New Life

Truly, truly I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24

Lately I have taken a new approach to witnessing to others.  Instead of basically telling people they need to say the “sinner’s prayer,” I have likened it to a seed going into the ground.  I show them an acorn.  I let them know that they can keep the acorn of their life exactly like it is . . . nothing will ever change.  Or they can put it in the ground.  Over time, it will produce new life.   

I have a friend who found some acorns from a beautiful white oak tree.  He planted them in his greenhouse.  Around the exact same time, I was witnessing to someone frequently.  Several times I know I could have gotten him to say, “the prayer.”  I patiently waited and kept talking to him.  Weeks later, I got an email.  It simply said, “I’m ready to plant my seed.”  All the while, the acorns had produced nothing.  We began to wonder if they were going to produce at all.  This past Friday, my friend brought me one of the plants.  You could see only the most barely visible green leaf sticking up.  You literally had to be looking for it to find it.  A few people happened to see it and couldn’t help but laugh a bit.  Remember, this was Friday.  I’m going to upload a picture from where it was three days later.  New life!

The person I was witnessing to could not believe how it shot up.  We talked about how even though he was about to plant his seed, it may take a while for him to see new life in his own heart, mind, and life.  Just as we were beginning to wonder if it would ever produce life, it did . . . in its own time.  I simply told him to put his seed in the ground, cover it up, water it with the Word of God, and trust with all of his heart that new life would come out of it.  Over the years it would grow and grow until it was practically unmovable.  It would grow to produce even more trees.  Needless to say, I’ve never seen with my own eyes such a patient understanding of what it means to grow in the Lord.

Is the kid all fixed right now?  Does he have zero doubts?  Did every bad and sinful habit go immediately away?  Of course not!  Nor should we expect it to be this way.  What we can do is pray!  Pray that God finishes the work He has just begun.

It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars

The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

He’s still working on me

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Hold On

Hold On

Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.  – John 8:32

I have heard quite a few sermons on this verse in my life.  I’m pretty sure when I was younger that I took this verse to simply to mean that the “truth” part was “accepting Christ,” and the “set free” part was “not going to hell.”  This morning, I’m taking a look at the context immediately surrounding the verse.  It reveals so much about this truth that sets us free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” – John 8:31

There were many Jews that had just begun to believe in Jesus.  Maybe it was because of the miracles, and maybe it was simply for the way He spoke.  Nevertheless, Jesus tells them that to truly be His disciple, they must hold on to His words.  As I was witnessing to someone recently, he quickly let me know that he “did that”, meaning he asked Christ into his heart.  However, he told me that he doesn’t believe anymore because of so many questions and doubts in his mind.  I tried to sufficiently answer a few of his questions, but I told him to simply remain in the Lord.  I told him to never give up on God because He will absolutely never give up on him.  As our conversation went on and on, he said he could feel that God was not letting him go so easily.  I prayed for him.  I ask you guys to say a prayer for this young man as well before you read on.

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?” – John 8:33

This one may be more difficult than John 8:31. When you are young, it is remaining in Jesus and holding on to His teaching that is tough.  Yet, when you become more mature, it becomes a little easier to rest on your laurels.  Many Jews thought they were good to go simply because they were Abraham’s descendants.  In addition, what a stupid thing to say about being slaves to no one . . . I’m pretty sure they knew the scroll of Exodus and that they had been slaves in Egypt.  Even as they said those words, they were under Roman oppression.  The point is, many people today believe they are saved because they “help people”, because they have “always been in church,” or because “my family raised me right.”  There are a lot of wrong answers to “How do you know you have been truly set free?”  

Then, how do you know? 

All I know is that the power and the love of Christ drew me in when I was sixteen.  I sinned more after I was saved than before I was saved.  I let the devil convince me so often that I wasn’t saved at all because of the way I behaved.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was so much power in simply “holding to His teaching” and never letting Him go.  I just kept bringing my sin to Him no matter what I did.  I never wanted to know life without Him again.  I still don’t.  Twenty-nine years later, I still know what a wretch I am.  I know how easily I can wander and get too far away from the shepherd.  Many times, God lets me feel far away from Him.  It is then that I want to “hold fast,” and run back towards Him.  He is absolutely irresistible.  

