The Value

The Value

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant.  “Why this waste?” they asked.  – Matthew 26:8

Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, pours out some very expensive oil upon Jesus.  In His last few weeks, Jesus tried to get the point across that His time was drawing near.  Nobody wanted to believe Him.  Mary believed Him.  Because she believed Him, and loved Him, she didn’t mind giving Him her very expensive oil.

Apparently, this oil was worth about a year’s wages.  In today’s money, even at an approximate $8 minimum wage x 40 hours x 50 weeks is $16,000.  When she poured it all out on Jesus, the disciples became indignant.   Why?  Because that stuff was expensive.

The thing is, they were right about the value of the perfume.  It could have been sold, maybe for $16K and certainly with that much money a lot could have been done for the poor.  However, they missed the value of Jesus.

You see . . . He is worth infinitely more than $16,000.

I remember when I first began to tithe.  I had been a Christian for probably 8 years.  Up until then, I was a “tipper” of God.  I’d give Him a $5 or a $10, and then on occasion give Him a $20 and think He was talking it up in Heaven about His super-servant, Adam Hopkins.  When confronted pretty hard about this, I decided to tithe.  I decided to tithe on my net earnings, not my gross.  It came to around $200 a month.  I tithed 10 out of the 12 months.  I was so proud of myself.

Then, out of the blue, the weirdest circumstances landed a check in the amount of $2,000 into my hands.  At first, I thought tithing was the greatest thing in the world because God finds a way to give it all back to you anyway.  However, the more I thought about it, I began to think it might have been God throwing it back at me and saying, “Adam, check your heart!”

I had the same problem as the disciples.  I didn’t see the value of Jesus.  He’s worth more than all that I have.  I’d now rather have Him than have millions of dollars, but it took a lot of years to get to the point where I could honestly say that.  When we can’t make time to worship Him and learn about Him because we need to sleep, rest, work, play golf, or go to the lake, we are telling Him He isn’t worth our time.  When we can’t give an offering to Him because we have bills to pay and stuff to buy, we are telling Him He isn’t worth the investment.  What does that say about our priorities?

It says that Jesus isn’t valuable.

He is.

Later

 

Adam

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The Name

The Name

 

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given among men, whereby we must be saved. – Acts 4:12

 

I was listening to “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong. I have heard the song several times before on His Radio and even listened to the Lifeline praise band play it. Something just happened. I was so surrounded by the presence of God all I could do was just weep, tell Him I’m sorry, and tell Him that I loved Him. I look so forward to a resurrected body that can take His Presence for a lot longer than I can take it now.

 

After this experience, I have become hyper-aware of how misused His Name is. It’s not like I haven’t heard people misuse it before. It’s not like I haven’t misused it myself. But, there is just this sense when I hear His Name used out of exasperation, frustration, or anger that makes my soul cringe for a moment. How is it that no other god, goddess, or deity has his or her name attached such blasphemy? It is only “Jesus”, “Jesus Christ”, or “God” that gets thrown out there.

 

As I read Acts 4:12 I begin to understand. In a world that is currently preaching tolerance, Christianity is a very intolerant religion. Jesus Himself said that He was the only way to Heaven in John 14:6. He didn’t say He was a way to Heaven, but the only way to Heaven. Therefore, if the enemy can get a person to misuse that Name when simple circumstances are less than desirable, then what a victory he has won. It must bring him so much pleasure to watch people, even many Christians, use so wrongly the only Name that can save them, change them, and grant them eternal life.

 

Lord, help me to truly honor Your Name. If I’m going to call myself a Christian, help me live in such a way that others would be ashamed to use it in vain around me. Help the lost come to the realization of just how beautiful Your Name is. My prayer is that all who read this would be saved before it before it is too late. I am so sorry it has taken me this long to really appreciate You and Your Name. Even now, I know I’m just scratching the surface. Give me as much of You as I can stand.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Spiritual Growth and Development

Spiritual Growth and Development

Until Christ is formed in you – Galatians 4:19

It is amazing how you can pray for years for something, and then all of a sudden, God reveals that you’ve been praying inaccurately.  One such prayer has been for the people I preach for, regardless of where I’m preaching.  I adapted a prayer from a Shawn MacDonald song called “Open Me.”  The prayer is simple; “Open up our eyes so we can see, our ears so we can hear, our minds so we can know and understand, and our hearts that we may fall in love with You.”

