The Fleeing Tortoise

 

Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? – Matthew 3:7

 

I have seen a lot of turtles in my day.  When I was a kid, I remember catching an absolute monster while fishing with my Papa. I thought I could play with it just like a small one.  My Pop proceeded to teach me just how hard the big ones can bite.  Turns out, when he cleaned it, she was loaded with eggs. I took those eggs down near a stream and buried them in the sand.  I checked them every day that I could.  Weeks later, a ton of them had hatched and there were baby turtles everywhere.  I thought that was so cool.

 

Earlier today, I saw what I believe was the fastest tortoise I had ever seen.  He was crossing the road really fast for his kind.  My wife loves the little guys.  If safe to do so, she is one of the great turtle rescuers of our day.  I’ve been known to rescue a few as well in her honor.  I didn’t need to rescue this particular one; he was across that road in record time.  It was like he understood how dangerous his situation was.  I’ve seen cars crush them accidentally, and I’ve seen them crush them on purpose.  The most dangerous place to be as a turtle has to be our roads.

 

For just a moment as I kept driving, I remembered a time that I was on the wide road that leads to destruction as mentioned in Matthew 7:13.  For too many years I was way too comfortable on that road.  I was like the majority of the turtles I’ve seen just thinking I could take my time without a care in the world and everything would be just fine. When God really convicted me in that little Church of God, I ran to God like my life depended on it.  I imagine that I looked to God like that turtle looked to me.

 

In an instant, I realized that I haven’t been running the Hebrews 12:1 race very well lately.  I’ve been wondering why evil has been catching up with me these past few months and it’s because I’ve been like the majority of turtles trying to get across the highway.  I need to be like this last one that I saw.

 

And what about the other turtles?  I like to think this guy right now is letting the others know, “Look, that place right there is dangerous, be careful and get the heck across that road!”

 

As a preacher of the word who has made it across the road, am I letting others know how dangerous this world is?  Am I preaching with fervency this Gospel that can save?  There is nothing more important than telling people about the Name of Jesus, for there is no other name given among men by which we all must be saved (Acts 4:2).

 

Who knew that God could use one exceptional turtle to wake up the spirit of one of His followers?  It’s amazing all the things He says in one single snapshot of time when He chooses to do so.  Meandering is not the same as walking with a purpose.

 

I’m reminded of the scene in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian slept at the arbor while climbing the hill of difficulty.  The arbor was intended for a quick rest, not a place to sleep.

 

For the first time in my life, I’m thanking God that he made turtles.

 

Lord, wake me up!  It is so easy to get complacent on this planet, especially in America.  It is so easy to care about anything and everything but you! Help me to spiritually be like that turtle and walk towards you with a purpose.  This world is dangerous.  Comfort is dangerous.  It is so easy to get comfortable here and not even think about you!  I love you, Lord.  Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to the cross where thou hast died. Help me.  Fill me.  Our time here is so short.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Embracing Your Past

And he went outside and wept bitterly. – Luke 22:62

 

I would think that Peter would say the worst thing he ever did was deny Jesus three times.  When a grown man as tough as him is weeping bitterly, that says a lot.  We know from reading on that he thought his relationship with Jesus was over.  When the three ladies went to visit the tomb of Jesus and found it empty, the angel said, “Go tell the disciples, and Peter.” The angel knew that Peter thought it was over for Him.  It had to ignite a small spark in Peter’s heart to know that he was mentioned specifically by name.

 

Here is what I’ve been pondering with all this:  If you could erase the most hurtful things you’ve ever done, or even the most painful things you’ve ever experienced, would you do it?  Looking back, I’ve done terrible things that I assumed would separate me from God.  The demons jump in so quickly with their voices, “It’s over for you . . . you’ve gone too far.”  Yet, on the other side of these poor choices is grace, forgiveness, and love that is absolutely impossible to experience outside of a relationship with God Himself.

 

I have been in a really dark fog for the past several months.  I really don’t know when or how it started, but I know that I allowed the darkness to descend upon me.  It seemed to strip all desire to do the things that I do for Jesus.  I didn’t want to write, didn’t want to preach, didn’t want to study, and didn’t even want to pray.  The only saving grace was that I didn’t want to let go of Him.  I would take long walks and just imagine being in His presence.  It was actually nice to just be with Him and not really have to say anything.

