Merit Doesn’t Save You and Mistakes Don’t Condemn You: Christmas News Worth Reading

This genealogy we’ve been following proves that the salvation brought by Jesus as the Messiah is not a Merit System…

The fourth woman named in Matthew’s genealogy isn’t really ever named outright, but we know who she is. He says, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” (Matt 1:6) Out of all the royal wives in Israel’s history, Bathsheba was always connected to Israel’s greatest king, and to the king’s greatest sin—and yet it was she who was chosen to carry the line of the Messiah. Based on her reputation, she doesn’t seem to merit inclusion into Christ’s genealogy. (After all, she motivated David to commit adultery and murder, didn’t she?)

Perhaps her name was so tarnished that Matthew couldn’t bring himself to say it. Perhaps, unlike a Ruth or a Rahab, she was unworthy somehow. (This is another one of those accurate details that a more polished narrative would have glossed over somehow. Unlike in today’s politics, the Bible keeps telling the truth when a lie would work so much better…) David had other sons by other wives, and yet Bathsheba’s son Solomon bore the royal lineage. Why did God choose her and him?

merit

Two things: first, Bathsheba was more than just a pretty face. She was apparently a pretty shrewd player in palace politics. When Adonijah (not her son) proclaimed himself to be king, she risked her own life to present her case to the aged and infirm King David: “Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king. “What is it you want?” the king asked. She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it.” (1 Kings 1:16-18 NIV)

Bathsheba brought in the powerful prophet Nathan as an ally, and David confirmed his oath to make Solomon King. Without her brazen resolve, who knows if Solomon would have gained the throne? Or lived another day? In the midst of dangerous and volatile circumstances, she asked the king to keep his promises. Perhaps that is something all of us should do… Next time you are in difficult circumstance, prostrate yourself before the King and ask for His promises! If you ask the right kind of king, I bet you get the right kind of response…

Second, I am kinda glad that someone who was connected to such terrible and far-reaching mistakes (David and Bathsheba aren’t the only ones in the genealogy who qualify, by the way) still made this list. It’s not a merit system. The Messiah does not judge you by your mistakes or even your merit. Smack in the middle of a legalistic and self-righteous world of religious intolerance, God brought a Messiah who saved people from sin, rather than merely condemning them for it.

If you have been less than perfect, if you have committed egregious errors, and even if your mistakes have had gut-wrenching and far-reaching consequences, take heart. Jesus understands that stuff because it’s all over the place in his family tree. And he said this: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NIV) Good Christmas news for Bathsheba and David. Good news for Solomon. And very good news for us.

The Good News: God Can Use Sinners

A man of passion, power and might,
The jaded king would find the sight
Of a naked beauty he did not know
An utterly enticing show…
So David called Bathsheba in;
Temptation led to secret sin:
Clandestine meetings, broken trust
And finally, to murderous lust!
And yet these sins, and this disgrace
Did not prevent unfailing Grace,
Or let this evil undermine
The course of the Messiah’s line…
If you look through it, you can see
In Matthew’s genealogy
Imperfect folks like you and me.
From sinners, God made history!
From folks who knew of sin and shame,
The heavenly Messiah came!
Perfection, this Bathsheba missed:
But by God’s Grace, she made this list.
Though Matthew doesn’t say her name,
The world through her would never be the same.

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

Sheep Need a Shepherd; Preferably, A GOOD Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11) There is a lot to consider in this short verse. What all do shepherds do? What is their role in tending the sheep? In Biblical times, shepherds provided leadership and protection for sheep, who were too vulnerable to make it alone out there in the real world. I know their job was to keep the flock together, to gather strays who wandered off, and to protect them from predators.

sheep

But a shepherd’s role was also defined by the characteristics of his flock. He had to understand his sheep and guide them in such a way that they could overcome their natural tendencies. The analogy Christ is making works because there are so many similarities between sheep and, well, us

First of all, sheep are not very bright. They are selfish and appetite-centered. They don’t practice good crop management, since they will eat a field down to nothing, leaving barren soil in their wake. The shepherd would counter that tendency by leading them to various pastures in a rotation so that they could find enough grass in the appropriate season. Sheep don’t drink from running water, so the shepherd would guide them to ponds or “still waters”. Sheep will wander off and get into trouble. They are very vulnerable to predators.

sheep killer

When he was questioned about his ability to confront Goliath, David told Saul, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36) A sheep who followed his shepherd enjoyed protection and green pastures. Jesus had just contrasted the shepherd with the thief, who came to “kill, steal and destroy.”

