Accountability, Advocate, Bible, Consequences, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Obedience, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture

DECISIONS

JOEL 3:14

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

I have mentioned in this blog site several times that I worked over thirty years in the child welfare field. Most of those years were spent in administration. In those roles I had to supervise staff as well as deal with the children in crisis. Decisions were a daily thing, and sometimes those decisions had to be made quickly and decisively. I didn’t have time to mull it over. Thank the Lord, most of the time I decided correctly.

Here we are in Joel 3:14 at “the valley of decision.” The Hebrew word for “decision” can mean sharp-pointed or strict decision. Of course, Joel says this is “the day of the Lord” which refers to a day of judgment. Also, the word “multitude” has an interesting meaning. It can mean murmur or roar. You can almost hear the crowds of nations gathered around. It was literally a sea of humanity.

APPLICATION

Have you made the most important decision of your life? There is no bigger one than asking Jesus to be your Savior. This decision will not only change your life. It will also change your eternity. Before making that decision, your eternity was set. You were doomed to an eternal hell with no hope, separated from God. But once you make that decision, your new eternity rests in glory, the dwelling place of God.

How many people do you know right now will be facing the “day of the Lord” without that hope of glory? Judgment day is a certain thing. And God’s judgment on that day will be like some of my decisions I had to make – swift and decisive. The difference between His judgment and my decisions is His is always right. He always judges correctly.

Aren’t you glad you know Him? If you do, the day of the Lord holds no fear for you. Your destiny is safely in the hands of Jesus, literally. The scars in Jesus’ hands points to the fact of His death and sacrifice for you. Don’t you want to share that with someone else? Do that today.

I am so thankful, Lord, that judgment day holds no fear for me. I am confident of my place in heaven.

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
Advice, Attention, Belief, Bible, Blessing, Confidence, Eternity, Heaven, Promises, Prophesy

WILL IT COME TRUE?

JOEL 2:30

“‘I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke.’”

Have you ever had someone tell you something that was going to happen in the near future? It seems so outlandish that it could never come true. But they promise they have the inside scoop, and it’s going to happen. Perhaps they knew you were going to get a promotion at work or a big raise. How do you react?

Joel is beginning another prophesy that Jesus mentions in Matthew 24. God has often displayed signs in the sky. Rainbows, pillar of fire, cloud to lead the people, star in Bethlehem, and even a host of angels. These signs often pronounce judgment. Other times a great announcement. For Judea, it was a warning.

APPLICATION

What kind of sign has the Lord given you? None you say! Well, I don’t know about that. The Lord is always pointing His children towards godliness. He wants you to live that way and will show you how, if you will just stay alert. Holy living is what He desires from us. He even commands that of us.

But back to the signs in the sky. Read ahead in Joel 2:31-32 and see what Joel says here on behalf of the Lord. If that were to happen today, would you be ready? How would you react if the sun and the moon began to change? Would you freak out and run for cover? Listen, beloved, we have nothing to fear. Our sins have already been covered by the blood of the Lamb.

I am so grateful that nothing that is prophesied in Scripture scares me. I am anxiously awaiting the Rapture. I know I will be with Him when He returns after the tribulation. I know I will be reigning with Him in the new heaven and earth. I am confident of that. Are you?

Father, I praise You for saving me and giving me the confidence of my salvation.

Standard
Belief, Bible, Comfort, Courage, Death, Encouragement, Eternity, Heaven, Promises, Scripture

THE STING OF DEATH

HOSEA 13:14

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? Death, where are your thorns? Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”

We have probably all experienced the loss of a loved one. I lost my brother recently. While I continue to grieve, I am reminded where he is. He is in Glory with his Savior. He wouldn’t return here for anything, but I shall go to him one day and be reunited. That certainly lessens the sting of death for me. It still hurts, but not nearly as bad as it would if I didn’t know Jesus and know that my brother had not known him.

In the midst of judgment on the nation of Israel, Hosea tells us that God will certainly show mercy to them. The original Hebrew reads a little different than the New American Standard, which is what I used above. It says, “I will ransom them from Sheol. I will redeem them from death.” I like that. God is intentional. He doesn’t wonder about His decisions. He knows exactly what He plans to do.

APPLICATION

If you have experienced the sting of death, take courage. God can and will remove that stinger. Its power is diminished through the blood of the cross. Jesus shed His perfect blood to ransom us from death. Death for the believer is simply a portal into eternity with Christ. It is nothing to fear. We embrace it when it comes, knowing our destination is wonderful.

