Renew: Repent, Refresh! Three Words That Will Keep You From Getting Spiritually Stale

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.“ (Psalm 51:10-12, NIV) David was not a man of half measures. When he fell into gross sin, he did so dramatically and completely by committing first adultery and then murder.

Does it surprise you that David could fall so far ever when he knew God’s law so well and loved God so much? How did that happen? Christian take note: we are never immune to sin. Bible knowledge and perfect church attendance do not create a guarantee that you won’t ever follow your heart into stupid choices: every Christian I know is a dirty rotten sinner, including me.

The Apostle Paul, who was certainly one of the most spiritual men who ever lived, said that he struggled mightily with sin, and followed his fleshly desires against his own better judgment: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:15; 19-20)

Paul describes an internal spiritual battle that all believers experience when the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit does battle with our selfish, carnal nature. The flesh wants to slide into sin, and the Spirit wants to renew. David gave in to his fleshly desire and fell deeply into sin. When he came to his senses and repented, he did that deeply too. He not only acknowledged his sin and felt remorse, he begged God to restore their fellowship.

In David’s great prayer of confession in Psalm 51, he asks the Lord for several things. I’m thinking that this passage would be a pretty good one to pray through every day, and not just when you are battling sin. Here are David’s requests: 1) “Create in me a pure heart”. David understood that God was the only source of purity, and he asked God to sanctify him.

renew heart

2) “Renew a steadfast spirit within me”. David didn’t want to return to the Lord for a moment or a day, but for a lifetime. He had already proven that he could follow his own evil desires, so he asked the Lord to make him steadfast, consistent, and persistent. Having tasted once the Spirit of the Lord, he understood that only God’s Spirit could renew his heart and restore his fellowship.

3) He wanted to hang out with God all the time. He had traded God’s eternal presence for temporary delight, and found only disappointment and heartache. He now understood that only God’s presence offers true delight, and only God’s Spirit sustains. David wanted to exchange the regret and remorse of sin for the renewal and refreshment of forgiveness.

4) “Restore to me the joy of your salvation”. Do you remember being relieved, glad, secure, content, and joyful in your first knowledge of salvation? Return to that moment. The honeymoon is never over, and the great romance continues! Rejoice anew in your salvation. As John says in 1 John 1:4, “These things we write to you so that your joy may be FULL.”

5) “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” David did not beg for wisdom, discipline, or for the ability to control—he begged God for sustenance. What sustains you? How willing is your spirit? If you ask God to purify and dwell in your heart, to grant you the JOY of your salvation, and to sustain you, and MEAN IT, I think that you will find that your heart is willing indeed. Repent. Renew. Be restored. Be sustained.

The King’s Lament

I don’t know why I ever thought myself above reproof,
When I saw Bathsheba bathing as I walked upon the roof;
She brazenly displayed herself and all her worldly charms,
And I knew that as I watched her, she would soon be in my arms.
I didn’t see where it would lead, or all the consequences,
And every day I wish I would have come back to my senses.
I might have kept from taking steps and breaking Yahweh’s trust,
Instead of giving in to sin and falling into lust.
I’m sorry, Lord. Forgive me for my wicked, selfish sin,
Create in me a brand new heart. Renew me from within.
Be present with me, Lord, and make my heart a new creation,
And please restore within me all the joy of my salvation!
Grant me a willing spirit, let me walk in all your ways;
Sustain my soul, and let me humbly love you all of my days…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Real Transgressions Require Real Repentance.

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” (Psalm 51:3-4, NIV)

David may have been the greatest king of Israel, but he was also one of its greatest sinners. When he spotted Bathsheba bathing he was tempted, which in itself is not sin. But what followed is almost a textbook case of how big transgressions can emerge from seemingly small temptations. The word transgressions comes from the notion of going beyond the boundaries, of over-passing the rules. That often starts with temptation and develops from there. As James says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15, KJV)

David’s demise started with a walk on the palace roof. (A place David had built, where he stood upon the pinnacle of his own accomplishments as Lord of all he could see, where he felt protected, private, and proud… all fertile elements for temptation to take root and come to full flower…Say, where do YOU experience that same environment or those same feelings? That can happen when you are all alone, or feel safe that nobody will know what you did. When there is no accountability, or when you are full of your own rights or accomplishments, then beware: conditions are ripe for temptation to turn into sin!)

