Courage: Something You Can Have. Something You Can Take

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalms 31:24 NASB) Courage is an interesting thing, and people try to define it in different ways. Most of us probably first thought about courage when we saw The Wizard of Oz, and listened to the Cowardly Lion wish that he had some.

Courage is not merely about being fearless or foolish, but it is a level of poise or resolve that some people have when things get tough, and in some measure it helps all of us to make our way in the world. Aristotle said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage.” Maya Angelou says, “Without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.”

courage Maya

Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” What is it in your life that requires courage? It may not always involve grand adventures or epic struggles but courage is something all of us need from time to time…

You’d think people in the Bible didn’t need it so much because they had, well, GOD. Yet there is enough uncertainty where the spiritual intersects our temporal, everyday world that 1) we still need faith; and 2) we still need courage. There’s that interesting story about Peter getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus out on the water. “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (John 14:29-30) Even with Jesus right there, and doing something no other man had ever done, Peter got distracted and got scared. He needed courage.

The Bible often uses the term as a means of encouragement before undertaking a daunting task. Moses exhorted Joshua and the children of Israel to “be strong and courageous” in Deuteronomy 31:6-7; David found “the courage to pray this prayer” and ask God about building the temple in 2 Samuel 7:27; and Hezekiah exhorted his leaders to “be strong and courageous” in the face of an Assyrian invasion in 2 Chronicles 32:7. The Spirit of the Lord encouraged Paul to “Take courage!” in Acts 23:11 before he was called to testify in Rome. In each case, people had a right to be afraid—they were faced with uncertainty, danger, or impossible odds.

Ambrose Redmoon (a beatnik and flower child back in the 60’s) said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” There are things in your life that you fear; what is more important to you than fear? I suppose that if I lived a life of true faith, and if I had real confidence in God, I would never be afraid. I’d be like Daniel in the lion’s den, or Shadrach in the fiery furnace, or Paul about to face shipwreck on a stormy sea. But like everybody, I am often distracted by the cares of the day, or the uncertainty of the future. Is it wrong to be fearful?

Consider this: when I allow fear or worry to dominate my thoughts, I am actually practicing a little form of idolatry, because I am allowing something in my heart and mind to be bigger than God. I may not intend to, but the reality is I am inadvertently replacing God with my own concerns. What can I do about that?

In Psalm 31, David said we should take courage. It’s interesting to note that in this Psalm, David talked about traps, affliction, deceit, troubles, sorrow, grief, and tribulation… He had firsthand knowledge of being besieged by circumstances and abandoned by friends. He speaks of lying enemies, conspiring schemers, and describes himself as a broken vessel. Because of all he had experienced, his closing statement about taking courage is not rose-colored optimism, it is a hard-fought insight about how faith in God can instill hope and confidence into believers even when many things turn against us.

Blessing and hope are not found in the absence of trouble, but in their midst. Be strong today, and let your heart take courage!

Life is full of moments that can lead you to uncertainty,
And there are times you have to deal with worry and adversity.
Living as a fugitive, King David was no stranger
To enemies, affliction, sorrow, grief, and outright danger.
Life will bring you sorrow. It will take your heart and break it;
David offers this encouraging word for us to make it:
Hope is ever in the Lord, and you don’t have to fake it;
His courage is available to us. Look up, and take it.

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

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.

decisions street

Asking the wrong consultants for help was disastrous. “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!)

Decisions, Decisions…

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 worried so much 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, 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

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

Have you thought about your prayer time lately? How would you rate your communication with the Almighty? Do you recite prayers you’ve known for years, or do you perhaps merely out of habit, say, at mealtimes? Would you say your prayer life is 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 and asked for protection. 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.

I heard it said that the only time we truly experience eternal life on this earth is when we are engaged in prayer. When we talk with God, we have for that time set aside the everyday world to communicate directly with Him. If you consider what is happening when we commune with our Father in prayer, it means that we are that moment transported into His presence, and we have transcended our finite limitations to be intimate with our Creator. We may not get to see heaven in this world, but as David pointed out, we can make a verbal visit anytime we want to.

nightly prayer

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 without turning it into perfunctory repetition of something you learned

Remember who we are by coming to Him confessed and penitent; offer adoration for who He is and reflect upon His majesty and power; Thank Him for all He has done; and offer prayers for those people or circumstances where you desire His help. This simple outline is not magic but I have found it helps me stay focused when I’m making a verbal visit to heaven.

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, 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

 

Knowing God’s Testimony Is a Great Place to Start Your OWN

It used to be that when people gave testimony, they would swear on the Bible because it was a symbol of truth. It seems like more and more people doubt the Bible these days, but what if– I mean, really, what if it IS true? What if it contains God’s testimony, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? Would you read it? This Psalmist did: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, That I may know Your testimonies.” (Psalms 119:125 NKJV) The testimony of God had a profound influence on David. Let’s make three quick observations about this verse:

1. “I am your servant.” The psalmist puts himself in the proper place and God in His proper place. It is very important to understand who God is, and who you are—but it is actually surprisingly hard to do. Have you noticed how many people have a problem with authority?

