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HIS WORD

JOEL 2:11

“The LORD utters His voice before His army; His camp is indeed very great, for mighty is one who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?”

I have never served in the military. I admire those who have and am thankful for their service. Many of them have sacrificed greatly. Many others sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice to follow the commands they were given. When you are in the military you are expected to listen to your commander and do what they say. You follow orders. You obey.

The phrase that caught my attention in today’s verse was “for mighty is one who carries out His word.” They recognized then and we recognize now those who heed His word. Obedience is expected, is it not? Joel knew that. I am sure Joel had rather be doing anything other than preaching this message to the people of Judah who didn’t want to hear it. But he listened to the Lord and carried out His word.

APPLICATION

The application for us from this verse is obvious. Will we carry out His word? What does that mean for us? What does the Lord expect us to do? It’s pretty simple, really. He expects us to take His Word to a lost world. He expects us to glorify Him in all we do. He expects us to live out Matthew 28:18-20.

The expectations are clear. The question is – will we do it? You don’t have to be in full time ministry to do this. Witnessing to your neighbor is carrying out His word. Helping someone in distress is carrying out His word. Praying in your prayer closet because you are too weak to get out is carrying out His word. There are all kinds of ways to carry out the word of God. We just have to be diligent.

I have not always done this. Even as a pastor, I have not always done it. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of ministry, but I haven’t truly carried out His word. But over the past several years I have been convicted to be more and more diligent to do that. I pray more. I read more of His word and memorize it. Let us all join together to carry out His word to the world.

I am so grateful for Your word. Help me proclaim it to a lost world daily.

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NO JOY

JOEL 1:16

“Has food not been cut off before our eyes, and joy and rejoicing from the house of our God?”

There have been times in my life when my joy thermometer didn’t register very high. Things were going wrong all around me. Every ounce of joy was gone. Nothing made me happy. I snapped at people, and it seemed everyone got on my nerves. Those are not fun times. I’ll tell you what I found in a sec.

Joel is telling Judah that they are going to experience the same thing. No joy! No rejoicing! Everything is wrong. But Joel is pointing them towards the reason why. Their disobedience. True joy never precedes obedience. Because of their disobedience to God, their joy was gone. Judgment was upon them.

APPLICATION

Those time I mentioned about me – I had the same problem. When I began to look at myself, I saw that I wasn’t spending the time I needed in prayer or in God’s Word. I was letting the worries of this life come in and choke me. I was too busy looking at myself instead of looking towards my Savior.

Have you had similar times? Take your eyes off of yourself. Dig deep in His Word. He will restore your joy. In fact, the joy never left you. His joy indwells you when come to Him as Savior. We just let stuff cover it up. Shake off all those thoughts and concentrate on what He has done for you. I promise the joy will erupt.

Joyless living is not living at all. We need to be spreading the joy of Jesus to everyone every day. They need to know we are Christians by the expressions on our faces. Our smiles should tell them. Then when they ask why we are so happy, we can tell them it’s not happiness. It’s joy, and here’s why we are joyful. Try it today.

Thank You, Lord, for restoring my joy. Thank You for giving me a joy-filled life.

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LISTEN UP

JOEL 1:2

Hear this, you elders, and listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days, or in your fathers’ days?”

Each Sunday when I teach the children at the church where I serve, I have to say “listen” several times to get their attention. We have rules for children’s church to help prepare these little ones for the day when they start attending “big church.” One of those rules is “Listen Up.” In other words, tune your ears to what I’m about to say.

Joel is telling the people of Judah to listen up. He is about to give them a message. He is going to remind them of some things. He needs their undivided attention in order to get his message across. Let me correct that. It’s not his message. It’s God’s message, which makes it even that much more important.

APPLICATION

I bet you have had to tell someone to listen up, haven’t you? Have you ever been telling a story to someone and noticed they weren’t paying attention? If you have kids, I guarantee you have had to tell them to listen up. Now, listen to me. You have a message to share. People need to hear it.

We need to make sure people are listening. God’s message hasn’t changed. He still desires for all to come to Him. He still offers salvation to those who believe in His name and receive His Son as Savior. That’s a message we need to be shouting from the rooftops. Get their attention and deliver the message.

Right now, there is a lot of turmoil going on in the world. People are dying and going to hell. Believers are being persecuted for their faith. We are living in perilous times. But God is still faithful. He will deliver each and every one who turns to Him. Will you help spread the word today?

I am so thankful for the message of the cross. Give me the opportunity today to share that with someone.

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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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ROCK PILES

HOSEA 12:11 

“Is there injustice in Gilead? Certainly, they are worthless. In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls, yes, their altars are like stone heaps beside the furrows of a field.” 

