The Rock is Real

I read recently on social media a story of a couple with small children, getting divorced. Without giving away too many identifying details, the opening of the post said this:

“They told us we built our house on a rock. They didn’t tell us the rock wasn’t real. How can a house stand on an imaginary foundation? The walls cracked. The floor buckled. The entire house groaned. So we’re leaving the house before it collapses and kills us all. Leaving is painful and hard. We were told that divorce is wrong, that it’s the ultimate failure. But it’s not. It’s an act of love.

Poetic, isn’t it? It’s a shame that it’s riddled with so many things contradictory to the Christian world view.

My issue here is not to address the couple getting divorced or anything specific to their situation—I wish them both well, and that God would work in their situation for their good and His glory.

My hope here is to address some of the commonly held misconceptions that I see in that post. And yes, I know people will disagree and the disagreement ultimately comes down to conflicting worldviews.

I’m going to start with a few presuppositions: There is a God who has made this universe and everything in it, and He has revealed Himself to us through nature and conscience, and though we may deny it, it is something we all at onetime believed until we suppressed that knowledge (see Romans 1 and Hebrews 1).

“They told us we built our house on a rock. They didn’t tell us the rock wasn’t real. How can a house stand on an imaginary foundation?

I could be misreading the intentions of the author here, but to me, this is a clear reference to the idea of Jesus Christ as the Rock. Some of you may remember the song from Vacation Bible School or Sunday School, “The wise man built his house upon the rock” and it is now stuck in your head. You are welcome.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus uses the story of two men building houses to illustrate how important it is to follow his teaching. Verse 24 & 25 say “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

Contrast this with the foolish man in verses 26 & 27: “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

There is a Rock. It does exist. The variable here isn’t if the house stood or fell. The root of the difference between these two houses is the choice made by the builder. You see, both men heard the words of Jesus, they both knew there was a rock to build on. One dug down and laid a foundation upon solid stone. The other decided to build on the constantly shifting sand of man’s own inclinations.

What particularly grieves me about society today isn’t so much the fact that people who have never heard of Christ build their lives upon the sand. Yes, of course it burdens me, and saddens me, and our call is to reach those people for Christ. But what really makes me angry and sorrowful at the same time is when I see people who have heard the words of Christ, and simply allow them to go in one ear and out the other.

Of course, we all from time to time fail to live up to God’s standard. Christians mess up. We fall. We stumble. We sin. But Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice and they follow him (John 10:27 Hyperlink). We don’t hear his words and think, “Oh that’s nice. Nah.”

For a Christian to deliberately turn their back on the voice of Christ, there must surely be intense spiritual and emotional anguish inside their heart and mind. It is not an easy thing for a sheep to turn back from the shepherd. And so we are left with two possibilities: either they never heard the voice of the shepherd to begin with, or they have deluded themselves entirely. I’ll allow the Calvinists and Arminians to fight this one out.

But the author is right… A house cannot stand on an imaginary foundation. And yet, that is precisely what it is build on when not built on Christ.

The social climate of today is willing to disregard every standard, every norm, in the name of happiness. Where Christianity teaches finding contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11) with ultimate satisfaction and joy found in Christ and eternity with God, mankind’s sinful lust still cries out for happiness.

Happiness is a feeling. “But Adam, what’s wrong with happiness?” Nothing. But it’s a really bad idea to base your existence upon a feeling that can change moment by moment. Yet sadly, for many, this is precisely what drives them. Not being good, not living out God’s purposes for them, but focused on what makes them feel good for the moment.

Doing what makes you happy means you make stupid, inconsistent decisions. It means you break your marriage vows because you want to “have some fun” with someone else. It means you leave behind your kids to follow a “dream” that means more to you than our own children. It means throwing everything away for a moment or two of fame, ecstasy, or simply to find something new.

I’ve noticed a major shift in the last few years. More and more families are breaking up because a spouse decided that they weren’t happy and wanted to try some new path. You and I both have seen an increase in marriages breaking up, not because of abuse, or even infidelity, but because someone just decided they weren’t happy, and come hell or high water they were going to get happy.

Do I want to be happy? Yes. Of course. No one goes around wanting to be unhappy. And fortunately for me, I have moments of deep happiness. Watching my children sleep snuggled in bed. The birds singing in the trees at 7 AM. My wife smiling as we somehow made it through another day. A new package from Amazon. A flower in my garden. The feel of a new book in my hands as I turn the pages. A good movie. A good steak. An evening with friends. Teaching. An afternoon in my hammock.

