Affliction, Battles, Bible, Courage, Devil, Enemies, Fighting, Grace, Protection

THE TRAP IS SET

JOEL 3:11

Hurry and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down, LORD, Your warriors.

Do you remember hiding from your friends outside when you were growing up, only to spring out of your hiding place and scaring them? I sure do. We would play in the woods around my house and in the bushes in the yard. I have even been known to make sounds to draw them in. Boy, I loved scaring them. I know, it sounds mean. But it was all in fun.

Not so much in today’s verse. Joel is calling in all the enemies of Judah. He wanted them to come close. And when they were all there, surrounding Judah, he calls on God to send down His warriors to destroy them. Essentially the net was cast, and they were all caught. Only then did they realize they were in trouble.

APPLICATION

Have you ever felt like the net was cast on you? The devil will lure you in with the temptations of the world. He will tempt you to come closer and closer until…snap! Then you are caught in a snare of sin. You feel there is no escape. You feel helpless.

Stop that! When you sense the devil is drawing you away from the safety of Jesus, stop. Retreat back to where you know you have protection. Put your armor on. Submit to God and then you can tell the devil to flee. He can’t lure you in because you belong to someone mightier and stronger.

I am so glad I belong to my Master. There are no nets strong enough to capture me. I am a warrior of the King. Satan has no power over me. Amen? You have the same power. You just have to walk in it. You’ve heard it said that we walk from victory, not to victory. We are already victorious. Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for protecting me. You draw my enemies in to destroy them.

Standard
Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Devil, Enemies, Faithfulness, Fighting, Protection, Salvation, Satan, Scripture

PREPARE FOR BATTLE

JOEL 3:10

Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak man say, “I am a warrior.”

I’ve never been to war. I’ve only had two fistfights in my life (both in high school before I came to Christ). So, the concept of gearing up for combat is foreign to me. I have known several men who bravely fought for our country. I respect them all. Their courage is admirable. They each had to prepare themselves for war, including getting the right arsenal.

Joel is telling the Judeans to get ready. Take whatever you have and make weapons. Plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears. They had to have weapons to fight the enemy when they arrived. This passage may sound familiar. It’s the exact opposite of what you will read in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3. Take a minute and read those passages. But Joel is preparing for war, not peace.

APPLICATION

Are you prepared to fight the battles that are before you? Do you have the weapons you need? If you are a believer in Christ, you have everything you need to battle your adversary, the devil. God’s Word is the sword to wield. Your faith is the shield to protect you from his fiery darts. Your helmet of salvation guards your mind from any thoughts he might throw your way.

You see, you have the weapons. The question is are you ready to fight. The devil comes out each day with one goal – to defeat us. He wants to lay us out. He cannot stand it when we read the Bible and pray. He hates it when we share our faith with others. He will try anything to stop that. Don’t let him. Fight back.

I have learned lately just how determined he is. He has thrown all sorts of things in my path to try to discourage me. He wants me to lie down and quit. He cannot take away my salvation, but he can sure take me out of the fight – if I let him. But I won’t! Will you join me in the fight?

I am ready to follow You, Lord, wherever You lead. I trust You as my Commander in Chief.

Standard
Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Devil, Encouragement, Enemies, Following, Opponents, Protection, Satan, Scripture, Soldiers

TIME FOR WAR

JOEL 3:9

Proclaim this among the nations:

Prepare for holy war; stir up the warriors!

Have all the soldiers come forward, have them come up!

The United States just ended their longest war in history. We finally withdrew from Afghanistan after twenty years. Many say we should have never gone to war. That can be debated. The fact is we went and were there for twenty long years. In a way, this was also a holy war. We were fighting to protect our nation and our way of living from a group of people who are determined to destroy us. Their religion calls for the termination of all “infidels.”

So, in a way, we can relate to this verse today. Joel is calling for Judah to prepare for battle. A day is coming when they will be fighting a holy war against the nations. Judah, which is part of the nation of Israel today, has been preparing for war since that day. They are still preparing today. Every young person in Israel has to serve a period of time in the military. They are prepared.