I write all of that to say that maybe the truth is revealed over time as you hold fast to Christ’s teachings.  As I’ve learned more and more truth over the years, I’ve learned that my heart is deceitfully wicked.  I’ve learned that without Him, I’d be so lost in this life right now.  Who knows what I’d believe or just how lost I would be?  What is the truth?  The truth is that I need Him more now than I did when I was sixteen.  Therefore, I fall at His feet and plead with Him to change me and make me more and more like Him.  Most of all, I plead with Him to never let me go and always draw me back to Himself when I become that little lost lamb wandering from the 99.

Father, there is and never will be anyone like you.  Who has even heard of a God like you?  You know all things.  You know my heart.  You know the heart of the young man I was speaking with recently.  Help us to hold fast to your word.    Continue to change us over time.  Continue to show us just how much we need you and help us never ever think we have obtained salvation because of something we have done in the past.  Hold fast is present tense.  Right now, I fall upon You Jesus, and Your Word.  Thy Word is truth.  May the truth set me free.  Amen

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Perception Vs. Reality

Perception: “But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” – Numbers 13:31

Reality: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.”  — Joshua 2:9

How many times have I swore that I could not do something or thought a situation was impossible?  How many times have I rejected the call of God to go and tell someone about Him because “there is no way they would ever listen to me or even entertain the thoughts of God entering their heart, mind, and life?”  After reading these two verses it is abundantly clear:  If God has asked you to do something, He has already paved the way for it to be done!  

Rahab was a prostitute.  She knew the men of her town’s hearts because they came to visit her . . . probably often.  She heard them tell the stories they had heard of the parting of the Red Sea and the plagues God sent to Egypt.  These men knew that there was something special about the God of Israel.  When the spies from Israel came to visit Rahab, they weren’t looking to receive her services, God had sent them there to save her and her family.  

Just like us, she had only heard the stories of the greatness of God and all that He does to save His people.  The stories were enough to make her believe, leave her place of comfort, and go with God’s people.  

Lord, help me to always focus on what is really true.  I’ve been convinced along with others that 2021 will be worse than 2020.  I refuse to believe it.  2021 takes You not by surprise.  May Your people come to really believe Your truth!  Truth is what You say in Your word.  Thy word is truth!  When my mind wants to race with impossibilities, let me not convince others of my own opinion like the spies who brought back a bad report to Moses.  I will believe the report of the Lord!  Like Caleb, may I immediately say in my heart, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to conquer it.”  Let this be a year of true belief for those who love you and are called according to Your purpose.  Amen

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Born Again

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:11

I know I didn’t post a WMD yesterday.  Honestly, I sat down to write, but I had nothing.  I could have cranked something out, but I never want to do that.  If God doesn’t give me something, why write?  Men speak and may stimulate the intellect, but God speaks, and it penetrates the heart!

I have learned in the past few months that the opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is indifference.  If my wife all of a sudden hated me, at least she still thinks of me and I’m somewhere in her heart and mind.  I think I could live with that and hopefully undo that hate.  Yet, if my wife became indifferent towards me and could basically take me or leave me, that would suck.  At least with love or hate, passion is involved.  

I say that because I feel like I have become a little indifferent towards God.  Sure, I’ve been getting up in the morning and going through the motions of reading the Bible and all that, but He has felt so far away.  I know I can’t put that on Him for He is always pursuing me.  Somehow, I just haven’t longed for Him.  I haven’t wanted to sneak away and just be alone with Him like I once did.  I wondered this morning if there was anything in the Christmas story that would speak to me on this Christmas Eve.  I asked Him ever so simply, “Lord, will you help me?  Will you show me something?  Will you change my heart?

