Monday, August 20, 2012

Once more the sounds of joy and gladness

A Devotional by Margot Ciocco

One More - by Margot Cioccio - Available Below

Jeremiah 33:10-11 (NIV1984)
10 “This is what the Lord says: 
‘You say about this place, 
“It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more  
11 the sounds of joy and gladness, 
the voices of bride and bridegroom,  
and the voices of those 
who bring thank offerings 
to the house of the Lord, 
saying,“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,  
for the Lord is good;
    his love endures forever.” 
For I will restore the fortunes of the land 
as they were before,' says the Lord.

This I randomly flipped open Jeremiah and have read chapter 32-33. In chapter 32 verse 2 "The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined to the courtyard of the guard of the royal palace of Judah." 
Jeremiah is held prisoner because the king does not like the things he is prophesying about Babylon soon defeating them. During this time the Lord gives Jeremiah a little bit of a confirmation and a sign of his intentions. He tells him that his cousin is going to offer him a piece of land to redeem and own as his own. That he is to buy that land. So shortly the cousin shows up and the deal goes down.
It has to be a kind of weird time because here Jeremiah is prophesying doom and destruction for the neighborhood, God is also giving hope of future restoration. 

Sometimes the Lord must tear down the old things the deeply broken structures in our lives. The places where we have trusted in our own self sufficiency or looked to idols of one form or another to be our rescue and salvation. Those places where we have turned away from him and to our own devices. As I read I thought of the journey I have been through in the past three years with the little inner city church. The church itself is older than the city of Spokane and was started by a handful of Swedes who wanted to be able to gather together and worship in their own language. Most were newly immigrated to this country. In looking through the church archives I discovered that this church has been close to closing many times in its long history. While I was on the board during the last three years we came very close to closing again. We were with in two months closing because the money to pay the bills and keep our pastor was almost gone. During that time when things looked hopeless I would pray and God would say "prepare your fields" and so we continued to feed the homeless and minister to the people who came to us each week. Some church dynamics are different in the inner city because most of our congregation is poor and many are homeless. We are surrounded by missions, and homeless shelters, Spokane Mental health and the city prison work release. There are at least 33 registered sex offenders in the surrounding blocks. Our pastor says "this is not Mr. Rogers neighborhood." but God is doing amazing things in a place that seems a hopeless and filled with many utterly broken lives.

God sent provision that carried us along for a few more months through a homeless person. It boggles my mind that anyone with means would intentionally live a homeless life on the streets. This person told our pastor that they wanted to help and could the pastor meet them at the bank. Really not knowing what to expect Rob, our pastor showed up to meet with this person and to go to the bank.
God provided a very large sum of money which allowed us to keep our doors open and continue to feed the homeless of our city for a bit longer. In the bit longer that we were afforded through this donation our denomination heard what we were doing with the homeless and how our church was growing and helped us to get a loan that would allow us to do some repairs and up dates and some new things. The loan gave us a three year window to get things turned around. 
As I was reading these chapter in Jeremiah I came across the verse above and was struck by this section. "there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord."
This weekend we are celebrating the wedding of two members of our church family. This couple is sold out to the Lord and it is exciting to be able to share this day with them.  In this church that was so nearly dead there are going to again be the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom. We serve a God who heals and restores!

I guess my thought today is when you think all hope is gone, go to the Lord. He may tell you to prepare your fields, or like he told Jeremiah to go and buy a field. That action may seem totally contrary to the handwriting that seems to be on the wall in this moment. Yet the Lord is speaking "Do you yet believe I am able?"  In Jeremiah 32:17 it says "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is to hard for you." 

In Jeremiah verse 32:37b-38 it says I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 

Verse 42 This is what the Lord says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 

In Jeremiah 33:3 it says "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know."

Why does God seem to delight in restoring the broken? Why not just keep things from getting broken in the first place? I think that prior to being broken we think we can manage just fine on our own. It is when we find ourselves in situations that seem to be hopeless that we begin to know the Lord as deliver, redeemer, Savior and healer. He alone can rescue - He alone can save!

In Jeremiah 33: 8 - 9 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive them al their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all the nations o the earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace that I provide for it. 

I don't know where you may be on your journey, you may be facing some seemingly hopeless and impossible things today. There may be things you need to face and repent for having done. It may be time to turn around and to truly look to God rather than all your own devices that you think will save you. You may have exhausted all your resources.  It's time to turn to the Lord!

I was at a big women's conference this weekend and one of the speakers shared the story of Hagar and Ishmael out in the desert. They have run out of water, it seems that death awaits them. When suddenly the Lord speaks to Hagar and opens her eyes to see a near by well. In her despair she had not been able to see it. This example spoke to me because God did not just "poof" and make a well out in the middle of no where.  It had been there all along. Hagar just could not see it until God opened her eyes. It has caused me to ask the Lord to open my own eyes to the means of provision that He has already prepared for me that I just can't see until he shows them to me. You can study the story in Genesis 21."19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. " Your answer may be closer than you realize.

Prayer: Lord I thank you for your great desire to heal and restore. I think you for the journey to know you more that we are on. I thank you that in the middle of our most hopeless situations that you already have provision prepared for us. Come now Lord and speak to us show us the well that you have provided that we just can't see until you open our eyes. Open our eyes that we could see you as our provider, deliverer, healer.

Todays photo verse is available as a greeting card and on a necklace. The necklace is a great way to keep this promise verse close to your heart. Thanks for helping support this devotional site by remembering these items that Margot has created when you are in need of unique gifts.

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