The joy of the Lord

A customer came into our shop last night who was so friendly. He asked how we were and was smiling and just being generally happy. It struck me that people who are like that, attract people. It is like the saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. How often don’t we see other Christians who are really sullen and sometimes even seem to be depressed. Why would this be?

Nehemiah 8:10, Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Jerusalem had been conquered and many of the people had been carried away to Babylon. Most of the middle and upper class people were taken to Babylon and only the poor people remained. Nehemiah was one of the exiled Jews and was the cupbearer for the king of Persia. He heard that the wall of Jerusalem were broken and could not function because of grief. The king gave him a leave of absence in order to rebuild the walls. There was quite some opposition but eventually the walls were repaired and rebuilt. Ezra read the law and the people realized the weight of their guilt and started weeping. In the next verse the Levites say, ”Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”

Nehemiah 9:17 (b), But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.

This was about the Israelites in the desert. Even though they were really disobedient, God forgave them.

Let us look at this from another angle. Every one of us is like or has been like Jerusalem with her walls broken down, and that is really the best way to be so that God can build us up again. When our walls are broken down we are vulnerable. We can’t defend our hearts anymore. We can’t pretend anymore. We have reached the point where we are at the mercy of whoever we choose to trust. If Jerusalem was a person she would be trusting Nehemiah to rebuild her walls strongly and solidly. We need to choose the right one to rebuild our walls. How many times haven’t we heard about people coming out of a broken relationship and then entering another one and it ends badly and they are left even more broken than before. We need to call out to Jesus at this point and just give ourselves and our brokenness completely to Him. It doesn’t matter what we have done and where we have been, God wipes the slate clean and allows us to start over as many times as we need. We need to keep giving ourselves to Jesus. I know a Christian who says that he will walk alongside anyone who tries. It’s all about our hearts. God looks at the intentions of our hearts. He doesn’t judge us the way the world judges us.

The Levites said, “be still, for the day is holy.” The day that we give our broken selves to God for Him to rebuild our walls is a holy day. It is also a day of rejoicing because it is the beginning of our recovery. We can be broken for so many reasons, but God doesn’t judge us on what is behind us, He knows the future and He has determined our futures. We have good futures.

Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God knows that if we allow Him to rebuild our walls they are going to be beautiful and strong and solid. He is going to use the scars and in the places where those scars are we are going to be stronger than ever. Those trials we went through are going to be our strengths and we are going to be able to do as Habakkuk says and “Walk on our high hills”. We are going to triumph above our circumstances.

Whatever the reason there are Christians who look depressed, God is able and He can change even the most desperate circumstances. He is the only one who can change your mourning into dancing and exchange your robes of heaviness for a garment of praise.


Hurt steals our fight

A very precious friend who is like a daughter to me, has been through more than any person should be allowed to go through. Her daughter was kidnapped by a family member and she is still struggling the law system to try to get her back. That’s a long story and not mine to tell. But what is happening now is that the enemy is accusing her of failing her daughter. I told her that she must remember it’s the enemy trying to distract her from what she’s supposed to be doing and keeping her from having faith. She acknowledged that but said that even though she knows, it still hurts. That’s when I realized that the enemy wants us to hurt, because when we’re hurting we can’t fight. When we’re hurting it takes up all the energy we’ve got.

According to John 10:10 the devil comes to kill, to steal and destroy. Yes, he does want to see us dead and up till that time he will try to steal every good from us that he possibly can. He will steal our joy, our faith, our peace and our health. He will try to destroy families and marriages. He hates unity and love. The things he steals and destroys are meant to cause pain. Isaiah 53:4. “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus took all our pain onto Himself. He died for us so that we could live in victory. Matthew 8:16 – 17, “when evening had come, they brought to him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities, And bore our sicknesses.”

We are supposed to give Jesus our hurts and our pain. We should just be able to let everything go and trust Him with the things that are troubling us. Even though we know that we should be doing this we often don’t. We either think that we can handle things ourselves, or we don’t realize that a lot of the bad stuff that’s happening to us is the work of the enemy. The enemy is devious. He will not say something to you like, “Hey, Alex, I am a demon, and I want to tell you that I want you to believe you are worthless.” No, not at all. What you’re going to hear is, “I am worthless.” Just pay attention, you sometimes have thoughts that might coincide with something that’s going on in your life and it feels like you are thinking these things. Whether the thought comes from yourself or from the devil, do not allow it to linger. We often invite these thoughts in, give them a comfortable seat and entertain them with tea and biscuits. Then we give them a room with a comfy bed and let them sleep over. Once they become comfortable we are going to think they belong to us and then we are really going to start believing them. We don’t have to be possessed by a demon to do the enemy’s bidding. It’s as easy as acknowledging a negative thought. Once that thought is there it is going to start causing pain. Let’s say there was an incident at school with your child and you felt a bit guilty about what happened. The thoughts about being a bad parent are going to come along. Sometimes not only thoughts, sometimes people speak these things out loud. You accept them and soon you’re a wreck in need of therapy because you believe you’re a bad parent, and whatever else the enemy can make you believe.

So how do we get rid of all this baggage? Well, give it to Jesus. Pray, beg if you have to, but make sure you are sure you’ve given it to the Lord. Then start to fight. Put on the full armor, Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” And then start praising, and keep praising until you feel the victory in your soul. Remember this is not about circumstances. You must look up and rise up above your circumstances.  Psalm 30:11-12, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”