Trials & Tribulations

Philippians 4:13

9Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

As we read this scripture, we may easily jump to our own conclusion about what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us, that through Christ’s strength and presence in our lives, we can do all things.  Really?  All things?  Can I jump off a bridge and fly because Christ lives in me?  Can I deliberately, and foolishly put myself in danger because of this verse?

As we study the Bible, what we must learn to do is to read all verses in context.  We must challenge our understanding with a series of questions.  What is contained within the scripture both before and after the verse in question?  What is the theme of the chapter as a whole, and the book it is contained in?  Who was the author writing to?  What was their situation?  All of these questions are a starting point to ensure that we do not take scripture out of context to make it mean something it does not, or to make it mean something we want it to.

As we look at the preceding verses of this chapter in the Letter to the Philippians, we will see what the Apostle Paul is describing.  He is describing what our attitude and our thoughts must be as we journey through life with Christ.  We must understand first that this letter was written during a time of extreme persecution to the church.  There were attacks from the local culture and from the Jews as they saw their proselytes moving towards Jesus and away from their faith.  When this letter was written, Paul was actually in a Roman prison suffering in a way that cannot be understood in our current circumstances.

So Paul starts this chapter by describing some challenging life situations for the early church in these verses of scripture.    Although we may not encounter these same set of circumstances, Paul gives us a foundation on how to handle trials in our life in these first thirteen verses of Philippians chapter 4.  Life situations that we, as Christians, must decide what our attitude and thoughts must be before we journey through them. Below, we will look at the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the face of these challenges that may come our way.

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

As we think about life challenges, it is not always easy to rejoice. Life has a way of loading us up with burdens, our hands being so full of our own thoughts and troubles, that we cannot lift them up to God.  The psalmist in Psalms 32:11 calls us to “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  We should rejoice in The Lord no matter what our current situation may be, because we are righteous.  We are known by God.  We are saved from eternal separation from Him by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We are upright before God.  We have right standing before Him.  This is cause for celebration, no matter what our life situation may be.  This is cause for rejoicing!

It was important for Paul to start with this admonition because too often we forget.  We get so caught up in our current drama that we forget where we stand with Christ as believers.  We forget the price that has been paid for us, the blood spilled on our behalf.  We forget what that single act of Christ ensures us, and that is eternity in Heaven.  We forget that our life is short in suffering compared to the eternity of joy waiting for us in the presence of God.  The psalmist writes, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4 ESV).”

What our salvation does not promise us is a life without complications or challenges.  As Paul describes these challenges, some of us may have or be facing them now.  We may know someone who has faced them.  We may not be facing any of them, but may be afraid that someday we will.  Wherever you may find yourself in this list, Paul it telling us, in spite of these, rejoice.  Paul is calling us to rejoice in the face of:

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

  • Anxiety

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Doubt and fear

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

  • Negative thoughts about ourselves and others

Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

  • Discontent or unhappiness

Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

  • When mistreated by others
  • When facing hunger or thirst
  • When daunted by financial concerns
  • When facing lack or loss

Why is Paul instructing us to rejoice in the midst of these challenges?  How is it possible that he is suffering from hunger and neglect while in prison, but he can write for us to rejoice?  How can he be content in this circumstance? Because of what he states in verse 13 “ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  No matter what we will face, we can choose to rejoice and ask Jesus for the strength to persevere.  We can know that He will be with us at all times. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We can stand upon His word in these areas and know that through Him we will come through.

Why can Paul write these things?  Because he lived them.  Paul faced hunger and thirst, he faced lack, he was mistreated and cast down.  I can only suggest that he faced the opportunities to have anxiety, bad thoughts and fears.  However, Paul knew who God is.  He knew who Christ is.  Further, Paul knew that he was in God’s will and purpose for his life.  In that, Paul could stand and rejoice. As he wrote in this letter, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). No matter the external circumstances Paul found himself facing, He knew that Christ lived in Him.  He knew that in all things, Christ would strengthen him.

So as we journey through life, we can choose each day the approach we take.  We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to each situation.  Will we stand and rejoice, or will we lower our head and walk with a heavy burden.  I encourage you, rejoice!  For, you are a child of God Almighty.  The very presence of God lives within you.  Face the situation, seek comfort in prayer and God’s Holy Word, lift your hands and praise Him, for He will strengthen you to face this day, and every day thereafter.

The Abraham Journey – Part 6

Be Ready

Adam On PointThis next phase of my Abraham Journey would be one of internal growth, change and understanding.  As I stepped into the role as an associate pastor, I would soon discover that what I thought I knew about ministry, preaching, teaching, counseling and leadership was not even close to the reality.  I stepped into this position sure of myself and ready to change the world, but the reality is, it would change me, and at this time I didn’t even realize how much I needed it.

I remember the first time I was asked to initiate something at the church that required volunteers.  No problem, I thought, I am the pastor.  Of course they would volunteer.  And, they will be happy about it!  Isn’t everyone ready to do what their pastor asks?

