Month: April 2012

A To Z: Q is for Quietness

Quietness

And the work of righteousness shall be peace;

and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

Isaiah 32:17 (KJV)

There is a time to fight, but there is also a time to be quiet and still. The ability to discern when to do which is critical when it comes to overcoming.

 

As a kid I was terrified of quicksand. No, I had never seen it, felt it, or come remotely close to the stuff, but the thought of something sucking me down into the darkest depths of  earth, slowly sucking life from my lungs, scared the snot out of me. I mentally went through the actions, or should I say inaction I would take so that in the event I ever did find myself doing the backstroke in a pool of it, I would be able to escape. At that young age, I understood that in order to survive, to had to “do nothing.”

 

Quicksand moments of life

Sometime life hands us fight/flight situations, times when there is no getting around confrontations, battles, disputes, or disagreements. Then there are the days when we are thrust into  “quick sand” moments of life. These are instances  when words, actions, and confrontation only make matters worse. No matter how cool, calm, and collects we are, anything we do or say sucks us deeper into the suffocating quagmire. I have found this to be true on both a physical and spiritual level.

 

I have a broken and sick grandparent. No matter what I  say, do, or don’t do, I can’t win. I can’t rationalize with her or make her see the truth. I can’t refute her illogical reasoning and distorted view of life and our family. Like my husband puts it, by doing so I “only get myself a blot.” It is maddening, but for the sake of not being engulfed into a bottomless pit of bitterness, anger, and strife, all I can do is nothing. I just walk away.

 

I love my sister, and have no idea what I would do without her. She has given me a few “quick sand moments” of a different sort. They start something like this, my phone rings and Amy is on the other side. “Jody, I have something I need to talk to you about. Your not going to like what I have to say, but please just hear me out. If you want to hang up when I am through I understand.” This might astound and even offend you, but you have to understand and personally know my amazing sister. She has never been wrong and true to her word, I did not like what she had to say. It was a “quick sand moment”,  I had to relax my heart, mind, and emotions and allow the love and truth of her words sink in, and guess what I survived, but better than that, I was a better wife, mom, woman because of it.

 

On a spiritual level,  I had some similar conversations with the Lord. As Beth Moore explains in her book “Get out of that Pit,” Sometimes were pushed into pits, sometimes we innocently fall into them. Then there are the times we just jump in headfirst.

 

There have been moments when I had to claw my way out of trials. Times when my fingers were raw, my skin bruised and bleeding, and I needed to, had to fight. BUT There have also been times when my battle wasn’t a pit I needed to claw out of but a pool of quicksand I had to relax in and yield to.

 
Sometimes the Redeemer doesn’t require we fight, He just asks us to yield, to relax, to rest. To believe He is who He says He is, and who He has all ready proven Himself to be. It is during these “quicksand moments of life” that He who is True and Faithful whispers

“…Your strength is to sit still.”

Isaiah 30:7

Quietness, it is an absence of striving, clamoring, protest, questions, doubts. Quietness is the ability to embrace an absence of words and explanations because I understand the absence of His voice by no means indicates an absence of His presence. Quietness is an opportunity to  receive things I might otherwise not see, hear, feel, or discover.

Do you know how to be quiet? Do you know how to let quietness envelop your heart, mind, body, soul and spirit? You can overcome through quietness. You just have to know when it is time to fight and when it is okay to relax, be quiet, and let another work and move on your behalf. Yes, there are moments when your strength to overcome is through sitting still.

A to Z: Overcoming through Prayer

Prayer

Communication with God

through written or spoken words, thoughts, meditation, or song.

A reverent petition

 The Power of Prayer

 There is something raw and exposing about prayer. Weather out of joy, longing, or sorrow, prayer is a purposeful and  submissive bending of body, soul, mind and spirit. It is the acknowledgement “I am not all there is, nor am I all I need to be.” There is One greater, mightier, more Holy, Wise, Loving, and Powerful!

As a youngster I struggled with prayer. If God was in control, and if God had a plan, why did I need to pray? He knew my heart, and could see what I was going through.  I wasn’t going to change His mind so why pray?

In a way I was right, my prayers would never alter God’s ultimate will and plan for my life, BUT there was something prayer would and could alter, ME!