But my life is not always happy. I get upset. I get hurt. I get refused or rejected. I fail. I realize how out of shape I am. I have an argument. I think about something stupid or hurtful someone did or said.

But I’m not going to throw my life away because I am unhappy. For the Christian, happiness is not the goal. God’s glory is the goal.

Divorce Is An Act of Love

Look, I get that people get divorced for all sorts of reasons. My purpose here is not to litigate the merits or theology of divorce and remarriage. I recognize that some folks have gotten married who should never have even gone out on a first date. I have friends who have had unfaithful or abusive spouses and for them, they have found a new life or new sense of freedom since that failed marriage.

But let’s recognize divorce for what it is: the tearing apart of a life. When two people are married, they become one: physically, sexually, spiritually, and emotionally. Many of my friends who have gone through a divorce say that is very similar to a death. That’s because it is. It is the death of who you were during that marriage. Regardless of whether the marriage was good or bad, or the divorce justified or not, it is not easy.

No one wakes up one morning and decides “Hey, I want to get married and then go through a divorce in a couple of years.” No sane person anyway.

Here’s the mindset of the quoted post: I want to be happy. Right now I am happy with you. When I stop being happy with you, I will discard you gently and look for some other way to be happy.

That’s not Godly. It’s not mature. It’s not marriage. What it is is dating in Jr. High. That kind of mindset takes marriage from being a covenant made between two people to being a simple social status, a temporary state of being instead of a lifelong commitment.  And because we are so focused on the right now, on immediate gratification, we throw away relationships like yesterday’s trash.

So what do we do? Is this just the ramblings of an old-fashioned Bible-thumper? Maybe. But I have a suggestion:

Let’s build our lives, our metaphorical houses, on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Let’s actually do what he says instead of doing our own thing while pretending to follow him. Then we have a foundation for not just our marriages, but for all of life.

And if you are married, if you and your spouse will both put in to practice the teachings of Jesus, it won’t be easy, but it will endure. And in the end, it will be worth it.


Introducing Next Step Consulting & Research

For the last 7 years, I’ve been a small business owner, operating a sole proprietorship known as Adam Will Abstracting and Research. I’ve done everything from title searches for real estate, to mineral searches and leases for energy companies, to right-of-way acquisitions, to genealogy, to doing public record searches for a former railroad company.

It’s been fun. It’s been enlightening. But it’s been touch and go. And it’s time for something different. See, I wear a lot of different hats:

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Pastor
  • Student
  • School Board Member
  • Insurance Agent
  • Business Owner

And for right now, each of those are necessary hats. But I’m not ashamed to say it has been getting too much to handle. I was ready to hang up the researching, but a mentor gave me some wisdom. He said I had built up a network of clients and a reputation as a problem solver, and that we need more people like me. Scary thought, isn’t it?

But as I had been doing some marketing for both my church, my business, and the insurance agency I work at, several people had been asking me for help and advice. So I was faced with a choice: Do I quit and save my sanity or do I embrace an opportunity?

If you know me, I try to balance, so naturally I looked for a way to combine those choices. I plan to both embrace opportunity and retain some sanity. But that would mean a MAJOR change to my business model. I knew I couldn’t do everything, so I decided to focus on what I do well.


So that’s where Next Step Consulting & Research comes in. With a new model and new ideas comes new branding. Next Step is so much more than property research. Of course we’re still going to serve our clients with property searches and title information. But that’s just one of the services we provide.

We really want to help you, your organization, your church, or your small business take the next step towards success.

For some people, that means helping them on the next step of tracing their family tree. For others, that means assisting in a search of public records. But businesses and non-profits in our area have needs of a whole host of services to help them reach the next level. Take social media for example. Most of us understand that social media is a big deal. But most organizations don’t know how to best utilize it. While some companies have a person who is wholly devoted to social media and marketing, for lots of churches and small businesses, it falls through the cracks or simply doesn’t get done.

I believe that the Ohio Valley has HUGE POTENTIAL, economically, socially, and spiritually. And I want to help us reach that potential.

“But Adam, isn’t this going to take you further away from your calling as a Pastor?” Fair question. My answer is no. Make no mistake about it, I believe that small business can help accomplish the Great Commission. Jesus said to “go and make disciples” and what better way to interact with people than in the marketplace? And what better way to help finance the work of the Kingdom than through a small business?

See, the beauty of this new enterprise is that while I may have my name associated with this company, it’s bigger than me. It will be a network of creatives, technicians, marketers, and advisers working together in this gig economy. I’ll be able to bring different stake holders together to see projects happen. I’ll be able to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, and learn from folks with much more wisdom than I have.

