Loving the Unlovable

I had writer’s block this morning and had no clue what to write about. So, I began reading some of my old WMD’s. I’m glad I did. This one was written seven years ago.

Choosing to Love the Unlovable

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. — Luke 6:35

Some things in the Bible are hard to understand, especially as a beginning Christian. This scripture is one of them. In Luke 6, Jesus says we should do good to people who do not appreciate our goodness. We should show love to our enemies. We should loan to people we know won’t pay us back. We should just give our stuff to people when they ask for it and not demand it back when they do not return it. Jesus says even sinners do things for people they know they can trust. As His followers, we don’t get to be like everybody else. We are to purposefully show love to those we don’t even like.

This must be the hardest thing in the world. Several years ago, a few of the teachers at my school discussed this from an educational perspective. We concluded that this tells us as teachers that we should give our best to the students that we wish we could kick right on out of our classes. Every teacher likes to teach the “good” kids. Jesus would say “even sinners love to teach the good kids.” However, we as followers of Jesus must treat the “bad” students the same as the good. In most cases this will require extra effort and time on our part. If you are like me, you say “why in the world would I want to do that when I know it won’t help? Those kids won’t do the work. It won’t make a difference. They won’t pay attention. They won’t care. They won’t __________.”  Why should we do this when we know we probably won’t get anything in return?

Here are three reasons:

1. God just might intervene and use us as the tool that helps get one or more of “those” kids back on track. We could be the ones that help them break free and do something with their lives. Maybe by the way we show that we care, we make them want to become good students and make something of themselves. Maybe they don’t recognize what we were doing until they are older and become parents. Maybe they choose to break the cycle of destruction in their own family line and their behavior stops with them and does not repeat for another generation. Maybe it is a future teacher down the road that reaps the reward of our work. If this happened with one out of a hundred kids, wouldn’t it be worth it?

2. We are the most like God when we do this. He gave His Son to die for us when we didn’t deserve it. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). He gave us His best expecting no immediate gratification. In light of that . . . How can we not do the same for others and show the world what He is like?

3. He will REWARD us! In Luke 6:35 it says if we do this “your reward will be great.” I don’t know what this means as far as being rewarded down here or in Heaven when we get there, but either way, it sounds pretty sweet. If someone takes from me and I can just let it go, or if I give and don’t expect anything in return, whatever God chooses to reward me with will be much better than just getting back whatever it was that was taken from me in the first place. His rewards are ten thousand times better than the rewards of men.

I know this is tough stuff.  Just don’t think that because I’m writing this that I have it all together and do this perfectly. The only thing I’ve become really good at is recognizing that I failed to do it after the fact. But sometimes, and I mean sometimes, I get this right and it opens the door to the ultimate conversation. Eventually, somebody always asks “Why are you like this?” My answer is always the same . . .

Because the living Lord Jesus Christ . . . is like this to me!

Lord, I ask for so much help this school year. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to let my light so shine before men that others may see my good deeds and want to glorify You, my Father in Heaven. Help me to forgive who I need to forgive. Help me to do what I need to do. Help me to walk each day with a sense of Your Presence. Work in me. Live in me. Do great and mighty works in Your Name. Help those who are lost not reject so great a salvation. Amen.

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225

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to your goodness knowledge; — 2 Peter 1:5

I have been very inconsistent at working out.  I’ve sporadically worked out for several months at a time ever since I was sixteen.  Usually, I get in pretty good shape, life happens, and I just quit, rinse, and repeat the cycle.  Well, when Covid hit, I quickly found myself being lazy, eating a lot, and gaining the Covid – 19 . . . pounds that is.  I thought, “Well, I don’t really have anything else to do,” so I started back in the gym and have stuck with it for probably my longest period ever. 

With that being said, I’ve always wanted to bench press 225 pounds.  It is just a weightlifting benchmark for someone to be able to put 4 of those 45-pound weights on a 45-pound bar and do it.  I tried several times along the way with no success.  I only count it if I take it off the rack, rep it, and then put it back.  This past Friday, I finally did it.  

