Breakthrough

 

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:32

 

A handful of times, there have been these incredible moments of clarity within my walk with The Lord.  I am right now in the process of having another one.  It’s like in an instant, I have become this brand-new creature.  Old things have passed away and all things have really become new.  It’s like I’m looking at the world for the first time. I just want to take the time to write down just how much God has moved in my heart and life.  In the future, when my heart is in turmoil, I hope to stumble across this writing.  I will remember that God has done it before, and He’ll do it again.

 

I started a 21-day fast on Christmas Day.  I only had a few requests for God, the main one being that He had to take away this hurt that I’ve been feeling ever since leaving the church that I pastored.  Just hours ago, I received my breakthrough . . . it was like it was just handed to me all of a sudden.  I was able to spew out my venom to one of the church leaders that I respected and had probably grown to love the most.  He was my main connection since the beginning of it all.  He was and is the OG . . . to me anyway.  He then unleashed his side of things.  We texted back-and-forth for the rest of the day.  I now totally believe that saying, “There are two sides to every story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.”  The biggest reward of all is that I now have my friend back.

 

I honestly don’t know how Jesus took what He took.  He literally did nothing wrong His entire life; and was placed on a cross for it.  He endured it.  He just took it, and with no vengeful reactions.  When I thought I had done no wrong, it absolutely consumed me.  I could not take it.  I was like James and John, the “sons of thunder,” calling down fire from heaven.  Now that I see my part in all of it, I can take it.  It’s like I don’t mind self-destructing, but nobody else better destroy me.  What is that?  My guess is that it is the pride and selfishness that still resides in my heart and mind.

 

At any rate, it’s over.  Freedom feels absolutely amazing.  Perfect peace and joy is back to resting in my spirit.  I could not be more thankful.  It’s like seeing a perfect, glorious sunrise on the horizon, looking back at the past one more time, and then starting a new journey towards this marvelous light . . . wherever it may lead.

 

For all the prayers last week, thank you!  They worked.

 

Of course they did.

 

When ole Gabriel blows the trumpet

And we rise up in the air

In less time than a split second

I’ll be changed from here to there

 

Where there’ll be no grief or pain

Perfect peace and joy shall reign

Home at last I shall proclaim

Lord, here I am!

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Prayer Request

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.  — Revelation 22:12

 

For two weeks in a row now, I have written WMDs that I don’t get to publish.  I’m going to go ahead and lay it all out there . . . I am bitter in my heart towards some people, and it shows up in my writing.  I am also in a fasted state right now.  I know you aren’t supposed to talk about it, but I’m not doing it for attention.  I don’t really care if I lose some reward for this fast, but I do care if this bitterness remains in my heart.  As the verse up top says, He is coming back . . . I want to be ready!

 

Fasting is kind of like spiritual surgery.  It opens up your spiritual heart, and whatever is in there that does not need to be there is just laid wide open for you to see and cut out.   I know many times I don’t want to deal with my spiritual issues, or worse, many times I excuse them away.  But here, right now, my soul feels split wide open and I’m allowing God to cut away as He sees fit.  It’s not fun, it’s definitely not comfortable, but I know it is necessary.

 

Now, here is the best part:  100% of the time, when you’ve said that last prayer in a fasted state and have thanked Him for helping you and cutting on you, it’s like surgery is complete.  You do have this healing period much like having stitches after surgery and needing to rest and all that.  But, on the other side, you don’t struggle as much with whatever was cut out.  It’s like it really was removed and you can move forward.

 

Here is another crazy thing:  God is probably using me more right now than He ever has.  It would be so easy for me to keep ministering with all this junk in my heart and think that God was okay with it.  But I just finished reading the entire Bible from when I started back in October 2018.  When I read that last chapter . . . time is so short.  I am going to be standing before Him before I know it.  I want that reward.  I want my heart to be pure when I see Him face to face.

 

So, in 10 years of writing, I don’t think I’ve ever flat out asked for you guys to pray for me.  I might have, but I’m not going to search through 500 WMDs to find out.  Anyway, pray that God gets ALL this spiritual cancer out of my heart.  Pray that I continue in this new decade to write only what He would have me write.  Pray that one day at a time, God will continue to lead, guide, and direct me.  Pray that I get to grab ahold of that reward.  I want nothing more than for my work and my life to please Him. I want nothing more than to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

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A New Decade

 

Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night.  Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.”  — Genesis 1:14

 

I started writing WMDs in 2009.  This means that I began this ministry at the end of the 2000s.  I have been writing for all of the 2010s . . . a full decade.  My kids at the start of this past decade were 1 and 3 years old.  They are now 11 and 13.  A lot happens in a decade.  Lord willing, I will actually retire in this upcoming decade.  I probably won’t, but I actually could.  That is crazy to me.  I just wanted to reflect a bit on this past decade.