transgressions require repentance

David was drawn into transgressions that seem unthinkable for a man after God’s own heart. His lust led him into adultery, betrayal, cowardice, and murder. He even made others complicit in his sin by having them bring Bathsheba to him (imagine the talk among the servants!) and leave Uriah alone in battle to be slain. (You think Joab lost a little respect for David over this “let’s abandon Uriah” thing?) These actions are startling in a man who rejoiced in the God of his salvation, who adored and loved the Lord so publicly and passionately. (I guess sin and depravity are startling in every one of us, for that matter, and we can relate to and learn from David’s horrible mistakes)

But if we learn from how David failed to avoid temptation and how it led him into big transgressions, we can also learn from how he repented. It was not David’s purity that made him a man after God’s own heart. It was his response to his own impurity. Real quick, here are three things David teaches us about true repentance:

1) “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” He knew what he did was wrong, and he felt profound conviction over it. He didn’t sin and walk away; he realized all that he had done, and he couldn’t forget it or put it behind him. His remorse followed him remorselessly. When we commit transgressions, our repentance needs to be total and authentic.

2) Even though he sinned publicly and involved others, he knew his sin was a private matter between him and his Creator. “Against you only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” While David’s actions had many, many earthly consequences, he also understood the heavenly ones. It grieved him to betray the Living God, and it was to the Living God he turned for restoration. While there are always earthly consequences to sin, our repentance needs to be personal and private between us and the Lord.

3) “You are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” Even though he was a king who could have had Nathan killed for revealing his sins, David accepted God’s authority in his life. He didn’t rationalize or equivocate, he didn’t tap-dance or make further excuses. He didn’t hire defense attorneys or try to circumvent the law. He acknowledged his transgressions and placed himself willingly under the verdict of a Righteous Judge.

Proper repentance always involves the right respective about who God is and who we are. I am always surprised that David’s failures were written about so candidly. After all, he was Israel’s hero and greatest king; but God allowed us to see his failings because we, too will fail. And He allowed us to see his repentance, because we, too, need to repent. You have undoubtedly committed transgressions, too. The next step is up to you.

Here’s a tip for your transgressions:
Offer up a real confession;
Sin requires a deadly sentence,
So start with a heart of true repentance!
Don’t obfuscate, prevaricate,
Procrastinate or hesitate.
You’ve sinned, so you know what to do:
The rest of it is up to you.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Dancing Might Just be What’s Missing From Church Today…

“I was dancing before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:21, NIV)

“I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2, NIV)

“The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give!” (Psalm 21:1, NIV)

dancing before the Lord

For David, a relationship with God was not a burden, an obligation, or a chore. It was cause for celebration and rejoicing. After every great trial and every great victory, David rejoiced not in his own ability, and not in his own ego, but in his ongoing relationship with God.

In 2 Samuel 6:14-15, he celebrated the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” His wife Michal was disgusted at his exuberant public display, but David told her, that in terms of expressing his gratitude and passion for the Lord, “I was dancing before the Lord… I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…”

When was the last time you were undignified because you were just so darn happy about what God has done in your life? When have you [ever] danced with joy before the Lord? We Baptists probably have a real struggle with this passage, kind of like we do with serving real wine at communion—it probably wasn’t REAL dancing, was it? (The Bible says he danced with “all his might”, so it sounds like real dancing to me.) In any case, I think Scripture teaches us that it’s ok for us to be passionate about God, to rejoice and celebrate.

Remember all He has done for you! Think about forgiveness and grace, and celebrate! Think about something even simpler: today is a gift from God. Whatever your circumstances, you have today. How would David say you should treat it? I think he’d say: “This is the day which The Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24, NIV) That sounds like great advice to me. Let’s rejoice! Dance like nobody’s watching!

When you think you’re in control,
But the God of the Universe grabs your soul,
And showers you from up above, and powers you with His great love:
Then take a stance, and grab your pants,
and let your joy burst forth: Just dance!

When you’re sleeping in those pews,
But you hear a verse that you can use,
Then tell me: what have you got to lose?
Just take a stance, and move those pants: Just dance!

