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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Trash

Trash

 

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered! – Psalm 32:1

 

This year, I’m responsible for a service-learning element in my middle school teaching job.  Mainly, I take two middle school students and we take care of all the trash in the school.  It took a little while, but we have a pretty sharp routine now and know how to get it all done pretty quickly.

 

At first, I didn’t really like doing it.  It took some getting used to.  Now, I like it.  Last week, I had this really cool revelation from the Holy Spirit right in the middle of getting this job done.

 

Here’s the deal:  If there is only paper in the trash cans, we pretty much just push it down, no work really required.  If there is pretty much dry stuff, we just empty it into a bigger bag.  The slightly tougher job comes when we actually have to change the liners.  If there is food, liquids, or basically any nastiness in there, the whole bag comes out, and we replace it with a new one.

 

I thought of my own spiritual life and how long I allow “trash” to sit in my heart and my mind. Sometimes, there’s just paper in there. To me, this represents the stuff I worry about.  Worry seems to be one of those acceptable sins.  To God, I believe it is a great sin because it means we don’t think He can take care of us and we don’t trust him.  By the end of the week, you need to empty the paper.  Don’t carry that stuff around, as it will eventually spill over onto the floor of your heart.

 

Then there are other nastier things.  You can’t walk through life without hearing foul things.  Sometimes from time to time you see foul things.  Things that stick in your mind like pancake syrup sticks to the trashcan liner.  You have to take care of this immediately.  That stuff will dry and tear the liner quite easily if stress is put upon it.  Talk to God; empty it out on Him.  He will give you a new liner.  That is, He will clean you up so you can start afresh.

 

The most important stuff to empty is food.  If it sits there long enough, it will begin to rot and smell very bad.  To me, this is like the anger and resentment I can carry around.  You might have a couple of days, but soon after that, it had better be taken out. When I have these feelings toward people, I just try to empty it every day.  I tell God that I don’t want to feel this way.  Sometimes it is the same people over and over.  I must refuse to let that stuff sit there and rot.  I cannot let it spoil my soul.

 

When we are done, everything is clean and ready to receive more trash over the next 24 hours.  If I haven’t prayed and emptied my mind out to God, it sure is nice to have the reminder that I have my own trash to take care of.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Brainwashed

 

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  – John 13.5

 

Back in Bible days, there were no Nike shoes.  They wore sandals.  There were no controversial ads, no sandal burnings, and the sandals that you wore represented no political affiliation . . . man, those must have been the days.

 

Anyway, feet would obviously get nasty . . . really nasty.  Between miles of dusty roads and hours of heat and sweat, feet got dirty. It was customary back then to have a servant or someone wash feet when they entered a house.  At the very least, a basin of water was provided so you could do it yourself. Can you hear the mamas back then? “You’ll not track dirt in my clean house!”

 

One day, the disciples had been walking and had dirty feet.  They obviously didn’t want to wash their own feet, nor did they want to wash each other’s feet.  When Jesus stood up to take on the job, one of the disciples got really defensive, “You’ll never wash my feet, Jesus!”  The Lord’s response is amazing to me, “If I don’t wash you, then you have no part with me.”

 

Maybe this is where people adopted the phrase “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” even though it isn’t found in the Bible.  I’ve often thought a lot about how this applies to me in my own life.  Here is my conclusion:

 

I walk in this world. It isn’t my feet that sweat and pick up dirt . . . it is my mind.  I hear things throughout the day that I wish I hadn’t heard.  I hear words I don’t say, and jokes that I should never tell. Sometimes they are from people, sometimes from television and movies, sometimes it is avoidable, and sometimes it isn’t.  Many times after walking in this world for a day or two and not being with God, I want so badly to just get around him.  Sometimes I find that I just can’t.  It’s like I know he will say, “Don’t track that dirt in my house!”

 

So what do I do?

 

Well, I allow him to do what he did for his disciples that day.  I allow him to take the time to pour water on my mind with his word.  I allow him to take my sin and my filth and place it upon himself.  Basically, I let him clean me up.  The question is, will I let Him?  There are really only two responses to this.  I could be like Peter and say, “Oh no, you’ll not clean me up.”  Or, I could just allow him.  I could sit; let him wash me, clean me up, and just cry over the fact that he has to do it so often.  I could be so thankful in my heart and be reminded all over again that salvation comes from God and God alone.  I could be thankful that righteousness comes from him and him alone.  I could be so thankful that He made a way for me, not just to go to Heaven, but also to be clean right here and right now.  He made a way for me to enjoy him right here and right now.

 

It is kind of funny to me that many call Christians weak people in need of a crutch who have been brainwashed.  It many ways, it is true.  He can wash my brain anytime.  I love it when he makes me clean.

 

There is no one like our God.

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Thing About Forgiveness

The Thing About Forgiveness

 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12

 

Years ago when I was coaching girls basketball, I was listening to them say the Lord’s Prayer together.  Out of nowhere one word stuck out like crazy and I’ve never forgotten it . . . the word was “as.”  It hit me that when someone says this prayer to God, they are asking to be forgiven by God with the same mercy and grace that they show to other people.  I thought that was scary.

