Up Until Now (Part 1)

Before you read, keep in mind that I wrote this WMD almost exactly five years ago on September 17, 2014.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6

I want to take the time to write my story up until this point in my life. I know a lot of people read WMD and lately I’ve been asked a lot about where I go to church and stuff like that. I realized that I have never actually written out my story. It is quite a story. It is a story that is still being written. I can only write about it “up until now.”

I found a cassette tape from 2003. I preached a sermon called “resurrections” at Salem United Methodist Church. I listened to it and just cringed . . . It was awful. But, I had just a few years before really dedicated myself to the reading and studying of God’s Word. I had told Him that I would use my math teaching skills to teach the Word if He felt like I was a vessel He could use. It took almost no time for Him to answer my prayer. In just a few weeks, He opened the door for me to preach once a month at SUMC. Hence, the tape from 2003.

Well, that lasted a few years and fizzled out. I had various churches find out that I could be a “fill-in” and would have up to 5 or 6 speaking engagements a year. In 2007, things really took on a new beginning. I was teaching at Tamassee-Salem High School and began to absolutely hate it. I had wondered why I had ever gone into teaching. While reading my Bible, I came across 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will heal their land. This burned in my spirit.

Somehow, I knew that if I could just get the three or four teachers in our school that claimed to be Christians to actually do this verse with me that things would change. I sent out an e-mail and sure enough 4 other people showed up to our first little prayer meeting before school even started on a Wednesday morning. We talked about 2 Chronicles 7:14, prayed, and went to work with a new attitude and a new resolve. We didn’t have to fix the whole school. We simply had to do our part and trust that God would do the rest.

We kept these little meetings on Wednesdays going for a while. When people didn’t quite make it on time, I would type up what was said and e-mail them. When we stopped meeting altogether, I kept writing e-mails on Wednesday mornings to encourage our teachers. They began to be forwarded to other teachers at other schools. Then, they began to be forwarded to non-teachers. The e-mail chain grew very fast.

In the meantime, I was a member at Golden Corner Church in Walhalla, SC. The pastors there saw something in me and began to have me preach somewhat regularly, like quarterly, on Sunday mornings. To this day, I am amazed at the risk they took by putting a nobody math teacher out front. I owe a TON of my development to those guys. And yes, I realize that I am still not even CLOSE to being developed.

Now, here is where the story simply amazes me. Because I had been writing WMDs for several years, there was a member of Lifeline Community Church in Fair Play, SC who read them regularly and contacted me. All he told me was that their pastor was resigning and he wanted to know if I would be interested in pastoring a church. I asked Tonya if we would be interested in pastoring a church. Of course I asked God, but He was like “who do you think opened the door?”

So, here I am. A math teacher teaching his 18th year in the public school system. A preacher for 8 months at a wonderful church full of wonderful people who have the gift of being extremely patient with me while God works on me in this new role. On September 28th, I will be ordained into the ministry. In the meantime, I will do what I know to do. I will stay in the Word. I will continue to write these WMDs and post them on Wednesday mornings. I will bring the Word as boldly, as clearly, and with as much passion as I possibly can on Sunday mornings. I will be the best math teacher I can be. I will work at all of it with all of my heart like God Himself is my supervisor.

That is my story . . .

Up until now

Later

Adam

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If I Really Believed the Battle Was His

 

Thus saith the Lord unto you, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” – 2 Chronicles 20:15

 

This past Sunday I preached a sermon about being in God’s presence, Him being my rock and my salvation, and Him being my strength; therefore there is no way I will be afraid.  Well, ever since then, I have had a horrible spiritual attack.  I keep hearing this voice in my head, “See, you don’t even believe what you preach . . . How could you possibly teach it to others.”  Like I always seem to do, I let this evil spirit beat me up for a bit.  I felt helpless and powerless.  All I did for the past couple of days is say in my head over and over, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)  I didn’t feel it in my body, but I figured if I said it enough I could convince it.  It took a dear friend praying for me just a little bit ago to make it all go away and help me feel like I was back in my right mind.

 

I have some serious battles going on right now.  I don’t say this for you to feel sorry for me at all . . . I guarantee you have your own battles.  I just feel like I’ve handled them the worst I ever have.  I’m worrying about them.  I’m handing them to God and then taking them right back.  I’ve felt hopeless, which is certainly something I’m not used to feeling.

