Alone Time with God

 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16

 

What does alone time with God look like for you?  If there is one thing that life, evil, busyness, or whatever one wants to call it keeps me from, it is removing all distractions and being alone with Him one-on-one . . . nobody else but me and Him.  Jesus did it often.  If He, being sinless needed to do it, how much more do you and I need to do it?

 

I think today’s Christians confuse doing things for God as spending time with God.  I’ve done this before.  You might think because you are preaching, studying for a sermon, reading a devotional, playing songs on the worship team, listening to praise and worship on His Radio or 106.9 the Light, or any other number of religious activities that you are spending time with Him.  You are not.  Jesus obviously didn’t count His ministry work as time with God.  We shouldn’t either.  He still took the time to be all alone with His Father.

 

I like to observe people, especially those who claim to be Godly people.  When I visit a church, I love to watch the worship leaders, I closely watch the preacher, and if I know who the leaders of the church are, I like to observe them.  I ask only one question:  Have they been with Jesus?  When the obvious answer is “yes,” it makes me want so badly to be with Him, too.  It is like the disciples when they asked Jesus, “Will you teach us how to pray?”  They asked because what He had was worth having.  They wanted in on the pure presence of Almighty God.

 

Today’s Christians I’m afraid are more like the Pharisees.  I think too many Christians want some sort of credit for their righteousness.  So, we post on Facebook that we are about to spend time with God.  Would Jesus have done that if He had social media back then?  I don’t see Him taking a picture of some mountain and posting, “Going to spend some time with My Father,” and then counting up the “likes” later.  He just did it, and it was obvious to everyone He encountered that He did it.  He had power beyond measure.

 

Power is something that our churches lack.  Preachers have perfected the act of preaching, worship leaders have perfected the act of leading worship, Christians have perfected the act of attending church and posting religious activity and religious materials on social media.  But, when it comes down to it, do you spend unencumbered time with your Heavenly Father? I mean nobody but you and Him.  If our church leaders are hardly doing it, then I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of church people don’t do it at all.

 

I recently read Matthew 6:1 where it said for us to “be careful to not do our righteous acts before men.”  I got convicted about even sending out these WMDs.  I don’t get to count writing these as time with God . . . they must come from my alone time with God.    If I write simply from learned knowledge and not out of my love for God, I am nothing but a clanging cymbal.  If I post these without having actually been alone with God, then I’m nothing more than a religious Pharisee doing his acts of righteousness before men.  That is terrifying to me!

 

I say all that to say this:  If we want the real deal power to return to our churches and even our everyday lives, spending alone time with God is the key to that power.  Even Jesus was not exempt.  If you are in a position of leadership in the church, and you do not get alone with God, it does not matter how talented or charismatic you are . . . you are powerless and useless for the kingdom.

 

Lord, I’m guilty, guilty, guilty!  I’ve done it before.  I’ve looked the part outwardly, but inwardly I knew the Holy Spirit tank was on empty because I haven’t been with You.  There is nothing on this Earth that compares to getting to a quiet place and being with You.  You are the greatest thing this life offers.  Help me to hunger and thirst for righteousness so that I may be filled.  Help all who read this to do likewise.  Make Christians powerful again.  Make it so that we are attractive to a lost and dying world again.  May unbelievers and lukewarm Christians want what we have because what we have is really worth having.  Fill us up with You, Lord!

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Convictions

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” – 1 Corinthians 8:4

 

In the Corinthian church back in the day, there was a serious debate among Christians.  From my understanding, one could acquire two types of meat:  meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and meat that had not been sacrificed to idols. I would guess that the meat sacrificed to idols was a lot cheaper.  I would also guess that there were some Christians who said, “I don’t serve those gods, big deal if I eat the meat.”  On the other hand, there were Christians who said, “There is no way a Christian should ever eat that meat!”

 

Which camp would you be in?

 

Paul teaches us here that we all have different convictions about different things.  He goes on to say that, in this particular case, one should never try to project his or her personal convictions onto another.  If I did eat meat sacrificed to idols, I should never try to convince you that it isn’t a big deal if you honestly feel that it is.  Likewise, just because this is a big deal to you, you should not necessarily try to make your conviction my conviction.  In the grand scheme of things, whether or not one eats food sacrificed to idols is not a heaven or hell issue, but there were obviously people in Paul’s day that made it one.

