Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Brokenness, Cleansing, Confession, Forgiveness, Inspirational, Mercy, Prayer, Repentance, Scripture

RETURN TO ME

JOEL 2:12

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;’”

I love to return to places that I have visited in the past, if I enjoyed them the first time. For instance, I am planning to return to Kenya this year. I love my brothers and sisters there. Due to my illness in 2019-20, I have not been there since 2018. My heart literally aches to be there. Would you pray with me that Kenya remains open to travel and our team can make the trip?

I love today’s verse. When the Lord says here for us to return, that implies we have been there before. I look up the Hebrew word for “return.” It literally means to turn back or return. And the verb tense implies some kind of force is involved. He is asking us to forcibly return to Him. Don’t be slow about it. And He says to return with fasting, weeping and mourning. We come back recognizing our sins and asking for forgiveness.

APPLICATION

Fasting, weeping and mourning aren’t things we enjoy doing. It implies brokenness. Are you? Are you broken over your sins? Most of us can strut sitting down. We are too proud to repent. We are too full of ourselves to fast and weep and mourn. But God asks us to come to Him that way.

Let me urge you today to do that. If you are unsure of your sins (I can’t imagine someone not knowing their sins), ask the Lord to reveal them to you. He will, I promise. He has seen your sins. His forgiveness and mercy if ready. Just ask. Our unconfessed sins just serve to separate us from fellowship with our Master. Remove that barrier through confession and repentance.

I am thankful the Lord stands ready to forgive. I know I sin daily through word and/or deed. I long to live a life of godliness free from sin and its influence. Until then, I will come to my Savior and seek cleansing. I will cleanse my hands and purify my heart. I will seek to know Him better through His word.  Return to Him! Are you ready?

Thank You, Father, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.

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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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PROSTRATE

JOEL 1:13

“Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering have been withheld from the house of your God.”

There have been few times in my life when I found myself lying prostrate praying to my God. Times of desperation can drive you there. I don’t need to go into what drove me there. You have probably have had times like that yourself. When you have no answers where do you go? To whom to you go?

Joel is calling on the priests to fall prostrate before their God. Sackcloth is called for. An outward sign for the nation to see was called for. Joel is telling them to show everyone that they, the priests, see their own sin and are confessing it before their Lord.

APPLICATION

Are you desperate for God? What has driven you to lay prostrate before Him? Perhaps you haven’t come to that point yet. You may think you are above that. Listen, no one is. We all have to come to the point of desperation for our sins. We all need to humble ourselves. We do not have the ability to “fix” ourselves.

But, thanks be to God, we know the one who is able to fix us. When we need cleansing, when we need to be lifted, we come to the one who has the power to raise the dead. We come to the one who can reach down and wipe away our tears. We come to the one we can trust with our very lives. He is able. No one else is. When will we all realize that?

I need humility in my life. I am like those other believers who can strut sitting down sometimes. I get full of myself. That is when I am the most vulnerable. I have to confess that as sin and come to my Savior. Will you join me? Come to Him now. He is ready to pick you up once you lay yourself out before Him.

Praise You, Lord, for seeing me. I am always in Your thoughts and You are ready to forgive me.

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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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UNDENIABLE

HOSEA 13:12

The guilt of Ephraim is wrapped up; his sin is stored up.”

You have probably heard the expression “Be sure your sins will find you out.” It’s true! Sooner or later (and later could be eternity), our sins will be exposed. Without divulging my sins to you, I can assure you that has been true in my life. Times when I thought my indiscretions were hidden proved to be false hopes. They always emerge and hopefully lead to confession.

Ephraim could not hide their sins against a holy God. The guilt of their sins was wrapped tight around them. They could not escape. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “guilt” here is avon. It can mean guilt and iniquity, but it can also mean the punishment of iniquity. Their sins had bound them tightly. They could not deny their guilt.

APPLICATION

Are you guilty? Guilt is a tiresome thing. When we feel guilty, we can’t be confident in anything we do. We feel unworthy and even ashamed. As believers we aren’t meant to walk around with guilt. Our sins are forgiven. We need to walk in victory. Satan loves to keep us feeling “less than” so he can have his way with us.

