Dreams

 

And afterward, I will pour out my spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  – Joel 2:28

 

I don’t know if it is because I am actually well rested with this whole quarantine going on, or if it is because I am entering the beginning stages of being “old” as described in Joel 2:28, but my dream world has been activated big time.  Before these past couple of weeks, I might have had a few dreams per year that I could actually remember.  Now, I’m having them quite often.  I want to tell you about one in particular in which the Lord spoke to me.

 

I was in an unfamiliar house.  The house was crazy big because it seemed like I walked into a hundred different rooms and down a ton of different hallways.  I kept running into and talking to lots of people from many of the different churches I’ve attended in the past.  Most of the visits were just small talk.  Then, my eye caught these kids playing in front of an open door.  I could see that a set of very old, worn-out steps was right behind them.  I so badly wanted to go and close that door, but as I tried to not startle the kids and slowly moved toward them, this little girl stood up, looked at me, and fell backwards down the stairs.  I ran towards her, barely missed her, and watched the most horrific fall I’ve ever seen.  I ran down the steps, picked her up off the concrete floor, placed her on my shoulder, and put my hand on the back of her head.  She was not moving at all and blood began to run down my hand and arm.  I began to pray, “Lord, please don’t let this fall end in death, please heal this little girl.”  The blood immediately began to run back up my arm, back up my hand, and back into the girl’s head.  She opened her eyes, looked at me, and said “thank you.”  At that moment, her mother came rushing down the stairs.  I handed her daughter to her and was just about to explain what had happened.  The mother just screamed, “Get away from my child! Don’t touch my child!” and stormed back up the stairs.  Then, I woke up.

 

The contrast between how cool it was to see the little girl healed after taking that fall and how awful it was to be treated like I was some pedophile holding this woman’s child was just crazy.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what it could all mean.

 

God has allowed me to preach and teach in a lot of places.  As I’ve talked to the youth of today and have gotten to know them, they have fallen into some pretty dark places.  I remember one particular youth camp where kids just started confessing stuff like crazy at the end of the service.  I remember trying not to act shocked at some of the stuff that I was being told.  I also remember that, as we prayed, it was like so many of these kids were being set free.  They were finally able to unload their darkest sins and were able to move forward.  It is the first and only time I’ve had in my life where I went to bed absolutely exhausted from praying with and for people for hours.

 

The kids that prayed were from all walks of life.  Some were church kids, and some were not.  However, all of them had fallen into the darkness.  I think because the house was so huge in my dream, and the fact that everyone I met was from past churches, that the house represented the church.  I also think that it means that church people refuse to believe just how bad falls can be.  They don’t realize how much darkness there is to fall into and just how important it is to use every resource possible to help our kids get to a place where they are confident in who Jesus is, understand what He is like, and are confident in their salvation.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve fallen into darkness more times than I can count.  I’ve been bleeding and almost dead on the concrete many times.  Yet, 100% of the time the Lord sends just the right person to heal me up and place my feet back on solid ground.  Every time it happens, I want to preach harder, pray with more people, and keep going forward in His Name.  There has to be many out there just like me.  I want to be one of the ones who finds those people and helps them get up.  There just isn’t time to be defeated all the time.  Our time on this planet is short and the evil one knows this.  All he can really do is render us ineffective for as long as possible by keeping us wallowing in doubt.

 

I still think about that woman who acted like I was infecting her child by holding her.  She wasn’t even aware of the fall her child had taken.  Kids today are surrounded by and have unprecedented access to darkness.  It is crazy that most parents who were raised in church and are raising their own children in church don’t believe their children are being affected by it.  Yet, if those kids get into a really Spirit-filled environment, they confess, they pray, and they worship.  Let me tell you, there is no worship like a group of kids who feel clean and have been set free.

 

I just Googled “average life expectancy.”  It said 78 years old.  This means that if you are more than 39 years old, you’re in the last half of your life on average.  What will be your impact on the kingdom?  There are too many people content with keeping themselves free from this old, sinful world, going to church, waiting for the rapture, and basically saying “I’m good to go . . . to hell with everyone else.”  I’m telling you, there are fallen children of God out there.  They may appear fine on the outside, but they are dead on the inside.  There are others who don’t look fine on the outside.  They are messed up and have gotten themselves wrapped up in all kinds of sin.  They need help, too!  Be willing to go to the dark places, find them, and help them up.  Yes, you will make some church people wonder what the heck you are doing.  Yes, you will probably be judged by some Pharisees.  Go after them anyway.  You were worth going after.  They are too.

