Testimonies You Ought to Use in Reaching a Verdict

What testimonies do you listen to? What testimonies do you believe? Judges and lawyers listen to lots of them, and apparently so did King David: “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:129-130 KJV)

Since David brought it up, I was thinking a bit today about the nature of testimonies, and more specifically about God’s testimonies. The standard dictionary definition for testimony is: “1. Law. The statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court. 2. Evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof. 3. Open declaration or profession, as of faith.” A testimony is accepted as evidence. It is mainly used in court or in church, places where truth is supposed to matter. (As opposed to today’s newscasts, political arena or social media…).

testimonies

Testimony is given to affirm or declare something that happened. God’s testimonies are declarations of what God has done throughout history, evidence that the Creator has not abandoned us to the whims of history and death. I know a lot of people have a hard time accepting the Bible as God’s word. It has ancient stories that speak of things that seem impossible. An ark. A burning bush. A virgin birth. A cross. A Resurrection. Many people do not believe those things, and yet there they stand, testimonies written in a book providing evidence in support of a fact.

The writer of Hebrews said that “faith is… the evidence of things not seen.” You don’t really see wind, but you certainly see evidence of its passing. The same could be said about God’s testimonies. “But this is the twenty-first century!” we declare. “Look at all the things we know, and all the progress we have made! We have outgrown the Bible.” Have we? We live in a sophisticated age, relative to data. Not so much, relative to morality and kindness. The testimonies of God speak to that. They challenge us to a higher standard, to have testimonies of our own…

Our spiritual nature and perception of God makes us unique among all the animals, requiring love and purpose as opposed to mere instinct; God’s words speak to that too. God has revealed himself to man throughout history. It’s written down in His testimonies.

But say you don’t believe all that. Let’s say I give you all of the “archaic” stories that seem like myth; we’ll explain away the Ark and the Red Sea and the Lion’s Den. Take all of those away, but then do this for me: just explain Jesus. The testimonies about him are powerful. He never wrote a book, and yet his words are quoted every day. He said things that no one else said, did things that no one else did. You may not have literally seen his life, but you have certainly seen the evidence of his passing. Does any historian deny the historical presence of Jesus of Nazareth?

The testimonies about his life were so captivating that people literally died defending them. By the thousands: Stubbornly. Defending. Testimonies. Have you ever really considered what Jesus said? He was arguably the wisest man who ever lived… And, oh yeah, He believed in the testimonies. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

What sustains you spiritually? What do you live by? God’s word is not given to restrict or oppress us; as David suggests, we should keep it because it’s wonderful. It has our best interests at heart; it gives advice for positive living; it offers sustenance, understanding and wisdom, even to the simple…even to me. It is a doorway to truth in a world full of spin, half-truths, and outright deception. Keep it, not because you ought to, but because it is wonderful! (Which reminds us that it is indeed… full of wonder.)

 

TESTIMONIES

They are statements of truth that are made in court;
They are evidence given providing support.
The judge will consider their content, and then
He'll decide who did what, why they did it, and when!
If you want to know what is true and what's not,
Just read testimonies all given by God;
King David just loved them, and read them each day
To provide him some wisdom and light on the way!
If you ever question, here's something to do:
Consider the Bible and whether it's true.
Take a hard look at Jesus, and when you are through,
Then decide if he has any answers for you.
There are millions of folks--I don't think they are phonies--
Enjoying the wonder of God's testimonies!
If you honestly read them, and write a report,
You might see that they're true. And would hold up in court!

 

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Hope for the Best, Even When Things Are at Their Worst

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116 NKJV) David had a unique perspective about God’s word. He saw it as more than something to read in church, and more than a book of wisdom that helped him understand how to live. We sometimes just hit the high spots in David’s biography, but when you really look at the circumstances and events in his life, you realize that there were plenty of times that were discouraging and difficult. In spite of that he consistently found hope in what God said.

As a shepherd, he sang about it and meditated upon it under the stars; as a fugitive hiding in caves from Saul’s dangerous mood swings, he drew strength from it; and as a sinner he depended upon it for comfort and forgiveness. He found in the Scriptures a connection to God that upheld him and gave him strength; he was motivated by it and hopeful because of it. What gives you hope?

