Abiding, Agreement, Asking, Bible, Doubts, Encouragement, Faith, God's Will, Modeling, Obedience, Prayer, Scripture, Submission

THE LORD RELENTED

AMOS 7:3

“The LORD relented of this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.”

All my life I have been told that prayers can change things. I had always just accepted that as fact. I mean, why else should we pray? Yes, we acknowledge God as our Savior and Creator. We praise Him for who He is. We confess our sins to Him. And then we make our requests to Him. But why bother with that last step unless we believe we can change things with our prayers.

Amos cried out to God in verse 2, and it says in verse 3 that God relented. What does that mean? It means God changed His mind. Further punishment was withheld. God decided to not do what He had planned to do. Amos’ prayer moved God to change. Wow! Do you believe that is still possible?

APPLICATION

I believe with all my heart that is possible. I believe with all my heart that as I pray, submitting myself to His will, that He will hear my voice, bend His ear to earth and answer my prayer. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says not now. And other times He says yes.

I don’t know why He doesn’t always answer yes. I won’t know that until I am in heaven. But I am thankful for the times He does says yes. I don’t understand the mind of God. Who can? We have such finite minds. God works on a whole different realm than we do. I have to trust that.

I will, however, continue to pray, believing my prayers are being heard by the Creator of the universe. I may stir His heart as I pray and move Him to intercede in a way I had not even thought of. Based on that truth, I pray. I cry out like Amos. I am thankful that He is listening.

God, I cry out to You. I beseech You to move in my life and the lives of those who are reading this right now.

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Advocate, Battles, Bible, Destruction, Encouragement, Failures, Obedience, Repentance, Scripture, Submission

DESTRUCTION

AMOS 5:9

It is He who makes destruction flash upon the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.”

If you have ever seen a house demolished, you can understand the Hebrew word used here for “destruction.” There is no way to demolish a house without using some pretty, violent actions. For instance, if a large piece of equipment is used, they will probably just smash and flatten the house and then haul the pieces away. Smash, pound, grind!

Amos says here that the Lord will do the same to the strong and to the fortress. You would think the strong and a fortress could put up a better fight than that. But not against the Creator of the universe. His power is beyond comprehension. When He destroys something, it is pulverized. Nothing can stand up to His fist of judgment.

APPLICATION

How does this verse apply to us today? Is God trying to destroy us? Of course, not. But He will humble the proud. He will allow things to come into our lives to bring us down to a level where we can listen to Him. We can build up walls (fortresses) in our lives to try to repel God. We think we can handle things on our own.

Instead of risking those wrecking balls that knock the wind out of you, how about taking down those walls yourself? Ask the Lord to reveal to you the walls of self-sufficiency in your life. Once you have identified them, start taking them down brick by brick.

When I was a little boy, my dad had me help take down a brick wall. I forget now where it was, but he was adamant about salvaging those brick. So, we did it gently, preserving most of the brick. Then he had me chip off the mortar and stack those brick. Later on, he used those salvaged brick to build a backyard sink and fish cleaning table. Why am I telling you that story? Your walls that you tear down may very well be used by God in your life for another purpose. Just watch what He does with them.

Father, thank You for tearing down my walls that I put up. I want to be used by you however You see fit.

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Accountability, Advocate, Bible, Blameless, Guilt, Hope, Judgment, Promises, Scripture, Submission

THE JUDGE SITS

JOEL 3:12

Let the nations be awakened and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

I have a friend who is a judge. I’ve been to his court a lot. I don’t mind going to his court because he’s my friend and I am never in trouble when I’m there. He does, however, have to sit in judgment on others. He has to hear their case and then make a decision. He’s a fair judge, but he is also a firm one.

The judge of all the nations will one day sit in judgment over all. Joel is predicting that in today’s verse. One day, Jehovah will judge every single person on whether they know His Son. Many will claim they were too busy or were confused. Excuses won’t work then. When the judge sits in judgment, truth will reign.

APPLICATION

When you face your final judgment, how do you think it’s going to go? Are you fearful of what God will find in your life? If you are a believer in Christ, judgment has already been passed on your sins. They are forgiven. If you are not a believer, you have much to fear. There is no way you will talk your way out of His perfect sentence.

But there’s no reason to even have to worry about that. All that’s required is a surrender to His will. He wants each of us to live in such a way our future is foretold. When we are walking with Christ, our future is secure. I pray you have that assurance in your life right now. If not, stop and make things right.

Way back in 1977 I gave my life to the Master. He has my back. There is nothing I can do to loosen His grip on me. When I face my Maker at judgment, all He will judge is my works. My guilt, due to my sins, has already been removed. Oh, the joy of that confidence.

