Just Never Let Go

 

I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.  – John 14:6

 

I have been stuck on Pat Barrett song “The Way” for weeks now.  It plays like an earworm in my mind . . . even at 2:18 in the morning.  Right after learning how to play and sing the song, I read around the verse for some context.  Turns out, Jesus said this to one of His disciples named Thomas.  After being told by Jesus that He’d be leaving them, Thomas kind of freaked out.  Jesus had just said some words that still comfort me today, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and “I’ll come back to get you when everything is ready.”  Thomas couldn’t fathom being away from Jesus. After all, he had given up everything to follow Him.  So he just blurted out, “We don’t know where you are going, Lord.  How can we get there?”  Then, Jesus said the words that so many Christians have memorized over the centuries . . .

 

I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

 

I just had the weirdest dream.  The thing that made it weird is how much time passed in the dream . . . years.  I walked out this door, apparently from some gymnasium, and this woman, who was not my current wife, greeted me as if she were my wife; which it turns out in my dream, she was.  I wondered immediately what happened to Tonya . . . what in the world did I do to mess that up?  Years of stuff passed . . . years!  To make a crazy long dream short, it ended with my new wife saying to me, “promise me that you’ll never leave me.”  I looked at her and said, “I can’t.  I promised my last wife I wouldn’t leave her, but I did.  I even promised God I’d never leave her, and I still did.  Why would you believe me if I told you that?”  I just couldn’t believe that I had let go.

 

Then, I woke up.  I’m not so sure I had ever been so thankful that Tonya was just a few feet away from me . . . still with me!  I thought about hugging her, but let’s just say, I know better than to wake her up at 2 in the morning.  Oh well, she can find out like everyone else . . . by reading this WMD!

 

I like how the stories go together.  The answer Jesus gave to Thomas was, “No matter what, never ever let go of me!” The answer to longevity in marriage is, “No matter what, don’t ever let go of one another.”  I do realize that there are two people involved and both have to be on board, and it really helps if they both are plugged in to God.  Both have to do what they said they’d do on day one. It makes me so sad to hear the stories where one did right and held on while the other just let it all go.

 

Thank God, Jesus will never let us go.  If someone leaves the relationship, it will not be Him.  If you want to be with Him for all of eternity, grab a hold of Him and never let go.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  Nobody has eternal life except through Him.  He promises to never let go of you.

 

I have often wondered why Jesus would put Himself out there for the kind of rejection He endures by people who one day say they love Him and will follow Him, but then so quickly jump in bed with the gods of this world.  I can’t read the book of Hosea without utter disbelief that God keeps on taking us back like that.  Not just take us back, but also pay such a high cost to get us back.  When Jesus says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” He means it.

 

So maybe you are like Thomas was a very short time after this conversation he had with Jesus. Maybe you feel like God is so far away and you can’t get to Him.  You and I have to do the same thing he did . . .

 

Just never let go.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Joseph of Arimathea

 

Then he took the body down from the cross – Luke 23:53

 

For some reason, I’ve never given much thought to the man who gave Jesus his own tomb.  Matthew 27, verse 57 says he was  “a rich man, who had become a disciple of Jesus.”  Mark 15, verse 43 calls him “a prominent member of the Council.”  The Council refers the Sanhedrin.  They were the group who called for the Crucifixion of Christ.  Verse 51 of Luke 52 indicates that Joseph “had not consented to their decision and action.”

 

Here is a man who disagreed with a lot of what was going on around him politically.  He hated being under Roman rule and oppression.  He hated what his own group had decided to do and actually had done to Jesus.  Joseph of Arimathea probably felt guilty that he hadn’t said more or done more for his Lord. However, when Jesus drew His last breath, Joseph got permission from Pilate to bury the body.  I’m just picturing him being the first person to touch the bloody, lifeless body of his Lord and Savior.  I’m kind of blown away by it.

 

It had to have cost him friends.  It might have cost him his seat on the Council of the Sanhedrin.  As he handles the body of Jesus, people probably looked at him differently because he obviously cared for and loved this man named Jesus.  I imagine that his heart probably raced and he could feel the stares as he did all that it took to bury Jesus as properly as possible before nightfall when the Sabbath began.