 

Here is what is going through my mind right now:  What if I really believed the battle was God’s? The problem is that right now, I obviously don’t.  If I did, I would not be spending all this energy worrying and thinking the worst. 2 Chronicles 20:15 just screams at me right now.  In the midst of this battle, I should be at rest.  I should be enjoying God.  I should be seated and calm while my God fights for me.  That’s the way I’d be if I really believed the battle was His.

 

Lord, I don’t know what is wrong with me right now.  I’m afraid.  I usually have such confidence in you, my King!  Will you give me once again that peace that passes all understanding? Will you give me that same Spirit that those guys in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs had?  They were being tortured and even burned alive, but they were simply basking in and enjoying Your Presence!  You would not give men the satisfaction of knowing that they were harming your anointed, for the battle was yours.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Do not give evil the satisfaction of knowing they are harming me. Help me abide in you!  It may feel like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you!   Help me not be afraid or dismayed, for the battle is not mine, but yours.

 

(P.S.  I promise I’m ok.  In my mind, I am turning some molehills into mountains . . . I’m used to doing the reverse.)

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Never Let Go

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. — Hebrews 12:2

I had a very powerful conversation today. First, let me tell you what I know about our young people today. I have preached to enough youth groups and at enough youth camps that there is this common theme among them. Our enemy, the devil, seeks to devour them. The Bible calls him a roaring lion. In the nature shows that I have seen, the lion gets to eat the weak, the slow, and the feeble. If a lion runs into a pack of food, and you are the food, just don’t be the weakest link and you will live.

“I did love being at church. I was so convicted about the things I’ve done and I’ve been doing. But I have to tell you, I left church and still did things that I know are wrong. I’ve asked God into my life, but I just don’t think it is doing anything. I don’t want to do those things, yet I still do them.”

Before I move on, really think. What would you say to a young man who just had enough courage to sit with you, look at you, and tell you these things? What would you do with this kind of honesty?

“Look, man, do you think after I got saved, that I did everything right? Do you think I haven’t partied Friday and Saturday, drank too much, slept with my girlfriend, taken His Name in vain, cussed, acted like I was not His kid, and then gone to church on Sunday only to feel guilt as it felt like the preacher was preaching only to me? I’ve been there. I know what it is like to try harder and fail even more miserably. Here is all I know . . . for the past 28 years, I’ve just held on to Him. I’ve never let Him go. My only advice is to keep going to church, keep reading the Word, keep praying to Him. Be honest about everything. Bring all your sin to Him. Talk to Him about it. Over time, He changes you. You will eventually conquer these sins only to run into new sins you’ve never thought of when you get older. Just never let Him go. Never stop believing. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He does the work. Very rarely does He do the work quickly, but over time, you will know that He is working in your heart, mind, and life.”

After a long pause I felt like the Lord showed me a newborn baby in the floor all alone. I said, “The Bible says we are born again when we give our lives to Him, how much help does a little baby need to survive?”A lot,” he says. “You are just a newborn; you have good people around you that want to help you grow.”

Think about how Jesus has worked in your heart, mind, soul, and life. Aren’t you glad His mercy is so great? Aren’t you glad that His truth endures to all generations? Talk to the young people in your life. Tell them that God is for them and so not against them. Tell them the way He works. Pray with them and for them. Above all else, no matter what they’ve done or what they are doing . . .

Tell them to never let go. He will do all the work. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He endured the cross joyfully, don’t miss that . . . joyfully! He did it so all the work for our salvation will be done. He paid the price. We just never let go.

Spend some time with Him today.

He is such a great God!

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The Very Place

 

So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. – Genesis 12:7

 

Every few years or so, I like to go and visit a very special place.  When I was a teenager, I heard the gospel preached in a way that I understood, and in a way where I was very convicted.  I chickened out on getting saved because all my friends were in the room surrounding me.  I was absolutely terrified to go to sleep that night without being saved.  I called my youth pastor and he picked me up and drove me to Stamp Creek Landing in Salem, SC.  If you pull around the loop and stop where you can see the big tree closest to the lake on your right, you are in the very spot that I gave my life to God.

