Accountability, Advocate, Bible, Consequences, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Heaven, Hell, Judgment, Obedience, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture

DECISIONS

JOEL 3:14

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

I have mentioned in this blog site several times that I worked over thirty years in the child welfare field. Most of those years were spent in administration. In those roles I had to supervise staff as well as deal with the children in crisis. Decisions were a daily thing, and sometimes those decisions had to be made quickly and decisively. I didn’t have time to mull it over. Thank the Lord, most of the time I decided correctly.

Here we are in Joel 3:14 at “the valley of decision.” The Hebrew word for “decision” can mean sharp-pointed or strict decision. Of course, Joel says this is “the day of the Lord” which refers to a day of judgment. Also, the word “multitude” has an interesting meaning. It can mean murmur or roar. You can almost hear the crowds of nations gathered around. It was literally a sea of humanity.

APPLICATION

Have you made the most important decision of your life? There is no bigger one than asking Jesus to be your Savior. This decision will not only change your life. It will also change your eternity. Before making that decision, your eternity was set. You were doomed to an eternal hell with no hope, separated from God. But once you make that decision, your new eternity rests in glory, the dwelling place of God.

How many people do you know right now will be facing the “day of the Lord” without that hope of glory? Judgment day is a certain thing. And God’s judgment on that day will be like some of my decisions I had to make – swift and decisive. The difference between His judgment and my decisions is His is always right. He always judges correctly.

Aren’t you glad you know Him? If you do, the day of the Lord holds no fear for you. Your destiny is safely in the hands of Jesus, literally. The scars in Jesus’ hands points to the fact of His death and sacrifice for you. Don’t you want to share that with someone else? Do that today.

I am so thankful, Lord, that judgment day holds no fear for me. I am confident of my place in heaven.

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Accountability, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Forgiveness, Grace, Heaven, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Salvation, Scripture, Separation

HORRIBLE OFFENSES

JOEL 3:3

“They have also cast lots for My people, traded a boy for a prostitute, and sold a girl for wine so that they may drink. 

The illegal sex trade of boys and girls is rampant in many parts of the world. It’s hard to believe that people could be so cold-hearted to sell little boys and girls into the sex trade. Having worked now over 42 years with children and youth, it especially breaks my heart. Only the Lord can change the heart of these sex traders.

This was one of the offenses of the nations God is judging. Not only did they defeat the Judeans, but they would trade or sell the children for anything. Here in this verse it says “a boy for a prostitute” and “a girl for wine.” How callous! How demeaning. The Lord did not overlook that. He held them responsible for these heinous crimes against humanity.

APPLICATION

We may not be committing such offenses against the Lord, but our sins are just as bad in the eyes of a holy God. I have often described our sins this way. Pretend you are flying over a city on a clear day. You can look down and see all the buildings below. From your altitude you can’t tell the height of the individual buildings. They may be one story or thirty. All you can see is the roof top.

Similarly, our sins in the eyes of God all look the same. They all end with the same result – separation from God. As a believer in Christ, those sins are forgiven but still need to be confessed. If you are an unbeliever, you need to come to Christ for salvation because any of those sins can keep you away from spending eternity with Jesus. Sin is sin – period.

I am so thankful my sins are forgiven. I try each day to live in such a way to honor my Lord. I don’t want my sins to come between me and my Savior. Daily confession for me is the key. I come before Him daily to cleanse my soul of any sins I may have committed that day. I don’t want any barriers in my line of communication with Jesus. Won’t you try that?

Thank You, Lord, for keeping my sins forgiven as I come to You daily. I know they were forgiven at the cross, but You desire for me to come to You to confess them. I will do that.

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Belief, Bible, Calling, Confession, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Faith, Following, God's Will, Humility, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture

EVERYONE WHO CALLS

JOEL 2:32

“‘And it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, just as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.’”