 

It is interesting how a follower of Jesus goes from being a private follower to being a public follower.  I didn’t really let most people know for quite sometime.  I liked having the best of both worlds.  I was a Christian at church and around my Jesus friends.  Then, I would be worldly around my friends who didn’t really want anything to do with Him. Eventually, you do have to make a choice.  Joseph couldn’t stand the thought of Jesus not being buried properly, so he went public.

 

For me, I realized one Sunday at church that my sins actually hurt Jesus. Though I had never really thought about it before, all of a sudden, more than anything, I didn’t want to hurt Him with my foolish sins anymore.  Therefore, I pictured in my mind giving my sin to Him one last time.  I saw in my mind that lifeless body that gave His last drop of blood so that I might be forgiven and saved.  Like Joseph, I had to start living this thing out. I had to not care what everyone thought of me.  My actions needed to match my words.

 

Lord, more than anything I want to honor you with my life.  Help me so that what I say matches up with the way that I live.  Help all who will read this today by drawing them closer to you.  Fill us up with your Holy Spirit.  Make us unashamed to carry you with us and let everyone see that we love you and that you’ve made such a difference in our lives.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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As Scary as it Gets

Almost, thou persuadest me to be a Christian.  – Acts 26:28

 

Before the Apostle Paul died, he got the chance to stand before an Earthly king.  King Agrippa was the eighth and last ruler of the Herodian dynasty.  He held the title of King over the Jews, but in all practicality, he served Rome by keeping his people under control.  One day, he heard the case of this former, hardcore Jew turned Christian.  The Apostle Paul was also a Roman citizen appealing to the Roman courts.  When the big day comes, King Agrippa tells Paul to speak freely and all eyes fall on him.

 

Paul does one of the simplest things any Christian can do.  He tells his story.  He tells the court how he was a hardcore Jew who hunted down and killed Christians because he hated them.  He tells how he went on a hunt one day and got knocked off his horse and heard the voice of Jesus.  He was stuck with blindness until he was led to a man’s house named Ananias.  When Ananias prayed for Paul, his sight was restored.  Ever since that moment, Paul simply said that he has been living for the Lord, Jesus Christ. He also explained the events that brought him there that very day.

 

After listening to it all, King Agrippa says these words, “Almost, you persuade me to be a Christian.”

 

Almost.

 

I remember the sleepless nights after I found out about Jesus.  Just like Agrippa, I was so close to becoming a Christian.  I was convinced that a man name Jesus walked this earth and changed people’s hearts, minds, and lives.  I believed that Jesus saved.  On one particular night, while staying with one of my best friends, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to become a Christian.  I called my youth pastor.  He picked me up, took me to Fall Creek Landing in Salem, SC, and led me in a prayer where I talked to God for the first time in something other than a rote prayer.  I simply asked Him to wash my sins away and make me a Christian.  I felt so clean and so forgiven.  I could connect with God now.  27 years later, He is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

 

There are so many King Agrippas out there.  They know the truth.  They know Jesus is who He says He is.  They know He changes hearts, minds, and lives for the better.  They, just like Agrippa, simply don’t want their comfortable place in life messed with.  I do understand, I really do.  It isn’t an easy thing to do.  When I got saved, I thought I was giving up so much to gain so little.  I know now that it was the other way around.  I gave up so little to gain so much.

 

1900 years later, I would imagine that King Agrippa, who isn’t a king anymore, wishes he could remove one word from the Bible.

 

The word “almost.”

 

Later

 

Adam

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Finishing Well

 

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. – Ecclesiastes 7:8

 

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is almost over.  Someone told me today that it was nine weeks until Christmas.  Crazy.  I hate these nights when I can’t sleep.  For some reason, the days surrounding the full moon just messes with me like crazy. As it keeps me up tonight I’m just reflecting and evaluating myself this year.  It has been a very different kind of year.

 

I started very poorly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the goals I set for the year were only selfish.  The things I wanted to accomplish would actually take away from the amount of time that I normally spend with God.  10 months into the year, it has done just that.  I lie here just hating how much I’ve regressed spiritually.