Over the past few years, the Lord has mercifully led me through some lengthy periods of stretching, purging, refining, and growth. These private, humbling, and sometimes painful trials have opened my eyes to the transforming purpose and power of prayer. You see, prayer does not bend the Lord’s will to mine, it softens my heart to His.

What Prayer isn’t…..

Prayers that begin as tattle-tale list of offences, hurts, and need accomplish little when I came determined to “Get what I thought I needed.”  There is no room for the stubborn in prayer! I have experienced moments of stubborn prayer. Times I rudely and proudly presented myself before the throne with an agenda. I would come determined to tell Christ the way things were, determined not to walk away till I was satisfied. Usually I walked away frustrated and an even more distant relationship with Him. These prayers never accomplish anything!

Proper, Powerful, Purposeful Prayer

Praise the Lord for His mercy and patience,  He never turned His back from me. I am grateful for the times he ushered me through sweet, intimate moments of brokenness and fellowship with Him. Special seasons of life when my heart, soul, spirit, and body yielded in great heaving sobs, bending malleable and submissive to the gentle, purposeful hands of the Loving Father.  In these times of prayer, heaven and earth parted to unite a broken, needy, and seeking child into the presence of her Abba, Pappa, Father.

When I have fallen on my face before Him, not demanding answers, but pleading for grace, strength, understanding, and the desire to obey His will, He has gloriously spoken. He has granted ears to hear, eyes  to see, and a mind able to comprehend the love, grace, power, and glory He has bestowed upon me.

Prayer that overcomes doesn’t make hardship disappear, rather it moves man out of the way, overcoming him. The Prayer of faith might be able to mover mountains, but far greater is it’s ability to conform the once broken, wayward, rebellious, deceived, sin blinded heart of a man so that he can cry with passion,

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”

“To live is to die and to die is to gain”

“I will decrease that He might increase!”

“Not my will oh Father, but  Thine.”

“To you alone of God may there be ALL Glory and Honor, Praise and glory”

“It will be worth it all, the day I see my Jesus!”

Psalm 66:20

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayeror removed his steadfast love from me!

Psalm 69:13
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 141:2
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Proverbs 15:29
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayerof the righteous.

Romans 12:12
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant inprayer.

Philippians 4:6
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything byprayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

A To Z: O is For Overcoming

Overcoming

1. To defeat in competition or conflict; conquer.
2. To prevail over; surmount
3. To overpower, as with emotion; affect deeply.
4. To surmount opposition; be victorious.
John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the
world.”

Living to Overcome

I am your typical 2nd born child, stubborn, reckless, and competitive. I thrive when given deadlines, or opportunities to overcome or defeat something. It does not matter who you are, if you are standing between me and the finish line, please step out of the way. It is nothing personal, I just want to win. Grandma, hubby, mom, little man, they all know to clear the way because I am a comin and all is fare in love and war.

Part of me hates how competitive I am. One minute I am clawing for my husband’s jugular so I can take him down in a wicked game of dominos.

The next minute I am remorseful and ashamed by my anger and the ruthless desire to rip his head right off. In the end, mercy usually wins and I let him win (He will argue over the “letting win” part.)

The word overcoming seemed a natural fit for my blog  because I am driven by the desire to overcome. Through the grace, love, and salvation poured out upon me, overcoming is not only the theme of my existence, it is my calling and my destiny.

So how would you react if given the opportunity to play for a “team” guaranteed to win it all? The Super Bowl, World Series, Masters, NASCAR, Nobel or Pulitzer? How about making it on the cover of People or Time Magazine? What about Leader of the World. You name it, it’s yours. Chances are you are like me, thinking a person would have to be a complete fool to not take advantage of an offer of guaranteed success, and you are spot on! Years ago,  I was given the opportunity to win the humdinger of all contests, the one called life. You know, the game we are all contestants in, only the stakes are high, if not extreme because were playing for our lives. To win is eternity with Christ. To loose means eternal suffering and separation. The teams are set. On the right hand stands the Lord of the Universe, and on the left satan, sin, death, guilt, and eternal suffering.

Can you imagine the exhilaration it gives me to know that I am on the winning team! Life isn’t like middle school gym class, where you stand hunched yet hopeful you will not be the last name called as the popular kids  choose teams. Success isn’t based on popularity, might, ingenuity, or ability, but by a merciful and loving Savior. I didn’t have to deserve to be on His team, I was Loved onto it.