So here’s a few things:

  1. If you’re a creative, tech person, or have a knack for telling stories, get with me and let’s see what we can do together.
  2. If you’re a small business owner, whether it’s selling cars, a mom and pop shop, or selling t-shirts you make in your spare time, let’s talk! I can promise you that together we can accomplish more than we could on our own.
  3. If you don’t fit into either of the above, would you take some time to pray for this venture? At least pray that some of that sanity comes back….

Let’s take the Next Step together!

Family, Life, Time

25 Ways to Save Your Schedule and Your Mind

25 Ways to Save Your Schedule and Save Your Mind

In my last post, I shared how if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. The truth of it is, it’s not usually the fault of evil forces lurking in the shadows that cause us problems. It’s often our lack of prioritizing what’s great over what’s good.

Here are 25 (ok, technically 26) ways to save your schedule and your mind:

1. Say No Nicely—This is #1 in order of importance. It’s also #1 in degree of difficulty for most people. We say no all the time, just in a different way. When we say yes to something, we say no to a hundred other possibilities. Instead of passively saying no to opportunities we should take, learn to politely decline invitations or offers. Will people be offended? Sure. But if they’re as well meaning as they seem, they will either get over it, or eventually understand.

Say no to the good so you can say yes to the great.

2. Delegate—Unless you are on a deserted island, you can probably find someone else to help or do it entirely. Sure, somethings can’t be delegated. Likely, those are the essential things for you. But many things can be delegated. Enlist your co-workers, family members, or small group members. And if you can’t find someone to delegate to, don’t be afraid to drop it.

Delegate the good so you can focus on the great.

3. Clicklist Shopping—I admittedly haven’t tried this out. But Kroger’s has this new feature where you can shop on the app, pay for it, and have the grocery order delivered to your car, saving you hours each month in the store. Now, I’m sure Kroger’s isn’t the only store to do this, just the only major chain of supermarkets that I’m aware of. I’ll gladly pay a small fee to save this amount of time.

P.S. I personally enjoy grocery shopping. I usually do it alone. But if you have kids with you, why not try it out?

4. Family Sports—I know that this isn’t popular with a lot of people. But if you have three kids who are into sports, it’s likely that you have practice nearly every night of the week not to mention have to be in several places at once. Besides straining the laws of physics, it can strain your brain. Try to find some activities that can involve the whole family, or at least a big chunk of them.

Downside: No playoffs, no titles, not a lot of prestige. But your kids can still learn the fundamentals and develop leadership and sportsmanship qualities.

Also, these may be sparse in your area. But it may be worth a shot. The other alternative would be telling your kids “no.” Heaven forbid. See # 26.

5. Family Small Groups—Our church is in the launching phase of small group ministry. A small group is a Bible Study type of program you get into. Usually they involve lots of discussion, snacks, and meeting at someone’s home. Every church does groups a little different. But one option for you is to participate in a group where the whole family can be present. Or if that’s not your fancy, attend a group that meets the same time as your kid’s student or children’s ministry.

It saves time and may save you a couple of hours each week.

6.  Limit Meetings—I’m weird, I like meetings. Wait, let me rephrase that… I like meetings with a purpose. I detest sitting around talking about things only to meet again in a few months and be talking about them again with no progress made. Life is busy and I simply don’t have time to meet with everyone who wants to. So I need to prioritize meetings. If it can be done over text or email, great.

Honestly, this area is hard for me, because as a Pastor and small business owner, meetings with congregants and clients are very important. But many things can be dealt with completely in a timely manner.

Especially if you have a family, you need to limit your meetings. Better yet, have meetings at breakfast or lunch with someone, and don’t let it linger much longer than the meal.

7. Get Important Stuff Done First—2 benefits: 1, the task is done, so if you fall behind, its less pressure on you;  2, it will give you a sense of accomplishment, helping you dive into the rest of your day/list of things to do.

8. Limit Meetings—Lots of meetings are redundant, just like this line.

9. Ask Why—This question will likely get you in trouble, whether you’re asking yourself of someone else. It can cause you re-evaluate conventional wisdom, which is usually a good thing. But to some people, it’s threatening. Again, focus on the great thing, not just the good thing. It something is pointless, why are you doing it?

10. Cook Multiple Meals at Once—Ah, food. I like to cook. It relaxes me. There is something satisfying about taking a set of ingredients and transforming them into an edible creation. We don’t cook enough. Largely because we lack time. So tonight, while you’re making hamburgers, go ahead and prepare some ground beef for tacos later in the week. Or if you’re making soup, make some extra and put it in the freezer. This way you can still have a home cooked meal that tastes good and allows you to put your feet up.