 

Lord, please help this make sense to someone.  Thank you for picking me up so many times.  Thank you for the people who don’t care what others think and will go into the dark places, get messy, and help others find their way.  Where would I be without them?  Give us a spirit of boldness.  Grant us a spirit of urgency.  It feels as if darkness has descended upon our land these past few weeks.  We know that light shines brightest in the darkness.  May the light of the church to shine ever so brightly.  Amen.

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Nothing New

 

But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses. – Exodus 9:12

 

Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”  — 2 Samuel 24:1

 

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said.  “Don’t you realize I have power to either free you or crucify you?”  Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”  — John 19:10-11

 

In the first verse I used this morning, God was in the process of dishing out the 10 plagues.  Six of the plagues had come to pass already:  The water had become blood, frogs covered the land, lice got all in their hair, flies took over, their livestock was struck dead, and boils covered them.  Anyone in their right mind living at that time would have said, “What in the world is Pharaoh thinking?  Why doesn’t he just let the Israelites go already?  Can’t he see that the very hand of God is against him?”  As readers of the Bible, we get to see in hindsight that God intervened and made Pharaoh’s heart hard so He could complete the plagues that He had predetermined to send before releasing His people.

 

In the second verse I used, we are talking about the mighty King David!  This is the man after God’s own heart.  So many of the people had to have been complaining, “What in the world is the king thinking?  Why is he using our tax-payer money and wasting nine months counting everybody?”  Well, we know why, “God moved David against them.”  Ultimately, this caused a plague to come upon the people which killed 70,000 people.

 

In the third verse we have Pontius Pilate honestly believing he has power over our Lord and Savior.  Jesus quickly lets him know otherwise.  Pilate tried to save Jesus by having Him scourged.  He had hoped that this lesser punishment would satisfy the people who wanted Him dead.  It did not work.  “Crucify Him” they shouted; and crucify Him they did.  God caused Pilate to care more about his position and what the people thought than what was right.  When Jesus said, “It is finished” and drew His last breath, I can only imagine the hopelessness and darkness that descended over the land.  I’m so glad we know the rest of the story.

 

In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed twenty men in an area of about half an acre.  Then panic struck the whole army – those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties – and the ground shook.  It was a panic sent by God. – 1 Samuel 14:14-15

 

How crazy is this one?  Two men go up and kill twenty men out of thousands.  The rest of them panic.  This panic causes them to get routed by the Israelite army.

 

You and I are living in a time of uncertainty right now.  I’ve had so many people contact me and have conversations with me.  For the most part, people can’t believe how people are.  They can’t believe people would hoard toilet paper.  They can’t believe people would be so insensitive and just go on about their lives like nothing is happening with blatant disregard for others.  They can’t believe these young people’s behavior.  They can’t believe the president is responding the way he is responding.  There is just always this “Look how others are behaving” attitude going on in the background.  As if the complainer knows and has all the answers.

 

In all of the verses I chose, the common theme was that God was behind them all.  At the very least, we must believe that He allowed all of them to happen.  As believers in this same God, are we really surprised at all of this happening today?  Were we all secretly hoping that we would get to just live a pain-free, suffer-free life of ease until we were raptured away from this increasingly evil world on its way to hell in a handbasket?  Are we all really surprised that the world is acting like, well, the world?

 

Here is the thing:  If you call yourself a Christian right now, then you have this awesome opportunity.  You have the opportunity to pray out loud with people who are afraid.  You have the opportunity to counsel fearful Christians who are unsure of their salvation and really wondering if this is the beginning of the end.  Let them know that our faith and our hope is in God and God alone.  Most of all, you have the opportunity to just be the light that shines in the darkness.  People should be attracted to your light.  Are people who are afraid coming to you for answers?  Do you honestly have the peace that passes all understanding in your heart right now?  If you really have it, get ready to pass that peace on to others because people will be coming to you for answers.

