Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Brokenness, Cleansing, Confession, Forgiveness, Inspirational, Mercy, Prayer, Repentance, Scripture

RETURN TO ME

JOEL 2:12

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;’”

I love to return to places that I have visited in the past, if I enjoyed them the first time. For instance, I am planning to return to Kenya this year. I love my brothers and sisters there. Due to my illness in 2019-20, I have not been there since 2018. My heart literally aches to be there. Would you pray with me that Kenya remains open to travel and our team can make the trip?

I love today’s verse. When the Lord says here for us to return, that implies we have been there before. I look up the Hebrew word for “return.” It literally means to turn back or return. And the verb tense implies some kind of force is involved. He is asking us to forcibly return to Him. Don’t be slow about it. And He says to return with fasting, weeping and mourning. We come back recognizing our sins and asking for forgiveness.

APPLICATION

Fasting, weeping and mourning aren’t things we enjoy doing. It implies brokenness. Are you? Are you broken over your sins? Most of us can strut sitting down. We are too proud to repent. We are too full of ourselves to fast and weep and mourn. But God asks us to come to Him that way.

Let me urge you today to do that. If you are unsure of your sins (I can’t imagine someone not knowing their sins), ask the Lord to reveal them to you. He will, I promise. He has seen your sins. His forgiveness and mercy if ready. Just ask. Our unconfessed sins just serve to separate us from fellowship with our Master. Remove that barrier through confession and repentance.

I am thankful the Lord stands ready to forgive. I know I sin daily through word and/or deed. I long to live a life of godliness free from sin and its influence. Until then, I will come to my Savior and seek cleansing. I will cleanse my hands and purify my heart. I will seek to know Him better through His word.  Return to Him! Are you ready?

Thank You, Father, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.

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Agreement, Bible, Brokenness, Discipline, Fasting, Hearing, Humility, Intimacy, Modeling, Offering, Prayer, Purity, Sacrifice, Scripture, Suffering

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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Accountability, Affliction, Bible, Brokenness, Compassion, Condemnation, Courage, Destruction, Encouragement, Judgment, Persecution, Punishment

TOTAL DEVASTATION

JOEL 1:7

“It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree a stump. It has stripped them bare and hurled them away; their branches have become white.”

Have you ever witnessed total devastation? I’ve seen it a couple of times, both times after severe storms. Most recently I witnessed it in my hometown when we were struck by a tornado. Neighborhoods that had been tree-lined and ornate were left in shambles. Most of the trees were gone or snapped in half. Houses were torn apart and, in some cases, just plain missing. It hurt to see it.

Judah experienced the same thing. In the case of the locusts, they wiped out everything. Even the bark on the trees was eaten. And when the nations came in as part of God’s judgment, they crushed and destroyed buildings and homes, leaving nothing of any value behind.

APPLICATION

If you have ever suffered loss like is described above, you can relate. Whether it is physical loss, like a house, or loss of health from an illness, it is hard to get over it. Do you think the Lord allows losses to punish us or teach us? Actually, every loss we encounter as a believer has gone through the hands of God first. He measures and makes sure it is what we can handle. He would never put more on you than you can handle.

But why do we even have to deal with this? Because He is teaching us to depend on Him. We could lose everything we have, but we still have our Savior. Physical things come and go. Prized possessions will eventually rust or rot away. Our faith only gets stronger. Our faith only grows.

So, as you watch things around you fall apart, remember who it is who holds you close. I can rest in His unshakeable arms. He will sustain and strengthen me. He will protect me and love me. What else could you ask for? He’s got this!

I am so thankful, Lord, to know You have me in Your grip. I am safe and secure.

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Apologies, Asking, Bible, Brokenness, Confession, Forgiveness, Redemption, Repentance, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

IT TAKES WORDS

HOSEA 14:2

Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all guilt and receive us graciously, so that we may present the fruit of our lips.’”

Apologizing to someone can be quite humiliating. Depending on what you are apologizing for, it can be hard to get the words out. I’ve known people who just couldn’t say they were sorry. It seemed impossible for them to form those words with their mouth. But to truly apologize you must. You have to tell that person just how sorry you are for whatever it was you did or said. Anything less just isn’t an apology.

Hosea gives Israel some good advice here. “Take words with you.” In other words, tell the Lord that you are sorry for your sins. Tell Him you want forgiveness. Tell Him you need Him. Israel was stubborn and rebellious, though. They thought they were okay just because they were God’s chosen. But God’s chosen can fall short too.

APPLICATION

When’s the last time you came humbly before your Lord asking for forgiveness? I pray it was today. You need to do this every day. I am reminded of David’s words at the end of Psalm 139. He asks the Lord to search him and show him his sins so he can confess them to Him. Have you ever done that? Try it.

I practice the ACTS method in praying. It’s just my habit. A-Adoration, C-Confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-Supplication. This method keeps me focused in my prayer time. Do you know what I’ve found out by doing this? When I spend all that time in adoration, confession and thanksgiving, I have less supplication. It’s more about me talking to God than asking from Him.

