Advocate, Belief, Bible, Blessing, Encouragement, Protection, Scripture

STRONGHOLD

JOEL 3:16

The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the LORD is a refuge for His people, and a stronghold for the sons of Israel.

Isn’t it amazing how a person’s perception of something can be so different than someone else’s perception? They can see the exact same event and come to very different conclusions. For instance, I watched the Atlanta Braves win the National League Championship last night. I thought it was the best thing ever. But I bet there were Los Angeles Dodger fans watching who thought it was awful. Same event-different perceptions.

In today’s verse, the enemies of Judah would be terrified when they heard the Lion of Judah roar. Their earth would quake in fear. But…there’s that word – but. A conjunction that leads to a change in thought. But the Lord looks different to His people. He is their refuge and stronghold. How reassuring is that?

APPLICATION

What is your stronghold? Do you even know what that is? It’s a place of safety, a harbor. Now, who doesn’t need that? We all need someone or someplace we can go for protection. You may be thinking Carl, I don’t need that. I can take care of myself. Oh really? If you haven’t faced the day yet when you need it, you will. We all do, sooner or later.

The beautiful thing about God being our stronghold is He will never stop being that for us. He will always be there. No storm is too big for Him. No trial that comes our way is above His head. He can protect and defend you. The doors to His stronghold are impenetrable. You are safe and secure.

Who doesn’t want that? I sure do, and I don’t see that as a weakness. I see it as a strength. I know my limitations. I know, without the Lord Jesus, I would fall flat on my face. I need God as my stronghold and refuge. Proverbs 18:10 says “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” That’s where I want to be. How about you?

I will run to You, O Lord. You are my stronghold and refuge.

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Affliction, Battles, Bible, Courage, Devil, Enemies, Fighting, Grace, Protection

THE TRAP IS SET

JOEL 3:11

Hurry and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down, LORD, Your warriors.

Do you remember hiding from your friends outside when you were growing up, only to spring out of your hiding place and scaring them? I sure do. We would play in the woods around my house and in the bushes in the yard. I have even been known to make sounds to draw them in. Boy, I loved scaring them. I know, it sounds mean. But it was all in fun.

Not so much in today’s verse. Joel is calling in all the enemies of Judah. He wanted them to come close. And when they were all there, surrounding Judah, he calls on God to send down His warriors to destroy them. Essentially the net was cast, and they were all caught. Only then did they realize they were in trouble.

APPLICATION

Have you ever felt like the net was cast on you? The devil will lure you in with the temptations of the world. He will tempt you to come closer and closer until…snap! Then you are caught in a snare of sin. You feel there is no escape. You feel helpless.

Stop that! When you sense the devil is drawing you away from the safety of Jesus, stop. Retreat back to where you know you have protection. Put your armor on. Submit to God and then you can tell the devil to flee. He can’t lure you in because you belong to someone mightier and stronger.

I am so glad I belong to my Master. There are no nets strong enough to capture me. I am a warrior of the King. Satan has no power over me. Amen? You have the same power. You just have to walk in it. You’ve heard it said that we walk from victory, not to victory. We are already victorious. Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for protecting me. You draw my enemies in to destroy them.

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Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Devil, Enemies, Faithfulness, Fighting, Protection, Salvation, Satan, Scripture

PREPARE FOR BATTLE

JOEL 3:10

Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak man say, “I am a warrior.”

I’ve never been to war. I’ve only had two fistfights in my life (both in high school before I came to Christ). So, the concept of gearing up for combat is foreign to me. I have known several men who bravely fought for our country. I respect them all. Their courage is admirable. They each had to prepare themselves for war, including getting the right arsenal.

Joel is telling the Judeans to get ready. Take whatever you have and make weapons. Plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears. They had to have weapons to fight the enemy when they arrived. This passage may sound familiar. It’s the exact opposite of what you will read in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3. Take a minute and read those passages. But Joel is preparing for war, not peace.

APPLICATION

Are you prepared to fight the battles that are before you? Do you have the weapons you need? If you are a believer in Christ, you have everything you need to battle your adversary, the devil. God’s Word is the sword to wield. Your faith is the shield to protect you from his fiery darts. Your helmet of salvation guards your mind from any thoughts he might throw your way.

You see, you have the weapons. The question is are you ready to fight. The devil comes out each day with one goal – to defeat us. He wants to lay us out. He cannot stand it when we read the Bible and pray. He hates it when we share our faith with others. He will try anything to stop that. Don’t let him. Fight back.