If worship seems too commonplace, and boredom shows on every face,
Jump up into the realm of Grace, and move a bit! It’s no disgrace!
Shake yourself! Put up a fight! Get up and move with all your might!
Don’t worry if you look a sight!
Just grab your pants and take a stance: Just Dance!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Cosmic Romance is Happening, and YOU are a Big Part of It

There is a lot of romance happening around a wedding ceremony. The groom is dressed in his finest, waiting by the altar as the lovely bride approaches. He is nervous, she is blushing. She glows with beauty, and he glows with pride. There is a sense of anticipation and joy that makes a wedding day very special. “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV)

Weddings are amazing events, full of love and romance. When you consider the amount of time, creativity, and preparation poured into a wedding day, it has to be one of the most anticipated days of a lifetime. I was the father of two beautiful brides, (and one handsome son as well!) and each event was significant and special, attended by hours of planning, selecting, decorating, and choosing every element so that the wedding day went just right.

At a wedding there are participants, coordinators, flowers, colors, rehearsals, photographers, videographers, tuxedos, caterers, locations, churches, gifts, meals, DJ’s, music, toasts, shoes, and countless other things like romance to consider.
When I’ve had the privilege to officiate at weddings, I have noticed that most of these details are very important to the Bride. She is not only giving herself away, she is coordinating the blending of two families to create a new one. That means, of course, that her wedding must be special, and it should commemorate the occasion with all of the appropriate decorations and elements. Brides and their mothers (and perhaps their wedding planner) dream of, conceive, plan, and manage every detail of a wedding so that it will be a perfect day.

romance

Grooms, not so much. Most of the time (in my observation) Grooms leave a lot of that preparation stuff where it belongs, with the Bride and her mother. Yes, they smile and say, “Yes Dear”, or “That looks great”, but really, how much work do most grooms have to do getting ready for the wedding? So why didn’t Isaiah say, “As the bride rejoices over the wedding day, so shall your God rejoice over you”? Why did he compare God’s love for us to the groom?

I’m gonna get real for a minute. In our modern age of birth control, weddings have lost something that used to be a huge part of the anticipation and build up for the special event. Face it, most couples today have slept together already. Before birth control, you were playing Russian roulette with your future to do that, and 60+ years ago, most women weren’t willing to take that chance. I’m not being Polly Anna, and yes I know that people still did it, but not nearly as easily or as often as they do today.

Weddings before birth control still held the romance and pure physical anticipation of intimacy, which was scary, mysterious, spiritual, sexual, and highly anticipated, particularly by the groom. He’d been mooning over his fiancé, longing for her, doing all of the highly charged heavy petting she would let him get away with, and begging for union.

I’ll pause for a moment and say that even today, when I officiate weddings, it is always a special moment when the bridal procession starts, and I can see from up close the look in the groom’s eyes as he watches his beautiful Bride, prepared and reserved for him, coming down the aisle to be presented to him. There is always longing, pride, affection and commitment in that look; I mean, it’s a wedding! But where physical intimacy has not yet occurred, the sense of anticipation is that much higher, and the desire for intimacy brings an even greater sense of urgency to the bride’s approach. It puts the RRRR in “romance”! The groom is a raging combination of love, romance, and hormones, anxious to consummate this union that he has anticipated so long…

So picture this: Isaiah says THAT is how God rejoices over us. That is why Paul quoted Moses in Ephesians 5:31-32: ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” A man leaves his home and family to start a new one, and to become one with the woman he loves. He will find completion and comfort in her arms, and they will discover the delights and pleasures of that union together.

As a groom stands and rejoices that his bride is coming down the aisle to be his—that is how God feels about us. That is how God feels about us!
As we walk down the aisle to be His bride, can you feel His gaze upon us? It is filled with pride, affection, commitment and joy—as well as the pure longing for intimacy that has been planned since eternity past, and will bring joy for eternity to come. Be glad! You are being rejoiced over. You are at the center of the cosmic romance.