Will you join me in prayer today asking the Lord to reveal to you the sins you have tucked away? Come to Him in humility asking Him to cleanse you. As Hosea said to Israel, take words with you and return to the Lord. And come knowing He is waiting to receive you. He wants you to come home.

Father, forgive me today of those sins I have committed against You. Forgive me and cleanse me so that I can be Your vessel to be used to advance Your kingdom here on earth.

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Accountability, Battles, Bible, Brokenness, Choices, Deceit, Disciplemaking, Evil, Foolishness, Forgiveness, God's Will, Gospel, Holiness, Modeling, Obedience, Scripture, Testimony

DRUNKENNESS

HOSEA 7:5

“On the day of our king, the officials became sick with the heat of wine; He stretched out his hand with scoffers,”

I have known a few drunks in my lifetime. These individuals were so addicted to alcohol, they couldn’t function in everyday life. They couldn’t hold a job. They had lost their right to drive. They were in and out of jail for public intoxication. Their life was a mess, all because of their appetite for drink.

Hosea is talking about that in today’s verse. The officials and even the king drank to excess. They became sick they drank so much. And to make matters worse, they teamed up with the scoffers. Who are they? They were the individuals who scoffed or scorned at God. They mocked Him and encouraged others to do the same.

APPLICATION

How do we avoid this? Avoid drunkenness. This is not a blog to debate if Christians can drink or not. I’m not going down that road. But there is no reason for a believer to become drunk. We know where that leads. It leads to no good. When we are in that condition we can’t represent Christ, which is our calling.

We should also avoid associating with those who mock and ridicule the things of Christ. In most drinking situations Christ will not be glorified. Isn’t that our purpose? If we can’t do that where we are, something’s wrong. Our actions and attitude should always point to Him.

I haven’t always lived up to that. There have been times when I have failed. I have not represented Christ well. I have asked for forgiveness for that. I truly want to please Him in all I do. My goal is to do that every day. So, my prayer each day is to keep me focused on Him and sharing the good news of the gospel to whomever will listen.

Lord, keep my heart in tune with Yours. I want to walk in such a way that I never bring shame on Your name.

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Abiding, Accountability, Advice, Bible, Bosses, Brokenness, Commitment, Compassion, Devout, Disciplemaking, Faithfulness, Following, God's Will, Loyalty, Obedience, Relationships, Scripture

LOYALTY

HOSEA 6:6

“For I desire loyalty rather than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

I’ll never forget getting called into my boss’ office one time. He called me down and before I could even sit down in a chair, he lit into me. He had a list of accusations against me, things I had supposedly done to undermine his authority. This lasted about thirty minutes. When he finished, I asked if I could respond. He said I could, so told him I hadn’t done any of those things. None of them were true.

Loyalty is important. God demands it. He demanded it of the Israelites, and He requires it of us, His children. We can act like the Israelites and make our sacrifices (giving our tithes, serving in the nursery, helping the homeless), but unless we are loyal to Him, He rejects those sacrifices. Just as the burnt sacrifices that smoldered on the altar, our acts of service are just smoldering ashes.

APPLICATION

How do you show your loyalty to a holy God? How can we prove our heart’s desire is for Him? Listen, brothers and sisters, He knows your heart. He knows your motives. You don’t have to do anything. That is not necessary. All you have to do is surrender. You have to stop trying to please Him and just bow.

When we cease striving, we can start thriving. Hey, I like that. Stop working so hard to justify His love. You just have to bow your will to His, just like Jesus did in the garden. Remember that? Not My will, but Thine be done. That should be our heart cry. That shows our loyalty.

I am tired of trying, aren’t you? I am tired of trying to figure it all out. All I want to do is rest in Him. Guess what? That’s what He wants, too. He wants to take us in His warm embrace and snuggle us. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. He loves us so much. Come to Him today.

I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul rejoice.

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FIRST AID

HOSEA 6:1

“Come, let’s return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.”

I taught first aid for years. In the classes I taught how to bandage wounds and stabilize broken limbs. I actually enjoyed teaching these skills because I knew I was preparing the students to help someone who possibly couldn’t help themselves. What a great skill to have.

In this chapter 6 of Hosea, the people are responding to the Lord. They realize their need to return to Him. They recognize that He has punished them. They say He had torn them and wounded them. But they also know He will heal them and bandage them.

APPLICATION

Has the Lord torn you? Has He wounded you? And how did you respond? Most of us do not respond too well when chastised. I know I don’t. It’s hard to receive criticism or rebuke. But when it’s the Lord doing the rebuking, we need to listen. He only corrects us to bring us closer to Him. Don’t you want that?

Punishment is so much more bearable when we know the person doing the punishing loves us. How much does God love us? He sent His Son to die for us. That is a powerful love. That’s an eternal love. The next time you feel the Lord correcting you, look into His eyes and know how much He loves you.

