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A SHIELD

NAHUM 2:3

“The shields of his warriors are dyed red, the warriors are dressed in scarlet, the chariots are fitted with flashing steel when he is prepared to march, and the juniper spears are brandished.”

I love to watch football (American football), especially college football. I love to watch the team working as one to achieve a goal – to score on their opponent or to prevent their opponent from scoring on them. A lot of this occurs on the line of scrimmage. Young men forming a line of defense have to work together as one.

The English translation above says “shields,” but the actual Hebrew word is singular – “shield.” That makes a difference. Nahum is saying that “the shield of His warriors” is one. They move as one. They attack as one. They are no longer fighting alone against their enemies. They have become a unified force under the banner of Jehovah.

APPLICATION

This should send a message to us, not about fighting, but about standing together. Christians are so divided today. We segregate ourselves between denominations. We divide our churches by race. We cannot fight our common enemy if we stay divided. We must become one.

So, what prevents that? Is it pride or arrogance? Is it our church traditions? Some of these divisions are over minor doctrinal disagreements that do not really have an effect on our salvation. Paul says in Romans 12:4-5 “4 For just as we have many parts in one body and all the body’s parts do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.”

What part are you? How can you help unify the body of Christ? The ministry I am serving in now, Every Man A Warrior (www.everymanawarrior.com), cuts across denominational lines. We have leaders in 58 countries and in all 50 states in the U.S. And guess what? We are all not Southern Baptists. Nor are we all Methodists. We are all believers in Christ who want to see our culture changed by changing the hearts of men. Will you join us in unifying the body of Christ worldwide?

Help me hold Your shield, Lord, as I face our enemies.

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ARGUING WITH GOD

JONAH 4:9

“But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to the point of death!’”

I have met people who just like to argue. It does not matter what it is about. They just like to argue – the weather, politics, religion, the taste of sweet tea (lol). Some things are worth arguing about. Maybe I should change “argue” to “discuss” here. Either way, some things merit a conversation, but one thing is for sure – you cannot out argue God.

Look at today’s verse again. Jonah is actually arguing with God about his right to be angry. We discussed anger earlier, but here Jonah is once again stating his right to God to be angry about what He has done. Let me ask you a question. Do you think Jonah is going to win this argument? Of course, not. But he has every right to speak up. God is big enough to handle it.

APPLICATION

I agree that we need to learn to submit our wills to His will. There really is not another way to live the Christian life successfully. However, God knows us better than we do. He knows when we question His will what our motive(s) is(are). So, it is okay to “argue” with God, as long as you do not think you are going to win.

We have to keep in mind that His thoughts are way above our thoughts. He sees our life, past, present and future. He could tell us what is coming if He chose to do so. Most of the time, He does not. That means we have to trust Him, even if we disagree with Him. God’s feelings are not hurt by our questions. He is big enough to handle anything we throw at Him.

I am sure you can think of something right now that you would have chosen to handle a different way. I would have chosen to learn about the eternal things of God without going through my last stem cell transplant. But God chose that to teach me. Did I like it? Did I argue a little with God? Yep, sure did. In the end, I submitted to His will. How about you?

Lord, I do not always agree with You, but I know You are right. Help me trust You from the beginning.

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NO MORE

AMOS 9:15

“‘I will also plant them on their land, and they will not be uprooted again from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God.

I worked over 30 years with children in the foster care system. Most of these children were removed from their homes due to their parents, not due to anything they had done. Some of the children, however, were placed with us because of their behavior. I had the joy on several occasions to see these families restored. Seeing these children go home made our hard work with them so worth it. Our prayer was always that they would remain with their parents.

God removed Israel from the Promised Land for repeated unrepentance and rebellion. He had to discipline His children. But now He is telling them He would bring them back home to never leave again. That land was theirs. He had promised it and meant for them to keep it. What great news! What a great way to end this book.

APPLICATION

Let me ask you a question. Have you wandered from home? Are you far away from the Master? Maybe you are like that prodigal son who found himself in a pig pen instead of at home with his father. Wherever you are today, stop and take notice. Ask yourself if you are residing with Jesus.

Your physical location is of less importance than your spiritual location. What do I mean by that? You can be in the pit but free in Him. You could be going through the valley of the shadow of death but walking unafraid because of your reliance on the King. The Lord wants us to feel safe. He wants us home.

I can only speak for myself, but I find myself sometimes feeling like I’ve moved to a foreign country spiritually. I go through dry spells and struggle to pray. But when I persevere and stay in the Word, God brings me home. I had always been secure. I just needed reminding whose I am. How about you?

Lord of my life, lead me home. I want to dwell with You in Your Promised Land.

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PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT

AMOS 9:8

“‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will eliminate it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally eliminate the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD.”

