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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When We Don’t Like What the Bible Says

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways,”

Declares the Lord.

 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 

I’ve been able to have a lot of conversations with non-believers.  I’m always amazed that most of them actually know quite a bit about the Bible.  It is usually the knowledge that they have about God and the Bible that actually makes them reject Him.  I’ll give you a few examples:

 

“Why does God send people to hell for not loving Him?  He seems egotistical to me.”

 

“God regretted that He made us (Genesis 6:7).  If He knew He was going make us to turn around and kill us, why did He make us? He drowned all but 8 people in the flood, even little children and animals.  Not a God I want to serve.”

 

I will just post this verse as is:  “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy them.  Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camel and donkeys.”  — 1 Samuel 15:3.   Once again, not a God I want to serve.

 

Probably the most common one:  “God allowed someone to hurt me, didn’t save my loved one, or allowed a loved one to suffer immensely, He could have stopped it, He must not be as powerful as He says He is, or He just doesn’t care.” (John 11:21)

 

I could go on and on, but I think you get my drift.

 

There are actually plenty of verses that I don’t like in the Bible myself.  Here are two:

 

  1. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. – Matthew 5:4
  2. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

 

Now, the first one is obvious, my initial reaction is to hate people who hate me.  However, the second one, Colossians 3:23, is probably my most life changing verse.  When I work like I’m working for Him, I am happy, fulfilled, and usually have energy to spare.  Yet, there are times when my flesh just wants to have the bad attitude, I don’t go to war with it and I just barely make it through the day doing as little as possible. There are times when I just veg out on media all day because I don’t want to think at all.  God doesn’t really give me that option . . . not if I want to follow Him.  That is so hard to accept sometimes, especially when I’m exhausted.

 

So what do we do when we don’t like what God says?  God answers all of these questions with an analogy:  Space : earth :: My ways : your ways.

 

If this is true, think about what an insignificant dot our planet is compared to outer space with its billions and billions of galaxies.  By comparison, the knowledge that I’ve amassed in my measly 41 years of existence is not even a grain of sand on the seashore.  Who am I to make a judgment about life and death?  Who am I to judge the God of this Universe who encompasses all of eternity and knows the end from the beginning?  What is my 70-80 years on this planet (hopefully) compared to eternity?  Who am I compared to Him?

 

God has a plan for us as individuals (Jeremiah 29:11), and a plan for all of us as a whole.  It is a wonderful and mighty plan to restore everything and make it brand new again.  It is a plan where sin will never affect us again.  There will be no more sickness and no more death.   I’m not going to type it all out, but read the first seven verses of Revelation chapter 21. Don’t you want in on that?  I sure do.  Then why in the world do I spend so much time worrying or being mad about things on this planet that are going to pass away anyway?

 

I guess I write all that to say this: as for me, God can do with me what He wants.  I’m not there yet, but imagine being able to say like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  (Job 13:15)  Even with the worst stuff happening to him that could happen to anybody, Job never let go of that faith in God.  Let us not look around us and say, “Why doesn’t God do something?”  Let’s look around us and say, “God is at work.  He knows what He is doing.  His ways are so much higher than mine.  What can I do to make a difference?”

 

Use me, Lord, and help me fulfill my part of your plan.  Oh how I long to hear those sweet words:  “Well done my good and faithful servant:  you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many things:  enter into the joy of the Lord.”(Matthew 25:21)

 

Later

 

Adam

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And All the Time . . .

No one is good but God alone. – Luke 18:19

 

I know this might paint me in a bad light, but I can’t stand Christian clichés and Christian sayings. My top three would probably be “Everything happens for a reason,” “God needed another little angel,” and of course, the top one you can probably guess from my title, and I’m going to say it even though you just might not read anything from me ever again, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”  Yes, the God’s Not Dead movie about drove me insane.  Not really, I just rolled my eyes a lot.

