Four Strikes and You’re Still Not Out

“Yes, it is, Lord,” she said.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  — Matthew 15:27

Time after time over the past couple of years, I’ve heard a very similar story when talking about the Lord.  “I used to go to church,” “I just don’t believe that stuff anymore,” and “I just don’t see God doing anything” are very common phrases people use.  I never can tell if they really believe what they are saying, or if they say it simply as an excuse to live as they please . . . it’s probably a little of both.  I remember being where they are now.  I felt the same way.  I’ve just never had the guts to not believe.  In my heart, I think I’ve pretty much always known that God is up there watching.  I’ve never really thought to get mad at Him for not doing things like I would.  

In Matthew 15:21 there begins a story about a gentile woman who comes and asks Jesus to heal her daughter.  She simply asks for mercy because “my daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” (v. 22).  Jesus chooses not to do anything in that very moment.  In fact, it appears that He is not going to do anything.  It seems like He doesn’t care and refuses to help.  I know we Americans love the “three strikes and I’m done with you” rule.  But, if this story is any indication, you might want to give the Lord at least four.

Strike One

Jesus did not answer a word – Matthew 15:23a

There it is.  Silence on the part of our Lord.  Does He even care?  Why won’t He answer me?  I know He has answered the same request for others!  Is He even worth serving?  Is He really there?  All things many American Christians say when they don’t get their wishes granted immediately.

Strike Two

His disciples came to Him and urged Him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out to us!”  — Matthew 15:23b

Here is where it gets a little harder to keep our trust in Jesus.  Why?  Because His followers are mean! How many people do not go to church because of the religious hypocrites in the church?  I try not to, but I can think of people who claim to be Jesus followers . . . but they’re just mean.  I can be a little merciful to the disciples in the story because they have only been following Jesus for three years at the most.  I know it takes time, but when people who say they believe plot and scheme to discard me and/or my family, it hurts terribly.  Many times, it gives a lot of weak Christians the ammo they need to walk away from the faith altogether.  

Strike Three

He (Jesus) answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  — Matthew 15:24

Here is the moment that doubt can really start to sink in.  “Maybe Jesus doesn’t heal people like me.  Maybe I’ve done too many bad things.  Maybe I just don’t have enough faith.”  Either way, people quit because they believe they are either excluded, or not good enough.  Yet, even hearing these words straight from our Lord Himself, the lady did not quit.

The woman came and knelt before Him, “Lord, help me!” she said. – Matthew 15:25

One translation said that she “worshiped.”  Something tells me she probably didn’t feel like kneeling or worshipping, but she did it anyway.  I try so hard to keep this in mind.  When I feel like my world has fallen apart, worship Him anyway.  Ask for help anyway.

Strike Four

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  — Matthew 15:26

Ok, now You’re just being mean, Jesus.  I mean, I expect it from Your disciples, they are only human, but You . . . You’re supposed to be above all that!  You are not being like I think You should be right now!  How many of us Americans would have been flat out offended at this point?  Many might have backtalked or even picked a fight with the Lord!  Still, she remained.

“Yes, it is, Lord,” she said.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.”  –Matthew 15:26

This woman was immovable. It was an amazing faith that she had in Jesus to not be shaken out.  She knew that there was absolutely no healing apart from Him.  She didn’t care how it seemed that He was, or how it seemed His followers were.  She was staying with the one who had the power to heal and change her situation.  

I’ll let you look up Matthew 15:28 to see how it all worked out.

Lord, thank You so much that I’ve had 31 years of growing in You and in the Holy Spirit.  The more I follow You and do the things You say, the easier it gets because You have turned so many situations around for my good.  I’m sorry that I forget what it was like to follow You when I was young in the faith.  Doubts so easily came to my mind, and I would often give up so easily.  Please help this new generation of young Christians to stick with You no matter what.  Make Yourself real to them just as You have to me and so many others.  Help them to never give up on You.  Help a new generation of skeptics come to You.  Change their lives, Lord, and create new hearts in people who let their lights shine before men.  As always, may all who read today glorify You, our Father in heaven.  Amen

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So Loved

John 3:16

I think after many years that God has given me a solution to the problem of the word “love.”  I believe there should be a difference in saying “I love that movie that just came out,” and “I love my wife.”  If you even talk about some band or music group, someone may say, “Ooh, I love them!”  After throwing the word around on so many earthly things, it just has no value when one says, “I love God.”  

