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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Abiding, Advice, Battles, Bible, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Modeling, Perseverance, Scripture, Trials

PALE FACES

JOEL 2:6

“Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale.”

Some people are paler than others. That’s just a fact, right? But others can become super pale when frightened or in pain. Have you ever heard the expression “you look as pale as a ghost”? Now, that’s pretty pale. I have visited people in the hospital who looked like that. They looked as pale as the sheets on their bed.

The Hebrew words for the phrase “turn pale” literally mean drained of color. The people were in so much pain, so much anguish, they were drained of color. They were writhing in pain. The locust swarms that had come upon them had them to this point. They could see all their crops and produce being annihilated, and they were helpless to do anything about it.

APPLICATION

So, what do you do when this happens? What do you do when you find yourself in anguish? There’s only one thing to do. You turn to Jesus. We live in a fallen world. We have to deal with that. And sometimes the Lord allows things in our lives that will drive us to Him. We may not understand at the time, but He is there with us.

The next time you find yourself in one of these situations, stop and ask the Lord what He is trying to teach you. What lesson does He want you to learn? When we approach these times like that, we can learn so much about ourselves and Christ. I am not even pretending these times are fun. They are not. But they are times to grow.

I can truly say I hated every time like this I have faced. No one likes going through hard times. But I can also say that I have always learned going through them. I have also learned that the quicker I submit to the Lord and allow Him to teach me, the sooner I can feel His warm embrace in the process. The trial may still continue, but now I know what it’s about.

Lord, show me the purpose of the hard times in my life. Teach me to trust You and grow me into what You would have me be.

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Abiding, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Darkness, Destruction, Fighting, Flesh, Following, Obedience, Perseverance, Scripture, Surrender

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SEE

JOEL 2:4

“Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like war horses, so they run.”

Sometimes things take on the shape of other things. Clouds can look like a rabbit. Shadows can appear to represent an image of a person. In the fog things can look very different. You have to look closely sometimes to make out what you are really seeing. After all, your eyes can play tricks on you.

Theodoret, a Bishop in Syria, once said while describing the locusts he observed there, “You will find it exceedingly like that of a horse.” Whence the Arabs, of old and to this day , say, ‘In the locust, slight as it is, is the nature of ten of the larger animals, the face of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of abull, the horns of a deer, the chest of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an eagle, the thighs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich, the tail of a serpent.’” (Barnes’ Commentary of Joel). This is what Joel is talking about here in today’s verse.

APPLICATION

You are probably wondering how in the world we can get any application for our lives from this verse. What do locusts or how they look relate to me? Will you give a little room to make this application? After all, every word of the Bible is inspired, right?

God allows these “hordes of locusts” into our lives sometimes. He allows them to come in and seemingly destroy everything in sight. But you have to remember that if God allows it, it is always to make us more like His Son. Those locusts may look terrifying. We may be shaken at the very sight of them. However, in Christ we have the strength and power to face any horde sent our way.

I don’t like hordes of anything attacking me or my loved ones. I want to fight back. I think I can defend myself. But God whispers to me to back off and let Him do the defending. If you are facing “hordes of locusts” right now, stop fighting so hard. Lay down your feeble weapons and allow the Lord to defend you. He has the power to do great and mighty things in and through us.

I thank You for coming to my defense when I am under attack. When all else falls apart, I know You can be depended on.

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Accountability, Bible, Bondslaves, Harvest, Modeling, Perseverance, Sowing

HARVEST TIME

HOSEA 10:12

Sow for yourselves, with a view to righteousness; harvest in accordance with kindness. Break up your uncultivated ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes and rains righteousness on you.”

Man, O man, I love harvest time. There is just something about harvesting things you have planted. I used to have great gardens. I don’t have a space for it anymore. But picking squash and tomatoes, green beans and corn. Yum, I can just taste those fresh vegetables.

The Lord tells us in today’s verse to “sow…with a view to righteousness.” He also says to “harvest in accordance with kindness.” Look at that. Righteousness and kindness. Those were two things that Israel was lacking during those days. But the Lord still expected that, just as He expects it from us.

APPLICATION

Just how righteous are you? Now I know any righteousness we have comes from Jesus. Right? He makes us righteous through His shed blood. But as we are made righteous, we shall live that way. Everything we do (sow) should be done in righteousness. And then we shall reap in kindness.

Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” Take this to heart.

Sowing and reaping go hand in hand. Whatever we choose to sow, we shall reap. It’s really our choice. I choose righteousness because I want kindness and mercy. Don’t you?

Father, I desire Your righteousness and mercy. I want to sow to please You.

