Presence Presupposes That Wherever You Go, There You Are!

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

presence of God

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

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

Psalm 139 provides us assurance that we can live each day with a sense of the security and comfort of God’s presence no matter what life throws at us. There is, however, another side to David’s song. Do we really think it’s a GOOD thing to hang out with God wherever we go, to have His presence beside us no matter what, no matter where?
Have you ever wanted to hide from God? You know, put Him away for a little while so you could do your own thing, and then maybe catch Him on the flip side? David did. Even when he went his own way, even when he ignored the Lord, God was there. “If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there”. David had made his bed in hell, and God was still with him. So it is with us.

Perhaps you have done some things that make you feel unworthy to associate with the Living God. Maybe you have ignored Him, or avoided Him, or left God behind as you have gone about your business; the good news is that God’s secure, comforting presence is still near, and He is with you. If you haven’t sought the Lord in a while, climb up into His lap and sit for a moment. Catch up. Don’t ask Him for stuff, just enjoy His presence for a few minutes…

presence of God

Remember your first love, rejoice in your salvation and let his peace surround you. No matter where you have been, and no matter how far away from God you think you are, you can say with David, “even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” If you’ve never introduced yourself to God, why not now? And if you’ve wandered away from Him a bit, go ahead and climb up into His lap. Welcome back.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

renew heart

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

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

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

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

The King’s Lament

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

 

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

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

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

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

transgressions require repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

In 2 Samuel 6:14-15, he celebrated the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” His wife Michal was disgusted at his exuberant public display, but David told her, that in terms of expressing his gratitude and passion for the Lord, “I was dancing before the Lord… I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…”

When was the last time you were undignified because you were just so darn happy about what God has done in your life? When have you [ever] danced with joy before the Lord? We Baptists probably have a real struggle with this passage, kind of like we do with serving real wine at communion—it probably wasn’t REAL dancing, was it? (The Bible says he danced with “all his might”, so it sounds like real dancing to me.) In any case, I think Scripture teaches us that it’s ok for us to be passionate about God, to rejoice and celebrate.

Remember all He has done for you! Think about forgiveness and grace, and celebrate! Think about something even simpler: today is a gift from God. Whatever your circumstances, you have today. How would David say you should treat it? I think he’d say: “This is the day which The Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24, NIV) That sounds like great advice to me. Let’s rejoice! Dance like nobody’s watching!

When you think you’re in control,
But the God of the Universe grabs your soul,
And showers you from up above, and powers you with His great love:
Then take a stance, and grab your pants,
and let your joy burst forth: Just dance!

When you’re sleeping in those pews,
But you hear a verse that you can use,
Then tell me: what have you got 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

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?

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 talk about “getting lit”—street talk for getting stoned. 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…

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.

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.

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

Sin Happens, and Sometimes You Have to Work Hard to Accidentally Fall Into It

Sin happens to everybody. We may think somebody is righteous or above the carnal deeds of men, but the Bible says it even happened to “a man after God’s own heart.” “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem…” (2 Samuel 11:1, NIV)

Thus begins the account of perhaps the most famous fall from grace since the Garden of Eden. David, the King of Israel, sent his army out to battle while he stayed back at the palace enjoying all the comforts of home. It’s not like David was cowardly or soft—he was one of the most valiant warriors in Israel’s history—but for whatever reason, he decided to stay home for this campaign. It was the costliest decision he ever made.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” (11:2-4) Apparently David, the man after God’s own heart, also had a heart of his own. He spotted Bathsheba, coveted her, sent for her and slept with her.

sin of David

Lest we feel too sorry for these victims of circumstance who just “fell into sin”, think about what each of them did. Sin happens for a reason. There was a reason why David liked to walk the palace roof. I would imagine he was able to spot more than one woman bathing outside hoping the king might notice, or perhaps he had seen this particular woman before and it was a repeat performance. Bathsheba was apparently no shrinking violet. (Later on, she is ambitious and resourceful in promoting her son Solomon as heir to the throne). The fact that Bathsheba brazenly displayed herself in view of the King suggests an agenda. This was perhaps a calculated effort on her part to draw the King’s eye and favor.

