A Moment in the Bay

Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please God, strengthen me once more.” — Judges 16:28

 

Before you read this, I have to admit that this is probably the worst application of a Bible verse I have ever used.

 

Now that that is out of the way . . .

 

So I’ve been taking golf lessons since the beginning of January.  A dozen or so years ago, just before my oldest child was born, I could play the game of golf.  I’ve even shot a few rounds in the 60’s.  Golf was my absolute favorite topic of conversation, and I took every opportunity to sneak away to play and/or practice.

 

When my second child was born, obviously things were different at home.  I really feel like I missed out on the first years of their lives. Instead of transitioning into being a dad and really helping my wife, you know what I did?  Yep, play golf.

 

On top of playing golf, I had begun to take Christianity very seriously.  Looking back, I really was drawing closer and closer to the Lord. I was drawing close enough that I knew He wanted me to cut back on playing golf.  I ignored Him.  Months later, when my wife confirmed what He had been saying for a while now, I got mad. I didn’t see why I couldn’t do the one thing that I loved to do.  You see, golf had become an idol.  I cared about it more than I cared about God, more than I cared about Tonya, and now more than I cared about my kids.  I would have never actually told you that, but my actions sure proved otherwise.

 

So, I wouldn’t give it up. I actually justified that I couldn’t give it up (and I had really good reasons).  In an attempt to get even better at playing golf, I read a book by my favorite golfer at the time, Ernie Els, and started trying to swing like him.  I completely read one part of the book wrong and made a swing change that ended up being a death move for my golf game. After a few weeks or so of practicing wrong, I couldn’t hit a golf ball to save my life.  It got so bad that I eventually quit playing golf.  I won’t even mention that in an attempt to continue playing . . . I learned to play left-handed.

 

I had it bad.

 

Eventually, I could not go back to my old swing and I completely quit playing.  After destroying my idol, or God destroying it for me, whichever you prefer, I drew near to Him like never before.  I told Him over and over in His presence how sorry I was that I chose a game over Him.  I drew near to my wife, and we became as close as we had ever been before.  I still repent to this day that I chose golf over her.  I never would travel with her for the five years we were married and didn’t have children. I told her that I just liked to stay home, which was true, but the ultimate truth was . . . I wanted to play golf. Now, the days we get to travel somewhere and be alone together are some of the greatest days of my life.  The amount of love God has given me for her is just amazing.

 

One day when I was messing around in the garage, I picked up one of my clubs.  I felt God say to me, “You can have it back now.”  I was like, “What?”  He said, “You can have it back now, it isn’t an idol anymore.  It won’t ever hold first place in your heart again.”

 

So there I was this past Monday in what is called “The Bay.”  My instructor puts this fancy stuff on me so he can get all sorts of computer readings and compare my swing to various golf professionals.  For the first time in over a decade, I absolutely striped shot after shot for an hour and a half.  It was like every sensation came back to me from when I could really play.

 

Then it happened.

 

I paused to think just for a moment that years ago I actually valued doing this more than I valued being with God.  I thanked Him right then and there.  I let Him know that nothing compares to knowing Him.  I don’t know how God does this stuff, but I just had this sweet, sweet sense of His Presence right there in the moment, right out of nowhere.  It was all I could do to just fight back tears and not have people wonder what in the world was wrong with me.  Our band at church Sunday played “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury and I haven’t been able to sing it enough.  That song just flooded my mind.  “You have been so so good to me.”  “You have been so so kind to me.”

 

I sang it some more.

 

I shall end this WMD, put my headphones on, and sing it again.

 

Later

 

Adam

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Doing God’s Word

 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you must meditate in it day and night, that you might observe to do all that is written in it:  for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  – Joshua 1:8

 

Last year, I started the year out with the goal of being able to recall 100 verses of scripture off the top of my head.  By April of last year, I could do about 50.  This past week, I found the sheet I was using as a checklist.  I tried to see what I remembered and found that I could do about half of the 50 I had checked off.  So, I’m getting back to work on this.

 

I found this book by Robert Morgan called, “100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know.”  I realized pretty quickly that the verses on my list must have pretty much come straight from this book.  When I got to Joshua 1:8, I couldn’t recite it.  As I read it in the book it came back to me pretty quickly. The author talked about his own memorization of it as a kid.  Another pastor had recalled it as the first verse that he ever memorized.  I realized that this verse was a pretty big deal, with many people 80 to100 years ago memorizing this before even John 3:16.