Are you a good promise keeper? We have all broken promises at some point in our lives. It may have been a small, minor promise, but it was still a promise. I try not to make promises I can’t keep. I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

Failure was and never will be an option for our God. He had made a promise to Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob. He promised him a land, a son and a nation. Now, as the nation of Israel was deserting Him and facing judgment, God reminds them of that promise. Jacob (also known as Israel) would be remembered and not totally destroyed.

APPLICATION

Let me encourage you today to keep your promises. Maybe you only promised your child an ice cream cone. Go get it. Maybe you promised your spouse a weekend away. Go! Maybe your promise is more serious like your wedding vows. Those must be kept.

Whatever promise you made, keep it. A vow made should be a vow kept. After all, as a believer, you are representing your Savior. How you keep promises reflects on Him. I think if we understood that fully, there would be fewer promises broken.

Aren’t you glad God keeps His promises? One of my newest, favorite verses is found in Joshua. Joshua 21:45 says, “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” You can take God’s promises to the bank. They are for sure.

Lord God, I am so thankful Your promises are true and faithful. I rest knowing I can count on You.

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THE LORD RELENTED

AMOS 7:3

“The LORD relented of this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.”

All my life I have been told that prayers can change things. I had always just accepted that as fact. I mean, why else should we pray? Yes, we acknowledge God as our Savior and Creator. We praise Him for who He is. We confess our sins to Him. And then we make our requests to Him. But why bother with that last step unless we believe we can change things with our prayers.

Amos cried out to God in verse 2, and it says in verse 3 that God relented. What does that mean? It means God changed His mind. Further punishment was withheld. God decided to not do what He had planned to do. Amos’ prayer moved God to change. Wow! Do you believe that is still possible?

APPLICATION

I believe with all my heart that is possible. I believe with all my heart that as I pray, submitting myself to His will, that He will hear my voice, bend His ear to earth and answer my prayer. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says not now. And other times He says yes.

I don’t know why He doesn’t always answer yes. I won’t know that until I am in heaven. But I am thankful for the times He does says yes. I don’t understand the mind of God. Who can? We have such finite minds. God works on a whole different realm than we do. I have to trust that.

I will, however, continue to pray, believing my prayers are being heard by the Creator of the universe. I may stir His heart as I pray and move Him to intercede in a way I had not even thought of. Based on that truth, I pray. I cry out like Amos. I am thankful that He is listening.

God, I cry out to You. I beseech You to move in my life and the lives of those who are reading this right now.

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FASTING

JOEL 1:14

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”

Hey, I like to eat. I don’t enjoy fasting. I’m just being honest. The times I have done a fast, my stomach reminded me constantly that it was being neglected. Breaking that fast was awesome. I missed chewing stuff. But I know the benefits of a fast far outweigh the temporary physical discomforts.

Joel is calling on the priests to proclaim a fast for the people. Why? To humble themselves before the Lord and beseech Him to intercede on their behalf. He was asking them to cry out to the Lord. The Hebrew word for “cry out” could mean “to shriek.” This was meant to be heard. Combined with their fasting, it was a sorrowful action.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t meant to be enjoyable. We should feel something physically. Our hunger pains should remind us to pray. Suffering isn’t tolerated well in the West. We are way too spoiled. If we don’t get three meals a day plus a snack, we think we have been deprived. We forget that many people in the world get by with one meal a day.

But you can fast from things other than just food. You can fast from electronics. Wouldn’t that be tough for us? My wife says I couldn’t handle that. I have to agree that I am tied to my computer way too much. Ask the Lord what He would have you fast from. If you ask, be prepared to fast. It may be food. It could be television or the internet. Whatever it is, when you decide to fast from it, use that time to hear from Him in a fresh new way.

The Lord has been calling me lately to fast, and I have been avoiding it. It is time for me to submit. I know whenever He calls me to fast, He has something to tell me. Would you pray for me as I listen to Him? I’ll let you know what He says.

Father, I am listening. I want to hear Your voice.

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VIOLATED

HOSEA 6:7

“But like Adam they have violated the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously with Me.”

What does it mean to violate something? Simply put, it means to break or fail to comply with a rule or agreement. I don’t know about you, but I have been a violator all my life. I broke the rules of my childhood home. I break the speed limit quite often. And I have broken God’s commands more times than I want to admit.

Israel was a rule breaker. They knew what God’s Word said, but they continued to break it. And just like us, they thought they could get by breaking the rules. After all, they were God’s chosen people. They had a special status. God wouldn’t hold them to all those rules and commands. They were His favorites.

APPLICATION

Rules are rules for a reason. God established His commands to help guide us and protect us. He expects us to follow them.  But why do we follow them? Do we follow them to appease Him? Do we obey them so He will love us? Listen carefully. We obey His commands because we love Him.