 

One thing I do know is that I have drawn so much closer to The Lord over the last 10 years.  A really strange paradox about God is that the more you know Him, the more you realize you don’t really know Him.  He is so vast.  I feel like a drop of water in all of the oceans and lakes combined compared to Him.  Yet, He cares about me.  He loves me.  He walks with me when I take my prayer walks.  He talks with me when I kneel down to pray.  When I go days without doing these things and go back to them, I just think, “Why in the world would I ever skip this?”  He prompts me to do right.  He gently lets me know when I’ve done wrong.  He has never let sin overtake me.  He convicts me so gently and asks me to just hand it all over to Him.  His love for me is absolutely immeasurable!  Oh, how I want to love Him back!

 

For six years of this past decade, He allowed me to pastor a church.  How crazy is that?  The entire time, I’ve never felt more unworthy to do something in my life.  How does a math teacher from the alternative school get a chance to do something like that?  I am incredibly grateful for that time.  I got to know some incredible people.  I grew so much.  I got in the habit of studying and praying consistently.  Before, I might would take weeks off.  As a pastor, Sunday was coming so quickly.  I didn’t have time to be mad at God, mad at the world, or mad at people . . . Sunday was coming.  I had to be clean.  I had to be prepared.  I loved it!  I loved my spot at the altar on the left side of the church where I’d go right before I preached.  I’d plead with God to remove anything that didn’t need to be in my heart, mind, and life.  I’d ask to be filled up with the Spirit.  I’d forgive if I needed to forgive.  I’d make right if I needed to make right.  The last thing I wanted was to be some tainted vessel up there speaking for the God I love.  I loved preparing messages at the church.  I had another favorite spot at the altar where I would ask Him to tell me what to say.  Not one time did He ever deny me.  He is amazing!  He is God!  He can do whatever He wants, yet He chooses to care about me?  On my last Sunday there, I sat at my favorite spot and sang “I Give Myself Away” by William McDowell.  I still think about it because it was so powerful.  So many gathered around me and Tonya as we tearfully said goodbye.  It was a fitting close to a pretty killer six years.

 

A whole decade is behind us.  What are you going to do with the 2020s?  My kids will be 21 and 23 at the end of this decade!  I will be 54 years old.  I think of that Tracy Lawrence song, “Time Marches On,” because man, it does.  I think of Bob Seger, “20 years, where’d they go?”  The truth is . . . all of this is so temporary.  At the end of it all there will only be one thing that matters:  What did I do with Jesus?  Did I get to know Him?  Did I love Him?  Did I fractionally grasp just how much He loves me?

 

Lord, You are amazing!  This is life like no other . . . this is the Great Adventure!  I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I had chosen to hang on to my life as a 16-year old kid and not give it to You.  I’d be so boring.  You have led me to a beautiful, wonderful wife.  You have given me two children that I love and adore.  I do ask for Your help in this decade.  They will be leaving our nest near the end of it.  I’ve only asked one thing, Lord:  that they really know You.  That they really have the Holy Spirit living inside them and that they impact souls for You.  I pray that many souls enter the kingdom of Heaven simply because they exist and they know You.  I pray for my marriage.  I pray that Tonya and I will get closer and closer every year.  I pray that I continue to love her more and more.  I would have never thought that loving her like I love her now was possible.  I pray for my future ministry.  I don’t care if I’m in the public’s eye or in the wilderness by myself, Lord.  As long as You are there, what else do I need?  You are the God of it all!  One more thing:  Will you bless like crazy every person who reads this today?  Will you allow the Holy Spirit to just jump off the screen and breathe fresh life into the readers?  Bless them, Lord.  Continue to give me just the right words at just the right time to help as many as possible through this little devotional ministry.  Continue to allow me to pray with people who were touched right in the middle of Ingles, Wal-Mart, or even in front of the post office.  Make this the decade of the third Great Awakening!  There is and never will be anyone like our God!  I love You, Lord.  Thank You for giving me another set of 10 years.

 

Many things about tomorrow

I don’t seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow

And I know who holds my hand 

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Prince of Peace

 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given:  And the government shall be on His shoulder:  and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

 

Let me tell you what is nice:  Just sitting here by the fire, looking at my two lit Christmas trees with all the beautifully wrapped presents underneath (except for the one I wrapped).  I woke up with perfect peace in my heart.  There is not a care in the world right now.  I’m sure I could drum them up if I really wanted to, but why in the world would I want to do that?

 

I tried to think of this entire “Prince of Peace” verse before I looked it up.  I didn’t realize it was five things that our Lord Jesus is called in this verse.  When you read them, why in the world are there people on this planet that do not care to know Him?

 

He’s Wonderful:  Flat out awesome.