I thought of Christ literally being born.  I read Luke 2:11. Then, I thought of how He has literally been born again in the lives of so many believers over the past 2,000 years . . . including me.  I thought of how we live in this world, especially America, and it screams “Separate from God!  You can have everything you need and want right here in this world right now . . . You don’t need Him.”  Sin is constantly trying to separate us from God . . . even after we are saved.  So, I cried out to Him, “Lord, will you be born again in mecreate in me a new heart, a clean mind, and a will that seeks after your face?

It is amazing the simplicity that God seeks.  I’m not saying it is easy, but it is without a doubt ever so simple.  I don’t know where you stand with God at this very moment in your life, but I would encourage you to make an honest assessment, admit where you are, call out to Him, and let Him be born again inside of you.

For unto us this day is born a savior . . . He is Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

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My Little Lexie Cat

My Little Lexie Cat

“Are not five sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  — Luke 12:6

If God does not forget even a sparrow, then surely, He will not forget the best cat I’ve ever owned.  Sunday night, our family cat, Lexie, drew her last breath.  We were allowed to have her in our lives and got to take care of her for six years.  A cancerous knot began to grow on her side that was apparently caused by a vaccination.  We had it surgically removed, but it came back with a vengeance.

I would normally never write about an animal in a devotional, but I do feel that God was glorified through my cat.  Once, when she had been missing for days, we thought she wasn’t coming back.  We prayed for her safe return as a family. Lexie loved to sit on the outside swing with me and listen to the You Version Bible app.  I went outside, started playing it, and immediately she turned the corner, hopped up next to me, and listened with me.  I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed.

If any one of us was sick, this cat stayed right beside us until we were better.  Last year around this time, when I was absolutely crushed and devastated, she stayed right up under me.  I was trying to act all cool and like nothing was wrong, but my family knew because Lexie wouldn’t leave my side.  

I’m attaching a picture with this WMD.  At this very moment, it occurred to me that my cat was Christlike in the fact that she kind of took our pain.  For a moment, in my mind I saw her absorbing my family’s sickness, hurts, and pains.  I immediately turned to praise God, “This is what You do! Thank You, God!”  

It is my belief that if you carry any kind of burden such as worry, hatred, anger, or basically any unconfessed sin . . . it will eventually manifest itself in physical sickness.  I don’t think it is the only reason that sickness is manifested, but it is a primary reason, nonetheless.  I can’t help but believe that my cat got sick from carrying so many of my family’s hurts.  Whether that is true or not, it makes me want to glorify God so much for all that He has taken and has crucified on the cross.  

Lord, thank you for allowing us to be the owners of our little Lexie cat.  Thank you for all that she taught me.  Thank you for a real-life example of “all the earth sings praises to you.”  I’m sure there are better things to pray for, but pick her up, hold her tight, and let her know that she will see us again.  Help us to live lives that point to You.  Help us to glorify You, our Father in Heaven.  Amen

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A Lesson from The Wilderness

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  – Isaiah 40:3-4

As many of you know, my family and a few others have decided to do church a little bit differently.  Three times in my lifetime, I have seen the Lord move mightily in what would be perceived as a typical American church.  I’m talking about God Himself filling a place so that His presence can be truly felt.  Three out of those three times, I’ve been told that basically a handful of the more prominent people within those church walls were not comfortable with it.  Therefore, the church was divided, and that thick presence of God was squashed.  

It is crazy to me that God gives people this much power.  It seems like He would squash them instead. I guess it is a good thing that I’m not God.  At the same time, I’ve seen 100% of the time that good comes out of these divisions.  I know that I would have stayed at each of those three churches for the rest of my life had God remained there so powerfully.  The only reason I moved is because I felt like I had to.  Apparently, it is not in God’s plan for me to stay in one place for too long.  Had everything stayed like I wanted; I would never know what it was like for God to provide in The Wilderness.  

I remember the first day at The Wilderness.  I made no advertisements that we were even meeting.  The only mention I made was in a WMD called “An Invitation to the Wilderness.”  When Tonya and I were driving up Highway 11, it was one of those nasty, misty, rainy days.  We arrived just a few minutes early and nobody was there.  I was disheartened, but I refused to be discouraged.  I told Tonya, “You know, maybe this is just a test.  Maybe all God wants is for us to go under that tent and just pray together.  Maybe He just wants to see if we will be faithful even though nobody comes.  We can definitely pass this test!”  