The blushing bride is in the aisle, approaching sweet and pure;
She cannot hide her glowing smile, and yet remains demure.
Her face is like a work of art; she looks her very best–
Anticipation makes her heart beat faster in her chest!
Her steps are slow and measured as she walks into the room;
She could not be more treasured by her loving, waiting groom.
He sees her dress, her hair, her skin, the beauty waiting there within,
And drinks this lovely vision in, and knows that she’s reserved for Him!
He looks at her with perfect pride, a love that cannot be denied,
A heart that wells up deep inside with love for His eternal Bride!
Where joy is full and tears are dried, this Cosmic Romance will abide…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Priceless Love: It Has Nothing to Do With Mastercard

A few years ago there was a series of priceless MasterCard commercials which depicted different special events and then broke down the costs involved in getting there. (Naturally you could put all those costs on your credit card!) Each commercial concluded by reminding us of the true value it had: Tutu, $48. Dance lessons, $800. Shoes, $54. Seeing your daughter dance at her first recital: priceless. That “priceless” theme is still used on some memes, and it often points out that there are things so valuable we can’t put a price tag on them.

priceless shirt

The Bible talks about value as well: “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep… How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! Both high and low among men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:5-9, NIV)

David was called a man after God’s own heart, and many of the Psalms he wrote reflect his passion for and devotion to the Lord. He was smitten with the priceless love of God. If you are ever stale in your daily time with God, just start reading a Psalm a day and reflecting on God’s love and majesty the way David did. It will open your eyes. This passage offers several insights as to why David was so close to God:

1) David had the right perspective. He understood the Lord’s place in the universe, and he understood man’s place as well. God is majestic, more glorious than nature, loving, righteous, just and faithful. He transcends nature and has authority over man. The greatest evils in the world have always occurred when man reverses those roles and places himself in authority. David made huge mistakes, but even then he had great perspective, and stayed humble before the Lord.

2) David understood that God’s love is more valuable than anything else. (Bread for your brothers at the front, 4 shekels. Five smooth stones, free. Sling, 2 shekels. Protection of the Living God: priceless.) David reflected often upon God’s priceless love and loving kindness. He sang about them as a shepherd and as a King. He believed in the unfailing riches of God’s love and kindness, took refuge in them, and proclaimed them to be universal, offered to all men great and small.

priceless love

He took sustenance from God’s love, and likened it to a “river of delights”. When is the last time you truly felt that way about the love of God? Actually felt like you were seated at the banquet table of His feast, or bathing your parched lips with the coolness of living water? Pause for a moment and pray through those images the way David did. Enjoy a helping of God’s amazing grace and take a deep drink of God’s priceless love. Feel better?

3) David saw that human wisdom and understanding were only relevant if they were connected to God. “In your light we see light.” There are dozens of light and dark references in the Bible, so this one might be easy to miss. But David was a man after God’s own heart because he sought illumination from the one true source rather than from something man-made… Some of my former Young Life kids talk about “getting lit”—street talk for getting stoned. It’s a poor substitute for what David knew that REALLY worked. If you REALLY want to “get lit”, go to the light. The closer you get to it, the better you’ll see…

Your love goes to the heavens, Lord, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like majestic mountains, strong and wise!
Your justice is unfathomable; your loving presence brings
The great and small a refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Your holy love is priceless: from the greatest to the least
You offer us abundance in your house and at your feast.
We drink eternal water in your river of delight;
Your fountain gives us life, and in your light we see the light.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Heart Matters: If You Long for God to Say “You are After My Own Heart”, Here’s a Good Place to Start

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22, NIV) What an amazing thing for the God of the universe to say about someone! Would God say that about you? He called David “a man after my own heart”, even though David did despicable things, so perhaps there is hope for all of us.

Apparently perfect behavior was not the key to chasing after God’s heart, so why did God say this? What can we learn from David that could teach us about how to be that kind of person? Take a quick walk through the Psalms and look at David’s intimate connection with God’s loving-kindness, and what it teaches us:

1) David was a man for whom seeking God was a passionate pursuit. “The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8). David sought the Lord day and night. He prayed often to the One he called “the God of my life”, and he depended upon God’s goodness and creativity.

heart

2) His daily relationship with God gave him purpose and direction. “Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.” (Psalm 143:8) Would YOUR week be any different if you approached every day like that? When you read the account of David’s life, you find that David was successful when he sought the Lord’s advice and followed it.

3) David’s feelings about God were not a private matter. He sang and prayed to the Lord; he put it out there. “I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your loving-kindness and Your truth From the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:10)

He didn’t worry about offending anyone or being too vocal about God; he shared and sang and wrote about the love of his life. It was something he could not contain. For David, his relationship with God was like a grand love story that he had to share with everyone.