APPLICATION

The question I have for us today is: Are we? Are we prepared to fight a holy war? Now, I don’t mean a physical war with physical weapons, even though that may be required one day. I mean, do we have the divine weapons in our arsenal to fight the battles we face every day against Satan? That is a holy war we fight every day, and if we aren’t armed properly, Satan will eat our lunch.

You need to read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 today. It will remind you that you do indeed have the weapons you need to fight the battle. But with any weapon, you first have to pick it up and then you have to know how to wield it. That takes practice. That takes time. I am glad you are reading this devotional blog today, but don’t let this be your quiet time. Let this inspire you to dig deeper in your quiet time.

I write this blog as part of my quiet time each day, but I also try to dig deeper in another passage. I need to know all I can to fight the battle. I spend time every day memorizing and reviewing passages. I want to keep my mind sharp when I need to recall a passage to protect my thoughts. It’s a battle, folks, each and every day. Don’t forget that.

O God, I am so glad You have given me divine weapons to demolish strongholds. I am thankful I can learn Your Word to fight off my enemy.

Standard
Abiding, Advice, Battles, Bible, Commitment, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Judgment, Scripture, Surrender

FAR AWAY

JOEL 3:6

“and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,

I have mentioned several times about my 30+ years in the Child Welfare field. Most of those years were great years. I learned a lot and grew both professionally and personally. But one incident sticks in my mind. I was working at children’s home and three of the children I worked with were set up to be adopted. That sounds great. But this adoption was done without the children ever having met the family before. I still remember that day having to physically put the children in the back of that car. It was tearful and sad, instead of joyous.

That scene comes to mind when I read today’s verse in Joel. Part of the reason the Lord is judging these nations so harshly is because they had sold the Judeans to other nations to move them far away. That was part of the process when a nation defeated another nation. They dispersed them to prevent them from reforming and starting a rebellion. God was not happy about that and held them accountable.

APPLICATION

How do you apply a verse like this to your life?  Let me ask you this question. What have you removed far away from God? What are you holding on to? Now, you really can’t remove anything from God. He is everywhere and is all knowing. But we can withhold things from Him that need to be surrendered. Do you have a “secret stash” of things that you just can’t let go of?

God desires total surrender from us. He wants us to turn everything over to Him rather than tucking stuff away. Unlike the nations’ plan to move Judea away to prevent rebellion, our moving stuff away actually leads to rebellion. The more stuff we hold on to, the more those things can lead us away from our Lord. We need to give Him our all.

I have experienced periods in my life when I was holding on to something. It was something I could fix, something I could handle. Each time I did this, I eventually realized the futility of my efforts. I learned to surrender it. Now, I’m a little hard-headed. Just ask my wife, lol. But I do know His way in the right way. Do you?

I bring all my “tucked away” things to You, O Lord. I desire to walk in freedom.

Standard
Battles, Bible, Blessing, Drought, Fruit, Harvest, Hope, Joy, Rejoicing

DON’T BE A SCAREDY CAT

JOEL 2:22

“Do not fear, animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness have turned green, for the tree has produced its fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded in full.”

Have you ever been around feral cats? You can’t get near them. They come out of the barns or bushes and look at you, but if you make one step toward them, they disappear. They hunt constantly for food and always look scrawny and underfed. It’s hard to see any animal like that – even a cat, lol.

Joel is spreading good news to even the animals. They have been suffering for so long with the drought and the locusts. They haven’t seen anything green to eat in quite a while. Now the Lord is turning the pastures green. He is bringing forth the fruit of the trees and the vines. The animals should be dancing with joy.

APPLICATION

What has the Lord restored in your life? Do you remember times when your needs were great, and the Lord came through and met just what you needed? The Lord always comes through – every time. He may be late, according to our timetable. But He’s not late according to His. Listen to this verse. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

Maybe you are going through a tough time right now and feel the Lord is not hearing your prayers. He is. I promise. Trust in His timetable. I am sure those people in Judah thought the Lord had forgotten them. But He showed up just when He planned. Our suffering is always to make us more like Him. Don’t complain about it. Embrace it and allow Him to bring you through.

I remember vividly the days after I came to Christ. The grass was greener, and the sky was bluer. I saw life for the first time in a long time. His promises are true. I learned I could trust Him. He brought me through some tough times to get me there. He has continued to bring me through. Each time I trust Him, He teaches me more.