 

The church world now is all over the place as far as personal convictions are concerned.  What must be done, through the reading of God’s Word, is to separate personal preferences and convictions from flat out sin. As you read the Bible over and over during the course of your life and ask God to give you more and more of His Holy Spirit, your convictions will actually change . . . or maybe a better word is evolve.

 

I remember the very first thing that God asked me to do after becoming a Christian:  Tell the truth!  Using Revelation 21:8 on a t-shirt, God showed me that I was a liar. He also let me know what was going to happen to me if I stayed that way.   This scared me into action.  I certainly did not want my part in the “lake, which burneth with fire and sulfur.” Therefore, I began to beg God to help me change.  Lying is not a personal conviction; it is a sin.  It is a sin that will send you to hell if you do not change.  This is not Adam projecting his personal conviction onto you.  You are free to read Revelation 21:8 for yourself.  God says it, not me.

 

I don’t regularly drink alcohol.  I believe God has put this in my heart and mind.  It is a personal conviction.  My first thought is to get really judgmental when I see Christians post pictures on Facebook with their drinks in hand.  I quickly shake that off and simply say, “My conviction is not their conviction.” Excess drinking is obviously a sin, but you cannot show me in the Bible where it says every Christian should not drink at all.  With my family history, I totally understand why God would ask me not to drink.  However, because of this, I don’t get to project this personal conviction onto you.

 

Here is a weird one: I had about 8 years where I was not to play golf.  Playing golf for me was a sin.  God let me know that this game had become an idol in my life.  It consumed me and I thought about it a lot more than I thought about Him or anything else.  So, God asked me to stop.  I basically said, “No” and kept playing anyway.  He allowed me to get so bad at it that I stopped anyway.  After God regained first place in my heart and life, He let me play again.  Why? The game has been dethroned and is now in its proper place.  How stupid would it have been for me to tell another person, “Golf is a sinful game and you will have your part in the lake of fire if you play?”  Um . . . very.

 

There are three situations where I know I am to fast.  I fast for 21 days every year because I made this hasty vow to God 14 years ago and now I’m bound to it.  I fast when I am in great distress.  I also often fast while preparing to preach and just before I preach.  Now, do I get to tell you that you must do the same?  I don’t get to do that at all.  This is my personal conviction and I might suggest it to you because I believe it is highly beneficial, but I would never belittle you simply because my conviction is not your conviction.

 

I remember how difficult it was for pornography to be dethroned in my life.  This was a hidden sin that went on for years and years. When I was 31 years old, in a single moment, God did one of the most amazing things He’s ever done for me and dissolved years of images in my head sitting in a church service.  Do I get to tell you not to look at porn?  If you call yourself a Christian, then yes I do. Jesus Himself said if you look at a woman and lust after her, you are committing adultery.  I didn’t say it . . . He did.

 

I say all that to say this: When it comes to the things you believe, ask God, “Is this a personal conviction?  Or, is this flat out sin?”  There is a big, big difference.  Many, many, many unbelievers right now are still unbelievers because “Christians” preach their personal convictions as flat out sin.  These unbelievers tell me all the time, “If that’s the way Christians are, then I don’t want to be one.”  I do my best to undo the damage and let them know that if they choose to follow Christ; they will be starting completely over and will develop their own custom set of personal convictions over time.  God will teach them how they should live their lives in order to honor Him.

 

I think Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 8 that we should never let our personal convictions get in the way of other people’s spiritual growth.  What we project and the way we project it matters.  Christians with no convictions in a certain area should not attempt to diminish the convictions of those who have them.  By the same token, Christians with certain convictions should not project their personal convictions onto those who do not share the same ones.  I’m telling you, the unsaved world is watching, and there are a lot of people who want nothing to do with Jesus or His church because we teach and preach our personal convictions as gospel.

 

Lord, simply help the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to Thee.  I look so forward to being with you on that day when my faith becomes sight.

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Jesus Stooped Down

 

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.  – John 8:8

 

In the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus stoops down a couple of times.  Most people speculate on what He wrote in the ground.  I like to think about why He did it.  There was a humiliated, possibly completely naked woman basically awaiting execution. All these religious people were talking down on her because she was literally and figuratively beneath them. I think Jesus stooped down to meet her gaze.  He met her right where she was.  Our Lord and Savior stooped down to her level to comfort her before rising above His religious enemies to rescue her.