 

To make a really long story short, a couple of weeks ago, the dark fog just lifted.  It is amazing the level of darkness we will allow as long as it slowly gets darker and darker.  When it lifted, I could see myself holding on to Jesus for dear life. For maybe the first time in my life, I was holding on to Him and only Him.  I had no trust whatsoever in my own goodness or my own religious activities.

 

Peter had to feel a bit like I did.  When the performance aspect of his religion was taken away from him, he thought it was over.  I can’t imagine the darkness and despair that he was in.  I feel so sorry for him because he honestly thought his savior was dead and couldn’t speak to him anymore.  I have the privilege of knowing Jesus came back to life and restored Peter fully.  I know that Jesus never once said a single negative word about what he did.  He never made him feel the least bit guilty. He simply asked, “Do you love me?”

 

Why should I think that He would treat me differently?

 

Lord, you know that I love you.  Thank you for every trial and temptation that we go through that forces us to hold on to you and only you for dear life.  The light on the other side of the darkness is so bright and so wonderful. Help me never take my eyes off of you and help me never let go of your hand.  Most of all help me never be convinced that you have taken your eyes off of me and have stopped reaching out for me.  You are amazing, God.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Through the Bible

 

All Scripture is God breathed, and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped in every good work.  – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

 

If God reveals Himself through His Word, shouldn’t we consistently be in His Word?  I ask Christians quite often if they’ve ever read through the entire Bible, and the overwhelming majority of the time the answer is “no.”  I admit that it was 5 years after I became a Christian that I took the challenge seriously and read through the Bible for myself.

 

The most common goal is to give ones self an entire year to read Genesis through Revelation.  There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, so 1,189 divided by 365 is 3.25.  Therefore, three chapters a day will get you pretty close.  Even one chapter a day will get you through it in 3 years and 3 months.  If you wanted to complete the whole thing by the end of this year, 6 chapters a day will get you pretty close.  The main thing is that you choose a goal and remain consistent.

 

I’m journeying through the Bible right now with two of my former Algebra 1 students.  We started 5 weeks ago.  This means that I should be right around Exodus chapter 20.  I just finished Exodus chapter 2 (I will catch up!). The two guys I’m reading with are kind of smoking me, which is a good thing.  It isn’t a competition.  All we do is send a text to each other when we finish reading a portion of Scripture. It is really cool to know exactly when these guys have just finished reading.  It reminds me to pray for them right then and there and pray that God really opens their eyes and draws them to Him.

 

Pretty much the only requirement that I suggest when going through the Bible, especially for the first time, is to remove your religious glasses. We tend to bring our own brand of Christianity to the table when reading God’s word.  We like to make what we read fit what we already believe about God. Don’t do that.  I say just pretend someone told you about Jesus for the first time, you gave your life to Him and said, “I want you to work in my life, Lord. What would you have me to do?”  He plops down this big book with 1,189 chapters and says, “Read this.”

 

Choose a friend or a group of friends and read through the Bible.  Find a way to hold each other accountable like we do with the text messages, and go for it.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Aunt Kathy

Aunt Kathy

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ — Matthew 22:39

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This past Sunday, my dad and I drove to The Big Easy.  I learned last week that my Aunt Kathy wasn’t doing so well, and then a couple of days later we were informed that she had passed.  She had lived in New Orleans for a lot of years.  Many of those years I’d talk to her on the phone and she’d always say, “Come on down, you have a place to stay.”  I’d always say that I would, but then never actually go.  Fortunately, last year the National Scrabble Championship was in New Orleans, so I accepted the invitation and stayed with her for a week. Had that not happened, I’d have some serious regrets right now at never going to see her.  I’m so glad that God seemed to ordain that trip.  We had a great time that week.

 

Whenever someone I know dies, my first instinct is to let my mind cut loose with the memories I have of that person.  The first thing that came to mind was how she took care of me while I was down there this past Summer.  Every time I sat down, she was preparing me twice as much food as I could possibly eat, offering me drinks, doting on me, and just talking with me every chance she got. I did notice that she wasn’t in near the health she was the last time I had seen her years before.  I wondered if it would be the last time I saw her when I left.  Turns out, it was.

