Presence Is Profound: Wherever You Go, There You Are!

From devotional writings of the early Church Fathers to “The Hound of Heaven”, men have reflected about the presence of God. Jesus said, “I am with you always”. The Lord introduced himself to Moses not as a name but as the eternal “I AM”. Although we cannot see God, there are definitely times when we feel Him near, times of comfort or awe… In the Psalms, David expressed his own feelings about being close to God:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; or 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

Inescapable Intimacy

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. That’s also kinda scary.

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. David 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.

The Other Side of the Song

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.

Opening the Presence

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.

Taking a Broken Break

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, just because I chose to sin;
But then I realized He only put His love inside me
For 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 to there forever hold me so that I can leave the old 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: Your Secret to Staying Happy!

“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.

Is It Really Such A Surprise?

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: none of us is ever 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)

It Wasn’t Just a Paul Problem…

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. It’s something every one of us deals with. 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. David, who once pursued God as the deer panted for the water, had wandered into the desert. Confronted with his sin, 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.

Headed the Right Direction

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

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

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

The King’s Lament

I don’t know why I ever thought myself above reproof,
When I saw Bathsheba bathing as I walked upon the roof;
She brazenly displayed herself and all her worldly charms,
And I knew that as I watched her, she would soon be in my arms.
I didn’t see where it would lead, or all the consequences,
And every day I wish I would have come back to my senses.
I might have kept from taking steps and breaking Yahweh’s trust,
Instead of giving in to sin and falling into lust.

I’m sorry, Lord. Forgive me for my wicked, selfish sin,
Create in me a brand new heart. Renew me from within.
Be present with me, Lord, and make my heart a new creation,
And please restore within me all the joy of my salvation!
Grant me a willing spirit, let me walk in all your ways;
Sustain my soul, and let me humbly love you all of my days…

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

Your Big Transgressions Require Big Repentance.

People use the word “trans” a lot today, but not the way it really applies to all of us. I bet you haven’t used the word ‘transgressions’ in awhile… In the dictionary, it’s “an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.” That’s something we have all done, and the Bible reminds us in the words of King David that even royalty could make mistakes. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” (Psalm 51:3-4, NIV)

David may have been the greatest king of Israel, but he was also one of its greatest sinners. When he spotted Bathsheba bathing he was tempted, which in itself is not sin. But what followed is almost a textbook case of how big transgressions can emerge from seemingly small temptations.

The word transgressions comes from the notion of going beyond the boundaries, of over-passing the rules. That often starts with temptation and develops from there. As James says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15, KJV)

A Walk Upon the Roof

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

transgressions require repentance

David was drawn into transgressions that seem unthinkable for a man after God’s own heart. His lust led him into adultery, betrayal, cowardice, and murder. He even made others complicit in his sin by having them bring Bathsheba to him (imagine the talk among the servants!) and leave Uriah alone in battle to be slain. (You think Joab lost a little respect for David over this “let’s abandon Uriah” thing?) When the King of Israel fell into sin, he fell hard.

In the space of a few weeks, David committed adultery, deceit and murder. 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, aren’t they?) I have often wondered why the Hebrew people portrayed heroes with such incredible flaws. The only explanation is that they were simply recording the truth, not varnishing or white-washing it. And perhaps it’s also so we can relate to and learn from David’s horrible mistakes.

What Can We Do About It?

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

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

The Right Place to Seek Forgiveness

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. David didn’t hire defense attorneys or try to circumvent the law. He acknowledged his transgressions and placed himself willingly under the verdict of a Righteous Judge.

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

It’s Your Call

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

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

Remember the Thrill of Your First Love? Maybe you Should

John’s Book of Revelation begins with letters to seven churches. Those admonitions are often interpreted as representing various ages of church history, and the church at Ephesus is equated with the end of the Apostolic age. John’s letter to us describes one of the greatest dangers to the church at ANY time: the danger of losing your first love… “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” (Revelation 2:1; 3-4, NKJV)

When John wrote to the seven Churches in Asia Minor, he wrote to literal church locations. His book about the Apocalypse was carried by messenger and read aloud to each congregation, and his message was cosmic and stunning to say the least. I’m sure that the reading of John’s letters in the late first century drew crowds and created quite a buzz in the local churches!