He’s the best Counsellor:  You can talk to Him anytime and anywhere.

He’s Mighty God:  He crazy powerful and can do anything.

He’s the Everlasting Father: He lasts forever and ever and is the key to eternal life.

He’s the Prince of Peace:  This is found nowhere else.

 

It is this peace that I can’t help but focus on this morning.  Even as I try to remain in this place of perfect peace, evil is beginning to whisper in my ear the cares and hurts of this world.  I’m not going to listen . . . not today.  Right now, I know where I’m going at the end of it all.  Right now, I’m blessed beyond measure.  Right now, I know who I belong to.  Nobody and nothing can take this moment away.

 

I remember being at a little church of God at this perfect moment when needed Him so desperately.  They sang this song called “Here I am.”  Here is the second verse:

 

When ole Gabriel blows the trumpet

And we rise up in the air

In less time than a split second

We’ll be changed from here to there

 

Where there’ll be no grief or pain

Perfect peace and joy shall reign

Home at last I shall proclaim

Lord, here I am.

 

All this was gift-wrapped in a manger 2,000 years ago.

 

And that is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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My Heart

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight.  O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  – Psalm 19:14

 

Lately, I have been taking some verses that I have memorized and looking up the context surrounding them.  I remember starting a while back with John 3:16. I was blown away that we only have John 3:16 because a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and asked questions.  I wondered if that verse would exist if Nicodemus hadn’t had the guts to do that.

 

Verse 14 is the last verse of Psalm 19.  Here is the first verse: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”  This morning, I believe the psalmist is noticing how one can simply look to the skies and see God as the pure, perfect, and amazing Creator that He is.  The skies that He created say absolutely nothing audible, but man they sure do speak and magnificently Glorify Him.  All the psalmist is wanting in verse 14 is for his own life to be like that.  I think he is saying, “Just by existing, I wish I glorified God like that.”

 

As I sit and contemplate my own heart right now, I don’t like it.  Things just aren’t going my way right now and I’m letting it all get to me.  It isn’t huge things, so don’t go feeling sorry for me.  Honestly, If I listed them out, I would probably roll my own eyes after reading them and say, “Really, Adam?”  I’m just complaining a lot.  I have sins that I thought were put to rest years ago resurfacing and tempting me like crazy.  I feel like a sheep in the midst of wolves.  I know the Good Shepherd will not let them harm me, but dang, they are right there in sight, they are scary, and I know they could absolutely destroy me if that invisible hand lifted.

 

As I type this WMD, I’m just crazy aware that I’m speaking in God’s Name.  That is terrifying.  How many times has it not been terrifying?  How many times have I written simply to vent my own feelings rather than to honor God?  I don’t know, but am I ever sorry, and man, do I want the words of my mouth to be pleasing to Him right now.  In fact, I’m scratching the WMD I was about to post simply because it is tinged with malice.  You probably wouldn’t even be able to find it, but I know it is there and I hate that it has a place in my heart right now.

 

Lord, I have seen some amazing sunrises and sunsets.  I love how the heavens glorify You.  Like the psalmist, I want to be like them.  Please help me.  You are the great heart cleaner upper, and mine needs power washed.  May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

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Just Us

 

And they proposed two:  Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart, show us which one you have chosen.  – Acts 1:21-22

 

One of the first things the early church did was replace Judas as the twelfth apostle.  They only had one requirement for the candidates:  They wanted someone who had been there the whole time.  Someone who had been along for the whole ride starting at John’s Baptism and ending at the resurrection.  Two guys came to their minds; a guy named Matthias, and then this other guy who seemed to have three possibilities of names.  The apostles had no clue who to choose, so they prayed a prayer that sounds a lot like a prayer most church leaders would pray today.  They cast lots, Matthias was chosen, and that was that.

 

When I read that this morning, I felt like there was a winner and a loser.  I wondered if one was absolutely elated while the other felt rejected.  I wondered if Matthias felt like he landed the job of a lifetime while Joseph felt like he missed a huge opportunity by what would amount to a coin toss today.  If that was the way it was, then I have felt both of these men’s emotions.  I know what it feels like to be accepted and invited in to lead with a group of folks.  I also know what it is like to hear, “Sorry, we are going in a different direction.”  I just had to ask God, “How did Joseph feel about all of it?”

 

This past Sunday, the Lord allowed me to lead worship at a little church in Walhalla called Open Door Baptist Church.  There were two defining moments for me.  The first came during the second song.  God shrunk the whole world and enclosed all my surroundings and for a moment it was just us.  I had enough awareness to know that I didn’t want to just fall down and cry, so I just kept singing with all my heart, “Be high and lifted up, be high and lifted up, be high and lifted up, Jesus.  It’s You we glorify, it’s You we’re lifting high, Your Name we glorify.”  All I can say is that it was some place beyond wonderful.  The next moment came when I was singing the last song.  The entire congregation was singing way more wonderfully than I was, so I just stepped back, looked at the screens with them, and joined them as they sang, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise.”  It had to be at least a fraction of a percent as wonderful as it is going to be in heaven.  We must get new and glorified bodies to go to heaven because I don’t think we could take the worship there if we remained in these.

