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THE WORD OF THE LORD

JONAH 1:1

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,”

“I give you my word.” We’ve probably heard those words spoken to us a lot over the years. Someone is trying to get you to side with them about something. Perhaps someone is trying to convince you of the reliability of something they are selling you. Whatever the reason, we may just not believe their word is reliable.

BUT…when God says those words, you can take it to the bank. It is dependable. Here, in Jonah 1:1, we see “the word of the LORD came to Jonah.” Don’t read those words and move on. Stop to think about that. The word of the Lord – now that’s something. God spoke to Jonah. He had something to say.

APPLICATION

Is God talking to you? You know, He has something to say to each and every one of us. We just have to be listening in order to hear it. That’s our problem. We are so busy, we don’t hear Him. We don’t hear Him telling us to do this or that. We go on our merry way without regard to the Master’s words.

God doesn’t waste His breathe. When He speaks, it is with purpose. God always has a reason behind His words. When He says “Go” we need to go. He’ll tell us where when it’s time. When He says “Give” reach into the back pocket of the guy in front of you and give like you never have. Just kidding. But we need to give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Listen for God’s word to you today. You can hear Him in His Word as you study. You can hear Him in your prayer time (stop talking and listen). But then, when you hear Him, DO WHAT HE SAYS!!! Amen?

Father, I want to hear Your word today. I want to hear Your instructions for my life.

Check out our ministry site at www.twr.org/carl-willis

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HIGH OR LOW

AMOS 9:3

“And though they hide on the summit of Carmel, I will track them down and take them from there; and though they hide themselves from My sight on the bottom of the sea, I will command the serpent from there, and it will bite them.”

How good are you at hiding? I was never really good at it. I would climb a tree or hide in the bushes, only to be spotted pretty quickly. I have known people who were good at it. They could seemingly disappear. I have to admit that I was a little jealous of them at times.

Amos continues the Lord’s words declaring that there is no place to hide from Him. This time he uses two examples that were actually attainable – Mt. Carmel and the ocean. Mt. Carmel was riddled with caves, perhaps up to 2,000. Elijah may have hidden in one of those caves. The ocean is not a good hiding place, Amos says, because of the venomous serpents that lived there. There are certainly snakes that live in the ocean that can bite you. Once again, there is no place to hide, high or low.

APPLICATION

Why are you still hiding? Why don’t you approach God right now and confess those sins that threaten to entangle you? We run and hide and pretend the problems don’t exist. We turn our heads when confronted about our sins. We don’t want to be “judged” by others.

Listen beloved, we will all be judged one day. Unbelievers will be judged and found lacking because of the absence of Christ’s blood in their lives. We believers will be judged on the works we have or have not done in the name of Christ. Judgment is sure. There is no escaping it. The difference for us who are in Christ is that our judgment won’t determine where we spend eternity. That was decided at the cross when we surrendered.

But, if you are like me, I don’t live each day surrendered to the Spirit. That’s my desire and it’s what I try to do. But there are days when I just blow it. However, I have learned to go to the throne of God quickly and confess those things. I want to live a godly life that points to Jesus. How about you?

Father, You are amazing! Nothing escapes Your eyes. You see all and know all.

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RISE UP

AMOS 6:14

“‘For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, House of Israel,’ declares the LORD God of armies, ‘and they will torment you from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of the Arabah.’”

I have learned from personal experience how God can raise up things in my life to teach me a lesson(s) that I need to learn. Now, hear me clearly. This is how He has worked in my life. I can only speak to that. But I know for a fact that He allowed my health issues to grow me more like Him.

That is always His purpose behind our trials. Amos speaks forth God’s words declaring the coming of a nation that He is sending to bring God’s judgment on Israel. It would a full judgment stretching from the northern most point to the southern most point of the country. God’s judgments are always complete.

APPLICATION

If you are in the middle of a trial right now, thank God. Yes, I said thank Him. Why in the world would you want to do that? Because every trial sent our way is meant to make us more like Jesus. God doesn’t allow trials in our life to toy with us or to just cause havoc. Every single aspect of that trial is orchestrated by Him to make us holy.

You may be ready for the trial to be over. Can God see Himself in you yet? Are you surrendering your all to Him? Do others see God portrayed in your life through this trial? That’s what God is doing. Rest assured – this trial won’t be over until God says so. He doesn’t leave it half done. He will complete it.

So, come on God. Enough already. I’m good enough. Obviously not. Every trial has a beginning and an end. God will bring you to fulfillment. And oh, when He is finished, you will look so much more like Him. You will see later what He was doing in that trial. You may not see it until you get to heaven, but you will. Rest in Him. Trust the process and give Him glory.

You’re still working on me to make me what I ought to be. I know that and am willing to be molded into whatever You want me to be.

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SPECIAL VESSELS

AMOS 6:6

“Who drink wine from sacred bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils — yet they have not grieved over the collapse of Joseph.”

