Abiding, Accountability, Advice, Bible, Commands, Commitment, Disciplemaking, Discipline, Following, Invisible, Leading, Modeling, Order, Perseverance, Scripture, Soldiers

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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Agreement, Bible, Brokenness, Discipline, Fasting, Hearing, Humility, Intimacy, Modeling, Offering, Prayer, Purity, Sacrifice, Scripture, Suffering

FASTING

JOEL 1:14

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”

Hey, I like to eat. I don’t enjoy fasting. I’m just being honest. The times I have done a fast, my stomach reminded me constantly that it was being neglected. Breaking that fast was awesome. I missed chewing stuff. But I know the benefits of a fast far outweigh the temporary physical discomforts.

Joel is calling on the priests to proclaim a fast for the people. Why? To humble themselves before the Lord and beseech Him to intercede on their behalf. He was asking them to cry out to the Lord. The Hebrew word for “cry out” could mean “to shriek.” This was meant to be heard. Combined with their fasting, it was a sorrowful action.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t meant to be enjoyable. We should feel something physically. Our hunger pains should remind us to pray. Suffering isn’t tolerated well in the West. We are way too spoiled. If we don’t get three meals a day plus a snack, we think we have been deprived. We forget that many people in the world get by with one meal a day.

But you can fast from things other than just food. You can fast from electronics. Wouldn’t that be tough for us? My wife says I couldn’t handle that. I have to agree that I am tied to my computer way too much. Ask the Lord what He would have you fast from. If you ask, be prepared to fast. It may be food. It could be television or the internet. Whatever it is, when you decide to fast from it, use that time to hear from Him in a fresh new way.

The Lord has been calling me lately to fast, and I have been avoiding it. It is time for me to submit. I know whenever He calls me to fast, He has something to tell me. Would you pray for me as I listen to Him? I’ll let you know what He says.

Father, I am listening. I want to hear Your voice.

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Accountability, Battles, Bible, Confession, Disciplemaking, Discipline, Forgiveness, Humility, Modeling, Prayer, Repentance, Scripture, Surrender

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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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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Accountability, Betrayal, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commands, Deceit, Discipline, Faithfulness, Following, Lies, Obedience, Relationships, Scripture

STILL UNRULY

HOSEA 11:12

Ephraim surrounds Me with lies and the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is still unruly against God, even against the Holy One who is faithful.”

When I worked in children’s homes, it wasn’t unusual for a child or youth to come into the home very unruly and out of control. After a period of time and much love, they would begin to calm down and settle in. But quite often that same child would resort back to their old way of behavior. It seemed they just couldn’t maintain a calm demeaner. Even though the staff was consistent and loved them, they preferred chaos.

Hosea tells us Ephraim, Israel and Judah acted the same way. Even though “the Holy One” was faithful, they rebelled. Lies, deceit and unruliness were how they responded to a faithful Father. They gave way to flesh. They let their old sin nature take over. It didn’t matter how much God loved them, they acted out against Him.

APPLICATION

Now, if you don’t see yourself in today’s verse, well… We are all the same. We know how much the Lord loves us. He sent His Son to die for us. He gave us exactly what we needed – salvation. And we still rebel. We still take Him for granted. Oh, we say the right things. We go to church and throw a few dollars in the offering plate and think we have done enough. We don’t want to obey – just like the Israelites.

Aren’t you tired of living that way? God wants you to surrender to Him. He wants you to yield to His will. Matthew 11:28-30 tells us to come to Him. We are to take His yoke on us. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Will you trust Him today to lead you in His yoke. Stop the unruliness and yield.

I still battle that sometimes. I even think I am yielded only to discover I’m not. That’s a bit embarrassing, lol. But I truly want to be. I don’t want to rub against the yoke. I want to follow Him in the yoke. I want to learn to walk with the Master. Don’t you?

Oh Lord, I praise You for putting up with my stubbornness. I thank You for Your patience with me.

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Accountability, Affection, Bible, Cleansing, Commands, Confession, Discipline, Forgiveness, Guilt, Judgment, Obedience, Repentance, Scripture

DOUBLE GUILT

HOSEA 10:10

When it is My desire, I will discipline them; and the peoples will be gathered against them when they are bound for their double guilt.”

I have felt guilty plenty of times for not doing something I knew I should have done. I have also felt guilty for doing something I knew I shouldn’t have done. Now, before you raise your eyebrows and look down your nose at me, you have done the same thing. Am I right? Sure I am.

Israel was guilty of turning away from Jehovah and also turning to the pagan gods. Double guilt! That’s what Hosea is referring to in today’s verse. They had no excuse, and God is going to discipline them when He was ready. Hosea even says God desires to do that. He wants to straighten them out. That may not sound good, but everything God does is good.

APPLICATION

Are you guilty? God, through the Holy Spirit, will convict us of sin. He uses that guilt to draw us back to Him. I have discussed before the difference between guilt and shame. Shame is not of God. The devil uses that to make us feel unworthy, to make us feel unusable. Don’t accept that.

But when you feel guilty remember that is the Lord’s desire for you. What?! Are you crazy, Carl? I don’t think so. He, just like He did with Israel, is desiring you to return to Him. He draws you through His Spirit. Don’t you recall the feeling when you are cleansed. That is waiting for you.

I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life. Without it I am not sure where I would be. No, that’s not true. I know exactly where I would be – in deep sin. My flesh is weak, but the Spirit in me is strong. If you are a believer, you have that strength too.

Lord, thank You for convicting me when I am in sin. I want to be drawn back to You.

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IGNORED

HOSEA 8:12

“Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My Law,

they are regarded as a strange thing.”

I hate being ignored. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in person thing or someone’s lack of returning a text or phone call. Being ignored is irritating and can be down right hurtful. I try to return phone calls the same day or the very next day at the latest. I truly try to acknowledge people, whether I want to or not (to be honest). Everyone deserves that.

Israel had basically ignored God. Look what Hosea wrote in today’s verse. God had given them ten thousand precepts, but they ignored them. They treated them as strange or as not applicable to them. God was trying to guide them with His Law. They wanted nothing to do with it. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. And look where it landed them – in exile, defeated by a foreign power.

APPLICATION

God is trying to guide us today with His Word. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. There are over 23,000 verses. There are between 750,000 and 800,000 words, depending on the translation you use. Why would God spend all that time inspiring so many writers to write His Word if He didn’t want us to live by it?

Did you know if you read three chapters a day you can read the entire Bible in a year? I know people who read through it three or four times in a year. I have personally read through it 34 times, every year since 1986. And guess what? Every year I find verses that I have never read. They seem to come out of nowhere. It’s like God had been saving them for me. The Bible is truly inexhaustible.

Will you join me in studying His Word? Get a Bible, if you don’t have one, and start reading. And before you read, ask the Lord to disclose to you what He wants. Let Him point you in the direction He wants you to go. You will never regret spending more time in His Word.

I love Your precepts, Lord. I want to live by them each day. Forgive me for slighting Your Word.

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SILLY DOVES

HOSEA 7:11

So Ephraim has become like a gullible dove, without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.”

There was an Eastern proverb that said, “There is nothing more simple than a dove.” Now being simple, in and of itself, is not bad. But when our simplicity is directed toward God, that is not good. When I first came to Christ in 1977, my understanding of the Word was pretty simple. I simply read it and went on with my life. I didn’t take the time to study deep.

Hosea compares Ephraim to a gullible dove for the same reasons. They did not take God seriously. They believed but simply, without reason. When in trouble, they called on Egypt to rescue them instead of God. As a result, they were carried off to Assyria.

APPLICATION

How do you believe? Do you believe because your parents did? Do you believe because your spouse does? Those are not reasons to believe. You have to develop your own faith. Your faith is your faith, not someone else’s. It takes time to grow your faith. It doesn’t happen overnight. I know my faith has continued to grow these past 41 years. I still have room to grow.

There are some things we must believe just because God said it. I don’t begin to confess that I have God figured out. He still amazes me. His Word blows my mind each day. But there are some things that I just have to accept by faith. I believe Christ’s blood covers my sins. I believe He was resurrected (even though I didn’t witness it) and lives now in eternity seated beside His Father. I just believe those things, but I also study His Word to learn more about them.

I pray you are digging deep. I pray you are sharing that with others. Simple faith is okay at the beginning of your walk with Christ, but you can’t stay there. You have to grow. You have to know who to call on for your rescue. It’s not Egypt or another Egypt look alike. Only He can rescue you.

I will turn to You, O Lord, to deliver me. There is no other person I can call on to rescue me. I commit to grow in Your Word and in my faith.

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IT NEVER LASTS

HOSEA 6:4

“What shall I do with you, Ephraim? What shall I do with you, Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early.”

I have been in the woods enough in the early morning to know that the early morning frost on the ground in the Fall doesn’t last long. It is really quite neat to watch the sunbeams hit the ground. As they inch across the landscape with the rising sun, you can watch the frost melt away. Little by little it vanishes.

God compares Ephraim and Judah to the vanishing morning clouds and the dew. They, too, vanish quickly. God knew they were about as loyal. Here one moment and gone the next. Fickle! Always looking for the next best thing. They could not be trusted.

APPLICATION

Let me ask you. Are you dependable? Can the Lord rely on you? When He asks you to do something, will you do it? He requires the same loyalty from us that He required of Ephraim and Judah. He has paid a huge price for our salvation. He gave His only Son to die for us. When we receive that gift, He expects us to be obedient.

What do we do with a disobedient child? We discipline them, of course. Why? To teach them to obey. We don’t pleasure in discipling them, but we know we must. An undisciplined child will be a disobedient adult. Therefore, God will discipline His children.

I never liked discipline. I still don’t. How do you avoid being disciplined? By obeying. I try to obey the Lord, but I am not always successful. Most of the time that disobedience is accidental. Whether the disobedience is accidental or purposeful, I still must be corrected by God. Will you yield to the Lord’s correction? Better yet, will you obey?

I won’t to obey You, Lord. And when I disobey You, I will accept Your discipline. I know You only discipline me to make me more like You.

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FIRST AID

HOSEA 6:1

“Come, let’s return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.”

I taught first aid for years. In the classes I taught how to bandage wounds and stabilize broken limbs. I actually enjoyed teaching these skills because I knew I was preparing the students to help someone who possibly couldn’t help themselves. What a great skill to have.

In this chapter 6 of Hosea, the people are responding to the Lord. They realize their need to return to Him. They recognize that He has punished them. They say He had torn them and wounded them. But they also know He will heal them and bandage them.

APPLICATION

Has the Lord torn you? Has He wounded you? And how did you respond? Most of us do not respond too well when chastised. I know I don’t. It’s hard to receive criticism or rebuke. But when it’s the Lord doing the rebuking, we need to listen. He only corrects us to bring us closer to Him. Don’t you want that?

Punishment is so much more bearable when we know the person doing the punishing loves us. How much does God love us? He sent His Son to die for us. That is a powerful love. That’s an eternal love. The next time you feel the Lord correcting you, look into His eyes and know how much He loves you.

The Lord just might use your correction to point someone else toward Him, if you respond well. As others watch you react, you have the opportunity to show them Jesus. A lot of people have never seen that before. Will you accept His healing and His bandages? Then show them to others so they can see what He has done for you.

I am healed because of You. You are the source of all my healing. Praise You, Jesus.

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