The Exclusivity of Christianity

 

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

 

This one verse is so offensive to so many. Every religion or belief system believes that they have the secret to inheriting a better afterlife. Some make it about following rules; others make it about making sure your good outweighs your bad. Christianity is way different. Its foundation is Jesus Christ. No matter what you’ve done, how you’ve lived, or how bad you think you are, Jesus says there is no amount of work that can undo it all. A person’s only hope is to put their trust in Him.

 

Now that I’ve been on the other side of this process for 26 years, I see the beauty of it all. In those early days of trying to be a “good” Christian, my efforts were so futile. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, my efforts never produced heart change. If I chose to forego a sin, it was begrudgingly. Often times, I would complain to God. I would say stuff like, “My friends are out there having fun while I’m here alone reading Your Word.”

 

This went on for 5 years or so. Finally, I said the prayer that I believe changed everything: “Lord, if I’m going to change . . . You are going to have to change me.” For the first time in my life, I threw myself at His mercy. I really placed myself in His hands. There has been nothing like seeing Him literally change my heart’s desires. He really does all the work in a person’s heart. He changes people’s desires so they don’t have to keep His commands, they want to.

 

What about you? Are you still hoping that your good will outweigh your bad and that your afterlife will adjust accordingly. There is zero evidence in the Bible that this will happen. Adam and Eve sinned one time by simply breaking a dietary law and they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. God allows NO sin into His perfect Kingdom. That is scary because I’ve sinned and you’ve sinned.

 

So what do we do?

 

Trust Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Why Fast?

Why Fast?

 

When you fast . . . – Matthew 6:16

 

Jesus does not say, “If you ever feel like fasting . . ..” I’m pretty sure nobody is ever excited about fasting (especially Americans). There are basically three spiritual disciplines: Giving, praying, and fasting. As far as giving and praying, I would venture to say most Christians have no problem with those. I do believe at the end of our lives, we will wish we had given more and prayed more, but for the most part, Christians do not have a problem with those (whether they actually do them or not). Fasting on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. Once you decide in your heart and mind to deny your body food . . . your body basically hates you for it. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Nonetheless, Jesus assumes His disciples will do it.

 

I humbled my soul with fasting. – Psalm 69:10

 

Over and over, this seems to be the biggest reason I need to fast. I don’t realize it when I start the fast, but I sure realize it as the fast goes on.   I am a seriously prideful dude. At the moments I’m the most miserable, and still trying to act like I’m not miserable to follow His commands in the rest of Matthew 6:16, I realize how much I need Him. I realize how thankful I am that He provides more than enough food for me for the other 344 days of the year that I actually do get to eat. I know I say the blessing and thank Him for my meals, but it’s just different . . . you really realize how good God is to you. You more than realize how dependent you are on Him.

 

So we fasted and besought our God for this, and He listened to our entreaty. – Ezra 8:23

 

In addition to humbling myself, I am asking God for something that is absolutely impossible for me. I know that nothing is impossible for Him. Therefore, I fast. It worked for Ezra and the Israelites traveling back to their homeland after 70 long years in exile. I know it will work for me. I will bring my petition before Him and absolutely know that in His time and in His way, He will answer. I can rest assured that His answer will be best. I can rest assured that He has heard me because every time I so badly want to eat, I am reminded of why I’m doing this in the first place. Therefore, I go to Him and He helps. There really is food that people know not of (John 4:32).

 

So . . . why fast?

 

  1. Jesus said “when,” not “if”.
  2. To really humble yourself before Him.
  3. You need a God-sized miracle.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Proclaiming a Fast

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. — Ezra 8:21

 

Twelve years ago tomorrow, my first child, Caroline, was 7 months away from being born. We had already miscarried twice, so I was more than worried about this pregnancy. I remember reading Ezra 8:21 and catching the words “and our children.”   I thought of the journey that our little girl would have to make from her mom to this world and impulsively declared a fast. I added these words, “and God, I will fast every year for 21 days if you will give Caroline safe passage.” I have kept my vow, but even now, right before the fast begins, I always have a bit of, “Why in the world did I say that?” going on. Of course I feel horrible for thinking this, but fasting is flat out, no fun.