I got to thinking about why it happened.  I didn’t go to the weight room thinking I was going to get it.  I didn’t even go with making the attempt in mind.  I just put 135 on the bar and started warming up.  It just happened to feel super easy . . . way easier than it ever had before.  So, I said to myself, “I think today is the day.”  I asked a guy to spot me, put the weights on, and did it. 

Sorry I took 3 paragraphs to explain that, but God spoke to me in all of this.  It was kind of a rebuke, but I’m thankful He did.  Without realizing it, I’ve made these future goals for myself, and I’ve never really done that before.  Ever since my early 20’s, I have simply pursued God, and He has literally opened every door to these huge milestones in my life:  who I would marry, where I would work, when we would have kids, where I would preach . . . etc.  It has always worked this way.  Now, I’m starting to focus on these financial goals and suddenly I’m trying to plan things out and work towards my retirement.  It’s like God simply said, “Your retirement is exactly like 225.”  I immediately understood.  

I don’t need to be getting ahead of myself. If I’m going to really be making a hardcore effort in life, the Bible tells me what I need to be working on.  I need to add to my faith goodness.  How about I just get back to working like I’m working for Him?  How about I just look for every opportunity I can to represent Him well?  I could type a whole WMD on this, but I’ve gotten bad off track with this one.  

I need to add to my goodness knowledge.  I have been studying the Word, but for the past couple of years, I just don’t have the same zeal I had while studying it years ago.  I want that back.  The Bible goes on in the next verse to say, “and to knowledge self-control.”  Another word I saw for self-control was steadfastness.  The idea behind steadfastness was “holding up a great weight.”  I really could not believe what I was seeing after God spoke this to me with the whole benching 225 thing.  I don’t have to make retirement a goal.  I don’t have to pursue ease and comfort.  God will work things out, just like He always has.  He will continue to open the right doors and make sure the right things happen as far as my future is concerned.  

Here is the thing:  The narrow path that leads to life is a difficult one.  It is like so very few people care or even notice if we veer from it.  We are to pick up our cross and carry it.  Unfortunately, it feels like setting it down is so easy to do, especially in the United States of America.  How many people do you know that really and truly deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus Christ?  

Lord, with all my heart I want to follow You.  I don’t want in this last half of my life to live for comfort.  I don’t want to live as if I’ve learned enough about Your Word and read it enough times.  I don’t want to put my effort in the wrong things.  Help me make the effort to add to the faith I have in You.  Grant me a will to pursue goodness.  Grant me a mind that goes after true and pure knowledge.  Grant me the strength to carry my cross to the end.  Let me not pursue the wrong things.  Most of all, Lord, will You grant me a heart that falls crazy in love with You that I might meet the greatest commandment to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength.  Amen.

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A Real Hunger

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  – Matthew 5:6

I remember the best hamburger I ever ate.  I was in high school.  We had just played Ware Shoals in a double header.  I have no idea if we won or lost either game, but I remember the hamburger I ate afterwards.  I had forgotten to pack a snack, so I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch.  After we played, we went to Burger King, and I ordered a Whopper.  Normally, I was super picky and didn’t want tomato, pickles, or onions.  But that day, I didn’t care, I ordered it straight up simply because I thought it would get to me faster if it didn’t place any special rules on it.  Anyway, when it finally came, I bit into the whole thing . . . onions, pickles, tomato, and all.  It was absolutely the best thing I had ever eaten.  

After that, I thought I was “cured” of being picky.  Maybe a week or two later, I went and ordered a Whopper with everything on it.  When I bit into it this time, it was horrible.  The slimy tomato, the horrid pickles, and that crunchy sharp onion about did me in.  I quickly took those things off and enjoyed the rest of it, but it was just okay.  Not near the killerness I had after the baseball games.

What was the difference?  The difference was that I was hungry.