 

My mind then wandered to when I was a kid.  On her days off, my Aunt Kathy would take me to the thrift store, buy me old clothes, and would just spend the whole day with me doing whatever.  I loved it.  We’d go bowling, out to eat, wandering around, loafing, and just whatever we could get ourselves into.  I can’t remember her ever telling me no.  The way I will always choose to remember her is by the attached picture.  I was almost four years old at the time, but this was the way it always was in my single digit years.

 

We had the God conversation. She was trusting in Christ for her salvation.  She was Catholic, which means she and I have quite a few differences in our belief systems. She put a lot of stock in the rituals of the church, whereas I go through great pains to not be ritualistic at all.  I can’t help but smile as I look at her rosary beads that were given to me.  I can’t even imagine saying three “Hail Mary’s” as I pray to God.  She probably couldn’t imagine not saying them.  As I honestly evaluate her salvation and my own, it turns out that the two of us together made a pretty complete Christian.

 

See, I believe that I love God.  He is the love of my life.  Talking to Him in any kind of ritualistic way would be so strange to me.  Aunt Kathy didn’t talk to Him like I do.  Yet, from the people I met yesterday that knew her, she absolutely loved them.   They felt loved by her.  There were people that knew and loved her that I don’t even think I would have introduced myself to.  I would have just passed them right on by because we have so little in common.  Not my Aunt Kathy, she would open her home to them, give them whatever resources she had, talk with them, comfort them, cook for them, man did she love people.

 

And people loved her.

 

No matter what we believed differently from a theological perspective, it is the same blood of Jesus Christ that we are clinging to as we enter eternal life.  I’m just taking this moment to really reflect on how I love people. I so want to get to the point where I love them as she did.

 

Man! I have a long way to go.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Christian Beware

 

You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very scriptures that testify about me. – John 5:39

 

I have been completely obsessed with this verse for over a month now.  Jesus, once again, is getting on to the religious people.  It is amazing how much He jumps on these guys. These guys are probably equally amazed. I mean they have to be saying in their hearts, “We know and study scriptures, we pray, we give, we are in church every week, why is Jesus not ok with us?”  All of those things are not bad things, unless you think they make you a good person and therefore worthy of eternal life.

 

I have been on a mission lately to verify that my trust is in Christ alone.  My Bible study began to make me a bit arrogant and started to feel more like I was doing it more and more to come up with something cool than just spending time with My Lord and hanging out with Him.  That is the very thing I think He is saying to me right now, “Adam, I’m glad you like My Book, but it is supposed to lead you to Me.”

 

How many religious duties do I perform with no regard as to whom I’m doing them for?  I’ve had this thing for the past couple of years where I do not eat before I preach.  I declare a fast basically from supper the night before until after the sermon.  At first, that drew me so close to Him and I felt such power.  As time went on, I just trusted in the fast and the fast didn’t lead me to Him.  It still worked.  I believe He used me just as much, but He is letting me know today that I completely began to miss the point.  I will fast on these days again, but I’m going to drop that for a while.  I remember the first Sunday that I ate on Sunday morning.  I was like, “I can’t break my streak!”  That has to be the garbage thinking Jesus was condemning in this verse.  I want my trust to be in Him.  I want to know Him.  I want to be led by Him and to Him.

 

I really think Christians need to beware.  Ask yourself if in any way your eternal hope is placed in your service to God.  There are people that believe that because they attend church regularly that they are good to go.  There are people that believe that because they play on the worship team, teach Sunday School, greet, preach, read the Bible, study the Bible, give to church, give to charities, and perform many, many other religious duties that this proves that they are a good person worthy of everlasting life.

 

Be absolutely sure that when you draw your last breath here on Earth that you are clinging on to Jesus for dear life . . . not “well, I’m a good person.”

 

Lord, help me to know You, like really know You.  Draw me as close to You as You ever have in my life. Let me not put my trust in anything that I do, but only in what You have done.  There is and never will be another like You.

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Way

The Way

 

I am the way . . . – John 14:6

 

In 2015, 72% of Americans believed there was a heaven.  Unfortunately, their definition of heaven was, “a place where good people who have led good lives get to go.”  The Bible is clear, “All have sinned,” (Romans 3:23), and “there is no one good.” (Mark 10:18)  It is also clear on the fact that if you are to inherit (not earn) eternal life, Jesus is the only way.

