Abiding, Belief, Bible, Comfort, Fasting, Flesh, Forgiveness, God's Will, Hearing, Humility, Salvation, Scripture

PROCLAIM THE FAST

JONAH 3:5

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”

When is the last time you have fasted? For most people, this is a rare thing. We either don’t think about it or we don’t believe in it. I have to admit that I don’t fast regularly. Usually, I fast for a specific reason. I want to hear from God about something. I really should make it a regular thing in my life. Will you pray for me that I would do that?

The people of Nineveh believed in God because they heard Jonah’s message. He told them their city was going to be overthrown in 40 days. That would wake you up. They repented, which is evident by the fasting and the sackcloth. They humbled themselves before a holy God seeking forgiveness. Would God forgive them or not? We’ll get to that in a few days.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t just about going without food. It is much more than that. It is humbling yourself. It is making a sacrifice. It is denying yourself of physical things in order to receive spiritual things. What do I mean by that?

When you fast, your mind becomes clearer. The initial hunger pains remind you to pray. As you deny yourself food and concentrate on the Lord, those pains subside. Don’t get me wrong. You still get hungry, but now you know why you are doing this. God is speaking.

I really can’t fully explain the spiritual benefits of fasting. It is something you have to experience yourself. If you are able physically to fast, let me encourage you to do that. As you humble yourself, the Lord will speak. His voice will come through. Now, fasting isn’t required to hear God’s voice, but it clears the path. Give it a try. It’s easier than wearing sackcloth, lol.

I deny myself in order to hear You clearly, O Lord. I do want to hear You.

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Affliction, Battles, Bible, Comfort, Drought, God's Will, Rescue, Scripture

I’M GOING TO FAINT

AMOS 8:13

“On that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.”

Have you ever felt like you were going to faint? When I went through my chemotherapy a couple of years ago (boy, it feels like yesterday), I had several episodes of fainting. One second I’m upright and talking. The next I’m on the ground. It’s really a strange feeling.

But I have never fainted due to thirst. The young virgins and the young men, who are the ones filled normally with the most hope, are at their end. They see nothing in their future when it should be full of hopes and aspirations. So they collapse as if fainting from thirst.

APPLICATION

Let me turn this a little. How thirsty are you for Jesus? Do you pant after Him? Do you crave His Word like you do a cool drink of water on a hot day? We should! We need to have our thirsts quenched by Him each day. We shouldn’t let ourselves get “spiritually dehydrated.”

Just picture yourself sitting before a flowing fountain. The water is crystal clear. A sign is there telling you to drink to your heart’s content. It also says the water will allow you to live forever. Would you turn that down? Of course, not. So, why aren’t we diving headfirst into the Word each day?

My thirst is quenched each and every day through the Word. Writing his blog fills my soul. I can’t imagine not hearing Him speak to me through His written Word. I pant, but I don’t pant out of desperation. I pant because I long for His Word and because I know how it refreshes my spirit. Will you join me?

O God, You are the source of all life. Quench my thirst with Your Word.

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Affection, Bible, Comfort, Encouragement, Grief, Modeling, Mourning

SACKCLOTH

AMOS 8:10

“Then I will turn your festivals into mourning, and all your songs into songs of mourning; and I will put sackcloth around everyone’s waist, and baldness on every head. And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, and the end of it will be like a bitter day.”

I remember the old burlap bags I used to bag up potatoes on my grandmother’s farm. We would dig the potatoes, bag them in those bags and carry them to the old farmhouse and pour them out on the floor for storage. Burlap bags can do a number on your knuckles and hands after a day of lugging those things around.

I can’t even imagine wearing those around my loins. That’s what they did during their mourning. The coarseness of the sackcloth (burlap bag) rubbed them reminding them of their fallen state. It was uncomfortable. They didn’t realize changing your clothes doesn’t bring about true repentance.

APPLICATION

Here in the U.S., we are accustomed to wearing black when we are mourning. A widow or widower will dress in black when their spouse passes away. If you think about it, if the loved one who passed was a believer, we should be celebrating. We should wear bright and festive clothes.