11. Work Ahead—”But Adam, I can’t do what I have to do as it is!” I know. Same situation here. But most of us can find a little margin here and there. If you’re not totally exhausted, work a little ahead. You never know when you’ll need that time invested when a crisis comes up. Life is unpredictable so being a little ahead can be a real lifesaver.

12. Give Kids Chores—For any kids reading this, I apologize in advance. Now most kids have age-appropriate chores. But it is surprising to me the number of kids I know who have very little household responsibilities besides cleaning their room. Hey, some kids don’t even have to do that. I hated chores as a kid. But as a parent, I now realize those little household jobs can really add up. If you have kids, give them responsibility. That’s the only way they learn it. And yes, that means you’ll have to check to make sure it got done, but over time it can develop your child’s work ethic. And it can save you some time.

13. Keep A Notebook—I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid, before it seemed like everyone had it. On top of that I struggle to remember things anyway. If you add those two together you get the perfect storm of poor follow-through. Many times I simply forget. I’m learning the importance of keeping a notepad with me at all times. Yeah, I don’t look so cool. But I’m becoming more productive and less busy at the same time. Working from a list keeps you engaged, speeds up your day, and you’ll have more time and maybe even more energy at the end of the day.

14. Get Some Sleep—This seems obvious, but you can’t function well if your body isn’t well rested. I love the new Bedtime feature on my iPhone. It’s a conscious reminder that I need to wind down my evening, go to bed, and get some rest. And I’m waking up earlier and more refreshed because I am getting a good night’s sleep. Why is it we work hard to get our kids on a good bedtime schedule and then neglect doing that in our own lives? I like the occasional late-movie date-night, but I can’t function well on less than 9 hours of sleep.

Rest well so you can tackle the great thing God has for you.

15. Get Up Early—Yikes! I was never a morning person until the last year or so. We have three kids, and I largely work from home, so quiet time is at a premium around here. If I get up at 5 AM, I have between 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time to study, write, read, pray, you get the picture. Yes, it takes time to cultivate the habit, but my morning coffee and Bible reading are becoming precious to me. It’s also my most productive hours of the day.
I’m not advocating everyone get at 5 AM. If they did, it wouldn’t be quiet time for me. But I am advocating getting a head start on the day. There is a positive psychological effect to having accomplished more than half of a work day before noon.
16. Do Small Tasks in a Rush—My wife is the queen of this. When it comes to cleaning up after the kids and just the craziness of the day, my wife can clean more in 15 minutes uninterrupted than I can in 2 hours. This could be anything from sorting laundry while starting a load, combining errands into a single trip, or handling all your email quickly at one time.

I read somewhere that the constant checking and replying to emails is a huge time waster. Doing it all at once maybe twice a day can really save your schedule. Get the good things done and out of the way so you can focus on the great thing God has for you (notice how I keep saying something like that? Hmmm… It’s like I have a theme or something).

17. Listen to Some Good Music—I get distracted easily, which makes some tasks take longer than they should. If you see me with my headphones or earbuds in and I seem to be non-responsive to you, I’m not being rude. I am doing what I need to do to be productive. Pick your favorite music and get to it. Personally, I find soft piano or classic rock works best. I love praise and worship music, but sometimes I get caught up in it and forget what I was doing.

It’s about what helps you to focus on the great things.

18. Hire Out What You Can—I realize not everyone has lots of money. Truth is, I’m not what you would call wealthy by American standards. But there are some things that aren’t worth the hassle or time commitment of me doing myself. If that means paying the neighbor kid to mow the lawn (mowing is sacred to me so that’s not something I would do) or paying someone to do your taxes, or paying for a part-time assistant, do it.

You may think it’s cheaper to do it yourself, but I think you’d be surprised. If you did a cost-benefit analysis of some of the tasks you do, what it costs you in lost productivity or peace of mind, it may be worth hiring it out.

19. Consider a Digital Assistant—This is something I have considered but have not done yet. Our church employs a great administrative assistant who saves my bacon weekly. But she’s only 6 hours a week. I need someone constantly, for my church work and for my side business. I don’t have the luxury of being able to afford one right now, but there are some great options out there.

Belay is one company that is making a huge impact by offering numerous services, including personal assistants who work remotely from their home or office space. For a reasonable rate, they can help with all sorts of tasks. If you work in the business or non-profit world, they could be a real time saver and problem solver for you.

20. Pray—Pray. “Adam, you’re a pastor. Of course you’re going to berate me about spending too little time in prayer.” Ok, easy, calm down. Maybe you feel convicted because you do need to pray more. But that’s not what I’m really getting at.