It didn’t turn out to be like I thought.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t rally the troops and get the job done.  I was frustrated at them.  This isn’t what I expected at all.  Why wouldn’t they do as I asked.  Why did I even need to ask? When I taught why didn’t they want to know the meaning of every Greek and Hebrew word during my sermons?  Why didn’t they understand what I was talking about?  I was excited about my sermon, why weren’t they?

Pastor Tino would continually pull me aside.  He was always very loving and would take the time to explain to me how my approach could have been different.  He would explain how I could teach differently next time.  How my sermons could be more engaging.  I would listen, understand and try to do it a his way next time.

What I didn’t realize then was that I had a very abrasive leadership style.  I had been a leader in the army, and I was used to barking orders and having them obeyed under threat of punishment or extra duty.  As a civilian, I was used to having leverage at work.  I was used to signing paychecks, assigning raises and determining vacations days.  But, here I had no leverage.

I eventually realized that what I was really asking people to give was the most important thing that they have, their time.  I was asking them to give me their time.  I was asking them to take time away from their family, their spouse, their kids and their hobbies.  Why should they help surrender their most valuable resource just to help me accomplish my goals?

I realized I had not made any attempt at connecting or getting to know them.  I had made all interaction about me and what I needed.  I hadn’t done anything to inspire or motivate them.  I was ordering them like soldiers and not leading them at all. I really needed some help in this area.  I needed to change.

I began to read about leadership.  I began to read about being a pastor.  I remember the first book I read, it was “Developing the Leader within You” by John Maxwell.  As I read through this book, there was a point when I stopped reading, dropped to my knees and cried.  I was so shocked and disappointed by the contrast between what he was describing compared to who I was.  This moment of self-realization would begin a journey in leadership training and learning that continues to this day.  From that moment, I read every leadership book I could get my hands on.  I did the workbooks that accompanied them.  I attended leadership round tables, training and seminars.

Then, I got connected to something I could never have imagined.  John Maxwell and his leadership team contacted me about joining a leadership speaking and coaching team.  I would get to be personally mentored by John and his team through videos, phone calls, books, and resources.  I would also spend three days with the other members of the team in Florida to be trained in the areas of speaking, teaching and coaching.  The opportunity to grow in this area was too tempting, and I was all in.

The leg of the journey would really help me uncover the areas I really needed to grow.  I began to learn about servant leadership, and recognized the teachings of Christ as the servant leader.  I began to connect with people in the congregation, and learn about them and what they were looking for in their relationship with Christ.  As I learned more about them and what they were hungering for, I began to preach and teach better.  I began to put their needs first and teach what they needed, not what I wanted.  I began to understand what it really meant to be a pastor.

It was through this transformation that I would also begin to realize and become aware of some challenges in the rest of my life where I had compromised.  There were situations at work that I was not comfortable with.  It is amazing how I did not recognize how for from God’s moral standard I was until I began to grow as a leader and a pastor.  I would be faced with some huge ethical dilemmas.  I was leading my company at that time in a way that was obedient to the instructions I was being given by the owner, but not obedient to the mandate handed to me by Christ.  I decided that I was not able to stand up and preach what I was not willing to live.  I realized that to be a man of integrity, I must be willing and able to live my message and be the example.

So I made the tough choice.  I put my job in jeopardy for what I knew to be right and moral.  For what I knew to be in line with God’s Word.  I can’t really disclose more than that without compromising people I care about who still work in that industry, but let’s just say that I had to do the right thing.  As I stood up for what I believed in, things would change at work.  When I refused to do the things I knew to be wrong, at the expense of the profit margin, I expected to lose my job.  I was too valuable to let go, but it was never the same after that.  I was no longer in the “fold.”  I had lost the trust of the upper echelon and I was ostracized to a point.  To me, however, it was just too important to do what was right with God, and I went to work every day and did my best.  I went home each night able to look in the mirror without conviction.  I put my trust in God and it was all I really needed for peace.

It was also during this time that I also had another amazing opportunity. I met the Director for the International School of Ministry.  I was able to learn their curriculum and take it back to our small church.  I had the privilege to take some members of the congregation through this two year curriculum of Bible training.  As they grew in their knowledge of the Bible, I also grew in my confidence to teach and preach.  It was an amazing time of growth for all of us.

As my time as an associate pastor continued, I began to feel as though God were preparing me for some major change which was coming.  I began to downsize all of my possessions.  I sold anything extra.  I sold my house and rented a room at my Mom’s house.  I began to downsize at work and began to train other people to do my job.  I wanted there to be no obstacle that would prevent me from not being able to move when God called. I didn’t know what God was up to, but I knew it would be amazing, and I would want to be ready.

