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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Advice, Bible, Commands, Disciplemaking, Following, God's Will, Leading, Order, Scripture

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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Accountability, Affliction, Bible, Consequences, Following, Humility, Judgment, Leading

PANTING FOR GOD

JOEL 1:20

“Even the animals of the field pant for You; for the stream beds of water are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

I’m reminded of Psalms 42:1-2 when I read today’s verse. It says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” Without water all living creatures will perish. Fire laps up any moisture. It leaves the ground parched and dry, with nothing to sustain life.

The judgment of Judah continues. The drought has dried up all life-sustaining waters. Streams are dry. The green pastures are gone. The animals are suffering right along with the people. What is the answer to end all of this? Judah seems oblivious. Joel continues to list all the consequences of their sins.

APPLICATION

Are you looking for a cool drink from the Lord? Is your soul dry from all the fires around you? It is easy to slip into the pattern of living without the Lord. We think we can do it, and maybe for a little while we are able. But life happens and soon we are in need of that drink from the well that never goes dry.

How can you find those streams of water that are still flowing? Only by allowing the Lord to take your hand and lead you there. Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? Do you remember how it reads? He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. There you have it. Yield to Him. He will lead you.

I don’t like being led around. I want to go my own way. I think I can figure stuff out all on my own. How wrong I am! I can get lost so quickly without the Lord leading me. I may not like being led, but I know I need to be led. How about you?

Lead me besides the still waters, Lord. Without your leading, I am like the animals panting after water.

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Abiding, Advocate, Affliction, Bible, Consequences, Direction, Disciplemaking, Following, Judgment, Leading, Modeling, Scripture

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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Abiding, Bible, Blessing, Calling, Commands, Contentment, Courage, Encouragement, Faith, Following, God's Will, Leading, Obedience, Reward, Scripture, Surrender

GOD’S PROMISES

HOSEA 12:12 

“Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram, and Israel worked for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.” 

Sometimes the Lord directs us in ways that make absolutely no sense at the time. Years ago, the Lord led us to move to another state for a position in a ministry. We weren’t there very long, but during that short time I was exposed to information and training that prepared me for my next ministry. Looking back, it is clear, but at the time it was just a matter of trust. 

Jacob (Israel) was directed by his mother, Rebekah, to go back to her family to seek a wife. She was also trying to spare Jacob’s life after he had tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him his brother, Esau’s, birthright. But God used this whole messed up situation for good. Through Jacob’s wives, Rachel and Leah, the nation of Israel was birthed. 

APPLICATION 

You may be in a situation right now that makes no sense. You can’t see a way out. You certainly can’t see how God is going to make any sense out of it. This is where the trust comes in. God’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t see things the way we do. Don’t you understand that He already sees you glorified in the heavens? He does! He sees the past, present and future at the same time.  

So, if that is true, we can trust Him with our future. He knows exactly what He is doing. Whatever you are going through right now has a purpose. There’s a reason for it. You may not like it, but God knows that. Instead of asking God “why me?”, ask Him “what now?”  

My older brother is going through some major health challenges right now. I told him those exact words this week. It is in those exact times of going through the valleys that God grows us up. He didn’t say it would be easy. But He did say He would be with us. Jacob labored decades for his wives and possessions before returning home. But God used him to father a nation. 

I don’t understand all that You are doing in my life, Lord, but I trust You. I only want to serve You. 

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Affection, Bible, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Inspirational, Intimacy, Leading, Obedience, Protection, Scripture, Submission

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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Abiding, Alone, Bible, Comfort, Deceit, Devil, Direction, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Leading, Lies, Punishment, Righteousness, Satan, Scripture

WANDERERS

HOSEA 9:17

“My God will reject them because they have not listened to Him; and they will be wanderers among the nations.”

Sometimes it’s nice to just wander. I have always wanted to take a trip with no plans, just get in the car and drive and stop when I wanted to. That would be fun. But I would not want to wander around lost. That can be frightening and dangerous. I am thankful for Google Maps, for that very reason.

Part of God’s punishment for Israel was they were destined to be wanderers. Do you realize they stayed wanderers for generations? The nation of Israel vanished off the face of the earth for a while. In 1948 they became a nation again, and that was due to the extreme persecution of the Holocaust. Wandering is no fun when it is God’s judgment.

APPLICATION

Have you been wandering away from the Lord? What direction are you headed? Listen, stop and turn towards Him. Your wanderings will only get you nowhere. And nowhere is exactly where Satan wants you. He doesn’t want you near the Lord. He doesn’t want you being led by Him. The devil wants to drag you around and confuse you.

But, if you turn to Jesus, He will cease your wandering. He will lead you into green pastures and by quiet streams. And even when He leads you into the valley of the shadow of death, He will not leave you. His rod and His staff will comfort you. You can read the rest of this in Psalm 23. Trust the Shepherd to stop your wandering.

I have to be truthful here. I have wandered. There have been times in my Christian walk when I have left the Lord’s path. I decided to go my own way. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t leave me alone. He drew me back to the Lord’s path. His path is safe. His path, though not necessarily smooth, will guide me straight to Him. Will you join me?

Father, I trust Your leading. Guide me in Your paths of righteousness today.

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Accountability, Bible, Brokenness, Choices, Destruction, Direction, Following, Judgment, Leading, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture, Surrender

LEADERLESS

HOSEA 3:4

“For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols.”

I have had the displeasure of working in some places that were leaderless. In order to protect the “guilty” I won’t name those places. There is nothing more disconcerting than coming to work each day not knowing which direction you are headed. No one takes charge. No one leads. Everyone is just wandering aimlessly. It really is a helpless feeling.

Hosea shifts his thoughts back to Israel in today’s verse. Israel, as a result of its sin, would be without a king or leader. This prophecy, of course, came true. Israel and Judah were taken into exile. They had no king to lead them. They were left leaderless. They had lost sight of the fact that Jehovah was their only true king.

APPLICATION

Who is your leader? To whom do you look up to? If you place your trust in a man or woman, you will be disappointed. No one can lead you like the Lord. He is the only one that will never lead you falsely. He will always point you in the right direction. So, who are you following?

Perhaps you are a leader. Where are you leading those following you? Listen carefully. If you are leading, you are going to be held responsible. That’s right. You can’t claim you didn’t know. Leaders are held to a higher level of scrutiny. That means you must take your guidance from the Lord so you can lead biblically.

As a Pastor, I am held to a higher standard by my Lord. I am responsible for the flock He has given me to lead. I do not want to find out that I have been misled and have led poorly. I pray you don’t either. Will you join me in leading well? Will you join me in following Jesus? He is worthy to lead.

O Father, I do not want to be leaderless. I desire to follow You. I know You will always lead me correctly.

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