 

Nevertheless, I believe that God has used these fasting seasons to grow me exponentially. If not for fasting, I believe there is no way that I actually become a minister of the Word. Somehow, fasting is like Miracle Grow for your spirit. You don’t know really how it is happening, but in the afflicting of yourself, you change. You come out on the other side different. You come out better. You come out closer to Him that you were before.

 

I am amazed at how very little material there is on fasting. I pretty much read the same books every year. I read Jentezen Franklin’s book, “Fasting.” I also read Arthur Wallis’s book “God’s Chosen Fast.” I like his book because he gives practical advice on what you can expect to feel like as the days go by. I’ve been looking for a book called “Revival Now Through Prayer and Fasting,” and it is a really hard book to find. I did finally find one for $20, but three people on Amazon thought it was worth $75! I’m really looking forward to receiving, reading, and applying it.

 

I’m pretty sure the reason nobody writes these books is because so few people actually fast. I can only imagine how few books American Christians buy on fasting. There are tons of books on the physical benefits of fasting, but not so many spiritual books on the spiritual aspect. I would venture to say that more non-Christians fast for their health than Christians do as a springboard into God’s presence. I would like to believe that isn’t true, and because our fasting is to be done as privately as possible, more Christians are fasting than we know. To me, fasting is one of the ultimate forms of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Him.

 

I just want to encourage you today to pick out some days and proclaim a fast. Surely you’d like safe passage for your family in 2018. Or, better yet, maybe you just want to be as close to Him as you’ve ever been in your life. Maybe you need healing (If you have Amazon Prime, watch “The Science of Fasting”). Maybe a family member needs healing. Maybe a family member or close friend of yours needs to be saved. Proclaim a fast. Replace physical meals with spiritual ones. Turn off social media and television. You will find that He is so much nearer than you think.

 

In the book of Ezra, the Israelites had bragged to the Persians how big, great, and mighty their God was. Because of this, they didn’t want to ask them for any kind of royal protection against their enemies as they traveled back to their homeland. Instead, they weakened themselves through fasting and completely trusted God to get them home safely.

 

Of course He protected them.

 

He will do the same for you.

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Journey of the Wise

 

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. – Matthew 2:1

 

The wise men were willing to journey as long as it took to see the newborn king. They knew the scriptures concerning the savior of the world. When they saw the signs they needed, they took off to be in His Presence.

 

King Herod knew that eventually a savior would come. When the wise men announced His arrival, Herod was surprised and obviously had not been looking for Messiah to come during his reign. Upon hearing the news, he asked his religious advisors to confirm. They read for King Herod Micah 5:2: But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler of Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting. King Herod saw this birth as a threat to his comfortable rule and sought to destroy Jesus. Verse 13 of Matthew 2 says, “For Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him.”

 

So we have two groups of people with the same information who have completely different reactions. The wise men sought to be in His presence and worship Him. King Herod sought to be in His presence so he could destroy Him. The wise men are excited about His Kingdom and the effect on their own lives. King Herod is ready to kill an infant in order to keep his little bit of power that he only had because Rome allowed it.

 

I wonder what the majority of “Christians” in America really do with Jesus. You can find so few people, especially here in the Bible belt, who do not claim Christianity in some form or another. Pretty much everybody calls themselves Christians. Yet, when you watch the majority of them live out their day-to-day lives, there is no indication that they truly believe what they say they believe.   Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, there are really only two types of people concerning Jesus: Either you seek His presence and make Him ruler and Lord of your life, or you really want nothing to do with Him because you know He will mess up your comfortable lifestyle. I can certainly confirm that if you let Him in, you will not remain the same.

 

I am either a wise man journeying as far as necessary to see Him, or I am Herod, the perceived ruler of my own life who does not really want to be messed with. I’ve been in both places. I’ve been the ruler of my own life, claiming to have Jesus in my heart, yet pushing Him away every time I engaged in my favorite sinful activities. I’ve also been in the place where I desire nothing more than to be in the presence of my King. I go through lengthy stretches where He is my favorite activity. But, to this day, I am so inconsistent and I feel the war for first place in my heart.

