Pause To Pray

…Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hands?” … (2 Samuel 5:17-25)

The enemy poised to attack, but David paused. 

David is a man of action. But without a doubt, he is a more successful man of action when he is first a man of prayer. 

The Philistines encamped in the valley, preparing themselves to attack Israel. David has had no problem dealing with this enemy before so no one would have questioned David saying to his army, “God is with us. Let’s go attack these Philistines.” 

But David paused to pray and only went to war when God said, “Go—attack them straight on.” David obeyed and won a great victory (vv. 20-21). 

The Philistines returned to the exact same valley. Again no one would have faulted David for saying, “This is the same scenario as last time. God told us to attack before, so we already have His permission to go attack again.” 

But David paused to pray and this time God gave him a different battle strategy: “Circle behind them.” Same scenario, different battle tactic, but still the same victorious result (vv. 22-25). 

Just because something seems automatic doesn’t mean we should act quickly and prayerlessly.

Just because something seems the same doesn’t mean we should act on auto-pilot. 

In each situation: Pause to pray, wait for God’s direction, then follow through exactly as He says.

Raw Emotions In Worship

When someone was out to get David, he turned to God in prayer. And what prayers he prayed! 

He didn’t hold back. He came to God with all of his emotions right out in the open. Raw—but honest—emotions. 

God called David a man after His own heart, so apparently God loved the honesty even when David asked God to break their arms, turn them into jackal food, burn them with fire, give them black eyes, or even blot their names out of God’s book of life (Psalm 10:15; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:22-28)!

Why do we hesitate to express ourselves like this, to tell God what’s really in our hearts? Do we think He doesn’t know? Do we think He’s going to fall off His throne in shock at our brutal honesty? He already knows what’s in our hearts, so the expression of it is for our benefit. We must get it out in His presence because that’s the only way and the only place where true, deep, lasting healing can happen. 

I love what R.T. Kendall reminds us: “Real worship takes place when we are unafraid to express what we feel. Worship ought to bring us to the point where we can be honest. We never need to repress what we feel when we are around Jesus. He will never scold us for our honesty. It doesn’t mean we are right, but if we are being honest, He can help us and bring us to see where we are wrong and to face the truth.” (emphasis mine)

When you hurt, get alone with God and then get real with God. He already knows what’s in your heart, so speak it out. You need to get that poison out of your system so that God can heal you.

Poetry Saturday—What Do You Have?

Moses had a staff.
David had a sling.
Samson had a jawbone.
Rahab had a string.
Mary had some ointment.
Aaron had a rod.
Dorcas had a needle.
All were used of God.
What do you have? —Max Lucado, in You!

Leading Like A Shepherd

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them (Psalm 78:72). 

The most powerful king Israel ever had is applauded for leading his people with integrity and skill like a shepherd. Not as a warlord, not as a kingdom builder, not as a musician and songwriter; but a lowly, unassuming shepherd. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads like a shepherd.

A shepherd is known for these qualities—

—shepherds don’s see their sheep as a mass, but know each and every individual by name. 

—shepherds lead their flock by walking in the middle of the group so that they can be as close to as many sheep as possible. 

—shepherds are attentive to the particular needs of the young, the sick, and the elderly.

—shepherds lay down in the dirt to protect any places vulnerable to a predator’s attack. 

—shepherds find the best food and water possible for their sheep. 

—shepherds search for any sheep who have strayed away. 

—David shepherded the people Israel just as he himself had been shepherded by God.

This is an invaluable lesson every leader should learn! 

This is part 30 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Let’s Put That In Perspective!

How long is your life? If you’re a man living in the United States on average your life is 689,412 hours. But how long is that really? 

Here’s some perspective—if you drew a timeline 50 feet long that represented all of Earth’s recorded history, your life would cover about the breadth of your hand. But that’s only recorded history—what about the eternity that existed before history started and the eternity that will continue after history ends? 

Twice in Psalm 39, David described our brief life like this: each man’s life is but a breath. 

So what do we do with our breath-long life? Fortunately for us, David gives us godly perspective in five areas. 

  1. Perspective on the weight of my words and my silence (vv. 1-3) 

David had a good start: I will keep my tongue from sin, but what happens when sinful words slip out? I would suggest we count those as a gift. Really?! Yes, because those “slips” make us aware of what’s really in our heart (see Matthew 15:19) so that we can confess them. 

David also suggests putting a muzzle on our mouths when we’re around certain people. In other words, don’t get into petty fights with people who aren’t going to receive the wisdom we may have to share with them. 

  1. Perspective on the use of my time (vv. 4-5)

Why do we procrastinate doing good things? Some of our simple cliches reflect this, like TGIF. Why wait until Friday to get happy? Why not say TGIT—thank God it’s today! Do something memorable today… do something life-altering today… do something for God today.

  1. Perspective on my possessions (v. 6) 

David reminds us that we work so hard to accumulate stuff “not knowing who will get it.” Jesus had another word for someone who only wanted to get stuff to make his life easier: fool (see Luke 12:16-21). Use stuff to serve others. 