I preached a funeral recently where the widow wore a beautiful turquoise jacket. I bet there were some in the crowd who questioned that. No need to. Her husband loved Jesus. We were giving praise to Jesus for his homecoming. I know she was grieving, but she was also celebrating.

How do you face mourning? Are you trusting in the One who truly knows our griefs? He can restore your joy. He can cause you to celebrate. Let Him lead you during those times of mourning and you will come out the other side singing for joy.

I trust You in the good times, so I will trust You in the hard times.

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Advocate, Bible, Comfort, Death, Encouragement, Mourning

MOURNING AND MORE MOURNING

AMOS 5:16

“Therefore this is what the LORD God of armies, the Lord says: ‘There is mourning in all the public squares, and in all the streets they say, ‘Oh no! Oh no!’ They also call the farmer to mourning and professional mourners to mourning rites.’”

In the past few months, we have seen a lot of death in our community. I personally have been to several visitations and funerals. And I have observed a lot of mourning. Mourning comes from loss. Mourning comes from grief. How do we, as believers, handle such loss?

Amos tells us the Lord’s words concerning this. He was, of course, talking to Israel, but the words apply to us. When we suffer loss we are driven to mourning. I can recall the days after 9-11. Not only my country, but the whole world mourned. We saw prayer meetings and church services being held all over the world for the loss of life on that day.

APPLICATION

How I mourn is so important. We are told that we do not mourn as those who have no hope. When we have a loved one die who knows the Lord, there is a loss here on earth but there is a gain in heaven. We will see them again. The mourning should be short lived.

But when we lose someone who does not know Jesus as their Savior, that is a deeper loss. May I encourage you today to reach out to all those you love who are in that group? You don’t want to grieve in that way. You don’t want your mourning to be that deep.

Someone told me the other day that we spend so much time getting people to agree to go to heaven and then we are upset when they go. They have won the ultimate victory – the victory over death. They moved from this world to the next and received glory. Hallelujah! Praise His name.

O God, help me mourn with those who mourn. Let me also point all I can to You, who can lessen the mourning and lead us home.

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Advocate, Affection, Affliction, Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Encouragement, Hope, Intimacy, Mourning, Scripture

MOURNING

AMOS 5:1

“Hear this word which I am taking up for you as a song of mourning, house of Israel:”

Mourning is hard. If you have ever had a loss of a loved one in your life, you know what I mean. Everyone mourns differently. Some, seemingly, mourn quickly and move on with their life. Others take months, even years, to fully mourn their loss. But everyone feels their mourning, in one way or another.

Israel seemed to be clueless. Amos introduces for the third time in five chapters the reality of mourning. Israel was so full of itself, it totally overlooked its loss. God had removed Himself from them to allow their judgment to fall. They had plenty to mourn, but were too busy to notice – until it was too late.

APPLICATION

Are you aware of your losses? Are you stuck in your mourning? I have good news for you. God is here. He is right where you are, no matter where you are in your mourning cycle. He can soothe the most broken heart. He can comfort us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

If you are going through a process of mourning right now, don’t let anyone tell you how to do it. They haven’t been where you are. Everyone’s loss is different. But there is one who can relate fully and completely. His name is Jesus. Tell Him how you feel. Cry on His shoulder. He will be with you through the entire process.

I have suffered loss in my life (child, parent, sibling, friends). Each loss hit me differently. But through each loss, God’s strength was inside me. He gave me the ability to cope. Without Him I do not know how I would have dealt with each loss. But praise be to God, He knows how. Amen?

Lord, I praise You for the strength You give to Your children during their times of loss. You are truly the balm of Gilead.

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Advocate, Bible, Comfort, Creation, Encouragement, God's Will, Inspirational, Intimacy, Relationships, Scripture

WHAT’S YOUR NAME

AMOS 4:13

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind, and declares to a person what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of armies is His name.”

Throughout my over four decades of ministry, I have sought to learn the names of the children I was serving. There is something about being called by your name. But I have had to develop some tricks to help me. I have used acrostics to memorize the names of multiple children in a family. I have used hair color or a birthmark to help. There was usually something about the child that I could remember that would trigger the name.

God tells us who He is in is verse before He tells us His name. Look at what He does. He forms the mountains and creates the wind. That’s pretty powerful. He knows our thoughts. That’s a little scary, right? He controls the sunlight and walks on mountaintops. Then He says, “the LORD God of armies is His name.” In other words, He is in charge! Period!