I have learned lately just how determined he is. He has thrown all sorts of things in my path to try to discourage me. He wants me to lie down and quit. He cannot take away my salvation, but he can sure take me out of the fight – if I let him. But I won’t! Will you join me in the fight?

I am ready to follow You, Lord, wherever You lead. I trust You as my Commander in Chief.

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Advice, Affliction, Battles, Bible, Devil, Encouragement, Enemies, Following, Opponents, Protection, Satan, Scripture, Soldiers

TIME FOR WAR

JOEL 3:9

Proclaim this among the nations:

Prepare for holy war; stir up the warriors!

Have all the soldiers come forward, have them come up!

The United States just ended their longest war in history. We finally withdrew from Afghanistan after twenty years. Many say we should have never gone to war. That can be debated. The fact is we went and were there for twenty long years. In a way, this was also a holy war. We were fighting to protect our nation and our way of living from a group of people who are determined to destroy us. Their religion calls for the termination of all “infidels.”

So, in a way, we can relate to this verse today. Joel is calling for Judah to prepare for battle. A day is coming when they will be fighting a holy war against the nations. Judah, which is part of the nation of Israel today, has been preparing for war since that day. They are still preparing today. Every young person in Israel has to serve a period of time in the military. They are prepared.

APPLICATION

The question I have for us today is: Are we? Are we prepared to fight a holy war? Now, I don’t mean a physical war with physical weapons, even though that may be required one day. I mean, do we have the divine weapons in our arsenal to fight the battles we face every day against Satan? That is a holy war we fight every day, and if we aren’t armed properly, Satan will eat our lunch.

You need to read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 today. It will remind you that you do indeed have the weapons you need to fight the battle. But with any weapon, you first have to pick it up and then you have to know how to wield it. That takes practice. That takes time. I am glad you are reading this devotional blog today, but don’t let this be your quiet time. Let this inspire you to dig deeper in your quiet time.

I write this blog as part of my quiet time each day, but I also try to dig deeper in another passage. I need to know all I can to fight the battle. I spend time every day memorizing and reviewing passages. I want to keep my mind sharp when I need to recall a passage to protect my thoughts. It’s a battle, folks, each and every day. Don’t forget that.

O God, I am so glad You have given me divine weapons to demolish strongholds. I am thankful I can learn Your Word to fight off my enemy.

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SILVER AND GOLD

JOEL 3:5

“Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples,”

Everything that I have belongs to the Lord. Every shirt, chair, car, etc. I learned a while back to give it all to Him. By doing so, they are His responsibility, not mine. So, when something breaks or has to be replaced, I tell the Lord that He needs to replace His item. He has been faithful to do that for all these years.

Philistia had come in and robbed the people of their silver and gold. At this time, they had not touched the silver and gold of the temple. He is referring to the wealth of the people which had been taken away. Their wealth belonged to the Lord. Taking it was taking from Him. The Philistines took it and brought it to their temples and dedicated it to their Gods. The Lord was not happy about that.

APPLICATION

What are your “robbing” the Lord of right now? Don’t you realize that all you have belongs to the Lord. As a believer, we need to dedicate it all to Him. We don’t have the right to do with as we wish. Only He does. So, if He chooses to take it away, we have to be okay with this. If He chooses to bless us with more, that’s His choice as well.

Take a moment and look at all you have. Say a prayer of dedication for it all. This releases you from having to worry about your stuff. God will protect His stuff a lot better than you can. He can replace things easier than you can. Silver and gold are like pennies to Him. Trust Him with it.

I think I have told the story of our washing machine while we lived in Florida. To make this short, it died and needed replacing. I went to the Lord and said, “It’s yours, God. You know our need. I trust You to get us a new one.” Within the week, someone gave us a new matching set. Ain’t God good?

Thank You, Lord, for blessing me with all You have given me. I place it all in Your hands.

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Abiding, Advocate, Bible, Courage, Encouragement, Listening, Modeling, Protection, Scripture

THE SOUNDS OF JUDGMENT

JOEL 2:5

“With a noise as of chariots they leap about on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble, like a mighty people drawn up for battle.”

Every seventeen years Cicadas make their descent on Tennessee. This year was one of those years. What is a Cicada? It’s an insect that looks like a huge, superfly. The biggest thing about Cicadas is the noise they make. Their mating call can reach 95 decibels. Compare that to an overhead plane that is around 80 decibels. When these Cicadas hatch in the thousands, you can imagine the noise. It can be quiet deafening.