 

In times like this, 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells all true believers exactly what to do:

 

  1. Humble yourself:  In the grand scheme of things, you and I are vapors that appear for a little while and then vanish away.  Stop thinking that your opinion, what you think about all of this, and what you would do really matters.

 

  1. Pray: When is the last time you’ve really taken the time to talk with God?  I’m not talking quick, one-liner prayers.  I’m talking about pouring your heart out and telling him absolutely everything.

 

  1. Seek His face: This is different than prayer.  This is just wanting to be with Him.  Nothing really needs to be said.  You just enjoy knowing that He is ever so present and ever so near.  When is the last time you just wanted to hang out with Him and just be with Him?  How can fear, worry, anxiety, or depression possibly overtake me when He is right here with me?

 

  1. Turn from your wicked ways: What are you doing that you know God doesn’t like?  What sin are you allowing to creep in?  Are you fully trusting in God?  Or, do you secretly trust in self?

 

Lord, I confess that I’m not where I need to be.  I confess that I can be fearful.  I confess that that as I began to cough from allergies that my mind went to the worst-case scenario.  Where is my faith?  Why am I afraid when I have You?  I’m so sorry, Lord.  You are the greatest thing this planet offers, and I use my access to You so infrequently and so inconsistently.  Forgive me, Lord.  Help me, Lord.  I want to draw nearer to You than I’ve ever been before.  Help all of us Christians to do the four things which cause you to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. 

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The Snail

 

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  – Psalm 40:2

 

My daughter and I decided to go hiking this past Sunday.  Ever since I lost my pastor’s position, I’ve been letting my kids determine where we go to church every week.  I’ve never really cared for the mega-churches, but of course, my kids love them.  They were pretty much all shut down Sunday, so I asked Caroline to think of somewhere we could go.  Even though I meant church-wise, she immediately said, “Can we go and hike Table Rock?”  I said, “Let’s go for it.”

 

Early into our trek, Caroline found a small snail.  Snail hunting is kind of her thing on every hike we go on.  She carried it all the way to the half-way point shelter.  We took some pictures there of her with the snail at that incredible overlook.  We debated going back home from there.  We were both already pretty wiped out.  As we talked it out, we both agreed that we’d never be as close to the top as we were right now and shouldn’t turn back.  We knew we would regret it when we got back to the car.  I prayed for us, “Lord, help us get to the top.”  We went back at it for the second half of the journey.  Even though we stopped frequently to eat granola bars and drink Gatorade, we made it to the top.  I love what my daughter said, “Daddy, our strength didn’t come from those mountains, it came from the Lord.”

 

Ever since the hike, I haven’t stopped thinking about that snail.  There is no way it could have made it as far up that mountain on its own as Caroline took it.  I thought of how many times God has literally picked me up and moved me forward spiritually because I was stuck and going nowhere.  How many times I’ve needed God to do for me exactly what Caroline did for the snail?

 

The situation even represented her life so well.  She has fallen quite a few times under the weight and pressure of being a pastor’s daughter.  A lot of Christians haven’t been very merciful to her.  This has caused her to climb into her shell many times and stop moving forward.  Every time she gets stuck and is not moving spiritually, I do my best to pick her up, tell her how much I love her, tell her how God loves her even more, I carry her, I pray for her, and I ask God to somehow let it get ingrained into her soul that this is the only way He treats those whom He loves.  I want so badly for her to know that He is so slow to anger, He is so full of kindness, He is so merciful, and He is so willing to carry us when our strength is exhausted.

 

There is no one like our God.

 

Who knew that carrying a snail up a mountain carried so many implications?

 

Looks like we had church Sunday after all.

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The Bird

 

The wages of sin is death.  – Romans 6:23

 

This past Friday I woke up really tired and really not feeling the whole getting out of bed and heading to work thing.  I kept going back to sleep.  When I finally actually got up, I had to rush.  Honestly, I haven’t had to do that in a while.  I hurried through my Bible reading.  I haven’t done that in a while either.  It was so hurried that I really didn’t remember a thing I had read.  Afterwards, I didn’t think about what I had read, nor did I pray.