 

The thing that strikes me about it is that God’s ultimate purpose for us is to do His Word, “that you might observe to do all that is written in it.”  American Christians really like the end of it, “for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”  We want the good success, just not the means to get it.  However, according to this verse, a person is truly prosperous and truly has good success as a direct correlation to knowing God’s Word, meditating on God’s Word, and then actually living according to His Word.  So, the first question I had to ask myself is, “How much of His Word do I know?” I found that though I read it often, I don’t make an attempt to memorize it.

 

Now that I am back up to around 40 verses or so, I am finding that I love driving in a quiet car and cranking them out either out loud or in my mind.  I can go through Psalm 23 now and picture in my mind each detail the benefits of being as close to the Good Shepherd as possible.  I have the first half of Psalm 1, so I’m still working on that one.  What I have found is that 30 minutes to an hour goes by so quickly while I’m really meditating on His Word.  It is like a complete escape from the cares of this world.

 

The convicting part of all of this lies in this question:  If I haven’t really made an effort to know God’s Word, and because of this I haven’t really meditated on it, then what have I been doing?  Well, if I’m honest, I’ve just been doing what others have taught me.  I listen to and even read sermons ALL the time.  God has certainly used them in my life, but this means I’ve been living off of the secondary source of someone else’s interpretation of the Word, not the primary source of His Word itself.  I’ve been simply trying to do what I think God would have me do based on what I know about Him, which is obviously very little.  No wonder I’m so hit or miss.  I can still see where He has more than taken care of the big stuff, but it is in the little things of life that I seem to have no joy lately. Filling in these spaces of time with only Him and His Word has been quite invigorating.  The amount of peace and even energy that I seem to have is increasing.

 

The immediate context of this is Joshua chapter 1.  In the second verse, God tells Joshua, “Moses, my servant is dead.”  Seems like such a strange thing to say right off the bat. Then again, God didn’t want Joshua to be another Moses.  He didn’t want him living off of the reputation of Moses.  He didn’t want him to do things like Moses.  He just wanted Joshua to be himself, full of His Word, and obedient to His Word.

 

Lord, help me to go and do likewise.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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Urging Him to Remain

Urging Him to Remain

 

But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us.”  — Luke 24:29

 

I love reading about our resurrected Lord visiting the two men on the road to Emmaus.  As those men were walking seven miles from Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to them in disguise.  When He asked them about their topic of conversation, they were kind of snarky with Him, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about the things that have happened there the last few days.”  “What things?” Jesus asked.

 

Those guys proceeded to tell the resurrection story.  They included these words, “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” Jesus called them foolish and proceeded to teach them the Scriptures concerning Him.  The miles and the time flew by and they quickly came close to home. Jesus acted as if He was going to continue on the road and leave them.  That is when they said the words I have chosen as my main text, “Stay with us.”

 

As I read this, I was quite convicted.  I have urged Jesus to do a lot of things.  I’ve urged Him to answer prayers for loved ones that are hurting.  I’ve urged Him to do ridiculous things in the past like make my girlfriend come back to me.  I’ve even urged Him to help me get some particular job above many others.  Only He knows the many other frivolous things I’ve pleaded with Him to do for me.  But, there is one thing that I’m not sure I’ve ever done . . . urge Him strongly for His presence to remain with me.

 

When King David sinned with Bathsheba, God kind of laid the smack down on him.  He lost children, lost his throne, lost his comfort, and lost pretty much his known way of life.  You would think that he would urge God, even beg God, to restore all that was taken away.  Instead, David records in Psalm 51, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.”  He knew he deserved for God to have nothing to do with him anymore.  David seemed so unconcerned with his material possessions, he simply says, “God, please don’t take that beautiful sense of Your Presence away from me.”  He was so sorry for not stewarding it well.

 

How powerful is that?

 

How convicting is that?

 

I have had some wonderful encounters with God in my lifetime.  His Presence has been so strong with me for these small windows of time.  Yet, I’m not sure I’ve valued that above all else. I’m not sure I’ve said, “God, no matter what, remain with me.  Make me so aware of just how near you are.  Your presence is everything to me.”

 

That is certainly my prayer this morning as I type this.  Lately, my attitude has kind of stunk.  I look back on the way I’ve lived and it just hasn’t been very God honoring. I could easily start whining for God to change my circumstances and make me more comfortable.  But I know that isn’t what I need.

 

After Jesus was revealed to those men, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

 

Lord, grant me a heart once more that just burns for you.  Help me not take it for granted.  Just like these men on the road to Emmaus, I urge you to remain.  I urge you to stay with me.  Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.   Cleanse me of my sin and unrighteousness.  Help me to cast my cares upon you and steward a presence like I have never known.

 

Amen.

