Fruit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .  — Galatians 5:22

I don’t know why I’ve been so aware of this lately, but people in general are pretty much miserable.   Very few people even feign happiness anymore.  When you talk to them, they all believe pretty much that a change in their environment or a change in their circumstances would make things better and, I guess, make them happier.  I remember living like this not too long ago.  I can still get caught up in this type of thinking from time to time. Fortunately, I am better at recognizing it, stopping it, and moving past it.  

Here is the thing: The Bible says that loving people that you don’t necessarily like or want in your life, having joy in your heart regardless of your current situation, and a true peace of mind are byproducts of living by faith in God and being filled with His Holy Spirit.  One can not simply manufacture love for someone he or she doesn’t like.  Neither can they manufacture joy or peace in their hearts and minds.  These are fruits produced by living God’s way.  

Over the years, I’ve seen teachers, even Christian teachers, desire for certain students to leave their class and never return.  Not one thought goes into the fact that God may have placed that student in their path to make a difference in that student’s life.  I guarantee you 100% of the time, that student is just as unhappy with his or her overall circumstances as you are with yours.  The only command we are given towards them is to love them.  You, on your own, may feel that you can’t do that, but God, through you, can.  We simply have to allow Him to do just that.  He loved you and didn’t give up on you when you weren’t all that desirable, right?

At the end of the day, don’t we all want to enjoy our work?  Don’t we all want to go home feeling good about what we do?  Don’t we want to have energy to do other things that we enjoy doing? 

I do, and I’ve learned that if I stay focused on things that I can’t do anything about, I stay miserable and I stay tired.  But, when I focus on what God has placed right in front of me to deal with, and I simply do my best to love my students and joyfully teach the subject that I love, then man, I leave my work so much happier and so much more content.  

What about you?  How do you leave work on most days?

Later. 

Adam

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The Grace of God

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

 

Grace:  The undeserved love, mercy and favor of God on our lives, not because we earned it, but because God simply desires for us to have it.

 

Why do you believe what you believe?  Every individual must ask himself/herself the answer to that question.  Even if a person has no belief at all, they have reasoned in their heart and mind that all religions are simply wrong.  No matter what you believe, why do you believe it?

 

Right now, there is a buffet of belief systems to choose from.  They can’t all be right.  Each system has too different of an outcome to be correct.  What does happen when you die?  Many believe there will be eternal sexual pleasure, many believe they will rule their own planet somewhere in the universe, many believe they will be reincarnated and return as something else, and many others believe absolutely nothing happens after you draw that last breath.  Within each of these belief systems are a LARGE percentage of people! We are talking millions and millions of people.

 

Which system is right? That was the biggest question for me. Depending on where I was born on this planet, I would have been exposed to a very different religion or philosophy. Would I believe whatever I would have been taught depending on the region I was born?  I happened to struggle with this for a while and wanted to know if Christianity was right.  I wondered if I only believed in God because I was born in the buckle of the Bible belt.  I searched the basics of each religion, which was a lot harder to do in the non-Internet days, or at least more time consuming.

 

So, what was my conclusion? Why do I sit here and type that absolutely every other belief system, religion, philosophy, and whatever else someone believes is wrong?

 

Well, every religion and philosophy outside of Christianity requires you to perform.  Your eternity/next life is determined by how well you do in this life.  This, of course, is assuming you desire something better in your next life . . . or at least an equal existence to what you have right now.  At the core of every belief system, there seems to be this idea of doing well enough during your lifetime to earn your next life’s reward.

 

For me, grace quickly smashed all the others.  No other religion or philosophy wraps the best it has to offer in a box and says, “Here! I have a gift for you.  All you have to do is receive it.”  All of the others have strings attached.  Grace makes everyone with breath in his or her lungs eligible for salvation.  It does not matter if you are rich or poor.  It does not even matter if you are old and have almost no time or energy left in this life to do a single good deed or undo any wrong.  If you reach out and receive it . . . it is yours.  It is yours not because you are good, but because He is good.  Absolutely no Christian gets to boast about his or her salvation.  It was given to us.  Given!  I didn’t earn it.  I didn’t deserve it.  But I did receive it.  It remains 100% without a doubt, the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

 

Why in the world would the God of all the Universe give His unmerited grace to a clueless 16-year old teenager who would go on to make a countless number of bad decisions throughout his lifetime?

