Accountability, Affliction, Bible, Brokenness, Compassion, Condemnation, Courage, Destruction, Encouragement, Judgment, Persecution, Punishment

TOTAL DEVASTATION

JOEL 1:7

“It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree a stump. It has stripped them bare and hurled them away; their branches have become white.”

Have you ever witnessed total devastation? I’ve seen it a couple of times, both times after severe storms. Most recently I witnessed it in my hometown when we were struck by a tornado. Neighborhoods that had been tree-lined and ornate were left in shambles. Most of the trees were gone or snapped in half. Houses were torn apart and, in some cases, just plain missing. It hurt to see it.

Judah experienced the same thing. In the case of the locusts, they wiped out everything. Even the bark on the trees was eaten. And when the nations came in as part of God’s judgment, they crushed and destroyed buildings and homes, leaving nothing of any value behind.

APPLICATION

If you have ever suffered loss like is described above, you can relate. Whether it is physical loss, like a house, or loss of health from an illness, it is hard to get over it. Do you think the Lord allows losses to punish us or teach us? Actually, every loss we encounter as a believer has gone through the hands of God first. He measures and makes sure it is what we can handle. He would never put more on you than you can handle.

But why do we even have to deal with this? Because He is teaching us to depend on Him. We could lose everything we have, but we still have our Savior. Physical things come and go. Prized possessions will eventually rust or rot away. Our faith only gets stronger. Our faith only grows.

So, as you watch things around you fall apart, remember who it is who holds you close. I can rest in His unshakeable arms. He will sustain and strengthen me. He will protect me and love me. What else could you ask for? He’s got this!

I am so thankful, Lord, to know You have me in Your grip. I am safe and secure.

Standard
Affliction, Battles, Bible, Courage, Destruction, Encouragement, God's Will, Harvest, Judgment, Modeling, Persecution, Scripture, Trouble

LOTS OF BUGS

JOEL 1:4

“What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.”

I was hunting a couple of years ago during the very beginning of the deer season. It was still a little warm outside, so the mosquitos were still around. I got into my blind and got situated. I had applied repellent on my body. I even had a Therma cell unit working which is supposed to get rid of them. But that day nothing scared off those little pests. I eventually had to leave because of them.

Locusts aren’t mosquitos, but they are just as relenting. Joel recalls a severe locust infestation. Four different kinds are mentioned – gnawing, swarming, creeping and stripping. In other words, they left nothing. This would have been devastating for the economy which centered around the wheat and barley harvest. They couldn’t run out to the local supermarket and buy groceries.

APPLICATION

We face seasons like this in our lives. It may not be locusts, but jobs losses or medical issues can wipe us out. It’s strange to me that people who trust God with their eternity can’t trust Him with their paychecks. I used to be one of them. I fretted about everything. I usually didn’t tell anyone. I kept it all inside which is not good.

Are you fretting over something right now? Let God have it. He is big enough to handle anything you are facing. It’s been said that anything over our heads is under His feet. I like that. God stands above and beyond any trouble we encounter. Will you trust Him with your crops today?

Locusts don’t scare me because I don’t live in an area where they are an issue. I have to battle taking back from the Lord what I have laid at His feet. Will you pray with me today that we won’t do that? Once He has it, let Him have it. There is too much work to do for the kingdom to let locusts bother us.

Thank You, Father, for delivering me from the fear and dread of locusts in my life. Help me persevere through any troubles that may come my way.

LOTS OF BUGS

JOEL 1:4

“What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; and what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.”

I was hunting a couple of years ago during the very beginning of the deer season. It was still a little warm outside, so the mosquitos were still around. I got into my blind and got situated. I had applied repellent on my body. I even had a Therma cell unit working which is supposed to get rid of them. But that day nothing scared off those little pests. I eventually had to leave because of them.

Locusts aren’t mosquitos, but they are just as relenting. Joel recalls a severe locust infestation. Four different kinds are mentioned – gnawing, swarming, creeping and stripping. In other words, they left nothing. This would have been devastating for the economy which centered around the wheat and barley harvest. They couldn’t run out to the local supermarket and buy groceries.

APPLICATION

We face seasons like this in our lives. It may not be locusts, but jobs losses or medical issues can wipe us out. It’s strange to me that people who trust God with their eternity can’t trust Him with their paychecks. I used to be one of them. I fretted about everything. I usually didn’t tell anyone. I kept it all inside which is not good.

Are you fretting over something right now? Let God have it. He is big enough to handle anything you are facing. It’s been said that anything over our heads is under His feet. I like that. God stands above and beyond any trouble we encounter. Will you trust Him with your crops today?