I say this prayer because I know that if a Christian has spiritual eyes, ears, minds, and hearts, they are disciples.  They are followers of Christ no longer in need of the “middle-man” of what we call church today.  I’m not saying church is unnecessary, but I am saying the Bible and prayer should be your primary source of spiritual nourishment, not church and preachers.  Therefore, I pray for these things.  Unfortunately, I recently realized I’ve been asking for spiritual eyes, ears, minds and hearts to be opened when they don’t even exist.  Let me explain.

Paul compares the growth of Christ in you spiritually to that of a physical child being formed in the womb.  If a child can stay cut off from the world for a bare minimum of 22 weeks (the survival record is 21 weeks, 5 days of gestation), remain attached to his or her mother in the womb, he or she will enter this world with a shot at survival.

In America, we have preached that saying a prayer produces a “born again” experience.  At best, asking Christ into your heart and life is the beginning of spiritual gestation.  The question is: will the seed planted inside of you develop enough to survive out in the world?

I remember being saved and thinking I had to immediately live this stuff out.  I was constantly failing and wondered if living the Christian life was even possible.  I said “the prayer” so many times hoping one would “take” and I would actually change.   I constantly wondered where my breakdown was occurring.

Once again, for years I had been saying the wrong prayer.  I had been praying that God would wave His magic wand, sprinkle some Holy Spirit dust on me, and I would change.  What I needed was to develop in the first place.  Christ needed to be formed in me.  Five years after initially asking Christ to come into my life, I finally began to read the Bible for myself.  I didn’t focus on changing my outward behavior; I just cut myself off from the world, and latched onto Him.  Fifteen months later I don’t know how He did it, I don’t even know when He did it, but I was brand new.  I looked at the world completely differently . . . I had spiritual eyes.  The words of God were so sweet . . . I had spiritual ears.  I understood things from the Bible and knew exactly what I needed to do . . . I had a spiritual mind.  Most of all, and most importantly, I had a heart that wanted to serve Him, and wanted to dig into His Word . . . I loved Him.  He was no longer a have to, but a get to.

Do you have spiritual eyes, ears, minds, and hearts?  Do you see Him in the simplest of things?  If your heart is pure, you will (Matthew 5:8).  Does He speak to you?  And I mean say something other than, “I want you to be happy, so go ahead and sin.”  Do you know Him?  I don’t mean know about Him, I mean do you know Him?  Do you love Him?  I mean more than anything else or anyone else on this planet, do you love Him?

I didn’t know it was even possible until I spent 15 months with Him and His Word.  I didn’t know it then, but I know now that was where my vital spiritual organs developed.  I wasn’t ready those first five years to enter the world and live for Him because I was a preemie.  The only thing I needed to do was the one thing I wasn’t doing, connecting myself to my life giving, life-producing Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Later

Adam

 

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Back in the Game

When they had finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “You know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  — John 21:15

At this point in time, Peter felt he was unworthy to serve the risen Lord.  Within a very short period of time, he had gone from boasting about his loyalty and love for Jesus (Matthew 26:33), to following Him at a distance (Matthew 26:58), to denying Him (Matthew 26:72).  Therefore, when Jesus is resurrected from the dead, Peter feels like he can’t serve Jesus.  Jesus restores Peter and gets him back in the game.

It is so easy to feel like something you’ve done disqualifies you from service.  On the surface, I haven’t exactly lived what most church people would consider the perfect week.  I have been what many in the church world call “worldly.”  Last Wednesday, I revisited my teenage years and went to Atlanta to see Poison and Def Leppard . . . nostalgia at its finest.  I have to admit that it was pretty electrifying.  Then, I ditched my pastoral post to go play in a Scrabble tournament in Asheville.  Once again, it was pretty sweet because it was the first tournament that I placed first in my division.  Now that I sit here trying to type this WMD, I’m pretty sure the devil is doing me just like he did Peter back in the day.  The whispers are constant, “Think about where you’ve been and what you’ve done . . . you are unfit for service.”

At the same time, the word of God speaks to my heart this morning, “Adam do you love me more than these?”

What a question.

