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Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts. I am merciful, kind, and caring. I don’t easily lose my temper, and I don’t like to punish. Joel 2:13 (CEV)

When I was in about sixth grade a couple of friends of mine decided to have an overnight campout in one of the guys backyard. The tent was only big enough for two guys but they said I could hang out with them if I wanted to sleep under the stars. I went home and asked permission from my mom. Problem was, she said no. I could go back to play, but had to be home by dark.

I never went home that night. I lied to my friends about the pseudo permission I received and had an absolutely miserable time. They didn’t know it of course. I kept it well hidden as we played cards, sat around the campfire and told stories.

I slept under the stars that night with nothing but my light jacket. I assured my friends it was by my choice to sleep that way. I was cold. I was scared. Every little sound awakened me from a fitful slumber.

The odd part was, I was within eyesight of home. Just a short walk to a warm bed. In spite of that I was determined to do things my way. Even when I saw my dad drive by at about dusk I ignored the guilt and pain associated with knowing I was wrong! I took the long way home late the next morning. I was hungry, cold, tired and guilty. When I got home the next morning I was grounded for my actions. Both of my parents reminded me of the rules and assured me of their love, but that didn’t change the consequences.

You may be living the same way today. You are determined to live life your way. You know what God requires. You know the path you should take. You know that what you are doing is displeasing to God. You may even do as I did that night and try to convince yourself that everything is fine and life is good.

When you do things your way and leave God out there is an emptiness that nothing can fill. Relationships won’t fill it. Religion won’t fill it. Money, toys and social status won’t fill it. The only thing that will fill that emptiness is living for Jesus.

The prophet Joel wrote to a stubborn, rebellious people. People who’d seen God work many times but refused to follow him. Through the prophet God sends the people ofIsraelthe same lesson he sends us. ‘Come home. Get serious about life and living. I don’t want your rituals. I want your heart. I don’t want words. I want a passionate relationship with you. I’m patient. I understand your plight. I won’t lose my temper with you.’

PRAYER: Father God I have tried so many things to fill this void in my life. I confess that I am afraid to come home to you. I’m so used to people responding to my failures with anger and hostility I expect the same from you. Thank you for your patience, love, mercy and grace. Forgive me for being stubborn. Empower me to live for you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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