The Lord’s Hand

The Lord's Hand

Gird yourselves and lament, you priests;
Wail, you who minister before the altar;
Come, lie all night in sackcloth,
You who minister to my God;
For the grain offering and the drink offering
Are withheld from the house of your God.
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
Into the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is at hand;
It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.
Is not the food cut off before our eyes,
Joy and gladness from the house of our God?
The seed shrivels under the clods,
Storehouses are in shambles;
Barns are broken down,
For the grain has withered.
How the animals groan!
The herds of cattle are restless,
Because they have no pasture;
Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.

O Lord, to You I cry out;
For fire has devoured the open pastures,
And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.
The beasts of the field also cry out to You,
For the water brooks are dried up,
And fire has devoured the [c]open pastures.
— Joel 1:13-20.

Men, the grasses, grains, vines, and trees have been consumed by a judgment of locusts in Judah. Joel says that even joy has withered away. The prophet now calls for Judah to lament (mourn), for priests to wail, and for ministers to lie at night in sackcloth because there are no grain offerings. Joel calls for a national fast and for every person to assemble and cry out to God. Even the animals are groaning in desperation. The fields are dying, what’s left is dry, and wild fires have devoured the pastures. Joel cries out to God on behalf of Judah and all Israel.

In Joel’s time as well as our own time, we may look out our window and identify a problem, but we seldom recognize the Lord’s corrective hand. If His corrective hand is hard to see, discerning what to do about it further escapes us. Joel has identified their circumstances as an act of Gods hand, heard the Lords conviction, and called the entire region to assemble with a fast to pray and cry out to God.

Joel was not a political leader as far as we know, but he recognized the season and made a national plea on behalf of his people. What makes his voice any louder than yours or mine? Was there anything special about Joel that he would be heard more than you or me? We can look to history and see that Joel was not heard; the people were not convicted to the point of turning back to God. Joel didn’t know one way or the other but recognized what needed to take place and acted on it. Will you and I?

Move forward men, seeking the Lord’s counsel that He might reveal His ways, then we may respond as called. We should see some hint of the season we’re in, and be praying for our loved ones and neighbors. We should be mourning for those who are blind and calling for national repentance. We should be fasting to gain further understanding of our circumstances. Are we? Will we?

Vance Durrance

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Hear the Word of the Lord


The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
Hear this, you elders,
And give ear, all you inhabitants of the land!
Has anything like this happened in your days,
Or even in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation.
— Joel 1:1-3.

Men, “the Word of the Lord” has come to Joel. Straight away, we should snap to alert attention. When the Lord of hosts speaks, it is no small matter regardless of who the servant is. Joel exclaims over the people of Judah, “hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land!” Joel wants everyone to hear and take note, but he tells the elders specifically to “hear this.” There is an added expectation upon the elders. Everyone needed to hear, but the elders needed to fully understand the message, what was happening, and what was yet coming, to lead the people in the repentance he would be calling them to.

The Lord has made attempt to get unrepentant Judah’s attention. Judah has been judged by their sin and has recently experienced a devastation that too few have interpreted as an alert from the Lord. Joel has to plainly ask his fellow man, “has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your father?” We often read too fast over such a rhetorical question to see what the judgment of the Lord looked like, but let’s not miss the stunning rebuke here. Since Joel has to ask the people, we may deduce that no one has considered the singularity of this judgement event. No one has paused to question the source, the message, or the intent of the circumstances Judah now faces.

This rebuke is for us as well. We will soon find that the Word Joel speaks is also for our time, and our children’s time. When calamity strikes our personal lives, when our nation is in turmoil, while the world seems upended in confusion, corruption, conflict and more, at what point do you and I pause to humble ourselves before God and ask where we have sinned against Him? Like Israel, we are quick to point fingers and too blind to see our own sin as an ingredient in the collective circumstances.

Move forward men, pausing this day to ask the Lord “search me O God”, and evaluate our circumstances. Is the Lord not seeking our attention today? Will we hear Him?

Vance Durrance

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Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. — Philippians 4:4-5.

Men, after naming two women who have been at odds and calling for an end to conflict, Paul encouraged the congregation to encircle those affected by the rift with support. It was expected that common ground could be reached in their faith in Christ.

With conflict as a backdrop, Paul gives the church another “bumper sticker” with v4. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice!” Thankfully, we can rejoice. Christ IS enough to settle conflict by His love pouring through us. The washing away of bitterness, through forgiveness in Christ, is often enough to see the nonsense of conflict. Paul then tells Phillipi to “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Proverbs 15 tells us, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.”

When most of us think of conflict, we don’t immediately turn to gentleness as a solution, myself included. A man is often compelled to reestablish a line harshly after it has been crossed. Eventually, bitterness sets in and turns to discord, which turns into dissension. That is exactly what Paul is hoping to correct by turning all parties’ attention to the cross. The cross is where we see the answer to our flesh, our hate, our envy, our strife, our contentions, nailed to die on behalf of our shortcomings.

Conflict mediators and counselors make a lot of money to bring closure to disputes that Christ has settled. Conflict emerges when one or more parties fail to see, act, and respond as Jesus would. Conflict remains when one or more parties respond outside of faith in the precepts of Christ. Gentleness is misunderstood. Today’s men are often impotent and passive. That is not gentleness. Gentleness is a choice to employ Christ’s heart instead of Thor’s hammer, while the hammer is in reach.

Move forward men, loving each member in the fellowship of believers as Christ loved the fellowship of believers. Every one was worth His payment on the cross… and we’ve all crossed His line of what is and is not Holy.

Vance Durrance

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Press On

Press On

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:12-14

Men, all is loss and distraction apart from Jesus. Paul’s ambition is to know Jesus and to make Him known around the known world at his time. Here in v12, Paul makes it clear that he has not come to a point of arrival, he has not grasped hold of the fullness of Jesus, but he presses on to get a hold of Jesus as Jesus has a hold on Paul.

Paul’s conversion on the road, where Jesus introduced Himself to Paul in blinding light, had a profound effect on Paul. But even with such a radical shift, he had not come to a conclusive understanding of Christ, nor may he/ we ever. Instead, Paul is committedly pursuing deeper depths, more intimate understanding, and a closer experience with Jesus. Paul is 100% living his present life with consciousness that eternity has already begun. The upward call of Christ, where we walk away from the physical and come eternally into the presence of God is a goal and prize for Paul.

What do our own hearts seek? Are we committed to pursuing greater depths with the One who bought us back from death? Are we pursuing knowledge of Him, experience with Him, that we might share it with a world who doesn’t know Him?

Move forward men, reaching ahead, pressing on toward Jesus as a goal and prize. The best experiences with Jesus often aren’t at waist height and in reach, or in convenient moments. Set aside the world’s desires, and reach ahead to grab hold of Him as He has taken hold of you.

Vance Durrance

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