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. Or 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted. Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

David suffered hardships and failure, yet he believed absolutely that God is merciful and reliable. His life had plenty of discouragement, but he had hope in God. Have you found anything in God’s commandments that makes you as confident as David was? He knew that God’s custom is to be merciful to those who love Him, and he took hope from that. He got up early to bask in God’s love, and he meditated upon it in the night watches.

hope

Like David, Paul also knew that hard times produce a hope in which we cannot be ashamed: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Have you found God’s mercy? When the world lets you down, it will hold you up.

David had to flee and hide: 
He ran to caves and hid inside,
And lived in dusty, thirsty fear 
That murderous Saul was drawing near.
Before bipolar was a thing, the melancholy, jealous king 
Whose heart and mood would darkly swing 
Was soothed when he heard David sing...
Yet even though he was David's fan, 
King Saul was still a dangerous man 
Who tried to kill him. So David ran.
And somewhere in a cave at night,
Unsettled by his hopeless plight,
Young David found a way to cope
And sought God's Word, which gave him hope.
Strengthened thus, he then proclaimed
That he would never be ashamed
Of hope in what the Lord can do.
So here it is: don't misconstrue,
But when you're hopeless--this is dope-
The God of grace will give you hope.

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Good Decisions Come From Experience. Experience Comes from Making Bad Decisions.

King Saul of Ancient Israel made decisions very differently than David. They also had very different outcomes. Saul sometimes used consultants when making decisions.

“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NIV)
When David had decisions to make, he used a different method: “So David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, I will deliver them into your hands.” (1 Chronicles 14:10, NIV) Saul was Israel’s first king. When he died, David succeeded him on the throne. Saul was moody and erratic, and often allowed his impatience and insecurity to lead him into making bad choices and bad decisions.

Before you judge him too harshly, does YOUR impatience ever prompt you to make a poor decision? Do you ever get tired of waiting for God to do something and then take matters into your own hands? The Bible points out that this is a fairly common human trait. It’s essentially what Adam and Eve did in the garden. It’s what Abram and Sarah did when he slept with Hagar. It’s what Saul did when he consulted the witch of Endor. Saul’s kingdom ended in defeat and disgrace, while David’s was passed on to Solomon. Saul was alienated from God, but David received the promise of an eternal covenant.

When you think about it, David and Saul were both sinners. Both kings committed egregious sins against the Lord, but their lives had very different outcomes. While these two kings shared the ability to commit big mistakes, there were significant differences in the way they made decisions, and in the way they did business with God. The writer of Chronicles said Saul “did not inquire of the Lord”. David did. This one thing changed the way their kingdoms played out, and arguably changed the course of history. This may seem like a small thing, but the whole process of making inquiry is more involved than it seems at first glance. Take a closer look.

First of all, in ancient Israel there was sometimes a ceremonial process attached to inquiring. This would mean that it involved your intimate leaders and associates. They would know you held it important to ask God about strategy. That infers that your leaders would be like-minded men who also trusted God enough to go along with what might seem illogical to most warriors. The fact that you would ask God for permission meant that your leadership team would look and act differently than most of your competition. It would also be a somewhat public process, so that people would know you were asking God what to do. That suggests transparent, humble leadership before the people. How much credit can you take if the Lord is the one who determines the outcome? It also speaks to God’s sovereignty, since the king would be humbling himself before God and doing what God tells him to do. You would be most likely to inquire of the Lord if you knew him, trusted his judgment, and were walking with him regularly. So…

When YOU have a decision to make, How often do YOU inquire before the Lord? How often do you ask Him for strategy, consult with him about budget, or ask for permission to make the next move? How often do you inquire of the Lord before disciplining your children, planning that vacation, or deciding whether to take a place of service in church? If your answer is “not too often”, then remember these two kings, and remember to inquire. It might just change the course of history. (It has before!)

There are so many things in life that each of us must choose,
And there are many processes that anyone can use
In making good decisions. Some rely on common sense,
And some will weigh the outcome and expected consequence.
You can weigh the pros and cons, or ask folks for advice;
Some folks call on random chance, and then just roll the dice.
You might use a legal pad with columns, yes and no,
And then compare the columns to determine how to go.
Some decision-makers fear they will not get it right,
And worry so about it that it keeps them up at night!
Some are self-sufficient, and take pride in their decisions,
But still it’s hard to guarantee an outcome with precision.
King Saul was so worried that he found a witch, and asked her,
But his decision-making only led him to disaster.
David faced decisions in a different kind of way:
He inquired before the Lord, to see what He would say.
When you face decisions, here’s a method tried and true:
Go ask the Lord. And Listen. He will tell you what to do.

