Blessed like David or Just like David?

I have no doubt that many people familiar with the biblical story of David — “The Poor Shepherd Boy Makes it to the Throne of Israel” heartwarming saga — would like to identify with the elevated king. After all, God promised him that he would bless his house, as in the sons God would raise to sit on his throne, forever. That’s a long time. Who wouldn’t want to be blessed like that? God also promised to subdue David’s enemies and make his name great in the earth. Generations following spoke of “the sure mercies of David”. Not a bad Old Testament hero to be aligned with, right? Most would be thankful to find themselves and their families under the fountain of God’s favor, “blessed like David”.

But how many are willing to be “just like David”, a man after God’s own heart? We rightly consider this phrase from Acts 13:22, “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart” to be declaring David’s heart to like or in the fashion of God’s heart. But what if an equally valid perception is that David was in pursuit of God’s heart, as in following after Him closely to have that very heart in himself? A case could certainly be made for that perspective as one looks back over the direction of David’s life: seeking God, praying, praising, wanting to please Him, fighting with all his might against the enemies of the LORD, yet walking away from his own enemy, Saul, when it was within his power to kill him, preferring to wait for God to fight his personal battles for him. These are all actions, the results of strong desire coupled with hard work.

Once there came a time in my life that I was stirred up to hunger for whatever God had for me beyond the faith I had known growing up as a child. I could say at that point I began to be after God’s heart. Answering that hunger, He sent people into my world who had tasted something of God that I had only imagined before that time. I could see it in the way they lived, hear it in their speech, feel it when I was around them — in church or out. I  began to draw closer to them to see what this was about. At every step of that walk, I had a choice to make. I could be comfortable dabbling in their experience from time to time, enjoying what I felt when I was around them, or I could work toward getting that for myself. God had to confront me at one point, in ways that left me no doubt it was His work, to make me realize I had lingered around the edges long enough, and the opportunity wouldn’t last forever. I had to choose to follow, or He would move on and leave me comfortable with where I was before.

You see, it was not just about experiencing the more powerful prayer, the deeper understanding of the Word, the livelier worship, the more authoritative preaching: rather it was the doctrine — the truth in the Word of God — that had to be obeyed before I could enjoy that power and closeness to God I saw in them. Action was required — obedience to the Apostles’ doctrine summarized in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Before that point in life, I thought I knew all I needed to about living for God. I had been a rank sinner for awhile, but had come back to the roots of the belief system I was part of growing up, and was doing all I knew to do: teaching a class, singing in the choir, being faithful for every service. In the lives of people who are sincere in what they believe, and practicing that with all their hearts, there often comes a time when, as with Cornelius in Acts chapter 10, God will take note. “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God,” the angel told Cornelius. But when God took note of him, He didn’t just pat him on the back and tell him he was doing a great job,and “Carry on!” No, he told him where to find a man of God to tell him what he needed to do.

How many, many people have had this same visitation in various forms, yet responded, “What? I’m doing what I’ve already been taught to do, what my family is doing, what my friends are doing. What do you mean someone is coming to ‘tell me what I ought to do’?” I tell you it happens just this way over and over again, to people who confess that they are just like David, after God’s own heart. I understand it because I know the struggle I faced in considering “jumping off the deep end” as my family and friends considered my choice at the time.

I am very logical and methodical, and the last thing I wanted to do was something irrational or foolish that would be a major, public choice. But my prayer, over and over, during the time of consideration was “God, I don’t understand this, and I’m not even sure all of it is right. But if I’m wrong, You show me, because I don’t want to miss You.” I assure you God went to great lengths to answer that prayer. My heart’s cry was to follow Him. In ways I won’t go into for the sake of your time, He met me where I was and did little things, minor miracles in my book, to show me this was, in fact, Him. I knew in my heart of hearts that if it was God who was leading me, I would follow Him anywhere, no matter what it looked like or what it required, because I was ready to abandon anything to have all He wanted for me. I had become, in that sense, just like David. I took the leap of faith so to speak, and when I obeyed what the Apostles preached, I got what the Apostles got: the Holy Ghost and fire.

One day, after I’d had the Holy Ghost only a short time, I remember standing at the mirror in the bathroom of my little apartment, getting ready for work. All of a sudden I was overcome by an indescribable sense of sadness and pain, and in a moment’s time was in a heap on the floor weeping and sobbing, though I knew not why. I cried out to God in agony. As plainly as I could ever feel Him impressing anything on my spirit, the words came, “Do you want this part, too?” Through tear-filled eyes and a with raspy voice, my response was a resounding “Yes!”, for I understood then that this was the burden of prayer that could move mountains in hearts and lives, both my own and those of others. This was the immediacy of being able to be moved by God for whatever His purpose was, not merely the things I knew and thought to approach Him with. This was the walk I had seen in the others that drew me to this way in the beginning. It was my professing to be His servant, to acknowledge that I was “not my own”, but at His beck and call. That was the deeper part of what I had hungered for, without even understanding what it was.