 

I don’t really know why this is such a problem for so many.  Most people don’t have a problem with Jesus being away, they just don’t want Him to be theway.  Theway implies that there is no other way.  Away suggests that Jesus may be right for you, but I can choose another path to get to the same destination.

 

I guess it all goes back to being able to do what we want to do.  The Bible says that we love darkness (John 3:19).  It is true that we gravitate toward the darkness with no effort at all.  Recently, I have been going through this awful kind of spiritual depression.  I’m used to spiritual attacks, but this one feels like a new tactic of the darkness.  The worst part of it has been my lack of desire for God, His Word, and other spiritual things.  At first, I tried to muscle through it, almost like saying “By God, if I don’t feel like it, I’m just going to make myself do it anyway.”

 

That didn’t help.

 

So, I did something that I’m not sure I’ve done, especially since becoming a preacher.  I just told God exactly how I felt.  I told Him I didn’t desire Him.  I told Him that the Word wasn’t alive to me.  I told Him that I was tired and didn’t even feel like He could use me anymore.  Then, I asked Him to please draw me back to Him.

 

There was no magic wand waved.  For weeks, I just did whatever.  I went to more movies in a week than I probably went to all of the previous year. I started studying the stock market, reading article after article of this one particular stock.  I started listening to my old favorite non-Christian songs.  I started getting really serious about playing golf.  I just started doing stuff that I absolutely knew had zero eternal value. Days and days passed and my mind was just numb to spiritual things.

 

Then, all of a sudden, I found myself alone.  My mind wasn’t thinking about doing anything really.  I just missed God so much.  I missed being alone with Him.  I missed His Word.  I wondered how in the world He does what He does to men’s hearts to just flip that switch in me like that.  I just hung out with Him.  Two hours went by and it felt like just a few minutes.  I could not stop thanking Him for really being the author and finisher of my faith.  (Hebrews 12:2)

 

I guess I say all that to say this:  I’m so glad He is the way.  I’m so glad that my wishy-washy behavior, and maybe more importantly, my wishy-washy performance as a Christian is not what is going to grant me entrance into the kingdom. All I need to do is grab a hold of Him and absolutely never let go.

 

Have you grabbed a hold of Him?

 

He is the only way.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Fantasizing about Eternity

 

Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, it hasn’t entered into the heart of man the things the Father has prepared for those that love Him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

Two things are hard for me to hear when it comes to Heaven.  Please note that I have said both of these things as an immature believer in the Lord.  The first goes something like this: “I hope God doesn’t come back in my lifetime, I want to live my life.”  The other is, “What will we do up there forever and ever?  Seems boring to me.”

 

Nothing is more of a dead giveaway that a person hasn’t truly experienced the Presence of the Almighty God more than statements such as these.  The Bible literally says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21)  I’m not looking forward to dying any time soon, but it sure sounds to me like Paul was.  I read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and those saints of God were so indifferent about this world and about their own lives.  I wonder sometimes if I’m ever faced with torture or immediate death because of my love for God if I would be able to stand like them.

 

Then, I read in Hebrews that Jesus endured the cross, “for the joy that was set before Him.”  (Hebrews 12:2)  I immediately realize that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the joy that I have in the Lord.  I spend such a large percentage of my time worrying about the right here and right now.

 

I had a conversation with a couple of friends right before the end of school that was pretty cool. I was asked, “What will we do for all eternity?”  My mind went nuts for just a moment.  I imagined really being in the presence of my Lord.  I imagined really seeing Jesus.  Then, just for a moment, I saw many of the other galaxies in the Universe.  I saw Him put an atmosphere around other planets and do what He did with Earth one by one taking thousands and thousands of years to love and care for each one as they developed.  I saw Him create even more.  I saw those who love Him with Him forever and ever.

 

Let your mind go. What will we do for all eternity?

 

Something so wonderful our finite minds can’t even conceive it.

 

Fall in love with Him. Spend every day of the rest of your life getting to know Him.  If you get to know Him, you will love Him, and if you love Him, He has prepared things for you 10,000 times better than you could even think to prepare for yourself.

 

This life is a vapor.

 

Prepare to meet Him.

 

Later

 

Adam

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