Don’t fall for it. When you sin (and you will), confess that as soon as you can. Immediately go to Jesus and tell Him all about it. We shouldn’t be seeking out sin. That’s not right either. But when we fall, we get back up, dust ourselves off and go to the altar. When we are all confessed up, the guilt melts away. We walk in freedom.

I like that feeling. I can still remember going to the little prayer room we had at my home church in Pelham. It was always open, and I would slip in there quite often to spend time in prayer. After an extended time in prayer, confessing my sins, I would walk out feeling like I had just taken a shower. I felt clean and refreshed. If you haven’t done that lately, may I encourage you  to spend some extra time in prayer. You won’t regret it.

I walk in victory today, Lord, because of Your shed blood. I am guilt free because of You.

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FOOLISH THINKING

HOSEA 12:8

“And Ephraim said, ‘I have certainly become rich, I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they will find in me no wrongdoing, which would be sin.’”

Have you ever gotten away with doing something wrong? You didn’t get caught, so you figured all was well. God didn’t zap you. When that happens, it is very easy to think that you are immune to punishment. Just call yourself “Teflon Joe.” Nothing sticks to you. We both know that is dangerous ground.

Ephraim was saying that about themselves. They were disobedient to God, but them seemingly were still being blessed. They exclaimed, “I have certainly become rich.” They had the midas touch. So, they assumed they were without sin. However, they soon realized that was not true. God’s punishments may be delayed, but they are not going to be withheld forever.

APPLICATION

You may be knee deep in sin right now. God has not disciplined you yet. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit within you is convicting you, but you may be tuning Him out. You figure you will deal with this sin later. You will confess later. You will get right with the Lord later. Listen to me – later is now. It’s time.

Just because the Lord does not immediately discipline us for our sins does not mean He is pleased with us. Sins have consequences. Some are immediate. Others may be delayed, but they all have consequences. Don’t let the devil fool you into thinking God doesn’t care about your sins. He does. He sent His Son to die for them, all of them, past, present and future.

I desire to stay “confessed up.” I don’t want my sins, which are many, to come between me and my Lord. I need that direct line to the Lord open at all times and not full of the static of my unconfessed sins. Don’t you want that too?

Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and grace in my life. Show me my sins so that I can repent and have my fellowship restored.

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ANGEL WRESTLING

HOSEA 12:4

“Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept and implored His favor. He found Him at Bethel, and there He spoke with us,”

When I was growing up with my older brother, Tim, we used to wrestle a lot. I can still hear my mother screaming for us to stop. She hated when we did that. And in all those years, my brother would win. After all, he was over 4 years older than me. Until…he went away to college, and I started seriously lifting weights at school for football. I remember when he came home for Christmas during his freshman year at college. I pinned him. He was shocked. It felt great, lol.

Jacob wrestled the angel “and prevailed.” The angel of God or the man with whom Jacob wrestled is believed by many scholars to be the pre-incarnate Christ. He gave Jacob a new name, Israel, which means he who contends with God. That sounds bad but it isn’t. Jacob was persistent in asking for his blessing, and he received it.

APPLICATION

Have you ever wrestled with God? I don’t mean like my brother and I used to do. Have you wrestled with Him in prayer? There is nothing wrong with getting intense during your prayer time. When we do that we really have God’s ear. We already have it, but He knows when we are intense. He can feel our passion.

I want to encourage you to make a plan to do that. I am sure you have something which you need to come to the Father about. Maybe it’s something you have been praying about for years. Go to Him and don’t let go until you hear. God’s answers are always right on time. You need to pray expectantly, knowing He will answer, just like He did with Jacob.

Prayer for me is intimate. I love talking to my Lord. There have been times when I wrestled with Him over things. God has never let me down. He has always come through. He will for you also, if you trust Him with it. Are you ready to wrestle?

I am so thankful You hear my prayers when I wrestle with You. Give me the wisdom to wait on You.

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REPAYMENT

HOSEA 12:2

“The LORD also has a case against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds.”