 

Adam

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A Distorted View

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. – Jeremiah 31:3

I am reading a book right now called “The Holy War,” by John Bunyan. I have read “The Pilgrim’s Progress” several times and I was super pumped to realize that he wrote another book. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but the story begins with a loving God, “Shaddai,” creating a perfect place, “Mansoul,” and the Devil, “Diobolus,” plotting and scheming to convince the inhabitants of Mansoul that Shaddai is not who He says He is. Of course, the plan of Diabolus is executed flawlessly, and the people’s view of Shaddai becomes distorted.

As I read the story, I thought of conversations I’ve had with believers and non-believers alike. Many have a distorted view of God. In the verse I have chosen for this week’s WMD, God says that He has loved us with a love that is everlasting. That is what He says, but if you talk to enough people about God, they reveal the opposite belief. Most believe God to be egotistical, someone who plays favorites, a manipulator, and someone who imposes His rules upon mankind. They certainly don’t describe a loving God who looks out for our best interests and is worth giving their life to.

I wonder where this comes from? There has to be a “Diobolus” element to it. I mean, if I were the devil and wanted God’s prized creation to hate Him, I would begin by ensuring that His subjects could not see Him as He really is. I would make sure there was a distorted view.

It took me a while to figure out that I had been deceived. When I first got saved, I did see God as the big tyrant in the sky who made all the rules and couldn’t wait to send people to everlasting torment. Since I really thought this was who He was, I did whatever I had to do to be right with Him. I asked Him to save me and asked for forgiveness every time I committed any sin that I knew about. After several years of this type of thinking making zero difference in my life, I almost gave up. I remember pressing on after hearing a sermon about how it was God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. The preacher flat out said that until you see God as loving and kind, you will never desire to serve Him.

He was right.

I want to please God right now with every fiber of my being. Yet, I know I don’t always please Him. I still make wrong decisions and do things that don’t represent Him well. Yet, I don’t feel a pressing need to rush and ask for forgiveness like I used to. I think of examples where my own kids have flat out done wrong, never asked for forgiveness, yet I have forgiven them. I forgive them always because they are mine. It is when I really get a sense of His presence that I just can’t stop crying and saying I’m sorry . . . I don’t even know what I’m sorry for, I just know that, in His Holiness, I feel so unclean, and so unworthy to be there. It is the greatest feeling this planet offers.

Every person that enters into this world must simply decide whether or not they want to be His. This is the real decision one makes to receive salvation. It is not a decision to automatically start following all of His rules and doing everything He says. It is a decision to allow Him to begin the step-by-step remodeling process. It is a decision to trust that He will restore you over time into what you were originally created to be. If you receive Him as your Heavenly Father, then He receives you as His son or daughter and pours out His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness upon you. If you reject Him, then He continues to allow you to be the star of your own story. He allows you to call your own shots and live your life the way you see fit.

If you are rejecting Him, you do not know Him, nor do you see Him correctly. I am so sorry that countless preachers like me, and people who call themselves Christians have represented Him so poorly. He really is a good, good Father.

This goodness does not mean He is passive and just allows you to continue on the path that you are on, do whatever you want, and be however you want to be. Of course Dad has rules, but He doesn’t mind taking years to teach them to you as you grow in your faith.  He is not the abusive Dad who beats you up for every little mistake. He is perfect in all of His ways. Everything He does is corrective in the best possible way.

Would you really want Him to be any other way?

Later

 

Adam

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Unity in the Church

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23

Isn’t it mind blowing that nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed for us? We are the ones who believe today because of the Disciples’ message. When it comes to praying for us today, Jesus only prays that we will be unified. He goes on to say that this is the way the world will be convinced that He really is inside of us.

When I look at the church as a whole right now, it couldn’t be more divided. It seems to me that the places on Earth, who really love each other and even their enemies, are the places where Christianity is forbidden by law. In those places, Christians have no choice but to look out for each other. They are willing to give all that they have for one another. They want to keep each other alive so that God’s Word may be spread. They realize and are aware that each one holds a vital place and plays a vital role in God’s kingdom. When the unbelievers of those countries see what these Christians are willing to endure for one another, they don’t understand it, but it becomes very desirable. So many non-believers end up believing simply because they want in on this pure love that they’ve never seen before. Real Christianity spreads like wildfire.

Oh that we would have a true and pure revival in America today! If only we could truly love one another! As it stands, we are so far from being unified. We have denominations. The word denomination looks and sounds like the word denominator, which, in mathematics, is the number that represents division. I see churches not willing to help each other, pastors refusing to share resources, and an unbelievable lack of God’s love in the American church. No wonder Christianity is on the decline in our country . . . nobody wants what we have.