He called my name and chose me to be on His side long before time began. I was chosen to be on the winning team ages before battle lines were drawn and then crossed. Before I took my first breath, the enemy had been utterly defeated. All I have been asked to do is represent, endure, believe, finish well, to walk worthy.

Yee-Haw, I am on the winning team! Boo-Yah,  I win! The game of life death is over and I am on the right side of the line.  Overcoming isn’t an unrealized hope, it is my right and privilege. Sin and death lost their fangs thousands of years ago. They are the underdog, not I.

I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

I John 2:12-14 (ESV)

I live to Overcome because He has empowered and equipped me to Overcome. My life is a story of conquering. Not through my strength, might, or goodness, but through Him. If you search deep within the canvas of my life you will see the hand of He who overcame. Etched deep within every passing moment of my life is a scarlet story of might, purpose, strength, and conquering. “The Word of God abides within me and I Have Overcome the evil one!”

A to Z: Overcoming Noise

Noise

A sound, esp. one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance:

I do not like noise. My ears are sensitive to misplaced, unnecessary, intruding sounds that rudely interrupt and distract from what I’m trying to concentrate upon. As much as I detest audible noise, this is not the enemy I speak of. I am referring to the silent noises of life.

Noise doesn’t have to be audible. It can come in small voiceless accusations. It is failure ripping relentlessly upon raw hearts and vulnerable emotions. It is silent reproach “You have messed up again,” “you are a horrible mother, wife, friend,” “You call yourself a Christian, you are not better than they are.”

Noise can be a look, a cold shoulder, or indifference. It is a fractured relationship that drowns spirits. Noise strains emotions like a great storm rolling across a plain, devouring everything within the reach of its icy fingers.

Noise can arrive without invitation. It steals wordlessly into living rooms, bedrooms, and even Church auditoriums. It lashes out with silent tongues of discontent, strife, anger, greed, and jealousy. Noise invades relationships, making what was once natural, effortless, and cherished morph into something awkward, unbearable, and tormenting.

Noise is the silent anguish of a grieving mother who has buried her child. It is the suffocating feeling of failure that burns deep inside the soul of the husband who has lost his job and has no idea how he will care for his family. Noise is the guilt of a teen who has given into pressure and had their innocence stolen. Noise is condemnation, heartbreak, anger, hopelessness. Noise is absence of peace.

In a world filled with so much mind numbing and heart deafening noise, how do we find the strength, grace and power to overcome?

Overcoming Noise!

Athletes provide a great example of how to overcome noise. They stand on the free throw line, the game riding upon their shoulders. Every spectator is on their feet screaming, yelling, chanting, praying, taunting, begging. The noise is mind numbing, yet that athlete can silence every voice, becoming deaf and blind to the presence of every human in the arena. It is just him and the net. There is silence in his heart and mind.

SWOOSH, VICTORY, TRIUMPH!

FOCUS!

The only way I overcome the mind deafening, crushing noise of life is through focusing on that which truly matters and the only thing that gives purpose and makes sense of life. Eternity, Forever, Hope, Healing, Heaven, my Lord and Savior. He is present through all the noise. His will is just, loving, and with purpose. Heaven and Earth will pass away, the noise will stop, and He will be there. My life is fleeting, my trials passing. All that matters is the only thing that will last. I will endure and can endure because I know the “Ending.” It is glorious, powerful, and satisfying. Eternity makes the here and now bearable, endurable, even acceptable. The only way I can overcome the noise it to

Look to the Master and Creator.

1I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5The Lord s your keeper;
the
Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7The Lord willkeep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The Lord will keep
your
going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Practical Advice:

  1. Preach to yourself don’t listen to yourself

    When that accusing voice starts whispering lies & accusations, interrupt that voice with a good ol sermon of your own. Counter each lie, accusation and hurt with truth.

  2. Claim a “mantra”

    Not an in the mystic sense of the word, but a phrase or verse of truth that specifically counters the noise. When I was single and struggle with lies like : I was missing out, forgotten, cheated… Psalm 84:11-12 was the mantra I clung to. When I felt overwhelmed by a trial, it was the Psalm “You caused men to ride over our heads, we went through fire and water but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place. ” I set my gaze ahead, and as I broke, fell, cried, and rose up to keep press on, I was a looking for that promised wealthy place.

