“I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout you…”

“Do you think about me still? Do ya? Do ya?”

It’s been a while since I’ve just sat down and started typing a blog post. The last few months…I don’t know. When it comes to this blog, I think I started out trying too hard to do it “the right way”–not writing, but “creating content,” not communicating but “building an audience.” And then it started feeling fake, so I pretty much stopped. My words dried up. I want to keep writing, but I don’t know if I want to keep doing it this way, you know? (And it’s not like I’ve been posting that much content, generic or otherwise. We both know I haven’t posted much of anything lately. Every time I sit down to write, I start getting all knotted up over it. Not writer’s block as much as writer’s rebellion. I’m not sure what my problem is.)

While working on something for a friend, I started digging through my past blog posts–I mean the early, early days of my blogs. Have you ever read diary or journal entries you wrote more than 15 years ago? Cringe-y is the word.

And yet, while I’m embarrassed by my emotional immaturity on display in those best-forgotten days, I was struck as I read the posts by how much fun they were to read. (No, I’m not humble-bragging or post-facto-bragging or any such thing.) It was just so clear that I loved writing. I loved writing blog posts, stringing together turns of phrase and pop-culture references and song lyrics. I was much more open and unvarnished and emotive. I bled on the screen.

I think I miss doing that, a little.

Things are different now. Times have changed. I’m no longer a young man in my early 20’s with a keyboard and a broken heart. I’m now a middle-aged man in my late 30’s, with a wife and a daughter and responsibilities–not quite where I hoped I would be by now, but getting there. At this stage in the game, I don’t need to be giving full-vent to my spleen in this format. I’m an adult. I need to act like one. To be honest, I don’t really want to go back to treating blogging like a public diary–that’s what Xanga is for. (Any of you kids remember Xanga? No? Just me? Okay.)

(No, I don’t actually have a Xanga. Actually, I think I did at one point years and years back, but the log-in has been long forgotten.)

[What was I on about? Oh yeah.]

I haven’t posted anything “from the heart” since mid-July, it looks like. And who knows, maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s what you readers want: that I should stick to book reviews, interesting-link aggregation, a bit of this and that about writing and freelancing, and some Bible study blogging. Maybe that’s why you’re here, really. Maybe that can be enough.

What I’m getting at is this: the blog is just starting to feel a bit shallow to me. I don’t want that to be the case, but I’m not sure if or how I should change that.

Maybe nothing ultimately changes. Maybe I just need to start writing more and trust that it will start feeling natural again. I don’t know.

I’ve been wanting to say something to y’all for a few weeks, but I kept waiting for some great idea to kick me back into gear. The idea never came.

Here’s the update from my side of the screen: I’m busy with work, with church, with life stuff. I’m still putting off creative work that I am a bit too afraid to really commit to finishing, but even more afraid of giving up thinking about. There are a dozen things right now that need attention in my life and I’m constantly having to assess and reassess which priorities are most important.

But I miss talking to you, gang. So I’m checking in to let you know I’ve been thinking ’bout you (ooh na-na-na). And I hope you think about me still.

Happy October.

That Morning.

(Reposted and expanded from this post way back in 2004.)

It was fall, and school was just getting into full swing. My senior year of college, full of 400-level classes and theater and a girl with whom I was utterly smitten.

We, she and I, were getting lunch. Walking from the school cafeteria counters to the beverage island in the middle of the dining hall. Two small cups of Dr. Pepper, one of chocolate milk, balanced on my plastic tray, trying not to spill.

The nearby television was tuned to MTV, as Kurt Loder (or someone similar) was discussing the death of Aaliyah, the R&B star who died in a plane crash just a few weeks before. She and I chatted about the tributes and the memorial services that dominated the airwaves.

She mentioned that she heard one announcer say that Aaliyah’s death would be our generation’s “where were you when” moment. Our parents would have the Kennedy assasination, our grandparents would have Pearl Harbor, and we just had Aaliyah. I thought that was a bit of an overstatement (no offense intended to the dead), and that it would be pretty sad if the death of a pop singer were “the” landmark news moment of our lives.

She agreed. “I was more impacted when Kurt Cobain died. There were girls at school who cried all day, when they found out.”

