Joel- The Holy Spirit’s Dynamite and Democracy

Are the challenges of current circumstances leaving you weary, depressed and wishing you could quit and go inhabit someone else’s life?  Ever felt that way?  I did during a season of ministry when non-stop church conflict dogged my husband and I daily.  The stress exposed weaknesses in our characters.  He overate. I stopped eating.  I churned details of the conflict in my mind endlessly. He tried to ignore the situations.

If not for the power of the Holy Spirit, Ken and I might be leading dysfunctional, broken lives right now. We might be like some believers we’ve met who are not connected with any local body and are bitter against the church in general, due to conflict or hurt feelings.  Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that could be us.

Amidst the conflicts, God used those challenges to put Ken and I through the Holy Spirit’s boot camp.  We felt such desperation; our hearts yearned to understand what the Bible meant where it says the Spirit lives inside of us and anoints us with what the Greeks called, “Dunamis,” power. Instead of experiencing power, like scriptures describe, we felt like garden hoses with kinks in them. Somehow, we knew the Holy Spirit ached to flow through us in dynamic ways but, unknowingly, we restricted him.

How did we get our hoses so twisted? For me, it involved control. Deeply buried in my old nature lurked a fear that people who gave way entirely to the Holy Spirit were goofy, out of control. Rather than utterly yielding myself to the control of our dear Comforter, I only allowed him to operate from my driver’s seat occasionally. That kind of Christianity will fail you inside the inferno of an intense trial.  This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5

God does not mince words when it comes to relying on human strength instead of yielding to the power he’s placed in every believer, in the person of the Holy Spirit.  Ken and I recognized that we’d been walking out our faith on our own steam, which fizzled fast once we wound up in some trouble.  While our flesh screamed, “Just walk away, you don’t need this…” the Holy Spirit whispered, “Don’t you dare let Satan chase you off!”

What a fool I was to try and limit the Holy Spirit’s scope and influence in my inner man.  God released him to me as a gift to be treasured, not someone to be feared.  He is our teacher, guide and conscience. He is speaking on behalf of God to us continuously and comes alongside us when we pray, particularly when we don’t even know how to pray.  New Testament believers are privileged to be in a relationship with him only promised to our Old Testament spiritual forefathers and mothers.

Ancient Israelites could not experience intimacy with the Spirit.  He didn’t make his home inside them the way he does with you and me. The best that ancient followers of Jehovah could hope for was that the Holy Spirit might alight on them for a period for a specific purpose. (See Numbers 27:18, Judges 3:10, 6:34, 13:25, 14:6, and1 Samuel 10:9)

In the middle of the book of Joel, immediately after God’s promises of restoration for the repentant, and before the descriptions of the judgment of nations, is a small island of two powerful verses. In them, Joel prophesies a fundamental change in the way humans and the Holy Spirit will interact in the future. For those who lived through this transformative moment it would be like a couple shifting from an online, virtual relationship to marriage.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

 Joel 2:28-29

Unlike our OT brothers and sisters, since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit melds with every believer permanently. Instead of residing, temporarily, with a select few, he will be given generously to every Christ-follower, regardless of age, gender or social standing.  One commentator calls it “the democracy of the Holy Spirit.”  Likewise, his fruit, gifts and power are equally available to every Christian.

So, when all this power, gifts and fruit are easy access for modern believers, why do so many of us not flow in the anointing that Jesus himself described?  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth?”  Acts 1:8 First, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What did Jesus say the purpose of this power was?
  2. Who and what does Satan continuously oppose?

Jesus intended for every believer to be powerfully anointed to spread the gospel like wildfire, as believers did in the early church.  Satan will oppose the gospel and those who carry it with everything he’s got, until he’s tossed into the lake of fire.  So, who do you think puts negative, squirrely thoughts in believers’ minds about the Holy Spirit and his ministry?  Hint- not any member of the Holy Trinity.

Folks, we are running out of time and the lines between dark and light are becoming more and more distinct.  If you are not intentionally fulfilling your part, whatever that is, of Christ’s command to carry the gospel, then you are unintentionally serving the causes of Hell.  We cannot do our parts if we refuse to yield every day, in every way, to the Holy Spirit’s direction and authority.  Is your life a threat to Satan or does he consider you a non-combatant?