The Lord just might use your correction to point someone else toward Him, if you respond well. As others watch you react, you have the opportunity to show them Jesus. A lot of people have never seen that before. Will you accept His healing and His bandages? Then show them to others so they can see what He has done for you.

I am healed because of You. You are the source of all my healing. Praise You, Jesus.

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BROKEN

HOSEA 5:11

“Ephraim is oppressed, broken by judgment, because he was determined to follow man’s command.

We can do things in this life that can leave us broken. Wrong decisions can lead to horrible consequences. Some of those consequences are natural. Other consequences are imposed by man. For instance, if we break the law, we can be found guilty and have to go to jail. But all consequences go back to our decisions. Do we obey or not?

Ephraim made the decision to pursue their own desires. They followed man rather than God. As a result, they faced God’s judgment. They fell under the oppression of man. They had a choice to begin with. They could have obeyed Jehovah. But, like us, they chose what seemed pleasing to them. So, consequences followed.

APPLICATION

Do you enjoy the consequences of your sin? Now, if you say you do, you must be a little crazy. I don’t know anyone who enjoys that. It makes you wonder why we choose to follow after our own desires then. We know that doing that will almost always result in consequences. But we still do it.

Look at those words again in today’s verse. Oppressed, broken, judgment. Those aren’t words I want spoken over me. I prefer blessed, raised up, forgiven. Both lists of words are the result of choices. Choices, choices, choices. Why must we choose? Why doesn’t the Lord just make us do the right thing? Because He wants us to freely come to Him. He desires us to choose Him.

Well, today, I choose Jesus. I choose to follow Him. I want to please Him. That’s today. I know my flesh is strong. I know I must make this choice every day. I have to choose Him each and every day. And each time I do that, He smiles. Then He can bless me and raise me up. Those are consequences I can embrace.

I choose You, Lord. And in my choosing I realize it may not be easy to follow where You lead. But I go with You trusting You to see me through.

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CREATION MOURNS

HOSEA 4:3

“Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the animals of the field and the birds of the sky, and even the fish of the sea disappear.”

Have you ever seen a natural disaster? I, unfortunately, have seen this firsthand. I have seen the devastation of tornadoes and hurricanes. I have seen the effects of droughts and floods. I have seen animals suffering from lack of water or food. We forget how fragile our earth is in these circumstances. But do you realize how creation is tied to the fate of man?

Hosea is reminding us here how we are so knit together. God used nature to show man the effects of sin. I am not talking about the carbon footprint of men on the earth. I am referring to how God uses nature. We see it all around us. We are so dependent on each other. Just think about it. Scientist have warned us how the demise of the little honeybee could devastate crop production, thus bringing famine across the globe.

APPLICATION

Creation groans for the return of Jesus. We are told that in Scripture. We have seen the increase of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, cyclones and the such. Creation is preparing. The question is are we. We seem to ignore these and blame it on global warming. Who do you think really controls the balance of nature? It’s not us.

We are a mere speck on the fabric of time. God orchestrates the heavens. He determines where and how much rain falls. He gives or withholds the snows. And even though we think we can change time by adding or taking away an hour in each day, there are still only twenty-four hours available to us.

So, what can we do about this? Very little, except to yield to the almighty hand of God. We must bow before Him, recognizing His power and majesty. Just as Israel ignored God’s hand on their nation and suffered the consequences, we are just as susceptible to the same ignorance. We have to acknowledge that it is He who is in control over everything.

Mighty God, I bow before You, recognizing You as the supreme power over all that exists. I praise You for allowing me to be a part of Your creation.

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LEADERLESS

HOSEA 3:4

“For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols.”

I have had the displeasure of working in some places that were leaderless. In order to protect the “guilty” I won’t name those places. There is nothing more disconcerting than coming to work each day not knowing which direction you are headed. No one takes charge. No one leads. Everyone is just wandering aimlessly. It really is a helpless feeling.

Hosea shifts his thoughts back to Israel in today’s verse. Israel, as a result of its sin, would be without a king or leader. This prophecy, of course, came true. Israel and Judah were taken into exile. They had no king to lead them. They were left leaderless. They had lost sight of the fact that Jehovah was their only true king.

APPLICATION

Who is your leader? To whom do you look up to? If you place your trust in a man or woman, you will be disappointed. No one can lead you like the Lord. He is the only one that will never lead you falsely. He will always point you in the right direction. So, who are you following?

Perhaps you are a leader. Where are you leading those following you? Listen carefully. If you are leading, you are going to be held responsible. That’s right. You can’t claim you didn’t know. Leaders are held to a higher level of scrutiny. That means you must take your guidance from the Lord so you can lead biblically.

As a Pastor, I am held to a higher standard by my Lord. I am responsible for the flock He has given me to lead. I do not want to find out that I have been misled and have led poorly. I pray you don’t either. Will you join me in leading well? Will you join me in following Jesus? He is worthy to lead.

O Father, I do not want to be leaderless. I desire to follow You. I know You will always lead me correctly.

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