 

I believe God did this with me so I would not think that Matthias and Joseph viewed this choosing of an apostle as a competition.  Those two guys were good either way.  God showed me through these two moments in these songs what it was really all about and what it remains to be all about to this day.  If I am Matthias and am chosen to lead with a group of men in ministry, then do it for His glory.  If I am not chosen, then just remain faithful and pursue the pure presence and purpose of the Almighty God.  Both men were and still are more than conquerors through Him.

 

You see, there was no winner and loser on this day in history.  In fact, if there was, the one we think was the winner really won the inferior prize.  Joseph had a surname which many must have used to address him.  I’m willing to bet God always called him by his surname.  I’m almost certain that God separated the syllables every time He got his attention.  “Hey, come spend some time with Me . . . Just us.”

 

Lord, if you want me in public ministry again, I’ll gladly go where you lead.  But Lord, if you want to hide me from the world and let it be just us, then I have to say that sounds incredibly appealing.  Thank you for answering my prayers this past week in ways that far exceed what I could think or imagine.  Thank you for teaching me that there is no competition with You.  Help all who read this today and all who would call themselves Christian to really get it.  Draw us all individually to a place of one on one.  Change our hearts so that our number one desire is alone time with You.  No audiences.  No congregations.  No crowds.  No small group. Those things are good and are sometimes even wonderful, but they could never replace just me and You.  

 

Just us. 

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Keep Moving Forward

 

To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.  – Luke 1:79

 

In this verse, Zechariah has just received his ability to talk again.  He is singing praises to God.  The angel of the Lord had made him mute for months because he refused to believe what was being told to him.  The day his son John the Baptist was born, he was able to speak again.  He is excited about what God is going to do through his son.  I love this verse as I read it today.  I just read it over and over and marvel.

 

I have sat under four different pastors for the last couple of months.  I’ve needed counseling.  I’ve needed to spew out in anger and say exactly what is in my heart and mind.  There was just no way that I could keep all that hurt inside.  In response, I’ve heard them all return stories of great hurt.  I found out quickly that I’m not even close to alone.  I even found out that my story really pales in comparison to others.  Today, I want to allow John the Baptist to do what he was born to do.  If you are in a dark place, the words contained in this one verse can lead you out.  It led me out.  This past Sunday, I believe my wounds completely healed.  I didn’t know that I went through this process, but now that I know, I believe I’m supposed to write about it this morning so someone here can walk through it intentionally.

 

To give light to those who sit in darkness

 

First and foremost, it is very important that you do not sit in darkness.  If you are sitting, you aren’t moving.  It is absolutely crazy how if you get hurt, especially by people within the church walls, it paralyzes you.  You can’t move forwards, backwards, or sideways.  The worst part of it all is that you just sit and stew in darkness.  Darkness constantly whispers in your ear reminding you of all your failures, telling you that you just need to quit, and making sure that you pour out only anger and hatred towards those who you perceive did you wrong.  This is the worst place possible to be sitting.

 

and in the shadow of death

 

As soon as I see the words “the shadow of death”, I think about Psalm 23.  It says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”    You have to go from sitting to walking.  You’ve got to get up and move.  I remember a specific time about a month ago that I wanted to quit.  In my mind I had been walking through of the shadow of death.  I thought of turning back.  Immediately this thought popped in my head, “What if the distance forward is less than the distance backward?”  I understood that I would be walking either way.  I could not bear the thought of going backwards and that distance being longer than the distance if I had just kept moving forward.  Know this:  When surrounded by darkness, you have got to walk and walk until you get past the shadow of death.  You cannot stop moving.  It is so easy to stop, sit, and sulk.  You also need to keep your mouth shut.  While you are here, you can say things you are almost certainly going to regret and have to apologize for later.  Only talk to people you can absolutely trust and you know will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

 

and to guide us to the path of peace.

 

So this past Sunday I sat through a sermon called “Peace on Earth.”  Absolutely everything felt tailor made to me.  I just marveled as the Holy Spirit of God just flowed right through me as if I were brand new in the Lord.  Peace rested on me once again.  It was so simple.  I realized that it had been right there in my reach all along.  My circumstances didn’t change a bit, but man did they ever shrink into nothing.  When His peace comes upon you, you just know that nothing else on this planet matters.  You just know that peace is not found in anything this world offers.

 

Peace is found in Him.

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