You May Be a Priest and Not Even Know it: Here’s Why

The priestly function is as old as the Bible, and we tend to think of a priest in sacramental terms (Mass), or as Father Joe or Tim… But it actually has nothing to do the Catholic church. The Biblical definition of priest is far more universal than any denominational function, and the application of that function may  just strike closer to home than you think…

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)

The Priest does What, Exactly?

Most cultures in ancient times had priests who represented gods or conducted religious rituals. Joseph married the daughter of Potiphera, who was a priest of On; Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was a priest of Midian. For as long as men have lived in communities, there have been priests. A prophet by Biblical definition one who speaks God’s word to men; a priest has the inverse function, in that he intercedes for men back to God. Priests can administer holy rites and conduct sacrifices, providing mediation and healing between men and God.

The first mention of a priest in the Bible was in Genesis 14. Lot and his family were carried off after a defeat of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah by an alliance led by Kedorlaomer. Abram took 318 warriors and went and rescued Lot from these marauding kings. Upon his return, it says “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18-20, NIV)

After perhaps the first story of redemption in the Bible (since Abram went into enemy territory and rescued his own, bringing them back from hostile captivity), we meet the first priest. He represents the God Most High, he blesses Abram, serves bread and wine, and gives God all the credit. Sound familiar? The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus “forever a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6), and most scholars feel that Melchizedek is a Theophany, or a pre-incarnation appearance by Christ. Jesus himself certainly pointed us back to this passage when he served bread and wine at the last supper, and he was certainly the King of Peace (Salem). Based on what I saw on our trip to Israel, it’s obvious from this picture I took there that Melchizedek is still recognized around Jerusalem:

priest Melchizidek

Meeting the Qualifications

It’s interesting stuff worthy of further study, but for now I’ll just point out a couple of things: 1) Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and yet remained sinless. As a sinless man, he was uniquely qualified to administer sacred rites (such as a sacrifice).
2) Jesus is called our high priest, and He is actually the ONLY person ever qualified to serve in that office on his own merit. As a man without sin, truly consecrated, he could certainly represent God to all of us, and show us what serving God truly looks like.

priest Jesus

3) As a priest without spot or blemish, he not only administered sacrifice but also became the sacrifice on our behalf. So what does all this have to do with you? Think about what Peter wrote to all believers: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

If you are a follower of Jesus, Peter says, YOU are a priest, and you are “God’s special possession.” So as a priest, start serving. As someone called out of darkness, keep shining.

The Role You Didn’t Know You Had

Abram saved his people, and the Lord gave him a sign:
He met the priest Melchizedek, who served him bread and wine.
Of all the jobs we tend to think we’re qualified for the least,
Perhaps the one we most avoid is acting as a priest.
We know that Jesus as a priest was truly qualified,
And that his right to fill that role was surely bona fide;
But Peter says that we are priests. God gave us every right
To sing His praise since we were called from darkness into light.
So if you doubt your status, probably just like I doubt mine,
Do this: Accept God’s calling to the light, and let yours shine.

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
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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.

Independence Has a Cost

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.

The Door That Swings Both Ways

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.

Only Two Kinds of People

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.

It’s All About Your Choice

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
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The Upside of Rebuke: Why a Kick in the Teeth Can Be an Act of Love

Have you ever been stung by a rebuke? It’s not any fun. It hurts a little, and it can be a tough thing to endure. If you’ve been rebuked, you know what I mean. But the Bible offers a statement about rebuke than can change your perspective entirely: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools”. (Ecclesiastes 7:5, NIV)

Who in your life offers you wise correction? I once made a list of all the “difference makers” in my life. I thought about people who taught me something useful, exhorted me to go farther, offered me rebuke, or pushed me to elevate my game in some form or fashion. In almost every case, those people caused me discomfort or even pain at the time. I certainly didn’t recognize 100% back then that they were helping me instead of hurting me. In fact, there were times I surely resented it; it wasn’t comfortable or (I felt) complimentary.

But maybe rebuke was a good thing. Looking back, I can clearly see how my Dad (in particular) and certain teachers, coaches, and friends motivated me to achieve more than I would have without their sometimes abrasive assistance. Oddly enough, I thought most of them were being mean to me in the moment, but they were actually pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and into my potential.

rebuke helps

Walt Disney said “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Jesus said it in a different way: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2, NIV) Even fruitful branches get pruned by the gardener. A healthy plant actually bears more fruit after it has undergone the stress of losing branches; Jesus presented that as an analogy for human growth as well.