 

If you think about it, for around 4,000 years mankind had the written Words of God.  All the recorded miracles and the Ten Commandments produced were professional rule followers along with people who felt like they had no chance of actually knowing God.  Therefore, God Himself stooped down to our level.  He came as a man and got as filthy as a man could get.  He received the sins of the world.  I wonder if any angel in Heaven warned Him . . . “You better not go down there, they are bad people who will bring you down!”

 

I say all that to say this:  Last night, I went to a killer concert.  Lacey Sturm is the former lead singer for Flyleaf.  She was in Atlanta and I just jumped at the chance to see her live.  Here’s the thing:  She has a dark, dark past.  She wrote and played dark music.  She wrote dark poetry and drew dark pictures. She unashamedly speaks of that past.  She also unashamedly speaks of how the Great God met her right where she was and turned her entire life around.

 

Now that she is clean and forgiven, what is she supposed to do?  Is she supposed to stay away from the group that she now sees is just like she was?  Should she “separate herself” from all that evil?  Should she now just go to church, hang out only with church people, and then rejoice in the fact that she is now going to heaven?  The rest of those people can just go to hell where they deserve to go, right?

 

Wrong!

 

She needs to do exactly what she is doing . . . imitating Jesus.  She is going into bars where people are drowning sorrows in alcohol, people are self-harming, and people are looking for hope and don’t even realize it.  She goes in and tells them that Jesus was nothing like she thought He was.  She tells them that the Bible is an unbelievably awesome book that can change our lives if we will let it.  Some people walk out because they don’t want to hear it. Others listen and receive great hope.

 

All this comes at a great price to her.  Religious people who do nothing to reach lost people judge her. They don’t like the loudness of the music, and certainly don’t like the way she screams into the microphone.  She simply looks too much like the world and she’s supposed to be separate from the world, right?

 

Wrong!

 

She is to be like Jesus until she draws her last breath.  She is to stoop down and reach those who need God the most.  Remember, it is the sick that need a doctor, not the healthy.

 

For the love of God, point someone who needs Him desperately to Him today. Some religious folks might judge you, but I’d rather be judged in this way than on the day I stand before Him have Him ask me, “Why did you keep so great a salvation to yourself?

 

Take a moment to read Luke chapter 16 starting with verse 19.  All that rich man did to go to hell was not help Lazarus.  The rich man did not help Lazarus simply because he thought Lazarus was beneath him. The rich man was too good to stoop down to the level of Lazarus.

 

Do you think any other human, and I mean any other human is worth less than you?

 

If your honest answer is “yes,” you really need to fix that before it is too late . . . for you and the ones you know who are far from Him.

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Up Until Now (Part 2)

Up Until Now (Part 2)

 

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. – Hebrews 11:8

 

This is always the strangest thing to me how I just publicly put my life on display for anyone in the world who cares to read.  Who does that?

 

Anyway, I have hit quite a rough patch.  Two weeks ago, I lost one of my best friends.  Karen Brown was such a prayer warrior and prayer covering for me.  Eight days ago, I was released from my job as the pastor of Lifeline Community Church.  Five years and ten months ago I preached my first sermon there.  It is crazy how much I got to watch this little church grow.  It is even crazier how much I grew in the Lord.  There is no doubt the Lord used this season to put many, many new tools in my toolbox for future endeavors.  I was (and probably still am) immature and naïve in so many ways.  I’m not 100% sure I want to completely do away with these qualities.  I do believe they allow me to go to God in a very childlike way.  I’m okay with that if He is.

 

So, what is next? Good question!  If there is one thing that I know about God, He just doesn’t reveal this kind of information.  He did tell Jonah to go to Nineveh, but that’s only because he knew Jonah didn’t want to go in the first place.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, He says, “Go,” you say, “Where?” and He says, “I’ll show you when you get there.”  Not exactly the preference for us entitled Americans who think they should be privy to any and all information.