 

Yesterday, I was hanging out with my little man . . . well, not so little anymore.  Anyway, I took him to Pat’s Cash & Carry for possibly one of the best hot dogs in the southeast.  I told him that when I taught at Salem, I came here all the time.  Of course, he loved the hot dogs and thought it was a really cool place.

 

Then, I drove him to the landing.  We parked at the very place my youth pastor parked 28 years ago.  I told him that I can’t imagine where I’d be right now had I never called my youth pastor and asked him to come and get me.  I told him there is no way I’d be the dad that I am now. I told him that it didn’t really seem like anything great happened to me, but it was like a new birth.  I had hit reset and started growing up all over again.  I started a new spiritual journey where I began to actually know God.  Looking back now, I can honestly say that He has done so much in my heart, mind, and life.  I don’t even want to think what life would have been like without Him.

 

My little man just said, “I’m sure glad you came here all those years ago.”

 

“Me too, man.”

 

“Me too”

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Is He Worthy?

Is He Worthy?

 

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  — Revelation 5:2

 

So I’ve had this recurring dream for a while now.  In the dream, I see a newspaper with the headline, “Who is worthy to break the seals?”  Right under it is a picture of me.  The words to the actual article are always blurred and I can’t read them. I panic because I think that people will look at this and think that I am worthy.  I am hyperaware that I am not.  Yet, in the dream, I can never think of who is.  While I am dreaming, I do not know that the answer is Jesus.  As soon as I wake up, I know the answer and wonder why in the world that I don’t know the answer while I am dreaming.

 

As I have pondered the dream, I have come to the conclusion that my picture underneath represents American preachers.  In America, somehow we have allowed preachers to become like rock stars.  The average person who calls himself or herself a Christian in America looks to these preachers for the majority of their spiritual nourishment.  Congregations hear message after message loaded with entertainment, loaded with “points,” loaded with “nuggets of wisdom,” but loaded with very little proclamation of the greatness of our God.  American Christians in general do not read their Bibles of which the overall premise is the worthiness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is His blood, and His blood alone that cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  I believe this is why the words to the article in my dream were blurred.  People couldn’t or wouldn’t read the explanation; they just assume that the preacher is worthy to tell them everything they need.

 

In the Bible, John weeps and weeps because he does not know anyone worthy.  In my dream, I don’t weep.  I simply just hate the fact that people will believe that the answer is me and I do not want people to think that.  I wish when I was having the dream that it bothered me like it bothered John. He was so distraught that there was no one found worthy.

 

While John is feeling hopeless and thinking there is no one worthy to open this scroll, an elder comes to him and comforts him.  He tells Him that the Lamb who was slain is worthy and John is comforted because he sees with his own eyes Jesus come and break the seven seals on the scroll.  He then hears with his own ears a worship eruption in heaven.  He sees just how worthy Jesus is.

 

I am praying this morning that I would be like that elder who comforted John by giving him the answer of all answers.  In fact, I pray this for all preachers and Christians in general who know the answer. We live in a world where almost everyone flocks to God when they need something, but rarely see His daily worth.  I am aware right now that I don’t know a fraction of His worth.  When I am dreaming, I can’t even think of Him as the answer to the question, “Is He worthy?”

 

Lord, I don’t even feel like I have a clue right now.  I want to be like that elder who is so confident in the worthiness of Jesus.  I want to hear the Name above all Names and weep often.  I want to be filled with joy unspeakable at Your Name.  I feel this in church services sometimes, but in life in general let me simply think of Your Name and let it fill me with wonder and awe. Forgive me for treating Your Name as any other name.  Forgive me for allowing myself to hear Your Name taken in vain and it not bother me. Cleanse me.  Fill me.  Create in me a clean heart and a new mind that understands just how wonderful you are. Amen.

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A Big Change

 

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  — 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

So another school year is upon us.  This begins my 23rdyear of being a teacher.  I have now worked as a teacher for exactly half of my life.  I didn’t like teaching at first.  I didn’t feel like I was good at it at all. Fortunately, after I started really taking my walk with God seriously, He changed me and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. Reading Colossians 3:23 was my big light bulb moment:  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.Simply reading those words made me realize just how poorly I treated my job.  When I applied them, it was like entering a whole new world.  Students began to change, I began to change, and the overall experience was just better.