You’ve heard all about paybacks, haven’t you? It’s when someone has done you wrong, and you get them back later. I’ve known people who wait weeks or even months to do that. They want that payback to really hurt that person. They plan every detail so that person knows exactly what is happening. Sounds cruel. Well, it is.

God is not that way. He is not plotting against Judah. He is simply holding them accountable for their “deeds.” Sin has consequences. Judah knew that, but they chose to sin anyway. I am sure they cried and bellyached about God’s discipline. However, God had to deal with their sin.

APPLICATION

Aren’t you glad Jesus has already paid the price for you? If you have received Him as your Lord and Savior, the repayment is done. Jesus took care of that for you. I love Psalm 103:10. It says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Whew!

My sins are many. If I counted up all my sins in just one year, it would stagger you. But I bet yours are the same. Then can you imagine if everyone’s sins were totaled? That number would be astronomical. But that’s what Jesus died for. His sacrifice took care of all those sins. We only have to come to Him and accept the free gift of salvation.

I am glad that on July 31, 1977 I did that. I have been far from perfect since then, but I know my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Do you know that for certain? You can. I pray today you will make sure of that. The freedom you can experience in knowing that is incredible. Come to Him today.

I am free because of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You, Lord, for saving me.

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VERY LIGHT DIET

HOSEA 12:1

“Ephraim feeds on wind and pursues the east wind continually; he multiplies lies and violence. Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria, and oil is brought to Egypt.”

I just got back from visiting my older brother in the hospital. He was in bad shape but is bouncing back. However, while I was there his hospital diet was very light. In fact, the first day I was there it consisted of nothing, not even water. Now, that’s a light diet. He did finally get some water and even some coffee, but that won’t sustain you long.

Ephraim had a light diet, too. Hosea said they fed on the wind. That east wind was horrible. It was dry and dusty. Hosea goes on to say Ephraim kept sinning and seeking help in all the wrong places. After all they had been through, they still sought help from anyone but God. How sad!

APPLICATION

We are the same way, aren’t we? We try to fix things ourselves. We try to manage things. Or we ask people to help who we shouldn’t ask. Why do we do that? All we need to do is turn to the Father. He has all the answers. He knows how to “fix” it. We need to stop feeding on the “light, windy diet” and turn to Him.

What happens when you do that? When you turn to the Lord through His Word and prayer, He directs you exactly where you need to be. He points out your sins, so you can repent and regain fellowship with Him. When you listen to the Holy Spirit, instead of the world, you are led down the right path.

My brother’s diet can’t remain as it was when I left the hospital. He would not get healthy on water and coffee. He will have to get nourishment again. And the source of that nourishment isn’t himself or outside the hospital. The hospital will give him what he needs when he’s ready for it. That sounds just like God, doesn’t it?

Thank You, Lord, for providing for me. I will feed on Your Word and allow it to nourish my soul.

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ALTARS OF SIN

HOSEA 8:11

“Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin, they have become altars of sinning for him.”

I’ve never built an altar. Have you? It seems people do it all the time. You are probably thinking, What are you talking about?Altars are places of worship. People are bowing down all the time to things. They are putting their attention and time on priorities other than God.

Israel had built altars to all sorts of pagan gods. Altars, altars everywhere. And with all these altars they were sinning, sinning against a holy God. And they were not thinking anything about this. They were chasing after the gods of their pagan neighbors and turning their backs on Jehovah.

APPLICATION

What are you pursuing? What are you bowing before? You may not think you have altars in your life. You may think you are doing all the right things. But if you aren’t bowing only to Jesus, you have just built an altar. Your altar may not look like the ones the Israelites built, but it’s still an altar.

You are sacrificing your time on your false altars. You are sacrificing your money on those altars. Those altars are robbing you of your devotion to your Lord. Examine your life right now. Take a moment and look at where you are spending your time and money. Ask the Lord if you have built a false altar. He will tell you.

I will bow only to Him. There is nothing as important as spending time with Jesus. Time in His word and time in prayer have to be my number one priority spiritually. I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have time for my quiet time in the morning. I can’t say I just don’t have time to pray. I will turn to Him first each day. Will you join me?

Thank You, Lord, for allowing me the privilege to worship You. I desire to bow before You every day to honor and glorify You.

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