If I learned anything during this period, it would be “Be Ready.”  2 Timothy 4:2  Tells us to be ready, in season and out of season.  “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (ESV)”

God is calling us to always be ready when He calls.  Be open to change, and most importantly, be open to growth.  God will challenge us in the areas we need to grow in.  I thought I was an amazing leader, until I learned what true leadership look like.  I thought I was a caring pastor, till I saw what true pastoral ministry and care looked like.  I thought I was a great preacher, until people snored during my sermons.  I thought I was a moral man until I saw how I was compromising myself in my vocational decisions.

So, be ready.  Be ready to change, be ready to grow and be ready to be challenged by God.  It is only because He has an amazing plan for you that He will challenge and stretch you.

To the entire congregation of Lamp of God Ministries, I say Thank you.  Thank you for understanding when I was an immature leader and challenging me to grow into a better one. Thank you to Ismael and Roxanne, Gil and Dianna, Robert and Miriam, Justinne and Robert O. Thank you again to Pastor Tino and Olivia.  Thank you to those that met with me, encouraged me and corrected me.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

Abraham’s Journey – Part 5

Discovering the Desires of my Heart

Adam On Point

The next phase of my Abraham Journey would be one of explosive growth.  The next two years would see me graduating from two different seminaries with degrees.  I would also begin to really grow in my faith as I began to truly experience and understand God’s amazing grace in my life.

I began to volunteer as a prayer team member at my church.  I would stand and be available at the end of each service for those who wanted or needed prayer.  I found great enjoyment and huge blessing praying with people.  What I began to see most of all is how God was changing me and giving a huge amount of compassion for people.  I would take their prayer requests home with me and usually be able to follow up with them the next week.  God would show me through this time what answered prayer looks like.  As a result, I have complete confidence when I pray to God.  I also understand that it is His Will, not mine.  I also began to understand that answered prayer may not always be instantaneous, it may not always be the way we want, or what we want, but it is answered in God’s time according to God’s will.

I also began to understand this within my own life as well.  As I began to really seek Him through prayer, I was always confident in His answer.  It was not always what I wanted, and many times I would not understand the answer until later, sometimes years later.  God hears our prayers and answers them.  Be willing to accept His answer, not yours.  Pray that His will be done, not yours.  For when we pray, we must pray not to change Him and His will, but be willing to submit and obey.

It was also during this time that I met two amazing people, Ted and Toni Imsen.  At the time, they were the leaders at the Refuge House of Prayer.  I met them through church attendance, but I got to know them on a different level through their ministry.  I began to serve at the Refuge every Saturday morning on the prayer team.  Each Saturday would see us praying for anywhere between twenty to forty people.  The need was so evident.

This experience within prayer ministry was an amazing time of growth for me.  I began to feel very comfortable and confident in hearing God,s voice and leading as I prayed for people.  I learned to listen and hear the still small voice of Christ and I learned to put all my trust in it.  As I would pray for people week after week, I saw God move in their lives.  I saw people healed, lives dedicated to God, relationships restored and God actively moving.  My time serving with Ted and Toni, and all the others at the Refuge still impact me to this day.

I also began to write sermons during this time.  I figured if God had called me to preach His word, then I should be ready.  I always believe that success is when preparedness meets opportunity, so, I had to be ready when the call came.  Little did I know then, how soon that call would come.

I was serving as a prayer team leader, serving on Saturday morning’s at the Refuge, going to Bible college Tuesday and Thursday nights, leading Wednesday night Bible study and playing drums in a traveling worship band with my brother and nephews.  I was busy. I was growing by leaps and bounds.  I knew a major change was coming.

During this period I also began to downsize all of my possessions.  I sold off cars, motorcycles, boats, and many other unnecessary items.  I began to invest in books for seminary, classes and ministry.  God was leading me to make some major changes during this time.  I began to pay off all debt, including all student loans.  I knew something was coming, I just didn’t know what at the time.

It would happen over the course of a couple weeks.  Our worship band was asked to come and play a Sunday morning service for Lamp of God Ministries in Covina, California with Pastor Tino Madrid. We set up and played a great set of worship songs that Sunday morning.  Playing worship music has always been one of my favorite ways to serve.  After the service, Pastor Tino asked me to come and preach one Sunday morning.  We set a date and I began to prepare.

As I approached the podium that morning, I was nervous.  My brother and his family were there, my cousin Anna was there and a few other members of my family.  I remember, I preached on Hebrews 11:1.  This verse states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I smile when I remember that first message, and how well-prepared I was to preach.  I was so over-prepared. My message, Fighting the Good Fight of Faith was full of Greek and Hebrew words.  I had multiple themes, points and bullets.  I tried to cover as many different aspects of the New Testament as I could.  I tried to cover it all.  Probably in about 45-50 minutes.

I look back now and I laugh, but I was passionate!  I was going to bring change!  I was going to give an altar call for all thirty-five people in that room!  But, no matter what happened, God showed me that day what He wanted me to do.  This was His Call becoming a reality in front of me.  I still have this sermon on CD, if you ever suffer from insomnia call me, I will send you a copy.