Here where I live in Eastern Tennessee, it is not uncommon to pass a field where years earlier a farmer had cleared that field of rocks so he could cultivate the soil. Some of those rock piles are decades old. Those rocks were in the way of the task and had to be removed. The pile meant nothing, except maybe a source of stone to be used elsewhere on the farm. 

But here in today’s verse we see the stone heaps being used for altars. In a similar way, stones were removed from their fields. But they made them into altars, going directly against the word of God. Their sacrifices on these piles of rock meant nothing. They thought they were being religious, but they were, in fact, being sacrilegious in their actions. 

APPLICATION 

We often do “religious” stuff to make ourselves feel better. How many of us pray out of habit without any true communication with the Lord? People attend church because they are supposed to. They don’t go to worship as much as they go to be seen and check the box for the week. We may feel better by doing those things, but that is not the point. 

What is the point? The point is this – we have to come to God in Spirit and in Truth. We have to come to Him worshipping, not to worship. We pray to hear from Him, not to tell Him things. When our motives change our heart changes. We can experience a true relationship with the Lord. We can stop building rock piles. 

I desire the deeper things of God, don’t you? I want to know Him more each and every day. I want to know Christ so well that when I see Him face to face in glory, it will be just another day. Now, I know that day will be like none other, but you get my point. Make your faith real today. Stop playing religion.  

Father, I want to know You in a way in which I have never known You. Show me Yourself. 

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WASTED BLESSING

HOSEA 9:13

“Ephraim, as I have seen, is planted in a pasture like Tyre; but Ephraim is going to bring out his children for slaughter.”

So many people waste their parents’ inheritance. I have seen people scrimp and save for decades to give something to their children, only to see it used up in months, if not weeks. They were blessed by their parents, but they just ignored the sacrifice their parents made for them. How sad is that?

Ephraim had been blessed by Jacob. Remember, Ephraim was one of Joseph’s sons who received the blessing, along with his brother, Manasseh. And when the tribe of Ephraim received their inheritance of the land in the Promised Land, they received a beautiful land. But they abused it. They turned their back on the Lord.

APPLICATION

What blessing are you wasting? Look at your life. Look at all the Lord has done for you. Look at all He has given you. We are so incredibly blessed. Just to have a roof over our heads and food in our stomach is enough. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8 “But if we have food and clothes, we will be content with that.”

I want to challenge you to take an inventory of your blessings today. Get out a sheet of paper or grab your laptop or tablet and start listing them. You will be amazed. We overlook the little things like a bed to sleep in or a bathroom to get cleaned up in. How about taking a look in your closet? How many pairs of shoes do you own? Blessing!

I am overwhelmed when I walk into my house each day. I do not deserve it. I am thankful for it and realize it is a gift from God, but I don’t deserve. I don’t want to ever forget the blessings I have received from the Lord. I want to share them with others. I want to pass on the blessings to those who are less fortunate than I am. Let’s do that today.

God, I am so unworthy. I don’t deserve all You have blessed me with, but I am thankful. You are a mighty God, worthy of my praise.

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NO LIFE

HOSEA 9:11

“As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird— no birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!”

I have the privilege to be the father of two great kids. They are grown now, but I can still remember the moment my wife and I learned we were going to have a child. Each pregnancy was a joy (not counting my wife’s morning sickness). We couldn’t wait for the day of their birth. I was actually in the room both times. It was amazing!

For Ephraim, their glory was gone. They couldn’t experience the joy of the Lord because they had forsaken Him. Their actions against Jehovah had caused Him to withdraw His blessings. Just like barren wombs with no conception, no pregnancy and no birth, there was sorrow. No hope! No life! No future!

APPLICATION

What is your life centered on? If it’s not the Lord, then you too are in despair. I’m not in despair, Carl. My life is going just fine. Oh really? Any life not centered on Jesus is headed for disaster. Yes, I said disaster. We can pretend everything is fine. We may believe all is well, but it’s not.

God will not bless those who are not following Him. He just can’t. It would go against His whole person. If He blessed everyone for just doing their own thing, then His commandments and statutes would be meaningless. God demands holiness, but He gives us the means to live that way. As Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3, it’s His divine power that gives us everything we need to live that way. And when we do, He loves to bless us.

I try to live my life to honor Him. I don’t do it perfectly. I never will, but I certainly strive to do that. I want to experience the joy of the Lord. Don’t you want that same joy? I know you do. I pray today you can know Him fully, that you can be filled with so much joy that it just overflows.Thank You, Lord, for life. Thank You for giving me such joy. Help me spread it to others.

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SPOILED FRUIT

HOSEA 9:10

“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season. But they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame, and they became as detestable as that which they loved.”