He Quit Preaching and Went to Meddling

To each congregation he gave a compliment, a criticism, and a command that probably addressed actual contemporary events or persons in that particular church, so I’m sure that listeners had many questions about who was to blame, how things got to be that way, and what to do about it. So in some respects, it was just a normal letter, written to contemporary churches John knew about.

But many theologians also believe that the letters to the seven churches also have a historical application and that each church can be compared to an era in history that corresponds with John’s message. (For instance, the church at Ephesus symbolizes the cooling off of the Church’s first love, and the end of the Apostolic age; Smyrna represents the era of church oppression and martyrdom, Pergamos the church becoming connected to the world, and so on. It’s a stimulating study if you are interested.)

But the application that intrigues me most is the PERSONAL ONE. When you read the messages to the seven churches, what jumps out at YOU? Are there compliments you identify with? Are there criticisms that make you uncomfortable?

Remember that First Love?

As you read John’s words to Ephesus, for instance, does anything resonate in your heart of hearts? “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” Our Sunday school class once described the characteristics of new or first love from a romantic point of view, and here is a partial list: “You want to spend time together.” “You think about each other all the time.” “You love talking together. You love being together.”

Ever feel that way? Have you ever been caught up in the new stages of a romance that are so powerful that it commands your thoughts, your time, and your desires? Romance writers talk about it, and surely you can remember it from that time you first “fell in love”!

first love

Now think about the things you felt when you first encountered God’s love, when you learned about Grace it became real to you… what happened on the day you realized that God loved you, that Christ died for you, and you decided to grab ahold of it and love Him back? Do you remember the joy? Do you recall the comfort, relief, happiness and gratitude you felt? I was FORGIVEN! I was LOVED!! I had HOPE! For me, it was like seeing the world through new eyes, and about finding a confidence that wasn’t held down by my own inadequacy or insecurity.

If you ever appropriated God’s love by faith, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a feeling of life-changing love and assurance so complete that it is both infinite and intimate. It’s a doorway to new possibilities that include spiritual awakening and eternal life! As I recall, it came with a bunch of new discoveries about life and the way the world works.

Bringing it Home

So here’s the question: do you still feel that way today? Are you walking around feeling loved, touched by grace, grateful that you can spend time with the Father? Have you left your first love? If you have, remember. Remember the early feelings you experienced when you stepped away from the deadly selfishness of the world to the selfless love of Jesus.

If you have wandered away from those emotions, reclaim them. Allow yourself to be courted by the Creator. Read some Psalms or the book of John. Go on a honeymoon with God. Serve someone else in His name, and see how you feel. It’s ok to feel romantic or smitten with God. He feels that way about you, and His first love is also His eternal one.

A Love Sonnet

Oh Lord, when there are times I, failing, doubt,
And do not seek to know Thy love and grace;
When I, in haste and worry, rush about,
And turn all inward seeking from Thy face;
When I forget that you were my first love,
And take for granted how I have been blessed;
When I, with thoughts below and not above
Am tempted, and I fail to pass the test –

When I am sore beset by worldly grief,
For having failed to put my trust in Thee,
While knowing that this trust would bring relief,
And that Thy face would never turn from me;
When our First Love’s romance, Oh Lord, I spurn,
Please call me back, and help me to return.

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

The Purpose Driven Life: Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dream

Nothing defines your purpose better than standing up and announcing it in front of everybody you know. Have you ever done that? According to Dr. Luke, Jesus did it in his hometown, at his home church:

A Surprising Statement?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, “ (Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV) These were the words Jesus read in Luke 4:16-19 at his home synagogue in Nazareth to proclaim his purpose and begin his public ministry.