Picture a man who falls in love with that special woman who completes him, and provides all the love and affection he ever dreamed of. So, he marries his beautiful bride, enjoys the ceremony and then takes her home and locks her in the back room. Now, imagine that he only takes her out a few minutes a day or a few hours a week. Would that make sense? NO!! And yet, that is how many of us treat God! We fall in love with the God of the Universe, we call Him Father, and yet we only spend a few minutes a day with Him, or visit Him at his place once a week.

That’s certainly not how David did it. Consider revealing your love for God the same way he did. Learn from his passion, his persistence, his prayer, and his public display of affection. And God will say, “I have found ________ (YOUR NAME HERE!), a person after my own heart.” How cool would THAT be?

“A Man After God’s Own Heart”

Start with a boy, who, tending sheep,
Beneath the stars, too in love to sleep,
Looks up at the heavens’ glistening art,
And comprehends the Creator’s heart.

Least regarded, chosen king,
Transformed by a giant, a rock, a sling!
A man who gazed at God above,
And understood; And fell in love.

Powerful warrior, loyal friend;
Head of the kingdom without end;
Poet, prophet, singer: dance,
Caught in the grip of God’s romance!

Love the Lord and love His word!
Let your songs and praise be heard,
Reaching countless human ears,
Timeless for a thousand years!

But O! That sword can cut two ways:
For those same lips that sang God’s praise
Will kiss their way into a fall,
A story shown and known to all…

Scheming, lying, murderous lust;
Broken hearts and broken trust,
Written down for all to see,
Captured for eternity…

Deep your capacity to transgress!
But deeper, a longing to confess:
To bring your contrite, broken heart
Back to the Maker’s matchless art.

Honest now, with no pretense,
No vain attempt at self-defense!
Broken as a consequence…
Confessing, teaching us that this
Is how to have a heart like His.

Acts 13:22 “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart…”
Matt. 22:37: “And Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…”

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Sin Happens, and Sometimes You Have to Work Hard to Accidentally Fall Into It

Sin happens to everybody. We may think somebody is righteous or above the carnal deeds of men, but the Bible says it even happened to “a man after God’s own heart.” “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem…” (2 Samuel 11:1, NIV)

Thus begins the account of perhaps the most famous fall from grace since the Garden of Eden. David, the King of Israel, sent his army out to battle while he stayed back at the palace enjoying all the comforts of home. It’s not like David was cowardly or soft—he was one of the most valiant warriors in Israel’s history—but for whatever reason, he decided to stay home for this campaign. It was the costliest decision he ever made.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” (11:2-4) Apparently David, the man after God’s own heart, also had a heart of his own. He spotted Bathsheba, coveted her, sent for her and slept with her.

sin of David

Lest we feel too sorry for these victims of circumstance who just “fell into sin”, think about what each of them did. Sin happens for a reason. There was a reason why David liked to walk the palace roof. I would imagine he was able to spot more than one woman bathing outside hoping the king might notice, or perhaps he had seen this particular woman before and it was a repeat performance. Bathsheba was apparently no shrinking violet. (Later on, she is ambitious and resourceful in promoting her son Solomon as heir to the throne). The fact that Bathsheba brazenly displayed herself in view of the King suggests an agenda. This was perhaps a calculated effort on her part to draw the King’s eye and favor.

But the story gets worse. She got pregnant. David called Uriah home so he could sleep with her to provide a logical reason why she would be with child when her husband was off to war; the honorable Uriah refused to go in to sleep with his wife while his own men were out in the field. David, feeling a little desperate, then secretly had Uriah isolated in battle so that he would be killed. An admiring look at a bathing beauty turned into lust, betrayal, adultery, and murder. Left alone with time on his hands, David turned his back on his troops, his responsibilities, and his walk with God.

We’ve all been there. Well, maybe you haven’t been exactly where David was, but you have definitely turned your back on God to chase a secret sin. I know I have. Sin happens along, beckoning us to play. Oscar Wilde said “I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.” We may not want to adhere to Mr. Wilde’s philosophy, but I’m pretty sure each of us has unfortunately found the strength to pursue sin, just like David. Here are a couple of observations taken from his story:

1) When you take yourself away from accountability, responsibility, and good companions, you are vulnerable to sin. My grandmother (and maybe everybody’s grandmother!) used to say, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” If you are busy staying close to God and His people, you might be too busy to get into mischief.

