“Return” Joel 2 Sermon

Do you know that many Muslims are recently becoming Christians because of dreams and visions? According to Wendell Evans of the Billy Graham Center’s Institute for Muslim Studies, “More and more stories are coming out of closed countries, of God supernaturally evangelizing Muslims through dreams and visions. Of the estimated thousands of new believers in Iran in the last few years, over half of them became believers after Jesus personally came to them in a dream or vision.” Here’s one example.

Madame Bilquis Sheikh was a high-born Muslim, former wife of a Minister of the Interior in Pakistan. God gave her dreams and visions about John the Baptist, about himself as God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. He led her to read the Bible. Her family came to know of her new beliefs and confronted her. She was so convinced of her newfound truth, however, that they plotted to kill her. They even tried to burn her house. Her family boycotted her, and the servants, who were Muslims, left her, calling her a traitor and an infidel. She received many threats from her family and outsiders. An Army General of Pakistan visited, asking her “Why did you do it?” She replied she has been called to witness Jesus Christ and she will obey Him, no matter what comes her way. She finally escaped to the United States and wrote a book about her experiences.

(From a sermon by Paul Clemente, “God works in mysterious ways!” 6/28/2009).

Many, many Iranians are converting to Christ because the Lord is appearing to them in dreams.  Joel’s prophecy thousands of years ago is being fulfilled, in that he said that once the people returned to him, he would cause their sons and daughters to prophecy, and he would give them visions and dreams.

     Little is known about Joel, a prophet from Judah (perhaps Jerusalem). Most scholars date the book of Joel after the exile to Babylon (586 b.c.)  In typical prophetic form, Joel gives his readers both the bad news of God’s judgment and the good news of his promised deliverance.  Both the judgment and the promises remind us of our desperate need for God’s help. We don’t know what this year is going to hold, but one thing we can do is start fresh with our walk with God.  The prophet Joel had much to say about that

Joel 2:12-32New Living Translation (NLT) 12 That is why the Lord says,
    “Turn to me now, while there is time.  Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.  14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse.  Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before.

     God is speaking to the people of Israel through Joel.  He is saying turn to him now while there is still time.  He is telling the people to give Him their hearts. God is telling the people to return to the Lord, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.

Joel 2:12-32New Living Translation (NLT) 12 That is why the Lord says,
    “Turn to me now, while there is time. — Let’s return to the Lord while we can.  Nothing is guaranteed.  None of us is promised tomorrow.  Joel was petitioning the people to return to the source of their existence.

 Give me your hearts. —- In 2017; give the Lord your hearts.  Have you given him everything? Are there layers and sections of our souls that are blocked off that Jesus doesn’t have access to? (GRUDGES) But by withholding forgiveness, we place ourselves in God’s shoes and we don’t have the right.  Nothing compares to the horrible treatment Jesus received.  So give him your heart, surrender all the areas and compartments and hidden rooms in there.  Give him all the skeletons in your closet.

 Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. —- 2017 will be a year of fasting.    The Spirit of God gave that to me clearly for this year.  That’s something that Christians nowadays need to get back to.  Good old-fashioned prayer and fasting.  When was the last time we needed an answer from God so badly that we shed tears over it? Or skipped meals over it? Do we mourn for the spiritual condition (of all those around us?)

The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and have most powerfully affected the world for him, have been men who spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature of their lives. –E.M. Bounds

“Preaching never edifies a prayerless soul.”
E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer 

In the Gospel of Mark, there was a demon that caused a boy to be deaf and mute, chapter 9 to be exact.  The disciples could not cast it out, and in verse 29 he said the disciples had no spiritual power or authority because they had no prayer life.  See, spiritual power only comes from tapping into the power source.  If you are not plugged in every day, your spiritual batteries will die.  (SMARTPHONES).   Can we really change the spiritual climate around us if we have no passion for the spiritual condition of those around us? But God says in 2017, let’s not give just lip service.  Tear your hearts, not your clothing.

13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” 

Joel 2:13 (NIV) 13 Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:13 (ESV) and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Come to him now, while you have breath in your lungs

Now Is The Time 

Psalm 51:17 NLT The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. 

Isaiah 57:15 (NLT)  The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

What is repentance? It means to change your mind about your sin, about what sin is, and about what God says about sin.  If God says it’s wrong then it’s wrong, period dot.  We have to get this settled in our minds.