Our Father uses the pain and difficulty of today to prepare us for tomorrow. When Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers and then sold into slavery, he could have stayed bitter over his mistreatment. Instead, he recognized that there was a larger purpose involved. He told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20, NIV)

I’m certainly not trying to make light of tragedy in any way, but the next time you find yourself in discomfort or difficult circumstances, say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that you will be “even more fruitful”. That person telling you to take it easy or inviting you to slack off may not be your friend; and the person who challenges you and offers you rebuke may not be your enemy.

The Harsh Sting of Pleasing Words

Jesus said we are the branches, and he is the vine;
“My Father”, Jesus said, “will prune on every branch of mine.”
Unfruitful branches are cut off completely, while the rest
Are cut and pruned so that their fruit will be the very best.
When we are tempted to relax, stop trying–just to coast–
The people who rebuke us are the ones who love us most.
A wise rebuke may hurt our feelings, or at least seem cruel,
But it’s better than the soothing flattery of a fool…

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 Biggest Gamble in History: Doing What Had Never Been Done

If you stop and think about it, life is a gamble; it is about taking risks and hoping for a good outcome. The bigger the stakes, the more significant the outcome is. I have always thought that we tend to minimize the cosmic transaction whereby Christ became a man… I’m sure that God knew what he was doing, but to my finite mind, it had to be the biggest gamble in history.

Doing What Had Never Been Done

Hindsight is always 20-20, but splitting apart the personhood of God had never been done in all the eons of history, and sending Jesus into the world as a mere man seems like a pretty radical gamble to take. Paul describes it like this “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5, NIV)

gamble?

Was this a gamble for God? A good theologian would never ask that, because God’s omniscience precludes such a thought. But to me, it raises the question (have you ever truly considered this?): Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be God? Not just like Superman, or even somebody with magical powers, but to be totally loving, totally self-sufficient, to be able to transcend time and space, and to have all wisdom and knowledge and power? To have limitless aspects of character and creativity, to exist transcendent and triune, three expressions of function woven into one intricate and intimate personality?

Imagine being infinite, not just in moments of time but in capacity and power, in the ability to see all ends and understand all cosmic secrets? What would being the creator feel like, forming living things, breathing life into them, building not only the circle of life and the food chain but every intricate organ system, cellular structure, and neural transmitter that provides the basis for perceiving, sensing, and thinking? What if you were not just Louie Giglio, but the One who created Louie Giglio?

What would it feel like to be absolutely unfettered by physical limits, to dwell throughout and around and above all created things? To be irrevocably, spiritually and intimately connected by eternal bonds to your Father, who nurtures like a newborn’s mother, who leads like a shepherd, protects like a warrior, whose very nature is intertwined as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a complex and thrilling relationship because He IS love, and with whom as the Son you have the Closest. Relationship. Ever.

An Abrupt Change

Now imagine taking a gamble on giving all that up and accepting limitations, allowing yourself to be subject to weariness or pain, to deal with temptation, to have to walk places among people who ignorantly assume they are more important or powerful than you are… What would it be like to place yourself into your own creation as a tiny, vulnerable infant in a world full of ignorant, apathetic, cruel, selfish men? How would it feel to go from being King to being a servant?

(I sometimes wonder how God knew for sure he could reverse that process– was there even an infinitesimally small chance that Satan could win, or that the Son might perish, never to rejoin the Father? We have the benefit of hindsight, but wasn’t it really a cosmic gamble for the universe? In a Marvel comics “bizarro” world, couldn’t it have been even remotely somehow possible that the Son becoming man would have torn apart the fabric of the universe and unraveled the cosmos? In reality, Jesus bet everything he had and everything that existed on the Father’s ability to do what He promised.)

Paul says we should think about that contrast, and think like Jesus did. If you could stop for a minute and look out at this world with the knowledge, the connection, the intimacy and the love of your Creator, would you see it any differently? Would you see it as it was intended to be? And if you saw Jesus as the eternal King of Kings who set his advantages aside to dwell in his creation, to risk his life on our behalf, would it explain anything about how he taught, what he did, and why he was SO different?

You can question the Bible’s inerrancy. you can scoff at miracles and relics, but just do this: take a look at Jesus’ teachings and try to figure out where it came from. Investigate the life and words of a rabbi from 2000 years ago, and explain how it still applies today. Decide if it still has relevance even though it is at odds with how the world of selfish power works, and offers an approach to life that actually challenges followers to be like Jesus.