God could simply make us obey. He is all powerful, after all. He could force us to follow all His commands like some mind numb robots. But He has given us free will. We have the freedom to be a violator or a follower. It’s really that simple. What will you be?

I want to be a follower. I know I fall short many times, but my heart is to do what is right. God knows our motives. He knows if we are rebellious or just slipped up. We are born with a sin nature that will be with us until we go to heaven. But the Holy Spirit can give us the power and wisdom to make the right choices if we will just listen to Him. Will you?

Thank You, Father, for giving me Your commands to follow. I know they are given to help me live in a way that honors You.

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FORGETFUL

HOSEA 4:6

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Since you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the Law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

Have you ever heard the term “memory like an elephant”? Have you ever wondered what that means? I have, so I looked it up. Scientists have determined through multiple tests that elephants can remember other elephants they met only briefly decades earlier. It’s pretty amazing. Google “elephants’ memory” and you can find dozens of articles about this.

Why am I talking about remembering (and elephants)? Because the Israelites had forgotten. They had forgotten all they knew about God. They were living as if He didn’t exist. We know the results of that. God is not pleased. In fact, Hosea tells us if we forget Him, He will forget us. Now, we know God is not forgetful, but He will stop remembering these sinful Israelites.

APPLICATION

God desires for us to draw close to Him and know Him. When we choose to walk away from what we know is true, it breaks His heart. He will not protect us if we are willfully sinning against Him. He is holy. That would be against His very nature. He must maintain who He is. After all, He is God.

But we show our ignorance and lack of knowledge when we turn towards the world and away from Him. He is the only true source of wisdom. He is the only one who is worthy of our attention and praise. God is not trying to make us guess at who He is or what He expects. He fully discloses Himself to all who desire it.

So, what are you going to do today? Do you want to know Him more fully? Just ask Him. Do you want to go deep with God? Make the first step. He will meet you right there. Lack of knowledge of God is entirely our fault. He is not holding anything back. We just have to want it. Do you?

God, my Father, I want to know You fully. I want to learn all I can about You and how to share that with others.

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STRIVING

HOSEA 4:4

“Yet let no one find fault, and let no one rebuke; for your people are like those who contend with a priest.”

Striving is not fun, nor is it godly. We know that, but we just can’t help ourselves. Why? Because we think we are right. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we are right and have to defend the truth. I’m not talking about that. I am talking about striving just to strive, fighting just to fight.

You see, Israel was so out of sorts with God that they only knew striving. Hosea is telling them here to stop it. Even the priests were striving with the people. No one was following the Lord. They had all decided to pursue their own way. And God was sick of it.

APPLICATION

The same is true today. Just look at the U.S. government. Our two main political parties couldn’t agree on the sunrise right now. They come from polar opposites on just about every issue out there. There seems to be no grounds of agreement. This has crept into our churches and lives. How sad. Why in the world would we allow such striving to enter our churches?

We, as believers, must stand for truth. We have to maintain the fundamental beliefs we are taught in God’s Word. If we stop that, the church is going to suffer. It will falter. It will cease being the beacon of light to a lost world. Will you cease striving with men and start striving for God?

I want to be known as a fighter but not as one who fights others. I want to be known as someone who fights for the truth, who fights for God’s army. I do not want to fight just to fight. No! I want to fight knowing I already have the victory. The battle is His. Will you join me?

I can’t imagine fighting for anyone else, Lord. I want to proclaim Your Word to a lost world no matter the resistance.

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REUNITED

HOSEA 1:11

“And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for the day of Jezreel will be great.”

Don’t you just love reunions? I have been to a lot of family reunions, both on my side of the family and on my wife’s. There’s just something about going back home to your hometown or to a family home place and seeing relatives you haven’t seen in a while. Hugs and kisses are all around. And it’s not long until the stories start being told about “the good ole days.”

In today’s verse we see a prophetic statement about the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. When they return from their exile, they will be one nation, not two. The people who return will not see themselves as separate people. They will be reunited as one nation. This is as it should be.

APPLICATION

How does this verse relate to us today? We must be united as one in Christ. It doesn’t matter if we have petty differences. We have to come together as one for the cause of Christ. The world is watching the church. They are wondering why the Baptists and Methodists can’t get along. If we all believe Jesus is God’s Son and died for our sins, why can’t we worship as one?

I know we have doctrinal issues among the denominations. Some of those are worth discussing. But many of them really are not crucial. We tend to major on the minors, don’t we? I wonder what could happen in the world if we all came together and worshipped our Lord. I believe revival would break out, don’t you?

How can you be part of this? Reach out to someone from another church. Find your common ground. We have to agree on the basics, of course. But I challenge you to come alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to reach the lost, and that can only be done if we fight together.

Reunite us, God. Bring us together as one to battle the enemy and proclaim the good news of Christ.

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