Lord, I am so thankful I don’t have to fear Your judgment. My sins are forgiven at Calvary.

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Accountability, Belief, Bible, Commands, Encouragement, Hope, Modeling, Obedience, Protection, Scripture, Submission

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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Affection, Bible, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Inspirational, Intimacy, Leading, Obedience, Protection, Scripture, Submission

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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Abiding, Accountability, Appeasement, Belief, Bible, Commands, Confession, Confrontation, Forgiveness, God's Will, Judgment, Obedience, Punishment, Scripture, Submission, Surrender

WRONGS UNCOVERED

HOSEA 7:1

“When I would heal Israel, the wrongdoing of Ephraim is uncovered, and the evil deeds of Samaria, for they practice deception; the thief enters, a band of robbers attack outside,”

Have you ever had a wrong exposed? Boy, I have. I can remember trying to hide some of my sins when I was growing up. I got pretty good at it. I knew where to hide things. I knew how to sneak around my parents. I thought I was getting by, but I wasn’t. God knew, right?

If that is true (that God always knows), why do we think we can hide those wrongdoings? Ephraim thought they could but found out differently. God held them accountable for every single breach of their covenant. Nothing escapes His eye, and they found out the hard way.

APPLICATION

Can we live our lives without every doing wrong? I wish. But it’s not possible. As hard as we try, we will slip up from time to time. God tells us to live holy lives but will forgive us when we make those mistakes. What He can’t tolerate is our lying to Him and refusing to repent. That can bring out His wrath.

Why would God be wrathful? To protect His name. Once we take on the name of Jesus, we must protect that name. Our actions reflect on Him. Remember, God is holy. He expects us to live like Him – holy. Ephesians 5:3 says, “There must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity or of greed, for these are improper for God’s holy people.” We have a higher standard to live by.

The beauty of this high standard, though, is that God doesn’t expect us to live it on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in and though us, empowering us to that level. It’s not us living like Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit in us. We just have to submit. Will you do that today?

I want to please You in my living, Lord. I want to be holy and above reproach.

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Accountability, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Enemies, Humility, Mentoring, Opponents, Parenting, Relationships, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

GOT TO BE FIRST

3 JOHN 9

“I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.”

Some people just have to be first. They push to be first in line. They insist on being recognized first in meetings. They give their opinion loudly even when no one wants to hear it. Don’t those people aggravate you? Be honest. You probably try to avoid them. Am I right?

Well, it appears Diotrephes was that kind of person. He rejected John’s counsel that was sent to the church in a previous letter. Obviously, Diotrephes wanted to be in charge and discounted John’s advice. We don’t know why he did that. Perhaps he didn’t like John. Maybe he just wanted control of the church himself. Whatever the reason, John called him out (check out verse 10).

APPLICATION

While it is good for our children to be ambitious and push themselves, it is never good for them to let their ambitions run over others. I am reminded of the story Jesus told about the wedding guests. He said it was better to sit at the lower seats of the table and be asked to move up than to sit at the best seat and be asked to move down.

This is really about humility and submission. Diotrephes refused to humble himself and submit to John. John! A disciple of Jesus Himself. The disciple Jesus loved, probably more than any other disciple. That was the person Diotrephes was rejecting. Teach your children to respect those who have walked the walk. They need to show honor to such followers of Christ.

Do you find yourself pushing for recognition or are you content to serve unnoticed? The Lord will exalt the humble, but He will also humble the exalted. If we insist on “tooting our own horn,” we may find ourselves without a horn to toot. Don’t be a Diotrephes. Submit yourself to those in authority over you. Allow them to direct you. This honors our Lord, and He will honor you.

Thank You, Lord, for placing people in my life to lead me. I want to honor You by submitting to their leadership.

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Baptism, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Disciplemaking, Following, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Mentoring, Parenting, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Submission, Testimony, Witnessing

WITNESSES

1 JOHN 5:6

“This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

In the court of law, witnesses and evidence are required to convict you of something. Heresay and opinion aren’t enough. You need proof. Aren’t you glad of that? I have been accused of stuff in the past that I didn’t do. Some were serious. Someone wanted to get me in trouble, but thankfully, the truth came out and I was proven innocent.

John is laying out the evidence here about Jesus. Now, this verse has had many different opinions by many different scholars. But the majority of them agree that John is referring to Jesus’ baptism (water) and His death on the cross (blood) in this verse. His purity and submission testify to who He was and is. The Spirit also testifies in our hearts today the truth of these words.

