Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Blessing, Confession, Intimacy, Obedience, Repentance, Scripture

OVERFLOWING

JOEL 2:24

“The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.”

I remember on one of my trips to Uganda visiting some families in their farming communities. If you know anything about Uganda, it is a fertile country. It has been called the Pearl of Africa. It could probably feed all of Africa. These families grew maize (corn) and had bountiful crops. Their corn cribs were overflowing with corn, and they were actually building new cribs to hold the excess. It was amazing.

Joel is continuing to describe the blessings of God on Judah after they had returned to Him in repentance. Blessings always follow obedience. All He requires is to honor Him and His word. Judah, after suffering their judgment was now enjoying the bounty of God’s blessings. I bet they wished they had listened to Him to begin with.

APPLICATION

How is your bounty? Are your threshing floors full or empty? Are your oil and wine vats near full or lacking? I am not talking about physical threshing floors or vats. I am talking spiritual. When you return to Him in repentance, He is quick to fill us to overflowing. We literally bubble over with joy.

Don’t you want that feeling in your life? I know I do. I had rather walk in fullness than in emptiness. All it takes is surrender to our Lord. Even in the midst of trials and tragedies, we can walk in fullness. Our circumstances do not determine our tank level. That is determined by our intimacy with Jesus.

I have had some low points. Right now I am struggling with some pretty severe neuropathy in my feet. Most days they are very painful. However, I know my physical walk does not affect my spiritual walk. I have to choose each day to take each step, though painful, knowing that Jesus is my strength. I choose Jesus over pain.

Lord, fill me up to overflowing. I want to spread the excess of my joy to others.

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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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Affection, Bible, Blessing, Caregiver, Comfort, Encouragement, Fruit, God's Will, Intimacy, Loyalty, Protection, Relationships, Scripture, Surrender, Trust

OUR CARETAKER

HOSEA 14:8

Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant juniper; from Me comes your fruit.”

Isn’t it nice to have someone who looks after you? When I was growing up, my parents did that. Now, I liked that until I became a teenager. Then, not so much. Lol. I wanted my independence. I didn’t want anyone watching my every move. But my parents continued to do that, even when I went to college. They were always checking on me to make sure I was alright.

God says here, “It is I who answer and look after you.” Through all Ephraim’s rebellion, God was still look watching out for them. Even though there were consequences for their disobedience, God still loved them and wanted what was best for them. He says from Him comes their fruit. God was the source of their blessings.

APPLICATION

We need the Lord in our lives to give us purpose and power. It is only though His watchful gaze that we are able to do the things we do. Just like His care for Ephraim, He will care for us. But what does that mean? How does God care for us? Does He give us everything we want or desire?

The Lord puts His umbrella of protection over His children. That doesn’t mean we will never suffer. Just the opposite. We may be chosen by Him to suffer. Suffering is a privilege. God only allows suffering on those who can endure it. He will see you through it. His eye is on you constantly. If you believe that, then you know He cares for you.

I know through many situations in my life that the Lord is watching over me. I could name dozens of times in my life when the Lord showed His care for me. It is comforting. It is peaceful. And He does produce His fruit through me. All I have to do is let Him.

Father, thank You for watching over me. I want You to use me however You see fit.

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OUR SMELL

HOSEA 14:6

“His shoots will sprout, His majesty will be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.”

I love the smell of the outdoors. That’s part of the reason I like to hunt and fish. Just being outdoors and inhaling the aromas that are out there is invigorating. Where I hunt here in Tennessee, there are a lot of pine trees. Their smell in the mornings is great. In fact, some hunters will break off limbs from the pine trees and rub it on their clothes to cover their human scent.

Hosea, in the last phrase of today’s verse, says Israel will have the fragrance of cedars. Now, he was not saying they would actually smell like that. He was saying Israel would put off a scent to draw others to God. I wonder how well they did that. What would others smell that would entice them to come to God?

APPLICATION

Our “odor” can affect someone’s decision to follow Christ. We don’t think about that very often, do we? I am not necessarily referring to our physical odor. However, it is hard to witness to someone if we smell like cigarettes or alcohol. I am referring more to our spiritual smell. You see, the closer we walk with Jesus, the more we smell like Him.