2) One thing leads to another. You can start with merely “walking around on the roof of the palace” and end up as an adulterer and a murderer. Never forget that depravity is a progressive condition. Like in so many other things in life, even “baby steps” into sin will take us further into sin.

3) All your past victories over Goliath do not guarantee that you will always make the right choice. If you have been spiritually successful, if you are currently the reigning monarch over all you survey, you are still vulnerable to sin. Stay humble. If David, the man after God’s own heart, could fall into sin by following his own desires, remember: You have a heart of your own, too.

David walked upon the roof, where much to his surprise,
He saw a naked woman bathing right before his eyes.
He took some steps: he sent for her. He called her, and she came;
For them, and for their nation, things would never be the same.
David saw a woman. It’s a story old but true–
Temptation beckons folks to sin in what they say or do–
So tell me: What temptation beckons secretly to YOU?
Beware when something calls you to immerse yourself in sin:
David walked upon the roof. And looked. And he fell in.
If porn or Pinterest beckons you with something you can covet,
Beware of what can happen if your heart decides to love it.
If you think you are not so bad, and need a little proof,
Just look where David ended up by walking on the roof…

 

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Inside Matters: It’s Not What’s on the Outside, It’s What’s Inside that Counts!

You can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to look inside of it to see what it really says. Solomon understood that: “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21, NIV) On one hand, Solomon is stating the obvious: an omniscient, all-seeing God is aware of everything a man does, whether inside or out.

This verse reinforces the lesson Samuel learned when he was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the future king of Israel. Samuel thought Eliab looked noble and therefore worthy, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)

inside matters

Not only does God see our outward appearance, but He alone also discerns our thoughts and motives; He watches all our paths. The obvious question here is, when the Lord looks at your heart, what does He see? Certainly He knew that David had not only greatness in him, but sin and heartache as well—and yet He still called David to be king. So it is with each of us: even though the Lord knows what we are capable of, even though He sees every hateful thought, lustful desire and selfish motive, he still says this: “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV) He still calls the Church to be his Bride…

inside bride

We are shallow creatures who are drawn to external things and temporary baubles, and weddings can be more wrapped up in how the flowers look or what people wear than what is truly important. An earthly bride wants to look perfect; but like David it’s not how she looks outside that really matters, and the same is true for the groom. It’s what they are INSIDE that will determine their relationship.

Someday, we will be a Bride standing at the altar, purified from all of our hidden transgressions, looking into the eyes of God’s everlasting love… And He says He will be REJOICING over us! At the wedding feast of the Lamb, it’s not going to be about how you look; it’s going to be more about WHO you are looking at. Know this: the Groom will be looking at you and rejoicing! If you give the Lord permission to take care of the INSIDE, the outside will be just fine.

You’re looking good: your hair is dyed,
Your makeup has been well applied.
But even with your catwalk stride,
You can run, but you can’t hide!
The Lord sees who you are, inside;
He knows your sinful, selfish pride,
The hidden hate, the times you lied!
And yet He set your sin aside,
Taking you to be his bride,
Offering love that cannot be denied.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Freedom is a Two-edged Sword. While You’re Making Plans, Consider This:

Here in the United States we talk a lot about freedom, and we live in a culture that certainly loves to celebrate it. People are free to do what they want, to exercise their rights, and to feel independent of control by others.

But, Freedom is a door that swings both ways. The Bible has a lot to say about our freedom to choose, and about all the contingencies that result from it. Apparently doing whatever you want may offer a brief, giddy sense of empowerment, but it often has consequences that extend farther than the feeling…

“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:1-3, NIV)

“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)

“So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:12, NIV)

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28, NIV)

According to Proverbs, we have the right to make plans, to keep our own counsel, and to make choices based on our heart’s inclination. Those plans may or may not coincide with God’s plans, but we are not restricted to obedience. These verses point out that our actions come from our heart, our motives, and our will; we are free to plan and pursue our own choices. Although we live in a world created by a sovereign God, the Bible is pretty clear that He has granted us the right to exercise our own will.