I only think of this little story because this past Sunday, our little church service at Oconee State Park was different.  I’m not sure it was really any different, I think I was just different.  As I read the Word, it just felt so alive.  As I told a story I’ve literally told 100 times, I just cried.  As I prayed for a dear sister I’d never met before, it just felt so powerful.  As we talked about God, my spirit just burned.  As I sang to the Lord it was like I could just feel Him . . . I was basking in that sweet presence so much that I forgot the words to two songs that I would have sworn I’d never forget.  None of that even mattered.  Under that little shed, God was meeting me.  

I’m pretty sure He is always meeting me.  I think I just go into a service sometimes wanting to “take off” the stuff I don’t like.  The truth is, if I’m hungry, I will enjoy the whole thing.  I have a friend who always says, “Hunger don’t know bad bread.”  I do believe this is true in the spiritual realm as well.

Lord, give each person reading this a true hunger for Your Word.  Give us a true excitement to meet with others in Your house.  Bring revival, Lord.  Bring true and lasting revival.  Grant us a little taste of Heaven on Earth before we draw our last breath and experience the real thing.  I love you, Lord.  I can’t thank You enough for leaving the comfort of heaven just to come down and save a lost and selfish sinner like myself.  You are the greatest thing this life offers.  Amen.  

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The Ark Encounter

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of Man. – Luke 17:26

My family and I took the trek to Georgetown, Kentucky to see the replica of Noah’s Ark.  The attention to detail was nothing short of spectacular.  The videos they show throughout are nothing short of powerful.  I told my wife after “The Noah Interview,” “If I wasn’t saved, I’d sure get saved right now.”  During the second video, they used the same characters to do a modern-day interview called “As in the Days of Noah.”  I told my wife, “If I didn’t get saved after the last video, I’d sure get saved after this one.”  

It is an unbelievable thing to see the Bible that you’ve read for years turn in to real life right before your eyes.  Here is what I couldn’t get past, in the days of Noah there was only one way to be saved.  You were either on that boat when it started to rain, or you were not.  Today, if you asked 100 random people in the world right now how to go on to a better next life, 31 would say be Christian, 25 would say be Muslim, 15 would say Hindu is correct, 15 would claim nothing at all, 6 would say Buddhist, and the rest would pitch a bunch of different beliefs . . . at least according to Google.  Anyway, the point is, back then there was only one way to be saved.  

Today, there is still only one way.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to add another way to be saved.  Most people today believe that if you are sincere in your beliefs, you will be fine.  That simply isn’t true.  Many people back before the flood sincerely believed they would be fine because water levels had never been near high enough to make it to the ark, much less make it float.  Jesus came to make the only way to Heaven.  You are either in Him, or you are not.  

Here is the thing . . . they believe it took Noah 75 years to build the boat.  I thought it was 100 before I went there, but they made a convincing argument.  They started the Ark Encounter in 2010.  75 years from 2010 is 2085.  What if we are that close to His return?  What if the Ark Encounter stands as a last pleading of God to get into His Son, Jesus Christ?  I’m telling you, if you visit it and read everything and watch everything, you must either receive Him, or you must reject Him.  

As I sit here typing this reflection of my Ark Encounter, I realize how much time I waste.  I waste so much time trying to be comfortable in this world.  I waste so much time hating on the people that have done me wrong.  I waste time on temporary pleasures here when I should be focused on eternal rewards.  I spend so much time making my own world better that I don’t realize I should be begging and pleading with people to escape the judgement to come.  Whether or not Jesus returns by 2085, the overwhelming majority reading this will have met their fate by then.  It will have already been decided where you spend eternity.

