Don't Stop on Six, Part 4: Power of Praise
My series is seriously derailing off the path I had planned for it. Oh the irony. I spent much of the first half of last year marching around "Jericho," feeling such a strong Presence leading me and encouraging me that I was so close to breaking free from a life of slavery and wilderness and into the Promised Land, into a new way of abundant living. There were things I had to "circumcise," or cut off in my own life before I could move on. Things that were weighing me down from pressing on towards what God was calling me to. I spent the whole second half of last year cutting those things off, then fearfully grabbing back, cutting off, grabbing back, etc - so close to breaking through if I could just.let.go. and trust Him!
And in December 2014, God drew really close again and beckoned me back out onto the waters. Take my hand, He said, and let me pull you way out where feet fail but for the grace of Me alone. Where waters will rise and toss all around you and the shores will disappear from every side and you will be alone and disoriented and can only rely on the hope that the One who made the waters cares about you enough to not let you drown. Come meet me all the way out there in that scary and unknown place, He said.
And I said yes.
Always shocking, because really, we have no idea what we're saying yes to when we answer such a prayer as that, right?!
Somehow, this is part of the pathway to the Promised Land. This blind following into a watery chaos is the track that leads to Life. I told God I would trust Him, no matter what. And He responded back. All those promises we've been walking towards in 2014, He said... would you let Me crash them, would you let go of those and trust Me so I can do Even More? Can you let them go and enter a place that makes No Sense and meet me there - you won't get to understand. (Remember how hard this is for me?) You will be without for a season. It will seem like I am doing the opposite of what I promised you.
And I said yes.
Because when you catch a glimpse of How magnificent He truly is, how beautiful, how powerful, how loving, everything else (fears, doubts, circumstances, feelings) finds its proper place in relation to Him and becomes Nothing in comparison... you're willing to take whatever step necessary to get closer to His Compelling and Satisfying Presence.
But then you start to look at the waves. You start to frantically look for that diminishing shoreline and the clouds begin to roll in and the thunder bellows and the winds grow stronger and though you know Jesus is there somewhere on the waves, you can't see Him and it's really cold and really dark and really, really scary.
And the waves have names and voices that reverbrate through your every pore and down the channels of your inner workings until they navigate their way into the core of you who you are. And there the battles take place.
The fears and doubts: you are a failure. You are weak. You are so needy, you can never do this on your own. The circumstances: your role as mother is unrecognizable from four years ago. People who don't know the details judge, gossip, lie, slander about you. Friends fear you, reject and abandon you. History is rewritten and identity is fought over by those who have stolen this false authority to judge and declare without mercy. And the feelings, oh the feelings: they'll sink you every time, won't they? Fear, regret, hopelessness, despair, anger, hurt, betrayal, abandonment, rejection, cruelty, loss, grief.
You know what we call a circling sensation out in the stormy waters? A whirlpool. And that is such a picture for us, isn't it, for those of us who are walking and circling some serious trials, a Jericho that hasn't been broken down yet, something that feels like it will never be conquered or laid to rest? With each rotation in a whirlpool, the circle actually tightens, gets pulled closer into the center until the weight of circling literally plummets you down into the abyss. Is this how we get off the circling path? We crash into physics and sink from its weight and fall into a darker unknown?
Last year, the direction was to circle my "walled cities," obey, trust Him, don't quit and go before the victory with praise. God was fighting my battles. Like the Israelites. And there were victories, internally and externally.
And then God said, let's go deeper, let's go where it's chaotic and unclear. We're crashing into the waves again, crashing into those fears and doubts, circumstances and feelings, freeing you through the falling and there will be Another Side. We deal with a God who isn't limited by our few dimensions - how easily He can tilt and invert our gravity enslaved falling downwards life into a sudden rising up and landing on our feet experience. Let go. Fall. That's how you're getting off the circuit this time.
I could end here but there's a nagging reminder that I'm doing it again, and last time when I wanted off the walking-in-circles part? God told me to go before the victory with praise. The Israelites were to say nothing but praises as they marched around the walls of Jericho. Humbled silence, diligent obedience and then some serious worship celebrating and declaring to usher in God's victory.
Reminds me of another story. Hundreds of years later, the Israelites are still battling. Another need for God to save them. This time it's against the Moabites and Ammonites, and Jehosophat is their King (2 Chronicles 20). "A vast army was coming against them from the other side of the Dead Sea." (verse 2). Enemies, battles, hellish waters? Yeah, I can relate.
"Oh God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before...?" the King responds. (v. 7) They've been here before too. Jehosophat reflects and remembers. Remember who He is, how He helped you the last time you were circling, the last time you were in treacherous waters, the last time you were confused, the last time you got a bad health report, a job loss, a failed relationship, gave into a temptation, reaped consequences, whatever. This is exactly what He reminded me the end of January of this year, when I found myself in a bad situation, again: Remember!! I could bemoan that I have to do hard things, again. OR I can remember how God rescued me from it the last time. Because He did - I didn't endure the trial and consequences forever. And I won't endure this season forever either. And neither will you.
The story continues and God speaks to them, these Israelites under King Jehosophat's leadership. He encourages them while they face another battle, a battle they wouldn't have chosen, but they're stuck in it nonetheless. "Do not be afraid or discouraged by this vast army. The battle is not yours, but God's... do not be afraid, do not be discouraged... the Lord will be with you." (v. 15-16). Sound familiar? It's the same message God gave Joshua. "Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) The Lord was with you last time, the Lord is with you this time. In the circling, in the chaos, in the falling, in the again and in the unknown, He is with you.
And then the king "appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army... And as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the Moabites and Ammonites... and they were defeated." (v.21-22)
And Joshua's army went out ahead of the victory and praised Him and the walls collapsed.
Do not underestimate the worship experience. Does that seem impossible? Unrealistic? Forced? There's so much I can say about worship. Sure, I have days too where I can barely whisper or choke out a genuine utterance of adoration and faith. I too can be engulfed by the waters and intimidated by the walls to see Him. But that's the point. Worship does many things, one of least is shifting our focus from ourselves or our circumstances back towards Him.
The circling makes us reflect on who we are. It is meant to humble us as we take another lap. It trains us, strengthens our resolve, reinforces our obedience. We know not to take pride in our own efforts - we're not doing anything but walking, a child merely walks! And the maelstrom, it makes us remember who God is. The waves, the Voices, the Fears, the Circumstances.. their forces exert ferociously upon us and we are submerged into the vortex of darkness and we.need.God. We drown, except we remember, how He saved us last time. We fall, and we remember how He shifted the atmosphere in the past, calmed the winds, redirected our failings into victories and delivered us from the opposing current that tried to overpower us. He was our Helper, Sustainer, Provider. Our Healer, Lover, Sufficiency, Mercy, Savior. And He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He transcends time, and dimensions and gravity and so we are Okay.
And we cry out in prayer and praise that our God is with us. He cares. He is for us. He will not let evil win. We trust, because He proved Himself trustworthy last time, and we remember, and we take another lap or dive a little deeper in praise and worship. We don't know how the walls will fall, or how we descend into watery depths yet do not drown, but we trust and we declare it so. And we offer our words to The Word and let these elements crash into each other until That Supernatural Force, this vigorous, indomitable collision of faith and praise with the All Powerful, Victorious One causes anything in opposition to bow low and crumble under such honor and glory.
So worship today. There's a victory following you.
PS - want a little bonus? Click on these links for some worship inspiration!