Place Your Bets

This is the real question, isn’t it? Was Jesus any different? Was he “God with us”, or was he just a guy? Was he a prophet who died early or the Lamb of God? Did he miss his fulfillment or fulfill his mission? If he was Joe Average Prophet, then hold your chips, or place a bet on Buddha or Mohammed or Joseph Smith; but if he was God, I’m thinking it has to be all in.

The Highest Stakes

Could the Lord have failed when he became a fragile child?
Was it guaranteed that he’d prevail?
Satan and his minions used their power, dark and wild
To cause redemption’s plan to fold and fail.
Jesus came to earth not as a king but as a slave,
Committed to a plan that could not fall;
The cross required his life exchanged for those he came to save:
The chips were down, and Jesus bet it all.
All consequence in history is small compared to this:
Sin requires a death. Instead of ours, He gave us his.

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

Party?! Never Let it Be Said that Christians Don’t Know How to Party!

When it comes to partying, I think Christians get a bad rap. If you think the Bible doesn’t like a good party, then make sure you read this post all the way to the end, and decide for yourself. Jesus made a declaration that may not seem like it has to do with parties, but I’m saying it does. Change my mind:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8, NIV)

A Connection not a Curse

Jesus told his disciples that they were connected to him like branches to a vine, and that they should remain in him, abiding in a constant connection in order to receive sustenance and bear fruit. I used to think that such an arrangement would result in a somber kind of life, just meditating on Jesus all day or doing devotionals and such. A party would be out-of-place. The first impression many have about Christianity is that if we going to hang out with Christ 24/7, we are pretty much doomed to head straight to the monastery.

party monastery

And if we were honest we’d admit that Christians probably aren’t the group the world thinks of inviting first when they decide they want to party… Especially a “hold my beer and watch THIS” kind of party, where epic tales come from epic fails. But I would contend that Jesus liked to party, and that his parties had epic stories told about them, and long-lasting legends with different outcomes than your average bacchanalia.

Would You Invite Him to YOUR Party?

Consider these ACTUAL descriptions of Jesus: “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding party“. (John 2:1-2). “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10). [Jesus said] “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Luke 7:34) Apparently Jesus and his crew were just the kind of guys people would WANT to roll up on their social gatherings (and I’m talking sinners here, not Sunday school teachers).

Sadly, that’s probably not what the prostitutes and sinners would say today about most Christians. I wonder what has changed… Jesus went to parties. He was criticized for it! HE HAD FUN. So. Should. We. Come on, ya’ll, being a Christian is AWESOME! Being connected to Jesus is a sustaining, spiritual nutrition-delivering pathway to life and growth. Jesus says that if we remain in him we will bear “much fruit”. His party doesn’t end with a hangover, it ends with a new beginning! His analogy of fruit signifies new life and new possibilities. You may be unimpressed with fruit as the big party payoff, but it works on several levels.

Tell me—what could be better on a hot day in July than biting into a sweet, succulent peach or cutting open a ripe, delicious watermelon? The appetite-satisfying succulence of fruit may not sound like a wild party, but go walking all day in an arid desert and give it a try.

Fruit is also a vehicle for new life! A piece of fruit is both the carrier of and the sustenance for the next generation of fruit. If your activity bears fruit, you are creating a multi-generational legacy that will enrich not only your own life but those of others as well.

Jesus goes on to say that our fruitfulness is something that glorifies the Father! Do you ever stop and think of yourself as an example of God’s GLORY? You ARE! God has inspired men to dance, to write music, to have visions, and to experience awe–all things we like to do at a good party. So, if you want to have a great party, take some of God’s glory along with you. According to Jesus, that’s what his disciples are. That’s what you are. If Jesus gave a party, then Robert Earl Keen would be RIGHT: the party would never end! So celebrate! Be glorious! Party!

fearless party

The Never-Ending Party

Some folks think that Jesus is a bunch of do’s and don’ts,
A list of things you cannot do–mostly can’ts and won’ts…
They say they’d rather party than spend all their time in prayer,
And yeah they went to church but it was pretty boring there…
Well let me tell you this: my Jesus hung out with the sinners,
And losers (his disciples) later turned out to be winners.
My Jesus (yes I know I said these words redundantly)
Said that he came so we could live our lives abundantly!
His followers went to parties, got invited to events;
They saw him spreading love and joy most everywhere he went.
So if you want to party, follow Jesus and his friends,
Where the road goes on forever and the party never ends.

