Safe room

Joel 3:16 The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. 

I was recently watching an episode of Extreme Home Makeover in which they built seven homes for families who were effected by tornado damage.  The damage was intense!  Their homes had been leveled and they were being given a brand new start.  It was devastating to see the wreckage and to hear the stories.  There were moms who literally had their children ripped out of their arms by the force of the storm.  One lady gathered her kids in a closet and as the walls were ripped apart around them, she held onto the door with all her might and shielded them from the storm.  As I watched, I wondered about the wisdom of building these fabulous new homes right back in tornado country.  Would these people feel safe in their new homes or would the memory of the storm haunt them?

But Ty and his team did something fabulous – they installed safe rooms in each house.  A safe room is a reinforced box with a indestructible door and walls.  These little rooms can withstand extreme weather conditions and keep those inside completely safe.  They equipped the rooms with emergency kits and food supplies.  What peace that must have given these familes!  If a tornado were to strike again, they could now keep their families safe rather than climb in the bathtub and hope for the best.

The Lord is like one of those safe rooms.  It says in Joel 3 that He is a refuge for His people.  When the storms of life are raging we have a God in whom we can hide.  He is our protector and our shield, stronger than a closet door.  He is our stronghold, our safe room, during the tornadoes of life.  And while the world is being ripped apart all around us, we can have assurance that He will be with us.  We can be certain of His power and His peace.  So if life is just to much for you today, run to the safe room.  There you will find security, rest, and shelter from the storm.


Forecast calls for thunder

Joel 2:11a The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command.

Have you ever felt like you don’t have the strength to succeed?  The task seems too big, the enemy is too strong, your resolve is too weak. I know that we can all “feel” that way at times, but when will we start aligning ourselves with the truth rather than our feelings?  We read in the New Testament that God actually helps us with our weaknesses.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to fight alongside us on our behalf.  He has given us Christ, who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.  He is with us and that should give us strength.

In fact, Joel 2 says that this God who fights for us THUNDERS at the head of His army.  The enemy starts fleeing before the battle begins when you bring the Lord into it.  His forces are beyond number!  Yet we try so hard to fight our own battles, to do things in our own strength.  Listen, we don’t thunder.  God does.  And because He thunders, we are mighty.  Because we live in Him we have strength.  Because He is on our side, we can have confidence and assurance that no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

It’s time to stop being victims and time to start being victors!  Realize who it is that is on your side and don’t go to battle without him.  Stop trying to solve your own problems and start working them out on your knees.  Stop believing what the world says about you and start receiving His vision for your life.  It’s time to get in line behind “The Thunder” and learn what it means to be a mighty warrior of the Most High God!  I don’t know about you, but the forecast for my life today calls for thunder.

The right response to a country’s mess

Joel 1:14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

Israel was in trouble, God wasn’t happy, and locusts were everywhere.  The land was being destroyed and things weren’t getting better.  I bet the economy was a mess, leadership was corrupt, and people were frustrated.  Can you relate to a world like that?  Does it seem that things are falling apart and not getting better?  Are you frustrated with leadership and the direction of your country?  Then form a committee, talk about it on facebook, and complain like crazy!  Wait a minute – I don’t see those instructions in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord came to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel.  He said to cry out to the Lord.  This was the response to bad leadership: Pray.  This is how God told them to respond to locusts that were annihilating their economic growth: Pray.  This is THE solution… pray.  Call God’s people together and cry out to Him.  That’s the answer.  Isn’t that really how God would want us to respond today?  In many ways, America is in the same boat as Israel was in the Old Testament.  We are plagued with broken leadership, economic collapse, and spiritual bankruptcy.  Yet God didn’t tell us to solve those problems by complaining.  He told us to gather together and pray.  Why is that?

I think there are two reasons.  First, He wants us to gather together because He wants to see the church rise up in power.  He has anointed His Body to be the change in this world.  And it can’t happen just by flapping our jaws, it has to happen with our hands and feet.  So we must gather and encourage one another.  We must gather and gain strength.  We must gather and be equipped for the unique calling that God has placed on our lives.  Second, He wants us to cry out to Him because He wants us to see Him as the only answer.  He wants us to acknowledge Him as our only Savior.  And even though many of us are waiting around for our nation’s leaders to depend on Him as their Savior, He wants His people to lead the charge by making Him theirs.  How will you respond to your country’s mess?  I suggest you take Joel’s advice: be the church and pray.  I believe that it is then and only then that we will see change begin to happen.

