Rendered and Restored.

January 15 will begin the week-long trek of prayer and fasting for New Life Church. It will begin a week of turning our hearts and eyes away from all of the distractions and turning them towards God. It will begin a week of seeing where our heart truly lies, where our souls are set, and where we need to start to transform areas of our lives. Bondages that have been keeping us for days, months, or years, will be broken. Callings will be recognized. Needs will be met. This week isn’t just going to be about all of that though. It will be a week of a church, coming together, as one, crying out to God to heal us, use us, and mold us. As one body, we will seek out the will of God for our church, our families, our schools, our relationships, our souls, and our nation. This will be a week of revival, which will follow to a year of revival.

I have currently been reading in the book of Joel, which is three short chapters about repenting, praying, fasting, and then the ripple effect of how God chooses to pity his people when they do so. God takes the humble and the ones who render their heart to him, and he raises them up. Joel 1 speaks on the plague of the locust. These insects came in and destroyed everything. My bible even says that a desert locust swarm can be in size and pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than a half mile. Each locust can eat it’s weight in plants every day, so a swarm the size of this could eat up to 423 million pounds of plants every day. They didn’t have grocery stores back then, or coverings for their food. They had crops. They had fields. They had no resource to stop the locusts from completely destroying everything they had. Hope had been lost.

“Surely, the people’s joy is withered away.” Joel 1:12

How many of us feel this way? Feel as if everything has been stripped away? Our sin has left us left with nothing but a self-destructive lifestyle that has disrobed us from the life God has called us to.

Joel sees the people of Judah and their struggle, so he reaches out to them. He begs these people to “mourn,”(1:8) “wail,”(1:11) “declare a fast,”(1:14) “call a sacred assembly.”(1:14) He says “even the wild animals pant for you.” (1:20) How many of us believe that when we aren’t crying out to God even the stones, the trees, and all of God’s creation is because he deserves to be praised?

Joel is warning aggressively about the day of The Lord and how it is near, so REPENT NOW!

“Even now, declares The Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to The Lord for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from showing calamity.” Joel 2:12–13

So the people of Judah cried out.. They called the sacred assembly, they all gathered and they cried out to the living God.

“Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.” Joel 2:17

Here is how The Lord responds when his people cry out to him:

“Then The Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The Lord replied to them, ‘I am sending you grain, new wine, and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.’” Joel 2:18–19

God continues on to explain to them that because you turned back to me, I am going to restore everything you lost. “I will repay you for the years the locust haven eaten-”(2:25) They will have more than enough to eat, to drink, and “never again will my people be shamed.”(2:26:27)

It gets better…

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”(2:28) And everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as The Lord has said, even among the survivors whom The Lord calls.”(2:32)

Never be shamed again. Receiving the Holy Spirit. Visions. Dreams. Deliverance.

This is a story from many years ago, but I truly believe this is a story that we are to take and learn from. Because even when we are living a life so messed up that our joy has completely withered away, we have the opportunity to turn back and live with freedom and purpose. Even when we are so bound down by something that has had us chained to the back of the cell for as long as we can remember, we have a key to the cuffs that will set us free. The people of Judah are us. We are sinful and we are prideful. The people of Judah humbled themselves and cried out to God for deliverance, and that is exactly what they got. If you think God will not do the same for you and me now, you are confused on what kind of God we serve. We serve a God who despite everything we do to dishonor him, he still loves us, shows us compassion, and uses the mistakes we have made to help better the lives of other people. I believe this week of fasting and prayer will be a week of deliverance. I believe God will take the hearts of his people and humble them to cry out. I believe that the the ones who render their heart completely to God will find their joy again and will truly be able to fulfill the calling that God is leading them towards. This story is for you. I am not sure what may be holding you back from deliverance and restored years, but what I do know, is that if you and I will just get on our knees and surrender everything about us to the one who already has us, we may indeed just find out what it is like to truly live a life with joy, purpose, and fulfillment.

God and the Holy Spirit have so much for you and I this coming week. Do not take it lightly nor think you are just another follower. Take this serious, weed out all the things that distract you most, and truly repent, render, and be restored. I cannot wait to see what God does through his humbled and rendered people this next week. Let the fun begin.