Joel 3- Eternity’s Warning Bells

We can become so laser focused on that directly in front of us, our eternity-minded, peripheral vision grows weak. When my husband and I first entered full time ministry, our hearts and heads filled with tasks and needs of the ministries for which we held responsibility. We spent our days pondering profound questions like, “What can I teach about God that will spark a fire in our high schoolers,” and “How in the world can we recruit enough teachers for the number of kiddos in Sunday School?” I could list 50 more issues we grappled with daily, concerning what, where, how, and with whom we did ministry.

Missionaries entered our field of vision a couple times a year, during our yearly, all-church Missions Festival and on those rare times when a furloughed one came to speak at our youth group.  Beyond remaining faithful with my monthly missionary offerings, these rock stars of faith never made it to my back burners, let alone the front.

It’s astonishing that I made such small space in my thoughts and prayers for the millions of people around the globe, entering a God-less eternity every day. At the time, I designated that job to missionaries and evangelists. What narrow perimeters of my resource use and prayer life back then.

The first time I heard the phrase, “10/40 Window” from a missionary, I became captured by the sheer number of unreached people groups on the planet.  Maybe some of you already know there are billions, but at that time, I didn’t.  What is the 10/40 window?  To quote the Joshua Project,

The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists.”

Okay, I hear your questions.  “This is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with the book of Joel?”  Joel chapter three is a direct and dire warning from God to two groups of people. The first set of people in God’s mind are the nations who opposed, conquered and abused ancient Israel, you know all those somebody-ites you read in the Old Testament.

The second group refers to the nations who will still be opposing God’s people, when Christ returns. Most of them live within the 10/40 window.  Without Christ, these unfortunates will be the “multitudes” Joel says will gather in the valley of Jehoshaphat.  The Day of the Lord will contain terrors and events that will melt the minds of even the most courageous unbeliever. Their judgement for a lifetime of rebellion will be an eternity doomed to the horrors of Hell.

Joel’s specifics about what ancient peoples did to Israel in chapter three, remind us that as King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” These folks dealt in human trafficking, slavery and carried off all the wealth of Jerusalem’s temple, worth billions in today’s dollars.  Their modern counterparts through the centuries, committed the same crimes against the Jews, most recently the Nazi regime’s murder of millions and confiscation of their property during WWII.

Today, billions of people in the 10/40 window are raised in cultures of hatred for God and his people, Jews and Christians alike.  This will place them on the wrong side of history come judgement day.  The question is, do we care?

Do we care enough to?

-include them in our prayers?

-deliberately focus mission dollars on missionaries reaching these countries?


-thoughtfully engage in relationships with unbelieving immigrants from the 10/40 regions?


-find creative ways to send emotional and spiritual support to 10/40 missionaries?


Including the 10/40 populations in our prayers is easy, it’s a matter of doing it.  I’ve provided some resources below.  Mission dollars can be sent through your church or you can prayerfully consider becoming a monthly supporter of one of the hundreds of ministries functioning in these hard-ground nations.

Engaging with transplanted Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus in your homeland will be a matter of strengthening your peripheral vision to see if God is placing someone near you.  A friend of mine delivers neighborhood welcome baskets for a community organization and recently encountered a Muslim family. Rather than simply smiling and leaving the gift basket with the lady of the home, she asked key questions about how they are adjusting and such.  This led to a coffee date and conversation.

What if my friend is part of this woman’s path to Christ?  What if that woman comes to Christ and then shares him with her family back in her homeland?  See where this could go?

We can also commit more of our creative energy and resource to support the heroes on the front lines in the 10/40 window.  Our church supports several missionaries in this category who are serving in countries so hostile and dangerous to Christians, we don’t even know the exact country of their ministry.  We know they are working in-country jobs that allow them to build relationships and establish house churches. Their loneliness and stress are overwhelming at times.  Cards, texts, e-mails and such can make the difference between a rough day and a better one for them.