 

To buy my latest book, 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Change Your Prayer Life from Perfunctory to Passionate. Start Here:

Is your prayer life lacking power and passion? Maybe it’s time to escape from Perfunctory Prayer… David’s expression of love for his Creator might be a good place to start:
“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalms 5:3 NASB) David didn’t just pray, he seemed to have a deep, abiding love for his Creator that he could not contain. He wrote poetry to God. He sang love songs to the Lord. He begged for help. He expressed his longing and hunger for his Creator. If you would like a deeper prayer life, there are some clues about how to accomplish that in this short verse.

First of all, David prayed a LOT. He prayed at night, during the day, and here he prayed in the morning to start each day. Perhaps that offers us a template. It doesn’t say he prayed long, exhausting prayers; it doesn’t say that he prayed ornate, flowery prayers; but he did pray OFTEN. Do you spend some time talking with God every day? Does it come first? Do you wake up with a need to worship and adore the Lord and talk to Him about your day? David did.

Second, he ordered his prayer. If you read some of them in the Psalms, David’s prayers consistently included Confession, Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Just remember CATS if you want a quick template for diving a bit deeper into your conversations with God. (Some folks use ACTS, but I like putting confession first.)  Taking even this simple approach to prayer will provide structure and focus to your prayer life.

Finally, after David prayed he eagerly watched. He prayed with expectation, and then like a kid at Christmas, he couldn’t wait to see what would happen. I guess he expected God was going to do something in response to his prayer. Do you pray to God with the confident expectation that He will respond? How often does your time with the Lord include the “eagerly watching” time? Mine usually doesn’t. Perhaps there’s more to prayer than just throwing it out there and moving on…

A Praying Man’s Lament

Save me, Lord, from perfunctory prayer.
Help me connect, and help me care.
Keep me from saying a nondescript grace
When I come to give thanks to you, face to Face.

Hear me, Lord as I start each day,
And give me transparency when I pray.
Order my prayer around spiritual need,
And help me, Father, to intercede.

Give me the passion that David had!
Teach me to pray with a heart that’s glad.
Take my prayer life up a notch.
I want to pray and then eagerly watch!

Help me to make you my everyday choice.
Fill my heart, and hear my voice.

 

To buy my latest book, 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Creator: Stop and Think About Who God Is, and Who We Are

Do you ever use the owner’s manual in your car? Doesn’t it make sense to get information from the designer and creator of your car when you have a question? David says that God created us: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalms 119:73 NKJV)

David seemed pretty obsessed with God’s commandments in Psalm 119.He rejoiced in them as in great riches (v 14), he meditated on them (v 15), and he took delight in them (v 16). In verse 27-28 he said, “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, so that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” David found understanding and strength in the Scriptures. Why do you think David was so taken with God’s word? What was it about God’s precepts that made David almost giddy with excitement?

You can certainly reflect on David’s reasons, but here are a couple to consider: 1) He had lived by them and knew they made a difference. David’s life had not always been easy or soft, but it always included meditation and reflection on what God revealed to him. His confidence in God’s commandments came from actual experience, from applying them in the crucible of his life and finding them to be reliable, helpful and sustaining. It made sense for David to recommend them to us because he knew the Creator’s love firsthand.

2) David understood who he was, and he understood who God was. As strong and successful as David became, he never forgot why it made sense to respect God’s authority. David said, “Your hands have made me”. David accepted God’s place in the universe, much like Paul in Romans 9:20: “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Isaiah echoed the same sentiment in Isaiah 64:8: “We are the clay. You are the Potter. We are all the work of your hands.”

Gary Larsen’s humorous view of the Creator doesn’t begin to reflect the complexity of God’s work in and around us. The reason the Bible provides a sound platform for living is because it comes from our Creator. Does anyone know more about how we operate than the one who conceived and formed our DNA? When we have a problem with our car, we look in the owner’s manual for help. It provides insight because it is provided by the one who made the car. When we have problems in life, we can also look into the owner’s manual, provided by the one who made us. And doesn’t it make sense that we should pay attention to our Maker? Is there a better place to look than into His book to find insight? Our Creator should have reliable advice for us that actually works in the crucible of events when life happens. If God is NOT our creator, then follow whomever; but if He is, then there’s no one better to pay attention to.