Luke’s account of it says, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He [read from Isaiah 61].” Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, where apparently it was his normal practice to attend synagogue on the Sabbath. He announced his mission to a group who probably found it surprising that an apprentice carpenter would claim to be called to devote his life to fulfilling the word of God.

Not What They Expected

As the eldest son in Mary’s house after the death of Joseph (sometime after Jesus was 12), he had probably been fulfilling his obligation of working to take care of his mother, brothers and sisters. Jesus was undoubtedly part of the village landscape, and people there were familiar with him. I’m sure most of them assumed they knew what his station in life would be. But things had recently changed.

He had been baptized by John the Baptist and allowed his connection to the Spirit of God to go public. He had been tempted by Satan in the wilderness and had offered the Word of God as his defense. Jesus had gone and preached to great acclaim in Galilee. Now, in his home synagogue, he began his public ministry with a proclamation from Scripture. He read from Isaiah with conviction and understanding, and his commentary on the meaning of these verses put a stake in the ground about his identity and his purpose.

This was a Good Thing, Right?

So, what happened next? Did they accept him? NO! The very people he grew up around tried to stop him! “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way…” (Luke 4:28-30)

This somewhat surprising turn of events is really not all that surprising. The people in the village had labeled Jesus, and assumed he would be a craftsman like Joseph before him. They weren’t ready for such radical change, and Jesus’ announcement scared and intimidated them.

purpose driven

He announced he had a mission from God, so they suddenly saw him differently and treated him differently. But wait, you say, that doesn’t happen in our enlightened and tolerant culture! Hmm… why does the media follow the Kardashians and the Jenner’s but ignore all the good things that happen through every church in America each week? Why does it criticize Tim Tebow so much but celebrate the shallow and self-absorbed?

And it’s not just about media coverage, it’s about the way the current culture defends itself against change. The culture that celebrates shallow celebrities condemns champions of morality as haters. In the Sixties, Martin Luther King was killed for proclaiming a dream. He boldly called for God’s justice in an unfair world. If you ever proclaim a godly purpose, there are plenty of dream-killers ready to halt your progress. There are even literal killers who will.

What’s YOUR Purpose?

Have you ever wondered about God’s purpose for your life? He has one, you know. There is something to be done in the Kingdom of God that only you were created to do. It has nothing to do with worldly assumptions, money, fame, or self-importance. But it could very well involve helping the poor, healing those who are broken-hearted, and sharing freedom with those who are bound.

It may be that your purpose is connected to whatever your dream is; when you discover that purpose, you may be surprised at who supports you and who tears you down. When you decide to better yourself, to commit yourself to the Lord, to pursue His mission for you, there will be someone around you who wants to keep you down, and wants things to stay the way they are.

The example of Jesus says, “When God calls you to do something, don’t listen to the discouragers, the labelers, the dream killers, the ones who will try to stop you and tear you down. Follow your calling above all else.” If you are surrounded by naysayers and skeptics, pass through the midst of them, and go on your way. The Kingdom of God should always get priority over the labels and assumptions of culture.

A Surprising Announcement

Jesus stood before his friends and chose Isaiah’s scroll,
And there proclaimed his mission from the words upon the roll.
The Spirit is upon me, and my mission has been started,
To preach the gospel to the poor and heal the broken-hearted.
I’ve come to set the captives free! To all of you I say:
The Kingdom of the Lord is now upon you. Here. Today.

The people almost came undone! Why, how could this man be the one?
How has the Kingdom now begun? Isn’t this Joseph and Mary’s son?
They formed an angry mob and tried to throw him from a hill,
But Jesus slipped among them through the power of his will,
Committed to the mission he had come here to fulfill.
His purpose was compelling then; it is compelling still.