APPLICATION

While all these attributes might be terrifying, I find comfort in them. If God can do all that, He can certainly handle my little problems. The LORD God of armies cares enough about little, ole me to hear my prayers and dry my tears. The LORD God of armies loves me enough to send His own Son to rescue me from an eternal damnation.

No matter how little I may feel, He still reaches down with His powerful right hand and scoops me up to safety. In fact, He will send those armies of His to my rescue. I am His child, and He will protect me. Even when He is busy forming mountains and creating wind, I am on His mind. That’s mind boggling.

I am so thankful that my God is not too big for me. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. God, of course, is big. He is too big for my mind. But He isn’t too big that He forgets about me. In fact, He wants to hear from me every day. He wants to hear from you, too. Talk to Him. Tell Him your needs. I promise He can fit you in.

O God of the universe, I praise You for looking on me. I know You are forever mindful of my needs and desires.

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Abiding, Affection, Bible, Comfort, Encouragement, Gentleness, Intimacy, Obedience, Relationships

WALKING WITH GOD

Amos 3:3

“Do two people walk together unless they have agreed to meet?”

I was sixteen years old when I started my walk with Christ. I had been in church all my life, but I had never surrendered my life to Him. I did all the church stuff, including singing in the choir and going on church trips. But I did not know Jesus until I gave my whole self to Him and saw myself as a sinner. My walk began July 31, 1977 and has not stopped since then. There have been some bumps in the road, but He has been faithful.

Amos begins a series of parables in verse 3 today. Each one has a message for Israel. This first one speaks of walking with someone. Israel had not been walking with God for quite some time. The parable says that both have to agree. That was the problem. Israel didn’t agree. God was ready to walk with them, but they had shunned Him and disobeyed Him. God could not walk with them like that.

APPLICATION

How’s your walk? Are you running away from God or ahead of Him? Either is bad. Maybe you are refusing to move and are stuck in some sin. I don’t know about you, but when I walk with my wife I like to hold her hand. We don’t do that much right now because of my feet. But walking hand in hand is special to me. God wants to walk with you that way. He desires that closeness.

Are you holding His hand as you walk with Him? Do you want that intimacy? I do. I want to walk with Him feeling His hand in mine. Now, I know that is not physically possible, but it is spiritually. Holding hands requires closeness. Get close to Him. Read His Word. Pray to Him. Spend time with Him. You won’t regret it. His walks are exhilarating.

I mentioned my walk has had some bumps. But God never let go of my hand. He kept picking me up and dusting me off. He put me back on the right path. My walk with Christ has improved over the years. It’s still not perfect. I still stumble. But I have learned to hold tight to my Master’s hand. I trust Him completely. I pray you can as well. Hold tight.

O Jesus, thank You for holding my hand. Thank You for being right beside me all the time.

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Accountability, Affection, Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Commands, Compassion, God's Will, Goodness, Idols, Kindness, Ministry, Scripture

OTHERS’ THINGS

AMOS 2:8

“‘And on garments seized as pledges they stretch out beside every altar, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.’”

My dad had one rule about borrowed tools. If you borrow it, take it back. If it’s borrowed, get it back. My dad had a shop full of tools, and when he died eight years ago, they were still there. My brother, nephews, son and other family members got all the tools they wanted, and they were still tools left. That’s because of the “borrowed” tool rule. They were always in the right place.

The Lord had a command against keeping the garments of the poor that had been given as pledges of debt. Those garments were to be returned at night since they most likely were the poor’s means of keeping warm. Here the Lord rebukes them for keeping them and stretching them out at altars. They also mockingly drank the wine received as payment in their places of worship, further reveling in their idolatry.

APPLICATION

Well, I can hear us now. We don’t take other people’s clothes and wine. This doesn’t apply to us. Don’t forget that every word of God’s Word is inspired. So, it always relates to us in some manner. These Israelites saw others in need and turned their heads. They knew God’s command and still did it. Don’t we do the same? Don’t we see others who are cold and thirsty and turn our heads?