 

Here is the other amazing thing:  God has remained ridiculously faithful.  He might be using me more at my weakest than He ever has when I’d say I was strong. Sounds about like Him.  I used to think that if I wasn’t full steam ahead on the God train that He’d just have nothing to do with me, or at least would be greatly disappointed with me.  Ministry wise, He is growing our church and speaking through me despite me.  I am incredibly aware of all this.

 

As I check out this little verse in Ecclesiastes, I want to end these last couple of months of 2018 well. I just miss God.  Sure, I’ve had these moments of feeling Him and had on and off times of experiencing His Presence, but it’s more like I’ve just pulled the car in and stopped for a visit . . . not really moved in.  Why did I move out in the first place?  When did I move out?  I just want to be all-in with Him.  I want to love Him like I’ve never loved Him before.  Moreover, I want to want to, not feel like I have to or I am supposed to.

 

I hate these WMD’s where I just kind of bear my soul out there for all to see; I’m still not sure why God wants my miniscule life on display.  But, I do know this . . . He is the best thing this life offers.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I just hate that I still have to keep learning this over and over the hard way.

 

Maybe there is no other way.

 

Lord, you have been so faithful to me.  If grace is giving me what I don’t deserve, and mercy is not giving me what I do deserve, then you have been extremely gracious and merciful to me.  You have still chosen to use me and I’ve beheld your glory.  Thank you for not letting my relationship with you be mundane and routine.  Having said that, Lord, will you clean me up?  I have the world’s crap just all over me.  My mind is just so full of junk.  Help me to empty it.  Help me to concentrate on you.  Help me to draw near to you as close as I’ve ever been before.  I’m sorry for the last 10 months, which to you is absolutely nothing, for you are eternal.  I guess I just miss you.  I love you.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Honest to God

 

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “had you been here my brother would not have died.” –John 11:21

 

If there is one think I wish I had learned sooner in my Christian faith, it is that I can be completely honest with God.  For years, I thought that it was possible to say the wrong thing to Him and make Him mad at me.  I didn’t know that He was “slow to anger.”   I probably read Psalm 103 and went right over that part without even thinking about it.

 

Jesus was told that Martha’s brother, Lazarus, was sick.  He knew that the situation was grave.  Everyone around Him was talking about it and trying to prompt Him to do something about it.  So, what did He do?

 

He let him die.

 

Have you ever been majorly disappointed with God?  Have there been situations He could have totally taken care of and it would have been so easy for Him to intervene and save the day?  Yet, He chose to do nothing.  He let the loved one die.  He let someone else have the job.  He didn’t cure the cancer.  He let me remain sick.  You get the picture.

 

Martha was right in the middle of one of these situations.  She sent word to Jesus that her brother was sick, the message was delivered, and He didn’t come and save Lazarus.  When she speaks to Him the next time, she does something I believe is significant.  She does something that I didn’t know until about 12 years ago that I could do . . . unload my disappointment and frustration on God.

 

I don’t know why it seems that some people receive everything from good fortune to miraculous healings, while others receive the opposite.  Regardless, John 11:21 grants us permission to speak freely and be honest with God.  Not one time does Jesus say, “You don’t talk to me like that!  Don’t you know who I am?”  There were no stern warnings and Martha wasn’t stoned for blasphemy.  She did, however, see probably the greatest miracle that had ever been done until that point in time . . . her brother was brought back to life.

 

No matter what happens to me, if my faith is in God, all things will ultimately work out for my good (Romans 8:28).  It does not mean that I sometimes won’t absolutely hate my present situation.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t doubt.  Without a doubt, I will go through some things that, in my little blip of an existence, I will not understand.  When this happens, the sister of Lazarus has given us permission to speak to God freely.  “God, I don’t think you held up your end of the deal!”  “God, You weren’t here when I needed you.”  At some point, you will understand all that He was doing. Even crazier than that, you will be thankful that He did!

 

Mary had to wait 4 days for her miracle and endure disappointment that might have even been turning into resentment.  Jesus did not cancel His intended miracle because she expressed her frustration to Him. He knew all along exactly what He was going to do.