So, I can imagine the noise of the swarms of locusts described here in Joel 2:5. Their noise must have been something for the people of Judah. The approaching swarms could be heard from as far away as six miles. That had to be quite scary for the little ones. An unseen noise that got louder and louder must have been terrifying.

APPLICATION

What noises scare you? Are you one of those who hears every little sound at night and jumps up to check all the doors and windows? My wife is a light sleeper. She hears every little sound. Me – I can sleep through a hurricane, lol. Things that go bump in the night do keep a lot of people awake. Some people are just restless. Others are just plain scared.

Matthew 11:28-30 comes to mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Do you believe that? Then rest in Him. He guards your soul. He is your great protector. Don’t let the noises of this world scare you.

I know I can rest in Him. I do need to be mindful to lock my windows and doors, but I can trust Jesus to protect me. When I lay down at night, I can truly say that I trust Him to keep me and my wife safe. That’s why I can rest so well. He is in charge. He never sleeps. He is watching over my well-being twenty-four seven. What a relief!

Thank You, Lord, for watching over me. Your watchful eyes are moving to and fro thoughout the whole world.

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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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Abiding, Advice, Appeasement, Bible, Commands, Commitment, Devil, Encouragement, Eternity, Following, Kings, Loyalty, Obedience, Protection, Scripture

GIVE ME A KING

HOSEA 13:10

“Where then is your king, that he might save you in all your cities; and your judges, to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’?”

We always want what we don’t have. It seems we are never satisfied. I can remember when I was a young boy, I always wanted the new toy that someone else had. I just had to have it. I would save up my money until I had enough to buy it. And when I finally had the money and bought it, the thrill lasted about a week. Then I wanted something else.

Hosea is referring to such a time in the life of Israel. Do you remember it? They cried out for a king like the other nations. They were disregarding the fact that God was their King. They needed no other. But the cried out for one, so God gave them Saul. That didn’t turn out so well, did it?

APPLICATION

Are you crying out for another king? Are you disregarding God’s kingship in your life? Stop it! Jesus is your King. He will lead you wherever you need to go. He will provide for you as no other. But you have to follow Him. You have to obey His edicts. Then He will bless you and keep you.

A king demands obedience. A king expects his people to yield to his voice. Jesus is the same. He is a benevolent King. He is the only King who has died for you. No earthly king would do that. They may send others to die for you, but they would not lay down their own life. Jesus has done that. Isn’t that the kind of king you want?

I will serve King Jesus. We are going to serve someone, Jesus or the devil. I served the devil long enough before I came to Christ. He is never satisfied and impossible to please. I serve Jesus because He is so loving and caring. He is always listening and looking out for me. Why wouldn’t I want to serve Him? How about you?

King of my life, I love You. I will serve You here and in eternity.

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OUR KINGS

HOSEA 11:5

They will not return to the land of Egypt; but Assyria—he will be their king because they refused to return to Me.

I have never lived under a monarchy. I am an American, which means I live under a representative government. We elect our officials. Every four years we elect a President of the United States. Some years the person I vote for wins. In other years, the other candidate wins. That’s the way it works here.

Israel pushed to have their own king (instead of God) and got Saul. Numerous kings came and went over the generations. They eventually got kings from other nations who defeated them. Assyria was one such kingdom that forced their king on them. You have to remember, though, that it was God who allowed these kings to conquer Israel as part of their judgment. It is God who establishes kings and kingdoms.

APPLICATION

We should not complain about our President here in America. We are getting exactly what the Lord allows. Though I may not like the policies of a certain President, I am still told to pray for my leaders. There is a reason for the Lord establishing our current presidential administration. What is He trying to teach us, as believers?

One thing is for sure. We cannot and should not depend on the person sitting in the oval office to solve our problems. God is the only one we can turn to for that. Our politicians, whether President, Senator, Representative or Governor, are just flesh and bones. They are not infallible. They will make mistakes. They need Jesus to guide them.

So, our response to our “kings” has to be one of submission and obedience, unless they attempt to lead us in an unbiblical direction. Then we have a choice to make. For me, I will always choose Jesus. That may get me in trouble one day with the government, but that’s okay. God’s got my back. I can always count on Him. How about you?

Thank You, Lord, for placing people in authority over me whom You wish to use to draw me closer to You. I trust You.

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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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