 

Grace.

 

Thank you, God that I don’t have to earn my salvation.  I’m just not that good.  But you, you are so good.  Thank you for the free gift of my salvation.  I look so forward to the day when my faith becomes sight.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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In the Beginning

 

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

 

So I was looking in this science book the other day.  For whatever reason, I flipped over to the “Origin of the Universe” section.  It said there were three main theories of how the universe came into existence.  Now, I remember my middle school science teacher telling me the theories and, even though I didn’t really care at the time, a Creator was mentioned as a possibility.  However, in this particular book, any kind of “intelligent design” was not mentioned.

 

I started surfing the Internet to dive in a little deeper.  It seems that new theories are constantly being thought up as to just how all this got started.  One of them that intrigued me was drummed up 15 years ago and called “Time’s Arrow.” I have to quote a paragraph from the article:

 

It is almost as if our Universe were fine-tuned to start out far from equilibrium so it could possess an arrow of time.  But, to a physicist, invoking fine-tuning is akin to saying “a miracle occurred.”  For Carroll, the challenge was finding a process that would explain the Universe’s low entropy naturally, without any appeal to incredible coincidence or (worse) a miracle.”  (Discover: Science for the Curious.  April, 2008 Issue)

 

Here this guy is basically saying, “I have to come up with a way to explain this without a miracle occurring.”  I couldn’t help but wonder why men try so hard to explain existence without God. Why do so many people want the first verse of the Bible to be untrue?

 

Here is the only thing I can think of:  If Genesis 1:1 is not true, then Hebrews 9:27 is not true either.  It says, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this to face judgment.”  If I can really believe that God didn’t create all this, then that means He didn’t create me.  Therefore, I am a random accident and my actions and choices have no eternal consequences.

 

I can actually see how this would be comforting, or at the very least, numbing.  But, here is the truth: At some point in the next century I will draw my last breath.  The Bible says that I will stand before God and be judged by Him.  That is either true, or it isn’t.  So far, in 27 years of following Jesus, there is not one single thing that I’ve learned from the Bible that did not turn out to ultimately bless me when I put it into practice.  I have not proven one single thing that God has said in His Holy Book to be wrong.  Here is my conclusion and, I guess, my theory: If one reads the Bible and puts it into practice, they will absolutely know the meaning of what it means to be truly blessed . . . in this life and the next.

 

Why would anyone gamble with eternity?

 

Later

 

Adam

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What Started it All

 

Commit your plans to the Lord, and they will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3

 

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

 

Almost 10 years ago, a few teachers from Tamassee-Salem Middle/High School got together before school and prayed.  All teachers had been invited, but I knew the only ones that would show up were the ones who were serious about calling themselves Christians.  Originally, we tried to meet on Wednesday mornings before school.  When it got more and more difficult to meet, I started e-mailing these teachers things to think about along with a list of people and things to pray for.  Except for a few weeks here and there, I have sent a Wednesday Morning Devotional to a group of people every Wednesday since then.

 

So WMD was started for teachers who called themselves Christians to really make a difference in public schools.  What is stopping you from asking God to fill you with His Holy Spirit before you leave home? Why would you not praise Him on your way to work?  Could you say a prayer, out loud, while you touch each desk in your room before your students even come in?  Wouldn’t it be a good idea to ask God to make you the teacher He wants you to be?  I’m ashamed to admit that as I look at the first WMD I ever wrote, I’ve just not done these things consistently like I should. No wonder we are losing the spiritual battle.  The first WMD I ever wrote was sent to about six people.  Here is what it said:

 

We talked this morning about committing “whatever we do” to the Lord.  If we do this, our plans WILL succeed! (Proverbs 16:3)  I’ve made an effort to memorize this verse and say it every time I plan a lesson or start a lesson.  We talked about the difference in submitting plans and committing plans. We have to submit plans to show on paper what we are going to do.  But, when we commit these plans, we are executing them as if the Lord is our boss instead of just people (Colossians 3:23).  I know we have only had two of these meetings so far, but they have been a great encouragement.  Let’s pray that more and more will come and that we will call upon the Lord to help us. We may not be able to pray inside school and during class time, but we certainly can on our own time.  If we do, I believe God will be honored and He will help us.