What would it look like if, right now, we stopped arguing over things like Bible translations? There are people who have stopped reading my posts simply because I have used NIV scripture references instead of KJV (like today). There are people who literally get upset with their pastor if he allows the service to go over some perceived one-hour time limit. There are people in churches who allow volunteers to accept positions in the church and literally allow them to grow old and die in those positions. It is even a running joke that if you ever volunteer for a church position, you will be stuck there for life. No one really looks after one another in the American church. We would rather criticize and tear down than praise and build up. Therefore, when the world takes a peek in and sees people who supposedly represent God Himself behaving just like the world, and in some cases worse than the world, they don’t want what we have . . . and I don’t blame them.

God, I echo your 2,000 year-old prayer this morning. Help us in the American church to be unified. Help us to truly love one another and want the best for one another. Help us individually to shoulder the load and not place so much weight on so few. Bring us to a point where, when others see us as Christians, they see us loving one another unconditionally and building each other up instead of tearing one another down. May the world see us wanting the best for one another. May they see something different that is so attractive and actually worth having.

 

May it all start with me. Help me to love those who don’t love me back. May the love that I have for them change them just as your love for me has changed me and still changes me. Give me a new heart that can contain and dispense your love. Give all who will read this a heart of real, genuine, Godly love. Let real Christianity spread like wildfire in America!

 

Hallelujah! Thine the glory.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Hallelujah! Thine the glory.

Revive us again.

 

Adam

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He’s Still Working on Me

 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

 

Every once in a while, I start thinking about how far I’ve come as a follower of Jesus. When I think about how much my heart has changed, sometimes I forget to give Him all the glory. I forget that He and He alone is the author and finisher of my faith. I don’t think I voice it out loud, but I begin to think of the hours and hours of Bible study, prayer, listening to sermons, books I’ve read, and something in me takes credit for the great work God has done. It is precisely in these moments, when I lose this spirit of thankfulness, something usually happens to remind me of just how far I have left to go in my journey to Celestial City.

 

This past week, I seriously released a lot of anger and frustration out on a kid. He said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I went to war. That situation resolved itself fairly quickly, so I never thought again about that monster that rose up within me. Then, a much more subtle thing happened. I went to pick up some food at a restaurant. When I was leaving, I was the only car parked in an entire row of spaces. There were at least 10 other spaces.   More importantly, there were at least 8 other spaces not next to me. While I’m walking to my vehicle, where does this couple decide to park? They park right next to me on the driver’s side. So, I force a smile and wait while they get out of their car. I wait for them to get out of the way so I can back out. This seriously aggravated me.

 

As I drove home, I wondered what in the world was wrong with me. Have I seriously regressed so much that I can’t take a kid’s smart mouth? Since when did I become so important that I did not have the patience to wait 45 seconds? I think God allows these moments in me to keep me from being prideful. I sit here this morning really thankful for these moments, for without them, I know I would start depending on my efforts instead of depending on Him and what He has already done.

 

He’s still working on me

To make me what I ought to be

It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars

The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

He’s still working on me. – Joel Hemphill

 

Later

 

Adam

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The Meditation of My Heart

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

 

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all.” I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this saying. It is quite a noble goal. I know my tendency is to “go off” on people that I think deserve it. As I get older and hopefully wiser, the temptation to unload on people has lessened, but as I read today’s verse, I see a whole new level.

 

The mouth can only speak what is in the heart. I think things that certainly never make it out of my mouth (thank goodness!) Lately, I’m finding these not-so-good thoughts are actually being spoken out loud. I catch myself immediately sometimes. Other times, it is when I try to get alone with God that they are brought to remembrance. I so want to be holy as He is holy. I want to be Godly and different, but how can I when I speak no different than the world speaks and do no different than the world does?

 

With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. — Matthew 19:26

 

It always seems to come back to this, doesn’t it? There are some things I can fix on my own. There are things I think God expects me to fix on my own. Other things are just never going away unless God intervenes on my behalf. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” When you come to the realization that there are some things you do that completely violate His will for your life, and you can do absolutely nothing about it on your own, then it is time to pour out your heart to Him. Cry out to Him, “Father, if you don’t change me, I will not change.” Now you are in a position to be blessed. Now, you have access to the kingdom of Heaven.

 

Lord, I hate when I go through seasons of regression. I hate when I feel like I’m getting further away from You when all I want is to be as close to You as possible. I guess nobody is exempt from taking steps backwards no matter how many steps they’ve made forward. There is no way on my own that I can think pure thoughts continually. Will you help me? Will you make it so that the very things I think about are pleasing to You? It seems impossible. It is impossible. But, I have You. There is none like You. I love You. You are the Lord of my life. As Your eyes go to and fro searching for hearts that are perfect toward You, may mine be one of them, and may You show Yourself strong.

 

Amen

 

Adam

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