O Mighty Father, I will wait on You. You have always come through and I know You always will.

Standard
Battles, Choices, Cleansing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

INFESTED

JOEL 2:9

“They storm the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”

Once, when I lived in Florida, our house became infested with ticks. We noticed a couple climbing up the wall in our den one night and killed them. The next day we saw more and killed them, but they just kept coming. We had the house sprayed a few times before they were finally contained. But they were everywhere. It was pretty creepy to live in.

The locusts Joel is describing here that came as part of God’s judgment on Judah were everywhere. One commentator’s description talked about them eating everything in the house, even clothing. The people had no rest from them. They couldn’t eat without battling them for the food. Can you imagine the scene? It must have been horrible.

APPLICATION

Sin is that way. It creeps in and infests our lives. If we do not deal with it quickly it will affect every area of our lives. We may think we can keep it isolated, but we can’t. It spreads. It penetrates even our most guarded areas. Sin seeps in and begins to cause decay. Just like those locusts in today’s verse, sin will devour everything in its path.

But we have the solution – Jesus. His blood covers all those sins. We will never be free from the presence of sin this side of glory. However, we do not have to live chained to sin. We have the power to live above it. We can close the windows and doors of our lives to its penetrating power through the Holy Spirit. His power trumps sin’s power every time.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to live in the stench of sin or in the aroma of our Savior. That’s pretty much a no brainer, if you ask me. I choose Jesus. I know He is my protector and defender. I trust Him to cover my sins with His precious blood. I am free because of that. How about you?

O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow!

Standard
Abiding, Advice, Battles, Bible, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Modeling, Perseverance, Scripture, Trials

PALE FACES

JOEL 2:6

“Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale.”

Some people are paler than others. That’s just a fact, right? But others can become super pale when frightened or in pain. Have you ever heard the expression “you look as pale as a ghost”? Now, that’s pretty pale. I have visited people in the hospital who looked like that. They looked as pale as the sheets on their bed.

The Hebrew words for the phrase “turn pale” literally mean drained of color. The people were in so much pain, so much anguish, they were drained of color. They were writhing in pain. The locust swarms that had come upon them had them to this point. They could see all their crops and produce being annihilated, and they were helpless to do anything about it.

APPLICATION

So, what do you do when this happens? What do you do when you find yourself in anguish? There’s only one thing to do. You turn to Jesus. We live in a fallen world. We have to deal with that. And sometimes the Lord allows things in our lives that will drive us to Him. We may not understand at the time, but He is there with us.

The next time you find yourself in one of these situations, stop and ask the Lord what He is trying to teach you. What lesson does He want you to learn? When we approach these times like that, we can learn so much about ourselves and Christ. I am not even pretending these times are fun. They are not. But they are times to grow.

I can truly say I hated every time like this I have faced. No one likes going through hard times. But I can also say that I have always learned going through them. I have also learned that the quicker I submit to the Lord and allow Him to teach me, the sooner I can feel His warm embrace in the process. The trial may still continue, but now I know what it’s about.

Lord, show me the purpose of the hard times in my life. Teach me to trust You and grow me into what You would have me be.

Standard
Abiding, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Darkness, Destruction, Fighting, Flesh, Following, Obedience, Perseverance, Scripture, Surrender

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SEE

JOEL 2:4

“Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like war horses, so they run.”

Sometimes things take on the shape of other things. Clouds can look like a rabbit. Shadows can appear to represent an image of a person. In the fog things can look very different. You have to look closely sometimes to make out what you are really seeing. After all, your eyes can play tricks on you.

Theodoret, a Bishop in Syria, once said while describing the locusts he observed there, “You will find it exceedingly like that of a horse.” Whence the Arabs, of old and to this day , say, ‘In the locust, slight as it is, is the nature of ten of the larger animals, the face of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of abull, the horns of a deer, the chest of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an eagle, the thighs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich, the tail of a serpent.’” (Barnes’ Commentary of Joel). This is what Joel is talking about here in today’s verse.

APPLICATION

You are probably wondering how in the world we can get any application for our lives from this verse. What do locusts or how they look relate to me? Will you give a little room to make this application? After all, every word of the Bible is inspired, right?

