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.

I bet you haven’t used the word ‘transgressions’ in awhile… In the dictionary, it’s “an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.” That’s something we have all done, and the Bible reminds us in the words of King David that even royalty could make mistakes. “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)

A Walk Upon the Roof

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.)

What Can We Do About It?

But if we can 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.

It's Your Call
Here's a tip for your transgressions:
Offer up a real confession.
This is more than my two cents,
(I offer this with no pretense)
Since Sin requires a deadly sentence,
Start with a heart of true repentance!
Don't obfuscate, prevaricate,
Procrastinate or hesitate.
You've sinned, so you know what to do:
The rest of it is up to you.

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

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

There is much speculation about the decline in church attendance over the last several decades. Books have been written about it, experts have offered strategic approaches, and the church uses more modern marketing techniques than it ever has before. Now, I’m no expert, but I have a suggestion for your church that may seem a little far-fetched, and it’s straight from the Bible. It’s a very simple step to take. (Well, actually it involves several steps!) Start dancing more and strategizing less! Let’s take a couple of pages from King David’s book:

Some Expressions About Expression

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

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

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

dancing before the Lord

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

Unbridled Enthusiasm

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!

Just Dance

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 chance, and take a stance,
and let your joy burst forth: Just dance!

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

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

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

Priceless Love: It Has Nothing to Do With Mastercard

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

priceless shirt

Priceless Value

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

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

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

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

priceless love

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

Getting Well and Truly Lit

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

Truly Priceless

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

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

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

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

Perfection not Required

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

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

heart

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

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

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

A Modern Parable

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

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

“A Man After God’s Own Heart”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suffering Puts Us on a Slippery Slope: Don’t Slide Down!

Maybe there’s more to suffering than we realize; David seemed to feel that it might just have a purpose… “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3, NKJV)

What Did Bono Say About Suffering?

This Psalm of David provided the lyrics for U2’s song “40”, and it gives us hope when we are in the midst of hard times. Being patient while suffering is not my best thing, and God’s timing does not always seem to be aligned with my need for instant gratification. Perhaps there’s something to consider about that… If you really think about it, impatience is essentially a selfish thing; it comes from elevating one’s needs or wants above all else. I see it on the roads every day as someone runs a stop sign or races up to pass people and cut into a merge lane.

suffering merge

It happens at almost every intersection as the people in front of me are so busy on their phones that they don’t see the light turn green and move forward, costing those of us behind them a chance to make the light. Their selfishness aggravates my impatience, which I then share with others, creating a chain of selfishness that just goes on and on. I realize that I am using something relatively trivial (impatience in traffic) as an example of suffering, but it is something we can all relate to.

There are far more horrible pits to fall into, and there are certainly many circumstances in life that call out for God’s help. Even as I write this, I know it can seem glib and insensitive: after all, I’m not the one suffering, and it’s easy to give “spiritual” advice about it. So please, dear reader, accept what comfort you can from what follows, and use faith to take suffering to another place. It worked for David, and he faced many difficulties in his life–whether it was arrogant brothers who belittled him, a King who tried to murder him, being exiled and alone, dealing with private sin and public failure, or losing a child…

Every day people have to face bad news at work, in their relationships, or with their health, and situations can feel hopeless. Living in a Covid world has touched almost everyone with difficulty and tragedy. Depression is far more common these days, and suicide is up dramatically in the United States since 2000. Social distancing and isolation only make things worse. In Psalm 40, David is saying that when we are in danger, when we are isolated, when we are stressed or insecure, we can turn our problems over to the Lord. I know that sounds like a simplistic answer, but exercising faith in God offers a positive alternative to hopelessness.

Is There A Different Possibility?

We may not have a choice about circumstances, but David points out that we can choose our response to them. I don’t want this to sound insensitive, but suffering and hopelessness can be selfish acts. If we focus only on ourselves and our circumstances, we embrace the negative and dismiss the possibility of God. It may be that He has something redemptive that can come out of even terrible circumstances. Romans 8:28 says that “All things work together for good for them that love God, who are called according to His purpose.” If that’s true, then perhaps God offers alternatives when circumstances knock us down.