I have been in a room before with people who were smoking. When I came out of that room, I smelled just like them. You would have thought I was smoking as well. In the same way, when I spend more and more time in His Word and in prayer, I smell more like Him. The world’s scent is covered by the Holy Spirit. I, in a sense, have broken off the branches of holiness and rubbed them all over my body.

I like smelling like Jesus. There is no other scent that I would want. His is a sweet smell, an inviting smell. Others smell it and want what I have. That is so cool. But I have to stay in His presence to keep that scent. The second I walk away the world’s scent envelopes me. That is not a pleasant smell. I choose Jesus’ scent. How about you?

I want to smell like You, Lord. I want others to be drawn to You through Your scent on me.

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Abiding, Affection, Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Contentment, Encouragement, Intimacy, Love, Scripture

I KNEW YOU

HOSEA 13:5 

“I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.” 

I have been married to my wife for over 35 years now. You would think by now I would know her pretty well. But there are still things about her that I am learning. Isn’t that amazing? Maybe it’s because she has not revealed all her secrets to me yet. That’s probably it, lol. More than likely it’s because I have not been observant enough over the years. 

In today’s verse, the word “cared” is the Hebrew word yada. This is an important word used throughout the Old Testament. It can mean to know, to know very well, to understand and even mean to have relations. The point is this – God knew Israel intimately. They were His people. He had chosen them. They were His. 

APPLICATION 

That is still true today. God knows us. He knows us well. He created us. He knows what makes us tick. He knit us in our mother’s womb. So, we can’t use the excuse that God just doesn’t understand us. Of course, He does. No one understands us like He does. We just choose to not believe it or accept it. 

When you and I finally realize that God knows what is best for us and learn to trust Him in that, life is so much easier. Now, I don’t mean easy as in no trials. I mean easy in that now our life is His to live. We just sit back and watch Him work it. We will all face hard times, even seemingly impossible times, but knowing God knows us helps us rest. 

My brother went to his heavenly reward yesterday. His family watched this and are hurting. Thankfully, they know the Lord and can trust He knows exactly what they are going through. He knows them intimately. He loves them deeply. He will carry them through. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that my brother fully knows his Savior now.

Lord, I am so grateful You know me. You know me perfectly and intricately. 

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A KISS

HOSEA 13:2 

“And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves cast metal images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the people who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” 

A kiss seems harmful enough, doesn’t it? Have you ever blown someone a kiss? That’s one of the first things we teach our babies. It is so cute to see them blow you a kiss. But when you are an adult, you had better be careful to whom you blow kisses. Blowing those to the wrong person will get you in a whole heap of trouble. 

Ephraim was guilty of idolatry. They had multiplied their idols, even making them to represent any god they imagined. They covered them with silver and gold and bowed before them. They kissed them and when they couldn’t physically kiss them, they would blow a kiss towards them. Wow! How do you think God felt when He saw His chosen people kissing false gods? 

APPLICATION 

I know what you are thinking. But Carl, I don’t have any silver or gold idols in my house that I kiss and bow to. Most of don’t. We are too sophisticated for that. We would never have our idols placed out in front of everyone. We tend to hide our idols. We disguise our idols.  

What do you worship? Anything you place before God and His Son, Jesus, is an idol. Anything or anyone you prioritize over your worship of the only true God is an idol. So, what do you worship? It could be your family, your job, your possessions or even your health. Nothing can come between you and your Lord. Stop kissing the wrong thing. 

I have been guilty of placing things before God from time to time. I get busy and replace my quiet times with scheduling for the day. I get sidetracked and stop spending time with Him in prayer. It can happen to all of us. Take a minute right night and look at the day ahead of you. Make time with God your priority. Spend the time you need (and you need it) with Him today. Kiss Him today! 

I lavish You with my worship today, O Lord. I long to kiss Your hands and feet and pay homage to You for all You have done for me. 

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ROCK PILES

HOSEA 12:11 

“Is there injustice in Gilead? Certainly, they are worthless. In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls, yes, their altars are like stone heaps beside the furrows of a field.” 

Here where I live in Eastern Tennessee, it is not uncommon to pass a field where years earlier a farmer had cleared that field of rocks so he could cultivate the soil. Some of those rock piles are decades old. Those rocks were in the way of the task and had to be removed. The pile meant nothing, except maybe a source of stone to be used elsewhere on the farm. 