 

As I walk through this life, I see people who have been done wrong.  I see people who have been hurt and wounded badly by the words and actions of others.  So many have every right to be angry with this world and some of the people in it. But, if someone calls himself or herself a Christian, a forgiving attitude towards others is a must.  If a person refuses to forgive, the Bible is clear that God will refuse to forgive them.  Only God can give you a forgiving heart, you can never earn one by trying harder. The more you realize that you are loved by God, are forgiven by God, and the more you grow in God, forgiving others becomes quite natural and comes much easier.

 

Here is what brought this all back up:  I can be brought to tears laughing at inappropriate stuff.  Mike Tyson memes, Titanic jokes, and even jokes that make fun of famous people that really got hurt in the past can make me laugh so hard my side begins to hurt.  So the other day, someone pointed out, “Adam, you are going to have to ask God to forgive you for laughing at that.”  So, obviously, that was enough to send me soul searching and asking God what I needed to do about this.

 

I have looked at being forgiven by God in two ways.  I pretty much lived the first half of my Christian life asking for forgiveness for everything.  I was constantly going to the throne of grace and asking to be forgiven for lust, foul language, and lets just leave it at plenty of sinful behavior.  At the same time, if people did me wrong, I expected them to apologize to me.  I knew I’d have to forgive them if they asked, but they had sure better ask.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I forgave “as” I was forgiven.  I had to ask God to forgive me all the time, so you had better ask me to forgive you.

 

A great shift happened after I had my own children.  My kids do me wrong from time to time.  I do them wrong and have often had to ask them to forgive me.  One of them is very quick to forgive, the other not so much. Regardless of which one it is, when they ask me to forgive them, I always reply with “I’ll always forgive you,” or “you are always forgiven.”  So when I brought this matter of my laughing at stuff to God, I felt like He said the same words to me that I say to my own children.  I realized that He forgives me now the same way I forgive others.  God is simply applying the Golden Rule with me.

 

I guess there is a time and place for the Christian to constantly be bringing sins to God and asking for forgiveness, but if we have placed our lives in His hands and are His children, is it so hard to believe that He is more forgiving with His children than I am with mine.  No Christian that has lived for any amount of time after conversion has lived sinless. I certainly haven’t.  That begs the question: does my heavenly Father want me asking Him for forgiveness constantly for everything?  As long as my children love me, and even if they say they don’t, I don’t care if they ask for forgiveness.  When they do, it just shows that they want to make sure our relationship is completely restored, is solid, and there is nothing between us that can separate us.

 

There was one particular sin that I asked Him to forgive me for years.  YEARS!  Now, I imagine that one of my own children sinned against me.  What if they said to me, “Daddy, I’m sorry I did that, will you forgive me?”  Now think if they did this every day for a year.  I would constantly be saying, “Look, I forgave you the first time you asked, I forgave you before you asked, you are mine, you are always forgiven, I love you!”

 

If I’m just a regular old Joe and can learn to live, love, and forgive like this, why can we not look at the cross and be even more convinced of His love and His forgiveness towards His children? Live today like you are forgiven. If you are His, you are.

 

Later

 

Adam

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No Longer Afraid

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?  — Psalm 27:1

 

So I’ve been watching a lot of golf since Tiger Woods has returned. I never really liked him that much to begin with, but I find myself pulling for him now.  I guess since he is my age, I feel sorry for him or something . . . who knows?

 

Anyway, I’ve noticed something pretty significant.  He is now playing against the kids that grew up watching him dominate.  They wanted to be like him, and they are.  No longer when Tiger’s name gets on the leaderboard do you see people have meltdowns.  You only see these 20-somethings rise up and take pleasure in finishing the job . . . just like he used to do.  They play golf fearlessly.

 

In the church world, there are very few people who live the Christian life fearlessly.  As a whole, I see the majority of people who call themselves Christians focused on the wrong things.  I see them being the morality police, thinking so highly of their own opinions and the way they do things, and being extremely critical to others.  American Christians today are so focused on being comfortable that they no longer need The Comforter.  The church is dying in the United States, and it is largely because the young generation from 20 years ago didn’t see Christianity as valuable to them at all.  There was no “Tiger” in their lives to show them they could live differently and fearlessly.

 

Thank God I saw a handful of men really live for Jesus Christ.  They were the real deal and when I really thought about what it looked like and what it cost to live for Him, seeing them made me want to do it.  Just like Tiger inspired an entire generation of golfers, a few Christians inspired me.

 

Here is the thing:  If the Lord is my light, my salvation, and the stronghold of my life . . . the Lord of all . . . the God of the Universe, why should I ever be afraid?  How could I not go out today and live fearlessly?  If He is with me and He has ordered my steps, then I have nothing to be afraid of.  I can live focused on the right things.  I can live a life that will make the next generation of Christians see Jesus as a “want to,” certainly not a “have to.”

 

Lord, help us stop caring so much about policing morality and help us just learn to simply walk with You, for You are the greatest thing this life offers.  What is wrong with the American church?  Nobody wants to be a Christian because so few people see real Christians.  Stir up the body of Christ, Lord.  Mobilize us. Help us to understand that you really are with us.  Whom shall we fear if we have you?

 

Later

 

Adam

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