The Day of the Lord approaches fast and millions will be called into God’s valley of judgement. This will be their horrifying first day of a god-less eternity.   Without God.  Forever.  Do we care?


Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12


  • Good explanation of 10/40 window


  • Articles with creative ideas about supporting missionaries and how to pray for them.


  • Might be helpful for you to read these passages of God’s judgement on ancient peoples who opposed Israel along with the Apostle John’s prophecies about judgement yet to come. Allow God to light your fires of compassion towards present-day enemies of the gospel.

1 Samuel 5:6

2 Kings 15:5

Exodus 13,14

2 Chronicles 20:20

Revelation 6,8, 9, 16,

  • Also consider watching any of the movies in the “Left Behind” series based on the books by Christian author, Jerry Jenkins. They are often available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and such.  Some of the acting, special effects, etc.  is a little bit low-budget, but the overall effect of imagining a world under judgement, with all Christians raptured away, is quite compelling.  I believe it’s important for believers to gain understanding as to what horrors await the lost.   If you want to look them up by title, start with the phrase, “Left Behind,” and all the movies in the series will come up on an internet search.





Joel- The Day of The Lord



In America, the phrase “9/11,” does not refer to an ordinary, September date, but a cataclysmic event.  On that day, running errands for my husband, I dashed into an auto parts store to find staff and customers clustered by a television, silently watching an unimaginable scene.  We stared in silent horror at footage of airplanes flying into the Twin Tower buildings of New York City. The people who perished inside received no warning that September 11, 2001 would be the last day of their lives. American history permanently changed that day along with people’s attitudes about the future safety and stability of our country.

The prophet, Joel, describes another civilization-altering day which he and other Biblical authors call, “The Day of the Lord.”  This term refers to a day of God’s judgement, terrifying and calamitous.

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel 2:31

Until I did a serious study of Joel, I presumed that “The Day of the Lord,” occurred one time and referred to the end of days when sinners are judged. That is an incorrect understanding of the phrase. Joel describes a literal locust plague, which is one day that decimated the promised land during his day. He also previews another day which involves the coming Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.

Worse yet, I discovered that the warnings in this chapter are aimed squarely at the people of God, not unbelievers. People who said they knew God stood in danger of losing everything. I think that’s why Joel spent so many words describing this destruction and why God wants us to pay attention to the prophet’s dire predictions today.

The phrase “Day of the Lord,” is used many times in scripture and refers to several different events. According to Baker’s Bible Dictionary of Theology, this term is used to refer to the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 587 B.C. by Jeremiah, (Lam. 2:21) while Isaiah uses the same term to refer to the fall of Babylon herself. (Isaiah 13:13) Other references point to a future event that will be a decisive moment of judgement and salvation none will escape.  For today’s believer, the former days with this ominous title, serve as a warning that another is most surely coming, and we must be prepared.

I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Five stayed in a state of preparation, keeping their lamps filled with oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) and enjoyed welcome into the feast of the bridegroom. Five fell asleep, and the bridegroom’s arrival surprised them.  After rushing around to find oil for their lamps, they pounded on the door of the banquet hall asking to be let in.  The answer?  “I don’t know you,” and the doors remained closed.

There are many millions of people on the earth today who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They recognize his soon and coming return and live accordingly, in right standing with God.  Many other folks identify as “Christian,” but their spiritual life is not an intimate one with the Father, merely an outward show of rituals and good works.  Chances are, if you are reading this post, you fall in the first category, but I’d be willing to bet you know people who fall in the second.

My experience sharing Christ with those who think they are Christians, but do not know Christ personally, is tricky. Clearly, the people of Joel’s day blew his prophecies off and continued life contrary to God’s laws.  Your conversations and interactions with these sorts of folks must be handled with the grace and tact of the Holy Spirit.

I cringe when I hear well-meaning believers get into stupid “my church beats yours,” conversations. In America, there are thousands of churches filled with sheep who desire true spirituality in their lives and are tricked into settling for a counterfeit by wicked pastors. Our job is not to rant to them about the darkness but to live and walk in The Light. Jesus said the lost will recognize we belong to him, by the quality of our love. (John 13:35) Helping pseudo-Christians become true seekers and followers of Christ is a love process.

