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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.

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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.

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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!

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My Battle Part 1

I actually created this blog to share this story. I have wanted to share this story for a long time. I have found many reasons why not to share this story. Many things have caused me to not want to share this story. But I am going to share a story. 
Disclaimer: I do not share this in any way to gain some form of sympathy or attention. I am not jumping on any sort of a bandwagon of people who are exposing dark parts of their lives. I will also not share everything. But I have 2 reasons to share: 1. I want to get out my story of what God has done in my life & what He can do you in yours. and 2. To help remove the stigma that surrounds what I am going to share.
I have been blessed so much in my life. Blessed with a family and friends who love me, but I have depression.
No, I don’t mean just “Oh I feel sad today.” When I was a small child, around 5 or 6, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but after counseling and medication I wasn’t improving and my parents still struggled with understanding me. After a few more sessions of counseling, I was diagnosed with depression. Again, even with this diagnosis, I was blessed to have some great doctors and counselors. I was so fortunate to have Dr. John Kelley who pioneered Child Psychology at I believe WVU… A fantastic man… But I digress. (My ADD kicked in… ha)
I don’t want you to think I am blaming my mom and dad for my problems. That’s what sucks about the type of depression I have. It does not make sense. If I could tell you one thing about mental illness it is this: It does not make sense. I was blessed with a close knit extended family growing up. While because of that I experienced a lot of death, I also experienced a lot of love.
But even though I grew up with a loving family, even as a kid I felt alone. I mean at a gathering with all my cousins, I felt alone. Again, it doesn’t make sense. Growing up, I felt different. I felt alone. I know that I wasn’t the only one with problems. But I felt alone.
 I’d love to be able to point to one issue and say this is why I have felt depressed. But there isn’t a single issue that has made me this way. Sure, there are a few events that have negatively shaped me, but I tend to be melancholy by nature. Again, it doesn’t make sense.
Now, some of you may think this is a spiritual issue. And I would agree with you. But I know the depression I battle is not because of some sort of demonic oppression, or some kind of spiritual deficit in my life, at least not entirely. There is a spiritual component to the depression I deal with, but even when I am doing great spiritually, I can still feel depressed.
And some people know I have had this battle. But the vast majority have no idea had difficult it has been.
When I was a teenager, I refused to deal with life and various complicated issues and I thought about death continuously. I felt unaccepted by my peers… Which is ironic because while by no means the most popular kid in school, I was friends with just about everyone. I realize now how superficial those relationships were.
I don’t know why I would feel this way. I just did. I’m not asking for your sympathy. It’s just something I had to go through. I was suicidal at times. How serious was I? In hindsight, I just don’t know. I know that I wanted to die. I know that I wanted to stop feeling so down, so unloved, so useless. I felt my life had no meaning or purpose. I tried it. Several times. Either I never had to courage to “do it right” or the hand of God intervened or perhaps both.
When I was 17 I was finally baptized (I had become a follower of Jesus at around the age of 6). My pastor at time showed me acceptance. His family opened their home to me and I felt like I finally had friends I could be real with. People who I knew accepted me as I was. I grew to love them all as my own family. 
It’s not that my own family didn’t love me. It’s that I was scared what they would think of me. In my family, I was taught to believe that I came from a good line of hardworking people who had made something of themselves. My grandparents and great grandparents were respected pillars of the community. How could I be messed up and let them down? 
Fast forward to College. I attended Bible College at Ohio Valley University. Nice school. Fantastic professors. Fellow students: mostly ok. But I didn’t fit in. I was an outsider. I came from a different theological background and never found a niche. I’m not blaming the school or the system. I recognize that it is my responsibility to find a niche in which to thrive. What sucks about depression is that you lack the willpower to improve your situation. I would go to chapel, and leave inspired and excited to serve Jesus but completely lack the drive to grow enough to deal with parts of my depression. Even while seeking professional help, I would struggle to get out of bed. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy. I was scared. I was alone. I didn’t want to “adult” any more.
2nd Semester of college my roommate moved into another dorm. It was the middle of the school year and I was alone in my room almost anytime I wasn’t in class. Which is crazy. There I was being alone because I felt alone. Say it with me: Depression doesn’t make sense. I was heading into a dangerous spiral. I noticed it. No one else did because I didn’t have the guts to reach out. Soon after a girl I went to school with died in a car accident. We weren’t that close, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I, a Christian man with so many blessings, would break down and cry in the middle of the day. About nothing. I would cry myself to sleep at night. In the Bible, Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die.” I tried that. But I wasn’t going anywhere.
Finally one night I had a late heart to heart with a friend. I poured out my soul to him. I shared all the sinful things I had done and hidden. All the guilt I carried. All the sadness I felt. And he responded and said God loved me anyways. That he was my friend regardless. That he loved me no matter what. Oh, I cannot tell you how my heart soared!
Within 2 months I became the pastor of a very small struggling church. The perfect place to see if I was truly committed to ministry. What seemed like the toughest 8 years of my life was really just preparation for my future ministry. I worked hard to grow that church, I prayed. I preached. I trusted God. I invested my own meager salary back into that church, People came. People began to follow Jesus. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I made mistakes. Maybe it simply wasn’t God’s will for that church to grow. But I lost two very dear friends who no longer came to church there. People who I thought had my back began to attack me without cause. Maybe I lead out of anger. Maybe my determination led me to respond in un-Christ-like ways. I don’t know.
I knew God was calling me somewhere else. So after 6 months of prayer and seeking God’s will I resigned and lost half of my family’s income. But I knew God had a plan for me.
The past 2.5 years I have been back at my home church, where through a strange series of events I pastor a church I never thought I would, and I love it.
But I still battle depression. I am surrounded by people who love me, and yet I still feel so very alone. There are times when driving down the road I still will break down. But praise the Lord, those are fewer and far in between. I truly believe that depression is a battle I will have my whole life. And I have now come to terms with that. I think that it has made me a better pastor, a better husband, and a better friend. I long for authentic relationships. I do my best to empathize with others.
I can truly see how God has used this for God.
But I still battle. I’ve been suicidal since my teen years. It makes no sense. I have an amazing wife, two incredible daughters, and some very special people in my life. But I battle nonetheless. 

My name is Adam, and I have a mental illness. It makes no sense. But with God’s help I am fighting.