 

I don’t really have a problem with the saying itself, God is good, but there are vastly different reasons why the Bible tells us, and why the overwhelming majority of modern day American Christians tells us.  The American Christian tells us because they got the job, got the healing, closed on the house, or simply had a situation really turn out in their favor.  Yes, I’ve had great things happen to me, and I’ve said, “God is good,” because He is.  I really believe that.

 

Yet, I’ve also been on the other side of it.  I didn’t get the job I applied for.  I was telling everyone for the past month I was going to be a dad, but after the last visit to the doctor, I don’t get to say it anymore.  In fact, I have to undo their excitement one by one over the next several months as they ask me, “How is your wife and baby?”  I don’t want to go on and on with these examples, I’m sure you get my drift.  I’m only saying that I’ve never seen or heard someone say, “Just lost our baby . . . God is good.”

 

But, you know what? He still is good.

 

Here is the thing: When the Bible tells us, or points to the fact that God is good, it is for assurance.  It is almost like God knew that there would be times where we would need to be convinced.  I know there are times that I’ve needed convincing.  There are certainly times where I have had to believe the written word that God was good and hold on to it for dear life because, if I was honest, I doubted His goodness.  Somehow we’ve created a Christian culture where it isn’t okay to say that out loud.

 

I could probably write and preach on this for days, but I want to leave you with one example.  In 1 Samuel chapter 3, God speaks to Samuel for the first time.  He tells Samuel that Eli’s two sons are going to die because they are representing Him poorly as priests.  Samuel obviously doesn’t want to tell Eli the bad news, yet Eli tells Samuel, “May God deal with you ever so severely if you hide anything from me.”  So, Samuel reluctantly told him.  Eli’s response is astounding to me . . .

 

“He is the LORD, let Him do what is good in His eyes.”  — 1 Samuel 3:17

 

Let that sink in. Imagine a Facebook post from 3,000 years ago that read, “God just let me know that my two sons are going to die soon . . . God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m so thankful for stories like these.  When things don’t go my way and I want to believe God is against me, I hold on to the fact that He is good.  I hold on to the fact that He is working in my life and knows what is best for me. These stories help me to keep my trust in Him.  If Eli had that kind of faith and trust, I can at least ask God to give me that same kind of faith and trust, even if I don’t have it.

 

Of course God is good when He joins Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and saves them from the fire.  I would scream, “God is good” after that, too.  But could I still shout it as they were lighting the fire to burn me at a stake with my little ones and family watching?  Over and over you read that is exactly what they did in Foxe’s Martyrs.

 

I’m not telling you to stop saying that God is good.  He is. Just ask yourself if you can say it in every situation . . . not just the ones that work out on your behalf.

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Nonnegotiable in Christianity

 

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive your sins.  – Matthew 6:14-15

 

Over the years, I have asked many groups a hypothetical question that I have adapted from Matthew 18:21-35.  It is the story of the unmerciful, or unforgiving servant.  The servant was forgiven for a massive amount of debt.  Yet, when given the opportunity to forgive another of their much, much smaller debt by comparison, he refused to be merciful.  Here is how I have adapted it:

 

Suppose you owed someone $1,000.  They call you and say it is time to pay up.  You simply say that you can’t pay it back and ask for more time.  The person says, “You know what?  Don’t worry about it.  Your debt is forgiven.”  You hang up the phone super glad at what just transpired.  Later that day, you see someone and remember that they owe you $50. You say, “Hey, do you have that 50 bucks you owe me?”  They use the exact same words that you used earlier with your creditor.  They say that they can’t pay it back right now and ask for more time.

 

Now, here are the three options I usually have the audience choose from:

 

  1. Forgive them of the debt completely, especially in light of the fact that you were forgiven earlier that day for much more.

 

  1. Demand that they pay you back immediately.

 

  1. Tell them they have more time and to pay you back as soon as they can.

 

Before reading on, which would you choose?

 

The overwhelming majority of people that I ask choose option 2 or 3, with most choosing option 3.  I would say maybe 20%, or 1 out of 5 people I ask choose option 1.