 

So, as of today, I have no idea where I’m going.  But, I’m going to obey and go in His Name.  My plan is to simply seek Him diligently.  I don’t want to miss a single day with Him.  He is the source and strength of my life.  I love Him so much and I just can’t believe how much He loves me.  The Bible says if we come to Him, we must come to Him like He really does exist, and we must believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)

 

Lord, it feels like going back to the beginning of it all. I’m even drawn to the tattered old first Bible that I was given.  I had no idea all that you had in store for me even up until this point of my life. You have done amazing things in my life. As I head into the wilderness, I just pray that you will accomplish in me all that needs to be accomplished.  I pray that I won’t rush through it.  I also certainly pray that I don’t spend more time there than necessary.  I love you, Lord.  I trust you. You know the end from the beginning and you’ve already ordered my steps.  Fill me up with your Holy Spirit that every step might be a joy. 

 

Amen

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Up Until Now (Part 1)

Before you read, keep in mind that I wrote this WMD almost exactly five years ago on September 17, 2014.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6

I want to take the time to write my story up until this point in my life. I know a lot of people read WMD and lately I’ve been asked a lot about where I go to church and stuff like that. I realized that I have never actually written out my story. It is quite a story. It is a story that is still being written. I can only write about it “up until now.”

I found a cassette tape from 2003. I preached a sermon called “resurrections” at Salem United Methodist Church. I listened to it and just cringed . . . It was awful. But, I had just a few years before really dedicated myself to the reading and studying of God’s Word. I had told Him that I would use my math teaching skills to teach the Word if He felt like I was a vessel He could use. It took almost no time for Him to answer my prayer. In just a few weeks, He opened the door for me to preach once a month at SUMC. Hence, the tape from 2003.

Well, that lasted a few years and fizzled out. I had various churches find out that I could be a “fill-in” and would have up to 5 or 6 speaking engagements a year. In 2007, things really took on a new beginning. I was teaching at Tamassee-Salem High School and began to absolutely hate it. I had wondered why I had ever gone into teaching. While reading my Bible, I came across 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will heal their land. This burned in my spirit.

Somehow, I knew that if I could just get the three or four teachers in our school that claimed to be Christians to actually do this verse with me that things would change. I sent out an e-mail and sure enough 4 other people showed up to our first little prayer meeting before school even started on a Wednesday morning. We talked about 2 Chronicles 7:14, prayed, and went to work with a new attitude and a new resolve. We didn’t have to fix the whole school. We simply had to do our part and trust that God would do the rest.

We kept these little meetings on Wednesdays going for a while. When people didn’t quite make it on time, I would type up what was said and e-mail them. When we stopped meeting altogether, I kept writing e-mails on Wednesday mornings to encourage our teachers. They began to be forwarded to other teachers at other schools. Then, they began to be forwarded to non-teachers. The e-mail chain grew very fast.

In the meantime, I was a member at Golden Corner Church in Walhalla, SC. The pastors there saw something in me and began to have me preach somewhat regularly, like quarterly, on Sunday mornings. To this day, I am amazed at the risk they took by putting a nobody math teacher out front. I owe a TON of my development to those guys. And yes, I realize that I am still not even CLOSE to being developed.

Now, here is where the story simply amazes me. Because I had been writing WMDs for several years, there was a member of Lifeline Community Church in Fair Play, SC who read them regularly and contacted me. All he told me was that their pastor was resigning and he wanted to know if I would be interested in pastoring a church. I asked Tonya if we would be interested in pastoring a church. Of course I asked God, but He was like “who do you think opened the door?”

So, here I am. A math teacher teaching his 18th year in the public school system. A preacher for 8 months at a wonderful church full of wonderful people who have the gift of being extremely patient with me while God works on me in this new role. On September 28th, I will be ordained into the ministry. In the meantime, I will do what I know to do. I will stay in the Word. I will continue to write these WMDs and post them on Wednesday mornings. I will bring the Word as boldly, as clearly, and with as much passion as I possibly can on Sunday mornings. I will be the best math teacher I can be. I will work at all of it with all of my heart like God Himself is my supervisor.

That is my story . . .