Yes, pray and ask God to help you make better use of your time, to focus on the great things instead of the good. But you should already be doing that.

No, I’m talking about the purely selfish reasons to pray. Study after study by secular researchers show that praying, meditation, or a similar discipline not only increases productivity, it also reduces stress. Reduced stress will save you time as you feel less worn down.

21. Move Up Deadlines—Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Bad idea! Why not do today what isn’t due until next week? Again, you’re making extra time in your calendar and you’ll have a head start on everyone else. So if the paper isn’t due until next Friday, start working on it like it’s due this Friday. You’re not preaching until Sunday? Get that message ready by Friday night.

You’ll build discipline, earn the respect of your colleagues, and hey, maybe even get a raise.

22. Schedule Social Media Usage—If you’re a business owner like me, you know important social media can be to your business. It builds your client base and keeps you in contact your customers. Just like idea #16, you can schedule several posts at once using a social media managing app like Buffer or Hootsuite.

Also, resist the urge to check your phone every 5 minutes. Schedule time. Like for our church, we use several social media accounts and platforms to communicate 
announcements, prayer requests, and for me to keep in touch with the congregation. It’s a great tool. But it can be overwhelming if I’m checking it constantly. It could be all I get done in a given day. As part of my morning routine, I will take about 20 minutes to scan my newsfeed, see what I need to respond to, and do it. Then I can go about my other tasks.

Again, focus on the great things not just the good things.

23. Calendar Everything—I am by nature perhaps the most disorganized person on the planet. Calendars and me don’t have a great track record. Day planners have been purchased only to be used for like a week, and then discarded.

But with each new update for iOS for Apple, they’re improving calendar features and making it easier for my wife and I to sync our appointments. It’s not just Apple Calendars. Google has some great resources.

Have trouble with keeping a priority a priority? Schedule it. Put Tuesday evenings down as family time and make it repeat forever. Scheduling your priorities makes it easier to tell people no. When someone asks you for a meeting Tuesday evening, you can honestly say, “I’m sorry, I’ve got a commitment that evening.”

As a pastor, it’s rare I have a slow or peaceful weekend. It’s my busiest time. So I try to take Mondays as a day off. But I find that if I don’t schedule it on my calendar, tasks and people tend to creep in on the time I should be holding as sacred.

24. Clean Your Desk, Dresser, or Work-space Each Day—A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. When I sit down at my desk, the last thing I need to do is try to remember what I was thinking yesterday with stacks of papers.

I truly stink at this. But hey, I at least keep the spot in front of my keyboard clean.

Even if you stuff it into a file marked “to do”, you’ll find yourself less stressed and feeling ready to tackle the day.

25.  There’s An App for That—No, seriously, there probably is. Whether it’s mobile banking, a calendar app, an app that allows for collaboration between team mates, use it. By the time you read this post, the Apple App Store will have more than 3 million apps. 3 Million! And sure, lots of them are glorified time wasters, but there will be some that help productivity or with scheduling. My favorite time saving apps are Facebook Messenger, Hootsuite, and Dropbox.

26. Tell Your Kids “No”—See #1. Look, I get it. It’s hard to tell anyone no, especially your kids. You brought them into this world and you would give them anything. But just as we need to learn the discipline of saying no and choosing the great over the good, we need to instill this in our offspring.

Unless you have a rough home life and a negative family situation, your kid does not need to be in every sport, event, class, group, club, or organization. I know, Scouts, 4-H, Lacrosse, and Little League are good. They teach life lessons, provide amazing opportunities, and instill important values. Not denying that. But what I do deny is that every child needs all of them to have a worthwhile existence.

In our culture today, many of us engage in what I would call child idolization. We put our kids first, on a pedestal that belongs only to God. Or we’re trying to make our kids have the childhood we never had. If we could read most of our kids minds, what they need is what we do, love, respect, and self-worth. They don’t get that because you give them everything. Learn to balance. Tell your kids no. Teach them to focus on the great instead of lots of good.
I realize not all these tips may help you. There is no magic pill or silver bullet to make your schedule less hectic or reduce the stress you face. But if you will pick a couple of these, consistently apply them, and focus on the great, not the good, I believe you’ll start to see significant improvements in just a few weeks. Dialogue with me: What tips would you add? Which one has worked for you?

Faith, Life, Time

Is The Devil Making You Too Busy?

“If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”

Ever heard that before? I have, and boy if it isn’t true…

Sometimes I can get so busy doing good things that I forget to do what I was supposed to be focusing on.