Here is the thing:  In all of the things I did that could be misconstrued as bad, God was all over me.  He never left me and never forsook me.  I got to hang out with one of my best friends in the world and talk about God for hours.  We spoke of how nice it was to like the concert and not love it like we used to.  We just hung out, caught up, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Three days later, I went to a different church that does church on Saturday night and got so blessed and refilled with God’s Spirit . . . it was amazing. The very next day, on the way to Asheville to play Scrabble, the Glory of God was all over the place.  I just felt Him like crazy.

I think God might have been calling a time out with me.  I think being a pastor for these past three years has kind of dehumanized me.  I have tried way too hard to put on this air of perfection.  I’m going to cut that out.  I don’t want to be simply a great rule follower.  I know a lot of them.  They seem so unhappy and absolutely nobody wants to be like them.  I pray that I never forget how much I need Jesus and how much He means to me.  It is so strange what He will use sometimes to remind me.

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

*In my best John Fogerty voice*

Put me in coach . . . I’m ready to play.

Later

Adam

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Being There for Him

For WMD, I revamped an older devotional from a couple of years ago.  I spent most of my writing time this week working on the WGGS, Channel 16 application.  I will be on the program July 5 at 8:00 pm.

Being There for Him

“Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” — John 18:21

Jesus had been taken from the Garden of Gethsemane and was standing before the high priest. He had just been questioned about the disciples and His doctrine. Jesus responded with the above verse. Paraphrased, He simply said, “I never hid anything I ever did, now go and ask those I have helped.”

Isn’t it amazing how when we need God, we simply bombard His throne? As soon as we have a crisis in our lives, we petition God relentlessly. We come before Him expecting answers. Time after time, if we are willing to be patient, He will answer in a way that we will never forget. He will answer in a way that draws us closer to Him. He will answer in a way that makes us love Him even more. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

However, in this particular rare moment, the tables have turned. Jesus asks for someone to be there for Him. “Ask those who have heard me what I said, indeed they know what I said.”

Nobody responded.

Could you imagine how awesome it would have been had Lazarus come forth and said, “I was dead for three days, yet now I live? Jesus raised me from the dead!” Follow that with one of the blind men, “I was blind, yet now I see because of this man!” Follow that with, “I was lame, yet now I walk!” What if someone had simply stood up and said, “I know He is who He says He is.” Instead, He had one of his best followers right outside. Just a few hours before, Peter had swore that he would die with Him. Now, he is telling people he doesn’t know Him.

Here we are 2,000 years later. Morals are rapidly declining. The name of Jesus is offensive to many, so it is best if He isn’t mentioned in public. Like Peter, associating yourself with that Name or even following His ways will cost you. It might be something simple like popularity. It might be something greater like your job. In many cultures, it could cost you your very life.

As the name of Jesus once again becomes more and more costly to use, He says, “Ask those who have heard me what I said, indeed they know what I said.”

What is our response?

The overwhelming majority does like Peter, and follows from a distance (Matthew 26:58). They try to get close enough to Jesus where they feel good about their chances of getting into Heaven. Yet, they remain far enough away so that it costs absolutely nothing to be associated with Him.

Think about it, we want Him to answer all of our prayers and meet all of our needs according to His riches in glory. Yet, when He asks us to live clean lives that honor Him, we simply say, “No! It is too inconvenient. Most people don’t want to hear it. It might cost me too much.”

Stand up for Him today. Be there for Him! Tell someone of His great love. Work like you are working for Him! Tell someone of His wonderful salvation. Proclaim the Name above all Names. Though most choose not to believe, you and I know the truth. I know He is who He says He is. He has opened up my blinded eyes. He has made me to walk a new walk. He reached into my soul and washed me clean. I know Him! There is nobody like Him!

Do you know Him?

If you do, will the way you love, work, and behave today reflect it? Are you following Jesus closely? Or, do you keep Him at a distance because it might cost you to be associated with Him?

Jesus wants you and I to be there for Him today. He wants our lives to display a closeness to Him that will attract others to what we have. Unsaved others are not impressed with the way we follow Him at a distance. Unsaved others are counting on us to stay close to Him no matter the cost. They don’t need to be convinced that Jesus is who He says He is based on our words; they need to be convicted based on the way we live.

Later

Adam

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Pleasing God

But without faith it is impossible to please God. – Hebrews 11:6

 

If there is one prayer that I might have used too much over the years, it is the prayer of protection. I like the words “hedge of protection” in the book of Job. Over the years, these words have made me feel safe and protected from the enemy. At the same time, I believe I have often misinterpreted these words to mean, “keep me comfortable and happy while not making me do anything too difficult.” In that sense, these words have kept me from stepping out in faith.