However, it was a beginning and not an ending.  God was not finished, He was just getting started with me.  The next week I attended a service for a friend, Pastor David Morales, who was planting a new church.  The senior pastor’s mom approached me after service and said, “I don’t know your name, but God wants you to know that what you have been seeking will come to pass in the next week.”

I really didn’t know what to do with that.  I began to wonder, what have I been seeking?  What could this possibly be?  I had some ideas, but that’s just it, they were all my ideas.  I could not let myself get in the way of God.

The next week, it all made sense.  I had a breakfast meeting with Pastor Tino on Tuesday.  At that meeting, he would ask me to come on board as his assistant pastor.  As an assistant pastor, he would begin to give me regular pulpit opportunities, he would ask me to lead Wednesday night service, the worship team and some other areas.  I knew that the next step of my Abraham Journey was coming to life in front of me.

As I close, there are some things I learned during this time.  We must learn to trust in The Lord.  It is so easy to look around us and wonder why other people are advancing, growing and becoming successful as we seem to be stagnant.  Trust in God.  During this time, I just trusted in God.  I was not concerned with those around me or comparing myself to those around me.  I was trusting in God and doing what He was asking me to do. It was also during this time that those words from Pastor Alex Rosa “Grow where your planted”  would make sense.  So I commission you now, grow where your planted.  Do what God has put in front of you.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:3-6 ESV

The Psalmist tells us to delight in The Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart.  It was also during this time I truly understood what this passage of scripture meant.  It does not mean that God will give me what I desire, but that God will change my desires to be the same as His.  What I wanted and what I desired would change.  Through serving God and His people, through all those opportunities to pray with people and hear their hearts cry to God, He changed me.  My desires where now aligned with His desires.  Everything I now desire is because He has put it in my heart.  As I said earlier, prayer is more about changing you than changing God.  “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Matthew 26:39 ESV. Submit and be blessed.

I have many people to thank for their investment in me during this time.  Thank you to all the staff and teachers at both The Rock Bible College and Andersonville Theological Seminary.  Thank you to Pastors Ted and Toni Imsen, all those I served with at the Refuge House of prayer, Pastor David Morales, Pastor Ro, my brother and nephews, all those I was able to pray with and encourage and anyone else I may have not mentioned.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

The Abraham Journey – Part 4

Coming out of the Wilderness

Adam On PointThe next phase of my journey would find me on my own.  I was trying to do life with Jesus my way.  I still considered myself a Christian.  I tried watching church at home. I tried to still read my Bible and pray, but the longer I stayed disconnected from other believers, the easier it was not to do these things, or not care if I was doing them.

I was still struggling with alcohol.  I was still struggling with materialism and the things of this world that pulled at me daily.  I still felt wrong for living the way I was.  I wanted to be better. I wanted to turn back to Christ, but now I was afraid to.  I was embarrassed.  I had made a fool out of myself.  I knew that my family and friends were looking at me, and laughing behind my back. Maybe they weren’t, but I felt as though they were.

I also did something really stupid during this time.  One night, being very upset, I threw away all my Christian books.  I took them and threw them in the trash.  I didn’t throw away my Bibles, but all my books.  I sold all my guitars.  I was done.  I was going to live life my way.  Then I went and bought a house.  An expensive house.  While not big, it was costly.  It now required me to put all my effort into work.  Then, I bought a vacation house.  Now I had to work more.  Then, I bought a boat, and two more cars.  And so it went, on and on and…………

And it would continue like this for about a year.  I was living life to the limit.  Vacation house every weekend.  Fast cars and fast boats.  I was single, making six figures a year and living without a care in the world.

However, no matter what I bought, what I drank, where I went or who I was with, there was still something missing. Nothing I could do during this time compared to the fullness and completeness I had felt with Christ.  He made me fully alive.  He gave me purpose and meaning.  He made me live life for more than me.

It wouldn’t be until Memorial Day weekend before things would begin to change.  I held a huge barbecue at my house for the holiday on Saturday.  I invited lots of people and had lots of food.  I smoked tri-tip, ribs, chicken, and asked everyone to bring sides.  I remember at the end of that night, as all the guests were leaving, my step-sister, Christine, asked me if I wanted to go to church the next day.  I tried to dodge, but she asked again.  She didn’t seem to accept my excuses so she finally said that she and Marc would pick me up.  I had no choice then, but to agree.

They picked me up and we went to Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, CA.  I remember walking in and when the worship started, I was broken by it.  Each song was speaking directly to me.  I don’t remember too much about the sermon, but I definitely was feeling God tugging at me.  I didn’t know what to do when I got home.  God was in my thoughts.  I went and pulled my Bible out and began to read.  Then, I prayed.  I remember I felt as though God was asking me, “Adam, where are you?”  Now what is cool about this, is God asked the biblical Adam the same question in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:9.  He asks this question after Adam and Eve had disobeyed Him and eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  After biting the fruit, they tried to cover their sin themselves, and they tried to hide from God.