I didn’t share that memory; my upbringing was devoutly devoid of pop music. But I understood and agreed, “Yeah, clearly Cobain had more of an impact.”

We sat at the table, watching the large-screen TV in the caff, and the topic shifted to homework and other things.

That was Monday.

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The next morning, my roommate Josh and I were getting ready for the 9:30 class we both had (Children’s Theatre? Scenic Design? Something in the theater building.)

I was perched on my dorm-room desk chair, Mr. Rogers-style, about to pull on my socks, when Josh uncharacteristically turned on the TV (something he never did in the morning). And I saw it. I saw the world change in an instant.

I saw a mighty city in flames. I saw the great tower shudder. I saw the smoke and debris.

Then the image of the second plane vanishing into the side of the second tower. To this day, I don’t know if that was a live video or a replay, but either way, it felt sudden. Jarring.

I sat slack-jawed and half-socked, unable to move. Josh dropped down on his bed, stunned. I heard him gasp. We sat silent, in our small dorm room on the small campus of a small Baptist college in the wide plains of middle America, and we watched in horror as Americans were murdered en masse.

After about ten minutes, I awoke from my shocked state. “I…guess…we need to get to class.” Josh nodded. I finished getting dressed, and we walked together in silence from the dorm to the communications building. On our way, we met our professor speeding toward and then past us, calling over her shoulder, “Meeting in the black box.”

We walked into the small theater, and saw the other students huddled in the seats, in twos and threes, some crying, some consoling, all speaking in hushed tones. We sat. I could think of nothing to say. I was numb. Hollow. As if my spirit had been pulled from me. Mrs. B, the other theatre prof, stood and said a few words. She said that now was a time to pray for our country, and for the families of the victims. We didn’t know how many, but we knew that countless were affected. We didn’t know what would happen next. We were afraid.

Our professor said that class was cancelled, and that we should spend the day praying. We prayed together as a group, and then dispersed. I walked out the glass doors of the building onto the recessed porch, half-stumbling. Some had been wondering aloud if this was the beginning of a war. I wondered the same thing. How many more cities would be attacked? Would there be a retaliation? Would there be a draft?

Most of us ended up in the student “commons” building. There were a few hundred, all huddled around a large-screen TV, watching in silence. Many faces were tear-stained and puffy, drawn with horror.

I stayed there for most of the day, watching the same images over and over. Then the first tower fell. Later, its sister followed.

We could forget about Aaliyah and Kurt Cobain. We had our “moment.” Every one of us now had our story.

So many things we felt. So many things we wanted to say. Now, so many years after, we’re still trying to find the words.

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It’s at this point in the original post that I concluded with a rousing “they didn’t just attack New York or DC–they attacked all of us” speech. And that’s still true. For one glorious, all-too-short moment, the partisan bickering was tabled in favor of bowed heads, clasped hands, and “How are you doing, neighbor?”

And now we’re here–17 years later. We’ve defeated Bin Laden and Saddam, and new terrorists and warlords have risen up to take their places. The War on Terror hasn’t ended; it’s just changed location and shape. Truth be told, it’s been largely forgotten by many Americans–white noise in a distracted culture.

Meanwhile, we’ve had three presidents, all of whom were/are vilified by their opponents and defended fiercely by their allies. I’m not going to argue over who was better or worse (though I do find it interesting how one went from being portrayed as literally the second coming of Hitler to now a beloved and even fondly-remembered statesman in some circles–the benefits of perspective, I guess).

In some ways, it feels like this country is on the verge of fracture, though I wonder sometimes if that’s really just social media and cable news talking. Then again, moderation has fallen out of fashion. On the street corners and in the marketplace, everyone speaks in chyrons.

I don’t have answers, either. I’m still trying to find the words.

If there was a single silver lining on that dark day 17 years ago, perhaps it’s this: For one brief moment, we remembered what we had in common, and we realized that there was something more vital, more fundamental than the petty, partisan bickering that was already so deeply ingrained in the national conversation in the summer of 2001.

One nation, under God, indivisible.

May it always be.

#FridayFive: 08/31/2018

Here are 5 posts to inspire and challenge you over this long holiday weekend!