But the story gets worse. She got pregnant. David called Uriah home so he could sleep with her to provide a logical reason why she would be with child when her husband was off to war; the honorable Uriah refused to go in to sleep with his wife while his own men were out in the field. David, feeling a little desperate, then secretly had Uriah isolated in battle so that he would be killed. An admiring look at a bathing beauty turned into lust, betrayal, adultery, and murder. Left alone with time on his hands, David turned his back on his troops, his responsibilities, and his walk with God.

We’ve all been there. Well, maybe you haven’t been exactly where David was, but you have definitely turned your back on God to chase a secret sin. I know I have. Sin happens along, beckoning us to play. Oscar Wilde said “I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.” We may not want to adhere to Mr. Wilde’s philosophy, but I’m pretty sure each of us has unfortunately found the strength to pursue sin, just like David. Here are a couple of observations taken from his story:

1) When you take yourself away from accountability, responsibility, and good companions, you are vulnerable to sin. My grandmother (and maybe everybody’s grandmother!) used to say, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” If you are busy staying close to God and His people, you might be too busy to get into mischief.

2) One thing leads to another. You can start with merely “walking around on the roof of the palace” and end up as an adulterer and a murderer. Never forget that depravity is a progressive condition. Like in so many other things in life, even “baby steps” into sin will take us further into sin.

3) All your past victories over Goliath do not guarantee that you will always make the right choice. If you have been spiritually successful, if you are currently the reigning monarch over all you survey, you are still vulnerable to sin. Stay humble. If David, the man after God’s own heart, could fall into sin by following his own desires, remember: You have a heart of your own, too.

David walked upon the roof, where much to his surprise,
He saw a naked woman bathing right before his eyes.
He took some steps: he sent for her. He called her, and she came;
For them, and for their nation, things would never be the same.
David saw a woman. It’s a story old but true–
Temptation beckons folks to sin in what they say or do–
So tell me: What temptation beckons secretly to YOU?
Beware when something calls you to immerse yourself in sin:
David walked upon the roof. And looked. And he fell in.
If porn or Pinterest beckons you with something you can covet,
Beware of what can happen if your heart decides to love it.
If you think you are not so bad, and need a little proof,
Just look where David ended up by walking on the roof…

 

 

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

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)

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. Depression seems to be more common these days, and suicide is up dramatically in the United States since 2000. 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.

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…

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

Glory Certainly Isn’t Something You See Every Day; Or IS IT?

You have seen glory a few times, I’m sure: a majestic view or something magnificent; but I don’t think most of us walk around each day as if we are in the midst of something glorious. It was different for David and the other folks who wrote the Psalms. The Psalmist had only to look up to behold the Glory of God. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1, NIV) “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) “O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8, NIV)

glory of the heavens

The average ancient man had a far greater insight to astronomy than we do today. After all, they didn’t have electricity so there was no competition with starlight and no corruption of the view. Sailors navigated by the stars, and religions build observation temples to track their pathways in the night skies. Their perception of how the moon and the stars moved through the heavens was far more acute than most of ours is today…

David shared that understanding of the night skies, but he also had a wonderful sense of spiritual perception. It’s not totally surprising, when you think about all of the nights he spent out in the countryside tending sheep, sleeping beneath the canopy of space. There were no city lights, there was no TV and no glowing media to distract him—just the vastness of the universe spread overhead as far as he could see—the infinite richness of light in the darkness, the movement of the constellations in the heavens, and hours of time to reflect on what it must mean.

He apparently came to the conclusion that the universe was amazing, and so was The One who made it. He carried that impression throughout his entire life, whether he was a shepherd, a hero, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. God was amazing and glorious, and David’s humility and awe before Him set the foundation for a lifetime love affair. The evidence David saw about the Creator’s majesty affected his heart as well, and he lived his life with a profound understanding that God’s glory was not just around him but was also within him. When he said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, he was acknowledging the Creator’s work not just around him, but within him as well.