People want to know you care about them as people, not projects.  The Day of the Lord is coming soon, where God will quickly separate the wheat from the tares. The Bible warns repeatedly that the day will come suddenly, and that judgement will be decisive.  Our challenge as believers is asking God to grant us opportunity and wisdom to let people within our sphere discover that they might be on the wrong side of that equation.

We must choose to invest our lives not just with people who are bold and outspoken about their lost-ness but with those who don’t realize they are. At the same time, our lives should reflect the five virgins ready to meet the bridegroom. Believers walking rightly with God need not fear the coming Day of the Lord.  We do need to be certain, though, that we take the great commission personally.  God places us in specific neighborhoods, jobs, schools, and such because he knows we will encounter the lost there. He expects us to remember that for them, the Day of the Lord will be worse than 9/11, the attack on Pearl Harbor and D-Day combined.

Remembering those tragic days can help us imagine what awaits those who are not right with God.  The same feelings of horror and compassion we feel for the victims of past tragedies should be even stronger towards those who are approaching the end of days, unprepared to meet their Creator. Let those righteous emotions challenge our apathy and give us that push of courage we might need to speak to someone about their eternal soul.


Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12


Articles and Resources

  • A former atheist explains how the lives of believers led him to Christ.


  • Interesting information about “The Day of the Lord” from Baker’s Theological Dictionary


Verses for Self-Examination

The Bible is the believer’s gold standard for assessing where we stand in our spiritual growth.  Use these verses to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to about areas where God might like to do some work in you.

  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22
  • The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:8
  • Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:24
  • Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:25
  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4











Joel- The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Within hours, sometimes minutes, life can change from order to chaos.  Natural disasters, accidents, violent acts and crimes of the heart leave a path of destruction behind them much like Joel describes in his book.  “Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them a desert waste…” (Joel 2:3 NIV). Many things we think of as foundational, can be swept away with no advance warning.

For me, an iconic visual of grandeur to ruin are movie scenes when the White House (home to American presidents) is overwhelmed by an invading power.  When bombs explode the white, exterior pillars into a thousand directions, and the American flag is left smoldering in pieces, I feel something visceral while telling myself, “It’s just a movie.” Part of me knows that but for God’s protecting hand, cinema could become reality.

The book of Joel, is a warning to Israel that sin will push away God’s mighty hand and leave them vulnerable to destruction. Not only those caught up in sin would be hurt, but the lives of faithful followers of Jehovah would also be turned upside down.  A stark contrast existed between Israel’s present state in the promised land, and their former lives as Egyptian slaves. Before, the bounty of the land belonged to their masters. Now they owned the most productive acreage in the middle east.  The miles of fields and vineyards became significant symbols of God’s blessing and their national freedom, much like the American flag and White House.

God planted his chosen people in a new Eden reminiscent of the first garden. When the original Eden fell, the world flipped for humans. Perfection became a memory and God rolled out his plan of redemption, to restore us to our intended homeland. Gifting Israel with their own country “flowing with milk and honey,” demonstrated to the existing world, life as God’s special people, beautiful, abundant, like the original garden.  For believers now, the Promised Land serves as a type for Christ’s earthly invisible kingdom, with all its wonders, and our eternal homeland in heaven’s paradise.

Joel’s first chapter is brutal in its descriptions of a land stripped bare and that’s exactly how some of you feel in this moment. At some point, most people experience something that creates that sensation in their lives, where people and things are ripped away. What remains looks like a barren landscape. Just like those images of the White House, and the prophet’s descriptions of locust damage, our dreams, relationships, homes, churches, jobs etc. can be decimated by circumstances, sometimes beyond repair.  Often, we don’t realize we lived in abundance until suddenly, we don’t.

Compare these two descriptions from Genesis and Joel.  God wanted Israel to understand that the bounty he re-created for them in the Promised Land could be taken in the same way humans lost access to Eden.


