Disciplemaking, Advice, Forgiveness, Encouragement, Bible, Scripture, Grace, Mercy, Confession, Repentance, Sin, Judgment, Accountability, Abiding, Compassion

GOD IS…

JOEL 2:13

“‘And tear your heart and not merely your garments.’ Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and relenting of catastrophe.”

I have all kinds of ideas of what God is. First of all, He is everything to me. I can’t imagine a day without Him. He loves me and guides me each step each day. But what exactly is He like? There are so many words to describe Him. I am thankful that the Word of God tells us.

In today’s verse, Joel gives us an awesome description of God. Look at the verse again. He says the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and relenting of catastrophe.” Wow! Can I encourage you to do a word study on each of those words? It will bless your heart, I promise.

APPLICATION

When we return to the Lord, He shows us all these things. So, why do we wait to return to Him? We need His grace and compassion. We need His mercy. We need His forgiveness. Why wait to come back to Him? Every day you wait, you are missing out on these blessings from Him.

So many of us put off repentance because we don’t want to admit we are wrong. Our pride gets in the way. That was the downfall of Judah. They had become prideful and unrepentant. And for that, God brought judgment. I prefer mercy over judgment.

Therefore, part of my prayers every day is repentance. I confess all the sins I am aware of and ask the Lord to reveal to me those sins I may have committed out of ignorance. Perhaps I had failed to do something – a sin of omission. That’s just as bad. For that I need forgiveness. Will you join me today in turning back to that gracious, compassionate, forgiving, merciful God?

Why wouldn’t I come to You, O Lord, each day? Forgive me of my reluctance to repent and confess my sins to You.

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FAILURES EVERYWHERE

JOEL 1:10

“The field is ruined, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine has dried up, fresh oil has failed.”

We see failures all around us. Failures of economies. Failures of nations. Failures of people. The one thing that is certain about life is failure. No one likes it, but it comes, nonetheless. So, what do you do when everything around you seems to be failing? Do you throw up your hands? Do you put your head down and just weep? No! We have a great God who is aware of the failures.

Joel continues to tell us of the failures in Judah. In today’s verse we see the fields have ruined. The land is mourning! The crops have suffered. Even the vineyards have dried up and there is no oil for use. Utter failure. Judah is a mess. Why? Because of their disobedience. God will not tolerate that. We see that in these failures.

APPLICATION

You may have experienced failures in your life. In fact, your life may be in shambles right now. Sometimes we feel like a failure. Listen, our choices can cause many of our failures. Other failures come due to no fault of our own. Whatever the cause, we have to deal with them. Guess what? The devil wants you to feel like a failure. He doesn’t want you to know your position in Christ.

Are you a believer? If so, you have no right to see yourself as a failure. Why? Because you are a child of the King. He has given you victory. The Lord of creation died to give you promise. Failure is not in God’s plan for you. God can work through those failures, but they are not His plan for you. So, don’t stay there. Walk with Him today victoriously.

I hate to fail. I have never liked it. I like to win! Always! But sometimes I mess up. Sometimes I just blow it. When I do, I come hastily to my Savior. I know I can’t do it alone. How about you? Are you in need of a “pep talk” with your Lord? He’s ready!

I will not fail as long as I walk with You, Lord. If I keep my eyes on You, You will lead me.

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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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THE CHILDREN SUFFER

HOSEA 13:16

Samaria will pay the penalty for her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their children will be slaughtered, and their pregnant women will be ripped open.”

As a parent and grandparent, my utmost desire has always been to protect my children or grandchildren. It would bring me horror to think I ever did anything to bring harm to them. As a minister to children for over forty years, the same holds true for any children under my care. Let me suffer, but never the children.

Hosea ends this chapter with some pretty, horrible descriptions of the coming judgment against Israel. Samaria was the capital city of Israel. It had been the center of the idolatry and rebellion against God, so God’s wrath upon that city would be harsh. Hosea is predicting what the Assyrians were going to do when they came. It’s one thing to slaughter men in war, but to kill innocent children, even the unborn, was unthinkable.

APPLICATION

You are probably thinking Carl, I would never do that or tolerate that! That’s good. I didn’t think you would. But are you protecting your children’s spirits? Are you guarding them from being influenced by evil? In our world today, we have to be so diligent to monitor and protect our children from this world. They can’t live in a bubble, but we can sure keep them safe in our homes.