 

Maybe I have to wait 4 days. Maybe it is 4 weeks, 4 months, 4 years, or 40 years.  Regardless of the wait time, if I love Him, He promises to always be there for me. He promises that all things will work for my good.  I simply have to trust that He will make all things right in His time.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Stirring Yourself

 

And there is none that calls upon thy name; that stirs up himself to take hold of thee:  for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. – Isaiah 64:7

 

The easiest thing in the world to do is neglect God.  It just comes so naturally to our flesh . . . at least it does to my flesh.  We think of anything and everything else to do that is not the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, fasting, praying, and giving. The worst is when this happens for a few days in a row and you feel so distant from God.  Just like in the verse I’m using today, we just chalk it up to God’s fault.   We basically say, “I must have done something wrong and He must just be ready to destroy me because He’s nowhere to be found.”

 

When I feel like this, what should I do?  I love the part that basically says, “Stir up yourself and take hold of me.”  We call on His name and take hold of Him.  Well, how do we do that?  As I type this, I’m tired.  I slept fairly well last night and I’m disappointed that I’m not refreshed and ready to go.  I’m already in that “don’t make me go to work” phase and we aren’t even a quarter of the way done with the year.

 

That’s not good.

 

But, what if I get God involved?  What if His spirit quickens my mortal body and I’m revived?  What if I could not just survive this day, but also thrive? It all starts with calling on His name.  One of the best lines to make this happen is to use the first part of the first verse of Psalm 23:  The Lord is my Shepherd.

 

No matter what I feel like, if I’m a Christian that loves God, I have Him watching over me.  If I’m not as close to the Shepherd as I want to be, I must get away from the fence and move closer to the center where He is. As I walk closer to Him in my mind, I emphasize each word.

 

THE Lord is my Shepherd: There is only one Lord and one God. No one gets into His presence without Jesus Christ.  Thank you, Lord for the salvation I received 27 years ago!  I can’t believe I have access to You!

 

The LORD is my Shepherd: It doesn’t matter what I feel like and what I want to do.  I’ve given you my life . . . You can do with it as you please.  Though you slay me, yet will I trust in you!

 

The Lord IS my Shepherd: Right now . . . at this very moment. Oh how I want to be close to you, Lord!

 

The Lord is MY Shepherd: Are you kidding me?  I can’t believe this is possible!  I can’t believe I’m yours and you are mine!  I am in the flock of the Lord of all the Earth!

 

The Lord is my SHEPHERD: I may not like the journey I’m on. I may not like where I am right now, but my shepherd is leading me.  I trust you, so you can take me where you knows is best.  I refuse to complain.  I will trust you.  You are a good shepherd who has more than taken care of me up until this point of my life.  You are not about to stop now.

 

Through You, Lord . . . I can do all things.  Please give me strength!

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Cartoons and the Ryder Cup

 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

 

I used to love spending the night at my Granny and Papa’s house when I was a kid.  I remember watching The Dukes of Hazzard on Friday night. Then, I’d wake up super early on Saturday and watch Snorkels, Smurfs, and WCW.  Every once in a while though, I remember being super disappointed.  I’d wake up and golf was being televised.  It wasn’t always golf.  Sometimes, it might be tennis, or even the Olympics.  Either way, I thought it stunk because I’d have to watch the other networks’ inferior cartoons.

 

I never really considered all of this until I got up early this past Saturday and watched some of the Ryder Cup.  It struck me how I look forward to this event every two years.  It struck me even more how you can only watch it early every 4 years because it is overseas.  These kind of major sporting events don’t really happen all that frequently.  As a kid, these events would always catch me completely unaware.  I could have taken the time to read the TV Guide and it would have told me, but I just assumed my favorite shows would always be on.

 

What does that have to do with anything?  I’m glad you asked!  One day, our regularly scheduled life will be interrupted.  Like my younger self with the TV Guide, people don’t really take the time to read the Bible so we can be aware of events that God has preordained. The verses I’ve used today say that one day the graves of people who loved God will just split open and they will rise to meet Him in the air.  It also says that there is a generation who will be alive at the time the trumpet sounds. These people will never experience death, but will simply rise to be with the Lord forever and ever.

 

How many people will be like me with my cartoons?  Completely unaware that more important stuff is taking place.  Here we are on Earth thinking that life is just a regularly scheduled program that we experience day after day.  One day, we will draw our last breath.  One day the trumpet will sound.

 

Are you aware?

 

Are you ready?

 

Later

 

Adam

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