“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.”  Genesis 1:11-12


“Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes- joy and gladness from the house of our God?  The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods.  The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up.  How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.”  Joel 1: 16-18

You might feel like you’ve moved from lush to barren, bounty to lack. You can’t see any way that what you’ve lost can ever be restored because there isn’t even a seed of hope left in your situation. Take encouragement from Joel 2:25-26. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…you will have plenty to eat, until you are full.”  The end of your story is not yet written, the Author is still at work.

Some theologians believe Joel described an actual locust invasion.  Others say these verses symbolize the coming Babylonian invasion of Israel in the 5th century, which will leave the land wasted, as described.  Like some theologians, I believe both things are true. History records a massive locust infestation during the 9th century, when Joel lived and prophesied.  I think God used this natural event to speak to Israel about the long-term consequences of their disobedience and as a warning to future generations of believers.

Portions of your life may be in ruins due to your sin or the sin of others.  You may be an unintended casualty of another’s rebellion against God’s Word and his ways.  If your own disobedience resulted in a terrible loss, this is a hard thing to bear.  During a financial desert season in our lives, Ken and I counseled with an older pastor, intimate with great loss.  Once the pastor of a large, successful church, a married man with a wonderful wife and spacious, well appointed home, he lost everything, except his wife, due to adultery.

He shared details of his fall, like the eye damage his wife suffered from intense crying, and the shabbiness of the house they could afford, once he lost his ministry.  I’ll never forget what he said to us that day.  “Ken and Sharon,” he stated very solemnly, “what you are experiencing is painful, yet I am certain it is not a chastising, but a trial God is allowing for his greater purposes.  Now, try to imagine all you are experiencing occurrs because you sinned against God. Let me tell you that the agony of that nearly did me in, but God is faithful.”

Just as God eventually restored that pastor back to ministry, he can bring new life and opportunities to any believer who will acknowledge and confess sin.  There will most likely be a time of humbling and setbacks, but God is always eager to return his children to Eden.

What if  you are experiencing a locust swarm created by someone else’s sin, like our pastor friend’s wife? Your first job is forgiving.  When the behavior of others results in our loss, Satan is ready to pounce and build a stronghold of anger and self—pity inside of us.  Not everyone in Israel sinned against God. Some remained faithful and certainly young children were innocent of the charges God brought against his people. Yet, due to sin, the entire nation went into captivity in Babylon a couple centuries after Joel’s warnings. The promised land lay ruined by the invading conquerors, just as Joel prophesied.

Consider the prophet Daniel and his friends, carried away to Babylon.   Instead of allowing themselves to fill with bitterness at the injustice of it all, they rose to positions of power and influence because of their godly response to horrific circumstances.


Painful trials come to everyone at some point. Seasons will come when we feel lost and empty.  How we respond, be it repentance, forgiveness or bitterness, will determine what happens next.  


Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12


  • ADDITIONAL VERSES about God’s ability to redeem and restore. Make a copy of these to keep with you, put in your Bible or place around your home. (NIV) Personalize these verses and then speak and declare them out loud over your circumstances of loss and brokeness. God’s Word is alive, unlike any other book.  Speaking it out loud will change the atmosphere around you and your soul within you.


 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so, you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  Isaiah 61:7


Heal me O Lord, and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.  Jeremiah 17:14


“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 30:17


After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.  Job 42:10 (Don’t discount this verse, thinking somehow Job was more deserving of special treatment than you are.)


And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. I Peter 5:10


 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 (“Double for your trouble,” as Joyce Meyer likes to say it, is a reoccurring theme in the Word.)


You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. Psalm 71:21-22


He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:3


The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. … Ezekiel 37:1-10 (Read this entire passage and then be bold enough to start speaking the Word out loud to the dead, dry areas of your life.)


  • Stand on verses specific to your situation.  Wherever your place of loss and barrenness lies, God’s Word can speak to it.  Ask him to help you seek and find his promises that are more specific to your situation.  Remember, a lack of faith grieves God.  Choose NOT to spend your life grieving what once was.  Grief is a  necessary season, but not a lifestyle.  Stand fast on the Word and expect God to do new things in your environment.







  • For a fascinating video about locust swarms, check out this link. Imagine this on your property, leaving it stripped of anything green. Makes God’s promise to restore everything the locusts eat more meaningful when you understand the devastation they can create.