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

There is a Cosmic Romance, and YOU are a Big Part of It

A wedding ceremony is full of romance. In these unique celebrations of love, there are flowers and music. The groom is dressed in his finest, waiting by the altar as the lovely bride approaches. He is nervous, she is blushing. She glows with beauty, and he glows with pride. There is a sense of anticipation and joy that makes a wedding day very special.

With that in mind, stop and think about this: the Bible compares the way the Almighty God of the Universe feels about YOU to the way the groom feels about his lovely bride. It says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV)

Weddings are amazing events, full of love and romance. When you consider the amount of time, creativity, and preparation poured into a wedding day, it has to be one of the most anticipated days of a lifetime. I was the father of two beautiful brides, (and one handsome son as well!) . Each event was significant and special, attended by hours of planning, selecting, decorating, and choosing every element so that the wedding day went just right.

The Perfect Day

At a wedding there are participants, coordinators, flowers, colors, and rehearsals. There are photographers, videographers, tuxedos, caterers, locations, churches, gifts, meals, DJ’s, music, toasts, and shoes… There are countless other things besides mere romance to consider.

When I’ve had the privilege to officiate at weddings, I have noticed that most of these details are very important to the Bride. She is not only giving herself away, she is coordinating the blending of two families to create a new one. That means, of course, that her wedding must be special. It should commemorate the occasion with all of the appropriate decorations and elements. Brides and their mothers (and perhaps their wedding planner) dream of, conceive, plan, and manage every detail of a wedding so that it will be a perfect day.

romance

Grooms… not so much. Most of the time (in my observation) Grooms leave a lot of that preparation stuff where it belongs, with the Bride and her mother. Yes, they smile and say, “Yes Dear”, or “That looks great”, but really, how much work do most grooms have to do getting ready for the wedding? So why didn’t Isaiah say, “As the bride rejoices over the wedding day, so shall your God rejoice over you”? Why did he compare God’s love for us to the groom?

Anticipation the Way it USED to Be…

I’m gonna get real for a minute. In our modern age of birth control, weddings have lost something that used to be a huge part of the anticipation and build up for the special event. Face it, most couples today have slept together already. Before birth control, you were playing Russian roulette with your future to do that, and 60+ years ago, most women weren’t willing to take that chance. I’m not being Polly Anna, and yes I know that people still did it, but not nearly as easily or as often as they do today.

Weddings before birth control still held the romance and pure physical anticipation of intimacy. Physical consummation was scary, mysterious, spiritual, sexual, and highly anticipated, particularly by the groom. He’d been mooning over his fiancé, longing for her, and doing all of the highly charged heavy petting she would let him get away with. 60 years ago a groom approached his wedding day begging for union. That was just the way things were before women engaged in the “sexual revolution”. The danger of pregnancy outside of marriage was a powerful (but not total) deterrent to sex before that special wedding day.

But Wait, There’s More

I’ll pause for a moment and say that even today, when I officiate weddings, it is always a special moment when the bridal procession starts, and I can see from up close the look in the groom’s eyes as he watches his beautiful Bride, prepared and reserved for him, coming down the aisle to be presented to him.

There is always longing, pride, affection and commitment in that look; I mean, it’s a wedding! But where physical intimacy has not yet occurred, the sense of anticipation is that much higher. The desire for intimacy brings the groom an even greater sense of urgency to the bride’s approach. It puts the RRRR in “romance”! The groom is a raging combination of love, romance, and hormones, anxious to consummate this union that he has anticipated so long…

True Intimacy

Lest you think I am obsessing over this aspect of the ceremony, picture this: Isaiah says THAT is exactly how God rejoices over us. That is why Paul quoted Moses in Ephesians 5:31-32: ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” A man leaves his home and family to start a new one, and to become one with the woman he loves. He will find completion and comfort in her arms, and they will discover the delights and pleasures of that union together.

As a groom stands and rejoices that his bride is coming down the aisle to be his—that is how God feels about us. That is how God feels about us!
As we walk down the aisle to be His bride, can you feel His gaze upon us? It is filled with pride, affection, commitment and joy—as well as the pure longing for intimacy that has been planned since eternity past, and will bring joy for eternity to come. Be glad! You are being rejoiced over. You are at the center of the cosmic romance.