 

Lord, just as those wise men walked and anticipated seeing you . . . help me do the same. When they finally got there, all they wanted to do was worship you and give You their best . . . help me do the same. Make me wise in your eyes. Thank You for the greatest gift that has ever been given.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Adam

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The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

 

December 12, 2017

 

I’m kind of enjoying writing in this style of “Practicing His Presence.” I can look back and read these entries and see how my journey is going. Lately I haven’t been doing very well, at least spiritually speaking. I’ve been having a great time in the natural and doing very well. I just haven’t had that closeness with God that I had a couple of weeks ago.

 

When I say that, I don’t want you to picture that I’ve had some sort of euphoric experience. All I’m talking about is this conscious awareness of His nearness. It is so peaceful and the result is perfect contentment. I don’t worry, get really upset, or even in a hurry. What I definitely don’t do is wish for time to go by, and unfortunately, I’ve been doing a good bit of that with Christmas break approaching.   I’m wondering this morning what is going on with me. Lately, I seem to only have this perfect clarity and this sense of His nearness in these really early hours of the morning while the majority of the world around me sleeps.

 

I think God is teaching me that the best life this world offers, without Him, is unfulfilling.   I could have told you that for the past 15 or 20 years. But, there is a difference in knowing about something and having that personal experience. It’s like the difference in sympathizing and empathizing. If I’m sympathizing, I can imagine, but if I’m empathizing, I’ve been there and I know from experience. I’m kind of like George Bailey; I get focused so much on the smaller, temporary, mundane cares of this life, and don’t see that it really is a wonderful life.

 

Still, I get kind of frustrated that I’m not consistently able to do this simple act of bringing God to my mind. Yet, I read Hebrews 2:2 this morning and He sheds light on a huge part of my problem. Here I am thinking I should be able to focus my mind on Him wherever I am and whenever I want. I see those I’s, and that glaring “me” in the last sentence. There is still this element of religion in me that wants to do good enough on my own to earn God’s trust, favor, and even His Presence.

 

This brings me this morning to a beautiful place of repentance and realization: I don’t have to author my own salvation. In fact, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Therefore, with God’s help, I will return to simplicity today. I will take the focus off of me and simply walk with Him as far into this day as I can. No wishing the time away, no trying to enjoy temporary pleasures apart from Him, and certainly no trying to do this life on my own without the awareness of His Presence.

 

Last week I wrote about walking with God. I learned last week that I have a problem of walking fast. It is such an unfortunate habit. Only God knows how many times I’ve walked in front of my wife going into places. Why didn’t I slow down and just enjoy being with her? Now I see myself doing the same thing with God. I’m walking at a pace to get stuff done instead of walking at a pace to enjoy Him along side of me regardless of my task at hand. It’s amazing how much more productive I am at the slower pace with that awareness of Him right there with me.

 

I’m thinking I would like to walk and spiritually pull weeds today. I’ve regressed in the parable of the sower that Jesus taught. Here He speaks of me right now: Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:14) I have been given a great seed that will produce a harvest of His Presence, not just for me, but for all I come in contact with. The last thing I want is for the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life to choke Him out.

 

Lord, grant me the grace to live simply. I hate when I get lost in the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world. Unfortunately, it takes me an awful long time to realize that I hate it. My one desire right now is to really worship you with my entire life. Some parts I do really well with, other parts need a lot of work. As I walk with you today, when the cares of this life drown you out, help me imagine that worldly care as a weed in my mind and help me to pull it, roots and all. Give me a clean garden to grow this seed of your presence. I give you back the pen of my salvation. I’m sorry for taking it from you. I trust that you will do everything necessary in my life to prepare me to enjoy you for the rest of my days here on earth, and in heaven forever and ever.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Walking With God

Enoch walked with God. – Genesis 5:24

 

December 5, 2017

 

Last week, I wrote about what was a very God-filled day of my life. After reading “Practicing His Presence” I don’t know how many times, for one day, I got close to what the authors encourage their readers to do. I’ll just go ahead and admit that after that day, I was kind of pitiful. The rest of the days that week weren’t even close to that Monday. I mention this for two reasons: For one, people tend to think that I walk on water all the time hand in hand with Jesus. I can assure you that, just like Peter, I take my eyes off of Him more times than I can count, and I tend to sink more often than I’d like. The other reason is because since then, I’ve had a breakthrough in practicing His Presence that I believe will help you as well.