 

I think back to the beginning when God wanted me to leave the “popular” lifestyle of partying and hanging out with certain “friends.” I had no idea what was on the other side of all of that. Who would I hang out with? What would I do on the weekends? It was so much easier to just keep on “believing” in God and ask for forgiveness at the end of the day for the junk I did that I know He didn’t approve of.

 

Stepping out on faith was so costly in the short term. It was lonely. It was incredibly difficult and I thought constantly of quitting. I had no replacement friends for the ones I gave up. But, I did learn in that alone time in the wilderness how to be friends with God. I talked to Him. I read His word. I wrote songs for Him and played them for Him. He was all I felt like I had, so He became my best friend.

 

Before long, opportunities to publicly declare His word came about. Public speaking was my all time number one fear. My voice would literally and obviously shake if I had to do something as simple as read in front of a group of people. My heart would pound so hard that I wondered if it would come out of my chest. I would just tell Him, “Lord, I can’t do this. Please don’t make me do this.” I had a choice. I could stay protected in my little shell, or I could step out on faith. Fortunately, when I did, God allowed me to crawl before I walked. He allowed me to preach short, simple little devotions to small groups of people and “work my way up” to bigger crowds. Stepping out on faith pleased Him because He sure started to bless me with some wonderful revelations about His Word.

 

Then came quite a big test: “Will you pastor a church?” I didn’t lack for excuses, “Lord, I only have a handful of sermons. How can I come up with something every week? How will it affect my family? Are you sure you don’t want me to retire from teaching first? Can I answer later?” I had so many reasons to say no. But, this verse resonated with me. All of my questions were about my own abilities. The right question was this: Do I trust You, Lord, who I claim as my God, to supply all that need to do what You have called me to do?

 

I said, “yes.”

 

How could I please Him otherwise?

 

I so want to please Him.

 

Have you ever stepped out on faith and done something really difficult for Him? I’m talking about something that really takes you out of your comfort zone and everything in you just makes excuses like crazy. If you haven’t, do you really expect Him to say at the end of your life, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?

 

Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Thinning the Crowds

Jesus said to them, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”   — John 6:53

 

I have been attempting to be a preacher now for over 3 years. I have grown so much spiritually in this period of time. As I’ve grown, almost everything I have thought about church has turned upside down. When I was on the outside looking in, I thought a big part of church was having big crowds. I remember certain weeks being reserved for “bring a friend” or “pack a pew.” When I visited the churches with the really big crowds, it was electrifying. I loved it and that seemed to be what everyone should be aspiring to.

 

Now, before I go on, I do want to say that I don’t believe that there is absolutely anything wrong with any of those things I’ve mentioned.

 

However, now that I’m on the other side of the pulpit, I’m really questioning the “more people is better” model. Pastors certainly don’t lack for leadership conferences teaching about how to grow your particular church numerically. I even saw one where a famous pastor, for a sizable fee, will personally come and look at how you do things, and then give you steps to “maximize your growth potential.” Doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all . . . except . . .

 

Jesus was absolutely unconcerned with big crowds following Him. Every single time in the Bible that I read where big crowds started to follow Him, He said something to the tune of the verse I have chosen for this week. Read it again. Thirteen verses later (John 6:66) it says, “From that time, many of His disciples followed Him no more.”

 

They quit, and it appears that He made no effort to persuade them otherwise.

 

Why?

 

Maybe He wasn’t interested in people following Him simply for what He could do for them. Maybe He was more interested in people desiring His presence, not His presents. After all, when He said those words in John 6:53, He had just fed over 15,000 people on very little food. The people liked that trick and wanted Him to perform it again. When He told them that two-letter word nobody likes to hear, “no,” they simply said, “Forget this and forget Him.”

 

Surely we see that the American version of Christianity isn’t much different. Watch the numbers decrease in the church if an “inferior” pastor replaces the old one. Watch people never come back because you changed the style of music. Watch how many find someplace else if you do something as simple as change service times. If leaders want to keep crowds, they had better not be inconvenient.

 

Then again, maybe they should. At least then, just like Jesus, they would know who is there for the right reasons.

 

Later

 

Adam

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