What about you?

Between work, taking the kids to practice, studying for the next test, trying to keep the lawn looking good, trying to exercise, catching up on laundry, church activities, and parent-teacher meetings, our schedules look less like a family plan and more like a complex algebraic equation.

If I have to be at x by y and then I have to take child 1 to location b, will I have time to go through the drive through or will we all be eating those gummy fruit snacks for dinner for the second time this week?

And we know we need to cut things out, but what? I mean, it’s not like I am running drugs or killing puppies. If I was, it would be a no-brainer to cut those things out. “Hey, honey, if we stop stalking the neighbors, I think we’ll have time for a date night.” Hopefully that’s not the text message you send. I say text because you don’t have time to talk to your spouse. In fact, if it wasn’t for the picture of the two of you on social media, you may forget what they look like.

We’re too busy. I know, you’ve heard it before. But what do you cut out? Our schedules are full of good things. Sports are good. Getting your kids to youth volleyball, dance, and the traveling basketball team is good. Actually showing up to work is good. Folding laundry, that’s’ good. Studying for the exam coming up is good. It’s good. It’s all good.

And I think that’s’ the problem. Let that sink in. The problem is our schedules are full of good things.

And that’s bad.

Confused yet? Do I have your attention? Good. Perfect. Here’s the point: The Enemy of Great is Good.

The enemy of great is good. See, I believe that God has created us for great things that will bring Him glory (see Eph. 2:10). And if you’re a follower of Jesus, God has a task for you to do. And if the devil can’t cause you to walk away from faith, he’ll try to keep you so busy that you’ll be distracted from your faith.

Distraction. It’s a dirty word. It’s perhaps the most commonly committed sin in the North American Church today. In fact, it’s perhaps the root of almost any other sin we struggle with. What’s the first of the 10 Commandments? “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
When we’re distracted, we’re either putting something else ahead of God, or at the very least, we’re regulating God, and His call on our lives, to equal footing with all the other stuff we have going on.

You say: “Ok, Adam, since you seem to have all the answers, what am I supposed to do about it?”  

Well, first of all, you’re not alone. I’m guilty of this too. I get distracted by good things. My schedule is full of good things; things that need done; needs that should be met; obligations that I signed up for. I’m in this too. This post is for me as much as for you, maybe even more so.

But here’s what I am learning: God has some simple steps to stop being so busy and refocus.

Nehemiah was a guy who got things done. And just a quick scan of the Book of Nehemiah gives us 3 steps we can take to reclaim our mission and focus on the great things God wants us to.

1. Realize the Need.

If you don’t see the need to do something different, then you’re not going to change, and the situation is simply going to get worse. In Nehemiah 1, we see how Nehemiah heard about the bad shape Jerusalem was in. The city wall was destroyed, the citizens were discouraged. It was a mockery of God.

We need to realize that there is a problem in our lives. It may be our schedule reveals some deep needs in our lives that we’re trying to meet apart from the redemptive work of Christ, like trying to earn acceptance or praise of others. Or it could be that we just need to realize we’re not making enough time for what really counts. And that’s what leads me to the next step.

2. Reflect on priorities.

The first thing Nehemiah did when he got to Jerusalem was he took a trip around the city to see for himself what was really going on. He checked out the city, inside and out. He did this in secret, not making a show, so he would get an unbiased outlook.

What are you really doing with your time? Have you ever added up the time each week you devote to each task? Have you identified the absolute essentials? We often say “I need to do this or go there…” But that’s not really accurate, is it? Is anyone holding a gun to your head saying you MUST sign the kids up for dance, intro to yoga, softball, and concert band at the same time, in the same week? Did anyone really force to you say yes to helping with the Committee to Appoint More Committees to Do Nothing?

I’m not saying those things are bad. In fact, I think there is a lot of value in those things. What I am saying is that you and I need to reflect on what is most important.

When Nehemiah went around Jerusalem, I’m sure he saw lots of things that needed attention. Streets needed cleaned of debris. Markets needed set up. Wells needed re-dug. Civic institutions needed revamped. But first and foremost, the walls needed built. It was only when Jerusalem was secure could they deal with other important things.
Focus on the priorities before you commit your time to lesser things.

3. Refuse to get distracted.

In Nehemiah 6, some bad dudes named Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to con Nehemiah out of finishing the work on the wall. They didn’t like what was happening. Because when Nehemiah realized the need, reflected on what needed to get done first, and started focusing on the most important things, amazing things happened.

Nehemiah 4:6 tells us that they had completed half of the work in what seemed like record time, because they were focused on it.