Now, for us who are left behind, we will grieve. It seems right now all around me there is death. In the past week it has arisen 3-4 times in the lives of my family and friends. And death will not stop. It is never satisfied. But the promises of God reign supreme. We need to be sharing our hope with those who have no hope so they can have that stinger removed.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes envy those who have gone before me into Glory. I wonder what they saw in their first glimpse of heaven. I wonder who they saw as they entered into their reward. I am so thankful I don’t have to fear death. I know death means life everlasting for me. What a trade off!

DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP in victory. WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY? WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54c-56

Standard
Bible, Death, Encouragement, Eternity, God's Will, Heaven, Judgment, Obedience, Promises, Redemption, Scripture

DISAPPEARING

HOSEA 13:3 

“Therefore they will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor, and like smoke from a chimney.” 

Here in the Tennessee Valley, it is not uncommon to have low morning clouds that cover our mountains. A lot people like to drive up Lookout Mountain and welcome the day above the clouds. It doesn’t take long though, for the clouds to burn off to reveal the valley below. Those clouds are beautiful but fleeting. 

Hosea paints the same picture of Israel. Under Jeroboam it was a glistening nation, ripe with promise. But because of their continual sins, the nation quickly vanished just like the morning cloud and dew, just like chaff which is blown away and smoke from a chimney. All of these are quick to disappear. How sad, when all they had to do was obey Jehovah’s Law and worship Him. 

APPLICATION 

We don’t want our lives to disappear too quickly. We want to be around for a while. There are things we can do to assist in that. We can eat healthier. We can take our medications when prescribed. We can avoid situations where our lives are put at risk. But none of those things can guarantee a long life. There is only one person who can guarantee that – God. 

Now, just because we trust our lives to God doesn’t mean we will live to be in our 80’s or 90’s. God knows the number of our days. What we have to come to understand is when the Lord calls us home, that constitutes our long life. We have lived as long as He has planned. That could be short in the eyes of the Lord. But God does not make mistakes. He calls us home when we are ready, no sooner, no later. 

I had a friend die yesterday at 60. That’s young. In fact, that’s my age. I was surprised, shocked to say the least. But she was a believer and loved Jesus. She is in her heavenly home. And although her death caught us all by surprise, it did not surprise God. He was ready for her to come home. We will miss her, but we shall see her again. Welcome home, my friend. 

Though my days may be fleeting, I shall trust You, Lord. I long to be with You. 

Standard
Abiding, Affection, Bible, Blessing, Death, Encouragement, Fellowship, God's Will, Heaven, Judgment, Promises, Redemption, Reward, Salvation, Sanctification, Scripture

AND DIED

HOSEA 13:1 

“When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he incurred guilt and died.” 

My parents have both died. We grieved. We were heartbroken. Death seems to be so…final. But for a believer, it isn’t. My parents loved Jesus. We know they were instantly carried into the arms of Jesus. We did not “lose” them. We know exactly where they are and long to join them one day. 

Ephraim also died, but his death wasn’t so joyful. Ephraim had rebelled against God and was proud of themselves. They had invited Baal and Ashtoreth into their land. They had built elaborate temples for them both. His trembling wasn’t in humility. That would have been appropriate. Judgment was sure and certain. 

APPLICATION 

Pride certainly comes before the fall. How do we guard against being so prideful, like Ephraim? Our natural tendency is to be boastful and full of ourselves. That’s our sin nature. We fight that our entire lives. Outside the grace of God, we have no hope. 

But thanks be to God, through Jesus we can come before the throne of God and bow. Because of Christ’s shed blood we have forgiveness. Now, our trembling is in humility and gratefulness. We recognize God’s preeminence in our lives. We are nothing without Him. He gives us purpose. 

I want that, don’t you? I desire to be held in His arms and loved. My parents walked into their heavenly reward the day they died. Christ’s warm embrace enveloped them. And as they entered, I am sure they heard those words we all long to hear. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” 

Father, thank You for welcoming my parents. Love them well. 

Standard
Abiding, Advice, Bible, Christ's Return, Destruction, Encouragement, Eternity, Gospel, Heaven, Modeling, Scripture

DOOMS DAY

HOSEA 10:15

So it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.”

I have often wondered what it would be like to know the day you were going to die. I wonder what I would do on those days leading up to it. Would I quit work and do all the things I have always wanted to do? Or would I continue doing all the things I am presently doing? I don’t fear that day. I am ready for it.