The Greek language is much closer to having it right.  There are basically four categories of love.  There is philia, eros, storge, and agape which means brotherly love, intimate love, parental love, and unconditional love respectively.  I am obviously painting these words with quite a broad stroke of the brush.  But at the very least, using these words categorizes the kind of love that you have for whatever or whoever you say that you love.

I preached this past Sunday for the first time in a long time.  I was kind of nervous . . . well, there was no kind of to it.  I tried all week to get some notes written down that I could cling to and get a feel for how the message was going to flow. Finally, Saturday rolled around, and I had no idea what I was going to preach.  When God finally spoke, He simply said, “John 3:16, no notes.”  Just like He has done so many times, He proceeded to download everything into my heart and mind.  When I say this, all I can liken it to is drinking from a firehose.  He gives me what seems like hours and hours of information in just a few minutes.  I wanted to immediately write down as much as I could, but He said, “No, it is all there, I want you to trust Me.”  I took a long, slow walk and categorized John 3:16.  For God . . . so loved . . . the world . . . that He gave . . . His only begotten Son . . . that whosoever . . . believes in Him . . . shall not perish . . . but have everlasting life.  Every single one of those were such powerful talking points.  The one I was the most blown away with was “so loved.”  

I think “so love” is the solution to the problem with the American version of the word love.  God so loved that it moved Him into action.  He came down here to this sin cursed world, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross so that it would be possible for us to be saved.  I recently read the entire book of John in a day.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.  It gave me such an amazing picture in my mind of just how much He loved and still loves me.  He so loved me that He was willing to do something for me.  

John 14:15 says “If you love me, obey my commands.”  I like this verse because just like God’s love for me moved Him into action, it turns it back around on me and asks if my love for Him moves me into action.  I can say, “I love God” all day long, but at the end of that day, did I “so love” God that I was willing to do what He says?  For some reason, people are scared to death that God is actually going to have them do something.  I have listened to two sermons this week that basically taught that obedience was completely optional in following God.  Let’s assume for a moment this is true and the commands that Jesus gives us are merely suggestions.  If you repeatedly refuse to obey, how will you have any confidence at all that you really do love Him?  How else can I know that my life is really His?

To be clear, I’m not talking about earning your salvation.  I am talking about walking in obedience after you are saved.  God so loved me that He did something for me.  Do I so love Him that I’m willing to do something in return?

I’m sure you’ve said, “I love God.”  But . . . do you so love Him?

Lord, I want to so love You.  I hear people in their relationships say those three words and it means so little because those words are backed with so little action.  Only You can give me the love that I need to truly love You back.  This kind of love only comes from You who selflessly gave His life that I might live.  Continue to work on me and all who read this, Lord.  Help us to get it right.  If we can so love You and so love others, we will see our world change right before our eyes.  Help us, Lord.  Amen

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He That Doeth

Not everyone that saith to me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21

There is this thing happening right now within Christianity . . . at least American Christianity. Maybe it is just me, but I have seen it a lot these past few weeks.  The thing is this:  Some sort of belief that in order to belong to God, we don’t have to do anything.  

I read this story and I’ve been searching for it, but I can’t find it again.  It is the story of this little boy who goes to a preacher and asks, “What can I do to be saved?”  The preacher simply responds, “Nothing . . . Jesus has already done everything required on the cross.”  As silly as that sounds, there are people that 100% believe this.  I had a friend tell me that a friend was arguing with him who believed that every person was going to heaven regardless of how he or she lived their lives.  Think about it . . . If God just let everyone into heaven, sin would destroy it just like it did a once perfect earth.  

Salvation is a gift (Romans 6:23).  But I’ve seen gifts get rejected.  In fact, I recently tried to give a gift only to receive it right back.  Jesus offers the gift of eternal life every day.  So many people say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Right off the bat, we both know that you and I must do something for salvation.  We know that we must admit that we are full of sin and the road that we are on is the wrong one.  Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at.   But narrow is the way and strait is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.  (Matthew 7:13-14) I’ve never been to a funeral where the dead person wasn’t assumed to be “in a better place.”  According to this, only a few of them actually are.  