Locusts don’t scare me because I don’t live in an area where they are an issue. I have to battle taking back from the Lord what I have laid at His feet. Will you pray with me today that we won’t do that? Once He has it, let Him have it. There is too much work to do for the kingdom to let locusts bother us.

Thank You, Father, for delivering me from the fear and dread of locusts in my life. Help me persevere through any troubles that may come my way.

Standard
Accountability, Affliction, Bible, Blasphemy, Condemnation, Deception, Following, Forgiveness, Idols, Judgment, Obedience, Persecution, Punishment, Scripture

CARRIED BY THE WIND

HOSEA 4:19

“The wind wraps them in its wings, and they will be put to shame because of their sacrifices.”

The wind truly is amazing. We can’t see the wind, but we can see its effect. Gentle breezes over a lake are so peaceful, but you don’t want to be on that same lake if the winds get violent. I have had the displeasure of living through several hurricanes and tornadoes. No fun! Wind can be good, but it can also do a lot of damage.

Just ask the Israelites. They are being carried off to exile as if by an invisible wind. The nefarious forces that have swooped in like the wind are going to carry them away because of their disobedience and lack of faithfulness to our God. They never saw it coming before it was too late. Just like a tornado appears out of seemingly nowhere, they are wrapped up in the winds of exile.

APPLICATION

We may not have to worry about exile (notice I said “may not”), but we certainly have to be concerned about not being loyal to our heavenly Father. The same God who judged Israel and Judah judges us today. As a believer in Christ, your sins have already been judged. But don’t think that gives you the freedom to live as you want. We have commands to obey.

So, is God this ruthless, uncaring God who only wants to be obeyed? Of course, not. He loves us and wants us to want to obey Him. He won’t force us into submission. He desires that we willingly follow Him. That’s the way He operates.

But He still holds us accountable for following or not following His law. While we are under grace through Jesus, there are still expectations for holy living which the Lord places on us. He has given us these guidelines to follow to draw us closer to Him. Will you follow them today?

O God, I know You expect certain behaviors from me. Forgive me when I fall short. I do desire to follow You.

Standard
Advocate, Anxiety, Battles, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Devil, Encouragement, Fighting, Mentoring, Parenting, Persecution, Satan, Scripture, Surrender

GUARD YOURSELF

1 JOHN 3:7

“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;”

When I was in Jr. High and High school, I played football (American football). I always loved the game. But there was one drill I didn’t care too much for. It was called “Bull in the Woods.” Let me explain it. One person would be put in the center of a ring of other players who were numbered off. The coach would then call a number and the player with that number would run toward the guy in the center and hit him. So, your job in the middle was turn and face that player and take on the hit.

The problem began when the coach would call multiple numbers, especially if they were from opposite sides of the circle. It became impossible to face every attack. They would eventually wear you down. That’s exactly what Satan does. He keeps coming at you from all directions. John is saying in today’s verse to be watchful for those attacks. Remember Jesus has your back.

APPLICATION

You can play this out with your kids. Try this twist on it. Get some pool noodles or something soft and get around one of your children. Blindfold them so they can’t see you. Give them a pool noodle to defend themselves and give everyone else one as well.  Then let the fun begin. Now, keep it safe. No head shots and no jabbing with the noodle. If someone starts hitting too hard, stop the game.

Explain to them after everyone has had a turn how Satan does the same to us. Unless we keep our eyes on Jesus and our minds focused on His Word, we are just as defenseless as they were in the game. Ask them how it felt not seeing where the next “strike” might come from. It can be scary. But praise be to God, we have no reason to fear. Jesus is the one who guards and protects us. We just have to surrender.

Are you tired of swinging your pool noodle at an invisible foe? Stop swinging and start living under Jesus. Let Him be the one who defends you. He is more than capable. We think we can handle it, but we can’t. Satan is too crafty. He can outfox any of us by ourself. But he is no match for Jesus.

Lord, I trust You in my battles. I will stand with You and trust You to defend me.

Standard
Antichrist, Battles, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Christ's Return, Courage, Darkness, Encouragement, Fear, Inspirational, Parenting, Persecution, Scripture

THE LAST HOUR

1 JOHN 2:18

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

Picture yourself at a ball game. Your team is behind and the clock is ticking. You have the ball and are driving towards the end zone (yes, this is a football analogy, lol). Just before the clock hits zero the ball is snapped to the quarterback who makes an incredible pass into the end zone for a game winning catch to his receiver. You cheer and yell. Your team has won.

We should be doing that very thing regarding the antichrist. We don’t know when he will appear, but it is no matter. We have already won. There is no way we can lose. We’ve already seen the end of the war. Jesus is victorious and there is nothing that the antichrist can do about it.