 

Last Monday I was so acutely aware of His presence for the majority of the day.   I realized that I mostly would forget about Him when I stayed in one place too long. For example, when conversing about work, my mind would go there completely, and the awareness of God disappeared. If I talked about Clemson football or Tiger Woods returning to golf . . . gone. But, God zapped me with His Presence again each time I left those conversations and walked to my next destination, even if it was a short walk.

 

Enoch’s name means “dedicated.” Enoch had to walk everywhere he went. I’m thinking that every time he traveled on foot, his walks were dedicated to practicing the presence of God. He did not walk as other men walked. Others were probably thinking of their business at hand, the pleasures awaiting them, or a plethora of other things that tend to consume our human minds. When everyone else was thinking of everything else but God, Enoch thought of God.

 

So, I put it to the test. Every time I walked somewhere, even if it was just to the kitchen or the bathroom, every time I drove (which is really easy when it’s just me and Him), I just brought God to mind. For the most part, I didn’t use any words at all. It’s like a mental light switch gets turned off when I enter a room to teach, work on something, or sit down to watch television. But, when I start walking somewhere, the switch turns on and BAM . . .

 

There He is.

 

I know people who would say, “God is always there” and He is. However, our awareness of God being there is not always there . . . at least it isn’t for me. But, this idea of every time I walk I walk with Him just might be the springboard I’ve been looking for to eventually spend every day, every hour, every minute, and every moment aware of His Presence.

 

This past Sunday Lifeline Community Church was packed. We had to pull out extra chairs. Right before I went up, I looked around and got nervous and scared. I took my eyes off Him just for a moment and put my eyes on people. I began to think I wasn’t prepared and I wondered if I’d fall flat on my face, literally and figuratively. Then, I walked and that switch turned right back on. I stopped at the altar and knelt down before my God, and man did He ever send an electric current through my soul! I made that short walk up the ramp and onto the platform with Him. It was so nice. I had one more prayer to make before I was completely calm and focused, but I love the way Jesus can melt my anxieties away.

 

He really did come that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

 

Lord, every time these readers walk today, may they imagine walking with you. Make yourself real to them. Help us who call ourselves Christians to walk all the time in your ways and in your presence.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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As Close as I’ve Ever Come

As Close as I’ve Ever Come

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Every year for the past several years I have read a little book called “Practicing His Presence.” It is a really short book written in two parts. The first part chronicles the Christian walk of a man named Frank Laubach. At 45 years old, he endeavored to walk continuously in the presence of God, keeping Him in the forefront of his mind all day long. Frank died in 1970, but left behind some seriously practical advice on how we can do what he did.

 

The next story is a guy from the 1600’s called Brother Lawrence. He basically went into a monastery in an attempt to completely reject this world. He found that with practice, over time, he could keep a constant sense of God’s Presence. Every time I read this book, I am so highly motivated to do the same. I’m not quite finished with the book this time around because I’ve resolved to read one section a day, and then apply what I’ve read to that day. Here is what I read today (It was a letter written to a lady inquiring how she could keep God’s Presence):

 

Dear sister, this very instant, make a resolution, a firm and holy resolution to never again willfully stray from Him. Stop now and agree with the Lord to live the rest of your days in His sacred presence. Then, out of love for Him, surrender all other pleasures.