So Sandy and Toby didn’t like this. They thought, “Hey, lets get Nehemiah to come to a meeting. He’ll get distracted and then the work will stop.”

Satan and his minions will try to keep you from the most important things. Sure, take another meeting, it’s just one more night away from home. Yeah, sign up for the community group project, it’s just one thing. They need help with coaching Little League? Well, I mean, my kids on the team, so sign me up. Again, good things, but if they take us away from our main goal, they could be distractions.

Nehemiah told his tempters, “Sorry guys, I’m busy doing a GREAT work and I can’t come down and talk. If I stop now, I may not get back.” (Nehemiah 6:3, paraphrased).

It’s so difficult to do this. People will get disappointed. You will feel like you’re letting down your friends. But perhaps they just don’t understand how GREAT the work you’re doing really is.

Next post, I’ll outline some simple ideas to free up time in your schedule.
Epilepsy, Faith, Family, Life

Walking A New Path

A New Path

Today our family begins a new chapter in our story. It’s an unexpected chapter, one we never saw in the Table of Contents, one we didn’t choose or wish for.

Today, Sophia, our middle child, was diagnosed with epilepsy. She had a seizure on Monday morning, three months to the day since her first and up to now only episode. It has been a long week, but now we have some answers. And yet, at the same time we have even more questions. I’d like to say that this post has some great point, but frankly at this point I am just processing.

Epilepsy? Really? Isn’t that when you have convulsions frequently? My mind is running with stories of people I know with epilepsy. Interestingly, Christina told me that she learned from the doctor that Epilepsy is kind of an automatic diagnosis when there is no other known cause of seizures. Epilepsy is not a one-faceted disease. It is varied and encompasses numerous and diverse symptoms and reactions.

So, we’ve begun a medical regimen that will last at least two years. Two years! That’s half of the life she has lived so far! Hard to fathom.

But I’m glad we have an idea of what’s going on. I’m thankful for all the love and support our family has received just the past few days. The texts, the calls, the visits, the offers of help. They mean a lot. Frankly, we’re tired. Christina and I are at just drained. Trying to understand this as best we can, while raising three kids and all while in the midst of the busiest week of the year for me (Holy Week). It’s an adventure that I don’t recall having signed up for.

But that’s the way it goes. Life is a continual unfolding of God’s story for us. He’s not freaked out by this. He knew what He was doing when He formed Sophia. He knew this would happen before time began, and somehow He will be glorified in all of this.

Sophia obviously doesn’t have a grasp of what is going on. But she’s brave. So many kids her age are scared of doctors and hospitals. But not Sophie. Oh, she’s not the biggest fan of them, but she has been a real trooper this week. 

By the way, I’m not going to call Sophia an epileptic. She will not be defined by this. This doesn’t change who she is, it just affects her. She is defined by God’s love for her. She’s defined by her piercing blue eyes, her love of animals, her love of families, and her love of all things purple.

It’s only fitting that the color of Epilepsy Awareness is Purple… It’s her favorite.

Each of my kids have taught me so much. May Sophia teach me to be brave. And to trust God more each and every day.

Faith, Ministry, Money, Sermons

Twisted: The Root of All Evil

This past Sunday at Mount Hermon Church we finished the series “Twisted” where we looked at the most some of the most commonly misunderstood Bible passages. 
You can listen to Sunday’s message here: Twisted: Root of All Evil.

One of the key thoughts I shared was this: When we think “What I really need is more money,” we’re deceived. Money is not the answer to our deepest needs. JESUS IS! We don’t need more money, we need more Jesus.

So as you go through the week, and maybe think, “I need more money. More money would make my life easier right now.” Remember, Jesus is the answer to your greatest needs. Money isn’t bad. But loving it is more dangerous than you can imagine.

So let’s pursue Jesus instead of money. He’s the real answer to our problems, the real source of our joy, the genuine provider of security and forgiveness.

Hey, are you a pastor, church leader, or Bible study facilitator? You need to check out Open.Church! They are a group of several churches who give away everything they do for free! From sermon outlines, to teaching videos, to church graphics, to original worship music. Open.Church has saved me countless hours of detail work. For this series, Twisted, I was able to use graphics and other media to give the message some extra oomph. I was able to take the outline for this series, and customize it to make it my own. Again, you need to check them out.

Critics, Faith, Life, Ministry

What About the Lies?

As the church where I serve, Mount Hermon UB, has grown, so has the amount of criticism that I and our church face. And while I’m all about constructive criticism, because I want to get better at what I do, there is one thing I don’t handle as well: lies about me or the organization I serve.