The Eternal Romance

The blushing bride is in the aisle, approaching sweet and pure;
She cannot hide her glowing smile, and yet remains demure.
Her face is like a work of art; she looks her very best–
Anticipation makes her heart beat faster in her chest!
Her steps are slow and measured as she walks into the room;
She could not be more treasured by her loving, waiting groom.

He sees her dress, her hair, her skin, the beauty waiting there within,
And drinks this lovely vision in, and knows that she’s reserved for Him!
He looks at her with perfect pride, a love that cannot be denied,
A heart that wells up deep inside with love for His eternal Bride!
Where joy is full and tears are dried, this Cosmic Romance will abide…

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

Want God to Appreciate Your Heart? Start Here

“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”. So, even though David did despicable things, perhaps there is hope for all of us.

Perfection not Required

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

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

heart

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

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

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

A Modern Parable

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

That’s certainly not how David did it. Consider revealing your love for God the same way he did. Learn from his passion, his persistence, his prayer, and his public display of affection. Perhaps 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

Not Getting As Much Out of Church as You Want? Try Dancing!

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

Some Expressions About Expression

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

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

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

dancing before the Lord

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

Unbridled Enthusiasm

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

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

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

Just Dance

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

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

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

Patience is Something that Requires Lots of, Well, Patience

They say that patience is a virtue, something that Micah apparently believed: “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7, NIV)

Timelines… Long, Surprisingly Slow Timelines

Have you ever been frustrated because God’s timing is different from yours? Does it ever seem like it’s taking a REALLY long time for Him to act or move or provide something on your behalf? When you think about patience, consider these folks:

Abram was 75 when God told him, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you”. (Genesis 12:2). He was naturally skeptical when, TEN YEARS later he still had no children, but God assured him in Genesis 15:5, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” It was ANOTHER FOURTEEN YEARS before Sarai became pregnant with Isaac.

Imagine speaking with God, having his rock solid promise, and waiting TWENTY-FIVE YEARS for its fulfillment. Do you think Abram may have had his doubts during that time? Struggled with believing God’s promise?

And what about Sarah? Barren, ashamed, laughed at, scorned… She waited so long that when she knew she would actually bear a son, she laughed out loud! Against all logic, God’s promise was delivered and so was Isaac.

A Star in Egypt

Moses as a young man was a rising star in Pharaoh’s house but became a murderer-fugitive, and had to go live as a sheep herder in Midian. According to Stephen, (Acts 7:29) he lived there FORTY YEARS. Exodus 7:7 says Moses was EIGHTY when he went to see Pharaoh. I don’t know about you, but 40 YEARS seems like a really really long time to wait for something… Did he have patience? Do you think Moses ever wondered about his life purpose while he tended sheep? Wondered if God had any reason for sparing him as a baby in the bulrushes? Felt alone or discouraged?

David was anointed King of Israel while he was still a sheep-herding teenager, but didn’t become king until he was THIRTY. In those intervening years, he ran, hid, fought, feigned madness, and was threatened by Saul. He lived in a life-or-death situation, estranged from his family as a fugitive in the wilderness. God’s pending promise did not negate the difficulties or dangers of the time David spent waiting for it to come to pass.

A Different Path to Inauguration

As David hid out in the desolate country around Ein Gedi, or as he hunted and lived off of scraps, do you think he ever longed for instant gratification? Certainly David felt oppressed and discouraged during those years, and yet even when Saul was delivered into his hand David refused to harm the Lord’s anointed. God was ultimately faithful in his promise and David became Israel’s greatest king. In Psalm 40:1 he said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined and heard my cry.”

patience

Even though Paul preached powerfully and began telling his story right after his conversion, he spent THREE YEARS in semi-seclusion away from public ministry before God began to use him greatly. So when Micah says he will wait for the God of his salvation, he is honoring a long list of Biblical characters who showed patience and faith.

