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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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ALL DRIED UP

JOEL 1:17

“The seeds have dried up under their shovels; the storehouses have become desolate, the grain silos are ruined, because the grain has dried up.”

Drought can ruin things. Not only does it destroy the crops in the fields, it destroys hopes for future crops. When the seed doesn’t get the required moisture it goes into a stress that affects its ability to germinate. If it can’t germinate, it can’t produce new crops. Do you see where this is going? Crops are affected for months and years later.

The long term effect on Judah from their disobedience to Jehovah was the drying up of the people. Their rebellious hearts had literally dried up the faith of the nation, resulting in people seeking other gods. They disregarded God’s commands in favor of offering sacrifices to pagan gods. So, God dried them up.

APPLICATION

Are you dried up? Has your spiritual life hit rock bottom? Perhaps you are in a spiritual drought right now. Your spirit needs the waters of the Spirit to refresh it. There’s no other way to get it than going to the one who is the life giver. He knows exactly when and how to water your spirt.

Look at your life and determine who or what is holding you back. Then lay that at the foot of the cross. Ask the Lord to take those things away from you. Then let the healing rains come. Let His refreshing Word pour over you. We can avoid the seasons of drought in our lives if we submit to His leadership and direction.

I know how I feel when I start to get thirsty. I begin to see everything as a cool drink of water. My body craves it, and the longer I go without it, the harder and harder it gets to survive. My spirit is the same. I need the constant presence of Jesus in my life to make life bearable. He is the living water that can quench any thirst. Come and drink.

Lord, You are the living water. Pour over me.

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WHEN OFFERINGS CEASE

JOEL 1:9

“The grain offering and the drink offering have been cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests mourn, the ministers of the LORD.”

One side effect of the covid crisis that has pillaged our economy is the reduction in giving in many churches. When covid shut down churches in 2020, churches that were surviving week to week just couldn’t hang on financially. A lot of churches closed their doors due to empty pews and empty coffers.

The same thing happened in the days of Joel. When the locusts came and destroyed their agricultural economy, the offerings that were normally brought to the Lord’s house ceased. And when they ceased, the priests went hungry since they depended on these. When offerings cease, many suffer.

APPLICATION

Are you suffering loss today? Have you stopped giving to the Lord because of it? It’s understandable. God doesn’t expect you to give out of nothing. But He will provide. We have to believe that. Have you ever been down to your last bit of food only to have someone stop by with a bag of groceries? That’s God.

God does not desire for His children to suffer. He doesn’t want us to starve. He longs to meet our needs. Just let Him know what that is. He wants us to cry out to Him. You may just be amazed at how He provides. Then you can give Him the glory for His provision in your life.

I never cease to be amazed at how He provides for my family. There have been times when we did not see a way out of a dilemma, but He always came through. Just recently, when I thought we were facing some major car repairs, it turned out to only be a bad battery. You may not see that as a God thing, but I sure do. He wants to do the same for you.

Father, You are so good to me. Even in times of suffering, You provide.

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THE WAYS OF THE LORD

HOSEA 14:9

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but wrongdoers will stumble in them.”

I can remember my dad teaching me some things about woodworking when I was growing up. My dad could build just about anything. And when it came to refinishing furniture, he was a master. He always told me to take my time. You can’t rush the process. Applying stain, varnish and sanding takes time. He showed me how and then let me try.

God’s ways are like that. We have to follow the process. We can’t just make up our own way. Sometimes God’s ways take time. You can’t rush it. Hosea is reminding us here in the last verse of the book that we need to reflect on all he has said. He says, “the righteous will walk in them, but the wrongdoers will stumble in them.” That’s a pretty, straightforward statement.

APPLICATION

So, the question for us today is what will be choose to do. Will you take the time to understand God’s way? Are you wise? Are you discerning? I believe you are. Let me encourage you to go back and read all my blogs on Hosea in one sitting. Discover God’s way of doing things. Be patient in the process.

God’s ways aren’t always our ways. In my case, they seldom are. I want to figure it out myself. I want to get things done. I don’t like waiting. And because of that, God makes me wait a lot. He knows what I need and will do what is necessary to help me learn it. Do I like that? No! But I know He only wants what is best for me.

So, I will be patient as I learn the process, just like I was when my dad taught me how to refinish furniture. I have to follow each step and not rush it. I have to wait for the first coat of paint or varnish to dry first. I have to wait for… Well, you get the picture. It’s a process. Will you follow God’s ways today?

I am thankful, Lord, for the process even though I don’t particularly like it. I trust You.

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GIVE ME A KING

HOSEA 13:10

“Where then is your king, that he might save you in all your cities; and your judges, to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’?”

We always want what we don’t have. It seems we are never satisfied. I can remember when I was a young boy, I always wanted the new toy that someone else had. I just had to have it. I would save up my money until I had enough to buy it. And when I finally had the money and bought it, the thrill lasted about a week. Then I wanted something else.

Hosea is referring to such a time in the life of Israel. Do you remember it? They cried out for a king like the other nations. They were disregarding the fact that God was their King. They needed no other. But the cried out for one, so God gave them Saul. That didn’t turn out so well, did it?

APPLICATION

Are you crying out for another king? Are you disregarding God’s kingship in your life? Stop it! Jesus is your King. He will lead you wherever you need to go. He will provide for you as no other. But you have to follow Him. You have to obey His edicts. Then He will bless you and keep you.