 

On the way to work, I was driving pretty fast.  In a single moment, I don’t know if it was God or just my sense of knowing better, but I took a deep breath and slowed everything down.  I prayed.  Since I basically blew off that morning’s reading, I started going through all the scriptures that I have memorized.  I was saying Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”  As I thought of that, I thought of how I had just rushed past God this morning.  I thought of the opportunity I had missed.  I simply said, “I’m sorry, Lord, would you forgive . . .”  BAM!  This bird flew out of nowhere, slammed into my windshield, and scared me half to death.  I looked in the rearview mirror and it seemed to hit the ground so softly.  I hated the fact that I had just killed that bird.

 

“Lord, what was that?  That bird literally hit me on the word forgive?”

 

Adam, don’t ever forget what it takes to be forgiven.”

 

I just drove on to work in stunned silence.

 

As the day went on, I thought of that bird.  Its life had just ended.  I felt sorry for the bird.  Then, I thought of how awesome that bird’s life was.  That bird directly pointed to Jesus on the cross giving His life for all who would come to Him and receive eternal life.  Oh, how I want my life to do the same!  For the rest of the day, I thought about what it really takes to be forgiven.  I saw my Lord on the cross so many times in my mind that day.

 

It may be hard to believe and hard to understand, but that is what it takes.  The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

I guess sin just makes us forget.

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A Return to Giant Slaying

So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.  And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king:  and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. – 2 Samuel 24:8-9

 

Here we find King David having concluded a census.  His heart was stirred to find out exactly how many men he had in his country who could fight.  God did not authorize this census.  Because He did not authorize it, here is what happened next:

 

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed:  and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men. – 2 Samuel 24:15

 

I don’t know about you, but that punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime.  Ok, so David basically wasted nine months figuring out how many fighting men he had.  Yet, 70,000 of them got wiped out by this plague sent from the Lord.  Why so harsh?

 

The more I think about this, the more I realize I’ve done exactly what David did.  I have put my trust in my resources.  If I have plenty of dollars in the bank, then I have all the food I need, all the medical care that I need, and all the entertainment and comfort that I could ever want provided within the four walls of my comfortable home.  Why do I really need God?  If I have a headache, I have three types of medicine in my cabinet to take care of it.  When is the last time I asked Him or even gave Him a chance to take care of such a thing for me?  Honestly, I can’t remember.

 

I imagine the same thing happened to David that happened to me.  He got a great job.  Whereas he once had so little out in the field taking care of those sheep, now he lived in a palace with all the money, sex, and provisions a guy could ever want.  Even when it came to war, he had plenty of fighting men.  There was no real need to ask the God of the Universe for help.  David had it covered all by himself.

 

Here is what David needed to do, and what I feel like I need to do right now.  David needed to remember his giant slaying days.  He needed to think back years ago to what it was like to stand before the giant with just a sling and five stones.  He needs to remember what it was like when everyone else in the country’s heart was just melted with fear.  They had fighting men back then, too, but none of them wanted to fight.  The giant was too big, too strong, and nobody wanted a piece of him.  David knew that God had given him everything he needed to win this battle.  He didn’t go around asking, “Who is with me?”  He said this instead:

 

“You come against me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.  This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those who are gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”  1 Samuel 17:45-47

 

That’s quite different than counting your 1.3 million men and thinking you are going to be okay.

 

Do you remember what it was like when you first believed in God?  Do you remember the first time you read the Bible stories?  Was there anything that God could not do?  Was there any reason to worry at all?  I want to get back to that.  If you and I can live like this, how many people will see the true Light of the world that offers so great a salvation?  How many people just might want what we have?  David produced so many future mighty warriors that day he slew the giant.  All they needed to do was see the mighty hand of God on a human.  So many thought to themselves, “If what I just saw is possible for David, then it just might be possible for me.”

 

Does anybody watch me live my life and think that?

 

Lord, I want you to be the first resource I turn to.  I’m sorry that as I’ve gotten older and attained more resources that I’ve put more and more trust in them.  I want to follow You with the same passion I had when I was younger and just figuring out how great, mighty, and powerful You are.  There is no one like You.  I love You!  Thank you for speaking to me this morning.