 

Years later, here I am thinking about how I’m going to work another school year.  My first thought was to just pray the same prayer that has been working, “Lord, help me work like I’m working for you.”  But, I felt like He put the brakes on that prayer. As I wondered why, I thought of the verse I’m using today.  This year (calendar year) has been amazing so far.  I’ve seen students flood the altar to be filled with the Spirit.  I’ve seen adults flood the altar to be filled with the Spirit.  However, for me, as I have preached and preached my heart out, it has left me spiritually drained.  I haven’t felt like I’ve had much left to give.  I haven’t loved His Word like I once did.  I hate feeling this way.  I never stop talking to Him, it just seems I’m always asking Him to get me back to where I was.  In true God fashion, He is letting me know that He doesn’t want me where I used to be, He wants to take me someplace new.

 

As I prayed, “Lord, help me work like I’m working for you,” I felt like He said, “How about working like I live in you?”  I haven’t even had time to process this, but my mind is reeling just like it did years ago when I got the revelation to work like I was working for Him.  Right off the bat, can you imagine how pleasurable work would be, any work, with an acute awareness of the presence of God right there with you?  1 Corinthians 3:16 is just screaming at me, “Don’t you know this is possible?”

 

Lord, I want so badly to be granted a new awareness of Your Presence. I can see all the benefits of working this way.  The ideas are passing through my mind so fast that I can’t possibly process them all. I pray that you will unfold them one by one as they become necessary.  How wonderful would it be for students to have a Holy Spirit filled teacher that didn’t just work for you, but worked with an awareness of your Presence in them?  Help me, Lord!  Help all teachers who will read this.  Fill us with your Spirit and allow us to keep a marvelous sense of Your Presence at all times.

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When God Does It

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

So I had bus training yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday).  It isn’t the funnest of ways to start my school year, but it is necessary if I’m going to keep driving a school bus.  Anyway, I met a lady at the training today.  We happened to have attended the same church, just at different times and under different preachers.  Somehow, we got onto the subject of how people change for God, or rather, how God goes about changing people.

I remember after I got saved that several well-meaning (I think) Christians told me all the things I needed to change since I was now a Christian.  I don’t know why, but it always just made me angry.  In many cases, I even knew they were right, I just either didn’t like being told by them what I needed to do, or I didn’t think they had the right to tell me what to do in the first place.  Whatever it was, I would always leave thinking, “I hope I never come across like that.”

Here is the interesting thing:  Many of those things, I would go on to change . . . just like “those Christians” told me in the first place.  The closer I got to God and the more I studied His Word, it was like He was telling me personally . . . not necessarily in words, just in a way that I understood.  When it came from Him, I wantedto change.  When it came from other (what I felt like were) pharisaical Christians, there was just no way.  I guess I just wasn’t in a place to hear it from them.

The point is, I think, that we need to be super-careful the way we come across as Christians.  My fellow bus driver trainee and I talked about this for a while.  For example, just because you’re convicted to wear certain clothes or dress a particular way gives you no right to project your personal convictions onto others. You can ask them why they wear what they wear, but it can’t come off as condemning or condescending whatsoever. It is just very likely to leave them thinking, “If that is a Christian . . . I don’t ever want to be one.”  This simply should never ever be the case.

This world provides an infinite amount of opportunities to offend people.  I could log onto Facebook and find 10 people who just love to start feces (this is a Christian blog) in the first hundred posts.  Here is the thing: some of them call themselves Christians.  In John 17:21, Jesus actually prayed that we would be unified as Christians.  He went on to say that the world would actually believe as a result of our unification.  How awesome would it be if we all just realized our personal need for Christ, went after Him, fell in love with Him, let Him do all the convicting in our hearts and minds, let Him do all the changing in our lives, and stopped trying to make other people these mini versions of ourselves.  Everybody doesn’t have to have the same convictions. Everybody doesn’t struggle with the same sins.  Each person has plenty of his or her own junk to deal with.  Just point them toward Christ and His Holy Word and let the Holy Spirit do what He does best.

Clean us up through regeneration and sanctification.

I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  – Galatians 2:20

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