Has anything in your life ever been “killed, stolen, or destroyed”? As members of the flock, we live in a world that employs numerous ways to accomplish those three things. What kills your joy, steals your time, or destroys your peace of mind? There are leaders who would take down different paths than the Good Shepherd. Be careful what you follow. Be careful WHO you follow.

In the verse just before, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” The good shepherd wants your life to be more peaceful, joyful, and full. The thief wants to tear it down. Are you willingly following the good shepherd? He might just take you to a good spot.

The Shepherd

The world can be a dangerous place.
So many dangers that we face
When we have wandered far from grace
Are things the fallen world employs
To break our hearts, and steal our joys;
Be careful out there, girls and boys:
For we, like sheep can go astray!
If only someone led the way,
And took us where the grass is deep,
Enough for even selfish sheep…
“I’m the Good Shepherd” said a man,
So I will follow him while I can,
Because I’d really like to see
If there’s a possibility of living life abundantly.
So far he hasn’t lied to me, this Shepherd out of Galilee…

To purchase my newest 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

Testimonies You Ought to Use in Reaching a Verdict

There are testimonies being given every day in our country. Some of them are true accounts, and some of them are bald-faced lies. What testimonies do you listen to? What testimonies do you believe? Judges and lawyers listen to lots of them, and apparently so did King David: “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalms 119:129-130 KJV)

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

testimonies

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

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

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

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

The testimonies about his life were so captivating that people literally died defending them. By the thousands: Stubbornly. Defending. Testimonies. Have you ever really considered what Jesus said? He was arguably the wisest man who ever lived… And, oh yeah, He believed in the testimonies.

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
What sustains you spiritually? What do you live by? God’s word is not given to restrict or oppress us; as David suggests, we should keep it because it’s wonderful. It has our best interests at heart; it gives advice for positive living; it offers sustenance, understanding and wisdom, even to the simple…even to me. It is a doorway to truth in a world full of spin, half-truths, and outright deception. Keep it, not because you ought to, but because it is wonderful! (Which reminds us that it is indeed… full of wonder.)

TESTIMONIES

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

To purchase my newest 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

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

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

hope

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

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. David publicly demonstrated his hope because he was confident in what the Lord had promised.

Being unashamed could also mean: 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted.

Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

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

cycle of hope

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

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

 

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

Being Thankful can Run Full Circle: Be Thanks Full as well!

There’s a difference between “Thankful” and “Thank-full-ness”… Today is a great day to reflect on what you are thankful for, but it is even more than that.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1 NIV) You’ll notice that this verse from the Psalms is exactly like the verse from Chronicles in yesterday’s devotion. Being thankful for God’s goodness was a regular part of worshipping Him.

thankful

The Bible is full of reasons to be thankful, and David King of Israel expressed it simply but eloquently in his songs of praise to God.  2 Chronicles 5:13 says, “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” David used this verse over and over in the Psalms when singing praises, when he was leading worship, and to commemorate important events. (It also appears in Psalm 106, 107, 118, and 136.) Being thankful for God’s goodness and love was a major part of his life, and a major theme in his praises. He probably hummed this song while shaving or when he was walking to work in the morning.

During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we’ve probably taken a break to give thanks, and now our lives will get back to normal. There is shopping to do and there are Christmas decorations to put out. As we enjoy leftovers, and as homes quiet down from the joy and busy-ness of family gatherings, remember this: EVERY day is Thanksgiving Day. Even though no one will probably ask you for another year, “What are you thankful for?” it’s still a good question to ask. (Much better than “what’s in your wallet?”—don’t you think?).

Be a little bit thankful every day. God gives us much to be thankful for because it emanates from His character. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father! He actually delights in giving to His children more than we do! Jesus said in Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Perhaps as you read that, you are thinking about all the gifts you have been given, and you are indeed grateful for all of your blessings.

thankful

If that’s so, then here’s a little twist to think about as you reflect on what you are thankful for: What are other people thankful for about YOU? Are they thankful for your generosity, your patience, or your joy? Have you given someone ELSE a reason to give thanks this week? Be not only thankful; be thanked-full as well. Happy thankfulness-giving, everybody!

Thankfulness is Not Just Something You Have

One special day each year we pause and offer up our thanks
For all the blessings that we have, both in and out of banks.
We’re thankful for the blessings and the love that we’ve received,
And grateful for the grace bestowed on all who have believed.
And while your saying ‘thank you’ is the proper thing to do,
I wonder, is there someone saying, “Thank You, God!” for 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

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