Alone, Apologies, Bible, Calling, Choices, Commitment, Confidence, Discipline, Modeling, Scripture, Testimony

EVEN THE LOST

JONAH 1:6

“So the captain approached him and said, ‘How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.’”

Testifying about what Christ has done in your life is more than just words. Your actions speak loudly. If your lifestyle doesn’t match what you are saying, nonbelievers will mock you and reject your message. We all mess up and do stupid things, but if you are outwardly showing a different message, this can be confusing.

The captain of the ship must have known Jonah believed in something. Most people back then had some god they worshipped. The sailors had been calling on their gods without any result. Perhaps Jonah’s god (notice I put a little “g” there) could help. I don’t believe the captain knew just who Jonah worshipped.

APPLICATION

Our testimony is huge. Who do we think we are? We can’t live one way and testify to the other. I have messed up in the past. I have said and done things in the presence of nonbelievers that did not honor my Savior. I have asked God for forgiveness of that and have tried my best, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not to do it again.

We can’t ignore our impact on the world around us. Christians are  watched so closely. We have to live like Jesus. We have to strive to be sinless. I know, that’s not possible. But we should be trying to live that way instead of choosing sin. Right?

As I said, I have blown it in the past. I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t. All I can do is live better, live holier. Through Christ we all can. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

O Father, let me stand tall and alert to represent You at all times. When I fail, forgive me. Help me trust Your strength.

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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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Alone, Bible, Commitment, Consequences, Direction, Judgment, Scripture

NOWHERE TO RUN

AMOS 9:2

“Though they dig into Sheol, from there My hand will take them; and though they ascend to heaven, from there I will bring them down.”

Oh, how I recall being told by my mother, “Wait until your dad gets home.” Now, my dad worked at a textile mill on the first shift (7 a.m. – 3 p.m.) I would go to my room and watch the clock. I listened for his truck. I did not want to face my dad because I knew what was coming.

Today’s verse in Amos gives us a clear picture of God’s judgment. Those facing it would try to hide in Sheol by digging down to it. They would try to hide in heaven with the same result. God’s reach is everywhere. He is omnipresent, after all.

APPLICATION

I believe the application is clear. Don’t try to run from God. There is no place to hide. There is no hole deep enough or mountain high enough. People try to run from God all the time and never succeed. Their only hope is to stop running and turn to Him. He is not going anywhere.

Are you running from God right now? Maybe there is something He has asked you to do, but you are refusing to listen. That’s running! Perhaps you are hiding some personal sin that you know you should confess to Him. That’s running.

Stop running! God is right there waiting. His arms are wide open wanting to embrace you. But you have to turn to Him. He won’t chase you down. He won’t make you come to Him. It is so sweet when you come and sit at His feet and hear Him say, “You are my child. I love you.”

Thank You, Lord, for not letting my hide from You. I want to be in Your presence.

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EARTHQUAKE

AMOS 8:8

“Because of this will the land not quake, and everyone who lives in it mourn? Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile, and it will be tossed about and subside like the Nile of Egypt.”

When my daughter was a little girl, I would often wake her in the mornings with an “earthquake.” I would put a hand on the bed on each side of her and start shaking very slightly. I would gradually shake her stronger until she was literally bouncing off the bed. She loved it (well, at least most mornings she did, lol).

Amos uses the imagery of an earthquake causing the earth to rise and fall, like the Nile River rose and fell. The undulations of the earth would be felt through the whole nation. There would be no mistake of what was happening. Fear would be rampant.

APPLICATION

Has God shaken your world yet? We all need our world shaken. Now, I don’t mean a physical earthquake. I’m referring to a spiritual earthquake. We need to be so shaken that nothing remains as it was. Everything is rearranged.

We tend to have our priorities messed up most of the time. We put so many things above God. We delegate God to the time we have left in the day. God deserves the best part of our day. He deserves to be first on our agenda. Everything else comes behind Him.

The only way I can do that is to get up early in the morning. If I don’t spend my time with Jesus then, I get sidetracked and busy, and He loses His spot. I am not saying everyone should get up at 4 a.m. and pray. Most of us would be asleep by 4:03, lol. But you have to find that time when it’s set aside for God. God will honor you with His presence, I promise.