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)

The Wrong Thing to be Famous For

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

More Than Meets the Eye

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.

What Does this Story Have to do With YOU?

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.

Watch Where You Walk

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

Access To the Throne: Can we REALLY come Boldly Before Almighty God?

Men have always wanted to find God, and the Bible provides a record of that quest for access to the Almighty. It was a given that the Creator of all things would be majestic and powerful, and people in the Bible approached their Creator with fear and trepidation. That’s why it seems unusual that the writer of Hebrews challenged us with this:

A Crazy Idea

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV) To the Hebrew mind, access to God was impossible. Having the ability to come boldly before the Great, Awesome, and powerful YHWH was unthinkable. Moses was more intimate with God than any other man, and yet God told him in Exodus 32 that “no man may see me and live.” Because of that, Moses was only permitted to get a glimpse of God’s back as He passed by.

access Moses

Dealing with God was life-and-death business, not something to be approached casually. Hebrews 10:31, perhaps mindful of the death of all Egyptian first-born sons, or the slaughter of over 200,000 Assyrians, says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”. In Jewish worship, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and that only happened once a year. It was such a sacred place that they tied a cord around his ankle so that if he was stricken dead while performing his duties, they could drag him out without going in themselves. Dealing with a Sovereign God who had the power of life and death was not something the Jewish people took casually.

The ministry of Jesus and the advent of Grace changed those dynamics. When Jesus died on the cross, Mark says, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38, NIV), indicating a radical change had taken place within the world of Hebrew worship. In our current cultural world of accessible, casual worship, it is difficult for us to even imagine the gravity and the sanctity that the Jews had regarding God’s presence or being in the Holy Place. Worshipping the Lord, I think, meant something different to the men Jesus lived among than it does to us. I often think that our current trend of worship has lost much in terms of reverence and respect, and I hope I am not too cavalier about what being in church is really all about.

access church

Lost in Translation?

(Hmmm…Since worship was so sacred and awesome, I wonder if they felt the same way about confession and repentance? Perhaps we can be too casual about those today as well. Maybe our prayers of repentance are serious business as well.) In any case, the New Testament makes the case that believers are allowed to interact with God in a totally new way. It says that we have intimate access to the Almighty. We no longer have to approach Him through a human intermediary. Isn’t it refreshing to think of a Creator who loves us, who allows us to be intimate with Him?

If you want to know what that looks like, try noticing the way Jesus interacted with the Father. He spoke to Him often, privately and publicly; he prayed for long stretches of time. He seemed to be intimate and familiar with Him. Like Jesus showed us, we can go directly to our heavenly Father. Even though He is the most awesome, powerful force in the universe, we can approach Him anytime we want to seek grace and obtain mercy. When is the last time you really thought about God’s dreadful, fearsome power? And when was the last time you went boldly before His throne?

Boldly Go

This principle was commonplace, you can trace it back to early days:
No matter how intense the chase,
No member of the human race could dare to look upon God’s face,
Or walk into the Holy Place! But then our Advocate made his case,
Removed our sin and our disgrace — He took us into His embrace:
From the Highest Throne to the lowest place,
Each one of us can access grace.

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 Devil is Fiction, Right? When Lyin’ Leads You to Your Adversary the Lion…

Men have talked about the devil for centuries, and I’m sure many people assume he is mythological or a fictional character. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44, NIV) The devil, you say? Isn’t he just an imaginary being with horns, a pitchfork and a tail? Certainly he doesn’t really wield influence in our world…

devil

Fact or Fiction?

In the same discourse where he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, Jesus identified the devil as a murderer and a liar, and says he has always been that way, from the very beginning. Apparently Jesus thought the devil was as real as a heart attack. He also pointed out that anyone who does not value integrity or truth is actually Satan’s minion (and not the cute, “Despicable me” kind…). There are only two kinds of people in this world: those who recognize and participate in the Kingdom of God, and those who, knowingly or unknowingly, are part of Satan’s kingdom.

A couple of observations: just like anything loving in this world must come from God (for God is love, 1 John 4:8, 16), anything deceitful must come from the devil, because he is the father of lies. Every falsehood and corruption of the truth comes from the father of falsehood. Jesus points out that our very desires can be influenced by the great deceiver, who enjoys bringing more death into the world.