You’ve probably have seen an action movie where the bad guys are looking for someone. This person is hiding and refusing to make a sound. All of a sudden the good guys show up and get rid of the bad guys. When they try to find the person hiding, they are still refusing to come out since they are not sure who is trying to coax them out of their hiding place. If they don’t come out, they won’t be saved.

Joel is telling the Judeans that if you come to God, you will be saved. Everyone who calls on His name will be saved. Isn’t that awesome? We see this message echoed throughout Scripture. All we have to do to be saved is call on His name. Joel knew this and wanted everyone else to know that too. Just call on His name.

APPLICATION

All you have to do is call on His name. Have you done that? If not, He’s waiting. Each Sunday when I am leading Children’s Church where I serve, I tell the children the same thing. I tell them if the Lord is talking to you (and you will know it if He is), just call on Him. I walk them through the sinner’s prayer in which they call on His name.

So many are lost today just because they refuse to call on Him. They will call on everyone else but not Him. They don’t want to bow to Him. They don’t want to surrender. They don’t want to humble themselves before a holy God. But you can’t come to Him with a proud, arrogant heart. That won’t work.

I am so glad I made that decision back on July 31, 1977. I was a proud and arrogant young man. I knew coming to Him meant brokenness. But I came to Him. I called on His name. I knew about God, but I didn’t know Him. That evening I began my journey to know Him. I am still learning. He is such a big God. There is so much to know. Will you join in learning more about Him?

Lord, I am so grateful when I called on Your name, You answered. You were waiting for me.

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Bible, Brokenness, Confession, Encouragement, Forgiveness, God's Will, Guilt, Judgment, Redemption, Repentance, Scripture

EVERYONE COME

JOEL 2:16

“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Have the groom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber.

Homecoming in most Baptist churches are times when everyone comes back to celebrate the founding of the church. Special guests are invited. There is usually dinner on the grounds. Now, if you’ve never experienced that before, you’ve missed out. Food galore! And that fried chicken – yum!

Joel isn’t calling everyone to a homecoming. He is calling everyone to repentance. I mean everyone. No one is to be excluded. Look at the list. It lists babies all the way up to the elders. Not even a newly married couple on the day of their marriage is to be exempt. The entire nation needs to repent.

APPLICATION

God is calling you to repent. Can you hear Him? If you are an unbeliever hearing this for the first time, take a minute and get quiet. Ask the Lord if He wants you. I guarantee He will say yes. It is His will that all be saved. Listen closely. He won’t scream it out. He will call you by name. Do you hear your name?

If you are a believer, He is calling you to return to Him or go deeper with Him. He desires a relationship with you that is more than token prayers and a few dollars in the offering plate. He desires intimacy with you. That only comes through repentance. As it says in Psalm 51, “Cleanse me with hyssop, wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

I want that kind of relationship with my Father. In fact, I have that kind of relationship. I seek that. Do I do that as I should every day? Not hardly, but that is my desire. I’m like you – a sinful creature in need of a Savior – everyday. I know the Lord knows my heart and will hear my cries to Him.

O Lord, forgive me. Wash me and cleanse me. I want to walk with You in perfect fellowship.

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Battles, Choices, Cleansing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

INFESTED

JOEL 2:9

“They storm the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”

Once, when I lived in Florida, our house became infested with ticks. We noticed a couple climbing up the wall in our den one night and killed them. The next day we saw more and killed them, but they just kept coming. We had the house sprayed a few times before they were finally contained. But they were everywhere. It was pretty creepy to live in.

The locusts Joel is describing here that came as part of God’s judgment on Judah were everywhere. One commentator’s description talked about them eating everything in the house, even clothing. The people had no rest from them. They couldn’t eat without battling them for the food. Can you imagine the scene? It must have been horrible.

APPLICATION

Sin is that way. It creeps in and infests our lives. If we do not deal with it quickly it will affect every area of our lives. We may think we can keep it isolated, but we can’t. It spreads. It penetrates even our most guarded areas. Sin seeps in and begins to cause decay. Just like those locusts in today’s verse, sin will devour everything in its path.