I look forward to spending time with You, Lord. You have truly shaken my world for the better.

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SPECIAL VESSELS

AMOS 6:6

“Who drink wine from sacred bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils — yet they have not grieved over the collapse of Joseph.”

I’ve got a favorite coffee mug. I’ve had it since 1982. Yep, that’s 40 years. I bought it at a pottery shop in N.C. It holds the heat of my coffee great. I love how it feels in my hand. I have no idea how it has survived this long, but I am careful to not drop it or crack it. I bet you have one too.

The problem Amos points out here again points to the idolatry the Israelites were practicing. They were using the sacred bowls of the temple, reserved only for use there, to drink from during their idol worship. They were possibly using the special oils reserved for the sacrifices on themselves because they smelled good. They were abusing God’s special items and didn’t seem to care. They showed the same lack of concern as Joseph’s brothers when they dumped him in that well.

APPLICATION

Let me give you an analogy right now. We are God’s holy vessels. 1 Corinthians 6:9 says so. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” As vessels of the Holy Spirit, we belong to God. But what do we do? We abuse these vessels.

I am as guilty as the next person of doing this. I eat things I shouldn’t eat. I don’t exercise like I should. I could do so much more to keep this vessel in good shape. But you can be the healthiest person in the world and still not be a holy vessel. Our holiness doesn’t come from our perfect physical condition. Our holiness only comes from complete surrender the Lord. That’s the kind of vessel He is desiring to use.

How do you become that kind of vessel? By spending time with Him. You have to pray and read His Word. You need to spend more time on your knees praying than doing pushups. You need to raise your hands in praise more than lifting weights. Yes, continue to treat your physical body with respect. But more importantly, exercise your spirit.

Forgive me, Lord, for not caring for this vessel better. Help me to realize just what I am “housing” as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

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THE OFFERING PLATE

AMOS 5:25

“Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, house of Israel?”

I realized when I titled this blog today that the offering plate has been seldom used during these days of covid. My church has replaced it with an increased online giving option, as well as a box on the wall in which to drop your offering. All of this is meant, of course, to reduce infections. However, that offering plate going down the aisle each week is a reminder of our responsibility to give.

That wasn’t the problem with the Israelites, or so it seemed. They offered sacrifices and offerings during the years in the wilderness and continued that practice after arriving in the Promised Land. We have hundreds of verses in the Old Testament which describes that. It wasn’t the offering itself. It was the manner in which it was offered that caused God to reject it.

APPLICATION

This has been a theme of Amos’ for several verses in chapter 5. But it bears repeating each time he brings it up in a verse. That’s why I love this verse-by-verse dissection of the text. You get to see those repeated topics and themes so clearly. God does not want your offerings given out of habit or guilt. He wants your heart.

My brother-in-law used to preach the Christ life so clearly. He seldom preached on giving because he believed that if someone was walking with Christ daily, they would want to give, not just to the church but to other efforts as well. I found that to be true in my own life.

So, I am going to ask you a question I have asked you before (if you are a follower of my blog). Why do you give? What is your heart motive? I pray it is simply out of love for our Savior. His sacrifice motivates you to give. Examine your heart today. The next time you write that check or give online to the church or to another mission, pray for God to take your offering and multiply it for His glory.

Lord, I give because I love You. Please take my offerings and use them to further Your kingdom around the world.

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WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING?

AMOS 5:14

“Seek good and not evil, so that you may live; and so may the LORD God of armies be with you, just as you have said!”

Hide and seek is a wonderful childhood game. My almost four-year-old granddaughter loves to play it when she is over at our house. She loves for me to scare her when she finds me. She will scream and then burst out laughing. For her, seeking Poppy is a good thing. I hope she always feels that way.

Oh, but Amos is talking about a whole different kind of seeking. He tells us plainly to seek good and not evil. Carl, I don’t seek evil. It just kind of finds me. And it will, time and time again unless you are busy seeking good. Good is only found in Jesus. We are told to seek first His kingdom. That’s the key.