 

Lord, Christians who actually take time to pray are becoming scarce. Send revival to us, Lord!  Make us a people of prayer.  I hate seeing us lose so badly.  The world and evil has upped its game on our children while we sit idly by and watch.  The children see no real deal Christians in action.  They only see powerless church attendees who are struggling just to get through the days and wishing for the weekend.  Make the church a powerful force again, Lord!  Help us to play some offense and quit getting our brains kicked in trying to play defense all the time.  With you as The Captain of our team, how can we lose?

 

Thy will be done, here on earth, as it is in Heaven.

 

Amen

 

Pray, church! Pray!  Make it the priority of your life!

 

Adam

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When Bad Things Happen

 

Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?– Job 4:7

 

In this verse Eliphaz is speaking to his friend Job.  I think he has come to comfort Job, but early in the visit, he is giving some bad theology to his suffering friend.  He is basically saying, “Job, you are suffering because you must have done something to offend God.”

 

There are times where I have believed this.  It is basically the Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of Karma where your actions eventually get what they deserve, good or bad.  The last time I believed this was when my wife and I experienced our second miscarriage.  I was certain that my two babies died because of my past sexual sins.  I just knew God was punishing me and, what could I say? I deserved it.

 

Job teaches us something though.  The Bible is clear that he was an upright and blameless man.  Yet, evil is convinced that Job is only upright and blameless because God is protecting him supernaturally.  God decides to give evil its way with Job.  Job loses his family and his health so suddenly.  Yet, in all that, Job never blames or curses God.  He wishes he hadn’t have been born, he questions God, but he never denies Him or blames Him for what is happening.

 

Eliphaz believed in the same God as Job, but He believed wrongly.  Surely he had heard the story of Cain and Abel.  Abel didn’t do anything wrong, but Cain still killed him.  He had a simple example of where the “upright was cut off.” I know Eliphaz didn’t have the first two chapters of Job like we do, but right before his very eyes, was an innocent man suffering.  In the distant future, Jesus, God Himself, would be sentenced wrongly, beaten, and crucified.

 

Whether we like it or not, suffering is a part of this world.  Nobody is immune, though it does seem that there are different degrees of suffering.  I believe it is all a test.  Can you learn to trust God, serve God, and love God during your brief sojourn on this planet?  No matter what, can you believe that “all things work together for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”? (Romans 8:28) If you do, others have no choice but to be amazed at your countenance and attitude.  It points to the fact that there really is a peace that passes all human understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

 

It is interesting to me that the early church rejoiced when they suffered.  They counted it pure joy to be able to suffer as their Lord did. Yet, here we are trying to avoid suffering for dear life.  A Christian who embraces suffering is unstoppable.  May we stop looking for answers that we will never find this side of eternity and just trust, love, and serve God with everything we’ve got.  Our time is so short.

 

Adam

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Prerequisite

 

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. — Luke 9:23

 

I remember being in college before I knew what a prerequisite was.  I guess I could define it if I was asked, but I really thought about what it meant for the first time when a professor told me I could take a class out of order if he wrote me a recommendation.  I don’t even remember if he actually had to do that for me, but I do remember the vocabulary word being added to my brain.

 

I was reading a conversation between an American preacher and a Chinese preacher.  The Chinese preacher was asked, “What do you think the biggest difference is in our churches?”  He simply said, “What you Americans call sanctification, our people call the prerequisite.”