More Outlets than Ever

If there is a spiritual realm where God is opposed by the devil, and if that spiritual realm impacts our world, then count on this: the Father of lies has many, many outlets. When we are bombarded with half-truths or minor variations of reality, it came from him. When revisions of history alter the facts just a little bit, and when the boundaries around actual events get moved, Satan has his hand in it. They don’t have to be big lies, they can be minor deviations. If you start with two parallel train tracks going for miles in a straight line, and deviate one just .005%, eventually that variation will cause a train wreck.

So… when media blurs the lines or tells only a part of the story, and when you encounter journalistic “reporting” that didn’t check its source, there is only one place it could have come from. When a politician lies (or reverses their position as if they never held the first one), we know who is speaking. When friends post inaccurate information on social media that tells only one side of a story, they are complicit. If there is a devil, all of those lies are helping expand his kingdom. You know those times when we tell a little white lie? Guess where that comes from? When Truth is abused or damaged, guess who is happy about it?

Just as God motivates us to be loving and selfless, the Devil motivates us to be selfish and deceitful. When we love, we connect to something godly, and to God himself. When we lie, or listen to lies, well… Be careful out there. Peter said, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV). Lyin’ can lead you to the Lion. Don’t get et.

The Devil You Say

Watch the things you listen to, be careful what you read;
The world is full of bad advice that it wants you to heed.
I don’t know your opinion, what you think or how you feel,
But Jesus said the devil is alive, and mean, and REAL.
Peter said that Satan wants to have you for a meal!
He’s like a roaring lion on the hunt this very hour,
So please make sure that you are not the next thing he’ll devour.
Resist his lies and use God’s love to circumvent his power…

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 all of the world’s problems and begin to address them at a very simple level.

A Simple Place to Start

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?

No Peace, or Know Peace?

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 every individual found peace perhaps the world would as well. But think about it: 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 culture encourages people to divide into opposing social groups, political parties, 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.

A New Way to do Social Media

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

There’s No Caste System in THIS Kingdom: Meet The Great Equalizer

There are many caste systems in our world, and if the Bible is correct, none of them will matter in the end. “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5 NIV)

Celebrate or Separate?

We make many distinctions in this world. A diverse Creator gave us many differences to celebrate, but our selfish, carnal nature has tended towards separation rather than celebration. We place greater value on some people, places or things, often because of external qualities that attract us or catch our eye. As consumers, we pay more for certain brands. Tabloids celebrate people because they have looks or money. We don’t really mix with people who are different than we are, and tend to avoid people we deem unsavory or “beneath us”.

There is a subtle caste system that starts in high school (or earlier) that operates in society and culture that elevates some people even as it marginalizes others. You know that system, with kids grouped together subtly as jocks or stoners, debaters or skaters, glee club or nerds. Hollywood has made movies for the last 30 years that capitalized on those distinctions and perpetuated them. Why? Because almost everyone can relate to being defined in the high school caste system…

caste high school

A Different Caste

We judge/evaluate people with a look and a set of assumptions, categorizing them based on how they look, where they live, what they do. In Acts 10:34 when Peter realized that the gospel had come to Gentiles, he said “I see now that God is no respecter of persons”. By this he meant that in the Lord’s eyes, there is no external value or social caste system. Jesus certainly emphasized this in his ministry by reaching out intentionally to the marginalized people in his world– to tax collectors and sinners, to the Samaritans, to women… He seemed to have a totally different standard of acceptance and therefore a totally different caste system than the Pharisees did.

We look at outward appearance, but the Lord, Samuel told Jesse, “looks on the heart.” Our heavenly Father doesn’t judge on physique or fashion. Rich or poor, handsome/pretty or not, great or small, we are all the same in God’s eyes. For His children, mountains will be made low and all roads made straight. The good news is, our Creator will evaluate us not on looks but on love. The bad news: if you are depending on something external to be acceptable to God, you might find yourself at a rocky roadblock on a mountain you can’t climb.

A Different Level

Don’t slump too low in your valley;
don’t sit too high on your throne;
When the scrolls are unsealed and the Lord is revealed
We will all stand before Him, alone
His judgment’s impartial and perfect,
and will be — like His glory — eternal.
Our status or caste are the things that won’t last,
Since they’re always and only external.
Be careful what you call important,
and of what you rank high on the chart:
‘Cause it’s not how you look and it’s not how you cook,
Or if you wrote a book, or the money you took,
Or your rep on the streets, or in how many tweets,
Even if you were known, on a throne, or alone…
What God sees from the start is your innermost part,
It’s the motives and thoughts and intents of your heart!

It isn’t your cash, or how pretty your face is,
But knowing what heart-felt confession and Grace is.

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