I probably don’t even have to tell you that we had no more than started praying when two vehicles pulled in.  One with some very familiar faces that just made my heart leap.  The other with a couple that I didn’t even know was in the country and would have never thought to invite.  We had an unbelievable time in the Lord.  I left in absolute awe at God’s provision.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I pray that I’m always astounded at the things He does and just how He works.  He is nothing short of amazing.  

Lord You are the great provider.  I’ve learned things in the Wilderness that I’m not sure I would have or could have learned anywhere else.  You are making my mountains low.  I can see in my own life where I’ve been so prideful, and now you are bringing me down to my rightful place in a way that I can handle it.  You are raising up my valleys.  There are so many areas where sin keeps me from experiencing You in all of Your fullness.  Thank You for making my path straighter. Continue to work in me so that rough places become level, and rugged places a plain.  O Lord, I just want to give my life to You all over again.  Not just the parts that are easy, but the parts that are hard.  Live in me so that I may learn how to truly love the Lord my God with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength.  Live in me so that I might learn to love my neighbor as myself.  Help us to truly lift You up in The Wilderness so that You may truly draw all men to Yourself.  Amen.

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I’m not the Hero

All of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of the flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.  – It is by grace you have been saved.  – Ephesians 2:3-5

It has occurred to me that I have read the Bible an awful lot and have made myself the hero of many stories.  For example, when I read about Samson in the book of Judges, I’ve basically gotten out of that story that if I follow and keep the rules, God’s power will reside with me.  In the story of Daniel, I’ve thought that if I will fast, pray, and be willing to do things others won’t do, then God will make me a Daniel and protect me and save me from every Lion’s Den.  Last, and certainly not least, I’ve read 1 Samuel 17 and thought, “If I will be willing to stand before my giant and give it my best shot, I will be victorious.”  

Can you see what I’ve done?  I’ve read three very popular stories and deduced that God will use me in the same way so that I will be the hero.  In each of those scenarios, I end up looking good.  Even big-time preachers say things like, “Be a David,” or “Be a Daniel.”  I’ve never heard anyone say, “Be a Samson.”  That one doesn’t sound quite as appropriate, but it is the one that I most relate with this morning.  

In the story of Daniel, I’m more like one of the other Israelite captives enjoying all that Babylon has to offer.  I’m not asking the guard to give me vegetables to eat for ten days while denying myself the best of the King’s table.  I’m enjoying the best of Babylon.

In the story of David, I’m not standing before the undefeated giant declaring that God will give me the victory.  I’m more like one of the other Israelites in the army scared to make a move.  There is no way that I can spin the narrative to make myself the hero.

Then, there is Samson.  He did absolutely everything wrong, yet God chose to show His power through him.  Every victory was won simply because, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.”  This I can relate to.  Every powerful moment I’ve ever had with God was simply because He chose to come upon me.  I would be a fool to think it happened by my own volition.  

I don’t know really why I am writing this today.  I guess I feel this call to just shrink into the background.  I want to decrease.  I want God to increase.  I am so comfortable right now.  I have the absolute best that life offers.  I want to humble myself like Daniel and forsake it all.  Not so I can be some big hero, but so that God will be as real to me as He has ever been to anyone who has ever lived.  

Oh, to just want Him and Him alone!

Lord, I just want You this morning.  Give me a heart that does not need to do anything grand.  Give me a heart that just longs to be alone with You.  I sit here so comfortable by the gas logs as I type this.  Grant me a heart that would rather go outside into the cold and ask You to keep me warm as You surround me with Your presence.  I don’t need to be some big hero.  I just need You in my life.  I need You working, molding, prompting, leading, guiding . . . I know what I’d be without You.  I’d be a miserable wretch that didn’t even know I was miserable.  I was deserving of nothing but wrath, but You showed me great mercy and grace.  By that grace I have been saved.  I love You, Lord.  At least, I want to love You. Give me a love for You . . . for it must come from You.  Help me to love You and honor You all the days of my life.  Amen

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Thankful for You

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. – Philippians 1:3

I just want to give all of you guys who read these WMD’s every week a big “thank you!”  As I look back and read some of the old ones, I can’t believe for all of these years that I have just put my life on public display.  You all know when I’m on the mountaintop, and you all know when I’m in the valley.  I love how so many times I’ve wondered, “Why in the world am I about to post this?”  Then, 100% of the time, someone messages me and lets me know that God touched them or spoke through the message.  I never cease to be amazed at how He works.