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The Secret to Networking? Stop Trying to network. — This piece by Brad Stulberg reminds us not to treat “building a network” like its a competition or game. Those contacts aren’t points on a scoreboard but people we have the opportunity to serve and bless.

The Answer is This: Give It Away for Free. — Tim Denning puts his finger on a powerful principle that I’ve seen play out in my own life: in a world of salesman, being a giver makes you unique and influential. As Seth Godin says, giving your work away produces loyalty with your audience. This is an idea I’m really trying to take to heart and implement in the coming years.

How to Use Your Tools so They Don’t Own You — Bryan Collins reminds us that getting a shiny new “tool” or gadget doesn’t mean much if we aren’t able to put the work in. Sometimes, going simple is the best way to do our best work.

The Top 4 Mistakes Every Writer Makes (And How To Avoid Them) — It feels like I can’t make one of these lists without including a Jeff Goins piece. Here, he points out four simple but powerful concepts that can help anyone write more compelling and meaningful work.

I Want to Quit. Right Now. — Jon Westenberg’s writing is visceral, searing, and insightful. This piece is a prime example, and every single word of it resonates with me. He gives us a peek into his inner battle over whether to persevere or give up on his passions, and in so doing, reminds us that all of us face that same battle. (Content warning: some strong language.)

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There you go, friends. Five posts to fuel your creative efforts on this Labor Day weekend.

May your labor be satisfying and your rest be refreshing, and we’ll see you back here next week!

Freelancer Diaries: Week 4

Closing in on one month in this side-hustle experiment. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve been learning lately:

Out of Order

When I get really excited about something new, I often dive right in, full steam ahead. Freelancing was no different. For the first 3 weeks, I was reading books, watching webinars, taking notes, and sending out bids to dozens of potential clients on a couple of websites. I was ready to grab the bull by the horns and make stuff happen!

And after 3 weeks of HUSTLE™, I was left with just one client…whom I had agreed to help for free. What began as a request to correct his document’s formatting turned into almost 7 hours over the next 2 weeks spent learning the basics of e-book publishing.

The gentleman was nice enough about it; he even gave me a 5-star review on Thumbtack and $30 for my efforts.

On the other hand, I had invested about $60 paying for client “contacts” on a freelancing site called Thumbtack, with little to show for it: my one paying client, and a few folks who promised to contact me later this year. That’s it.

Three weeks into my new part-time business, I was $30 in the hole. 

My internal pendulum suddenly swung the other way.  I just sat on my couch one night, sulking, frustrated that I wasn’t immediately successful, second-guessing the whole enterprise. I considered chucking the whole thing and forgetting it ever happened, but I had told a few people about it (along with the entire INTERNET) and felt too embarrassed to give up entirely. So I just moped about it for a few days.

[Some of you more seasoned freelancers are trying hard not to scoff openly at my newbie pity-party. I appreciate your restraint.]

I spent the weekend feeling defeated, deflated, listless. My wife kept asking if I was okay. I would just shrug in reply. I could feel that heavy-blanket funk start to press down on me.

I’ve learned over the years that my little depressive bouts are often a “check engine” light of sorts. When these moods hit, I need to pause and consider what’s out of balance in my life.

I finally realized that part of the reason I was so downcast was that I wasn’t taking care of myself (sleep, hydration, exercise), I wasn’t creating anything for myself (blog posts, short stories, poetry), and I wasn’t keeping freelance work in its proper place (this is a side-project and not my life).

A specific example of how things were getting out of hand: In my eagerness (desperation?) to drum up work, I was even sending out bids between services at church, rather than interacting with my church family. I was late walking into the corporate worship time last weekend because I was busy tapping away at my phone, firing off just a few more bids so I didn’t miss out on work. My wise and patient wife had to call me out on it later that day. She rightly reminded me that I was at church to (duh) worship God, not hustle for work.

If nothing else, this incident demonstrated that I needed to build firmer boundaries so that work (the “anxious toil” the Psalmist warns about) doesn’t drift into my worship time.

