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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HIS WORD

JOEL 2:11

“The LORD utters His voice before His army; His camp is indeed very great, for mighty is one who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?”

I have never served in the military. I admire those who have and am thankful for their service. Many of them have sacrificed greatly. Many others sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice to follow the commands they were given. When you are in the military you are expected to listen to your commander and do what they say. You follow orders. You obey.

The phrase that caught my attention in today’s verse was “for mighty is one who carries out His word.” They recognized then and we recognize now those who heed His word. Obedience is expected, is it not? Joel knew that. I am sure Joel had rather be doing anything other than preaching this message to the people of Judah who didn’t want to hear it. But he listened to the Lord and carried out His word.

APPLICATION

The application for us from this verse is obvious. Will we carry out His word? What does that mean for us? What does the Lord expect us to do? It’s pretty simple, really. He expects us to take His Word to a lost world. He expects us to glorify Him in all we do. He expects us to live out Matthew 28:18-20.

The expectations are clear. The question is – will we do it? You don’t have to be in full time ministry to do this. Witnessing to your neighbor is carrying out His word. Helping someone in distress is carrying out His word. Praying in your prayer closet because you are too weak to get out is carrying out His word. There are all kinds of ways to carry out the word of God. We just have to be diligent.

I have not always done this. Even as a pastor, I have not always done it. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of ministry, but I haven’t truly carried out His word. But over the past several years I have been convicted to be more and more diligent to do that. I pray more. I read more of His word and memorize it. Let us all join together to carry out His word to the world.

I am so grateful for Your word. Help me proclaim it to a lost world daily.

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INFESTED

JOEL 2:9

“They storm the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”

Once, when I lived in Florida, our house became infested with ticks. We noticed a couple climbing up the wall in our den one night and killed them. The next day we saw more and killed them, but they just kept coming. We had the house sprayed a few times before they were finally contained. But they were everywhere. It was pretty creepy to live in.

The locusts Joel is describing here that came as part of God’s judgment on Judah were everywhere. One commentator’s description talked about them eating everything in the house, even clothing. The people had no rest from them. They couldn’t eat without battling them for the food. Can you imagine the scene? It must have been horrible.

APPLICATION

Sin is that way. It creeps in and infests our lives. If we do not deal with it quickly it will affect every area of our lives. We may think we can keep it isolated, but we can’t. It spreads. It penetrates even our most guarded areas. Sin seeps in and begins to cause decay. Just like those locusts in today’s verse, sin will devour everything in its path.

But we have the solution – Jesus. His blood covers all those sins. We will never be free from the presence of sin this side of glory. However, we do not have to live chained to sin. We have the power to live above it. We can close the windows and doors of our lives to its penetrating power through the Holy Spirit. His power trumps sin’s power every time.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to live in the stench of sin or in the aroma of our Savior. That’s pretty much a no brainer, if you ask me. I choose Jesus. I know He is my protector and defender. I trust Him to cover my sins with His precious blood. I am free because of that. How about you?

O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow!

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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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EVEN THE LOCUSTS

JOEL 2:7

“They run like warriors, they climb the wall like soldiers; and each of them marches in line, nor do they lose their way.”

I like order. I like things in their place. I guess I got that from my dad. He had a lot of tools in his tool shop. His rule was we could use any tool we wanted (after he had shown us the proper way to use it) as long as we cleaned it and put it back where it belongs. He said that way you could always find it when you need it.

The locusts that were swarming and devouring everything green in Judah were ordered. They seemed to almost appear as an army, following orders and marching in line. Their swarms have been described as remarkable in their lines and movements. When the newly hatched locusts began to crawl and eat, even then they did it in coordinated movement. Amazing.

APPLICATION

How can we apply this to our lives? What is the Lord trying to tell us in these verses in Joel about the locusts? Let me attempt to make a simple application. Now, hear me. This is not meant to be some deep theological treatise on Joel. It is simply an application.