The right road

Hosea 14:9 Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Imagine for a moment driving down an old country road.  You are on your way to a quaint little country diner for what is rumored to have the breakfast in a 50 mile radius.  The view is incredible as the road keeps going and going.  You wonder if you are still going the right way because this road seems to last forever.  Then it happens: up ahead is a fork in the road.  You approach the Y, uncertain if you are to go left or right.  There is only one right way.  Choosing it will lead to a satisfied stomach.  But if you pick the wrong road, you will end up lost and hungry.  What to do? As you approach the fork in the road, you see a small sign posted with the name of the restaurant and an arrow pointing to the right.  Proud of your keen observation skills, you follow the road to the right and pull up to the parking lot within 5 minutes.  You have chosen wisely; you picked the right path.  It wasn’t really all that difficult, though.  After all, there was a sign pointing the way.  It didn’t take a lot of wisdom, you just had to pay attention.

Now a few minutes behind you is another driver looking for the same restaurant.  He is a little cranky having not had breakfast or morning coffee yet.  In his frustration of not finding the diner yet, he grabs his phone to see if he can call someone who knows where it is.  As he approaches the fork, he is talking on the phone with a very unhelpful friend while adjusting the heater on the dash.  Speeding about 15 miles an hour over the speed limit, he veers left at the fork and mutters his frustration about this long road.  He is about to be really lost, really hungry, and really grumpy.

What’s the point, you ask?  Hosea 14:9 says that there is really only one right road and that the righteous take that road.  It’s not that they are perfect or have all the answers, they just pay attention to the signs.  They watch out for where the Lord is leading and do their best to follow.  The rebellious, however, stumble.  They aren’t trying to follow the Lord’s lead, they are just following their stomachs.  They go their own way and find themselves lost and empty.

I am determined to go the right way.  So I will be alert, attentive, and ready to turn when the Lord leads me.  Stumbling about life is no fun. Tripping over our circumstances isn’t necessary.  The righteous can walk with assurance in the Lord’s ways.  My prayer today is this: “Lord guide my steps and lead me to walk in all Your ways.  Let my heart be pleasing to you and may I not stumble.  I choose the right path today, Lord.  Lead me into righteousness.”

Come inside

Hosea 13:4 “But I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. 

We are a people in need of saving.  I’m not talking about clipping coupons; that’s a different kind of saving.  I am talking about the need to be rescued.  We need to be rescued from pain, from hurt, from sin, from depression, from anxiety, from hopelessness.  That’s just a short list!  Yes, we need saving.

So we turn to all kinds of things to save us.  We look around us to find something that satisfies, something that completes us, something that will bring us some happiness.  We look to temporary things just to make the bad feeling go away.  That’s like being handed a jacket on a really cold day.  It will make you warm for a while, but eventually you need to come inside.  Eventually you get cold again and seek refuge.   God is that refuge!

Jesus is the only Savior, there is no other.  He’s the one who has called us out of darkness and slavery into His glorious light!  So He asks us to acknowledge no one else as God in our lives.  Because He knows that He alone satisfies; He alone can save us.  It’s time to lay down our substitute saviors and turn to the only true one.  It’s time to recognize who really saves.  Don’t settle for temporary rescue from the cold, come inside and find life in your Savior!

Becoming Found

Hosea 12:6 But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.

Have you ever been lost? Maybe you’ve wandered away from the group or tried taking a shortcut only to find yourself disoriented.  Or maybe you just got tired of walking and wandered off to take a nap.  Could it be that you read the map wrong and found yourself where you didn’t plan to be?  It’s likely that one of those things has happened to all of us.  Getting lost is no fun.  It’s bewildering and scary.  It’s frustrating and trying.