God conceived and his words gave birth, 
Creating the cosmos- Heavens and earth!
He reigns over all, and His presence commands 
The stars in the sky and the works of His hands;
He's the creator of every day,
So we should consider that when we pray:
"Lord, You are the Potter, I am the clay; 
Help me see the world that way.
In all I think, and say, and do: 
Remind me, Lord, to follow YOU.
Whatever may come, or the day may bring,
I am your subject, and you are my King."

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Testimonies Matter: the Whole Truth and Nothing But

Whether you know it or not, you are surrounded by testimonies. As you browse various forms of media, you are bombarded with half-truths, outright lies, opinions, and various points of view (kinda like this one, I guess). Be careful which ones you believe. “With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. (Psalms 119:13-14 NKJV)

This Psalm calls for a few quick observations. First, how often do you declare God’s thoughts and judgments as opposed to your own? David doesn’t say, “I have declared all the judgments of MY mouth”, because he did not want to misuse the Word of God. (It’s certainly been done. Satan quoted Scripture in the temptation of Christ; Mohammed wove scripture into his dictation of the Koran; Joseph Smith created his own book; preachers justified slavery from the Bible; and Hitler quoted the Bible in his speeches.) God’s words have been altered and misquoted throughout history.

In a subtler way, we should all evaluate our own biases and suppositions and compare them to what God has said. With all of the falsehood surrounding us today, it’s really a little bit scary. Like David, I certainly want to proclaim God’s unvarnished truth and not just my opinions. I double-dog swear on the Bible that is true… David’s desire was to know and proclaim what God said—“the judgments, [Lord], of YOUR mouth”; “…YOUR testimonies”. And testimonies are supposed to be the TRUTH.

He wanted to stick to the Word of God, because he knew that scripture is quoted for all kinds of purposes, and it is often dispensed with interpretations or subtle changes that alter its meaning and twist its purpose. Why does that matter? If you start with parallel train tracks, and vary the angle of one of the rails just .05%, and build those tracks on towards the horizon, eventually the rails will split far enough apart to cause a train wreck. A small “adjustment” becomes a deadly variation.

Isn’t that what Satan did in the garden? He used God’s words, but then he subtly added to them. We should be extra careful when we put words into God’s mouth. Second, do you find that God’s testimonies motivate and inspire you? David got fired up hearing stories about God. He rejoiced in God’s testimonies. Have you heard any good testimonies lately?

Well here’s one: learning about God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ absolutely changed my life, and has provided me a remarkable journey with God and His Word for almost 50 years. Wow! What a book! Wow! What a life!! I get goosebumps just thinking about it! God took an insecure boy who had problems at school, addictive behavior, lack of focus, and problems at home and gifted me with the truth. In NO WAY did I become perfect, and in fact I often remind people that I’ve made my BIGGEST mistakes not as a pagan reprobate, but as a struggling believer. But God’s truth consistently reminded me that I AM LOVED, and I HAVE WORTH. So do YOU.

When you read the Bible, does it put you to sleep? When you go to church, are you bored or do you rejoice? Perhaps we need to get more excited when God has a message for us! David went away from worship declaring what God had said and rejoicing in God’s testimonies. We should participate in worship with the same enthusiasm. And finally, this: be honest; when was the last time you truly valued God’s words more than money? If you compared your thirst for accumulating wealth to your hunger for memorizing God’s word, which one would be stronger? If we were given a choice between attending a good Bible Study and getting $100, I bet most of us would take the cash. And I bet you have more dollars than Bible verses in your pocket. Just sayin’…

I'm not one to judge, so YOU can be the one to call it:
What means more: what God has said, or what is in your wallet?
You're in a world of gray where there are many kinds of lies;
In politics and media there are lies of every size!
David didn't listen to the lies that others voiced,
But when he heard God's testimonies spoken, he rejoiced!
Don't be fooled by liars, Congressmen or other phonies:
Depend upon God's word, and listen to His testimonies.

 

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Delight is Your ONLY Job Today. So Show Delight, All Day Long: GO!

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (Psalms 119:92-93 NKJV) Delight is defined as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.”

In Richard Bach’s book “Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, he tells the story of an automobile mechanic who delivers a message from God. In his final sermon he asks the people if a man should be willing to suffer in order to fulfill God’s mission. People respond, “Of course, Master! It should be pleasure to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask for it!” And the people were ready to carry out God’s will for them no matter how much of a burden, and no matter how painful or difficult. Then the preacher threw the crowd an unexpected curveball. “And what would you do, the Master said unto the multitude, if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE‘. What would you do then?” And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillside across the valleys where they stood.” (Illusions, pages 10-11)

God’s command was not that his children suffer or be tortured, but that they be happy. The multitude reacted in stunned silence. They had been ready to suffer for God but had not considered being happy for Him. Doesn’t everybody want to be happy? How many people do you know who ARE? Everybody wants to be happy, but who knows HOW to be happy?