 

What does this say about us? If a person makes no claim to be a Christian, then I let them off the hook completely.  They are pretty much only bound by the law of the land, their own conscience, or whatever else they choose to follow.  But, if they claim to be a Christian, then they are bound by the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He flat out says, “If you won’t forgive others, I won’t forgive you.”

 

In light of this, it is absolutely imperative that we understand just how much our Lord has forgiven us.  The price He paid for me was extravagant.  When I asked Him into my life, He completely paid my sin debt. This was a debt that I could not pay in a thousand lifetimes.  How can I not extend the same grace to others that He has extended to me?  How will the world ever see Christ in me if I don’t?

 

Every once in a while, I get this right and someone will ask, “Why in the world would you do that?” I get to say the most beautiful words that I believe exist on this planet, “Because Jesus has forgiven me.” It usually produces either an eye roll or a wonderful conversation.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Be Still

I’ve been slack in writing lately, here is a post from a few years ago.

Be still and know that I am God.  —  Psalm 46:10

Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything. — Psalm 46:10 (The message)

One of the advantages of being a teacher is the fact that it is basically a 10 month job.  June and July are just two of the many reasons that most of us became teachers.  I love the fact that every school year is different.  Yes, I will have different students, but most importantly, I will have a different me.  I always learn from the previous year and use that information to be even better next year.

Now, as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you would think that Summer would be a time of really spending time in the Word of God.  I plan every Summer on reading certain Christian books, memorizing scriptures, and just filling my mind and heart with God.  Unfortunately, it seems like these past few Summers I haven’t done it.  I end up staying up late, which makes me sleep late, and I wake up to the noise of my kids which means that my morning time with God has disappeared.  I may be somewhere for a weekend vacation and not take the time to find a place to hear the Word of the Lord on Sunday.  Before I know it, Summer has passed, and it turns out that I have given a very lukewarm effort in being still and knowing He is God.  I don’t really get to say “I didn’t have time,”  I had pleny, so what’s the problem?

Psalm 46:10 tells me the problem:  I am not being intentional about being still, or “stepping out of the traffic.”  Followers of Christ have an enemy with the sole purpose of making sure you spend as little time with the Lord as possible.  Being still is an intentional, deliberate act on the part of the Christian who claims to be His child. it does not come naturally.  Busyness will take over if you let it.  So, with that being said, I made myself a few suggestions, “be still” goals if you will, for this Summer.  I thought that they might help you as well.

1.  Be still finding time to read the Word.  This does not have to be a long drawn out process.  Find a minimum of 10 minutes during the day where you can read the Bible and talk to God.  Psalm 46 might be a good place to start.

2.  Be still keeping your mind pure.  I don’t know why I am tempted more in the Summer to watch the new blockbuster, R-rated movies that come out.  This is probably because I watch too much TV and see all of the previews on television.  I find myself watching these stupid movies that totally glorify the sin that my Savior delivered me from and died a brutal death on the cross to do so.  I have found myself sitting there and listening to those actors and actresses take my Lord’s name in vain over and over again.  This summer, I will be intentional about keeping my mind pure.

3.  Be still going to church.  Tonya and I just went to a random church when we were on vacation at the beach last year.  Turns out we heard a great quartet sing praises to the King and we met some really great people who have been serving God for a lot longer than we have.  If you are on vacation over the weekend, say a short prayer asking the Lord to lead you where He wants you to go, then just drive and see where you end up, it’s kind of fun.

Most of all, remember that being still is mostly for you.  Knowing that He is God means that you have incredible faith and want to live an obedient life that glorifies and honors Him.  It means that you trust Him with all that you are and all that He leads you to do.  It means that when the storms of life come, you will stand rock solid because you have built your house on the rock.  You won’t be returning to God because all of a sudden you need Him, you will be remaining with Him as you have all along.

Take time to be still today . . . know that He is God.

Later

Adam

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