  3. Meditate on truth

    It doesn’t work to try to just out noise the noise. You have to know, believe, and purpose to let truth and peace reign instead of the noise, lies…. I didn’t just recite Pslam 84, I meditated on it and I told myself why I wasn’t missing out, cheated, left behind.

  4. Accountability!

    If you struggle in an area find a trusted friend who will challenge you, encourage you, and kick you in the butt when you need it. (Do not ask a person struggling with the same thing)

    How do you overcome Noise?

And the Winner is………

Thanks to all who stopped by and commented on the M is for Music blog. We held the drawing in our kitchen today and the winners (I couldn’t help myself and we drew 2) are:

Sheena @ Day  By Day

and

Merrit @ LiveSimplyLove

Please send me an e-mail at jody@watkinsheating.com Let me know if you would like a physical copy or a digital download.

A to Z: Overcoming through Music & a MAGNIFICENT MUSIC GIVEAWAY!!

Music

The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a

continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

Music is powerful. Certain notes strung together wield the ability to bring a grown man to tears. It can sooth a cranky baby to sleep, and lead a tormented spirit into a place of solitude. When I play music I can run a faster mile, exuberantly attack mountains of ironing,  and find the inspiration to write.

I love music, and I love how music can be used to overcome dreary days, messy houses, and downcast spirits. Most of all, I love how music can refocus my heart and mind drawing me to seek and savor the things that matter, Eternity, Forever, and my Savior!

I would like to have some fun and switch things up today by offering a giveaway for a CD that I discovered early this year. This is an amazing collection of music that presents the most amazing story of love, redemption, faith, sacrifice, and hope. The title is called Music inspired by the Story. This CD will have you dancing one minute and in tears the next. You will be inspired by its message you as fight daily to Overcome and  finish well!

To enter simply reply in the comment section and let me know you would like the CD. I will hold the drawing Monday. Feel free to pass this along to your friends!

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing:

thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

 12To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee,

and not be silent. O LORD my God,

I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

Psalm 30:11-12

A to Z: Overcoming Through Love


Love

Love is not an emotion.

Love is consciously choosing what emotions

I    allow    to   rule   my   heart,   soul,   spirit,   &   body.

Love  is not  given because  the  other  is  worthy,

Love is poured out because it was given to me

When I wasn’t worthy.

This is love

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love,

I am nothing.

3 If I give away all I have,

and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love,

I gain nothing.

4Love is

patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant 5 or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends…

I Cor 13:1-8a (ESV)

It is easy to display love, when others love you in return, but what happens when your heart is wrenched from your chest, ripped in two, and dropped at your feet? When you have been betrayed, crushed, rejected, insert your hurt here, how can you be expected to endure, believe, hope, and bear your pain while dishing out love in return?

I found myself struggling with this thought a few years ago when someone I loved hurt me in a way I never thought possible. In my stunned pain, sorrow, and grief, I never stopped caring, but my hurt made believing that the pain could ever stop long enough for the damaged pieces of my heart heal, seem impossible? I would never have dreamed of walking away from this relationship, but how was I supposed to bear the burden of my pain without insisting they feel, carry, or pay for what they had done? How was I to hope for healing and restitution when it seemed I was doing everything to make things right, while they went on with life, as if nothing had ever happened? How was I supposed to endure through my sorrow while they remained oblivious to how broken and hurt I was? Was my love really expected to never falter or fail?

I still loved this person, but it wasn’t a healthy, vibrant, enduring love. I went through motions, said the right things, declared I had forgiven, but for all my actions, I gained nothing. Our relationship was not repaired, my heart was still broken, and I was dying within. On the outside everything looked normal, but inwardly I was nothing loveable. I was angry, fearful, suspicious, and proud! I went through the motions and actions so no one thought less of me, but my actions were meaningless. I was not demonstrating true love. I was a loud, clanky, noisy, FAKE cymbal!

As I sat on the couch one morning, in desperation, I cried out to the Lord for mercy. I needed Divine intervention and power to break free from the bondage that was slowly sucking away my life. The Lord heard my cry and He broke my heart. It was not a merciless destruction, but rather a tender, and loving fracturing of a sick heart by a Master who understood exactly what had to be broken before it could be healed.