Lord, I am begging and pleading for You to stir a passion in our hearts for You.  Help us to truly get this.  Help us to draw so near to You.  Help us to tell others in a way they can understand.  Help us to stop all this “my way is right,” and “your way is wrong.”  We spend so much time determining who is preaching correctly and who is a heretic.  We don’t have time for that, Lord.  You said the world would be convinced when we as the church started truly loving one another.  Let it start with me, Lord.  Amen

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Constantly Moving Forward

Their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men. – Isaiah 29:13

At the time Isaiah wrote that, Israel was within 100 years of being destroyed by the Babylonians.  The people were honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were nowhere near Him.  They were going through the motions with God’s commands while simultaneously serving other gods.  I wonder sometimes if the American church isn’t doing the same thing right now.  Maybe we attend church for an hour a week, but how do we live the other 167 hours in the week?  Maybe we click on the livestream on Sunday, but where do our other clicks take us?  

I look back on my church life and easily see how I could have relied on the precepts that were taught by the men leading.  At my first church, I could have simply thought that taking communion regularly was important and as long as I did that at least once a month, I’d be okay.  At my next church, I could have easily thought that now that I “said the prayer” and was baptized, I was good to go . . . now just hold on until the rapture takes place.  At my next church, I could have chased and chased the Holy Spirit until I achieved some sort of spiritual status that was always going to be just out of reach.  At another church, I could have simply done good deeds and made sure there was this image me and my family portrayed.  If we looked religious and kept hidden any real problems we were having, we would remain accepted by God and His people.  

I am not saying that there were not real and authentic believers at each of these churches, there were, I’m just saying that it would have been easy for me to rely on looking the part and gotten stuck.  Remember, Satan is crafty and does not want us to move forward in our relationship with God.  Matthew 7:21-23 are by far the verses that make me worry more than any other verses.  People will petition God when they stand before Him and try to justify their entrance into Heaven.  Here are the reasons they will give:

Did we not prophesy in your Name?

I have been to powerful church services where they prophesied.  In fact, there was a lady that prophesied over me that I would preach messages that went all over the world.  I thought she was crazy, and I totally forgot about it until the day I saw that one of my WMD’s was read at a church service in Africa.  I immediately remembered the prophecy and could not believe it.  With that being said, I could not imagine petitioning God for a place in heaven based on that alone.

And in Thy name cast out devils?

I don’t think I have ever been to a service where this was done, but I’ve sure heard stories.  I have seen it done, but it was not in a church setting.  Once again, I’m not going to petition an entrance into heaven by saying, “Remember that time, Lord . . .”

And in Thy Name done many wonderful works?

I think right here is where so many in the American church lose it.  Many people are banking on their works to get them into Heaven.  “Didn’t I tithe?  Didn’t I go to church every time the doors were open?  Didn’t I give to that food shelter?  Didn’t I volunteer for this or that?  Wasn’t I a pretty good person?”  I’m not against any of this at all.  I’m sure Jesus isn’t either.  But the fact of the matter is that a person can experience and do many things in God’s Name and still hear these words:  Depart from me, I never knew you.

I’m thinking that part of the reason God has me out in the wilderness right now is to strip the safety I’ve always felt from church and make sure that I’m serving Him because I love Him.  I don’t really get to bank on my works because there isn’t anyone else around to see them.  I don’t get to look around at other people and make myself feel better by comparison because there aren’t a lot of other people present.  It was kind of easy to preach sermons and go with the flow when I knew a fairly large number of people would be present in church.  Now, I put in the same amount of preparation and there may or may not be at least one person, family, or group come to a service in the wilderness.  The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter if someone comes or not . . . God is asking me: “Will you do it even if nobody shows up?  Can you do this just for Me?”  The answer is “Yes, Lord . . . I will!”  

Lord, with all my heart I want to truly know You.  I want to help others know You.  I don’t want to make this Christian walk about just what I do or have done for You.  I want to know You!  I want to love You!  Help me!  On that glorious day when my faith becomes sight, may I hear those sweet words from You, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Thank You that as I type this, it is like You are with me.  I pray for every reader, that as they read it . . . it is like You are with them.  Help the American church to get this right.  Help us to learn to put our denominational differences aside and really learn how to love You and each other.  Keep us constantly moving forward in our relationship with You.  Amen

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Hannah’s Testimony

For WMD today, I wanted to share what a former student of mine wrote.  It is so powerful, and I just felt God like crazy while reading it.  I knew you guys would do the same.  I am blessed to know Hannah Grant Harris.  She was without a doubt one of the best students I ever had.  Here we go . . . 