APPLICATION

You need to take this verse apart to explain it to your children. Take them to Matthew 3:13-17 and talk about Jesus’ baptism. You can show them there Jesus submission to His Father in this act. You can also show how the Spirit testified about Jesus through the appearance of the dove. Pretty cool! Wouldn’t it be cool if a dove came down when they got baptized, lol?

And then take them to John 19 and read the crucifixion story to them. This may be hard on tender ears so be mindful of that. But our children need to know exactly what Jesus did for them. His shed blood wasn’t a finger prick. He died for them. He gave his life for them. His blood was dripping from His pierced hands and feet. His body was ripped and bleeding from the beating. His head was bleeding from the crown of thorns that was shoved on it.

Water and blood testified to who Jesus was and is. Let me ask you a question. What testifies to your faith in Christ? Have you accepted Him as Your Savior? Have you believed upon Him? His blood still covers sins. His baptism still serves as the example for us to follow. I pray that today you will take a fresh look at just who Jesus is. He wants you to live through Him.

O God, forgive me for taking Your life for granted. All You did for me is not forgotten. Thank You for Your submission in baptism and death.

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Accountability, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commands, Disciplemaking, Following, Inspirational, Love, Mentoring, Modeling, Parenting, Scripture, Submission, Surrender, Testimony

NOT TOO HEAVY

1 JOHN 5:3

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Have you ever lifted weights? I did that a lot in junior high and high school. I have done some of that as an adult, but not consistently. For weights to work you have to lift them, right? You can lift to build muscle, or you can lift to tone muscle. But you must lift. You push against the resistance. You must endure some uncomfortableness to gain the benefit of the weights.

How does that apply to today’s verse? John uses the word “burdensome.” That word in the Greek means weighty or heavy. The difference is the rest of the definition. It can mean pressingdown on a person with oppressive force. This kind of burden makes a person unable to function. That is NOT the purpose of God’s commandments. However, God’s commandments do require us to build spiritual muscle to follow them. They require us to push against the forces of evil. That will build muscle.

APPLICATION

Do you have any weights in your house? Maybe some small dumbbells? If you don’t, you can use anything with any weight. Have your kids do a little workout for you. Join them. Let them lift until they get tired and then feel their muscles. They love that. Talk about how the weights cause our muscles to grow because of their heaviness. The heavier the weight and the more they lift them, the bigger the muscles.

Explain to them the same thing happens when we choose to follow God’s command rather than the world. It’s easy to follow sin. There is no resistance, no push back, if we follow our flesh. But if we seek to follow the Lord’s commands, we will have to die to self and surrender. Tell them that’s how we grow as Christians. That’s how we grow those spiritual muscles.

Some days we can flex those muscles and obey. Other times, we feel limp and weak and can barely walk the walk. Listen beloved, He is your strength. You cannot do it on your own. It’s just not possible. But if you will yield to Him and follow His commands, you will experience the love of God in ways that will make you stronger.

I will follow Your commands. I want to be able to do the heavy lifting in life knowing You are the one “spotting” me as I lift.

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Advice, Affection, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, God's Will, Inspirational, Love, Mentoring, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Relationships, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

I’M FIRST

1 JOHN 4:19

“We love, because He first loved us.”

Boy, oh boy! How many times have you heard kids (maybe your own) arguing on the playground about who is going to go first down the slide? Maybe they are fighting about who gets to go first at bat. Whatever it is, kids like to be first. They somehow think that is all that matters at the moment. I am sure you can think back to when you were a kid and did the same thing.

John states it simply and succinctly. God loved us first. That is the only reason we can love. We did not have it in us. Our flesh is just too strong. We may love for a season, but without His transforming love guiding us, we will never last. It is His love that drives us. It is His love that loves others.

APPLICATION

So, how do you teach your children to love like God. Well, here we go again. You have to model it. You can preach it to them all day long every day. But until they see that kind of love in action, it will never take root. They need to see mom and dad loving like Jesus. They watch everything you do, right? What better thing for them to watch than you loving like Him.

So, the bigger question is how do you do that. How is it possible to love like Jesus? After all, He was/is God. God is love, right? So, of course He can love. The only way you can love like Him is to get out of the way and let Him love through you. When you come across that person (and you will) that is just hard to love, look at them through God’s eyes. He died for them. He loves them unconditionally. Love them like He does, not like you want to.

Who do you need to love today? Who is the most unlovable person in your life right now? Lay down your agenda and allow the Lord to love them through you. They will be amazed. When they ask you what you are doing, tell them it’s not you. It’s Jesus. And don’t do this one time. Continue to love them like Him. Who knows you may just begin to really love them.

You loved me when I did not deserve love, Lord. I want to please You by how I love others. Will you love through me today?

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