Is this possible? Of course, if you believe it is. Set yourself to this heartily. If you perform this adventure as you should, you will soon see the effects. (Practicing His Presence: pg. 67)

 

Keep in mind here: I had about as easy a day at work as I could possibly have. This was kind of like playing a video game on “easy” mode. I drove a field trip for us to see the movie “Wonder,” so I didn’t actually have to teach my regular classes. Here is my adventure written in the style of Practicing His Presence:

 

November 27, 2017

 

I woke up at 5 am and resolved to focus my mind on Him alone. When I felt like I could focus on Him, and not all that I had to do that day, I got up. I have been reading one story each day out of a book called “I Am N.” It tells stories of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. It always reminds me that if they can do what they do, living where they live, and being treated the way they are being treated, then surely I can live out Christianity here. However, this day, with God right there with me, I felt like He asked me to go straight to Practicing His Presence. So, I did. I read until I got to the paragraph above.

 

After that, I read John 18. Peter denies Jesus three times. I can so seriously relate to Him. I’ve denied God more times than I can count. I doubted for a moment that I could “practice His presence.” Then, I thought of how Peter eventually figured it out. He got to a place of walking in the continuous presence of God. I prayed, resolved that I would do my best.

 

On the drive to work, I worshipped. It was wonderful.

 

On the walk out to my school bus, the air was so cold, but I enjoyed it. He was right there with me . . . I wondered if we would even feel cold in Heaven.

 

As I drove to my first stop, I prayed for the kids I would pick up. I was seriously fighting back tears. I thanked Him for really staying with me this long. I picked everyone up, and headed back to school. I loved it all, especially the walk from the bus to the school. It was just the two of us.

 

I did our normal check-in procedures with students. I have to admit; here is where I lost Him a bit. I talked football and other generalities. But, right after that, as we were walking to “morning meeting,” I just got zapped with His Presence again. Then, the weirdest thing happened, we were given this imaginary scenario about walking in the woods. The first question was, “Who are you walking with?” Of course I was walking with God. It turns out that whomever you were walking with is the most important person in your life. On one hand, that made me feel really good. On the other hand, I was conversing with Him and wondering why if He was so important to me, why it was so easy to let Him slip from my mind.

 

I walked to get the bus. I noticed that the air was a little warmer . . . He was right there.

 

As I drove the bus, I was able to pray. I prayed for everything I could possibly remember as well as everyone on that bus. It was kind of glorious.

 

In the movie theater, I asked God, “Will you watch this movie with me?” I pictured Him in the seat next to me. It was crazy. I was an emotional wreck during that movie fighting back tears because there were glimpses of God all in that thing.

 

I walked out with Him. I honestly couldn’t believe I had held on to Him as long as I had. Driving back to the school, He was right there. I don’t think I even said anything to Him. It was like riding with Tonya right next to me on one of those stretches of road where you don’t really have to say anything. You just enjoy being with each other.

 

I let the kids off, parked the bus, and walked back. The air was even warmer. I wondered if I ever in my life had noticed something like subtle changes in air temperature before. I asked Him to stay with me as I finished the rest of the day at school. He more than answered my request. We had a great Q&A afterwards about the movie. I took some kids to the gym and got to do some coaching to help a student shoot correctly. I had a very real sense that because Jesus was right there with me, He was calming these kids and keeping them very subdued.

 

As I walked to the bus, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t lost Him all day. I thanked Him. I had a great talk with the last kid I took home about doing right and getting his life on track. On the drive back to the school . . . just Him and me.

 

I joined a meeting as soon as I returned. I certainly didn’t mind. I prayed for the students we were meeting about. I don’t know if I actually prayed, or if because God was right there on me, I was simply aware that He was taking this information in as well.

 

I came home to a wonderful meal and time with my family. I thanked Him for our time together. My little chick had volleyball practice, so I drove her to that and had a great conversation about God. After that, I got to go to the hospital and meet up with one of my members. We talked. We prayed. I left. I wasn’t aware of the temperature, but I was aware that it was dark. I drove back to the gym amazed that I had almost gone the whole day and His presence still remained so real. Is this what Frank Laubach experienced for 41 years? Was he really able to keep it to the degree that I had just done? Or, was I just scratching the surface of how it could be?

 

I don’t know.

 

But, I sure want to find out.

 

I’m sure I will find it much more difficult tomorrow. But, if I can just take everything I have to do one chunk at a time, remembering Him, bringing Him to mind . . .

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is possible.

 

Later

 

Adam

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