I have felt led to share my testimony for a while now. This is only a short part of my testimony because it would honestly take page after page to share more of how God has worked and moved in my life. As the Lord leads, I hope to share more of my story and how I have lived and continue to live in the goodness of God. 

Most of you know that I’ve grown up in church my entire life. I’ve learned what the Bible says, and I was saved at a very young age. I lived my life for God, and I had a strong faith and trust in Him. When I was in high school, I didn’t date much. I spent my time with friends, and I enjoyed that. Well in my senior year of high school, I met a guy that seemed to genuinely like me. We talked and we ended up dating. I thought he was the one because I fell for all the little things I thought he did for me. He was more talk than actually putting his words and feelings in action. Well as our relationship continued, I fell into temptation with sexual sin. Then, the thing that shook my whole world happened as a freshman in college. I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified because I knew that I was caught in my sin. I didn’t know what to do. I had honestly lost myself and who I was. Well, the true hurt came when I had to tell my family. I knew I’d disappoint them, and I did. 

Then it came to disappointing my church family. I was a leader in the church…sang on the praise team and helped teach in children’s church. That was completely pulled from me when my pastor at that time found out I was pregnant. I was completely crushed, hurt, and ashamed of myself. I know you’re thinking “Wow, your pastor took that away from you? Why’d you even keep going?” My pastor at that time did not do this to put shame on me. He did not do this because he hated me. He did that because a person that is not in the right place with God should not be a leader in the church. It’s a tough, but true reality. I was hurting, but my pastor showed me nothing but love. I can’t even begin to tell you how much he and my pastor’s wife loved and supported me along with the rest of my family and church family. My family, friends, and church helped me more than they’ll ever know!

But this whole messy situation should have sent me out of church, into depression, and into a life of continuous sin. That was satan’s plan, but God’s plans were greater!  I took my time away from leadership to focus on my relationship with God. I continued to grow, but it took ending my toxic relationship to truly reach a breakthrough. I learned so much through that time, and I realized that I needed to leave that sin and grow into a close relationship with God. I wanted to be a leader in church again. God had called me to work for Him and build up His kingdom, and I did not want to lose that. I rededicated my life to the Lord, and through the work of the Lord, I was able to rejoin the praise team and teach children’s church. I say all this to say that sometimes we’re not at the right place with God. Sometimes we need a good wakeup call or discipline to help us realize this. We need someone to say “you’re not doing what you need to be doing” so we can get a reality check before it’s too late. I know I needed that. I don’t think I could ever thank my former pastor enough for showing me the discipline, love, and care that I needed! Through a very difficult time in my life, I learned what was truly important. God was and still is number one in my life. But it took this time in my life to realize that he wasn’t my number one at that time, and I had to get back to putting God first. 

Jayden and I have been blessed in so many different ways since then, so this is just a small part of my testimony. There’s more to share. 

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The Great Adventure

I have constantly been on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger from the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. – 2 Corinthians 11:26

Tomorrow I will be 46 years old.  I can’t believe how fast each year passes by.  I remember when I was young hearing someone say, “The days may go by slow, but the years go by fast.”  I thought that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.  I sure get it now.  This month also marks 30 years of salvation.  When I was 16, I prayed by a lake to receive Christ into my heart, mind, and life.  I had no idea what that decision would entail.

The Apostle Paul lived a comfortable religious life up until the day he got saved.  As I read the book of Acts and his letters to people and churches, he endured so much.  In a moment of reflection, he writes what we know as 2 Corinthians 11:26.  He thinks about all that he has endured for the sake of Christ.