All of us have had moments like that, when we got a glimpse of God’s majesty and recalibrated our place in the universe. Maybe it happened to you when you saw an amazing sunset, approached snow-capped mountains rising from the plains, or lay out on a hillside at night and gazed into the dazzling vastness of the Milky Way: God’s presence surrounded and astounded you, and called you to worship the Creator. Perhaps you even felt God’s glory in the midst of a church service, singing a song or lost in worship…

Say, when was the last time God was glorious to you? When was the last time you felt the awesomeness of God, and felt humbled and reverent before Him? When was the last time you saw God for who he is and fell in love with Him a little more?

I’ve toured some amazing cathedrals in Europe, and I know they were built on a magnificent scale to try to capture a smidgen of God’s glory. When you enter them you feel a sense of awe and wonder. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth details the blood, sweat, and effort that went into building some of them, and it’s a good read. The intent behind was similar to the passion behind the Temple in Jerusalem, to show worshippers a glimpse of glory.

In our casual world of flip-flops and coffee in church, I sometimes long for worship where we encounter God in his glory. In our world of busy-ness and distraction, I long for reflection and reverence. If, like me, you struggle sometimes with seeing God in His glory, then remember this: the most important place we encounter God is not in nature, and not even in His house, but in the sanctuary of our hearts. You are fearfully and wonderfully made–not just physically, but spiritually as well.

Where do you find God’s glory? Look up. Look around. Look within. Recalibrate.

The heavens display the glory of God! We see his presence there,
Far-flung among the galaxies and painted everywhere.
The palette of the sunsets blazes forth in every hue
As pink and gold are splashed across the heaven’s perfect blue.
The mountains rise majestically beyond us from afar
Reminding us how big God is, and just how small we are.
We all know His glory in the grandest things abides,
But there’s a place much closer where His presence still resides;
To truly see God’s glory, here’s the place where you should start:
Don’t gaze at the horizon, take a look inside your 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

Trouble In This World is Inevitable. Refuge is Optional

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.” (Psalm 46:1-3, NKJV)

The people of God were no strangers to trouble. From slavery in Egypt to captivity I Babylon they endured hardship and trouble of  Biblical proportions. Granted, by ignoring the prophets and chasing after idols they brought much of it upon themselves, but the children of Israel have spent a lot of time dealing with oppression, disaster, and tragedy. This Psalm provides some clues about how they have been able to deal with such things.

First, it presupposes that there WILL be trouble. It is not a prosperity gospel, and does not assume that God’s blessing is in the ABSENCE of trouble: it takes comfort from God’s presence in the MIDST of trouble. I think many of us equate God’s blessing with ease and material comfort, and our world can be shattered by tragedy because when bad things happen we question God, or even blame Him for what happened. While God often reveals His grace and goodness during hard times, trying to find the human logic behind tragedy can be a fruitless exercise. We may not ever see all ends, or find a reason for why something bad happened. We can, however, always find help when it does.

trouble

The Psalmist assumes that trouble will come, and is soothed by the fact that God provides strength and a place of spiritual refuge in the midst of physical tragedy. When trouble comes, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to turn TOWARDS the Father rather than AWAY from him? It may just be that blessing is not found in comfort, but in HE HIMSELF.

The Psalmist not only finds comfort in God’s presence, he also finds courage. No matter what calamity falls upon him, he is able to react with confidence that God is with him and will provide help. Please don’t misunderstand this. This Psalm does not minimize tragedy or try to cover it with platitudes. It merely says that when bad things happen to you (and they will), find strength and help in God. Though the physical world fail and fall, the spiritual world abides. When there is no other refuge, there is ONE refuge…When the world gives you reasons to be afraid, the Lord gives you a reason not to fear. Selah.

Mountains fall to troubled seas, the very earth will shake;
But shouldn’t blessings come my way? There must be some mistake!
Troubles are inevitable, my child, as you can see:
My blessing is not stuff or things; the blessing, child, is ME.
When calamity’s bony finger stretches out its length
My God is my ever-present help, my refuge, and my strength.

 

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