Be a Good Waiter

Are you a very good waiter? DO you find yourself getting impatient with God, or worse yet, giving up on His promises? Micah (and Abraham, Sarai, Moses, David, and Paul) would say: “Be patient. Watch expectantly. Wait for the God of your salvation. You might be surprised at what He will do.” (And maybe also at when He will do it)

Sarah’s Testimony

God gave me a promise. And I watered it with tears,
And I tried to hide my anguish, all my doubts and all my fears,
While the other women laughed behind my back; my hope grew dim–
But my small faith somehow remained intact. I trusted Him,
Way past the time that trusting made Him sense, and even after!
When I found out His word was true, I couldn’t hold the laughter!
God’s promise seemed to take forever. But now that it is done,
I know His word is true, for He has given me a son!

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

Freedom is a Two-edged Sword. It Cuts Both Ways

Here in the United States we talk a lot about freedom, and we live in a culture that certainly loves to celebrate it. People are free to do what they want, to exercise their rights, and to feel independent of control by others.

Independence Has a Cost

But, Freedom is a door that swings both ways. The Bible has a lot to say about our freedom to choose, and about all the contingencies that result from it. Apparently doing whatever you want may offer a brief, giddy sense of empowerment, but it often has consequences that extend farther than the feeling…

“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:1-3, NIV)

“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)

“So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:12, NIV)

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28, NIV)

According to Proverbs, we have the right to make plans, to keep our own counsel, and to make choices based on our heart’s inclination. Those plans may or may not coincide with God’s plans, but we are not restricted to obedience. These verses point out that our actions come from our heart, our motives, and our will; we are free to plan and pursue our own choices. Although we live in a world created by a sovereign God, the Bible is pretty clear that He has granted us the right to exercise our own will.

The Door That Swings Both Ways

But freedom is a two–edged sword. When we have the ability to do whatever we want, we have the ability to choose to do something foolish, impractical, or selfish. Apparently every time we make plans, and every time we take action, we have the option of seeking and taking the Lord’s counsel–or not. Solomon points out that our human plans can be self-interested, temporary, based on impure motives, self-delusional, impulsive, stubbornly selfish, and sinful. Men have been proving that for centuries.

freedom my way

The Lord’s plans, on the other hand, are not based on petty human desires for power, fame, or lust. They are solid, dependable, wise, and worthy. These verses highlight a couple of things. 1) Before you make plans or take action, seek God’s counsel. We aren’t always even honest with ourselves about why we are doing something, or what our true motives are. Going through the process of asking the Lord what He thinks provides perspective, and it is always a good idea.

2) Remember that your plans can take you the wrong direction. We have the freedom to be stubborn as we walk away from God. To be sure, He will call us back, He will offer counsel and direction, and the Holy Spirit will offer motivation to do right. God’s desire is for us to be holy as He is holy, to walk with Him and to commit our way to Him. He will call all people to Himself, and He will offer all men motivation and inspiration.

Only Two Kinds of People

But there are several places in Scripture where it plainly says that at some point God will honor man’s freedom to such a degree that He will “give them over” to their own plans and desires. Those who continually choose self over God will ultimately get their wish. C. S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’”

When wrong seems right, and when culture tells you it’s ok to choose something depraved over God’s plan, tread lightly. Exercise your freedom wisely. You may find that you have started down a one way street. Don’t miss that last exit.

It’s All About Your Choice

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
But even so, the Lord has given us the right to choose.
He doesn't make us follow Him or go against our will,
And even when we sin, His grace abounds and calls us, still.
If you persist in choosing sin, however, you may find
That you have wandered out so far that God is far behind,
And He'll allow your own depravity to rule your mind.
Choose wisely. God desires that every person would be saved;
But, He also lets each person choose to be depraved.
Tell me, on your tombstone, which result will be engraved?