God does everything in order. Even the locusts swarm and crawl in order. That order applies to our lives. He wants to apply His order to us if we will let Him. How does that look? Just like a kindergartener has to listen to his teacher when told to get in line, we have to do the same thing. When the Lord directs us to do something, we need to get in line. We need to trust Him. He will always lead us correctly.

Every time I have submitted to the Lord’s leadership and gotten in line, I have not been disappointed. I may not like the journey. It may be hard. But when I am following Him, He blazes the trail. He cuts my path. I simply follow. Will you?

I am following You, Lord, no matter where it leads me. I am thankful that I can trust You wherever You lead.

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WANDERING AIMLESSLY

JOEL 1:18

“How the animals have groaned! The herds of cattle have wandered aimlessly because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep have suffered.”

I hate getting lost. When my wife and I travel, we use our car’s GPS or one on our phone. Even then, sometimes it’s difficult. I remember last summer we took a trip to a cabin in Kentucky which was located near a lake. I had the address in our GPS, but we could not find that cabin. We drove and drove on these back roads without any success. Finally, we drove back to the nearest town and looked on a real paper map. We had been within a mile of the cabin the whole time but wandered aimlessly without the right directions.

Joel refers to the animals of Judah wandering aimlessly due to lack of pasture. They could find no source of nourishment due to the drought and pestilence all around. What a sad sight it must have been to see the animals starving to death. Judah’s sins had consequences on not just the people. Even their livestock suffered.

APPLICATION

Our sins and our wanderings have consequences on others. I worked for over thirty years in the child welfare field with foster children. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the sins of the parents trickle down. When the parents wandered aimlessly due to their sinful behaviors, the children were forced to wander with them. I have seen some horrible situations caused by the sins of the parents.

Wandering aimlessly through life is no life at all. We all need direction. Like the livestock searching for nourishment, we too need spiritual nourishment to thrive. Jesus is that source of nourishment. Only He can provide what you need to make sense of this world. Wherever you are right now, stop and turn to Him. Let Him show you the right path.

I said I hate getting lost. I have found as long as I stay centered on Jesus and stay in His Word, I don’t get lost. I may be taken on a path I would not have chosen, but if I am with Him, that’s okay. It’s an adventure worth taking.

Lord, I will travel with You. Take my hand and lead me forward.

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PROSTRATE

JOEL 1:13

“Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering have been withheld from the house of your God.”

There have been few times in my life when I found myself lying prostrate praying to my God. Times of desperation can drive you there. I don’t need to go into what drove me there. You have probably have had times like that yourself. When you have no answers where do you go? To whom to you go?

Joel is calling on the priests to fall prostrate before their God. Sackcloth is called for. An outward sign for the nation to see was called for. Joel is telling them to show everyone that they, the priests, see their own sin and are confessing it before their Lord.

APPLICATION

Are you desperate for God? What has driven you to lay prostrate before Him? Perhaps you haven’t come to that point yet. You may think you are above that. Listen, no one is. We all have to come to the point of desperation for our sins. We all need to humble ourselves. We do not have the ability to “fix” ourselves.

But, thanks be to God, we know the one who is able to fix us. When we need cleansing, when we need to be lifted, we come to the one who has the power to raise the dead. We come to the one who can reach down and wipe away our tears. We come to the one we can trust with our very lives. He is able. No one else is. When will we all realize that?

I need humility in my life. I am like those other believers who can strut sitting down sometimes. I get full of myself. That is when I am the most vulnerable. I have to confess that as sin and come to my Savior. Will you join me? Come to Him now. He is ready to pick you up once you lay yourself out before Him.

Praise You, Lord, for seeing me. I am always in Your thoughts and You are ready to forgive me.

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FOUR GENERATIONS

JOEL 1:3

“Tell your sons about it, and have your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation.”

I am involved with a men’s ministry called Every Man A Warrior. In fact, I am going to be making a change in my ministry to serve with them full-time in a few months. One verse we talk about a lot is 2 Timothy 2:2 which says, “These things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who be qualified to teach others.”