We can either slide into the pit of selfishness or call out to the Lord. His word says He will hear us and elevate us; He will provide firm footing and clear direction. It is easy to get bitter in this life. Culture is capricious and shallow; Politics are driven by selfish agendas; people will disappoint you; even your own body will someday fail you. David says that in the midst of troubles, God put a new song in his mouth. Perhaps you also have troubles. Life has thrown you a curve ball. You are in a miry, suffocating pit where there seems to be no way out. Instead of slipping, stand…

The Living God is ready to put a new song upon your lips, one that will strengthen you and confound everyone around you. It may even be that our suffering is intended to create some greater good. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Always sing in the midst of trouble. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” When you find your song in the midst of troubles, not only will you discover a firm foundation in a life full of shifting values and events, but others “will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” Being patient during difficulties sometimes seems impossible. But if there is an eternal life, and if the disappointments in this life could help someone else (anyone else!) trust in the Lord and attain that everlasting life, then perhaps they are not only disappointments after all…

A New Song

My days were wrapped in silence, filled with anguish, mired in pain;
The sunrise turned to grey as all the sunshine turned to rain.
My life became an effort just to live another day;
I slipped into a pit, surrounded, stuck in miry clay.
So since I couldn’t help myself, I called upon the Lord.
I listened to His message, and I stood upon His word.
His comfort gave me hope, and His assurance made me strong;
His spirit filled my hopeless heart and gave to me a song.
And so amidst the miry clay, no matter what life brings,
I’ll lift my eyes up to the Lord, and trust. And hope. And sing.

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

Advice is Easy to Give. Great Leaders Practice What they Preach

David had gotten to the place when knew his time on earth was short, and in this passage he gave Solomon a piece of advice about how to be a great leader:

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV)

advice

David didn’t just give Solomon some pretty good advice here. What he said is worth considering and applying by all leaders everywhere. It is full of eternal, life-changing principles. When you break it down, you’ll see what I mean.

1) David starts by reminding Solomon that he is his son. He is presuming upon their relationship, and he makes this statement because Solomon falls under David’s paternal authority. Roles are important in life. David understands that part of a father’s job is to impart advice, to offer wisdom and to tell it like it is—so he does. In this case, David is Solomon’s biological father, but that’s not mandatory in mentor relationships. Every one of us is currently involved in relationships where we provide guidance or leadership, or where we need to LISTEN TO guidance or counsel. Advise well. Listen well.

2) He tells Solomon to acknowledge “the God of your father”, which means David was offering his OWN relationship with God as a baseline for Solomon. Tell, me, would you present YOUR relationship with God as the template for your children? For your friends? David failed in several very public ways, and his life in was not exactly a template for proper behavior, but he did love the Lord and follow Him in spite of his own failings and mistakes… I think it’s telling that David is confident enough in his relationship with God that he can tell his son to follow it.

3) He doesn’t just tell Solomon to acknowledge God, he tells him to serve the Lord “with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” Would you tell your kids to do that? Do you DO that? Great leadership involves more than giving advice, it comes from actually living out the principles it proclaims.

4) He reminds Solomon that the Lord knows every heart, and understands every human desire and motive; if that doesn’t give you pause for reflection, I’m not sure what will. (To bring that closer to home, the Lord knows YOUR heart, and He is aware of YOUR every motive. It is not so much my blatant, public sin that I worry about, but my private inner ones…) David advises Solomon that God’s sovereignty and omniscience matter, and that we should conduct ourselves with an awareness of what that means in our life and in our relationships.

5) He spells out the choices in black and white. If we seek God, we will find him; but if we forsake Him, He will reject us. And oh yeah, He will reject us “forever”. We have choices, and our actions have consequences. Choose wisely.