Now, I know we can’t meet the need of every person. But we can meet the need of one. It’s coming into winter here in Tennessee where I live. I see the homeless just about every day and wonder how they stay warm. I wonder if they have enough to eat or drink. And what do I do about it? Very little. I may hand out a bag of food or something, but that’s about it. Many of these I see choose to live this way. I realize that. But that doesn’t lessen my responsibility.

How about you? What can you do about it? I bet you see the same people in your town. People who just need a little help. Don’t wait on someone else to step up. Get your church involved. Ask around and get others involved. Even a little group can make an impact on one person’s life.

Thank You, Father, for blessing me to be able to bless others. Open my eyes to those around me who need a helping hand.

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Abiding, Bible, Blessing, Calling, Comfort, Forgiveness, Goodness, Holy Spirit, Life, Salvation, Scripture

LET IT RAIN

JOEL 2:23

“So shout for joy, you sons of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has brought down for you the rain, early and latter rain as before.

Don’t you just love a good rain storm? I remember this great claymation creation that used to play on tv when my kids were little. It was a scene on a farm with people sitting on a front porch of a farmhouse. There were animals in the yard laying around. It was hot and dry, and everyone and everything looked like they needed something to drink. Then, all of a sudden, the raindrops began. Slowly at first, then a downpour. Every living creature began to run around and dance in the rain.

That’s the picture I have in mind as I read this verse today in Joel. The drought is ended. The early and latter rains have returned. And with it, the promise of life. New life can spring forth from these rains which have been withheld. You know the people of Judah acted just like those Claymation figures I recall. Wonderful rain!

APPLICATION

God restores to us the promise of life at salvation. We are dead in our sins and destined for hell. But with the decision to follow Christ and ask Him to come in and save us, we receive a whole new life. His Holy Spirit comes into us and indwells us. Our life now is in Christ.

Are you in need of a new life? Are you struggling to find meaning in life today? Come to Him. Give Him your life, and He will remake it into something that is beautiful. He will give you purpose. Maybe you are already a Christian, but you are struggling right now. Return to Him. Let Him remind you who are in Christ. You are a whole new creature.

I am glad for those refreshing rains that fall. They remind me of the refreshing Spirit that leads me each day. When I am at my lowest, the Spirit reminds me whose I am. Ask the Holy Spirit today to blow those refreshing rains into your soul.

Blow, Spirit blow!  Refresh my spirit today. I want to be renewed of my purpose in Christ.

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Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Direction, Disciplemaking, Drought, God's Will, Inspirational, Joy, Praise, Rejoicing

SHOUT FOR JOY

JOEL 2:21

“Do not fear, land; shout for joy and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things.”

I am a huge football fan, especially of the Georgia Bulldogs (Go DAWGS!). If it’s possible, I’m going to watch them play on. Saturdays. And when they are scoring and winning, I am shouting for joy. My wife thinks I’m crazy, but that’s okay. I love my DAWGS, and I’m going to support them every chance I get.

Joel isn’t talking about my DAWGS today, but he is talking about shouting for joy. In fact, he tells the land to not fear, but to shout for joy and rejoice. There’s been a period of mourning with the droughts and the locusts, but now the Lord is restoring the land. He says “for the Lord has done great things.” It is only because of the Lord. It is His workings.

APPLICATION

Do you feel like shouting? Can you rejoice in the great things the Lord has done in your life? You may not feel much like shouting for joy. Perhaps you have been in a period of mourning. But the Lord has still done great things. Look around you. I bet you can point out several things He has done for you lately. Rejoice in them.

It is often in our lowest moments that we can see His handiwork. The Lord comes down to us to lift us up. And He often teaches us very important life lessons when we are at our lowest. That may seem crazy, but it’s true. I know it’s been true in my life. So, take a moment and look around. Ask the Lord to reveal them to you.

When I was going through my first stem cell transplant in 2010, the Lord taught me to trust Him. My faith grew exponentially during those months. In 2020 during my second stem cell transplant, the Lord taught me the importance of being a godly example to others. He wanted to use me to show others how to trust. It wasn’t about me at all. For those lessons, I rejoice. Will you rejoice for yours?

I thank You, Lord, for all the lessons You have taught me in my life. I praise Your holy name.

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