Losing track of God feels the same way.  For a while we might feel like the shortcut was going to be the best route.  Or we just weren’t “feeling it” anymore so we took a break from the walk.  “But you must return to your God!”  How do you do that?  I find that when I’m lost, the best thing to do is go back to the last place I was found.  Usually I can get there.  And I find that the same goes with God.  When I’ve wandered and want to find Him again, I just go back to the last place I was found.  And you know what, He always meets me there. He’s a good Father that way.

So if you feel lost today, get back on the path.  Hosea 12:6 says that you can always put your hope in God.  He will be there to lead you once again.  He will be standing there ready to take your hand and walk with you down the path of life.  So return to Him.  Take a good look at the places you are lost and become found.

Defining God

Hosea 11:8-9 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? I have had a change of heart; My compassion is stirred! I will not vent the full fury of My anger; I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One among you; I will not come in rage.

Sometimes you run across a statement so profound it will change your life.  Or maybe it will change the way you see the world.  These statements can be quotes from famous people, or maybe they are just ordinary people saying famous things.  Nonetheless, we will repeat them, share them with our friends, and even using them as an opening line in a social setting.  That way we will sound really smart.  Regardless, it is often in the simple profundity (is that a word?) that we find meaning.

I found a statement like that today, but it wasn’t by a celebrity – it was by God.  He said in Hosea 11:9, “I am God and not man.”  Pause.  Think.  Reflect.

Why did that have to be said.  Of course He is God and not man.  It’s because humanity tries to force Him into our box of human limitations.  We think He needs to make rational sense.  We believe that He is a vending machine where if we put in the right amount of money and push the right button, we’ll get the right candy bar.  We’ve reduced Him to formulas, traditions, religions, and even our experiences.  If our father was abusive, He must be too.  If only our mom went to church, Jesus is for sissies.  If something tragic happened to a good person, God is cruel.  It’s a frame of reference we see Him in, but it’s an erroneous one.

It’s a mistake to view God through our lens when we can’t even see ourselves through His.  We don’t get to define God, friends.  He defines us.  He is God and not man.  He doesn’t think like we do nor does He act like it.  God defines God, plain and simple.  So when we “expect” Him to conform to our thinking, we’ve got a problem.  He’s asked us to conform to His.  When we want Him to wipe out the bad guys, He’s unexpected moved and shows compassion.  And for some reason, this makes us angry – until we remember that without Him, we’re a bad guy too.

This is what I love most about God, that He is, well… other.  I love that I don’t always understand Him.  I love that there is mystery in who He is.  I love that He is way more powerful than I will ever comprehend.  And I love that when I am feeling down, the author of life breathes into me.  I LOVE that He is not a man!  He is God and I refuse to define Him with my own life experience.  I refuse to define Him with my hurts or my anger.  I refuse to define Him with my political views or my take on human suffering.  I refuse to tell Him who He is based on my limited ability to comprehend the meaning of life.  Rather I surrender to His “otherness” and allow Him to shape all that I am.  For me, He must be God and I must be man.  Our relationship won’t work any other way.

You don’t sow weeds

Hosea 10:12 Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.

I’m not a very good gardener.  I never know what to do with a plant.  I can, however, grow weeds pretty well.  Regardless of the amount of effort I put into it, they just grow.  I water them, they grow.  I abandon them, they grow.  I pull them, they still grow.  But the tomato plants won’t.  Neither will the corn or the beans.  Maybe it’s because I don’t pay enough attention to the good plants.  Maybe I don’t spend time nurturing them so they can grow and produce.  If I sow corn seeds, I should reap corn, right?

In Hosea 10, the Lord tells Israel to focus on sowing righteousness.  You see, if you want to reap something good, it requires some sowing.  If you just sit by and expect something to happen on it’s own; you’ll get weeds.  And it is those weeds that choke out the good stuff.  They grow like crazy and overtake the things you want to reap in your life.  They eat up all the good nutrients in the soil so nothing else can grow.  So they need to be removed.  They need to be pulled so good things can grow.

Righteousness requires our attention, friends.  It requires that we strive for all that is good – that we desire not just to be saved, but sanctified.  If we don’t, we won’t reap the good God has for us.  Instead, we will reap weeds that overtake the gardens of our life.