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Abiding, Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Encouragement, Giving, Inspirational, Life, Perseverance, Promises, Scripture

THE EARTH SINGS

HOSEA 2:22

“And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.”

I grew up in farm country in South Georgia. When I say “farm country” I mean that. My small hometown economy revolved around the farms that surrounded us. I loved seeing all those crops in the fields. It seemed to inspire life. Fields of corn, tomatoes, watermelons and etc. It did appear that the earth was singing.

Hosea 2:22 gives a similar picture. Grain, new wine and oil were about life during the time of Hosea. Everyone depended on the health of the harvest. When it was good, everyone celebrated. It was a festive time. When it was not, worry set in. They didn’t have the elaborate food economy we have today. It was literally hand to mouth.

APPLICATION

So, how does this apply to us today? We need to celebrate the life that the Lord has given us. Each day with Him brings new hope. We can face anything if we know He is with us. We do want the grain, new wine and oil, just like the Israelites. We may not call it that, but we live to celebrate new life.

What do you do, then, when things aren’t going so well? Do you pout and complain? Be honest – you probably do. But we shouldn’t. Even in the lean times, God is still on His throne. He is still with us. We can rest assured that He has not forgotten us and will once again bring in the harvest times.

What are you celebrating today? You can celebrate the fact that Jesus died for your sins. He hung on that cross to bear the sins of the whole world. He rose from that grave and ascended to His heavenly Father. He sits on His right hand interceding for you right now. Now, that’s worth celebrating.

Father, I praise You for giving me life. I praise You for promising life even on the darkest of days.

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Agreement, Bible, Compassion, Encouragement, Forgiveness, God's Will, Perseverance, Redemption, Safety, Scripture, Separation

REUNITED

HOSEA 1:11

“And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for the day of Jezreel will be great.”

Don’t you just love reunions? I have been to a lot of family reunions, both on my side of the family and on my wife’s. There’s just something about going back home to your hometown or to a family home place and seeing relatives you haven’t seen in a while. Hugs and kisses are all around. And it’s not long until the stories start being told about “the good ole days.”

In today’s verse we see a prophetic statement about the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. When they return from their exile, they will be one nation, not two. The people who return will not see themselves as separate people. They will be reunited as one nation. This is as it should be.

APPLICATION

How does this verse relate to us today? We must be united as one in Christ. It doesn’t matter if we have petty differences. We have to come together as one for the cause of Christ. The world is watching the church. They are wondering why the Baptists and Methodists can’t get along. If we all believe Jesus is God’s Son and died for our sins, why can’t we worship as one?

I know we have doctrinal issues among the denominations. Some of those are worth discussing. But many of them really are not crucial. We tend to major on the minors, don’t we? I wonder what could happen in the world if we all came together and worshipped our Lord. I believe revival would break out, don’t you?

How can you be part of this? Reach out to someone from another church. Find your common ground. We have to agree on the basics, of course. But I challenge you to come alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to reach the lost, and that can only be done if we fight together.

Reunite us, God. Bring us together as one to battle the enemy and proclaim the good news of Christ.

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Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Courage, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Enemies, Evil, Following, Gossip, Mentoring, Opponents, Parenting, Perseverance, Scripture

MOCKERS WILL COME

2 PETER 3:3

“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,” 

Peter makes it plain. Mockers will come. To get technical, the verb used here in the Greek is future indicative. That means that it is a fact that they will come at some point. There is no doubt. We have seen that for decades and are seeing it today everywhere. If you believe the Word of God is THE truth, you are made fun of and ridiculed.

The word “mockers” or “mocking” comes from the word which means to play as a child. So, these mockers are actually acting like children. Just because they don’t like what the Word says, they make fun of it, just like a child will do to another child. So, keep that in mind when you encounter one of these mockers. Their childish words mean nothing.

APPLICATION

Oh, what a verse for kids, especially since we just discussed the meaning of that word “mockers.” The next time you hear your children or their friends mocking each other, pull them aside and read them this verse and explain the meaning. I didn’t mention the last phrase of the verse, but it can come into play here when you discuss it with your kids.

Mockers mock because they want to pursue their own “lusts.” They want what they want when they want it. All that matters are their own desires. Basically, they just want their own way, and if anyone gets in their way, they are going to run them over. They did it back then and are still doing it today.

Have you been mocked lately? No? Well, maybe you haven’t been living much different than the world. Ouch, that’s harsh isn’t it? I’m not trying to be mean. But if the world doesn’t see us as different, why not? We should stand out like a sore thumb in our world today. And when they ask why, we should be ready to tell them why we are different. Be willing to be mocked today. Remember, those words are just childish words. We have the real Words of life.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word. Thank You for giving me the courage to stand up against those who would ridicule and mock You.