But we have the solution – Jesus. His blood covers all those sins. We will never be free from the presence of sin this side of glory. However, we do not have to live chained to sin. We have the power to live above it. We can close the windows and doors of our lives to its penetrating power through the Holy Spirit. His power trumps sin’s power every time.

So, you have a choice. You can choose to live in the stench of sin or in the aroma of our Savior. That’s pretty much a no brainer, if you ask me. I choose Jesus. I know He is my protector and defender. I trust Him to cover my sins with His precious blood. I am free because of that. How about you?

O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus! O, the blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow!

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Accountability, Affliction, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Destruction, Forgiveness, God's Will, Judgment, Modeling, Obedience, Praise, Redemption, Scripture

JUDGMENT CONSEQUENCES

JOEL 1:5

“Awake, you heavy drinkers, and weep; and wail, all you wine drinkers, because of the sweet wine, for it has been eliminated from your mouth.”

You need to read verse 4 to understand the title for today’s devotional. As a result of the locusts destroying all the vegetation in the land, there would be no wine, thus the title. But if you think about it, isn’t that true of our sin. Some sins show immediate consequences. Other sins may not show the consequences until later. But they all have the same result. They eliminate the “sweet wine” from our mouth. God’s blessings.

Judah had sinned. Judgment was sure. The nation was going to suffer the consequences of years of rebellion against Jehovah. God can and will use nature to bring His judgment. In this case, He used the locust to strip the land of all vegetation, thus eliminating all their crops, including their vineyards. I am sure many cried out for their wine, without considering the cause of this.

APPLICATION

What sin are you suffering from right now? What sin are you covering up? Carl, I don’t have any of those. Perhaps not. Perhaps you are clean before the Lord. I pray so. But most of us can’t say that. We don’t need to wait for the locusts to come and rob of us of the “sweet wine.” We need to confess those sins which block us from receiving God’s blessings.

May I encourage you today to stop whining about what God is not doing for you and start praising Him for all He has done. We are all too quick to complain and slow to praise. Psalm 33:1 is a great verse to remind us of this. “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous one; Praise is becoming to the upright.” Sing today!

I had much rather sing for joy than whine in bitterness. It just feels better. I had much rather enjoy the sweet wine of God’s blessings that suffer through the locusts. The only way I can do that is stay pure before God. I need to confess all my sins. I need to bow humbly before my Lord. Will you join me today?

Thank You, Lord, for consequences that remind me of my sins. I come to You today begging for forgiveness and mercy.

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Apologies, Asking, Bible, Brokenness, Confession, Forgiveness, Redemption, Repentance, Salvation, Scripture, Sin

IT TAKES WORDS

HOSEA 14:2

Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all guilt and receive us graciously, so that we may present the fruit of our lips.’”

Apologizing to someone can be quite humiliating. Depending on what you are apologizing for, it can be hard to get the words out. I’ve known people who just couldn’t say they were sorry. It seemed impossible for them to form those words with their mouth. But to truly apologize you must. You have to tell that person just how sorry you are for whatever it was you did or said. Anything less just isn’t an apology.

Hosea gives Israel some good advice here. “Take words with you.” In other words, tell the Lord that you are sorry for your sins. Tell Him you want forgiveness. Tell Him you need Him. Israel was stubborn and rebellious, though. They thought they were okay just because they were God’s chosen. But God’s chosen can fall short too.

APPLICATION

When’s the last time you came humbly before your Lord asking for forgiveness? I pray it was today. You need to do this every day. I am reminded of David’s words at the end of Psalm 139. He asks the Lord to search him and show him his sins so he can confess them to Him. Have you ever done that? Try it.

I practice the ACTS method in praying. It’s just my habit. A-Adoration, C-Confession, T-Thanksgiving, S-Supplication. This method keeps me focused in my prayer time. Do you know what I’ve found out by doing this? When I spend all that time in adoration, confession and thanksgiving, I have less supplication. It’s more about me talking to God than asking from Him.