Up until now

Later

Adam

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If I Really Believed the Battle Was His

 

Thus saith the Lord unto you, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” – 2 Chronicles 20:15

 

This past Sunday I preached a sermon about being in God’s presence, Him being my rock and my salvation, and Him being my strength; therefore there is no way I will be afraid.  Well, ever since then, I have had a horrible spiritual attack.  I keep hearing this voice in my head, “See, you don’t even believe what you preach . . . How could you possibly teach it to others.”  Like I always seem to do, I let this evil spirit beat me up for a bit.  I felt helpless and powerless.  All I did for the past couple of days is say in my head over and over, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)  I didn’t feel it in my body, but I figured if I said it enough I could convince it.  It took a dear friend praying for me just a little bit ago to make it all go away and help me feel like I was back in my right mind.

 

I have some serious battles going on right now.  I don’t say this for you to feel sorry for me at all . . . I guarantee you have your own battles.  I just feel like I’ve handled them the worst I ever have.  I’m worrying about them.  I’m handing them to God and then taking them right back.  I’ve felt hopeless, which is certainly something I’m not used to feeling.

 

Here is what is going through my mind right now:  What if I really believed the battle was God’s? The problem is that right now, I obviously don’t.  If I did, I would not be spending all this energy worrying and thinking the worst. 2 Chronicles 20:15 just screams at me right now.  In the midst of this battle, I should be at rest.  I should be enjoying God.  I should be seated and calm while my God fights for me.  That’s the way I’d be if I really believed the battle was His.

 

Lord, I don’t know what is wrong with me right now.  I’m afraid.  I usually have such confidence in you, my King!  Will you give me once again that peace that passes all understanding? Will you give me that same Spirit that those guys in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs had?  They were being tortured and even burned alive, but they were simply basking in and enjoying Your Presence!  You would not give men the satisfaction of knowing that they were harming your anointed, for the battle was yours.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Do not give evil the satisfaction of knowing they are harming me. Help me abide in you!  It may feel like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you!   Help me not be afraid or dismayed, for the battle is not mine, but yours.

 

(P.S.  I promise I’m ok.  In my mind, I am turning some molehills into mountains . . . I’m used to doing the reverse.)

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Never Let Go

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. — Hebrews 12:2

I had a very powerful conversation today. First, let me tell you what I know about our young people today. I have preached to enough youth groups and at enough youth camps that there is this common theme among them. Our enemy, the devil, seeks to devour them. The Bible calls him a roaring lion. In the nature shows that I have seen, the lion gets to eat the weak, the slow, and the feeble. If a lion runs into a pack of food, and you are the food, just don’t be the weakest link and you will live.

“I did love being at church. I was so convicted about the things I’ve done and I’ve been doing. But I have to tell you, I left church and still did things that I know are wrong. I’ve asked God into my life, but I just don’t think it is doing anything. I don’t want to do those things, yet I still do them.”

Before I move on, really think. What would you say to a young man who just had enough courage to sit with you, look at you, and tell you these things? What would you do with this kind of honesty?

“Look, man, do you think after I got saved, that I did everything right? Do you think I haven’t partied Friday and Saturday, drank too much, slept with my girlfriend, taken His Name in vain, cussed, acted like I was not His kid, and then gone to church on Sunday only to feel guilt as it felt like the preacher was preaching only to me? I’ve been there. I know what it is like to try harder and fail even more miserably. Here is all I know . . . for the past 28 years, I’ve just held on to Him. I’ve never let Him go. My only advice is to keep going to church, keep reading the Word, keep praying to Him. Be honest about everything. Bring all your sin to Him. Talk to Him about it. Over time, He changes you. You will eventually conquer these sins only to run into new sins you’ve never thought of when you get older. Just never let Him go. Never stop believing. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He does the work. Very rarely does He do the work quickly, but over time, you will know that He is working in your heart, mind, and life.”

After a long pause I felt like the Lord showed me a newborn baby in the floor all alone. I said, “The Bible says we are born again when we give our lives to Him, how much help does a little baby need to survive?”A lot,” he says. “You are just a newborn; you have good people around you that want to help you grow.”

Think about how Jesus has worked in your heart, mind, soul, and life. Aren’t you glad His mercy is so great? Aren’t you glad that His truth endures to all generations? Talk to the young people in your life. Tell them that God is for them and so not against them. Tell them the way He works. Pray with them and for them. Above all else, no matter what they’ve done or what they are doing . . .

Tell them to never let go. He will do all the work. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He endured the cross joyfully, don’t miss that . . . joyfully! He did it so all the work for our salvation will be done. He paid the price. We just never let go.

Spend some time with Him today.

He is such a great God!

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