When God asked Adam this question it did not mean that God didn’t know where Adam was, it was really asked for Adam to realize where he was.  He was separated from God.  He was outside of God’s Will.  Adam was now living life his way, not God’s way.  I once heard a quote “The sin life is not living a bad life, it is living life your way instead of God’s way.”

And that’s where I was.

“Adam, where are you?”

“Not where I am supposed to be God.”

I knew it, and I wanted to do something about it. I returned to Water of Life that next week for a Wednesday night outside Bible study.  Pastor Ozzie Garcia was preaching, and I remember he began to start, but stopped and said that God had put a purpose on his heart to begin with an invitation.  This was an invitation for someone who had drifted away from God.  And so I stood.  I wasn’t the only one, but I knew I needed to stand.  That night would become a launching point.

From that moment, I started again, and this time I did it His way.  I began to pour myself into ministry.  The church had an amazing discipleship program.  I took two years of classes on Sundays.  I began to lead a Men’s Bible Study at my house.  Those were great times.  Tony Baca, Anthony Celeste, Brian Watson, Ryan Seguin, Jeff Lowe and Derik White.  We poured ourselves into the Word.  We laughed, we cried, and we drank lots of coffee.  It was such an amazing time for growth and fellowship.  I also began to attend the Celebrate Recovery program.  Brian and Ryan were such an amazing influence for me during this time.  Celebrate Recovery was crucial in overcoming my addictions and lifestyle.

I also began to attend Bible College at the Rock Church in Colton two nights a week, and I began to attend Andersonville Seminary online.  One of the greatest decisions I made during this period of rebirth was not to enter into the Master’s Degree program at Andersonville, but to start with the Associates Degree program.  My business degree qualified me for a Master’s program, but my heart qualified me to start at the beginning.  I wanted to build a solid foundation, and I was willing to start at the very bottom.

While I look back on this time and feel disappointed in myself for backsliding, I cannot help but realize some of the lessons I learned and how I can now apply those to pastoral ministry now.  I want to be the person that comes along a guy like me and helps direct them back towards Christ. I realize as a pastor, that I really want to do life with people.  I really want to see new believers grow and develop in their relationship with Christ.  I have a real passion for those who struggle with their faith.  I realize the benefit of discipleship.  I realize the benefits of fellowship.  But, the most important takeaway I have from this experience is the ability to recognize when someone might be slipping away from church.  I have seen people use the same excuses and mannerisms I displayed during that time.

So, as I end this, I would ask all my follow believers, be watchful.  Be your brother’s keeper.  Watch them.  Encourage them.  Take their late night phone calls.  Answer their basic Bible questions.  Pray with them, and pray for them.  It’s so important that we watch out for each other.

I also want to remind you that you are never so far from God’s love, that you cannot be recovered.  You cannot slide so far back from God that you are unforgivable, or beyond reconciliation.  You are God’s child, and He will always find a way to you.

Thank you Marc, Christine, Pastor Ozzie, Brian, Ryan, Tony and Anthony, and all the others that were by my side during this time.  You were the people that didn’t give up on me, even when I gave up on myself.  You were the body of Christ for me.  It was your belief in me and your encouragement to step out in faith that would lead me to the next phase.  Thank you for being part of my Abraham Journey.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 8:38-39 ESV

The Abraham Journey – Part 3


The first of a great series of unknowns for me would be my new life as a Christian.  As I woke up that next morning I realized that although things were different, they were still the same. I was a Christian. I know what happened the night before. I know what I prayed. I know what I felt. I know how much different I felt. But, I still went home to the same house and the same life. I still awoke that next morning on my birthday and went to work. I was different, but everything else was the same.

What I remember now about the first year as a Christian is not really understanding what was going on. I remember pulling out an old King James Version Bible that my grandmother had given me as a kid and trying to read it. Of course, I started at Genesis 1:1. That’s the way you read a book, right? Beyond the creation account, I did not really understand what I was reading. Sure, the language did not help, but I had no understanding of the Bible or what God was trying to tell me through it. I think back on it now, and one of the most important things any church can have in place is a discipleship program for new believers. Left to their own devices, new believers may have a hard time understanding the basics of Christianity on their own. We as leaders must come alongside them and guide them through their early days as a believer.

I also remember I began to serve right away. I was excited about my faith, so I wanted to do something. I tried being an usher. I served in children’s ministry as an assistant. Then I learned to play the bass guitar and served the next two years on the worship team.  Of all the different areas I tried to serve, I enjoyed playing music the most. I really began to understand what worship was and was not. My brother, the worship leader, was an amazing example to me during that time. His devotion and dedication were things that I aspired to. My favorite thing about being on the worship team was being with him.