Hard-Earned Advice

David’s reign was ending; Solomon’s had just begun,
And David offered wise advice to Solomon, his son:
“Acknowledge God the way I do, and love Him from the start;
Serve Him with a willing mind, and seek Him with all your heart.
The Lord knows every motive, every thought within your mind–
So don’t play games with Him. Be honest. Seek Him, and you’ll find…
If you forsake His wisdom as you sit upon your throne,
Then he’ll reject you utterly, and you will be alone.
You’ll find that it’s much harder, then, to govern on your own…”

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

Nathan Accused King David of Being Evil. His Response Shocked Everyone

Nathan called David out in front of everybody for being a liar, an adulterer and a murderer. God called David “A Man After My Own Heart”.

Why do you think the Bible calls King David “a man after God’s own heart”? Certainly he was a great hero, a passionate, poetic lover of God, a courageous man, and a valiant leader; but he was also a scheming adulterer and murderer.

Nathan

So how do we best view God’s heart through the life of David? Was it written in his poems? Displayed in his desire to build the temple? Exemplified by his courage, or his material success? I think it’s in this passage: [Nathan said,] “The rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “YOU are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:4-7a).

When Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba, he did so by telling David a story about a poor man whose one cherished lamb was taken from him by a rich, selfish man who had many, but chose to steal from the poor man rather than to be content with his own abundance.

When David faced exposure in the midst of his court and under the public eye, he found himself at a crucial moment. He could have followed the normal instincts of an all-powerful king whose word was law. He could have used spin so that he didn’t look so bad. He had the choice to lie, distract and pontificate. He could have denied Nathan’s accusation and just have him killed; or… he could face truth and consequences.

I’ve always marveled that the great David, “a man after God’s own heart”, would still be known by that title after committing such evil (after all, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed)—but I think it was his response here to Nathan that cemented his legacy. He didn’t posture in self-righteousness; he didn’t lie and cover up. He came to the pivotal transparent moment in his career and he told the truth: He ‘fessed up.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (Verse 13) It was this response, not David’s victory over Goliath or his greatness as a King that made David a man after God’s own heart. It was the fact that he knew who God was, he had the proper perspective, and even in his failure he came before the Lord in humility and repentance. We learn about God’s heart not from David’s greatness, but from his humility. When is the last time YOU said, “I have sinned against you, Lord”? Be humble. Be great.

David’s Turning Point

David, lover of the Lord
Was home alone–distracted, bored–
Contemplating sensual sin,
And felt its depth, and fell right in.

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

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

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

Outward Appearances Don’t Matter: It’s What’s Inside that Counts

We live in the age of outward appearance, as consumers who hear the message others want us to hear and see the images they want us to see about products, news, celebrities, and politics. One series of commercials claims to use only “Real People. Not Actors”, although even a little research reveals that it did indeed use actors in some of the segments. (To their credit, they did always use real people–as opposed to fake people, I guess…)

Our thoughts and opinions are constantly being influenced by people we don’t know, telling us things we can’t validate. We are perhaps the shallowest culture in history, celebrating people not for who they really are, but for who they appear to be. The Bible’s message is this: Don’t be Fooled by the outward appearance: It’s What’s Inside that Counts.

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, NIV) Samuel, a prophet of God, was called upon to select Israel’s next king from among Jesse’s sons. He watched them parade before him one by one, and his first impression was that Eliab certainly looked like the one. He was big, strong and nice looking.

outward

Samuel’s first reaction was to evaluate the young men based on how strong or kingly they looked, but the Lord told him that appearances can be deceiving. That’s so true, isn’t it? We often hear about situations with a celebrity that end badly, or see something on the news about a heinous crime committed by a seemingly ordinary person and think, “No way!” It’s hard for us to accept that a funny person was actually struggling with depression, or a pretty young wife and mom was killed by her husband (who is smiling beside her in all of the pictures), but it’s often the sad case.

As shallow human beings, we tend to look on the outward appearance, when the truth is on the inside… We can’t truly evaluate people based on what they look like publicly because that can be contrived, and it doesn’t show the whole picture, does it? Think about it: have you ever smiled and said something nice to somebody while you hid your dislike, or arrogance, or impatience? Was your outward appearance different than your inner motive? What we see in this world is limited; what God sees is not.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It is in the heart that motives arise, and the way people look on the outside isn’t always the way they really are (think: Hollywood or American politics, sigh…). Old sayings exist for a reason,  and we’ve all heard that beauty is only skin deep. So is public image. In an age where we are bombarded with half-truths and insinuations, it’s very difficult to gain true understanding from shallow information.