APPLICATION

Do or did your children play soccer or another sport? Ask them how hard they would have played a game if they knew they were going to win. Some kids may say they would slack off, but I bet most of them would say they would play even harder because they would know the outcome. The game would be much more fun because they already knew they would win.

Explain to them that’s how we should live our lives in Christ. There is no reason to worry about what the enemy does because there is no way he can defeat us. We have the trump card – Jesus. And the best thing about this is our enemy knows he can’t win. That means we are victorious. We just have to keep playing the game. We can’t stop in the middle of the game.

Don’t read today’s verse and start worrying about the antichrist. In fact, be excited about it. Why? Because that just means the Lord’s return is near. Isn’t that great? Keep living daily as if it could be the day of His return. Don’t cower in a corner.

Lord, I welcome Your return. I will not fear the arrival of the antichrist because I know he is toothless.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Advocate, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Inspirational, Mentoring, Modeling, Parenting, Persecution, Scripture

CLOSE CALL

1 JOHN 2:1

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;”

A couple of years ago I was leaving Chattanooga to travel to Nashville for day conference with two other staff members. On the way out of town we were almost smashed by a semi-truck and trailer that hydroplaned right next to us on a curve. I can still give you every detail of that close encounter. Our vehicle was actually trapped in the bend between the semi-tractor and trailer until the tractor smashed into the guard rail and bounced back. That was an extremely close call.

Why do I tell that story? Well, there’s a word in this verse today that actually means close call. It’s the word “advocate.” It is the Greek word parakletos which is made of two Greek words, para (close) and kaleo (call). It can mean a legal advocate qualified to make the judgment because they are close to the situation. That’s Jesus. He is close to our situation, just like He was close to me in my close encounter on the road.

APPLICATION

Who is your child’s best advocate besides Jesus? You are, of course. Well, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean you defend your child’s reckless behavior just because they are your child. It doesn’t mean you attack anyone who comes against your child. No, it means you are close enough to the situation to know what is right and what is wrong. A good lawyer would never go against the law to defend his or her client. No, they use what they know is right to do that.

One of our roles as parents is to be our child’s biggest cheerleaders. We want then to excel in all they do. We should heap tons of praise on them. But we should also call them close and give them the advice needed. Jesus is our advocate, but He won’t excuse our bad behavior anymore than you can with your children.

Aren’t you grateful for our advocate? Go to Him today. He is close. He knows your situation. He can give you the best guidance. Trust it.

I am thankful to have You in my corner. I know You always have my best in mind, no matter the situation.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Confession, Deception, Destruction, Devil, Following, Freedom, Mentoring, Obedience, Parenting, Persecution, Rescue, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

TRUE ESCAPE

2 PETER 2:20

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

We’ve all seen the suspense movie where the characters are being chased and finally escape. We all breathe a sigh of relief and then out of nowhere the villain reappears and catches them. They were so close. They had broken free. If only they had kept moving. We see it so clearly when it’s someone else, don’t we?

Peter is talking about that very thing here. People throw off the worldly lusts and desires and for a short time they live right. Now, this verse is NOT saying they are believers who have backslidden. A knowledge of Christ is not the same as knowing Christ as your Savior. Without that saving knowledge, what do they do? They return to the world, much like a meth addict quickly returns to the meth.

APPLICATION

How do you make application of this for yourself or your children? Have you and your children ever caught butterflies in a net? How do you catch them? Do you snatch them out the air or while they are on the flower? It is much easier to catch them while they are enjoying the flower nectar. Once they are entangled in the net, they can’t escape.

Explain to your kids that sin works the same way. The devil attracts us with stuff our flesh craves. Once we taste it, we keep going back for more. Before you know it, we are trapped. The more we go back, they more we are hooked. There is only one way out – Jesus.

Do you find yourself looking for an escape? He’s right in front of you. He’s waiting for you to stop struggling and allow Him to guide you to freedom. Let Him take your hand. Let Him take you in His arms. There is an escape. There is peace.

Oh Lord, I long for freedom from the desires of my flesh. Cleanse my thoughts today. Purify my mind so I can follow you.

Standard
Accountability, Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Courage, Deceit, Deception, Devil, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Mentoring, Parenting, Persecution, Scripture, Self-control

STUCK

2 PETER 2:18

“For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error,”

Have you ever gotten stuck in the mud with your car or truck? I’ve done that a couple of times, and it’s no fun. The most frustrating part is when you think you’re almost out of that mud hole and then you wind up sinking again. I have been stuck for hours before. No fun!

Peter is warning us in today’s verse. He is saying that these false teachers especially like to entice or lure those who think they have escaped. Once the devil sees a weakness in us, he will go after us like a dog with a bone. He smells blood in the water. We have exposed our flesh to him, so he just gives us what our flesh desires.