One image He brought to my mind was the picture His Son hanging broken, bloody, forsaken, and unrecognizable on the cross. When did I love you Jody, He asked? You loved me before I was knit together inside my mother’s womb Father. How much goodness, righteousness, and holiness existed inside you when my Son hung on the cross for you Jody? None Father, I was entirely sinful and lost with nothing inside me worthy of your love or regard. Did I require perfect love from you before I demonstrated and gave my perfect love to you my proud child? I choked back sobs as I thought through I Corinthians 13 and the vivid picture of His love in action on the cross. He bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things as he hung on that wretched tree. His Love NEVER failed. He never wavered, never hesitated, He never considered getting down, weighting his actions against my worthiness.

He was not asking me to do something new, He was asking me to give the exact same gift that had been given to me, Love Without Fail. I could heal, forgive, bear up, endure, believe, and hope by loving as He had loved me.

Unconditionally, Selflessly, Completely, Sacrifically!

I had been given a choice and an ability to deny feelings of anger, fear, suspicion, hurt, and bitterness. I was empowered with the ability to choose to overcom with real, true, genuine love! Not the hollywood, 50/50, until you hurt me, until it stops working, unless the fuzzies go away, unless someone better comes along, kind of love! He was asking for the selfless, bloody, bruised, broken, glorious kind of love that breathes life into every being it comes into contact with.

With His stripes I was healed.

For His love covered a multitude of my sins.

Through His love I have earned to overcome and love.

A to Z: Overcoming Hurt Through Kindness

Kindness

Benevolence, Courtesy, Grace, Indulgence, Favor, Mercy, Service

Compassion, Feeling, Good-heartedness, Humanity, Kindheartedness,

Large-heartedness, Pity, Soft-heartedness, Sympathy

Growing up, we did not have a dish washer. Well actually, we did, it was my sister and I,  She washed and I dried. I am not sure how this arrangement came to be because I hated to dry and she hated to wash. There was also no way in God’s green earth we would give satisfaction to the other by offering them our job! ( If I had to suffer, so did she. Yes we were stubborn like that!) In our home my mom had two unbreakable rules for the kitchen. First, food was never to be left to dry on plates. Second, the kitchen was to be cleaned immediately following dinner. Put all these elements together and you had the perfect concoction of events and reasons to make drying dishes an agonizing chore for me. Summer was the worst, especially when nature and the neighborhood kids beckoned through our open screen doors.

I think 98% of all fights between my sister and myself took place in the kitchen. Half the time we argued over who wasn’t singing harmony correctly. You see, my sister insisted we put our time to good use and this meant singing Simon and Garfunkel songs in four part harmony, forget the fact there was only two of us. (We can still do a mean rendition of The Boxer and Bridge Over Muddy Waters!) The the other half the time we argued about all others important matters of life we could disagree about. We tried explaining this to my mom one day, in an attempt to get her to see the obvious correlation between dishes and disharmony, but she never bought it.

I loathed dishes, but nothing soured my mood more about having to do them than when mom caught me mid stride in the midst of a clandestine attempt to escape the kitchen. There was something about being “told” to do them that made the chore even more odious! The pile seemed bigger, the food was smellier, the stains were harder to remove, and my sister was more disagreeable!

Then one day, I discovered an amazing secret. If I went to the kitchen and started dishes without being told, the work didn’t seem so bad. If I wanted to live on the edge and tell my sister I would wash for her, I actually enjoyed doing the work, and felt energized by the time everything was washed and put away!

You might be wondering how kindness ties into this post, so here is my off the wall correlation between dishes and kindness. When I have been hurt, disappointed, or angered by someone, those wounds fester and get worse over time. Many times my natural thought is that the other person needs to make the first move to set things right. As time passes without a resolution or healing, the hurt grows deeper. Each passing second makes it harder to take the first step toward restitution. Like the dishes of my childhood, deciding to act first when I have been hurt, washes much of the angst and dread away.

When my husband has hurt my feelings, the hardest thing for me to do is say “I love you.” Those words mean so much more at that moment in time. “I love you” & “Please forgive me” become a balm to my festering heart as I choose to forgive, let go, and cherish instead of brooding, rewinding, and seething. The longer I wait, the thicker the silence and separation becomes between us. The gulf created in an hour is easier to cross than one forged for an entire day, week, or year! Sometimes being kind is a simple act, a touch, a word. Other times it is a prayer, not that the Lord would reign down fire and brimstone, but that He would bless and protect.