 

I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this.  This was so true in my own life.  I was saved at 16, but for 5 years I didn’t follow Jesus or even take the time to read His Word.  I denied myself no worldly pleasure, and I certainly didn’t take up my cross and die daily to myself.  I do remember one of my first acts of obedience; breaking up with a girlfriend because I knew it was what God required of me.  Years after that, I had to learn to teach math “as unto the Lord.” Seven years after becoming an educator, I decided to be a teacher who honored God.  It totally transformed how I felt and still feel about going to work. Immediately after that first year of doing it for Him, I wondered why I didn’t do it sooner.

 

There were 13 years that passed between my getting saved and becoming a decent follower of God.  Here in America, we would say that God was putting me through the process of sanctification.  He is slowly making me into His image.  Make no mistake . . . He is!  But do we American preachers allow it to take far too long?  By allowing people to “receive Jesus into their hearts,” which is nowhere found in the Bible, do we rob them?  Would it not be better to simply do as Jesus did and flat out lay the prerequisites on the table?  Deny yourself!  Take up your cross every single day!  Follow Him! These prerequisites have nothing to do with fixing yourself or cleaning yourself up, only Jesus can do that, but it has everything to do with doing the things He says to do regardless of the way you feel.

 

Here is what hurts to think about:  In China, in order to become a Christian in the first place, you must make this decision to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.  You count the cost, respond to the call, and go for it.  What took me 13 years to decide and figure out after becoming a Christian through the American system, they decide before they even leave the starting gate.  No wonder they thrive over there.  No wonder they have a love for Him and His Word that we can only admire from afar.

 

I say that to say this: If you are “struggling” with gossip, with laziness, with pornography, with sexual immorality, with loving people who aren’t like you, with arguing incessantly about political views, with being a jerk, with letting go of material possessions, with letting go of worry, with letting go of the love of money, basically with anything that the Bible calls sinful, lay it all down right now and really follow Jesus.  Don’t hate your job, whatever it may be, do it for Him!  Work like you are working for the Lord, not for men!  Here, in America, we think God is supposed to wave His magic wand and make us all of a sudden tolerant of the things that we really hate.  In China, you simply drop it all in the first place and follow knowing that your life could end at any moment because of your faith. They really believe that to die . . . is gain.  They really believe that, whatever happens, God is orchestrating it all for their good. They, unlike us, cannot be inconvenienced out of Christianity.

 

Lord, help us to follow you!  Like, really follow you!

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Underground Church

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  — John 20:19

 

I’ve been reading a good bit about some underground churches.  Underground churches are simply groups of believers that have to meet in secret.  They have no building, house, or any other consistent place of meeting because, if government officials catch them, they will be thrown into prison, or even executed.

 

One particular group in North Korea keeps the Bible that they have amongst their fishing gear. They go out in the boat as far as they can.  Only then do they pull out the tattered copy of the Word of God.  Fear strikes them when any other boat comes into sight.  Is it the police?  Will we be thrown into a prison camp for the next 15 years?  These thoughts are consistently on their minds.

 

In one story, another boat does come up to them.  “Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,” he says.  After breathing a sight of relief, this group of fishermen each receives a brand new Bible from the man in the boat.  They hold it to their chests so tightly, close their eyes, and breathe praises to God.

 

Something in me just lights up when I read stuff like that.  For a moment, I look at my Bible differently.  I look on my shelf at the other dozen or so Bibles that I have . . . some that didn’t even get touched in 2018.

 

I did have a really cool moment recently.  The very first Bible I was given was lost for about the past year or so.  Right after I got saved, my best friend gave the Bible to me and had my name engraved on it (something absolutely zero underground churches would do).  Even though it was about 5 years before I actually read it, when I did start reading it, it was the Bible that God used to change my heart so that I actually wanted to live for Jesus Christ.  It is beaten up pretty badly, but my heart still lights up when I see it.   In a season of fasting, I prayed, “Lord, please place that Bible back into my hands.”  I just so happened to be looking for something in an inconspicuous place, I felt something, grabbed a hold of it, pulled it out . . . and there it was!  For probably 20 seconds I held it to my chest tightly, closed my eyes, and breathed praises to God.

 

I got a taste, albeit a very small taste, of what these guys get to feel when they receive a copy of God’s Word.

 

Would to God that we would cherish, really cherish, His Word.

 

Later

 

Adam

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