Even though I attended every service I could, I realize now that I may have had the concept of Christianity that most do. I was looking for Jesus to make my life better. I was looking to live my life with Jesus included. It was my life, then Jesus. He was an add on to what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live. I had not come to the point of absolute surrender. I had not come to the point of Matthew 5:4 and been bankrupt in spirit yet. I had not truly given my life to Christ.

I still struggled with alcohol. I still struggled with materialism. I still did not lead from a position of Christ at work. I was trying. However, that was the problem, I was trying. I was not letting Jesus transform me. I was trying to mold Him to my image instead of being transformed to His image.  Over time, I began to slip away. I dropped out of the worship team. Of course, I tried to make it sound spiritual, “I need a season of rest.” Yeah right.

I began to miss church. Once, twice and then all together. I said I was looking for a closer church, but never found one. Oh, and somehow I began to attend Bible College. Yeah, figure that one out. But that also only lasted about three weeks before I stopped attending that as well. I was not entering a season of rest, I was entering a season of selfishness. I was struggling to identify myself with Christ and still identify myself with the world.

During this season in my life there were people available to help me, but I didn’t see it or accept it. My brother and his wife were always ready to have me over for dinner and talk with me. Pastor David Edwards spent many nights talking with me after we had worked at the new church building. Pastor Ray Almaguer was always encouraging and was gifted at teaching God’s Word. Pastor Ralph Govea who called me after I was MIA for a couple weeks. Pastors Alex and Vicki Rosa were always an example of God’s amazing joy as they taught the children in children’s ministry.  It was Pastor Alex who would come to my house one Saturday afternoon to tell me four simple words “Grow where your planted.” I didn’t know what they meant at the time, but I do now.

I can also look back now and appreciate all those who were trying to come alongside me, but I would not let them.

I think as a young Christian, meaning young in the faith, this is something we really need to get a hold of. There are people who will want to help us grow. The tendency for me has always been to do it on my own. For me, it’s a pride issue.  I don’t need anyone’s help. I can do it myself! That comes from a the positive character traits found in a strong work ethic and a strong character, but it has always been a hindrance to my faith life. I have struggled and fought more than I should have as a young Christian because of this. I needed to realize that as Christians, we are better together. Where I may be weak, you may be strong. I really believe that my thinking in this area was radically changed when I became a married man, but that is a subject for another blog.

If I were going to leave you with one piece of advice it would be this. There are people who will want to help us grow, and we can’t let our own sin nature or shortcomings get in the way of Christ wants to accomplish in us.  Remember that He has started a good work in you, and that’s something you can trust in, even if you get in the way.

Philippians 1:6 ESV 
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The Abraham Journey – Part 2

Adam On Point

As I read this passage of scripture, I cannot help but wonder what Abraham was thinking. Fortunately for us, we are able to read the rest of Genesis, and the Bible and know how everything plays out. We are able to see the promises which God made to Abraham come to pass. We are able to live those same promises today as Christians.

Genesis 12:1 NLT
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
Abraham was called to step out in faith. Abraham was called to tread new ground and begin a journey that he did not know much about. Abraham was called to journey into the unknown and trust God. His life would not be perfect because he chose to trust God. His life would see challenge, temptation, trouble and turmoil.

It brings to mind my Abraham journey. It started that night when I accepted Christ as Savior and has not stopped. I think about the unknowns I would begin to walk into. The first would be my new life as a Christian. I would venture into new unknowns and I still am to this day. The unknown of serving God within the Church. The unknown of attending Bible College and then Seminary. The unknown of leading my first Men’s Bible Study. The unknowns of reading my Bible for the first time and asking God what it all meant. The unknown of standing on a stage as I began to preach my first sermon. The unknown of taking my first position as an associate pastor. The unknown of marrying my best friend and love of my life at age 38. The unknown of becoming a father overnight to an 8-year-old girl. The unknown of what a newborn would do to our life. The unknowns of leaving a very lucrative career to launch my own business, only to be asked to put that venture aside to fully follow God’s Will for my life. And now the unknown of following that call, moving across the country and leaving everything I know and am familiar with for what God has for us.

When I stop and think about it all, it can be overwhelming. I wonder what Abraham thought. I wonder why he did it? What made him trust God? Was he the first guy God had asked to do this very thing? Was he the first one to say yes? I know I am not the first guy to do this, or the first to say yes. I know others have gone before me and stepped into this same challenge to trust God. It is encouraging to know this, but it does not make it less scary.

As I like to say, “You either trust God, or you don’t.” There really is no middle ground. My Abraham journey has been a series of unknowns. I have made mistakes. I have gone off path and outside of God’s Will. I have tried to do it my way instead of His Way. I have told God no. There are many things I wish I could go back and change or do better. But, I have to believe that each of those experiences were for a reason. That in them God was allowing me to learn something about myself. My hope is that I may use them to help others.