Next, we must believe.  Do I even need to quote John 3:16?  Believe has two definitions in the English language.  One is to “hold as your opinion; think or suppose.”   That sounds to me like the way the overwhelming majority of American Christians treat the word believe.  The other definition is “accept as true; feel sure the truth of.”  Those are different enough that I think there should be two different words for those very different definitions. 

Here is the part that nobody seems to like nowadays.  After you receive the gift of salvation, and you believe that Jesus is who He says He is . . . you’ve got to live for Him.  There is some sort of weird notion out there that a person can receive Jesus as their savior but reject Him as the Lord of their life.  I’m sorry . . . you can’t.  I’ve talked to adult after adult and kid after kid, most of them are not using these words, but are basically saying, “I get it, I need Jesus, but He is going to ask me to give up my favorite sins . . . and I’m not willing to do that.”  Do you remember the rich young ruler?  He believed everything like we think one is supposed to believe, yet he walked away sad.  Why?  Because he loved money more than Jesus.  Assuming nothing changed after that encounter with Jesus, will he still find himself in heaven?  What is your honest answer?

Here is the thing . . . the devil wants you to do something.  He wants you to give your life to do evil.  He wants you to lie.  He wants you to live for yourself.  He wants you to spend your day making things as easy, as comfortable, and as pleasurable for yourself as possible.  He wants you to be sexually immoral.  He wants you having kids outside of marriage.  He wants you high on drugs.  He wants you addicted to alcohol.  He wants you to have road rage.  He wants you to berate that waitress for not keeping your tea glass full.  He wants you to complain about everything.  He wants you to look around at others who are getting way more for doing way less and despise them.  He wants you lazy.  He wants you suffering.  He wants you to be unforgiving, and he wants you to never, ever spend time getting to know Jesus by reading the Bible and talking to Him in prayer.  And . . . if he can get you to do all of this while calling yourself a Christian, then he is more than victorious.

How is the devil doing in your life? 

How is he doing in the lives of most people that you know?

Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). To have that life, we must be obedient to Him.  I don’t know about you, but He has asked me to do things . . . hard things that I didn’t want to do.  I have even complained to Him and told Him in prayer that I felt like He ripped me off because doing those hard things were so unpleasant.  Then time went by.  Then I saw what He saw when He first asked me to obey.  Then I thanked Him.  Then I fell in love with Him.  Now all I want to do is give Him my best.

Lord, please help revive true Christianity in America again.  Make Americans basically good again.  I believe at one time most Americans cared for others at least as much as they cared for themselves.  Today, all I see is looking out for number one.  I can be that way too.  Snap me out of it, Lord.  Make me holy.  Help me point others to You by the way I live my life.  Send revival, Lord.  Send true revival to a rapidly deteriorating United States of America.  Let it start with me.  Amen.

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Conducive

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  – Psalm 139:5

This past Friday, God’s presence manifested for me and one of my friends while we were praying.  We pray almost every school morning.  Most of the time, we say pretty much the same things and it is all nice, we know and believe that God hears, and we go about our day.  I have no idea what was different about this day, but when we started praying, God just devoured us.  I was in tears just sobbing.  I didn’t want to leave . . . ever.  

Every other time this has happened, I have tried and tried to recreate it.  Never does it repeat itself in the same way.  This is the first time that I’m aware of this fact and the first time that I will make no attempt to recreate God’s presence in the exact same way.  I will appreciate that moment for what it was and appreciate how it is still affecting me this morning.

I so want some more of that presence.  I’d love to get in it and just hang out for hours and hours.  When will I experience it again?  I don’t know.  But here is what I do know . . . it happens when I least expect it, and it happens when I’m doing things that honor Him.  I might be listening to praise and worship, I might be praying, I might be in a Spirit-filled church, I might be listening to a sermon, and I might be just thinking about Him.  I believe He is teaching me this morning that I don’t need to go presence chasing, I just need to keep my environment conducive for Him to show up.