Hosea gave the warning to Israel. “At dawn the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.” Wow! What a warning! Because of their wickedness their kingdom would be destroyed. There was nothing they could do to change that fact. God had spoken. Dooms day was upon them.

APPLICATION

There is coming a day when we all will face our last day. What is your plan for that day? If God is not a part of that plan, you are in a heap of trouble. Let me ask you the question I pondered at the beginning of the devotional. If you knew the day you were going to die, would you change your behavior? Why not change it now?

God wants us to live each day as if it’s our last. We never know when He is going to call us home. We have to be ready. We have to be doing His work until the very end. What has the Lord asked you to do for Him? Do it today. Don’t wait. You may not have another chance. I pray you will not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

I know the days are drawing to a close. It can’t be too long until the Lord returns. I want to be found doing His work on that day. There are so many people who need to hear about Him. I want to be caught telling someone about Jesus. Don’t you? What better way to enter glory that the words of Jesus on your lips?

I do not know when I will meet You face to face, Lord. But I do know I am looking forward to that day. Help me share that story with many before I come.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Commands, Confrontation, Courage, Disciplemaking, Eternity, Evangelism, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Modeling, Scripture, Witnessing

KEEP WATCHING

HOSEA 9:8

“Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet; yet the snare of a bird catcher is in all his ways, and there is only hostility in the house of his God.

Do you remember as a child playing hide and seek? The secret to winning is to find a great hiding place and to stay alert. You can’t just hide and go to sleep. You’re sure to be found. I always liked to hide in a spot that a quick escape route. I had to keep watching for the person looking for me. I didn’t want to be caught off guard.

Israel had been given the task to be His watchman. Not only were they His chosen people, but they were also supposed to warn their neighbors of God’s wrath. They were to tell them about Jehovah. Yet, they had failed. Not only had they fallen into God’s judgment for chasing after pagan gods, they had fully participated with those foreign nations in their idolatry.

APPLICATION

We have the responsibility as believers to share the good news of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. You know as well as I do that the world is chasing after everything but God. They may not have idols on their mantles, but they are sure worshipping stuff. They have totally forgotten the Creator.

So, we have been tasked by God as a watchman. We have to warn others of the danger of sin. We have to tell them what God expects. We have to show them the love of Jesus so they will turn to Him. That’s our task. Will you accept it? Will you do that today? Think of one person and go to them.

I know it is not easy for some of you to step out and do that. But just think about what you are doing. You are literally giving someone the opportunity to escape hell. You are giving them the chance to embrace heaven. That’s motivation.

Show me those who need to hear Your message, Lord. Give me the boldness to speak out when I know those around me need to hear.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Christ's Return, Disciplemaking, Eternity, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture

TOO LATE NOW

HOSEA 9:7

“The days of punishment have come, the days of retribution have come; let Israel know this! The prophet is a fool, the inspired person is insane, because of the grossness of your wrongdoing, and because your hostility is so great.”

I am not a procrastinator by nature. I prefer to do things ahead of time and get them out of the way. I had rather be an hour early somewhere than one minute late. That’s just the way I am wired. But I know other people who will be late to their own funeral. They are never on time and can’t seem to get anything done on time. That would drive me crazy.

The people of Israel had been told by the false prophets that the day of judgment was either way off or wasn’t coming. So, they put off repentance. We have plenty of time to set things right. But Hosea is telling them in today’s verse that the time has come. And it was because of the “grossness of your wrongdoing, and because your hostility is so great.”

APPLICATION

Oh, listen to me today. The time is short. Jesus is returning. It may be today, or it may be five years from now. We don’t know when, but He is coming again. He will rapture His church. He will take His children out of this world before the great tribulation. Where will you be?

I don’t want to be like one of those false prophets who told the people they had plenty of time. No! Get ready. And do it not so much to escape hell, but to enjoy heaven. Come to Jesus now to enjoy the blessings of life. He wants to show you how to live abundantly. He wants to walk with you through this life. That’s worth coming to Him now.

But too many around us are ignoring the signs. They are ignoring the warnings. They truly believe they can live however they wish and still slide into heaven. Heaven will not open its gates to everyone. Only the repentant and those in Christ will enter. We need to spread the message loud and clear to anyone who will hear. Join me today in doing this.

Father, I know the time is approaching when Christ shall call His bride home. I am ready. Help me share with those around me how they too can be a part of Your family.

Standard