Will you join me in prayer today asking the Lord to reveal to you the sins you have tucked away? Come to Him in humility asking Him to cleanse you. As Hosea said to Israel, take words with you and return to the Lord. And come knowing He is waiting to receive you. He wants you to come home.

Father, forgive me today of those sins I have committed against You. Forgive me and cleanse me so that I can be Your vessel to be used to advance Your kingdom here on earth.

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Accountability, Bible, Blameless, Confession, Devil, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Guilt, Prayer, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Testimony

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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Bible, Death, Encouragement, Eternity, God's Will, Heaven, Judgment, Obedience, Promises, Redemption, Scripture

DISAPPEARING

HOSEA 13:3 

“Therefore they will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor, and like smoke from a chimney.” 

Here in the Tennessee Valley, it is not uncommon to have low morning clouds that cover our mountains. A lot people like to drive up Lookout Mountain and welcome the day above the clouds. It doesn’t take long though, for the clouds to burn off to reveal the valley below. Those clouds are beautiful but fleeting. 

Hosea paints the same picture of Israel. Under Jeroboam it was a glistening nation, ripe with promise. But because of their continual sins, the nation quickly vanished just like the morning cloud and dew, just like chaff which is blown away and smoke from a chimney. All of these are quick to disappear. How sad, when all they had to do was obey Jehovah’s Law and worship Him. 

APPLICATION 

We don’t want our lives to disappear too quickly. We want to be around for a while. There are things we can do to assist in that. We can eat healthier. We can take our medications when prescribed. We can avoid situations where our lives are put at risk. But none of those things can guarantee a long life. There is only one person who can guarantee that – God. 

Now, just because we trust our lives to God doesn’t mean we will live to be in our 80’s or 90’s. God knows the number of our days. What we have to come to understand is when the Lord calls us home, that constitutes our long life. We have lived as long as He has planned. That could be short in the eyes of the Lord. But God does not make mistakes. He calls us home when we are ready, no sooner, no later. 

I had a friend die yesterday at 60. That’s young. In fact, that’s my age. I was surprised, shocked to say the least. But she was a believer and loved Jesus. She is in her heavenly home. And although her death caught us all by surprise, it did not surprise God. He was ready for her to come home. We will miss her, but we shall see her again. Welcome home, my friend. 

Though my days may be fleeting, I shall trust You, Lord. I long to be with You. 

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Abiding, Affection, Bible, Blessing, Death, Encouragement, Fellowship, God's Will, Heaven, Judgment, Promises, Redemption, Reward, Salvation, Sanctification, Scripture

AND DIED

HOSEA 13:1 

“When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he incurred guilt and died.” 

My parents have both died. We grieved. We were heartbroken. Death seems to be so…final. But for a believer, it isn’t. My parents loved Jesus. We know they were instantly carried into the arms of Jesus. We did not “lose” them. We know exactly where they are and long to join them one day. 

Ephraim also died, but his death wasn’t so joyful. Ephraim had rebelled against God and was proud of themselves. They had invited Baal and Ashtoreth into their land. They had built elaborate temples for them both. His trembling wasn’t in humility. That would have been appropriate. Judgment was sure and certain. 

APPLICATION 

Pride certainly comes before the fall. How do we guard against being so prideful, like Ephraim? Our natural tendency is to be boastful and full of ourselves. That’s our sin nature. We fight that our entire lives. Outside the grace of God, we have no hope. 

But thanks be to God, through Jesus we can come before the throne of God and bow. Because of Christ’s shed blood we have forgiveness. Now, our trembling is in humility and gratefulness. We recognize God’s preeminence in our lives. We are nothing without Him. He gives us purpose. 

I want that, don’t you? I desire to be held in His arms and loved. My parents walked into their heavenly reward the day they died. Christ’s warm embrace enveloped them. And as they entered, I am sure they heard those words we all long to hear. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” 

Father, thank You for welcoming my parents. Love them well. 

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