This past week has taught me that I can’t keep going full-tilt like this. When these different spheres of life are out of balance, I feel miserable and become ineffective. What this means practically is that I’m going to pull back on the hustling, spending less time on trying to drum up work and more time on what is most important: my relationship with God, with my family, and with my circle of friends and fellow Christians.

Is It Worth It? Should I Work It? Put My Bid Down, Flip It, and Reverse It?

It’s amusing how much people value their own time and how little they value the time and efforts of others. I shouldn’t be shocked by this; it’s no mystery that people are naturally selfish. However, I didn’t expect to see it demonstrated so clearly in fee negotiation.

A hypothetical but not-at-all unrealistic example: I’ve seen more than a few job postings that say something to the effect of, “Developmental editing and proofreading needed for a novel. 80-100K words. Only professional editors wanted. Total project budget: $150.”

Considering that a book of that size would take even the most seasoned editor about 30-40 hours to complete, not counting post-edit follow-up with the author, we’re talking about a paltry $4-5 an hour. (Fun fact: Industry standard for freelance developmental editing is around 10 times that, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association.)

In Side Hustle, Chris Gillebeau writes that people who perform service-based side-work should make sure that they’re making about as much as they would in their day job. After all, our evening hours are just as valuable to us as our morning hours, aren’t they?

When I thought about it that way, it only made sense that expert editors should get paid like…um, experts. When a client sets such a low-ball budget for a project, it means either they haven’t done their homework to find out how much things cost, or they just don’t think your services are worth much. In both cases, that may not be a great client to have.

Considering my newbie status as a freelancer, I’ve been dialing my rates down below the industry average, but there is definitely a “floor” rate I won’t go below, because I value my time. No matter how slowly the jobs come in right now, I need to take my own time seriously. If I don’t, no one else will.

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Your Turn: Have you ever gotten so excited about a new project that it suddenly takes over you life? What do you do to maintain balance?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

Keto Update: 2 Months Down

I wanted to give an update for those who were interested in our progress on our new eating plan!

For those who were not aware, on June 1st, my beloved wife and I started a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) eating plan, patterned after the “ketogenic” diet. Without getting all science-y on you, the basic premise of the LCHF diet is that dramatically reducing your carbohydrate intake causes your body to begin burning fat for fuel, breaking down fat molecules into ketones and other things. This helps to regulate insulin levels, control hunger hormones, and provide a consistent, long-term energy supply for the body, so that your system is not constantly craving the quick hit of a sugar spike (followed by the inevitable sugar crash). Think of it as grilling by using lump charcoal instead of briquettes soaked in lighter fluid–low and slow, but steady.

The thing about this approach to eating is that it’s not for everyone. Despite what some diet and fitness gurus would claim, there’s really not a one-size-fits-all method, and it’s not just a matter of calories in vs. calories out. The proportions of calorie types do matter, and you have to tinker with it a bit. The trial-and-error nature of this approach may be off-putting for some users. I’m all-in, mainly because I’ve seen this kind of approach work for me pretty dramatically in the past. My body is carrying so much extra weight in stored fat, and was so sugar-addicted, that this approach was a much-needed shock to the system.

Note: I’m doing my best to intentionally say “eating plan” or “eating approach” instead of “diet.” Diets are always associated with short-term restrictions of food to accomplish a goal, followed often by total relapse. I’m trying to change the way I see food, the way I enjoy food, and the way I use food to fuel my body. This is something I could feasibly keep going, at least for the vast majority of the time. So it’s not a “diet” as most people would use the word.

So now, two months in, what are my results?

I’m officially down 26 pounds since 6/1/18. There was an initial drop of 6-8 pounds, then a bit of up-and-down ever since. About halfway through June, my weight stalled and then increased slightly. I realized I was consuming too many calories overall. Once I adjusted my total caloric intake, I started losing again. I stalled out again about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been holding steady at the same weight for all that time. I know some of the reason why; while I’ve been following the basic principles, I haven’t been tracking the amount or proportions of my macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) lately. I also haven’t been exercising. Honestly, I’m not terribly upset by this. I chose to rest a bit during a busy couple of weeks. I haven’t lost any ground or gone back to any bad habits. Now I’m ready to lean in a bit more and see more progress.

The thing you should understand is that the scale only tells part of the story. The real difference for me comes down to mindset, control, and hunger.