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

Rebuke: Why a Kick in the Teeth Can Be an Act of Love

Have you ever been stung by a rebuke? It’s not any fun. It hurts a little, and it can be a tough thing to endure. If you’ve been rebuked, you know what I mean. But the Bible offers a statement about rebuke than can change your perspective entirely: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools”. (Ecclesiastes 7:5, NIV)

Who are Your Difference-Makers?

Who in your life offers you wise correction? I once made a list of all the “difference makers” in my life. I thought about people who taught me something useful, exhorted me to go farther, offered me rebuke, or pushed me to elevate my game in some form or fashion. In almost every case, those people caused me discomfort or even pain at the time. I certainly didn’t recognize 100% back then that they were helping me instead of hurting me. In fact, there were times I surely resented it. It wasn’t comfortable and it certainly wasn’t (in MY humble opinion) complimentary. I might have even thought they were just being mean.

But maybe rebuke was a good thing. Looking back, I can clearly see how my Dad (in particular) and certain teachers, coaches, and friends motivated me to achieve more than I would have without their sometimes abrasive assistance. Oddly enough, I thought most of them were being somewhat unnecessarily rude to me in the moment, but they were actually pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and into my potential.

rebuke helps

Walt Disney Can’t be Wrong

Walt Disney said “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Jesus said it in a different way: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2, NIV) Even fruitful branches get pruned by the gardener. A healthy plant actually bears more fruit after it has undergone the stress of losing branches; Jesus presented that as an analogy for human growth as well.

To summarize both Walt Disney and Jesus: pain can have a positive purpose. Our Father uses the pain and difficulty of today to prepare us for tomorrow. When Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers and then sold into slavery, he could have stayed bitter over his mistreatment. Instead, he recognized that there was a larger purpose involved. He told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20, NIV)

I’m certainly not trying to make light of tragedy in any way, but the next time you find yourself in discomfort or difficult circumstances, say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that you will be “even more fruitful”. That person telling you to take it easy or inviting you to slack off may not be your friend; and the person who challenges you and offers you rebuke may not be your enemy.

The Harsh Sting of Pleasing Words

Jesus said we are the branches, and he is the vine;
“My Father”, Jesus said, “will prune on every branch of mine.”
Unfruitful branches are cut off completely, while the rest
Are cut and pruned so that their fruit will be the very best.
When we are tempted to relax, stop trying–just to coast–
The people who rebuke us are the ones who love us most.
A wise rebuke may hurt our feelings, or at least seem cruel,
But it’s better than the soothing flattery of a fool…

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

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 3 years? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

The What of Writing this Blog

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”. I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules. 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post. And 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

The How of Writing this Blog

In doing this have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog… That has been hard to do in our current political climate.) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week. Along the way, we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

Did You Notice?

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth. It was fascinating to explore the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them.

We looked at some of Jesus’ teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. Personally, I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

Who Wrote this Blog

Trust me, ya’ll, I am not writing as an expert or someone who has it all figured out. I have made tremendous mistakes in my life and committed egregious sins. My own choices have literally blown my life up a couple of times. Full disclosure, it should have happened even a couple more times, and I still don’t know why it didn’t. I have certainly felt the private shame connected to those mistakes, but I was surprised that my failures did not become public knowledge so that EVERYONE would look down on me.

And to be clear, I made these mistakes and committed sins AS A CHRISTIAN, not as some pagan who had rejected God and His values. The one constant (besides my own failures) in life has been the relentless application of grace. I have experienced forgiveness and God’s love as seen through the lens of the Bible, and personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

writing about Jesus

Surely I’m Not the Only One Who Feels This Way…

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying. He is a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you do one of the following.

1) I want to challenge you to do just a teeny bit of writing of your own. Share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or

2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story! Tell me how you met Christ, or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be OK too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

writing

Feedback

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year, and started closing every blog with a poem. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you.

(My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems I’ve written, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer

Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!


Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be? Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…

But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

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