I’ve got a favorite coffee mug. I’ve had it since 1982. Yep, that’s 40 years. I bought it at a pottery shop in N.C. It holds the heat of my coffee great. I love how it feels in my hand. I have no idea how it has survived this long, but I am careful to not drop it or crack it. I bet you have one too.

The problem Amos points out here again points to the idolatry the Israelites were practicing. They were using the sacred bowls of the temple, reserved only for use there, to drink from during their idol worship. They were possibly using the special oils reserved for the sacrifices on themselves because they smelled good. They were abusing God’s special items and didn’t seem to care. They showed the same lack of concern as Joseph’s brothers when they dumped him in that well.

APPLICATION

Let me give you an analogy right now. We are God’s holy vessels. 1 Corinthians 6:9 says so. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” As vessels of the Holy Spirit, we belong to God. But what do we do? We abuse these vessels.

I am as guilty as the next person of doing this. I eat things I shouldn’t eat. I don’t exercise like I should. I could do so much more to keep this vessel in good shape. But you can be the healthiest person in the world and still not be a holy vessel. Our holiness doesn’t come from our perfect physical condition. Our holiness only comes from complete surrender the Lord. That’s the kind of vessel He is desiring to use.

How do you become that kind of vessel? By spending time with Him. You have to pray and read His Word. You need to spend more time on your knees praying than doing pushups. You need to raise your hands in praise more than lifting weights. Yes, continue to treat your physical body with respect. But more importantly, exercise your spirit.

Forgive me, Lord, for not caring for this vessel better. Help me to realize just what I am “housing” as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

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NO ESCAPE

AMOS 5:19

“As when a man flees from a lion and a bear confronts him, or he goes home, leans with his hand against the wall, and a snake bites him.”

Have you ever had a dream in which you were trying to get away from something and you couldn’t? You wake up in a sweat and terrified. It seemed so real. Aren’t you glad it was only a dream? But what if it wasn’t? What if it was real?

Amos puts out a hopeless situation with no escape here in 5:19. A man who is lucky enough to escape a lion and a bear only to be bitten by a snake on a wall. Talking about bad luck! But Amos is telling the Israelites that there is no escape from the wrath of Jehovah. Their sins will be paid for.

APPLICATION

Do you think you can hide from God? You can’t. There is no escape. You may think you can live as if He doesn’t exist, but He does. He is so real! Once you realize that and surrender to Him, your life actually begins. Any life before Christ is artificial, not real, irrelevant.

Coming to Christ sets you on the path that leads to life. His Spirit indwelling you gives you power that you cannot imagine. It’s not magical, but it is powerful. Life in Christ needs no escape. Nothing can hurt you as long as you dwell in Him.

You may be thinking that you know plenty of Christians who have suffered. You must understand something about suffering. As believers, suffering is a gift. We are privileged to suffer. Suffering makes us more like Him. So, we perceive suffering very differently than the world. We don’t try to escape from it. We embrace it. Stop trying to escape and come to Him.

Jesus, You are the reason for my existence. I will embrace whatever You send my way.

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LIONS’ PREY

Amos 3:4

“Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something?

It is so interesting that this verse came up today. Just yesterday I was on a safari in Nakuru, Kenya. We saw all kinds of animals, most of them lions’ prey. We saw warthogs, antelopes, impalas, giraffes, water bucks, African water buffalo and many more animals. We even saw several dead animals, which could have been lion kills. But we did not see any lions. They are sneaky like that.

Amos is continuing his parable usage in verse 4. He asks two logical questions. Does a lion roar when he has no prey and does a lion growl unless he has captured something? Anyone hearing these words from Amos would know the answer immediately. Of course not. But I bet you they are not getting what Amos is hinting at. Does God do anything unless there is a reason? Does God bring judgment unless judgment is deserved? Of course not.

APPLICATION

How do you answer those questions? Have you argued with God before about His correction in your life? Do you really think you are above the righteousness of God? We all shun correction. I know I did as a child. To be honest, I still do as an adult. No one likes to be told they are wrong. But God has that right in all of our lives, especially the lives of His children.

What do you need to be corrected about? We all have something. Today, give that up to the Lord. Ask Him to take that burden away and accept from Him whatever consequence you might have. You may be thinking Well Carl, I’m a Christian, so I don’t have to worry about consequences. All my sins are forgiven. Yes, your sins are forgiven, but even after salvation, when we sin, we can receive consequences for our disobedience. Just accept them.

As I said, I have never liked to be told I’m wrong. But I have learned to listen to the Holy Spirit who corrects me and convicts me when I sin. The more I read God’s Word and the more I let it sink into my life, the more sensitive I am to sin. I just don’t like to sin. I want to walk holy. I want to think holy. I want to talk holy. That is only possible as I accept the correction of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Will you do the same?

Lord, we love You and thank You for correcting us. We may not like the process, but we love the end result – a closer walk with You.