I read his list this morning and reflect on my own journey.  For whatever reason, God seems to have me constantly on the move.  I’ve been a Methodist, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, and a Non-Denominationalist.  I’ve preached in churches, in high school auditoriums, Christian schools, on the streets, and in the woods.  I’ve preached to my family in my living room, and to my cat in the garage.  I’ve been accepted and well received by churches, and I’ve been rejected as well.  I’ve preached at many places where God moved so powerfully, but people who hated me made sure I didn’t return.  I’ve been received by non-believers, and I’ve been scorned by non-believers.  I’ve been praised by my own family members, and I’ve been labeled as “old-fashioned” by them as well.

Needless to say, following Christ is tough.  I will tell you when it was the easiest, though.  It was easiest for those first five years when I was 16 to about 21.  It was easy because I made almost no effort to truly follow Christ.  I was nothing more than a church attender.  I always knew I needed to go to church, but as far as following God and representing Him in my everyday life, that was pretty much out of the question.  When it came down to His Way or the easy way, I almost always chose the path of least resistance.  Nobody cared that I went to church, and nobody ever asked me about my faith as long as I lived, talked, and behaved like the world. 

Something happened in my early 20’s.  I saw myself heading to rock bottom.  I wasn’t there, but I didn’t want to find out what it was like.  I dusted off my Bible and started reading it.  Time and time again I saw what a pitiful follower of Christ I was.  I ended up giving Christ my life.  I learned that there was a big difference in asking God to “come into your heart and forgive you,” and really giving Him your life.  Once you are His, things change . . . big time.  Friends leave you; girlfriends dump you, and things just seem to get difficult.  You think that you find solace inside the church walls, but the closer you get to God in there you find all kinds of wolves in sheep’s clothing who are looking for either control or some sort of spotlight.  Heaven help you if they think you are being more blessed than themselves.  Heaven help you even more if you don’t fit their religious mold.  

Paul would go on in the next chapter to say that God has shown him amazing things.  I look at it the same way.  Even with everything that I have gone through and with all that has been done to me, God continues to reveal Himself to me.  No matter what I’ve done or how I’ve lived, I know God.  What an unbelievable statement to be able to make.  I am ever so weak, but I know a strong God.  He truly does lead me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Lord, thank You for letting me live another year.  You have blessed me far beyond anything I could ever think or imagine.  You have placed me in a great adventure.  Thank You for everything that has happened to me, good and bad.  I don’t want to stand before You in heaven and have endured nothing.  I find myself seeking a life of ease here on earth, but it is the last thing I want to have lived when I stand before You.  Thank You for giving me what I have needed and not just what I have wanted.  I ask that You give me the desires of my heart for these next 30 years of following You.  Give me a heart that desires Your presence above all else.  Give me a heart that can shake off the hurts people deal to me.  Give me one focus and one focus only . . . to follow You for the rest of my days.  There is no one like You, God.  I’m so glad that You let me in.  I love You so much. Amen.

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Maybe I Need to be Fixed

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  – Luke 6:35

Recently, I don’t think I have ever seen so many examples of people who believe they have been done wrong and have made it public.  I’ve seen it at a construction site, I’ve seen it at church, I’ve seen it at restaurants, and I’ve seen it on social media . . . of course, it is always on social media.  

I remember one time how tempted I was to play my greatest injustice out on social media.  I knew without a doubt that I would gain the sympathy of the overwhelming majority.  It would have felt so good to “pay them back,” even if for just a little bit.  God was adamant in constantly showing me verses like Luke 6:35. They always said the same thing in essence, “Adam, you will do no such thing.”  Like a little kid that didn’t get his way, I would always ask “Why, Lord?”  The reply would always be some form of, “Because you are mine, and you don’t get to do things like the world does.”

Now that I am well on the other side of it all, I read Luke 6:35 a little bit differently.  Honestly, I never really made it past the first sentence.  I just always thought that it sucked having to do good to my enemies knowing that I would not receive goodness in return.  I did it anyway.  I did it reluctantly, but I did it.  I am just now arriving at the second sentence of Luke 6:35, and I see what God was doing.  