Lord, there is nothing on this planet that compares to feeling You.  I can’t imagine how awesome Heaven will be.  Thank You for making Yourself real to me, Lord.  Will You make Yourself real to others?  Change people by the power of Your presence.  There is nothing like it, and there is no one else like You.  Amen  

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Be Careful What You Allow

You know when I sit down or stand up.  – Psalm 139:2

For a ton of random reasons, I have gone to more concerts these past couple of months than probably at any other time in my life.  Some of the bands I really liked as a kid, and I knew that the guys in them were getting on up in years and it might be the last chance to get to see them.  Other bands are simply in their prime, and I’ve learned that prime doesn’t last long.  One band I saw was Megadeth.  I liked them back in the day and remember seeing them at Cowboy’s Night Life in Greenville.  In 2002, I read that the lead singer, Dave Mustaine, had become a born-again believer in the Lord.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  Many religious people obviously trashed the guy, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I still give him the benefit of the doubt.  Growing relationships with Christ are all over the place, but they should trend towards holiness and being different from the world.

There was another band that I saw called Fit for a King.  They do claim to all be Christians.  I bring these two bands up because I had high expectations for them as far as being a light in the darkness and, at the very least, being different than everyone else. 

I don’t know about you, but when a person casually and frequently cusses, I discredit them as a follower of Jesus.  I’m not talking about slipping up, I’m talking about regular use when around a comfortable crowd.  I’m also not talking about newer converts . . . I remember how hard it was to get this under control.  I’m talking about someone who has claimed to follow the Lord for years.  

Now to Fit for a King’s credit, they never cussed.  There was a moment where I felt like they normally speak about the big deal that the Lord is in their lives.  The crowd, however, wanted nothing to do with it.  Several of the attendees yelled, “C’mon . . . keep the energy going.”  So, that is what they did.  I felt like they missed a huge opportunity to tell them about Jesus.  

To both bands’ discredit, it is what they allowed in the opening acts that was far worse.  There were very frequent uses of the f-bomb.  I kept thinking, “at the very least, I would not allow this.”  Please don’t get me wrong, I could not care less if a person cusses or not.  I don’t necessarily like to hear it, but as soon as you become a Christian, you go to war against what comes out of your mouth.  I distinctly remember saying a cuss word after being saved.  I heard in my spirit, “Adam, you don’t talk like that anymore.”  I know now that it says so straight up in the Bible (Colossians 3:8), but I didn’t know it back then.  In fact, there was one day that I had committed to no foul words.  When I got around my friends, it took about 5 minutes before they said, “What is wrong with you?”  I said something lame like, “I just think you aren’t very smart if you have to use that vocabulary.”  Being able to stand up for the Lord was a whole other issue I’d have to deal with later.  

Lastly, I don’t know the hearts of any of those band members.  I’m simply making an observation.  Strangely enough, I’m making the same observation that many religious folks make about me.  Judge not lest ye be judged, right?  But here is the thing . . . the Lord knows.  He knows their hearts.  He knows my heart.  And here is the best part, and the whole point I’m trying to make . . . He knows if I’m standing up for Him, or if I’m sitting idly by doing nothing. 

Honestly, He and I both know.

Lord, I want to stand up for You.  I want to be a light in the darkness.  I want to be holy.  I want to be different.  Will You empower me to be that light?  Let me be a contrast to the world.  May people ask why I do the things that I do the way that I do them.  May my answer always be the same, “I’m just trying to follow Jesus.”   Lord, please fill those Christians who have an incredible platform with Your Holy Spirit.  Give them boldness like never before to tell others about You.  I could totally see You start the third Great Awakening in the concert halls through people that religious spirited people can’t stand.  Lord, in whatever manner You choose to do it, please awaken Your people and send revival soon.  Amen.

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Not of This Pen

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  – John 10:14-16

I have this theory.  I believe that right now there are very few Americans making a real deal attempt to follow Jesus.  If Pew Research Polls are anywhere near accurate, then in the last 10 years we have lost 12% of people who simply say they are a Christian.  The number was 75% 10 years ago, and it is 63% now.  Many people have simply not returned to church since the pandemic.  Youth pastors are reporting that the overwhelming majority of kids simply will not attend group anymore.  