  1. Perspective on forgiveness (vv. 7-11)

Why oh why, would we spend one minute longer than we have to with unconfessed, unforgiven sin? I blogged last week about the freedom that immediately comes when we receive forgiveness from our confessed sin. Let’s do this quickly! 

  1. Perspective on the purpose of my life (vv. 12-13)

If I only have a breath-long life, I want to make every moment count. I love what C.T. Studd wrote: “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. … Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in Hell when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”

Here’s my prayer for all of us—Lord, help me to know how few days I have so I can live every one for Your glory. 

Confession Is Good For You

One of the best definition of Selah is the bracketed comment used next to that word in the Amplified Bible: pause, and calmly think of that. 

Psalm 32 is only eleven verses long, yet Selah—a call to pause and ponder—is used three times. In other words, David is very interested in getting us to weigh something important. This whole psalm is a call to ponder the heavy, unbearable burden of unconfessed sins vs. the freedom and fresh start that comes immediately with confession.

And in case you think that confession is just something that someone does one time when they become a Christian, keep in mind that David is writing this song to be sung by the choir in church. That means confession is good for everyone!

The weighty CURSES of unconfessed sin

  • I feel worn out, wasting away like old, flimsy clothes (v. 3a)
  • I am groaning (v. 3b)—I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears (Psalm 6:6)
  • I feel God’s hand of displeasure heavy upon me (v. 4a AMP) 
  • My strength evaporates like water in the summer heat (v. 4b NLT) 
  • I’m led around like a dumb mule (v. 9)
  • I experience many woes (v. 10a) 

Then comes confession—I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord continually unfolding the past till all is told”—then You instantly forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin (v. 5 AMP).  

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

The weighty BLESSINGS after confessed sin

  • My transgressions are forgiven, which means they are lifted up and carried away (v. 1a)
  • My sins are covered; they are literally overwhelmed by God’s forgiveness (v. 1b)
  • My sin is no longer counted against me (v. 2a) because my record of forgiven sins has been cleared (v. 2b NLT; see also Psalm 103:2-3, 12) 
  • I get a fresh start, my slate’s wiped clean … Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared (vv. 1, 5 MSG) 
  • I’m protected in God’s hiding place and surrounded by God’s songs (vv. 7, 10b)
  • God instructs me and protects me to keep me from sinning again (v. 8)

What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record (v. 2 TLB) 

The mark of a maturing Christian is the one who is constantly closing the gap between sin and confession. 

Don’t let unconfessed sin weigh you down. As soon as you feel the Holy Spirit pointing something out in your heart, confess it and experience God’s immediate release! 

I am going to share one more message in this series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday (but, God willing, we will return to this next summer). Please join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Going Into The Heavy Presence Of God

“The King of glory” is a phrase that’s only used five times in the Bible, and all five times are packed into just four verses of Psalm 24. In this psalm, David lets us know who can enter into this awesome, heavy presence of the King of Glory. 

Why do I say “heavy”? The definition of the Hebrew word for glory always refers to a heaviness. There is something majestically, awesomely heavy about going before the All-Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Holy, All-Knowing, Absolutely Perfect God. Can any mere mortal enter into this presence? 

In an earlier psalm, David said, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). But in this psalm, David asks, “Who can ascend Your holy hill? Who can come into Your presence?” (Psalm 24:3). 

He answers the question with these words: the upright, the one with clean hands and a pure heart (he expands this list even more in Psalm 15), then he calls on us to Selah—pause and weigh this as if on a scale. David is asking, “Do you really want to enter into the weighty presence of the King of Glory?” 

If you do, something needs to happen first. David calls his generation (and our generation) the generation of Jacob. You can read the story of Jacob’s life beginning in Genesis 27. Jacob was a pragmatic man. If he could get away with something, he did. He only looked out for his own interests. He deceived, he connived, he bribed, he calculated his odds—he did what he had to so that he could advance himself. He didn’t realize God’s weight. He saw God only through a scarcity-mindset that gave God limits. He thought there was only a limited supply, and if somebody else was getting a blessing, then that meant there was less for him to get.

Then Jacob encountered God and discovered that he couldn’t do a thing against this weighty King of Glory. When he finally submitted to God, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob—the self-sufficient man—would never be allowed to enter the doors into God’s heavy glory. But Israel—the submitted man—may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy presence. Jacob means deceitful; Israel means the man without any deceit. 

For the rest of his life, Israel walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder that he simply wasn’t the man he was before he wrestled with God.

  • Jacob could only obtain what he could finagle; Israel is the recipient of all God’s blessings. 
  • Jacob could only keep his gains for this life; Israel got God’s blessings for eternity. 
  • Jacob might be vindicated by men; Israel is definitely and completely vindicated by God. 
  • Jacob couldn’t enter the presence of the King of Glory; Israel was welcomed as a prince into God’s presence.

Here’s the challenge I would give you… Use either Psalm 15 or Psalm 24:3-4 and let the Holy Spirit wrestle with you. Is there anything that’s holding you back from going through those doors into the weighty presence of the King of glory? If there is, confess it, repent from it, and even limp away from it (if you have to) so that you don’t miss out on God’s eternal blessings. 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

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