Joel is saying the same thing in verse 3 above. Fathers tell sons who tell their sons who tell their sons. Four generations. But Joel is telling these dads to pass on the warning he is about to give. Judgment was falling on Judah, and it was going to last a while, for generations. They needed to know what was coming.

APPLICATION

The application is pretty straightforward. We need to be passing down our faith to our future generations. Replication of our faith is key. It’s been said that Christianity is one generation away from vanishing. We have to invest in our children. Some of us have the privilege to invest in our grandchildren, as well.

If you have children, are you discipling them in the ways of our Lord? Men, have you spent some time with another man or group of men discipling them into disciplemakers? Don’t tell me you don’t have time. We all have the same number of hours in a day. It’s really just a matter of priorities.

I love investing in men’s lives. I love seeing them “get it.” As men become disciplemakers, they can begin to find other guys to invest in. Replication has started. Generations of faith are being built. That is what it is all about. This excites me. I pray it excites you.

Give me others to invest in. Help me continue the story.

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LISTEN UP

JOEL 1:2

Hear this, you elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days, or in your fathers’ days?”

Each Sunday when I teach the children at the church where I serve, I have to say “listen” several times to get their attention. We have rules for children’s church to help prepare these little ones for the day when they start attending “big church.” One of those rules is “Listen Up.” In other words, tune your ears to what I’m about to say.

Joel is telling the people of Judah to listen up. He is about to give them a message. He is going to remind them of some things. He needs their undivided attention in order to get his message across. Let me correct that. It’s not his message. It’s God’s message, which makes it even that much more important.

APPLICATION

I bet you have had to tell someone to listen up, haven’t you? Have you ever been telling a story to someone and noticed they weren’t paying attention? If you have kids, I guarantee you have had to tell them to listen up. Now, listen to me. You have a message to share. People need to hear it.

We need to make sure people are listening. God’s message hasn’t changed. He still desires for all to come to Him. He still offers salvation to those who believe in His name and receive His Son as Savior. That’s a message we need to be shouting from the rooftops. Get their attention and deliver the message.

Right now, there is a lot of turmoil going on in the world. People are dying and going to hell. Believers are being persecuted for their faith. We are living in perilous times. But God is still faithful. He will deliver each and every one who turns to Him. Will you help spread the word today?

I am so thankful for the message of the cross. Give me the opportunity today to share that with someone.

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THE WORD OF THE LORD

JOEL 1:1

The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:”

Have you ever had to convince someone that what you were saying was the truth? That can be hard sometimes. You know what you are saying is the truth, but you can’t seem to convince those who are listening. I feel that way sometimes when I preach. I have been in some places where it seemed the people were just listening to be nice. They had no intention of obeying the message God had given me to share. I don’t like that feeling.

We are beginning the book of Joel today. How exciting! I love the beginning of a new book. Vese 1 simply says, “The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:” Okay, Carl, what can we get out of that? A lot! Joel is telling us that everything he is about to share is from God. Period! He will go on to tell us how unworthy he is to give this message. But here he simply states that this is God’s message to us.

APPLICATION

How can you apply this verse to your life today? That, too, is simple. You are to be God’s mouthpiece to the world. We have His Word to share. We have the best story ever told. Joel wasn’t a priest and didn’t consider himself a prophet. He just did what God told him to do – speak His message. We are no different. God has given us an incredible message to share with the world. We need to do it.

But Carl, the world will hate me. Let me let you in on a little secret. The world already hates you. The world does not like truth. The world does not like to be told that what they are doing is not right in God’s eyes. Heck, the world does not even want to hear the name of God. And as His child, they don’t want to hear from you. Just try to stand for truth and see what happens. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still have to stand.

I want people to like me. I am a people person. But I know that there will some people who just don’t like me because of what I stand for. I have to be okay with that. I still pray for those people and do all I can to lead them to the truth. I just have to be committed to what the Lord has called me and you to do – share the truth. Ask the Lord to lead you to someone today who needs to hear it.

O Lord, my God, lead me where You want me to go. Give me the words to share.

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