July was quite a month. My wife was in Mexico on business for a couple of weeks. We celebrated our 9th anniversary. Our son learned how to ride his bike without training wheels and our daughter was growing like crazy too. I was preaching quite a bit. The family was patiently waiting for paperwork to be completed so that we could start fostering children. And that was just in Arkansas and Mexico.
In Washington state, a young couple was eight months pregnant and trapped by an unfortunate set of circumstances. She came to the U.S. from a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean nine years ago and lived with family. They lost everything - passports, immigration paperwork, social security cards - everything.
July was quite a month for them too. She contacted other family in Arkansas, who drove to Washington state and rescued them from the situation. Arriving in Arkansas they had nothing but the clothes on their backs - no job, no money, no place to live, and eight months pregnant. Knowing the difficulties their child would face, she had already contemplated the prospect of adoption after having placed a child up for adoption before. Facing little better in Arkansas, she reached out to her community and found someone who did adoptions in the area.
August has been quite a month. My wife was in Mexico on business again for a week. Our son started 1st grade at a new school. Our church launched a new service with new elements that required a great deal of planning and attention. There were prospects of more travel for my wife at work. We were still patiently waiting for paperwork to be completed so that we could start fostering children, and the home study for our foster care plans was basically completed. A day later, I got a phone call. I heard the story of this young couple from Washington state who was due in just four days. My heart sank.
Things were moving too fast and I put up every obstacle I could think of. We can't afford a private adoption right now. I don't want to make budget cuts to account for another child in the home. What about all those stories of babies from this island being prematurely adopted away from their biological parents? Do they really know what they're doing by giving the baby up for adoption? We still don't have a home study completed (although it's close). Do they speak good English? One by one my obstacles fell. The courts have increased judicial oversight to make sure biological parents are clear on the law. What money we had saved in our emergency fund ended up being enough. And who can't make some cutbacks to help an infant and young woman in need? The home study was close enough to work.
It's been quite a week. On Tuesday we got the call and talked about it as a family and with God. On Wednesday we committed and started making childcare, work, and family arrangements. We got diapers, wipes, a car seat, some clothes, and so forth. On Thursday morning at 3:00 am, we got the call that she had gone into labor. Who says life change takes time? If you'd told me 72 hours ago that I'd have another son in three days, I'd have asked if you needed to see a psychiatrist. But it happened.
It's been quite a year. A year ago we were crushed when a baby that we were convinced God intended for us to have left the hospital with another Mom and Dad. We talked about trying to have a baby. We started the foster care process to eventually adopt. We were certain it was time to grow our family, but if that was the case we didn't understand why that baby wasn't our daughter. God did. If we had adopted that baby girl, we wouldn't have been available to adopt this baby boy. God knew that. He needed us elsewhere at a time and place when we were not expecting it. Adoptions are supposed to take months. God said, "you need to be available this week." Adoptions are supposed to cost tens of thousands of dollars. God said, "I've got you covered." Families are supposed to take weeks to prepare for an infant. God said, "I am sufficient." There have been rumors of injustices in these types of private adoptions. God said, "Trust Me, not your law license; the courts are subject to Me" (see Romans 13).
It happens all the time with me. I see an opportunity I want. Then I don't get it. I get upset because things didn't work out the way that I wanted, but God knows where and when He needs us available to do what He asks. Because He kept us available, we now have an amazing opportunity to be a part of an incredible story that mirrors what Christ did for us. We were enslaved; He set us free. We were spiritually orphaned; He adopted us into His family. So without further delay, meet my son - William "Carter" Bryant!
Being accountable to someone isn't easy. It's hard enough to be open with another person about the sins you are trying to overcome, and for some reason, we don't like talking about our spiritual practices all that much either. By the time our accountability meeting rolls around, several things have happened. 1) We've forgotten when we messed up. 2) We've forgotten what we read in our Bibles when we read it. 3) We've forgotten to do things that we wanted to be held accountable to do. 4) We've haven't held one another accountable throughout the week, so we know we've forgotten to do something we were supposed to do. Technology can help solve these problems. Here are some awesome accountability apps. Not all of them are directly related to accountability, but they can help you stay accountable more effectively.
I'm sure there are a lot of other great accountability apps out there. Which ones are you using? Comment below and let me know.
You'd be surprised how many students in small groups ask that question in their minds as they listen to a teacher. If you're the teacher, the question then becomes, "do you know the answer?" I've found in my own teaching that sometimes I catch myself chasing a proverbial rabbit and wondering how to stop doing that. Here are some ideas on how to make sure every word you say achieves the objective of the lesson or sermon you've spent hours preparing.
Write Down Your Objective.
Answer these questions every time you prepare a lesson:
When writing your objectives, do your best to be specific. Don't say "I want the congregation to understand Romand 3." Say "I want the congregation to understand the doctrine of total depravity." Understanding Romans 3 is difficult to measure because as with every chapter in the book of Romans, there is a lot to understand. However, you can ask some simple questions of people after the service to see if you have met your objective of teaching total depravity.
Make your objectives student centered.
When writing your objectives, try to stay focused on what you want the student to do. Don't say, "I will demonstrate total depravity by an exercise in which I make up arbitrary rules that are difficult to understand and demonstrate how everyone in the class breaks the rule by the end of LIFE Group and therefore deserves to die." Talk about hard to measure and completely teacher based! However, if you said "I want students to understand their complete inability to reach heaven on their own," you have written an objective based on where you want the students to go, not on how you want to get them there. That comes later in the lesson and sermon preparation process, on which another post will come later.
Teach & preach boldly!
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.