If you have been hurt or wounded, try kindness! Purpose to take the first step in restoring what the offence has tarnished.

A to Z: Overcoming Through Joy

 

Joy

1 a the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune
or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :delight
b the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2 a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3 a source or cause of delight

“…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:11b (ESV)

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and

let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him

endured the cross, despising the shame,

and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:1-3 (ESV)

A Shadows of “Things” to come…

How does Joy empower one to overcome? The answer lies within the story behind these two verses, Nehemiah being a shadow of things to come found in Hebrews.

The setting of the first story is found in the Old Testament where we find the fearful nation of Israel standing before Ezra as he reads the Law and Covenant of their God. The rebellion and idolatry of their fathers had resulted in the fulfillment of  promised wrath and judgment of God. In response to their unfaithfulness and sins, God had raised up a heathen nation to judge, punish, and afflict them. They were conquered by the Babylonians and led into captivity.

After seventy years of captivity God had compassion on them, softening the heart of their captor, king Artaxerxes, who granted permission to Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. In just 52 days, the walls were repaired and eventually the captive nation returned home.  As the cleaning and rebuilding of the nation continued, Ezra the priest gathered before him, every man and woman, who could hear and understand his words. Ezra opened the law and covenant of God, and read it to the people. Almost  a hundred percent of the people standing before him would hear the law of their God, for the very first time.

The entire nation is stunned and quake with fear as the law is read. In response, they drop to their knees comprehending the magnitude of their rebellion against God. The people utter great, gut wrenching cries of remorse and dread. Now they understand the reason for seventy years of bondage. Their God had not forsaken them, He had not fallen asleep, He was not weak or without power or compassion, He was angry. They have betrayed him with their idolatry and their sins.They had broken the covenant and a great breach had been made between them and God.

It is at this moment the words of Ezra ring out. Do not weep or grieve, he proclaims, “the Joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Eat and partake in the feasts we have read about. This is a holy day unto the Lord, not a day of mourning,  drink and rejoice he calls out.

The repentant nation then partakes, for the first time in seventy years, the sacred feasts that acknowledged and celebrates  the covenant relationship between them and their God. BUT this was not all they celebrated.  They were a fickle nation, prone to sin and they would sin again demonstrating the damming reality of sin. On his own, man could never attain his own righteousness. God would remain faithful, but Israel would continue to  betray His love and faithfulness, justly earning His righteous judgment and punishment…… unless something changed, and changed it would.

The “Thing” that changed “Everything”…

The miraculous redemption story of man warrants a second read!

“..Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Once again we are introduced to the “Joy of the Lord.” In Nehemiah, Israel was told to let “the joy of the Lord be their strength“, and in Hebrews we are told just how the Lord’s joy became our strength. God gave man the choice to obey and serve him and man blew it. Sin entered into the world and all of mankind was condemned by its curse. God then gave man a way to repair what sin had destroyed, by requiring a faithful, obedient, upright relationship with him. As Humanity struggled, God faithfully loved, redeemed, pursued, protected, chastised, judged, and punished His people over and over again. Man still failed, proving that if left to himself, he could never attain righteousness through his own works and goodness.

Here is the good part! The Joy of the Lord arrives!

He is Righteousness and Holiness, demanding judgment and punishment for sin. He is also Love, Grace, and Mercy, having compassion on a people without hope. It was the Joy of our Lord that led Him to sacrifice His Beloved Son, in order to redeem man. It was also the Joy of the Son to submit, with humility and obedience, to will of His Father. With Joy the Father sent and with Joy, the son sacrificed and through the Joy of Father and Son, man was given the strength and ability to overcome. The Joy of our Lord was the amazing redemption story. Israel was told not to weep, but they could never have fathomed the day when freedom, life, liberty, and true Joy would replace sorrow. Like Israel, our weeping has turned  to dancing. The terror of our Righteous God does not make us quake in fear. With boldness and joy  we lift our eyes to the heavens where our Help stands and intercedes. We do not weep, we shout glory and honor and praise be to Him who sits on the throne, for we have been redeemed from His righteous judgment and wrath through the sacrifice of His Son!

Because of the Love and Joy of the Father and Son, I have overcome the evil one. I have overcome death, and sin no longer reigns in my body. The Joy of the Lord is my strength and through His redemption plan I have overcome.

The Joy of the Lord is my strength!!