God allows these “hordes of locusts” into our lives sometimes. He allows them to come in and seemingly destroy everything in sight. But you have to remember that if God allows it, it is always to make us more like His Son. Those locusts may look terrifying. We may be shaken at the very sight of them. However, in Christ we have the strength and power to face any horde sent our way.

I don’t like hordes of anything attacking me or my loved ones. I want to fight back. I think I can defend myself. But God whispers to me to back off and let Him do the defending. If you are facing “hordes of locusts” right now, stop fighting so hard. Lay down your feeble weapons and allow the Lord to defend you. He has the power to do great and mighty things in and through us.

I thank You for coming to my defense when I am under attack. When all else falls apart, I know You can be depended on.

Standard
Battles, Bible, Caregiver, Comfort, Destruction, Encouragement, Following, Judgment, Scripture

WIPED OUT

JOEL 2:3

“A fire consumes before them, and behind them a flame devours. The land is like the Garden of Eden before them, but a desolate wilderness behind them, and nothing at all escapes them.”

I have seen the ravages of storms. Years ago, hurricane Irma hit the gulf coast of Florida. It devastated Pensacola, FL. I drove there the following week from my home to assess the damage to a group home our ministry had there. It looked as if someone had taken a giant leaf blower and just cleared everything off the earth. Even the interstate bridges had been blown down. It was horrible.

Joel is continuing the imagery of the locust swarm in today’s verse. Before the locusts lay green fields. Behind them was nothing. Remember, Joel is painting a picture here of the coming judgment of Judah. They too would be left in a desolate wilderness. Their sins had invited God’s judgment. Repentance and their return to God was the only answer.

APPLICATION

You may feel you are living in a desolate wilderness right now. You may feel wiped out by life. I’ve got great news for you. Jesus can pick you up and give you new life. When you are at your lowest, He can reach down and lift you up. There is no hole too deep that He cannot reach. There is no desert too barren that He cannot cause new life to spring forth.

I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews chapter 2. Verse 16 tells us that Jesus did not come to help the angels, but to help the descendants of Abraham (that’s us). That word “help” in the Greek means to aggressively grab us and take us with him. Jesus will grab ahold of us and lead us where we should go. He will guide us, not just point the way.

I prefer a guide rather than someone who just gives directions. I feel safer. When I am wiped out and ready to through in the towel, Jesus is always there to lift me up. You would think I would turn to Him first and not get so wiped out. But I am stubborn sometimes. That always gets me into trouble. Will you join me today in asking the Lord to pick us up?

Father, I cannot make it one more step without You. I need You to guide me, to take me along with You.

Standard
Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Darkness, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Repentance, Scripture

DARKNESS COMES

JOEL 2:2

“A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness. As dawn is spread over the mountains, so there is a great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations.”

Darkness and gloom! I’ve been there. There have been a few times in my life when I felt like the world was caving in on me. Due to some bad decisions on my part, I had caused most of it. Yes, even me, Carl Willis has made some bad decisions that invited the darkness and gloom. The only way out of it was going to the Lord in repentance. He lifted me out the cave I was in.

Joel is going to be describing a rampage of locusts over the next several verses in chapter 2. These swarms of locusts were so large that they looked like dark clouds which blocked the sun. They would come in, land and begin eating anything green. They would lay their eggs and shortly after their larvae would hatch and begin eating also. This, too, was part of the judgment on Judah.

APPLICATION

Things come into our lives like these locusts. They swoop in uninvited and begin to eat everything in sight. Our emotions are gnawed away. Our physical resources may be diminished. Even our health can be taken away. What do you do in seasons like that? Who do you turn to?

There’s only one answer – Jesus. He knows what is affecting you. After all, as a child of God, anything that comes into your life goes through His hands first. Don’t you know that? So, if He has allowed it, it is to make us more like His Son. God never allows things to touch us to turn us away from Him. That would be counterproductive to His plan for our lives. He is always drawing us towards Him.

Sometimes, though, it feels like God is trying to tear us apart. Nope! He may be breaking us down, but that is only to allow Him to build us back up. Sometimes, we need large chunks knocked off to bring out the image of Jesus. Are you willing to go through the darkness and gloom, the hard times, to be made more like your Savior?

Chip away, O Lord. I want to reflect Your glory!

Standard