Then your reward will be great

I think we spend so much time figuring out how to pay back our enemies that we never even consider the fact that if we can learn to take injustices being done to us, then there is a reward involved.  Yes, there is probably an eternal reward in heaven, but the ultimate reward is that we become more like Him.  Think about it, one of His 12 best friends literally sold Him out.  Religious people held illegal meetings at night to discuss how they could terminate Him.  People who shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!” to Him last week were shouting “Crucify Him!” this week.  Oh my goodness how He could have paid them back!  He could have paid them back like nobody in history has ever paid anyone back.  Yet, do you know what He finally said when He got a moment to take a painful breath on the cross?  “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”  He did the greatest thing that could possibly be done for them . . . He forgave them.

And you will be children of the Most High

I get it now as I look at God’s Son on the cross.  I see how He handled the greatest injustice that has ever taken place.  He gave it all receiving nothing in return.  Look at how He was able to take all that had been done to Him.  It almost makes me sick because His follower, Adam Hopkins, hasn’t been able to take anything.  For the first time in my soon to be 46-year-old life, I feel like I took something for Him and didn’t react the way that I would have normally reacted.  I feel more connected with Him.  I realize that the goal of injustice is never to “pay my enemies back,” but to change me to look more like Him.  God’s kids look different than the world’s kids.

Because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked

The funny thing about this last part, is thinking about how many times I’ve been ungrateful and wicked.  Yet, I’ve wanted Him to “bring down fire from heaven,” on people who have been ungrateful and wicked to me.  All I can say is “Thank You, God, for being the merciful God that You are.”  He is working on others just like He worked on me.  I must be good to ungrateful and wicked people.  Why?  Because He was so good to me when I was just like them.  

Lord, I want to be different.  I want to graduate from Basic Bible 101.  But when I stew in anger and hope that my enemies “get what’s coming to them,’ I could not be further from You.  I open up my heart to the power of the Holy Spirit.  Stir a passion in my heart, Lord.  While on the cross You forgave.  Surely, I can do it in the comfort of my own home.  How could someone be given as much as I have and be bitter towards anyone?  You have blessed me above and beyond what anyone could possibly deserve.  Plus, I know You.  May I never take that for granted.  When I go through hard things, help me to think one thing and one thing only, “How are You going to use this to change me? How will this make me more like You?”   For the first time in my life, instead of saying “fix this, Lord” I have the capability of saying, “Maybe I am the one who needs to be fixed.”  Help me, God.  You know I need it.  Amen

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Great Things

The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. – Psalm 126:3

Sometimes I get caught up in how bad things are.  Things right now in this world are bad.  If I dwelt on those things, I would stay a miserable soul.  I have done a lot of wrong in this life, and I have had a lot of wrong done to me.  It is so easy to beat myself up for the wrong I’ve done, and it is just as easy to want to hurt those who have hurt me.  My mind seems to have the default setting of dwelling on negative things.  I am thankful for Bible verses like this that snap me out of it.  

In context, this verse is contained within a restoration.  At first read, I thought it meant the restoration of the Israelites to their homeland and of course they were simply glad to be back worshipping in the temple of God.  However, I read a commentary that took it to mean that they were “restored” back into captivity like they were in Egypt before God brought them out.  They were glad because He was correcting them and still working in their lives.  Either way, whether they were home restored with things going their way, or if they were in captivity being corrected . . . they were glad.  

Right now, I am glad.  The definition of glad is “pleased” or “delighted.”  I am pleased that all the wrong I have done has served to make sure I never want to repeat those wrongs.  I am delighted that God has taken what my enemies have meant for evil and turned it for good.  It does not matter if I am in a valley or on a mountaintop, both places are merely circumstances in my life.  What does matter is that in both places, God has done great things for me and will continue to do great things for me. 