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FARMER PROPHET 

AMOS 1:1

“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he saw in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

I can recall when the Lord called me to full time ministry. I had only been a Christian for a few months. It was in the Fall of 1978. I was in my Senior year of high school. It was almost like my surrender to Him in salvation morphed directly into my calling as a minister. He took out some things I thought  were important and replaced them with a passion to serve in ministry. So, I can relate somewhat to Amos, as we begin this study.

Amos was a farmer. He had sheep and also tended sycamore trees. Out of that unlikely vocation God called him to go prophesy against the nation of Israel. He had not been schooled in the school of prophets. He had been schooled by life. He obviously had a passion and desire for Jehovah, or he wouldn’t have been chosen for the task. God can use any instrument He chooses to accomplish His goals.

APPLICATION

Are you being used by the Lord right now? Perhaps you think He can’t use you. Wrong! Just like Amos, you just have to be available. It doesn’t matter what vocation you are in, the Lord can use you. The Lord doesn’t need more preachers. Now, hear me out. I am not knocking preachers. I am one. But you can reach so many more people in your circle of influence in your vocation, if you are willing.

God plucked Amos right out of the pasture and sent him on a mission. God may select you to do something extraordinary. He is just waiting for you to surrender to His will. Do you trust Him to give you the words? He gave Amos some very bold words. Do you trust Him to direct your path? He will. Just ask Him.

Oh, the things we can do if we are willing. God changed the world with 11 unlikely disciples, mostly uneducated men who had a passion for Jesus. They all laid down their lives for the mission. I often ask myself if I would do the same. I know I can through His power. I want Him to use me to change the world. Will you join me?

O Lord, use me like You did Amos. Give me the same boldness to speak truth in a fallen world.

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FAR AWAY

JOEL 3:6

“and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,

I have mentioned several times about my 30+ years in the Child Welfare field. Most of those years were great years. I learned a lot and grew both professionally and personally. But one incident sticks in my mind. I was working at children’s home and three of the children I worked with were set up to be adopted. That sounds great. But this adoption was done without the children ever having met the family before. I still remember that day having to physically put the children in the back of that car. It was tearful and sad, instead of joyous.

That scene comes to mind when I read today’s verse in Joel. Part of the reason the Lord is judging these nations so harshly is because they had sold the Judeans to other nations to move them far away. That was part of the process when a nation defeated another nation. They dispersed them to prevent them from reforming and starting a rebellion. God was not happy about that and held them accountable.

APPLICATION

How do you apply a verse like this to your life?  Let me ask you this question. What have you removed far away from God? What are you holding on to? Now, you really can’t remove anything from God. He is everywhere and is all knowing. But we can withhold things from Him that need to be surrendered. Do you have a “secret stash” of things that you just can’t let go of?

God desires total surrender from us. He wants us to turn everything over to Him rather than tucking stuff away. Unlike the nations’ plan to move Judea away to prevent rebellion, our moving stuff away actually leads to rebellion. The more stuff we hold on to, the more those things can lead us away from our Lord. We need to give Him our all.

I have experienced periods in my life when I was holding on to something. It was something I could fix, something I could handle. Each time I did this, I eventually realized the futility of my efforts. I learned to surrender it. Now, I’m a little hard-headed. Just ask my wife, lol. But I do know His way in the right way. Do you?

I bring all my “tucked away” things to You, O Lord. I desire to walk in freedom.

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WHO KNOWS?

WHO KNOWS?

JOEL 2:14

“Who knows, He might turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, resulting in a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God.”

Have you ever wondered if someone was going to do something? I have. I have spent a lot of time doing that. I waited and waited for something to happen, and it never does. Waiting on others can be very frustrating. Other times, the wait pays off. The thing you are waiting on happens. Then you forget about how long you waited.

Here in today’s verse, Joel brings that thought to us. If you read the previous verse, he is talking about God’s mercy and grace. Then he poses this thought. “Who knows, He might…” God’s actions towards Judah depends on their return to Him. Then He is able to do for them. He may even restore the grain and drink offerings to Himself that they have gone without for so long.

APPLICATION

It is the same for us, brothers and sisters. God wants to do so much for us. Do you believe that? He wants to bless us. He wants to “leave a blessing behind” for us. What do you need the Lord to do for you today? I bet there is something you have been praying for, maybe a for while. The thing required is your return to Him.

When we come to Him in complete surrender and put ourselves at the feet of the Master, He lifts us up. Many of us don’t like that picture – bowing before anyone. But pride and self-centeredness will not put us the place to receive those blessings from our Lord. He desires each of us to come to Him willingly and selfishly. That blesses His heart, and He releases His blessings in our lives.

I desire God’s blessings over His testings. Don’t you? I know living a godly and surrendered life is what He wants for me. I am willing to live that life because I know the result. I obey Him because I know He loves me and wants what is best for me. I don’t obey to get loved. I am already loved. He’s my father. He’s my Lord.

Lord, come to me with blessings as I serve You. I will return those blessings in the form of praise and worship to You.

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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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