My Grandma Carter had a fig tree in her yard in South Georgia. When I was a little boy, I loved to pick those ripe figs from that tree and eat them right there. I can still see that tree and those luscious, large figs. I would pick one, split is open and enjoy the sweetness of the fruit. Man, I love figs.

Israel was a sweet fruit on the tongue of God. He loved them. They were supposed to be that way. But they chose to chase after other gods and became detestable. They weren’t good for anything. Spoiled fruit isn’t worth picking. Spoiled fruit can’t be used. Israel became “uneatable.”

APPLICATION

Is that what you want to be like? I doubt it. But unless we walk with God and live for Him, we become that way. God delights in us. He wants to use us. But He can’t use spoiled fruit. He demands the first fruits. He expects us to produce good fruit. He expects us to be good fruit.

Take a minute and examine your walk with Him. Are you a fruit worth picking? Now, I am not calling you fruity. But I am asking you if you are useable. Does your fruit bring delight to those around you? Do they desire to be around you and learn from you? Or are you spewing out rotten fruit that no one wants to see, smell or taste?

I want others to come to my tree and pick my fruit. After all, any fruit I produce through the power of the Holy Spirit is for the benefit of others. A fig tree doesn’t eat its own figs, does it? I grape vine doesn’t drink its own wine, does it? Of course, not. We are “fruity” for others, not ourselves. So, start being fruity for Jesus. Share the sweetness of your fruit with others.

I know I must abide in the Vine to produce fruit. I want to produce fruit to honor You, Lord.

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UNCLEAN BREAD

HOSEA 9:4

“They will not pour out drink offerings of wine to the LORD, nor will their sacrifices please Him. Their bread will be to them like mourners’ bread; All who eat it will be defiled, because their bread will be for themselves alone; It will not enter the house of the LORD.”

Have you ever grabbed the bread out of the panty and made an awesome sandwich only to discover that the bread was molded? I’ve done that a couple of times, so I try to examine the slices I pull out before I assemble my sandwich. Even then, if I don’t have my glasses on, I can miss some mold on the edge. Not very appetizing.

Hosea is comparing their sacrifices, specifically their bread sacrifices, to bread that is unclean. It is not acceptable to God. In fact, when they were taken into exile, they were told not to offer any sacrifices. Their drink offerings and burnt sacrifices were unpleasing to Him. They didn’t have the right motives behind them.

APPLICATION

The same applies to us today. Our sacrifices to God (not animal sacrifices or drink offerings) have to be given with the right heart. We can give thousands of dollars to the church, but if we do it grudgingly, we have not offered the right offering to Him. We can sacrifice time to the kingdom, but if it is done out of guilt, that too is not pleasing.

We give because of our love for the Lord. We offer our sacrifices of praise because of all He has done for us. Examine why you offer any offerings, tithes or sacrifices of any type. If they aren’t offered in the spirit of devotion and love, don’t bother. God is not pleased. You are no different than the Israelite.

I want my gifts to the Lord to be given to honor and give glory to Him. I want to pray over each and every gift I give, whether that be my time or my money. I want all my offerings to be a sweet aroma in the nostrils of God. How about you?

\I offer myself and all I give to You to honor You, Lord. I want You to know the smell of my offerings and recognize them immediately.

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PALACES

HOSEA 8:14

“For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; and Judah has multiplied fortified cities, but I will send a fire on its cities, and it will consume its palatial buildings.”

The closest I have been to being in a palace is the Biltmore House near Asheville, N.C. It was built by the Vanderbilt family and has been described as an American palace. It really is a sight to behold. The rooms and grounds are incredible. I can’t imagine what it cost, but it took over six years to build the 178,000 square foot mansion.

Palaces don’t mean a thing, though. Israel and Judah found that out. No matter how many they built, they would not stand. There is nothing man can build that can withstand the judgment of God. Perhaps they thought if they “impressed” God He might change His mind about judging them. It didn’t work.

APPLICATION

We tend to try to impress God by the things we do. We may not build mansions, but we build other things. We build up our worldly wealth – that won’t stand. We build beautiful churches and sanctuaries – they won’t impress Him. We build up our reputations – they also won’t sway God. God simply wants our hearts.

Have you surrendered your heart to Him? Perhaps you are struggling with that decision today. Give it to Him. Let Him build you up. Let Him use His Spirit to guide you in your decisions. That pleases Him. If your heart isn’t totally surrendered to Him, He can’t use you in ways He would like. He has such great plans for you. Don’t you know that?

I want Him to use me. I want to do His bidding. However, I know I can’t do that unless I yield to Him. I have to stop building my own palaces to impress Him and others. I have to stop spending so much time worrying about what others think about me. What truly matters is what the Lord thinks. Don’t you agree? If we are in His will, that is all that matters.

Tear down any palaces I have built from my own flesh. Tear down those things that put me above You. You are all that matters, Lord.

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