It’s funny, but I have noticed that a LOT of advertising today tries to appeal to rule breakers… “Color outside the lines”. “No rules, just right.” So many people today reject authority that focus groups suggest it as a way to motivate someone subliminally to buy a car, or eat steak! Our culture celebrates money, youth, and ego; it doesn’t celebrate being a servant. Humility before God is a great place to start any spiritual quest.

We reject authority because people with power abuse it, or may not have our best interests at heart. We are actually afraid to be humble because we don’t trust the authority over us. But what if the one in charge had ONLY your best interests in mind, had nothing but love for you, and was dedicated to making you the best version of yourself that you could be? We serve coaches in order to have a better athletic performance and a better team. It may just be that serving God also brings rewards.

Many people pray to God as if to a spiritual genie, asking Him to do what they want. David understood that God doesn’t serve us– We serve God, and in serving Him we become the best versions of ourselves.

2. “Give me understanding…” While there is a level of knowledge that is attainable by human effort, true wisdom is a gift, shared by the spirit of God. It comes from knowing God’s testimony about the world and accepting His understanding. Knowledge is useful; understanding is demonstrated when knowledge is applied. We should devote part of every day to gathering understanding about God’s ways and character, and then we should look for opportunities to use it. Do you pursue? Do you apply?

testimony

3. “That I may know your testimonies.” There are really two ways to look at this phrase. One is merely the application rote memorization. Know God’s testimony by heart. Do you know what it says? Can you repeat the stories about what God has done? Most of the stories about God are connected to the people of God. And get this: THEY WERE JUST PEOPLE. God is still working today, and He is still doing things with and for His children, people like you and me.

Which brings us to the second way to know God’s testimonies, which is to know them experientially. Have you experienced a relationship with God? Do you have a testimony of your own? Can you look back through your life and see God’s hand at work to broaden your understanding through His word, or circumstances, or relationships? Knowing His testimonies gives you a practical knowledge of what God has done and hope for how He will act in the future. If you lived each day with understanding about what God has done outside of you, then you can take confidence in what He will do INSIDE of you. Think of God’s testimonies today, and you may just find that He is creating some through you for tomorrow.

It’s a church word, it’s a legal word, it’s a word you’ve heard
From the days of your youth about the truth;
It can be a report that you hear in court,
Or someone’s claim in God’s Holy name!
It’s got to be true, it can’t be phony,
I’m talking about that testimony!
God’s word will help you every day
With inspiring thoughts, and the words to say;
To everyone who is gathered there,
Put your hand on the Bible, and stand and swear:
God’s truth means so much more TO you
When it is happening THROUGH you!

 

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

If Walking in the Light Is Best, Why Do So Many Folks Choose to Sneak Around in Darkness?

Walking in the dark is dangerous. That’s why the Psalmist said he’d rather have a spiritual flashlight: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105 KJV) You’ve heard this verse before, and I’m sure you thought, “Yes, God’s word provides insights that enlighten and give direction.”

But have you stopped and thought about what it really says? Have you ever hiked at night over rocky ground? Imagine doing that for a minute. Walking in the dark is no picnic. It’s spooky out there, what with the animal noises and nocturnal predators. People get lost more easily in the dark, in more ways than one. Have you ever been out walking in a big city after midnight? Ever thought about how much crime takes place between 11:00 pm and 4:00 am? Or just how dangerous it can be, walking around in the “dead of night”?

walking in darkness

Even after your eyes adjust to the darkness, you have to be careful about where you step and where you are headed. Sure, there may be a path, but there might be sticks, bushes, uneven terrain, or rocks at your feet that can trip you or make you fall. You might even wander off the path and get lost. Darkness is dangerous. In Psalm 23, David wasn’t concerned about walking in the valley of the bright lights of death, he wanted God’s presence in the valley of the SHADOW of death.

Darkness obscures your path and makes it harder for you to know where to go. It also allows cover for bad things. John 3:19 reminds us that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil…” When do you think the most crimes are committed? (When it’s DARK.) Is there anything you prefer to do under cover of darkness? Anything you do that you don’t want people to see? (Then of course, as your Mom said, you probably shouldn’t DO it.)

The relationship of darkness to our spiritual journey is fairly clear. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2, NKJV) Satan loves darkness and death, and God by His very nature provides light and life. Jesus compared God’s people to the lights of a city on the hill, shining in the darkness.