So this month, this season, this year, we are focusing on prayer and fasting.   Don’t just rely on outward appearances; rather be torn in your heart, and in your soul.  Let’s be broken hearted over our own sins, and the sins of the unbelieving, and for the state of the Bride of Christ.  Let’s return to the Lord.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

Why return to the Lord? Why return? Joel tells us he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. [DATING] If you do find love outside of God’s presence, is it unfailing love? But actually, how can we love or be loved without first knowing the love of God? How can we know mercy unless we know the one whose mercy has no limits? How can we know compassion unless we know the Father of Compassion? What does unfailing love look like? Do we even have a concept of unfailing love we can identify with? We won’t find unfailing love outside the Unfailing One.  He is eager to bless us. He is eager to relent and not punish.

Repentance brings blessings.  In this Old Testament passage, there was a locust army that came as a result of the people’s disobedience.  In New Testament times, all of our disobedience has been forgiven by Jesus, but there are tremendous blessings in relentlessly pursuing an ever deepening love with the Lord.

TRANSITION

The start of a New Year can be both exciting for some people and scary for others, but for us it can be nothing but a time of renewal and refreshing.  This is a time where the community, the Body of Christ, the local church, can get together and start our year off seeking God as a family.

Joel 2:15-17 15 Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem! Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. 16 Gather all the people—the elders, the children, and even the babies. Call the bridegroom from his quarters and the bride from her private room. 17 Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.  Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord! Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery. Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say, ‘Has the God of Israel left them?’”

     We see that God tells the prophet Joel to make a public announcement.  He is to gather all the people from the youngest to the oldest and declare a time of fasting.  The people are to cry out to the Lord and ask him to spare them.  They need to ask the Lord not to let his special possession become an object of mockery.

     So we see that returning to the Lord is done in community.  We see that repentance, renewal, committing to the Lord, all these things are done in community.  This passage is teaching us that there are no lengths or depths the Spirit of God won’t go to in order to rally God’s people together.

                                              Seeking revival is a family affair 

God has called us all to himself. He has called us to bear one another’s burdens.  He wants everyone engaged in the business of prayer and fasting.  Everyone, from the youngest to oldest here, God definitely wants to hear from you. I’ve just finished reading a book called “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.  The main campus in Brooklyn has over 8,000 in attendance, they have five campuses all over New York, and I think 12 world wide.  Their 100 plus member choir has recorded many top-selling CDs and has earned two Grammys.

     Pastor Cymbala owes all their success to their Tuesday night prayer meetings.  He will not ever two in a row of his Tuesday night prayer meetings.  It doesn’t matter who is requesting him to preach, or where he is in the world, Pastor Cymbala will NEVER miss two prayer meetings in a row.   You see, there is something about when the FAMILY gets together and cries out to the Lord together.  Plain and simply, they made prayer a priority as a group, and they prayed until the breakthroughs happened, until the walls in people’s hearts came down, and hearts melted before the Lord.

“In fact, Carol and I have told each other more than once that if the spirit of brokenness and calling on God ever slacks off in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, we’ll know we’re in trouble, even if we have 10,000 in attendance.” ― Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

     This year, if we seek after that fresh wind and that fresh fire, it can indeed fall on Neighborhood Church, on all the churches in Misawa, and all of Japan, and the United States! And not only will fresh fire fall, but everything we lost last year will be restored. Joel 2 verse 25 says that God will give us back everything we lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.   In other words, he is going to bring deliverance, restoration, and healing to those broken places in our souls, and in our lives.  He is going to bring physical healing where it is needed.  And I believe Psalm 37:25 where David said that he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor their children begging for bread.  My biggest concern and prayer for us though is that we would experience prosperity in answered prayer, and prosperity in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.   I say all this because we are in the last days, the apostle Peter confirmed this in the book of Acts.

  Acts 2:16-18 New Living Translation (NLT) 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,  ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

OBSERVATION

     The apostle Peter in the book of Acts was describing the day of Pentecost…..  What is Pentecost?

This event is recorded in the New Testament book known as The Acts of the Apostles. Chapter 2 begins, “And when the day of Pentecost [ten hemeran tes pentekostes] had come, [the first followers of Jesus] were all together in one place” (2:1). All of a sudden, a sound came from heaven, like a strong wind, filling the house where the people had gathered. Something like tongues of fire rested on their heads. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak” (2:4). Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the Christians were just drunk (2:12).  For Christians, Pentecost is a holiday on which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. From an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.

And at some point during the day of Pentecost, Peter, one of the leading followers of Jesus, stood up and preached his first sermon.