I’m not talking about differing opinions, or even differing interpretations of the facts. Those aren’t lies, those are opinions, and like bellybuttons, nearly everyone has one. And like bellybuttons, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to tell and show the whole world. Congrats. We get it.

But lies. What do you do about the lies? In our era of social media, they go viral, are shared dozens of times, or at least seen dozens of times by people before you even have time to see them for yourself, let alone react. Don’t we have a duty to correct, to rectify an injustice?

When the lie is about you, or even your organization, I’m going to say, under most circumstances, NO. Yes, that goes against every instinct we have. That goes against our pride, our righteous indignation. But it’s usually the right call.

See, getting into an argument with someone who is lying about you is like wrestling a pig. You both get dirty and only one of you is going to like it. Reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (ESV) I know that may not be the proper exegesis of this passage, it just reminds me of what happens when you engage a person spreading lies about you.

So what do we do? Here’s 5 STEPS to deal with lies and the lying liars who lie.

1.  Recognize This Isn’t Personal, But Spiritual.

“But Adam, of course it’s personal, they’re talking about me!” While technically correct, remember the words of Paul the Apostle to the church at Ephesus: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (NLT)
I know Billy Bob may be telling a lie about you, but the issue isn’t Billy Bob himself. It’s the forces of the enemy, Satan, trying to take you down or to discourage you. See, if the Devil can get you to give up, or to sin while trying to defend yourself, he wins. The problem isn’t the person who’s lying. It’s the underlying spiritual issues.
Is that person saved? Is that person going through some sort of traumatic life circumstance? After all, hurting people hurt people. I’m not saying that they have a pass to say whatever they want. No one ever has a pass to say whatever they want (including you). But the issues are deeper.

2. If There is a Specific Accusation or Attack, Refute It Once And Move On.

But if it’s specific enough, refute it ONCE. Don’t be constantly trying to defend yourself. Again, then you find yourself in an argument that you can not win. But if you refute it, then the people whom are closest to you can say, “Nope, Jane didn’t do that. She refuted that charge.” I believe that your character will show the truth, at least to those open minded enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.

We have to be very careful about continually insisting on our innocence, because it then becomes very easy for us to think we are fighting the battle. It becomes easy for us to insist on our own righteousness. It becomes about our justification.

And for the Christian, we recognize that a, we’re not always innocent, in fact we have sinned just as everyone else has. B, It is God who is to fight for us. Vengeance is His. He promises to deal with it. C, apart from Christ, we have no righteousness. Sorry but without Jesus you might as well be guilty of what they’re accusing you of. And lastly, your justification comes only from what Jesus did for you on the cross, not from the opinions of others or the reputation you or your organization enjoy.

3. If You Have a Personal Relationship with Them, Reach Out. 

Now this can be tricky. But if it’s someone you have had a decent report with in the past, someone whom you have been in relationship with before, try to reach out to them. Humility is key here. Don’t reach out with a “What the heck are you doing” attitude. But humbly, kindly, ask them what is going on. Do they have a misunderstanding of what occurred? Perhaps they aren’t mentally well, and are lashing out? Ask them to correct the matter to the best of their ability.

They likely won’t listen. But you have fulfilled your obligation as stated in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.”

4. Keep Going. 

If the enemy can get you distracted, he’s won. You’re likely getting attacked because you are doing something worthwhile. Keep reaching people for Jesus. Keep being kind to others. Keep making the difference in people’s lives.

In the Book of Nehemiah, there is a guy named (wait for it) Nehemiah who is rebuilding the walls around the desolated city of Jerusalem. And people don’t want him to continue. They try to discourage him by trying to scare him and his workers. That doesn’t work so they resort to telling lies. “Hey Nehemiah, come down from the wall so we can talk about all the stuff you’re doing.”

Nehemiah’s response is great: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you.” (Nehemiah 6:3b ESV)
Did you catch that? “Sorry guys, I am too busy to play your game or get caught up in your little drama.”

Man, if more of us would keep going, imagine what we would get accomplished!

5. Bless Them.

 Yep, you read that right. Bless them. Jesus told us repeatedly to love our enemies. Bless those who curse you and lie about you. Why? Because that demonstrates the genuineness of our faith in Christ. It shows the world the power of God’s love.

Paul tells us to repay evil with good in Romans 12:14-21. In verse 20-21 Paul says, “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I hope I have given you some steps you can take when people say false things about you. It hurts. And it’s okay to hurt. But allow God to use this to shape your character to more reflect the image of Christ. He is for you. And you are never alone.

Be sure to share this post if it has helped you, and leave a comment.