APPLICATION

Can you name your child’s favorite candy? Mine is a Butterfinger candy bar. What would happen if you bought your child a huge bag of that candy and told them they could eat as much as they wanted as often as they wanted? Most kids would jump on that. That would eat candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their world just got a whole lot better – or so they think.

What’s going to happen to them if they continue to do that? They are going to get sick and/or have dental problems. They may get overweight and sluggish. Listen, fleshly indulgence never leads us in the right direction. Whether it is candy or something else our flesh desires, these enticements don’t lead us to God. Keep what’s holy before your child’s eyes. Let that entice them to godliness.

Have you succumbed to the lures of the devil and find yourself in a mudhole, stuck up to the axle? Stop spinning your tires. Only the Lord Jesus can get you out of that hole you’re in. Turn to Him and allow Him to “dig you out.” Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Repent and allow Him to put you back on solid ground.

Thank You, Lord, for coming to my rescue. You are always listening for my prayers. Forgive me for trying to handle it myself.

Standard
Advice, Affliction, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Deceit, Devil, Encouragement, Evil, Greed, Mentoring, Parenting, Persecution, Satan, Scripture, Shame

DON’T BE BAITED

2 PETER 2:14

“having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;”

Anyone who knows me knows I love to fish and hunt. Heck, I just love the outdoors. If you want to catch fish, you have to know what they are eating. Their menu changes with the seasons and conditions of the water. Use the wrong bait, and you won’t catch much. Use the right bait, and you have a better chance of catching fish that day.

The Greek word translated as “enticing” is exactly that word – bait. It’s only used three times in the New Testament. It’s used twice here in 2 Peter (2:14 and 2:18) and in James 1:14. All three times it used in a negative context. Bait hides the hook. Bait lures us into traps. But catch what Peter says. They entice “unstable souls.” This literally means people who don’t have a staff to lean on. They are ungrounded, unsteady, not dependable.

APPLICATION

So, how do we protect ourselves against being baited? How do we protect our kids? We get grounded in the Word. When we are in the Word daily and seeking God’s face, we can easily recognize those baited hooks. We can see the traps that are being laid for us. We have to be alert at all times, though, because the devil can get very creative.

What does that mean? The devil won’t come at you or your children the same way every time. He knows we can “wise up” and see him coming. So, he will disguise his traps. They may even look okay. Ask yourself and teach your kids to ask themselves one question. Will this action I am about to take bring glory to God. If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” run as fast as you can. Back up and take a hard look. Don’t be baited.

Have you fallen for the bait and now you sit there with a hook in your mouth? You may feel shame and regret. Listen! Turn to Jesus. He is the ultimate hook remover. He can forgive you and set you back on the right path. You may have a scar from that hook mark, but it will serve to remind you, not of your sin, but of the forgiving power of Jesus. Amen?

Forgive me, Father, for falling victim to Satan’s lures. Keep my eyes on You. I know You will never lead me toward defeat.

Standard
Advice, Angels, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Courage, Encouragement, Evil, Faith, Following, Holiness, Inspirational, Mentoring, Parenting, Persecution, Rescue, Suffering, Testimony

SNATCHED AWAY

2 PETER 2:7

“7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men” 

Peter continues the example of verse 6 into verse 7 by naming Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who had chosen to live in this area long ago. And now he finds himself surrounded by lewd men, men who had no restraints on their conduct. This conduct went against the laws of God and there was nothing Lot could do about it.

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Our world has become tolerant of any and all behaviors, no matter the effect it may have on others. We, who hold to God’s principles, are supposed to smile and just go along with it. If we speak up, we are labeled as intolerant and cruel. But God rescued (snatched away) Lot from this immoral situation. He will rescue you, as well.

APPLICATION

Part of our roles as parents is to snatch away our children from situations which we know are immoral and against God’s principles. As long as your children are with you, you have to do that. We can’t allow our children to wallow with the pigs (I use this analogy loosely) and not get dirty. Evil influences will eventually affect them.

So, how do you do that? Prayerfully. There may be sports teams they can’t play on because of an immoral coach. There may be schools they can’t attend due to the philosophy of the administration or teachers. I know this is a hard decision to make, but you are not making it just for now. This is an eternal decision.

Lot could have stayed right where he was and compromised his beliefs. After all, he was living there, right? He could have fit in. But God heard his cries for deliverance and sent two angels to bring him and his family out. God still delivers today. Cry out to Him for the deliverance of your family. He will answer.

O God, rescue me from the evil which surrounds me. Protect my thoughts and actions as I dwell here. I will shine here as long as You have me here.

Standard