It’s been thirty years. I can tell you that wasn’t a phase or a fad. When I obeyed what I was shown in His word to obey (it sounds simple, but I assure you the steps of Acts 2:38 matter), He changed me forever, and this is still the best life I could ever imagine. Ups and downs? Sure, but always deep calling unto deep, to find more of Him.

So, what about you? Are you only willing to be blessed like David? Or are you sincerely desiring to be just like David? I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments.

The Pack

I had gone. . . with a multitude that kept holyday (Psalm 42:4)

King David wrote in Psalms of going with the throng of worshipers to the house of God. Though sometimes he went there alone, he often spoke of testifying to the congregation — telling of God’s wonderful works and ways to a group of God’s people — which gave him strength.

We, too, serve God in a community of believers. That is His plan. When we are born into the kingdom of God it is through the action of a church, which is the mother of us all, giving birth to a new saint of God.

We start off in the center of the pack, so to speak. We want to experience what God is doing through His people. We want to be closest to the front, the leadership, the place where excitement comes about. We somehow know it is the safest place to be. The lovers of God’s Word and of new saints of God know it is the best place for their newly born children of God to walk.

But life doesn’t simply flow along this way until we die. God said in His word, “It is impossible but that offences should come, …” (Luke 17:1) Though these feel like accidental intrusions on our happy journey, they’re actually part of the process of forming us to the mature saints of God He wants us to be. When we walk along we will experience some pain, some weariness, some unexpected actions in life that allow us to grow. But during these seasons we can find ourselves failing to step as high, to walk as briskly as we had. If we aren’t careful, we may not even notice that we are no longer in the center of the pack, but lagging toward the rear.

When the children of Israel crossed the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, they were plagued by those who lurked along the way, waiting for the rear of the columns to come by, so they could rush out and take some of the weak and the frail, or those who’d just grown weary and lost the will to keep up. It is certainly the same today for those who are on their journey from the Egypt of our past to the promise of life forever with our God.

Should we look up to realize we have gravitated to the back of the pack, we must recognize we have become more vulnerable to attack without the strong support of those who would gladly surround us during our struggle. Sin or distraction or pain or loss or the anger of offense could be causes of our no longer keeping pace with those in the middle of the pack. But once we do allow ourselves to lag behind, we must realize that we are steps away from disaster. If those who would come alongside and attempt to support and prompt us to move to a safer place are refused or rejected, our situation is becoming grave.

There can easily come a time when we find ourselves stumbling at something that we once would have stepped over, or been helped to see and go around, and we fall. No other explanation for it. We just fall. At this point, we have the responsibility to choose what we will do next. We can falter in our resolve to make it to the Promised Land and turn aside to see what we can put together to just get by until death comes.

Or we can begin to try to catch up again. Often those who fall or stumble are not that far behind the group when that occurs. They could catch up. It is the most crucial time of their eternity. They can choose to struggle back to their feet and lean forward with all they have to get back where they need to be.

What would that look like in reality? Prayer, repentance, seeking God for restoration, reading the Word of God on their own consistently, and staying faithful to services at the house of God will help build stamina into one on the journey of a lifetime.

It just may be that realizing how close they came to disaster can cause them to quicken their steps and stay in the middle of the pack for the duration. Not doing so could cause them to suspect that life outside the pack isn’t so bad after all, luring them to linger there a little longer — until sudden destruction comes.

Real struggles cause real consequences. But there is a choice. How does God see this balance? Consider these Scriptures:

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Hebrew 12:12-13) This is spoken as a commandment; in other words, this is what you are to do if you find yourself weak – you have a responsibility to press forward and try to regain the strength to keep walking.

And looking round about upon them all, he [Jesus] said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Luke 6:10) Someone whose withered hand was beyond help and hadn’t been straightened out in many years was told to straighten it. There was a part of the solution he was held responsible for.

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:3) After all Job had been through, when sympathy would be the expected response from God, the exact opposite was the case. God directed him to stand up like a man and hear what He would declare to him.

God truly loves us, and feels our pain, but He does expect us to use the tools He gives to move forward, at least in spirit when we can’t do so in the flesh. If we’re constantly leaning forward, we’ll still be headed in the right direction, even if we stumble.

Stay with the pack.

The Bible Study tab on my homepage has the information you’ll need to start this journey if you haven’t done so. Check it out and let me know what you think, then. . .

Keep walking.

Sweet aromas? Offensive odors?

So there you are, snoozing away.  All is calm, quiet, peaceful. Then you hear it:  the whine.  Not one of the kids this time — no, this is the whine of flight, the high-pitched sound of tiny wings. Near your head. You feel the brush of six little feet against your face, and “whack!”, you’ve slapped yourself right out of a good nap.

With advanced education and efforts for mosquito control, there are fewer incidents of this nature at my house these days. I am thankful.  Besides ruining naps, the nasty things carry serious diseases in their minuscule frames.

Have you ever wondered how they find you even in the dark?  I recently read the answer.

You smell.

I know, that’s an offensive thought, but really, you do.