But think about this as well: when you are walking in darkness over uncertain terrain, a light shone at your feet gives you just enough illumination to take the next few steps safely, even though it does not enable you to see a great distance down the path. So it is with a spiritual walk: you are given sufficient illumination for today, so that you are not distracted by worries or curiosity about the future. I never thought of this verse as meaning “be in the moment”, but that’s kinda what it says… Use God’s word to be “in the moment” with Him today, and you’ll stay connected to God’s light, God’s people, and to Him. As 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Statistics say the dead of night will hide the darkest deeds,
Since darkness gives the criminal the cover that he needs;
Lurking in the shadows there, the evil one is stalking,
So exercise some care at night, and watch where you are walking!
Wandering in darkness, there’s no telling who you’ll meet:
So let God’s word become a spiritual lamp unto your feet.
A lack of guiding light can also make us go astray,
And wander into danger in the dark along the way.
Statistics tell the story; I don’t have to do the math,
So use God’s word and let it be the light upon your path!

 

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

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

It’s fun to be delighted. However, we don’t often use it in a sentence like this: “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)

What is David talking about here? He is saying that God’s law gives him delight! Delight is defined as “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture.” I’ve been delighted by gifts, by the giggle of a toddler, or by something enjoyable or amusing, but I don’t recall being giddy about God’s law recently. How about you?

delight

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. He is followed by thousands because of the words he delivers to them. 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 some degree of selflessness, concern, passion, wisdom, joy and peace… Not a bad set of attributes as human qualities go, and they are things that transcend circumstances. What’s more, the secrets to happiness delivered by God’s word can be applied no matter what is going on.

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.
It may sound trite, but try it! It might ignite
A light that gives you delight that is infinite!

 

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

Mercy is not just Something you Need to Get. It’s also Something you Need to GIVE

Consider the word “mercy”.  It is something everyone encounters, dispenses, or begs for in this life. Can you imagine a world without mercy? Have you stopped lately to consider how important mercy can be? This Psalm says it well: “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:76-77, NIV)

Do you need a little more love and mercy in your life? David did. Consider his life and fortunes, and I bet you can relate somehow. David knew about the importance of love and mercy. He was the least and smallest brother, the sheep-tender, stuck way out in the pasture while his older siblings did the important stuff. He knew what it was like to feel lonely, vulnerable, unappreciated. He was the least popular kid in middle school.
When Samuel came to choose Israel’s future king from among Jesse’s sons, David was an afterthought, only brought in from the pasture when Samuel asked “Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:11)

After he was anointed as the future king, he rose to the heights of celebrity by killing Goliath. You’d think a hero like David had it made now, right? Wrong. Saul’s murderous jealousy turned David into a fugitive, hiding in caves and running through the badlands. He had to consort with enemies and feign madness. His future seemed uncertain at best, so he depended on the promise of God and comforted himself with God’s steadfast love. I’m sure there were many times where David prayed, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live.”

Then Saul was killed, and David became king. But it must have been a bittersweet moment for him, because his best friend Jonathan was killed along with Saul, so David’s ascension was tempered by harsh reality. Life is like that, isn’t it? But once again, “let your mercy come to me, that I may live…”

mercy

Then David became king, so he’s set now, right? Wrong. He gets bored, commits adultery, and then has Uriah killed trying to cover up his sin. Then Nathan called him out in front of everybody. Most despotic monarchs would have killed Nathan and denied everything, but not David. He confessed and threw himself at God’s feet. He dealt with the consequences of his actions the rest of his life. He experienced humiliation, rebellion, heartache and loss. But David found God’s mercy and lived.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’ve been under appreciated. Perhaps you have felt adrift in circumstances, just making your way the best you can. Maybe you’ve been on top of the world. Maybe you have fallen from that mountaintop… I certainly have a couple of times, and let me tell you, it is lonely and painful. Perhaps you know that, too…

There are times like that when we all need mercy, when we crave the relief from guilt and stress it brings. There are also times when we have it in our power to offer it to someone else. Someone may have wronged you, perhaps, and they feel bad about it. A relationship may be broken because they long for your forgiveness. You can relieve them by being merciful. In this life, love and mercy are both things we all could use more of.

Here’s a secret: you’ll find them in the Bible. They are in the story of David, and they leap from the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Matthew, John, and Paul. God’s mercy changes people. God’s people change the world. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul said, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” If you study the Bible with an open heart, it will set you free by bringing you love, mercy, and promises to live by today. And tomorrow… And the next day….And oh yeah, every day after that.

Lord, when I rebel and turn my face away from your encouragement and grace;
When I listen to those inner voices, following them with stupid, selfish choices;
When I wander from your love and care, and find myself immersed in dark despair,
When I’ve given all I have to give: Be merciful to me, that I may live.

 

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

Presence Presupposes That 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)

presence of God

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, because it promises us 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. Don’t ask Him for stuff, just enjoy His presence for a few minutes…

presence of God

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 think 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 loving-kindness.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

renew heart

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

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

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

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

The King’s Lament

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

 

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

Real Transgressions Require Real Repentance.

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

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

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

transgressions require repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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