Are you aware of what is on your child’s phone? Are you comfortable with the video games they are playing? How about their friends? Do you know them? Do you know their parents? We can’t just take our kids to church and think that gives them some kind of holy shield the rest of the week. That’s not how it works. You must guard their minds.

As an adult, I have to guard my mind. It is so easy to get off track when I am online. One little side post or ad can divert my eyes and before I know it, I can be chasing rabbits into a hole I can’t get out of. Scripture keeps my mind focused on Him and puts that shield over my eyes. Let Jesus keep your mind pure (1 Timothy 6:11).

Lord, help me protect the innocent as well as keep my own mind pure.

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GOD’S WIND

HOSEA 13:15

Though he flourishes among the reeds, an east wind will come, the wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness; and his fountain will become dry and his spring will dry up; it will plunder his treasury of every precious article.”

I love to fish. I used to own a fishing boat and would go out on our local lake to fish. Sometimes when you are out on the water the weather changes. I can remember one day when I was out with some friends when that happened. The sky started to get dark, so I checked my weather app. Sure enough, a storm was coming. I could see the water getting rougher from the approaching winds. I had to get off the water for my safety.

The wind of the Lord came up from the wilderness, says Hosea. God’s judgment on Israel was coming. They were going to feel the wrath of God soon. But Israel continued to ignore the signs. They continued in their sins and rebellion until the wind hit them. Stubbornness and pride will always bring you down.

APPLICATION

When you see a storm coming, don’t you take cover? I can remember preparing for approaching hurricanes when I lived in Florida. We boarded up windows and brought in outdoor furniture. We would have been foolish to do anything else. But so many of us ignore the approaching wind of the Lord. We think it certainly won’t hit us. God is too loving to punish us, right?

Wrong! I have said it multiple times – God cannot and will not allow unrepentant sin to go unpunished. Without Christ His wind will catch us all. But once we come to Christ and confess our sins, His wind will simply fill our sails and carry us along on our journey. It’s the same wind but with a different purpose. Isn’t that amazing?

I choose to have my sails filled with the gentle breath of the Lord’s wind. I want Him to guide me in my daily walk with Christ. I trust Him to blow as gentle or as strong as necessary to do that. And wherever He leads, I will go.

Wherever He leads, I’ll go, Wherever He leads, I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so. Wherever He leads, I’ll go.

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REMEMBER

HOSEA 12:9

“But I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed festival.”

Oh, how quick we forget the Lord’s blessings. I have been guilty of that. In the past, I have prayed about a certain thing and received a blessing from the Lord. At the time, I was so full of praise and thankfulness, but as time passed, I forgot about that blessing. I began to take it for granted

Hosea is reminding Israel of their feast of tabernacles, the festival which commemorated their dwelling in tents during their wilderness years. They were reminded of God’s abundant provisions during all those years (water, manna, quail). As the decades had passed, the people had forgotten His blessings.

APPLICATION

Take out a sheet of paper and start listing all the blessings you have received from the Lord this past week. Think about the little things, not just the biggies. Hey, you woke up each day, right? You had food to eat. You had clothes to wear. Just start listing them.

Now think back further. Think about all the blessings He has bestowed on you since your salvation. When you start doing this, it is pretty amazing. How soon we forget. Maybe you could start writing down these blessings as they happen. At the end of each year you could sit down with your family and read through the list and praise Him.

I have known people who kept a blessing box. They would write down on a slip of paper each time they received some kind of blessing. They would put that slip of paper in a shoe box or something and then pull them all out and read them at the end of the year. If you have kids, get them involved in this. I bet when you reflect back, you will be amazed at just how blessed you are.

Father, You bless me in so many ways. I am sorry I am so ungrateful and forgetful. Forgive me.

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ANGEL WRESTLING

HOSEA 12:4

“Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept and implored His favor. He found Him at Bethel, and there He spoke with us,”

When I was growing up with my older brother, Tim, we used to wrestle a lot. I can still hear my mother screaming for us to stop. She hated when we did that. And in all those years, my brother would win. After all, he was over 4 years older than me. Until…he went away to college, and I started seriously lifting weights at school for football. I remember when he came home for Christmas during his freshman year at college. I pinned him. He was shocked. It felt great, lol.

Jacob wrestled the angel “and prevailed.” The angel of God or the man with whom Jacob wrestled is believed by many scholars to be the pre-incarnate Christ. He gave Jacob a new name, Israel, which means he who contends with God. That sounds bad but it isn’t. Jacob was persistent in asking for his blessing, and he received it.

APPLICATION

Have you ever wrestled with God? I don’t mean like my brother and I used to do. Have you wrestled with Him in prayer? There is nothing wrong with getting intense during your prayer time. When we do that we really have God’s ear. We already have it, but He knows when we are intense. He can feel our passion.

I want to encourage you to make a plan to do that. I am sure you have something which you need to come to the Father about. Maybe it’s something you have been praying about for years. Go to Him and don’t let go until you hear. God’s answers are always right on time. You need to pray expectantly, knowing He will answer, just like He did with Jacob.

Prayer for me is intimate. I love talking to my Lord. There have been times when I wrestled with Him over things. God has never let me down. He has always come through. He will for you also, if you trust Him with it. Are you ready to wrestle?

I am so thankful You hear my prayers when I wrestle with You. Give me the wisdom to wait on You.

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TENDER HANDS

HOSEA 11:11

“They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.”

I can remember as a little boy finding baby birds that had fallen out of their nest. Some didn’t even have their eyes open yet. They were so defenseless. Usually, the mama would be flitting around trying to protect her little ones. I would pick them up so tenderly and, if I could, put them back in their nest. If the nest was too high in the tree, we would try to raise them in a box.

I had this picture in my mind when I read this verse today. God tenderly picked up Israel from Egypt and Assyria and placed them in their land again. They were shaken from their exile. They were dazed and confused, but God reached down with His tender hands and picked them up and loved them.

APPLICATION

Are you dazed and confused? Have you fallen out your nest? God’s tender hands are waiting to pick you up. You need to call out to Him. He doesn’t want to see you on the ground vulnerable to attack. He wants to protect you. But our tender God will not force His love on you. He will not come in uninvited.

Oh, but when you do call out, He is right there. And when you feel His tender hands (and believe me, you can), you just relax and realize that He has you. He will never let you go. He will carry you to your home. He will place you in a place of safety created by Him just for you. Do you want to experience that today?

I know I need His tender hands in my life daily. I love the feel of His hands on my life. I love it because I trust Him. His hands will never crush me. He will not squeeze me into submission. Don’t you love that? I do. Call out to Him today and feel His touch. You won’t ever forget it.

Lord, thank You for Your tender touch. Thank You for picking me up and taking me home.

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HORRIBLE SINS

HOSEA 10:9

“Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned, Israel; there they stand! Will the battle against the sons of injustice not overtake them in Gibeah?”

I have had too many people tell me they were too wicked or bad for God to forgive. They have claimed their atrocities were so bad that even the blood of Jesus wasn’t enough to wash them away. These individuals were convinced they would spend eternity in hell and there was nothing that could be done about it.

Today’s verse refers to a horrible sin committed by the men of Gibeah (Benjamites) that brought the entire nation of Israel against them (Read Judges 19-20). The entire tribe was wiped out except for six hundred, which God saved as a remnant of the tribe. I believe it’s a picture of God’s mercy, even in the face of seemingly unforgiveable sins.

APPLICATION

I won’t ask you what sins you have committed. That’s between you and God. Aren’t you glad? None of us want our sins plastered on a billboard for all to see, do we? You may be one of those who can’t believe God could forgive you. You may even be a Christian, but you still can’t forgive yourself. You must let it go. God has.

There’s only one sin that is unforgiveable. That’s the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This sin will take you to a spot where you no longer feel the drawing of the Spirit. You no longer feel any conviction for your sins. But as long as you feel the Spirit nudging you toward repentance, you can rest assured you have hope.

I know I am saved and sealed. I believe Jesus’ blood rescued me. All my past, present and future sins are forgiven. To say God can’t save me is to say God has limited powers. We know that’s not true. His power to save reaches beyond what we can ask or think. I am so glad because my flesh is wicked beyond description and is only redeemed through His grace. How about you?

What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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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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