I really appreciate you all and hope that you have a great Thanksgiving holiday.  

Adam

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He Died for Me

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  – Romans 5:8

I heard the simplest story of a college athlete who had been changed.  Though he wasn’t well known nationally, he was well known at his own school.  He had been known to get pretty wild at the big parties.  He went to church one Sunday and was gloriously saved.  Very soon after that, he would stand outside where students would walk and hand out Bible tracts.  His friends didn’t care for this new and strange behavior.  They confronted him and asked Him, “Why are you doing all of this?”  His response was simple:

“Christ died for me.”

I despise what it takes sometimes for me to get fired up about God.  I have driven to other states to see great speakers and hear some of the greatest sermons.  I have traveled to different churches hoping that I would hear something new and it would set me on fire.  I’ve gone to churches with mega-dollar sound systems and let some of the best new praise and worship wash over me.  I’ve prayed and asked God to move mightily in my heart, soul, and mind expecting He would make some great move to draw me to Himself.  

Why in the world have I needed all of that?

I need no other argument

I need no other plea

It is enough that Jesus died,

And that He died for me

Lord, bring me back to the beginning of it all.  Back to when I was just excited to be saved.  Back to when just You, me, and the Word was enough.  Help me be excited about the greatest gift this planet has ever been given and ever will be given.  You died for me.  I want to give my life in return.  Help me do it, Lord.  It will not be by my might nor my power, but by Thy Spirit.   Amen.

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The 2020 Masters

For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation. – 2 Corinthians 6:2

There is at least one good thing that has come out of 2020.  Starting tomorrow, we get to watch, in the Fall, a Master’s golf tournament.  I am so looking forward to being glued to the television for the next four days.  Now, what does this have to do with any kind of devotional?  

I’m glad you asked.

There is a guy NOT in the tournament named Daniel Berger.  When the original tournament was to be played back in April, he was ranked 109 in the world and didn’t meet a single qualification that would allow him an invite to play.  After the qualification window, he went on a tear.  In fact, he became the number 13 best golfer on the planet.  He thought, “Surely Augusta National will give me an invite and let me play anyway.”  

He thought wrong.

As Americans, especially as Americans, we have somehow become accustomed to thinking that things should always go our way regardless of whether or not we meet the criteria or qualifications.  If I speed, I expect the officer to just give me a warning.  If I can’t make the payments on my car, I think they should just let me keep it anyway.  If I fail the test, the teacher should let me take it again.  If I turn the assignment in late, the teacher should accept it anyway and still give me full credit.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that we wind up applying it to God.  I’ve never been to a funeral where it is assumed that the person is now eternally separated from God with no chance of ever enjoying His presence.  We want to believe that somehow, some way, everyone we love and care about meets the qualification.  There is only one qualification:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.  — Acts 16:31

Please don’t think that you should just be allowed into God’s presence because you think you’ve played this game of life well enough to earn it.  You know right now if you are building your life on the rock of Christ Jesus.  You know right now if you love Him or not.  You know.  If, after an honest assessment of your heart, you are not in right standing with Him, your prayer goes something like this:

Lord, help me put my trust in You and You alone.  I don’t want to wait until it is too late.  The truth is, I give my attention and affection to so many things in this world that are so temporary.  Will you give me a love for You?  Will You fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might follow You all the days of my life?  Help me build my life on the rock that is Christ Jesus.  Show Yourself real to me, God.  Help me to want to follow You so that the joy of my life is knowing that I will dwell in Your house, the house of The Lord, forever.  Amen.

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