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Accountability, Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commitment, Encouragement, Foundation, Inspirational, Mentoring, Obedience, Parenting, Perseverance, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

WELL-PLEASED

2 PETER 1:17

“For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’”

Peter heard these words spoken by God Himself at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain (Matthew 17:1-8). At the time he heard that he fell on his face trembling. We would probably do the same if a voice from heaven speak to us. And Peter believed the voice. He listened to Jesus and followed Him.

Let me ask you a question. Is He well-pleased with you? Well, sure He is, Carl. I go to church, give my tithe and try to be nice to everyone. Is that what Jesus did as the Son of Man? No! Jesus surrendered His life as a sacrifice for all mankind. Now, we can’t save mankind, but we can live a sacrificial life for others.

APPLICATION

Have you told your children lately how pleased you are with them? They really need to hear that. Give them opportunities to do things well. Don’t set the bar so high that they can’t possibly succeed. Children need small wins first. Things like teaching them to pick up their toys and bragging on them when it’s done are important.

And they are going to need spiritual wins. That, of course, starts with a firm foundation which you have laid with Scripture and prayer. When they pray for something and see that prayer answered, tell them how pleased you are that they trusted the Lord with that. When you observe them putting their faith into action by taking part in that mission outreach, make sure you tell them how pleased you are. They need to hear you say that again and again.

So, let me ask you again. Is He well-pleased with you? What have you done in the name of Christ to merit that? I am NOT saying we have to DO things to earn His love. He loves us unconditionally. We do things because of His love. And in return we can hear Him say This is my child with whom I am well-pleased. How sweet is that?

I want to please You, Lord. I want to hear those words from You. Forgive me for not being more obedient when You clearly give me opportunities.

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Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Faithfulness, Foundation, Inspirational, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Perseverance, Safety, Scripture, Surrender

SURE-FOOTED

2 PETER 1:10

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;”

I have never worked with donkeys, but I am told they are much more sure-footed than horses. Maybe because they are shorter and lower to the ground. Whatever the reason, they are less likely to stumble in rough terrain. God gave them that ability. Hmmm.

Peter tells us in today’s verse that if we do what God tells us to do, we will NEVER stumble. Did you get that? As long as we are practicing God’s principles and living according to His Word, we won’t stumble. How is that possible? Because He blazes the trail for us. He leads us along the right path even when the terrain is dangerous and wild.

APPLICATION

Why don’t you take your child on a hike this week? Choose the path carefully, but then mix it up with a few challenges. These will require you holding their hand or perhaps even carrying them. Talk to them carefully during these hard spots. Don’t worry, baby, I’ve got you. Don’t be scared, daddy’s got you.

You can see the application here, can’t you? When you get through with the hike, talk about this verse. Explain to them that in the same way you protected them on your hike, God will protect them on their journey with Him. They just have to trust Him to hold their hands and even carry them during the hard times.

Are you walking shakily on rough terrain right now? Trust Him. Call out to Him. He’s waiting to carry you, if you will let Him. When you walk through the valleys He’s there. When you walk along the mountain tops, He’s there. Just look!

O Lord, I praise You for Your strong arms and hands. I trust You to carry me.

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Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Direction, Encouragement, Gifts, Inspirational, Mentoring, Parenting, Perseverance, Scripture, Self-control

BLIND MAN

2 PETER 1:9

“For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” 

Have you ever known a blind person? I have known a few and most of them have developed incredible skills to overcome their blindness. In fact, some of them count their blindness as a gift. Now, I can’t understand that. But they have become accustomed to not being able to see.

Peter warns us here that if we are not developing these God-given qualities in verses 5-7, we are spiritually blind. We are short-sighted. We can’t see down the road. And the sad thing is many people don’t even know it. They have focused so long on their sins and troubles that they can’t see what God has for them.

APPLICATION

Do you have some binoculars lying around? Perhaps your children have used a pair before. Get your kids outside in an open field or park with a pair. Set up a few objects (balls, frisbees, balloons) some distance away. Then ask your children if they can see the objects well with just their eyes.

Then bring out the binoculars. Help them focus them so they can see those faraway objects. Explain this verse is kind of talking about that in a spiritual way. When we gain self-control and perseverance and the other qualities mentioned in verses 5-7, we are better able to see the path the Lord has for us. It is the Lord who gives us the ability to see, just like those binoculars gave them the ability to see further.

Are you blind and short-sighted? Do you focus only on your immediate surroundings and problems? Let Jesus open your eyes to the journey He has for you. Read verses 5-7 again and see which qualities you need to work on to give your eyes the ability to see.

I once was blind, but now I see. Thanks for opening my eyes and increasing my sight.

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