Obviously, there are two ways for this to go: first, don’t be too quick to judge or evaluate others based on mere outward appearances. Who they seem to be may not be who they actually are. And second, remember that who YOU seem to be on the outside is not necessarily who you really are. Jesus challenged his followers to beware of what came out of the abundance of their hearts, and to be brutally honest with the Father. It’s logical to do business with God without any smokescreens, because He knows your heart anyway. Keep it real. Confess truthfully. Repent passionately. And follow the advice of Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”

Public Appearances

Look at a celebrity: you’ve probably seen them on TV,
Chased by paparazzi, fans, or sailing on their yacht.
Even if you’re not the type to fall for shallow marketing hype,
You cannot help but think perhaps they’re something that you’re not.
But although fame and money hide the truth of who they are, inside,
Divorces, drugs and suicide contaminate the dream:
If you are tempted to bow down to cultural icons of renown,
Consider that these people may just not be who they seem.
So when we stand before the throne to face our God all on our own,
We can’t rely on the money we made, or if we played a part.
We cannot take assurance from our external appearance,
For the Lord looks not on outward things; He looks upon our heart.

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

Thirsty for a Nice Cold Beer? Then This Post is for YOU

Ever get REALLY thirsty? Been working in the yard when it’s 90+ degrees, sweat keeps getting into your eyes, and you just gotta have something cool and refreshing? David talked about that, but he gave it a twist and applied it to something more than physical thirst, which brings up a question: What Are You Thirsty For?

Thirst affects us physically in many ways; it causes disorientation, hallucinations, and it can even cause our vital organs to shut down. We get parched and it’s hard to keep moving. We can be stranded in the desert, lips cracked, skin dry and desperate for water. David knew that feeling. He had been a fugitive hiding in the desert and had probably been stranded in the arid landscape of southern Judea more than once. Yet even as daunting as that circumstance could be, he realized that water wasn’t the only thing he could be thirsty for…

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving kindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” (Psalm 63:1-4, NKJV)

thirsty

Read through David’s prayer again, and consider the way he describes how he feels about the Lord… “You are my God! My soul thirsts for you! My flesh longs for you! Your loving kindness is better than life. My lips shall praise you. I will bless you!” When was the last time your everyday prayer was close to this? Yes, I know my Creator is awesome, but when I compare my hurried “bless this day” prayers to David’s love songs, perhaps I have fallen just a bit short in my estimation of who God is, and how amazingly blessed I am. Perhaps the omniscient Lord of the Universe is waiting for me to fall in love with Him, and would love to hear me tell Him just how much he means to me…

If you pause for just a moment and think about all the blessings in your life, even amidst the irritations, the inconveniences, the troubles, and the sorrows, consider this: God is just as open to this kind of relationship with YOU as He was with David. He is thirsty for you. The Almighty God of the universe longs to be intimate with you. David spoke to Him like a lover, with passion and affection and possession. But He isn’t just David’s God; he is MY God. He is YOUR God. Do you thirst for Him? Do you long for Him?

When was the last time you poured your heart out affectionately to the Father and told Him that you loved him dearly, that you longed for Him, and that couldn’t bear to live without Him? When is the last time you crawled up in His figurative lap and huddled close to Him, overwhelmed with love and joy? I thought so. Stop and tell Him. Use David’s prayer as a template if you need to, but I bet He’d love hearing it in your own words.

Thirsty?

Father, when I pray to you from dry and thirsty lands,
I never shout my joy to you; I never lift my hands!
I ask you for all sorts of things, but never sing you songs,
And rarely say that You’re the one for whom my spirit longs…
I pray for people who are sick, and ask you, Lord, to heal them;
But I don’t see your glories, Lord: I ask you to reveal them!
Bless me Father, as I pray, give me a holy thirst
To know your heart as David did, and help me put you first.
Help me look into your sanctuary; help me see
That I am yours, and that your sanctuary, Lord, is me.

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