But here in today’s verse we see the stone heaps being used for altars. In a similar way, stones were removed from their fields. But they made them into altars, going directly against the word of God. Their sacrifices on these piles of rock meant nothing. They thought they were being religious, but they were, in fact, being sacrilegious in their actions. 

APPLICATION 

We often do “religious” stuff to make ourselves feel better. How many of us pray out of habit without any true communication with the Lord? People attend church because they are supposed to. They don’t go to worship as much as they go to be seen and check the box for the week. We may feel better by doing those things, but that is not the point. 

What is the point? The point is this – we have to come to God in Spirit and in Truth. We have to come to Him worshipping, not to worship. We pray to hear from Him, not to tell Him things. When our motives change our heart changes. We can experience a true relationship with the Lord. We can stop building rock piles. 

I desire the deeper things of God, don’t you? I want to know Him more each and every day. I want to know Christ so well that when I see Him face to face in glory, it will be just another day. Now, I know that day will be like none other, but you get my point. Make your faith real today. Stop playing religion.  

Father, I want to know You in a way in which I have never known You. Show me Yourself. 

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YAHWEH

HOSEA 12:5

“And the LORD, the God of armies, the LORD is His name.”

People should be known for their name. When called on, people should use their name. That’s why I have always strived to learn children’s names that I served. Calling a kid by their name when you see them in the hallway or on the playground lets them know you know who they are and that they matter. Don’t you like to be called by your name?

In the verse today, it seems Hosea is reminding us just who God is. He is Yahweh. Both times the word LORD is used, it the Hebrew word Yahweh which basically means “He is” or “I am.” The word became too holy for Jews to say, so they used Adonai or Ha-shem. We have no trouble saying Yahweh. He is!

APPLICATION

But let me ask you something. Who is God to you? Do you recognize Him for who He is? He is everything. Nothing exists that didn’t come through Him. Nothing maintains existence unless He wants it to. He is all you need. When we recognize that, it all makes sense. Life takes on a whole new meaning.

The problem with most us (myself included) is we lose sight of our Biblical worldview. Without that, God does look different. But with that worldview, everything becomes crystal clear. When we understand that “God is,” we accept what the world throws at us with the understanding that God is in control. That makes all the difference in the world.

I have put my focus on that. I want to see the world through my God tinted glasses. When I see the world as He sees it, I understand things so much better. Knowing Yahweh is in control gives me peace of mind. It allows me to focus on serving Him rather than trying protect myself. Isn’t that awesome? Don’t you want that too?

Yahweh, You are my God and my Redeemer. I trust You with my life and know You are all I need.

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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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ROPES OF LOVE

HOSEA 11:4

I pulled them along with cords of a man, with ropes of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.”

I remember a time when I was using a piece of rope as an object lesson for children in a children’s sermon. I asked the kids if anyone had ever been tied up with a rope. To my surprise, one of the little boys raised his hand and said his dad ties him up and puts him in a closet sometimes. You can imagine how low his dad slipped into the pew upon hearing that. (By the way, the child was making that up, lol).

When I read this verse, the phrase “ropes of love” puzzled me. I didn’t think how that could be used in a good way, but it is. Jehovah is showing compassion for Israel. He is not treating them as an animal is with ropes. He even lifts the yoke off of them and feeds them. He is tenderly caring for them, even when they don’t see it.

APPLICATION

Has the Lord placed ropes of love on you? If you are a believer, He certainly has. He has bound you up in His love. He is leading you tenderly. His ropes are not meant to cut or bruise you. They are simply there to give you guidance. You may see them as restrictive. They aren’t. They are for your safety.

If you were climbing a mountain with a group, you would want some ropes. I promise you. You may think those ropes are restricting your climb, but they are keeping you safe as you wander near an edge or have to grab an outlying ledge. Ropes are good, especially God’s ropes of love. Will you let Him “tie you up”?

I will willingly offer my hands and feet to His cords. I want to be bound up in Him. I want His hands to tie those ropes securely around me to keep me near Him. I know I am prone to wander. He will gently tug when I am drifting away. I need that. I bet you do too.

Father God, use Your cords to lead me. I submit myself to Your ropes of love.

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