A king demands obedience. A king expects his people to yield to his voice. Jesus is the same. He is a benevolent King. He is the only King who has died for you. No earthly king would do that. They may send others to die for you, but they would not lay down their own life. Jesus has done that. Isn’t that the kind of king you want?

I will serve King Jesus. We are going to serve someone, Jesus or the devil. I served the devil long enough before I came to Christ. He is never satisfied and impossible to please. I serve Jesus because He is so loving and caring. He is always listening and looking out for me. Why wouldn’t I want to serve Him? How about you?

King of my life, I love You. I will serve You here and in eternity.

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ONE SAVIOR

HOSEA 13:4 

“Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me.” 

I have been reading a book by Nik Ripken entitled, “The Insanity of Obedience.” It is an inspiring and convicting read. I highly recommend it. One thing Nik points out about the conversion of Hindu believers is the danger of incorporating Jesus into their many gods. True conversion of a Hindu will result in the removal of their altars to their other gods in their homes. There’s only room for one Savior. 

Israel struggled with the influence of pagan religions, the very thing God warned them about when they came into the Promised Land under Joshua. They allowed the nations they were supposed to defeat to defeat them from within by absorbing their beliefs. But God is a jealous God and would not allow that to continue. 

APPLICATION 

The same holds true for us today. God is still a jealous God. He will not share us with other gods. You may say, What other  gods?  The gods of our own making. As I have said before, we put all kinds of things before our Lord. We celebrate and worship the things of this world. We spend our time and money in places that have no eternal value. 

Have you torn down your altars and made room for just one Savior? Nothing or no one else can deliver you from the struggles of this life. No amount of Pure Barre or Orange Theory workouts can diminish the pain you are feeling. Only Jesus can remove what ails you. He can bring you into a perfect peace that will never leave you.  

I have tried different things in my life to get the peace that can only come through Jesus. Some of them actually seem to work for a while. I have even tried ministry to others to fill that void. Only time with Jesus can do it. Allow Him to occupy your mind and heart today. He is the only Savior you will ever need. 

Father, I am grateful for the Savior. Jesus is all I will ever need. 

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A KISS

HOSEA 13:2 

“And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves cast metal images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the people who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” 

A kiss seems harmful enough, doesn’t it? Have you ever blown someone a kiss? That’s one of the first things we teach our babies. It is so cute to see them blow you a kiss. But when you are an adult, you had better be careful to whom you blow kisses. Blowing those to the wrong person will get you in a whole heap of trouble. 

Ephraim was guilty of idolatry. They had multiplied their idols, even making them to represent any god they imagined. They covered them with silver and gold and bowed before them. They kissed them and when they couldn’t physically kiss them, they would blow a kiss towards them. Wow! How do you think God felt when He saw His chosen people kissing false gods? 

APPLICATION 

I know what you are thinking. But Carl, I don’t have any silver or gold idols in my house that I kiss and bow to. Most of don’t. We are too sophisticated for that. We would never have our idols placed out in front of everyone. We tend to hide our idols. We disguise our idols.  

What do you worship? Anything you place before God and His Son, Jesus, is an idol. Anything or anyone you prioritize over your worship of the only true God is an idol. So, what do you worship? It could be your family, your job, your possessions or even your health. Nothing can come between you and your Lord. Stop kissing the wrong thing. 

I have been guilty of placing things before God from time to time. I get busy and replace my quiet times with scheduling for the day. I get sidetracked and stop spending time with Him in prayer. It can happen to all of us. Take a minute right night and look at the day ahead of you. Make time with God your priority. Spend the time you need (and you need it) with Him today. Kiss Him today! 

I lavish You with my worship today, O Lord. I long to kiss Your hands and feet and pay homage to You for all You have done for me. 

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WAITING ON GOD

HOSEA 12:6

“So as for you, return to your God, maintain kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.”

Don’t you hate to wait? I sure do. I am bad about going to a fast food place (don’t judge, lol) and driving straight through if there are more than two or three cars in line. I used to hate to wait at red lights, but I’ve learned to work on my memory verses while doing that. So, reading this verse bothered me a little. I don’t want to wait continually.

Hosea tells them to do three things – return, maintain and wait. Look at the order. They had to return to God first. They couldn’t do the second and third things unless that happened first. And once they did, he told them to maintain kindness (mercy) and justice. Then the waiting starts. God required them to preserve mercy and justice until He responded.

APPLICATION

What are you waiting on? Have you prayed this lately? “Dear God, I am so tired of waiting on You. Why won’t you answer my prayers?” We’ve all prayed that at one time or another. Waiting is hard. We feel like we are wasting time. We have so much to do and waiting on God just doesn’t fit our schedule.

Well, let me ask you this. Have you returned to God? Are you maintaining kindness and justice? If you do those things, you will be able to wait. How? You will be so busy preserving kindness and justice, you will totally forget about the waiting. And the more you do that, the closer you will grow towards God.

We have to remember this. God is always on time. If we remember this, then we should know that waiting is His plan for us. He will do what He is going to at just the right time. Waiting is good if we understand His plan is to make us more like Him. Isn’t that something you want? I sure do.

Waiting on You, Lord, is alright by me. I trust Your timing.

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