In the past, I treated regimented eating plans and “diets” as punishment for my sins. I was abstaining and denying my cravings because I had to pay for what I had done, calorically. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea super-sized culpa!)  Even so, I still indulged in sweets all along, just factoring it into the totals. (Even on Weight Watchers, a repeated refrain is “You can eat whatever you want–just not all at once!”) That consistent intake of my drug of choice made it harder and harder to control my portions or deny my impulses, until I’d finally give in and binge, usually around the 6 month mark.

This time, I find my mindset is totally different. Not only is this plan doable, but it’s satisfying. My brilliant wife has found all sorts of recipes and substitutes so that I don’t feel like “I can never have ____ again.” (Hello, keto-friendly–or at least keto-non-antagonistic–sweets!) Furthermore, we are realistic about life. So when birthdays come around, or we decide to go out for a fancy dinner, we can choose whether or not to eat “off-plan” for a meal, without it sabotaging all of our progress.

Not only is my mindset different, but I find I have more control over impulse eating. I used to be a total snack scavenger, scooping up the remnants of birthday cakes or meeting refreshments that graced the break room or coffee alcoves of my office. No secretarial candy dish was safe from my scouring. To be honest, this created a great deal of shame for me, because I felt like a taker.

Now, by the grace of God, I can walk past a dish of my formerly-favorite sweet treats without grabbing one. I am able to say no to break-room donuts and meeting-room sodas. My addiction to sugar, while not totally broken, is now under control so that I can make wise choices. This is a gift from God, and I am thankful to walk in it.

The best part of this new paradigm is my appetite. Y’all, there was a time when I would essentially follow a hobbit’s dining schedule: breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, coffee, dinner, late-night snack. I wish I were exaggerating that, but I’m really not. I’d need some kind of snack every 90 minutes to 2 hours. I would ride one sugary wave after the other, subsisting on the chemical highs of sugar and caffeine for years. I would hit up fast food joints on my way into work and on my way home from work, at around 500-1000 calories a stop. When the McDonalds drive-thru workers recognize your regular order and ask why they didn’t see you the other day, you have a problem.

While married life has encouraged me to control my caffeine intake a bit better, it’s only been in the last month that I’ve gotten a handle on my appetite. As a result, I can easily skip meals without freaking out or letting it affect my attitude or behavior. Breakfast is no longer biscuits or “peanut-butter-cup” oatmeal; often, it consists of just “bulletproof” coffee (with butter, cream, and coconut or MCT oil, along with a few drops of stevia).

Overall, I’m probably eating between 500 and 1000 fewer calories a day than I did in the last couple years (and probably 2000 fewer than I was knocking out in my bachelor days!), but I don’t feel deprived in the least. I’m satisfied with what I’m eating, because I’m eating real food with healthy fats that give me sustained energy.

It’s not perfect yet, and I’m still working on the details, but overall, I feel pretty great. I’m learning how to better care for my body without acting as a slave to my appetites, and my hope is that doing this consistently will lead to better health and a longer life to follow my Lord Jesus, love my family, and serve my neighbors.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter or post in the com-box below. I don’t want to turn into a keto evangelist (that’s even worse than being a vegan crossfitter!), but I’m happy to answer questions.

Happy (early) Birthday, America!

Hey friends! I wanted to pop in briefly and give you an update:

  • No–I’m not falling off the “semi-frequent posting” wagon. Expect another #FridayFive post this week, and then more fun stuff next week.
  • I just finished a book by Jon Acuff called Finish! and will have a review coming soon, after I give it a bit more thought.
  • Currently Reading: the second part of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan; American Assassin by Vince Flynn; and the book of Isaiah. And I have a stack of library books and e-books I’m about to tackle. Whew!
  • I’ve just been really busy lately. I’ll probably post a “This is Where I’m At Right Now” post of some kind in the next week or so. Maybe an update on the new eating plan and some other things going on.
  • One of the big things I’ve been working on is Presto! Fairy Talesa Youtube webseries of funny and bizarre retellings of long-lost fairy tales (in which I act a bit and also wrote the majority of the lyrics for the original songs). We’re having a blast filming Season 2 right now, but Season 1 is slowly rolling out as well (Episode 4 should be coming out this week!). I’d love for you to take a look, share it with friends, family, kids, fans of musical theater, anyone you can think of.  And if you enjoy it, please SUBSCRIBE!
  • And yes, tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a celebration of the United States’ independence. Which reminds me: Wasn’t I working on a side-blog of American history? Oh yeah! The 4thDave Papers! And guess what? A new post is coming to you…next week! (Putting myself on the clock: check!) It’s about time we get back on track with that one, too!