I went home that night without a clue what would happen the next day. I woke up the next morning on my birthday. I would be 30 years old and a Christian. What would happen? What would be expected of me? What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to act? What was I supposed to say? Would my friends and family laugh? Would they stop talking to me? Would they call me a “Jesus Freak?” What did life from this day on look like?

During my Abraham journey, I have not always known what the next day would look like, but I have learned that each day with God, each day into the unknown and each day in the Abraham journey has been indescribably better than the days before I knew Christ.

So, whether you are just beginning your journey as a Christian, or if you have walked with Him for a long time, continue. Do not stop, and do not look back. Trust God that each day will take you further and farther than you think possible. For, just as Abraham journey was unknown to him, it was known to God. And someday, somewhere, someone will read our Abraham journey and say, “WOW!”

God is amazing.

The Abraham Journey – Part I

"In Jesus name, Amen."

Adam On Point

As I think back to that moment, I am still amazed by the entire string of events.  I am still not sure how I actually got to that point, but there I was, in Church on a Sunday evening.  My brother and his wife by my side.  The invitation to accept Christ is given, and I go forward.  I don’t fully realize what I am about to do, or why I am about to do it.  But I knew one thing, my life had to change.

As I bowed my head and closed my eyes, I saw in my mind many of the things I had done.  I heard my own words and my own thoughts behind all of the things I was asking forgiveness for.  I often think if the pastor had truly understood how much I needed forgiveness, the prayer may have been longer!

My life up to that point had read like a trashy detective novel.  Full of seedy bars, fistfights, bad language and living for myself.  Although I was a functioning alcoholic, I was still one none the less.  I was angry, mean and just plain rude.  I used people to get what I wanted and then threw them away.  I led by intimidation and fear.  I rode my Harley Davidson with a loaded pistol in the saddle bags, looking for a fight everywhere I went.  As I look back on all of these different experiences now, I am amazed that I am not writing this from prison, or that I am alive to write it at all.

Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Somehow, God had plans for me.  I still don’t really believe it.  But I know what I heard.

As I ended the prayer that evening, I heard these words.  Now, some may find this hard to believe, but I really do think I heard them audibly.  “You will preach my Word.”

I opened my eyes and looked around.  Some people were looking at me.  Some were talking and some were in the corner jumping for joy!  But I still know what I heard.  But, I had no clue what it meant.  And, it would be a long while before I even began to understand what God had just spoken to me.  Most importantly, it would be a long time before I let Him bring it to pass.  I will talk more about this journey in later blogs.

I remember the rest of that night.  I remember going out to eat after Church to celebrate.  My brother, his wife and my nephews all just amazed at what just happened.  Uncle Adam was a Christian?  Really?  Tattooed, beer drinking, cussing, Harley riding trouble making Uncle Adam?  No way!  Yes way!

How did this happen?  I didn’t know.  My brother didn’t know.  My nephews didn’t know.  I mean, we had a clue.  God has amazing grace.  God is seeking all of us to come to Him.  God does not desire that any of us stay lost and separated from Him. But, what had really happened?!?

Answered prayer.  That’s what happened.  What I would find out some time later was that my salvation was answered prayer.  My sister-in-law’s father is an amazing man of God.  I met him when I was 15 years old.  I remember, I had my long hair, a Guns & Roses jean jacket and a knife in my back pocket.  My brother had taken me with him to their house.  This guy was intimidating.  He wasn’t big or loud, but he had a presence about him.  Confidence!  He was a pastor!  I tried to look him in the eye, but I couldn’t.  But, what he would tell me some time later, and what he would reveal to me over the next 10 years was that from the moment he met me he prayed for me.  From age 15 to age 29, he prayed for me.  He prayed for me to know Jesus the way he did.  He prayed for me, because he saw something in me that no one else did.  He saw what I could be in Christ.

So there I stood, the night before my 30th birthday.  Head bowed, eyes closed.  Ready to pray for Jesus to become my Lord and Savior.  Ready for my life to change.  Ready to step into the Abraham Journey that would be and still is my life.  Why?  How?  Because of someone who did not stop praying after a week.  Did not stop praying after a month.  Did not stop praying after a year.  Or ten years.  Did not stop believing that God could do something so radical, so amazing, so, so……

To Pastor Tino Madrid.  Thank you.  Thank you for not giving up.  Thank you for having amazing faith.  Thank you for praying without ceasing.  Thank you for being my pastor and my friend.  Thank you, for helping me start my Abraham Journey.

On Point

Where will you put your faith today?

Adam DrummIf you would have told me eleven years ago that I would be in the place I’m in today, I would have never believed you.  With that statement, I am talking about more than just physically, or geographically.  I’m talking about spiritually and relational.  Because eleven years ago I thought I had it all figured out.  I thought I knew everything and had it all under control.  But, the reality is, I was spinning out of control.  I thought I knew what love was, but I was loveless.  I thought I knew what faith was, but I was faithless.  I thought I knew what hope was, but I was hopeless.  I thought I knew what joy was, but I was without. I was looking for the red X on the treasure map.  If I could just find the secret, if I could just make enough money, if I……….