     See, the prophet Joel didn’t mention anything about the last days, so that was something that Peter threw in, and it was appropriate for him to do so.  And as God promised, the Spirit of God had been sent from heaven, to live inside His people from now on.  And Peter repeated Joel’s passage, because how do we know if God’s Spirit is among us? The power of God to save souls and transform lives being among us is the proof that we are truly people of the Spirit.  The visions and dreams you have as a result of prayer, and the visions and dreams you have ministry ideas and business ideas and for your family, they all carry weight, have meaning, and are important to God.  

                                 God can resurrect any vision and any dream

     See that’s the thing.  If your dream is God-given, God won’t let it die.  What’s that thing you’ve always wanted to do? God wants to use that thing, and you to see people in this world come to Jesus, serve Him and his Church, grow to maturity, and produce other Christians, other disciples.  Now that He has poured out his Spirit on us….he is going to give us new dreams.  That’s the key to making peace with your life and where your life has taken you. Listen to me, God is not cruel.  I used to think God was cruel for many years, because I had the audacity and the arrogance that I would sing for him, but I would never, EVER in a million years preach for him! But no doors opened for me to sing until I that Spirit-given dream God had for me to preach was accepted by me.   And since accepting the call to preach and pastor, now I’m singing! And my life has been enriched and fulfilled so much.  If you all would surrender to the visions and dreams that the Spirit of God gives you, if you would have the faith to surrender, if you would have the faith to ask for the ability to prophecy and the ability to mighty and wonderful things in the name of the Lord, he will give you those opportunities.  He’ll restore the years you’ve sown in tears.  He will repair what the locust armies did to you.  Preacher and evangelist Ravi Zacharias says this in his wonderful book, the Grand Weaver

“God the Grand Weaver seeks those with tender hearts so that he can put his imprint on them. Your hurts and your disappointments are part of that design, to shape your heart and the way you feel about reality. The hurts you live through will always shape you. There is no other way.” 

Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives

     God wants us to bring heaven to earth. He wants to give us life changing dreams that result in life changing businesses and ministries.

There is a pro-life ministry in D.C. that was started by a guy named David Bereit. His dad told him this testimony. Years before, he had gotten a girl pregnant out of wedlock, he had been scared, he pressured her to schedule an abortion… but she stood him up on the day of the appointment. He got so angry at her then. Yet eventually they ended up getting married.’“ “Laying on that hospital bed, his dad told him, ‘Son, that woman was your mother and that child I wanted to throw away to cover up my sin was you.’ The man who suggested the idea of what became a ministry called 40 Days for Life was himself an abortion survivor,” Bereit concludes.

With 252 cities involved this past spring, 40 Days for Life recently celebrated 10,000 babies saved through on-site prayer at abortion centers.  “There’s something very interesting about Fall 2004,” Matt Lockett of Bound4LIFE observes before sharing his story. In September 2004, I had a dream.”

“I saw young people praying day and night for the ending of abortion. And in my dream, there was a man named Lou Engle. I didn’t know of anyone named Lou Engle at that point, yet it was one of those weird experiences that I couldn’t get away from,” says Lockett.  Lou Engle is the founder of a nationwide prayer movement called The Call, based on Joel 2.  Matt says, “When I found out that Lou Engle really exists, I tracked down a phone number. When I call and share my dream, one of his team tells me, ‘You’ve just dreamt what the Lord has sent us to do. We are going to Washington, DC to pray for the ending of abortion. You should come and check it out, maybe God will have something for you there.’”

Then when Matt got to DC, this happened: “One young man was on an extended fast, and he had a dream,” shares Lockett. “He saw the streets of DC filled with young people who had tape over their mouths. In the dream, he zooms down from above and he’s in front of the Supreme Court. He sees the word LIFE is written on the tape over their mouths.”

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The team ended up doing the dream in front of the Supreme Court, the first “silent siege” followed by thousands more since that day.

Months into this new missionary experience, Lockett emerged as the director of Bound4LIFE and Justice House of Prayer DC – located a few blocks from the Supreme Court and the Capitol. Lockett states, “Our assignment progressed from praying for the 2004 elections, to believing for a shifting of the Supreme Court – to an ongoing assignment to pray for the courts and America, from the nation’s capital.”

So because of these God-given dreams, visions and ministries, pro-life groups are gaining incredible victories regarding legislation on abortion.  My God, let us take seriously the call of God that if we humble ourselves and get on our faces and on our knees, God will heal the land through us, through what the Spirit gives us.

THE END

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