So, suffice it to say, lots of fun stuff coming soon on the blog. In the meantime, enjoy some Presto!, have fun with friends and family, and if you’re a fan of the United States, set something on fire tomorrow in honor of freedom.

#FridayFive: Five Fitness-minded Finds from (mostly) Medium!

Two weeks ago, my wife and I “traveled back to Ecuador” (it’s a dumb joke, but I’m sticking to it) and restarted a low-carb/”keto”-ish eating plan again. It’s had its ups and downs so far, but I’m hanging in because I really want to succeed in this and get healthy for my family. In that vein, then, are a few articles I’ve enjoyed recently about food/diet-related topics:

  • Dr. Stephanie Estima debunks 7 myths about intermittent fasting (a subject I’ve heard more and more about, and it has me intrigued). Here, she talks about the effects of fasting for 24 hours every week.
  • Jason Cormier gives some suggestions for how timing of exercise and food choices interact to help you burn fat.
  • I’ve completed one half-marathon (eight years ago, weighing in at 471 pounds–it was a hard, 5 1/2-hr walk that I wasn’t physically prepared for) and have always wanted a do-over that I could prepare properly for and enjoy more. Stories like this by Drake Baer make me want to get outside and start walking again so I can get back on track.
  • Brad Stulberg gives us a quick reminder that a consistent “good enough” is better than an inconsistent “great”–a lesson I need to remind myself of, as I seek to change my eating patterns.
  • And finally, an article that I didn’t find on Medium, but have enjoyed lately: If you’re not familiar with the ketogenic diet, this article from Nerd Fitness is a fun introduction that gives you the basics of the science behind it and how it works in real life.

There you go, folks. Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back on Monday!

 

The irony isn’t lost on me.

My last post, over a month ago, was talking about waiting. Since then, gentle readers, you have patiently waited for more content (or, more likely, forgot about the blog and moved on to other things).

I’m not “back” yet. But I’m coming back to this…sometime. Still trying to figure out what the new normal looks like. Nevertheless, I’ve got some stories, lemme tell ya.

Here’s the bare bones version: We had a baby! And she’s great. And I miss what a “full night’s sleep” feels like. And there was a hurricane, but we’re okay. And now it’s mid-September, and the year has flown by, and there are pumpkin-flavored things being sold, and I can’t quite keep up with life. So. Blogging was bumped down below the cut-off line for “things claiming time and attention” (sorry).

Back soon-ish.

“What’s Your Foundation?” (Matthew 7:24-27)

[This is the post-facto manuscript of my last Sunday School lesson/sermon at Champion Forest Baptist Church. I can’t think of a better way to end my time with that fantastic group. I hope this blesses you as well.]

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 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. 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. 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.

(Matthew 7:24-27)

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a picture of the ordinary life of His disciples—while at the same time demonstrating how radically different that life appears to the rest of the world. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon are an impossible task to follow on our own, but His work of redemption on the cross and resurrection from the grave accomplished this impossible task on our behalf, so that anyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in the work of Christ is cleansed of their sins and credited with His righteousness, giving us right standing before God through Christ. Once we are born again spiritually and given the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us, we can seek to obey the commands of Jesus in the Sermon and live out this ordinary radical lifestyle by His power and grace.

Jesus closes out His sermon with a picture of two builders and two foundations. I’d like to make 3 observations and a final plea.

Observation #1 – Everyone builds their lives on something. 