So here is the theory:  If there are a finite number of demons (1/3 of the angels), and the number of Christians in America are declining, then evil can concentrate its efforts on the remaining followers.  The devil already has the sinners who reject Christ.  Evil already has the religious pew warmers who sit and criticize every detail of the church service and complain that it isn’t to their liking.  This leads to a question that we must answer:  Is it worth the devil’s time to come after me?  Am I making enough of an impact on this planet for Jesus that I am worth demonic effort to bring me down?

I read back through some of my posts, and it is crazy how up I am one morning, and completely down the next.  One day I’m on fire, the next I’m feeling sorry for myself.  At first, I beat myself up for this roller coaster ride.  But then I thought, “I just might be worth at least some of the devil’s time.”  People who love their sin more than salvation for the most part are indifferent towards me and the path that I try to lead them to take.  To them, I’m just an old-fashioned, crazy, religious guy missing out on fun.  Church people, mainly those with a religious spirit, despise me and my attempts to draw lost people to the Lord.  I have let these two facts discourage me, when they should be encouraging me.  I am worth demonic effort.  

I know the Good Shepherd.  Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”  I’ve never noticed the rest of that verse before where He talks of people that aren’t in “this sheep pen.”  That must mean the Gentiles.  He says, “I must bring them also.”  God is speaking to me in this right now.  I believe He wants me to do most of my work outside the American church walls.  I have been so preoccupied with the possibility of getting back into ministry and preaching inside a church building.  The truth is, there are so many souls outside of those buildings that need to be won.  There are many lost lambs that need to be brought back home.  The more I think about it, I would rather do it this way.  When we read the mighty things that happened in the book of Acts, there were no church buildings.  Why wouldn’t God use me to help win them and bring them back home?  I am willing!  I am available!

Lord, help me to honor You with my life.  Help me to be holy.  Show Your mighty power in me and through me.  Your word says that the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.  I’m signing up to be a laborer.  Help me do my job for You.  Help me turn off the internet and television and meet with people who are willing to talk about You.  Time is short.  It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this to face judgment.  I want to be ready.  Wash me, cleanse me, and make me new again as I go forth this day.  Amen.

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A Big Mistake

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.  – Hebrews 11:6

When I began my faith journey, I certainly believed that God existed.  This verse plainly says that this is a requirement for coming to Him.  I came to Jesus purely because I did not want to go to hell.  I believed that God existed, and without Him you don’t get into heaven.  This led me to halfheartedly do things for Him every once in a while.  At best, I would “tip” Him occasionally, and think I was doing something awesome.

A few years later, I would read the Bible for myself.  I realized that God was exceedingly good and wanted the best for me.  I found myself trying new things out of a sense of obedience.  I would say that the first several things that I did simply because I felt like God asked me to resulted in this trust relationship that I never thought was possible.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God had become a rewarder of me simply because I diligently sought Him.  

I realize that the Christian life has its ups and downs . . . just like any life.  Right now, I’m on the downside.  Not because there is anything horribly wrong, but because I realize that I’ve made a big mistake.  For some time, I don’t know how long, I have changed this verse up a little bit.  My version reads like this, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently do things for him.”  I have been doing a lot of things for him lately, but I haven’t done a lot of seeking Him.  I even wonder if I’m typing this out because I love Him, or out of some sense of obligation.  

I went outside last night to burn some boxes.  I sat next to the fire and just watched the flames.  It was as peaceful as I’ve felt in a long time.  I simply said, “God, you are so good.”  It was like in my mind I could see Jesus walk over to me and sit next to me.  We didn’t say anything to each other.  We just sat as peacefully as one can possibly sit.  

Lord, help me get this right.  I want to get back to the simple art of hanging out with You.  I’m doing things for You that You aren’t asking me to do . . . no wonder my peace is gone.  But even as I type this prayer, I feel Your presence and just want to hang out there.  It seems like so long ago that this was the pure motivation of my life . . . to get into Your presence and stay there for as long as possible.  Lord, there is and never will be another like You.  I don’t really know what to pray right now.  Will You search my heart?  If there is anything that does not belong, will You reveal it to me?  Will You lead me to true repentance?  Will You fill me with life, and life more abundantly?  Amen

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It Takes a Village

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.  – Romans 12:1

This verse follows the “Hall of faith” chapter that mentions so many giants of the faith.  It mentions Abel, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Samuel, and other Judges and prophets.  I think this verse is basically saying, “Because they did it, we can too.”  This really got me to thinking this morning about all the people God has placed in my life that helped me become a follower of Jesus.