Mosquitoes are genetically wired to detect the carbon dioxide you exhale, along with subtle scents given off by your skin.  So all that is required for you to attract a mosquito is to be. . . alive. They fly around in the dark — hungry, wondering where their next meal is coming from — until they feel the clouds of CO2 pushed from your lungs closing in around them.  They’ve found the smell that is so sweet to them: the signs of life, which of course is accompanied by the blood they crave. I know, that’s disgusting.

So after I read this awhile back, something began to come together in my mind. If our breath attracts insects that are almost unseen, is there a parallel in the spiritual realm?  There is for most things. God is a Spirit. He makes His angels “ministering spirits”.  Satan and his fallen angels (devils) operate as spirits also.

I assure you I don’t walk around wondering if everything occurring is set in motion by some spirit or another, but it cannot be ruled out that there are influences from that side of reality. If there are spirits obeying a master who, as the Bible says, walks about seeking whom he may devour, wouldn’t it be realistic to think there is a way to signal to them that we are vulnerable?

These spirits are not omnipresent, nor can they read our thoughts — but they can hear our words and watch our reactions in various situations. There’s a smell they’re drawn to.

The Bible doesn’t record Satan having to walk Eve over to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to tempt her.  Not to put words in where they don’t belong, but was he watching her and perhaps noticed her gazing at it one day? Had something begun to work in her heart — a curiosity, a comparison of that fruit to the wonderful things she could have, a sense of ownership of that garden she’d helped tend for all those years and should be able to handle every part of by now (1 John 2:16 records the elements of this and every sin: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life)? Did Satan see something that alerted him to the time being right to present his ploy?

Notwithstanding spiritual attacks when we are living right — just because we are a threat — it stands to reason that we can become more or less vulnerable to some things by our actions. God Himself warned Cain: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. . .” (Genesis 4:7).  Cain was angry over God’s acceptance of Abel’s blood sacrifice as opposed to his harvest of his field — God’s preference for one over the other was obvious to Abel because of God having to slay an animal to make coats of skin for Adam and Even when they’d sinned at that tree.  This story unfolded with Cain maintaining his anger until he was standing over the bloodied body of his brother.  Not the outcome you’d expect from the second generation of God’s Creation, right? Yet Cain’s clinging to anger had opened him up to the influence of the darker side of his own nature, and undoubtedly that side of spirit world eager to wreak havoc as well.

I’ve heard it preached that drug use and feeding one’s heart on music of a darkened nature open us up to spirits that would oppress or possess us.  Are there other things that give off an aroma in the spirit world that would make us attractive to them? Does the stream of breath from our bodies — speaking blessing or cursing, bitterness or praise — determine what we are attracting from the other side?

There are incredibly horrible thing happening in the world today.  Those who weren’t raised to be terrorists no doubt had no aspirations to bring murder and mayhem to the world as they grew up. Somewhere, somehow, something changed. We prefer to think there was some factor in the lives of those who do carry out attacks or kill their kids or do other horrible things that could not be a factor in our own lives.  But is that always a given?

Less newsworthy, but more pervasive, are the families that crumble due to long-standing anger and infidelity. Where did that start?

Somewhere there was an attraction or even a wound to the spirit that wasn’t dealt with, and a thought, a seed, began to grow and be watered.

What’s the remedy?

God loves worship, praise, and speaking right things concerning Him. His Word records that He is drawn to it:  “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.”  (Malachi 3:16)  But God desires more than to simply hear the voices of those who care to praise Him.  He is looking for the signs from you that they are open to:  repenting of the sins and attitudes that invite His Enemy to have a field day with them, to take the step of washing those sins away in His blood by being baptized in Jesus’ name, and having Him fill them with the power of His Spirit, the Holy Ghost.  He’s attentive to the words from our mouths that draw Him near.

God notices what we say.  The Enemy or his minions, when passing by, hear our words as well.

So what are you attracting?

When my daughter opens the window of her shaved ice stand to take an order or serve up a cup of sweet, colorful shaved ice, waiting flies tend to seize the opportunity to dart in past her.  She works to exterminate them, of course, but the scent of sugar seems to give them courage to brave any pest control. Never one to let a problem linger without investigating a solution, I bought her one of those fly traps with the liquid attractant to hang out back.  You know, the stinky stuff.   Coming to open the shop on the 4th of July, it seemed every fly in the county had been invited to the party. Even more than the smell of sugar, they were drawn to the smell something dying.  The trap had to be quickly disposed of, because it tripled the problem rather that solving it (now there were more and bigger flies trying to come in). The experience made me think.

What do we smell like when we’re holding on to anger, guilt, and refusal to forgive?

King David, who wrote so many psalms, said this, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.”  (Psalm 19:14) If we were to make that the cry of our hearts, wouldn’t our attractant cause the dark side to at least see us as less than an easy target?

That verse is the last in a psalm that praises God for His works and Creation, uplifts His Word as the only thing that can change us on the inside by converting our souls, and asks for God’s help to be kept from sin, that it would not have dominion over us.

We have choices.  Fight back. Pray. Praise. Read God’s Word and ask His help to obey it.  Then follow where He leads.

Smell good.