Notice that the wise man builds on a rock. In the Old Testament, God is described as the Rock of His people (Psalm 18:1-3). Later, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ is called the rock upon which the Church is built (Matthew 16:13-20).  In Luke’s version of this teaching (Luke 6:46-49), he includes a few more details: the wise man digs down deep to lay a good foundation. This wise person is the person who comes to Jesus, hears His commands, and obeys them. Remember, you can never obey God or please God apart from faith. So we can rightly recognize that the wise man is also someone who came to Jesus in repentance in faith (or, “poor in spirit” [Matthew 5:3]).

Don’t miss this: the wise man builds his life on Jesus and on His teaching. The foolish man builds his life on anything else—there is no middle ground.  Look at verse 26—the foolish man hears the words of Jesus as well! But hearing isn’t enough. James writes in James 2 that faith without works is dead. So our works follow our faith—we come to Jesus, we hear His words, and we obey them in faith.

On the other side of the coin, we can’t fall into the trap of the false converts in Matthew 7:21-23. Mere works aren’t enough either. Church attendance isn’t enough. Sunday school isn’t enough. These are exterior works. Jesus just said that mere works is not enough to prove that the heart has been changed. So what is being described here? A wise man comes to Jesus in faith, repenting of sin and trusting Him as Savior, and “builds his house” on the foundation of Jesus and His word. Living faith produces the fruit of obedience.

Observation #2 – The storm is coming.

Earlier, in Matthew 5, rain was a sign of blessing for this farming society. But in the Old Testament, storms are a symbol for God’s judgment.

In Ezekiel 13:8-16, we see that false prophets have reassured the people that no judgment was coming, but God declares that judgment for sin will come as a storm does. Hmm—false teachers, false believers, and a storm of judgment. Sounds like Matthew 7, doesn’t it?

Some see this storm as representing the “storms of life,” and in some sense, having a foundation in Christ does keep you firm in the normal troubles and struggles of life in a broken world. You will face the storm, but you will not collapse. But I think there’s something else at work here.

Jesus is speaking here of the last storm, the judgement of God against sin on the Last Day, the Day of the Lord. The question Jesus raises is: On the last day, will your house stand?

The Bible teaches that if we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and that all our sin was placed on Christ and judged at the cross (Isaiah 53; II Corinthians 5:21). So when the final storm comes, if Jesus is your foundation, He will secure you against destruction.  But anyone who is outside of Christ has no such protection from the wrath of God.

Observation #3 – This is an issue of life and death, not just “life improvement.” 

Building your life on faith in Jesus and obedience to His teaching is hard. It’s challenging, painful and may seem like loss in the short term.

Though popular preachers and teachers may say otherwise, we don’t come to Jesus or call people to Jesus because doing so makes things easier or safer in this life, or more materially prosperous.  If that’s why you follow Jesus, you’re not following Him at all. Your life is built on sand and bare ground.

We come to Jesus and build our lives on Him because we are sinners who have earned every drop of the storm of God’s wrath, and Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation. Though we are by nature children of wrath, enemies of God and rebels against His kingdom, He has graciously made a way to cleanse us of sin and adopt us as His children, by grace through faith in Jesus alone—His death and resurrection securing our justification and hope of a future inheritance.

So here is my final plea: be reconciled to God. Repent and believe the Gospel.

Some of you may never hear me teach or see my face again. Let this be my final word to you: repent–turn away from your sin and self-rule–and believe the Gospel.

  • You may have grown up in church and read the Bible cover to cover.
  • You may be a rebel, running from God’s authority.
  • You may be wrecked with guilt, afraid of God’s judgment and not quite able to believe that God can be merciful.
  • You may be an upright person on the outside, trying to keep the rules and earn your place in God’s kingdom.
  • You may be a prodigal who has reached the end of yourself and is on the long road back home.

My message to each and every one of you is the same: repent and believe the Good News that Jesus the Son of God came to earth, lived a perfect life in our place, died for sinners, and rose again victorious.  If you have already believed it, cling to it as a beautiful promise of God—a guarantee that you are His.

Jesus died to save sinners. Do you understand that you a sinner? Then He died for you. Repent of your sin and believe in Him and be saved!

Because if you do not, on the Last Day, the rain will come, the flood will rise, the winds will blow and beat against your house, and your house, your life, will fall. And great will be the fall of it.

Today is the day. Repent. Believe. And be born again.