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The Book (Continued) :)

So I’m finally writing the last chapter of the book.  I can’t express enough thanks for all the prayers.  I know I will be editing for a while, but right now that seems like the easy part . . . I guess I will find out.  Anyway, I should be back to writing regular WMD’s after this week.  In the meantime, I used this one from three years ago pretty much word for word in the book.  Also, as a cool side note, I mention Open Door Baptist Church in Walhalla in this devotional.  I will be preaching at Open Door this Sunday at 10:00 am.  I plan on speaking about the Beatitudes and things I’ve written in the book, but God has this way of having me change the subject on Fridays and Saturdays a I prepare.  Have a great Wednesday!

The Pharisee’s Chair

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. — Luke 7:44-45

I hate how easy it is to become a Pharisee. To me, a modern day Pharisee is simply someone who uses the things of God to exalt themselves. It is a person who picks a set of rules that is easy for them to follow, then looks down on others who don’t follow that particular set of rules as well as they do. Basically, Pharisees are people who say “if you’ll be more like me and do more of what I do you will be blessed, like me” I can only imagine the stink this produces in God’s nostrils.

I wonder why it is so easy to start putting your faith in what you do as opposed to what God did? It is amazing how sin shrinks God and puffs us up. Can you imagine the Pharisee in this story inviting Jesus to His house and not even giving Jesus any of the common courtesies? He didn’t provide Jesus any water for His feet. He didn’t greet Him with a kiss. Our Lord Jesus Christ was shrunk down to the level of a Pharisee in the Pharisee’s mind. The Pharisee saw himself as equal with Jesus.

Even now, I want to become a Pharisee and chastise this Pharisee. That is, until I look back and see how many times I’ve marched into God’s House, sat down, propped my feet up and said “feed me,” or “entertain me.” No, I didn’t say this out loud, but that was my attitude. I didn’t pray before the service. I didn’t ask God to examine my heart and see if there was anything in there that needed to be placed at the foot of the cross. I didn’t prepare my sinful and selfish heart at all. Jesus and I were equals. I needed Him, but I thought He needed me too. How honored Jesus must have been to have me in His house! Then, one day, Jesus brought my attention to the woman in the story.

I will never forget one Sunday at Open Door Baptist Church in Walhalla, South Carolina. I knew something powerful was going on, I just wasn’t in on it. I watched dozens of grown men and women just weep before the Lord. God’s Presence was just that thick. Yet, there I was with no tears. Now, I had been trying to be a “good” person. I was reading my Bible. I was staying away from sin better than I ever had before and God had to have been pleased with His servant, Adam Hopkins! But, what did these “criers” know that I didn’t know? What was the difference? Their experience was certainly different than what I was experiencing in my chair across from Jesus. All I knew to do was pray. “Lord, next time this happens, I want to cry. I want to feel what they are feeling.”

It only took a couple of weeks. I became so aware of how much sin I still brought to the table. For the first time I wanted to get out of my chair and bow down there at His feet with the sinful woman. I think for the first time I realized that I was forgiven much. I soon found myself weeping in church. It was powerful, it was emotional, and it was just plain wonderful!

And to think all I had to do was go from the Pharisee’s chair that placed me equal with Jesus, to the floor, which placed me at His feet, equal with the sinful woman.

Lord, help me never sit in the Pharisee’s chair again.

Later

Adam

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Testing

I still appreciate the prayers.  The last chapter on being “pure in heart” was a really tough one to write.  I did manage to finish it and started writing the next to last chapter.  I have set a goal to have this thing done and ready to roll by June when we get out of school.  Pray that God helps me reach that goal.  Even if I’m being overly optimistic, it is all good.  His timing is the best timing.  Here is another excerpt from the book.

Testing
for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. — Deuteronomy 13:3 
What kind of math teacher would I be if I never gave a test?  I I teach the students, I work with them individually, and I work individual problems with them.  However, the only way that I can know if they get it is to take everything away, give them only a pencil, some blank paper, and a test.  It is then that I know who gets it and who does not.
Why would it be any different with God?  He tells us that we need to be merciful.  You really don’t think that there is going to come a situation where you will have to show mercy?  Let me go ahead and tell you, if it hasn’t happened to you, it will.  Let me tell you about the first major test that God gave me.
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