What delights you? What REALLY transports you to a state of pleasure or joy? I bet it’s a short list, and I bet for most of us, it’s different than David’s. David found delight in God’s law. It gave his life order, and it sustained him during times of affliction. It was part of his world and part of his walk. From God’s precepts he received pleasure and enjoyment, and he even says, “For by them You have given me life.”

As religious but finite beings, we sometimes focus on the QUANTITY of eternal life rather than on the QUALITY of eternal life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God wants you to experience not just life, but abundant life. He commands you to be happy. Are you? Everyone I’ve ever known who truly loves God’s word and lives by it displays selflessness, concern, passion, wisdom, joy and peace… Not a bad set of attributes!

Think about being delighted today. Imagine that your delight was not dependent on circumstances, but on how you feel about God, and about how engaged you are with His word. Have you ever associated God’s law with pure unadulterated delight? If you fall more deeply in love with God’s words, I think you’ll also fall in love more deeply in love with life; and you will discover more about its QUALITY, even as you look forward with hope to its QUANTITY.

God’s word gives life, its burden is light,
helps you do what’s right, and it shines so bright
in the darkest night that it gives you sight
no matter your plight, and it offers delight
that the world tries to match, but just can’t quite.

To buy my latest book, 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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

God’s Presence: Because Wherever You Go, There You Are

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10, NKJV)

David had learned that God’s presence was everywhere, and that no matter where he went, God was there. We can all find encouragement in Psalm 139, knowing that no matter where we go the Lord will guide us and hold us fast.

After all, David wrote this Psalm from experience. He had felt God’s presence as a solitary shepherd, tending sheep by himself and facing the elements, predators, and loneliness. He felt the power of the Lord when he stood between the armies and faced Goliath. He knew God was with him as he hid in the caves of Adullam, and as a fugitive hiding from Saul’s fits of rage. The Lord was with David from the pasture to the palace, from obscurity to celebrity.

Psalm 139 provides us assurance that we can live each day with a sense of the security and comfort of God’s presence no matter what life throws at us. There is, however, another side to David’s song. Do we really think it’s a GOOD thing to hang out with God wherever we go, to have His presence beside us no matter what, no matter where?

Have you ever wanted to hide from God? You know, put Him away for a little while so you could do your own thing, and then maybe catch Him on the flip side? David did. Even when he went his own way, even when he ignored the Lord, God was there. “If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there”. David had made his bed in hell, and God was still with him. So it is with us.

Perhaps you have done some things that make you feel unworthy to associate with the Living God. Maybe you have ignored Him, or avoided Him, or left God behind as you have gone about your business; the good news is that God’s secure, comforting presence is still near, and He is with you. If you haven’t sought the Lord in a while, climb up into His lap and sit for a moment. Catch up. Remember your first love, rejoice in your salvation and let his peace surround you. No matter where you have been, and no matter how far away from God you think you are, you can say with David, “even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” If you’ve never introduced yourself to God, why not now? And if you’ve wandered away from Him a bit, go ahead and climb up into His lap. Welcome back.

 

Just this once the Lord won't care I walked away and left him there,
I needed just a little break for these few steps I want to take.
Surely he'll just look away when I choose darkness over day,
Or say the things I want to say, or take some time for me to play.
I know He loved me first and best, and yeah I failed that little test
But so did all the rest. I'm blessed, 
But all these appetites suppressed affect me more than I had guessed.
I sometimes try to hide me, when I think He might deride me, 
Or worse that He denied me because I chose to sin;
But then I realized He only put His love inside me
Just to comfort and to guide me in whatever state I'm in.
He is not there to scold me, His hand is meant to mold me,
To comfort and enfold me, and there forever hold me.
I'll celebrate His essence and His substance with persistence,
Knowing that His presence signals nothing but acceptance. 
I'm paranoid, Lord, with blindness: help me see your lovingkindness.

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&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.

Lest we feel too sorry for these victims of circumstance who just “fell into sin”, think about what each of them did. 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. 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 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 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&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)

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 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 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread