Accountability, Bible, Blameless, Cleansing, Consequences, Disciplemaking, Flesh, Forgiveness, Grace, Hell, Judgment, Punishment, Salvation, Scripture

YOUR JUST DESSERTS

JOEL 3:7

behold, I am going to stir them up from the place where you have sold them, and return your retribution on your head.

Sometimes people get just what they deserve. You may have heard that expression, “just desserts.” It means to get what’s coming to you. Now, to be honest, my flesh loves to see that happen. But I know Christ in me desires for others to repent and avoid the punishment of sin – kind of like Nineveh did when they heard Jonah’s message.

However, right here in Joel 3:7, God is telling the nations that they are going to receive the consequences for their sins. They have done evil to His children. Now it’s their turn to suffer for their actions. Yes, they had been used by Him to accomplish the judgment upon Judah, but they took it too far. They became haughty. God will now issue His judgment on them.

APPLICATION

So, the lesson for us is to not get too excited when we see someone else get punished for something they have done. We could just as easily be getting ours. None of us are innocent. We have all done things for which we deserved to be punished. So, we shouldn’t enjoy the punishment of others. In fact, we should do all we can to try to help them.

Of course, the ultimate punishment is the eternal judgment of God. As believers in Christ, our punishment has already been paid for by Christ. But think of the billions of people out there who are going to die and go to hell without hearing the gospel. We need to do all we can to advance the kingdom while there’s still time. What can you do today to help someone avoid their “just desserts”?

I am so thankful for my salvation. I know all the deeds I committed that earned me a place in hell. But because of the saving power of Jesus, my record was washed clean. Surely, He has cleansed me with hyssop and washed me whiter than snow. I want others to experience what I have experienced. Don’t you?

Father, I am so thankful I am not getting my just desserts when it comes to my sins. Thank You for cleansing my soul.

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Accountability, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Forgiveness, Grace, Heaven, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Salvation, Scripture, Separation

HORRIBLE OFFENSES

JOEL 3:3

“They have also cast lots for My people, traded a boy for a prostitute, and sold a girl for wine so that they may drink. 

The illegal sex trade of boys and girls is rampant in many parts of the world. It’s hard to believe that people could be so cold-hearted to sell little boys and girls into the sex trade. Having worked now over 42 years with children and youth, it especially breaks my heart. Only the Lord can change the heart of these sex traders.

This was one of the offenses of the nations God is judging. Not only did they defeat the Judeans, but they would trade or sell the children for anything. Here in this verse it says “a boy for a prostitute” and “a girl for wine.” How callous! How demeaning. The Lord did not overlook that. He held them responsible for these heinous crimes against humanity.

APPLICATION

We may not be committing such offenses against the Lord, but our sins are just as bad in the eyes of a holy God. I have often described our sins this way. Pretend you are flying over a city on a clear day. You can look down and see all the buildings below. From your altitude you can’t tell the height of the individual buildings. They may be one story or thirty. All you can see is the roof top.

Similarly, our sins in the eyes of God all look the same. They all end with the same result – separation from God. As a believer in Christ, those sins are forgiven but still need to be confessed. If you are an unbeliever, you need to come to Christ for salvation because any of those sins can keep you away from spending eternity with Jesus. Sin is sin – period.

I am so thankful my sins are forgiven. I try each day to live in such a way to honor my Lord. I don’t want my sins to come between me and my Savior. Daily confession for me is the key. I come before Him daily to cleanse my soul of any sins I may have committed that day. I don’t want any barriers in my line of communication with Jesus. Won’t you try that?

Thank You, Lord, for keeping my sins forgiven as I come to You daily. I know they were forgiven at the cross, but You desire for me to come to You to confess them. I will do that.

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Accountability, Bible, Christ's Return, Darkness, Forgiveness, Heaven, Inspirational, Repentance

TOTAL ECLIPSE

JOEL 2:31

“‘The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.’”

I have seen a number of eclipses. They are so cool. I remember the last one I saw. My wife and I went to our church parking lot. We had on some special glasses that were being handed out everywhere. When the sun disappears in the middle of the day, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?  When there’s a total eclipse, it is very unusual. The darkness creeps in and then back out again.

Joel is describing the heavens on that day of the Lord. There will be warnings. This day of the Lord will be a day of judgment. Joel is warning the Judeans to turn to the Lord. They need to repent. Can you imagine how they responded to these signs in the sky? They didn’t know what we know about astronomy. These signs in the sky would be terrifying.

APPLICATION

Do you respond well to signs? When you’re driving on a mountain road and you see the curve signs, do you ignore them? What would happen? You would drive right off the mountain road. Crashing off a mountain road doesn’t sound very safe. But the sign was there. You just ignored it.

God warns us and warns us. He is simply trying to keep us safe. But the great thing about God is He won’t force us to do anything. We have to choose to follow. Hmmm. That sounds too easy. But it’s not, is it? Surrender is hard. It can be painful. But it is worth it.

Signs in the sky don’t happen every day. If you’re waiting for that, you may be too late. Oh, but there are warnings. They are all listed in His Word. You have to read it to see them. Will you do that? He is giving us a message. He loves you and wants you to be ready when all these things happen. Are you?

Father God, I know You are sending Your Son soon. I am ready to come home.

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Abiding, Bible, Blessing, Calling, Comfort, Forgiveness, Goodness, Holy Spirit, Life, Salvation, Scripture

LET IT RAIN

JOEL 2:23

“So shout for joy, you sons of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has brought down for you the rain, early and latter rain as before.

Don’t you just love a good rain storm? I remember this great claymation creation that used to play on tv when my kids were little. It was a scene on a farm with people sitting on a front porch of a farmhouse. There were animals in the yard laying around. It was hot and dry, and everyone and everything looked like they needed something to drink. Then, all of a sudden, the raindrops began. Slowly at first, then a downpour. Every living creature began to run around and dance in the rain.

That’s the picture I have in mind as I read this verse today in Joel. The drought is ended. The early and latter rains have returned. And with it, the promise of life. New life can spring forth from these rains which have been withheld. You know the people of Judah acted just like those Claymation figures I recall. Wonderful rain!

APPLICATION

God restores to us the promise of life at salvation. We are dead in our sins and destined for hell. But with the decision to follow Christ and ask Him to come in and save us, we receive a whole new life. His Holy Spirit comes into us and indwells us. Our life now is in Christ.

Are you in need of a new life? Are you struggling to find meaning in life today? Come to Him. Give Him your life, and He will remake it into something that is beautiful. He will give you purpose. Maybe you are already a Christian, but you are struggling right now. Return to Him. Let Him remind you who are in Christ. You are a whole new creature.

I am glad for those refreshing rains that fall. They remind me of the refreshing Spirit that leads me each day. When I am at my lowest, the Spirit reminds me whose I am. Ask the Holy Spirit today to blow those refreshing rains into your soul.

Blow, Spirit blow!  Refresh my spirit today. I want to be renewed of my purpose in Christ.

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Bible, Cleansing, Confession, Enemies, Forgiveness, Salvation, Scripture

OUR STENCH

JOEL 2:20

“‘But I will remove the northern army far from you, and I will drive it into a dry and desolate land, its advance guard into the eastern sea, and its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench will ascend and its odor of decay will come up, because it has done great things.’”

I have smelled some stinky things in my life – hog pens, rotten corn and dirty diapers. Probably the worse thing I ever smelled was the corn that had gotten wet inside a grain bin on a hot August day. It had rotted and fermented. I had to get inside that grain bin and shovel the corn into an auger to get it out. The smell was nauseating. As bad as that was, my sin stinks worse.

Joel gives us a picture of a couple of things in today’s verse. He is perhaps referring to the decaying bodies of the locusts that had swarmed Judah. And perhaps he is referring to the foes who came in to defeat the land. Whichever it is, God has taken care of them. They have been wiped out, and all that’s left is the stench of their carcasses.

APPLICATION

How are you smelling? Does the stench of your sins reek to high heaven? Maybe it’s time for a cleansing. I have been memorizing Psalm 51. Don’t you just love the part that says “Cleanse me with hyssop and I will clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Isn’t that something we could all use?

All it takes for us to be clean is to come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. That first cleansing at salvation is breath taking. You are thoroughly cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Each time we sin after that, the sin is already forgiven, but we still need to confess it and go to the Lord. Why? Because our sins stink. They stain us.

I know I need to confess my sins. They are my enemy. They may not be locusts or armies, but they are still my enemy, and they stink. I want that just washed fragrance on me. So, I confess my sins. I ask for forgiveness. And every time, the Lord does. He cleanses me. He rids me of my “enemies” of sin.

Lord, thank You for the forgiveness You give me. As undeserving as I am, You still do it.

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Accountability, Appeasement, Bible, Choices, Commands, Compassion, Confession, Disciplemaking, Following, Forgiveness, Jealousy, Repentance, Scripture

IF MY PEOPLE…

JOEL 2:18

“Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and will have compassion for His people.

If…then. That is a principle used by a lot of parents. “If you clean your room, then you can have a treat.” It makes sense. Our choices often determine our consequences. I know if I exercise, then I will feel better. If I eat healthier, then I will possibly lose some weight. But the “if” is hard to do sometimes, isn’t it?

The previous verses in chapter 2 of Joel tell us the prerequisite for this verse to be true. The people of Judah had to come to the Lord in repentance. When they did, the Lord responded. I love what Joel says here. Then He will be zealous for this land. That word “zealous” in the Hebrew has the idea of the Lord being jealous for Judah. That’s meant in a good way. “Compassion” means He will spare them the consequences of their sins.

APPLICATION

If the Lord asked you to do something, would you do it? Most of us would say “yes.” But how many of us would actually do it? The Lord wants so much to bless us. But the Lord expects certain things from us. If we live godly lives, His blessings flow. If we forgive others who trespass against us, He forgives us our trespasses.

The Lord is still jealous over us. He will guard and protect us. He wants to show us compassion and spare us the possible consequences we deserve. For His jealousy and compassion to come forth, we have to respond to Him. We need to come to Him in a spirit of confession. Will you do that?

I long for God’s blessings in my life. I know those blessings are dependent on my obedience to Him. Now, listen to me. I am NOT saying I obey to get blessed. I obey because I love my Savior. As a result of my obedience, the Lord desires to bless me. If…then.

Lord, I long to please You. I know Your blessings flow when we follow You.

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Accountability, Altars, Bible, Brokenness, Cleansing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Modeling, Repentance, Scripture

WEEPING BEFORE THE LORD

JOEL 2:17

“Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, “Spare Your people, Lord, and do not make your inheritance a disgrace with the nations jeering at them. Why should those among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’”

I remember a time when I went to a Promise Keeper’s Conference in Atlanta, GA. It was sometime in the 1990’s. At one point in the conference, the speaker asked us to pray for our fathers. At the time, my dad wasn’t saved. He was a good man, but he was lost. I knew that and was broken by it. I wept and wept for my dad on the shoulders of some of my friends who had gone with me to the conference.

Joel is calling on the priests to weep for the nation. He is calling for brokenness. Look at his words. He is begging God to spare His people. He doesn’t want the pagan nations to make fun of Judah and point their fingers at them. But look at what his motive is. He is wanting to protect the name of Jehovah. Reread that last sentence in today’s verse.

APPLICATION

What motivates you towards brokenness? Is it your desire to save your reputation or is it to honor the name of the Lord? When is the last time you have wept over lost souls? We need to stay broken. I don’t mean we need to be bent over and droopy. I mean we need to have a humble spirit, one that is pliable in the hands of God.

I want to encourage you to go to your altar. You may say, What altar, Carl? If you don’t have one, make one. It can be temporary. Put a pillow on the floor in your bedroom or office. Get on your knees and beg God for forgiveness. Beseech the Lord of the universe for the souls of your lost friends or family members. If the tears come, let them flow. Pour out your heart to the One who hears.

My dad did come to Christ at the ripe, old age of 80. It was a marvelous experience. He was a different man the last four years of his life as he walked with Christ. I don’t want to even think my tears at that conference caused that. All I know is I prayed for my dad all those years and God heard my cry. One day I will see my sweet daddy in heaven.

Father, I ask that You draw my lost friends and family members to You. I love them all and want to see them with me in eternity.

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Bible, Brokenness, Confession, Encouragement, Forgiveness, God's Will, Guilt, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Scripture

EVERYONE COME

JOEL 2:16

“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber.

Homecoming in most Baptist churches are times when everyone comes back to celebrate the founding of the church. Special guests are invited. There is usually dinner on the grounds. Now, if you’ve never experienced that before, you’ve missed out. Food galore! And that fried chicken – yum!

Joel isn’t calling everyone to a homecoming. He is calling everyone to repentance. I mean everyone. No one is to be excluded. Look at the list. It lists babies all the way up to the elders. Not even a newly married couple on the day of their marriage is to be exempt. The entire nation needs to repent.

APPLICATION

God is calling you to repent. Can you hear Him? If you are an unbeliever hearing this for the first time, take a minute and get quiet. Ask the Lord if He wants you. I guarantee He will say yes. It is His will that all be saved. Listen closely. He won’t scream it out. He will call you by name. Do you hear your name?

If you are a believer, He is calling you to return to Him or go deeper with Him. He desires a relationship with you that is more than token prayers and a few dollars in the offering plate. He desires intimacy with you. That only comes through repentance. As it says in Psalm 51, “Cleanse me with hyssop, wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

I want that kind of relationship with my Father. In fact, I have that kind of relationship. I seek that. Do I do that as I should every day? Not hardly, but that is my desire. I’m like you – a sinful creature in need of a Savior – everyday. I know the Lord knows my heart and will hear my cries to Him.

O Lord, forgive me. Wash me and cleanse me. I want to walk with You in perfect fellowship.

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

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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Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Brokenness, Cleansing, Confession, Forgiveness, Inspirational, Mercy, Prayer, Repentance, Scripture

RETURN TO ME

JOEL 2:12

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;’”

I love to return to places that I have visited in the past, if I enjoyed them the first time. For instance, I am planning to return to Kenya this year. I love my brothers and sisters there. Due to my illness in 2019-20, I have not been there since 2018. My heart literally aches to be there. Would you pray with me that Kenya remains open to travel and our team can make the trip?

I love today’s verse. When the Lord says here for us to return, that implies we have been there before. I look up the Hebrew word for “return.” It literally means to turn back or return. And the verb tense implies some kind of force is involved. He is asking us to forcibly return to Him. Don’t be slow about it. And He says to return with fasting, weeping and mourning. We come back recognizing our sins and asking for forgiveness.

APPLICATION

Fasting, weeping and mourning aren’t things we enjoy doing. It implies brokenness. Are you? Are you broken over your sins? Most of us can strut sitting down. We are too proud to repent. We are too full of ourselves to fast and weep and mourn. But God asks us to come to Him that way.

Let me urge you today to do that. If you are unsure of your sins (I can’t imagine someone not knowing their sins), ask the Lord to reveal them to you. He will, I promise. He has seen your sins. His forgiveness and mercy if ready. Just ask. Our unconfessed sins just serve to separate us from fellowship with our Master. Remove that barrier through confession and repentance.

I am thankful the Lord stands ready to forgive. I know I sin daily through word and/or deed. I long to live a life of godliness free from sin and its influence. Until then, I will come to my Savior and seek cleansing. I will cleanse my hands and purify my heart. I will seek to know Him better through His word.  Return to Him! Are you ready?

Thank You, Father, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.

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