But freedom is a two–edged sword. When we have the ability to do whatever we want, we have the ability to choose to do something foolish, impractical, or selfish. Apparently every time we make plans, and every time we take action, we have the option of seeking and taking the Lord’s counsel–or not. Solomon points out that our human plans can be self-interested, temporary, based on impure motives, self-delusional, impulsive, stubbornly selfish, and sinful. Men have been proving that for centuries.

freedom my way

The Lord’s plans, on the other hand, are not based on petty human desires for power, fame, or lust. They are solid, dependable, wise, and worthy. These verses highlight a couple of things. 1) Before you make plans or take action, seek God’s counsel. We aren’t always even honest with ourselves about why we are doing something, or what our true motives are. Going through the process of asking the Lord what He thinks provides perspective, and it is always a good idea.

2) Remember that your plans can take you the wrong direction. We have the freedom to be stubborn as we walk away from God. To be sure, He will call us back, He will offer counsel and direction, and the Holy Spirit will offer motivation to do right. God’s desire is for us to be holy as He is holy, to walk with Him and to commit our way to Him. He will call all people to Himself, and He will offer all men motivation and inspiration.

But there are several places in Scripture where it plainly says that at some point God will honor man’s freedom to such a degree that He will “give them over” to their own plans and desires. Those who continually choose self over God will ultimately get their wish. C. S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”

When wrong seems right, and when culture tells you it’s ok to choose something depraved over God’s plan, tread lightly. Exercise your freedom wisely. You may find that you have started down a one way street. Don’t miss that last exit.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,
But even so, the Lord has given us the right to choose.
He doesn’t make us follow Him or go against our will,
And even when we sin, His grace abounds and calls us still.
If you persist in choosing sin, however, you may find
That you have wandered out so far that God is far behind,
And He allows your own depravity to rule your mind.
Choose wisely. God desires that all his children would be saved;
But He also allows us each to choose to be depraved.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

“Peace to You, my Brother”: Change Your Greeting, Change the World

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2, NIV) This is a very simple greeting, but as is so often true, the simple is sometimes the most profound.

Author Linda Olsson said, “It’s often about the simple things, isn’t it? Painting and photography are first about seeing, they say. Writing is about observing. Technique is secondary. Sometimes the simple is the most difficult.” We live in such a complex world, but at the root of all complexity is simplicity, so maybe it makes sense to take the world’s problems and address them at a very simple level.

Consider the act of greeting one another. In everyday conversational exchanges, we say “Hi! What’s up? How are you? Hello there!” or as Joey Tribbiani (from “Friends”) would say, “How YOU doin’?” And while friendly enough, these greetings don’t really carry the same love or impact that saying “Grace and Peace to you, my friend’ would carry.

What if you did something simple, and greeted everyone with “Grace and Peace to you”, and meant it? Would it change anyone’s day? Would it change YOUR day? It would certainly make people think…and it might make YOU think.

First of all, it assumes you know about Grace, and that you wish it upon your fellow-man. What if you really felt that way? What if EVERYONE really felt that way? If you just stop to consider for a moment the magnitude of Grace and how healing and redeeming it truly is, imagine how different life would be if all of us approached everyone with Grace! Wouldn’t we all be in an amazing place if everyone had the goodwill and the passion to wish grace upon each other (and therefore) the world?

The second part of the greeting has just as much potential: “Peace to you”.

peace sign

How would being peaceful change the world? Ron Artest (an NBA player) changed his name to “Meta World Peace”, but I’m not sure that even changed Ron Artest. The Baby Boomers flashed the peace sign and protested war, but did it really change anything? I think Paul is referring here to the personal inner kind rather than world peace, but if you think about it, if everyone found peace perhaps the world would as well. But how many people do you know who are both graceful and forgiving? How many people do you encounter who would benefit from being both MORE graceful and MORE forgiving?

We live in the Polar Age, where people divide into opposing social groups, political parties, divergent agendas, and critical camps. It’s Conservatives versus Liberals, Whites versus Blacks, Haves versus have-nots, Straights versus Gays, what I want versus what everyone else wants… No matter where you are in any of those polar opposites, could you sincerely wish the other side “Grace and Peace”? What would happen if you DID?

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” If He was generous enough to leave us His Peace, the least we could do is share it with each other.

In a world of polar hate, Full of insult and debate,
Could we try another way? To simply and sincerely say,
“Grace and Peace, my Friend, to YOU. Easy to say, but hard to DO
We can change our attitude, give “peace” and not be misconstrued,
Have dialog and not be rude, and keep from being lewd or crude!
No more insults to be hurled: Change your greeting, change the world!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread