether your prayer is 52 years, 52 days, or perhaps even 52 minutes from being answered, it will not be too late. God will sustain you and yes, He will even help you to have joy and peace in the place of waiting.

I pray all of you just get saturated today in the joy of the Lord, and that you encapsule yourself in the protection it gives. You can still have that joy even if all hell is breaking loose around you…it’s not governed by your circumstances…it’s existent in SPITE OF them. If you don’t have it, ASK GOD for it! Keep asking until it floods your soul! Now dry your eyes, understand that God’s Word points to a good and expected end for you, and prepare that feast of celebration. Even if you’re just going to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, look at it as a celebration meal. The vision hurries to its goal! And you are greatly loved by the God who watches over His Word to perform it!

Quietly Comes Our Rescuer

VoiceThe Lord said to Elijah, “Go, stand in front of me on the mountain, and I will pass by you.” Then a very strong wind blew until it caused the mountains to fall apart and large rocks to break in front of the Lord . But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle sound. 1 Kings 17:11-12 NCV

I wonder how often when, faced with difficult situations, we imagine that God’s method of coming against our circumstances will be to “outdo” the noise of the enemy’s onslaught?  Do we have expectations of Him suddenly becoming loud, boisterous, angry, violent, ostentatious as He rises to our rescue?  What if we were to miss His visitation by overlooking the quiet, gentle sound that follows all the hoopla?

This particular passage of Scripture is intriguing to me, within and outside of its context.  Elijah had hit a spiritual crisis after his Mount Carmel moment.  The prophet who’d called down fire from heaven was now running scared from a wicked ruler who vowed to kill him.  In his despair, Elijah perceived himself to be the “only one left,” and he expressed his feelings of frustration and utter aloneness to God.  God revealed to him Who He is, by revealing to Elijah what He isn’t!

Now, God’s ways are so above our own, I don’t presume to know why He decided to appear to Elijah thus.  We know that in some other Bible stories, the Lord did appear in a loud and frightening fashion; and yet, this particular time, His quietness was a stark contrast to the roar of what preceded Him.

All that we ever need to place our trust in is His sheer faithfulness.  What He has promised in His Word, He will bring to pass.  If we try to predict or even manipulate His method of coming to our rescue, we will go chasing every wild and sensational “noise” around us.  How many people out there simply cannot bear not to be in the loop…and they step beyond the boundaries God has set.  We see scores of people nowadays flocking to mediums and psychics to give them a “when” and a “how;” and practices which are despicable to a holy God are increasingly gaining popularity on television.  Those who seek rogue answers to what He has not yet chosen to reveal operate in the polar opposite of faith:  fear.  Fear can drive one to the point of rebellion against the only One Who can truly help.  We can never sidestep our Creator and get a good result!  Knowing our fascination with appearances, the enemy is more than willing to send his deceptions to us in the big, bold, underscored—and most of all, instantaneous— “signs” that we seek.  Oh, how we need to clear our heads of our expectations and just WAIT ON THE LORD.

Our Father has granted access, through His Son, for us to approach His throne boldly in our time of need!  Even when our feelings are carnal, fearful, flawed, doubtful, or angry, He allows us to pour our hearts out to Him.  As we invite Him into our every day lives, and develop relationship with Him through daily interaction, we also establish the deep mutual trust that enables us to communicate honestly with God.  It is that regular communication that enlightens us to His nature.  That regular communication also teaches us to know that God doesn’t react.  He responds.  He responds to FAITH.

Don’t forfeit your miracle because it appears to be too simple to be from the Lord!  God doesn’t have to prove Himself bigger than our problems, stronger than our enemy.  He doesn’t fight noise with more noise.  When you are in a bad situation, and the chaos is deafening, you may surmise that He will show up in a big booming voice and command the storm to be still.  That’s not the way He does it!  When we read of Jesus calming the storm, it doesn’t say that He screamed out, “Peace, be still!”  He spoke it.  There was no alarm in His voice, no argumentative tone.  It wasn’t the WAY He said it; rather, it was WHO said it.

You may be in dire straits today, heart pounding from anxiety.  You may be looking at a clock or calendar, a financial statement or a medical report which demands something you can’t give.  Your child may have gotten into some trouble that can’t be negotiated away.  You may love someone who has fallen into addiction’s cruel trap, and it may make you feel powerless to help.  You may even feel like crying out, “God, where ARE You?!!”  Stop where you are.  Take a deep breath.  If tears need to fall, let them fall.  He is touched by the feeling of your infirmities!  Hebrews 4:15 Says it like this:  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  The word for infirmities in the Greek is astheneiais…and it encompasses more than mere physical impairment.  It is defined as feebleness (of mind or body); by implication, malady; morally, frailty — disease, infirmity, sickness, weakness.  Whatever area of your mind or body contains a frailty, He has it covered because He’s been there, done that!   Because Jesus survived the experience without failing His Father, you too have hope.  Think of Mary, who, after lamenting her brother Lazarus’ untimely death and Jesus’ absence, counters her emotional outburst with profound faith:  “I know, Lord, that EVEN NOW, even after it’s too late in the natural to reverse what has happened, You can raise him from the dead!”

Pray with me:  “Heavenly Father, You know all things already, so I stand before you without pretense.  You see my dilemma.  (Go ahead, be specific with the Lord now about what’s troubling you.)  Your Word tells me that You are all-knowing.  You also know that when the tempter attacks me in weak areas, the struggle to remain strong is more difficult.  I roll my works over onto You now.  I surrender my desire to fix what’s wrong by my own might…I already know it’s beyond my ability, but I also surrender that “need” to be in control.  No man can pluck out of Your hand what’s been committed to Your care, so I cast my cares in this situation upon You now.  I receive Your help.  I allow You to lift my shoulder from the burden!  I allow You to do what You know needs to be done in order to make right what is wrong.  Whatever You require of me, I determine to be obedient.  If You say that I must change something about myself, my habits, my associations, my affections, I surrender those to You as well.  If You should will to change ME instead of overtly changing my situation, then I ask for Your grace to embrace change, knowing that all things work together for good if I love You and am called according to Your purpose.    Thank You for hearing me.  Thank You for even those times when You answer in a quiet, unheralded way.  Your answer may not be noisy and big and grandiose…but I eagerly await the “Peace, be still,” if You should choose to merely whisper the remedy and bring it to pass!  I commit to wait upon You, to trust and to faint not.  Whatever You choose to do, please take Your liberty now, in Jesus’ name.”

Worth Its “Wait” in Gold

pot pieDear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.  (James 1:2-4 TLB)

One of my favorite treats as a kid was a pot pie.  Mom didn’t buy them very often, but I thought they were among the most wonderful things in the world.  These weren’t the microwave, done-in-60- seconds hockey pucks in today’s grocery freezer section…and, back then they still came standard with a bottom crust, too.  Lots of things were of higher quality before companies decided that they could make more money by giving you less.  The wait was sweet agony.

Now that I’m well into my adult years, I make my own everything; so I can’t tell you how the 21st Century pot pie is prepared.  Back then, you took a rock solid frozen single-serving pie, punched a few vent holes in the top, put it on a pizza tin, and popped into the oven for probably 45 minutes or so.  In my case the 45 minutes probably stretched out to nearer an hour, because I would keep opening the oven door to see how far along the baking had progressed.

Pot pies had a double-indemnity wait clause.  First, you had to wait for them to bake all the way through; and then you had to wait again, that much longer, for them to cool off just to be able to eat them.  Those of us who had patience for neither would wind up with soggy pie and a burned tongue.  Yes, I burned my tongue almost every single time Mom made them.

We are so conditioned, in every aspect of life, to disdain the wait.  A letter is an antiquated thing now that we have instant messaging.  We order some worthless gadget on the shopping channel, we pay extra so that we don’t have to WAIT.  We go into ridiculous debt for things we can’t afford, because laying something away until it’s paid for, why, we’re too good for that!  Gotta have it all right now.

Waiting is an art in the spiritual realm, as well; and one that, if you’re like me, is an ongoing process to develop. There is relationship built with God as we wait.  There is maturity and strength gained in the struggle that we won’t acquire if we have a microwave mentality.  In the pause before the answer to prayer comes to pass, we get to study and observe His process.  As we obediently step away from the controls, we come to appreciate His meticulous knack for do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.  Quality is yet another reward for learning to wait…because there’s no such thing as rushed perfection.

I once had a coworker who could find a good meal in the most surprising places.  His advice to me was this:  when you go into a new town, talk to the locals.  Ask them where the best place to eat is, and when they offer the usual “tourist dives,” you tell them, “No, not where you send the tourists.  Where do YOU go when you want a good meal?”  Sometimes those secret gathering places were little hole-in-the-wall basement establishments.  Routinely, he would go in, sit down, and instead of taking a menu, asked the cook to surprise him.  There’s something about asking a chef to do what he or she does best—create!  It’s a welcome, refreshing, thrilling opportunity: to receive a request without restrictions, without picky substitutions, or conditions about how the customer wants the finished product to appear.  Because he considered dining to be an event rather than a means to an end, he didn’t care to wait a little longer.  The meals, according to him, were almost always something off-the-grid, because he dared trust the one doing the cooking to his or her best judgment.

What huge thing are you asking God to do today, if at all?  If you’re not asking for something big, I challenge you to ask Him for what “can’t be done.”  Ask Him to change the very person whom everyone around you says cannot or will not ever change.  Ask Him for something that brings Him glory, and surrender the how, when, and where to HIM.  Give Him an opportunity to roll up His sleeves and reveal what He is REALLY capable of.  Ask Him to do great exploits, and don’t set up conditions or a deadline for Him to have to adhere to.  We’re so shallow in our asking…we order straight off the menu, asking for the small things which require little if any faith.  God wants His children to boldly approach His throne, to ask Him to accomplish what HE wants in the earth.  After the asking, He wants us to wait.  Oh, He hasn’t lost our request in the shuffle.  He hasn’t forgotten or disregarded our prayers as unimportant.  He’s just waiting for the time He knows is best to bring it all to pass.

Make your petitions known to your caring Father today.  Don’t settle for a watery, freeze-dried, or second-rate blessing just so you can have it sooner.  Don’t get burned by trying to take what He’s promised before it has had time to cool down to the perfect moment.  There is blessing in the wait.  If you can allow Him to bring you His best in His time, it will be so worth the discipline.  Right place, right time?  Better than the best pot pie you ever ate!