APPLICATION

So, what are you seeking? What do you spend the majority of your time trying to achieve? I spent decades in my ministry trying to achieve things, some good and some not so good. I wouldn’t call any of them evil, but when you are not seeking the best the Lord has for you, can it be considered good?

The LORD God of armies wants you to seek the best. And He gives us all we need to do that. We have His Word to point the way. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us each day in our decisions. He has given us direct access to the throne room of heaven to petition Him when we are confused. What else do we need?

I choose to seek good and not evil. I flee from evil. And the more I seek good, the easier it is for me to recognize evil. That makes it so simple. Seek good and not evil is not a complicated command. Let’s do that today.

LORD God of armies, I praise Your name that You have given me everything I need to seek good and not evil. Keep me safe as I follow You.

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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.

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WHO KNOWS?

WHO KNOWS?

JOEL 2:14

“Who knows, He might turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, resulting in a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God.”

Have you ever wondered if someone was going to do something? I have. I have spent a lot of time doing that. I waited and waited for something to happen, and it never does. Waiting on others can be very frustrating. Other times, the wait pays off. The thing you are waiting on happens. Then you forget about how long you waited.

Here in today’s verse, Joel brings that thought to us. If you read the previous verse, he is talking about God’s mercy and grace. Then he poses this thought. “Who knows, He might…” God’s actions towards Judah depends on their return to Him. Then He is able to do for them. He may even restore the grain and drink offerings to Himself that they have gone without for so long.

APPLICATION

It is the same for us, brothers and sisters. God wants to do so much for us. Do you believe that? He wants to bless us. He wants to “leave a blessing behind” for us. What do you need the Lord to do for you today? I bet there is something you have been praying for, maybe a for while. The thing required is your return to Him.

When we come to Him in complete surrender and put ourselves at the feet of the Master, He lifts us up. Many of us don’t like that picture – bowing before anyone. But pride and self-centeredness will not put us the place to receive those blessings from our Lord. He desires each of us to come to Him willingly and selfishly. That blesses His heart, and He releases His blessings in our lives.

I desire God’s blessings over His testings. Don’t you? I know living a godly and surrendered life is what He wants for me. I am willing to live that life because I know the result. I obey Him because I know He loves me and wants what is best for me. I don’t obey to get loved. I am already loved. He’s my father. He’s my Lord.

Lord, come to me with blessings as I serve You. I will return those blessings in the form of praise and worship to You.

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FOCUSED

JOEL 2:8

“They do not crowd each other, every warrior of them marches in his path; when they burst through the defenses, they do not break ranks.”

Staying focused on a task is important. Most people today are so unfocused. They live by ten seconds snippets. Instagram and Tik Tok have altered the way we look at life. We are accustomed to those short pieces of life. We don’t have the discipline to focus on something longer than a few seconds. We are missing so much, even though we have so much more.

These locusts Joel is describing are focused. They have one purpose – to eat everything in sight. Nothing deters them from their task. They are determined to eat, eat, eat. They fly and crawl only to eat. We can learn something from them. God has given these locusts a task to perform, and they are determined to accomplish it.

APPLICATION

Do you have a laser focus on God? I mean, are you so focused on Him that others call you fanatical? Most of us don’t. But we should be. We need to be so dialed in on God that all that we do is related to Him. After all, if we are believers, all we do should be about Him. God’s will for our lives is for us to give Him glory. All we do and say should be focused on Him.

Most of us consider God as an afterthought. When things get bad, we turn to Him. When tragedy strikes we call on Him. We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I can vividly remember our nation turning to God after that. Churches were full. Services were held in our capitol. Prayer vigils were going on all over the country. Twenty years later people have forgotten who got them through it. It wasn’t the government. It was our Lord.

I have become so focused on God and His Word that others look at me as strange. When I talk about the importance of memorizing Scripture, I get these weird looks from people. God desires us all to be “crazy” about Him. Every aspect of our lives belongs to Him. When we finally realize that, it all begins to make sense. Let me urge you today to set your sights on God alone and trust Him to lead and guide you each day.

I am so thankful that I have learned to focus on You. Guard my sight, O Lord, from distractions.

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