Now, if you knew me back then, you probably would not agree with those statements.  Why?  Because I had what people will tell you happiness looks like.  Plenty of money to do what I wanted; plenty of toys to drive and ride when I wanted; and a vacation home to escape to when I felt the need. In those things I was searching.  I was trying to find the fulfillment of hope, joy, love and peace.  I was trying to grab on to anything in front of me that could hold me up just a little bit longer.  Anything that could slow down the spinning mess that my life was quickly becoming.  And while I will not share my entire testimony here today, lets just say that I was headed towards a huge crash and burn.

The night before my 30th birthday I accepted Christ. I came to Him broken, afraid and alone.  Not physically alone, as my brother and his family were with me, but I was alone on the inside.  My heart was empty.  My spirit was a wasteland that had been used and abused.  I was sorry for my wrongs.  Sorry for the things I had done, the things I had said, and the way I had treated other people.  I was not someone who I wanted to look at in the mirror anymore.  I knew something had to change.

And it did.  Accepting Christ, asking forgiveness of my sins and submitting myself to Him that night brought change in my life.  I felt as though hope had been restored.  Joy was now possible.  I felt that there was now more to live for, more to hope for, and something real to put my faith in.  I felt the huge weight of my life lift from my shoulders, knowing that I did not have to be perfect because He was.  That when I did make a mistake, and I still make plenty of them, that it was not the end.  I began to understand that Christ died for my sins, past, present and future.

Today, as I write this, I am little more than a week away from celebrating both my birthday and my born again birthday.  I reflect on where I was then, and where I am now.  These last eleven years have not been without worry, trial and temptation.  I cannot honestly say I have resisted any of them.  I still fall short everyday in every way.  I am definitely a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

That’s the point I want to make with this post. Everyday we have the chance, the opportunity, to decide what we put our faith in.  There are days when I put more trust in myself and what I can do then Christ.  I admit it!  I try to work it out on my own more often than not.  That’s my own pride.  And what makes me go crazy when I do, is that I have seen God answer prayers, I have seen Him do the impossible, both for me and through me.  So, why is it so hard?  And here is what I have found.

The closer I am to Him, the easier it is.  The more time I spend with Him, reading my Bible, studying His Word, and listening to Him, the easier it is.  It’s still hard, it still requires a choice that I make, but the choice becomes more obvious the more you know about Christ.

So, let’s take this walk of faith together.  Let’s learn His Word and draw closer to Him side by side.  My hope is that as I share my doubts, my worries, and my victories, that we can inspire each other to a greater relationship with Christ.  One that will cause us to look at every problem, every situation and everyday in light of who He is, not who we are.

Join me as we step out front.  Join me as we step “On Point” in front of ourselves and into faith.

Matthew 6:5

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

It is easy to put on the “mask” of Christianity. Saying the right words, attending the right events, even posting the right things on Facebook. But true religion is less acting, and more action. True Christianity is your daily walk, the things you do that no one will ever know about, the way you treat those around you, the way you stand up, and take responsibility, especially when it will cost you something.

A MAN OF COURAGE will not back down from the challenge that is in front of him, he will not be afraid to pay any cost for his family, he will not be afraid to humble himself and admit when he has been wrong. No matter what, it is never too late to get back up, brush the dirt off, and say yes to what God has placed before you.

God believes in you.

God’s Love

Man's sin is not powerful enough to stop God's love

1The Bible is God’s love letter to us. In it I read and see that His love cannot be stopped. It was not stopped because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. it was not stopped when Cain killed Abel.

Because of His love, God flooded the earth and set forth a righteous man, Noah, to re-populate the earth. God’s love was shown at the Tower of Babel, spreading mankind across the earth and confusing their language to begin setting apart a people for Himself. God’s love is shown through Abraham, an imperfect man who makes many mistakes, yet follows God and is given a great blessing in the form of Isaac, the promised son. The sins of David and Solomon couldn’t stop God’s love. A kingdom divided and the Babylonian captivity couldn’t stop Gods love.

A nation turned against God and worshiping idols couldn’t stop His love. The Pharisees, Sadducees and all the high priests couldn’t stop God’s love. As I read the Bible, I see the lengths God went through to protect the lineage of Jesus. God did this for you, He did this for me. Everything in the Bible was done for us. God’s love is there, it has always been there, even before we realized it, it is here now, even when we don’t fully comprehend it or accept it at times, and it will always be here, for all our days to come. We cannot stop His love, but we can reject it and choose to ignore it.

This morning I read Hebrews chapter 11. Some call it the Hall of Faith, but today I saw a list of imperfect people, those who made mistakes as God was using them. Their stories were there for me to read this morning for inspiration. God used them, God loved them, and God wants to use me, imperfections and all.

“Man’s sin is not powerful enough to stop God’s love.”