Sometimes I really miss being in the pulpit of a church preaching.  Church has without a doubt produced the peaks of my mountaintops and the lowest of my valleys.  I have been elated and ever so joyful in church, and I have been beaten down and crushed.  The Lord has done great things for me in and through both situations, and by His grace, I sit here glad this morning.  

This past Sunday there were 20 of us in the wilderness.  There was a couple from Woodruff, a couple from Greer, a family from Charleston, a family from Moncks Corner, and some locals as well.  As we worshipped singing “Holiness, Holiness, is what I long for,” I scanned the people and thought, “This group of people will never be together meeting like this again this side of heaven.”    God worked it out so that little group of people would be singing to Him and diving into His word together at that precise moment in time.  I don’t think I have ever been so amazed by something so simple.

The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. – Psalm 126:3

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The Wilderness (Part 3)

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 40:3

I call this devotional part 3, not because I have written two other parts, but because there have been two other parts in this journey I’ve been on.  I believe God has called me to 40 weeks in the wilderness.  The first part was at Jocassee Valley Brewing Company.  The second was at Tamassee DAR campus.  This last leg, part 3, is at Oconee State Park.  

I continue to be amazed at the process God puts people through that truly follow Him.  There have been so many twists and turns in my life.  Some of those turns have led to incredible heartbreak, but God has always worked them out for my good.  When my wife and I prayed to God under that tent for the first time at Jocassee Valley, I was about as down and out as I had ever been.  My heart was shattered into a million pieces.  I felt used and I felt rejected.  I was crushed.  Those little bible studies we did under the tent was the beginning of a healing that I didn’t think was possible.  

As time went on, it got cold . . . really cold.  Tamassee DAR provided shelter for us.  The physical covering was like a spiritual covering for me.  God took all my hurt, dealt with it, and asked me to give it all to Him.  In all this time, I never really preached any sermons.  The group we had would just read scriptures and we would all provide input as to what it meant to us, and we’d end up with these perspectives that we would have never gotten otherwise.  Like those guys on the road to Emmaus, I look back on it and think, “Didn’t our spirits just burn while we sat there and simply talked about God.”  (Derived from Luke 24:32).  

Fast forward to this past Sunday.  I preached to twelve people.  They had gotten up in the morning while on vacation and made the trek to the little amphitheater at Oconee State Park.  As I watched them take their place, I thought of how pure this all was and how blessed these people must be simply because they have a heart that longs to be around God.  I asked God to help me and fill me up with His Spirit.  He did exceedingly abundantly above all I could think or ask.  We asked ourselves what kind of follower of Jesus we are.  Are we wannabes that just go through the motions and do things so we will look the part of a Christian?  Are we super religious, but still lost?  Or are we authentic followers of Jesus Christ?  If you want, you can read Acts 5 and find all three types.  

The whole service ended with us praying for a man to be healed.  He had tonsil cancer.  They removed his tonsils, but it had spread to his lymph nodes.  Of course he was worried about what his near future looked like.  We all gathered around him, and we prayed.  We had just read in Acts 5 that those disciples prayed for healing wherever they went, so we did the same.  I left in awe that God had used me.  There is no better feeling on this planet than to be used by Him and know without a doubt that He is right here with you.  

Lord, how could I ever thank You?  I am 45 years old, and You have done so much in my life.  You have seen me through so many peaks and valleys.  You have saved me.  You have put me in this beautiful place where I can sit here on this second of June in 2021 and be so content.  Even if for this little moment, I am perfectly content.  I am resting in You and there is no place I’d rather be.  Continue to use me as I complete this season in the wilderness.  Bring people to the campground services and show me what You would have me preach.  I am willing.  I am able.  Here am I, send me.  Bless all who take the time to read this this morning.  I pray that You are working in each one’s heart, soul, body, and mind.  I pray that You will fill them with Your Holy Spirit that they may walk differently in this world.  Use us, Lord, to draw people to You.  For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever . . . Amen. 

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