My first memory of anything to do with church, God, or the Bible came at Salem United Methodist Church.  We memorized the books of the Bible in Sunday School.  Being the overachiever that I was, I only memorized the first five, but for the first time in my life, I thought that the Bible must be an important book.  

Steve James, a youth pastor, would be the first to tell me about heaven and hell.  He told me that I needed Jesus to go to heaven.  I was too scared to receive Him in front of my friends, so he came to me, picked me up, and led me to the Lord.  

My friend, Scott McGaha, would purchase me my first Bible.  Even though it took a few years, it is the first Bible I ever read cover to cover and is still the Bible that means the most to me.

A good ‘ole southern preacher by the name of Ronnie Hodge would be the first preacher to captivate me by telling Bible stories.  For the first time in my life, I wanted to read the Bible and know what it said.  

I will always be grateful for Rev. Don Vaughn and youth pastors Mike and Laura Worsham at Salem Baptist Church.  They taught us, showed us, and put us in many situations where we learned what it looked like to serve God.

Later, a guy named Jimmy Boggs would sit down with me and teach me how to read the Bible and apply it to my life.  He was the busiest guy on the planet, but he always took time for me.  

I would go on to college and get far away from God.  An invitation to an old school Church of God revival by Larry and Betty McGaha would be the catalyst that would fill me up with the Spirit of God and help me never look back.  

My wife, Tonya, would be the one to show me what it looked like to put the past in the past and move forward.  Mark Bagwell would invite us to Golden Corner Church where I learned the value of having a church family and being in a life group.

I hate when I start naming names.  I know I miss people and leave them out.  Of course, I don’t mean to.  It would be easy to mention Shaun Watkins, Jeremy Garrett, Tony Grant, Jeff Rankin, and mention the parts that they either played, or are playing at this moment.  I have been surrounded by my own “great cloud of witnesses.”  

Right now, I just want to help others on their journey.  People are all over the place . . . just like I’ve been.  Maybe they need to hear about Jesus for the first time.  Maybe they need to grow.  Maybe they need to come back to Him.  Who knows?  God knows.  If you truly know Him, what are you doing to help them?  Take the time to look back over your own life . . . who was your village?

Lord, help me help people in the same manner that you have used others to help me.  If I can preach at a park, play a song that honors You in a bar, counsel troubled teens, lead a Bible study, or simply pray with someone who needs You to move on their behalf, help me to do it.  By the power of Your Spirit help me to truly live for You and be a vessel that is used to pour into the lives of others.  You have sent so many people to pour into me . . . How can I not pour into others?  I just want to do my part.  I just want to follow You.  I just want to hear the words, “Well done!”  Place people in my path that I can help.  Thank You for all that You do, have done, and will do.  

Amen

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The Ticket

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  – Psalm 9:10

I have a family member who got a traffic violation.  I won’t use names because I didn’t get permission.  It was a $75 dollar fine and a 3-point violation.  The officer who wrote it up told this person, “If you show up to your court date, I will drop this.”  A month later while nervously standing in the courtroom, this person watched the cop be true to his word and left with a clean record.

Here is the thing:  The person was guilty.  They did the crime.  They violated the law.  It did not matter how much good they did before the incident or after the incident.  There was no balancing out the act.  There was no doing enough good to cancel it out.  They were on trial for a specific violation.  All this person had was trust that the law officer would do what he said he would do.

You and I are guilty.  Go through the ten commandments.  Have you ever loved someone or something more than God?  I have.  This means that I have violated commandments one and two.  Have you ever used God’s Name as a cuss word?  I have.  I’m guilty of breaking commandment number 3 when I stand before the Judge of all judges.  I have dishonored the Sabbath, dishonored my parents, and hated someone which makes me guilty of murder according to 1 John 3:15.    I’ve committed adultery according to Matthew 5:28 and by fornication.  I’ve stolen, lied, and coveted.  This makes me guilty of all 10 commandments.  What will happen to me on Judgment Day when I stand before the Judge? 

Make no mistake, we will all stand before the Judge!!

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this to face judgment.  – Hebrews 9:27

As I typed out and remembered my sins, great fear and great regret came over me.  I don’t think I have been this aware of my sin in a long, long time.  This feeling of despair wells up inside of me.  It does not matter how much good I do; it cannot cancel out the fact that I broke God’s law.  I can’t even play the ignorance card.  I might could on some of it, but I’ve broken all 10 commandments willingly and knowing better.  I type that last sentence in much despair this morning.  When I stand before the Lord, I’ve only got one card to play.  Just like my family member had to put their trust in the officer . . . I’ve got to put my trust in Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  – Romans 8:1

God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  – John 3:17

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.  – Acts 4:12

Jesus Christ is all that I have.  I will go into that heavenly courtroom trusting that He will do on a much, much grander scale, what that cop did for my family member.  

Please, please, please . . . put your trust in Him.  

Please, please, please . . . share this with everyone you know.  

They’ve got to know!!!

Lord, I felt the fear in my family member awaiting trial.  I feel the fear right now as I await trial before you.  You are all that I have.  I’ve got nothing else.  Blessed are the poor in Spirit?  Then here it is.  I’m not coming to You with a resume that talks of how I played on praise and worship teams, sat in church, preached in church, wrote WMD’s, stayed married to my wife, stopped lying, or any list of other “good” deeds.  I’m coming to you with one play:  The Bible says that You so loved me, that You sent Jesus to die for me, and if I put my trust in Him, I will not perish, but have everlasting life.  Please make all the readers feel the despair of standing before You without Jesus being their police officer.   Let them feel the full weight of it.  Then, if they know You and Your Word, give them peace that passes all understanding because they know in Whom they have trusted.  I ask that You put a special blessing on that police officer who was a picture, even if just for a moment in time, of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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The Waiting

Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel.  But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.  So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offering to me.”  And he offered the burnt offering.  – 1 Samuel 13:8-9

Israel’s first king made the biggest mistake of his life right here.  You want to talk about some consequences? 

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed.  “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you.  Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.  The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14). 

I look back at just how much trouble I’ve gotten in by trying to solve my own problems and refusing to wait on the Lord.  I don’t think I consciously refused Him, I just went with my instincts and tried to take care of things myself.  So many times, it never even crossed my mind to pray and consult God.  I am getting better at it as I get older, but when I have a quick fix at my disposal, it is so difficult to wait on God.  

I want to be a pastor again.  I know it will happen in God’s timing.  In the meantime, it is difficult for me to not force it to happen.  I know I could.  I could build the resume, submit applications, say the right things, and I could make it happen.  In fact, I did interview recently.  As I was being asked questions, I was incredibly aware that I could tell them exactly what they wanted to hear.  I refused.  I told them my honest answers.  I even told them that if they wanted references from my former church, then I would give them the names of people that would more than likely say negative things about me.  This way, if they still wanted me, I would know that it was God placing me there. 

I didn’t get the job . . . shocker.  But when I do pastor again, there will be no doubt that God has placed me.

I can’t imagine taking an approach like this at any previous point in my life.  I just want to know without a doubt that it is God lighting my path.  I want His timing.  I used to believe, “God helps those who help themselves” was in the Bible.  I was astounded when I found out that it wasn’t.  It looks like Saul believed this saying as well and it cost him the kingship.  I’d rather say, “God helps those who place their complete trust in Him.”  To me, that summarizes Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

And lean not on your own understanding

In all your ways acknowledge Him 

And He will make your path straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I have talked with two people already this week struggling with very different problems.  Both have the means to do something in their own power with their own resources.  After contemplating 1 Samuel 13, both have decided to place it in the Lord’s hands and wait on Him. 

Lord, I’ve gotten into so much trouble by doing things my way instead of trusting You.  Impatience has cost me time, money, energy, and resources I will never get back.  Selfishness has brought unnecessary pain that I did not have to experience.  Help me from this day forward to truly learn to wait on You.  I want to trust You and lean not on my own understanding.  In all my ways I want to acknowledge You.  And what a promise that You give me for doing so . . . You will make my path straight.  I love You, Lord.  Help and bless all who choose to read today.  Amen.

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