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Adam R. Holz

Adam R. Holz

Adam Holz is the director of Focus on the Family's media review website, Plugged In. He has also served as associate editor at Discipleship Journal. He's the author of the NavPress Bible study Beating Busyness. Adam is married to Jennifer, and they have three children whose passions include swimming, gymnastics, drama, piano, and asking dad what's for dessert. In his free time, he enjoys playing electric guitar.

Articles by Adam R. Holz

Liked and Loved by God

It feels like “likes”—you know, that little thumbs-up on Facebook—have always been with us. But it turns out that this virtual symbol of affirmation has only been around since 2009.    

The “like” designer, Justin Rosenstein, said he wanted to help create “a world in which people uplift each other rather than tear each other down.” But Rosenstein came to lament how his invention might have enabled users’ unhealthy addiction to social media.  

I think Rosenstein’s creation speaks to our hard-wired need for affirmation and connection. We want to know that others know us, notice us—and, yes, like us. The “like” is fairly new. But our hunger to know and be known is as old as creation.

Still, the like button doesn’t quite get the job done, does it? Thankfully, we serve a God whose love goes so much deeper than a digital nod. In Jeremiah 1:5, we witness His profoundly purposeful connection with a prophet whom He called to Himself. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

God knew the prophet even before conception and designed him for a life of meaning and mission (vv. 8-10). And He invites us too into a purposeful life as we come to know this Father who so intimately knows, loves, and likes us.

God-Given Gifts

Decades ago, I went to a college retreat where everyone was talking about a personality test. “I’m an ISTJ!” one said. “I’m an ENFP,” another chirped. I was mystified. “I’m an ABCXYZ,” I joked.  

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about that test (the Myers-Briggs) and others such as the DiSC. I find them fascinating, because they can help us understand ourselves and others in helpful, revealing ways—shedding light on our preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. Provided we don’t overuse them, they can be a useful tool God uses to help us grow.

Scripture doesn’t offer us personality tests. But it does affirm each person’s uniqueness in God’s eyes (see Psalm 139:14-16; Jeremiah 1:5), and it shows us how God equips all of us with a unique personality and unique gifts to serve others in His kingdom. In Romans 12:6, Paul unpacks this idea, writing, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given each of us.”

Those gifts, Paul explains, are not for us alone, but for the purpose of serving God’s people, Christ’s body (v. 5). They’re an expression of His grace and goodness, working in and through all of us. They invite each of us to be a unique vessel in God’s service.

“Help My Unbelief!”

“Where is my faith?—even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. . . . If there be God, please forgive me.”

The author of those words might surprise you: Mother Teresa. Beloved and renowned as a tireless servant of the poor in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa quietly waged a desperate war for her faith over five decades. After her 1997 death, that struggle came to light when portions of her journal were published in the book Come Be My Light.

What do we do with our doubts or feelings of God’s absence? Those moments may plague some believers more than others. But many faithful believers in Jesus may, at some point in their lives, experience moments or seasons of such doubts.

I’m thankful that Scripture has given us a beautiful, paradoxical prayer that expresses both faith and the lack thereof. In Mark 9, Jesus encounters a father whose son has been demonically tormented since childhood (v. 21). When Jesus says that the man must have faith (“Everything is possible for one who believes” v. 23), the man responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24).

This honest, heartfelt plea invites those of us who struggle with doubt to give it to God, trusting that He can fortify our faith and hold on to us firmly amid the deepest, darkest valleys we will ever traverse.  

Quiet Faithfulness in Christ

I didn’t notice him at first.

I’d come down for breakfast at my hotel. Everything in the dining room was clean. The buffet table was filled. The refrigerator was stocked, the utensil container packed tight. Everything was perfect.

Then I saw him. An unassuming man refilled this, wiped that. He didn’t draw attention to himself. But the longer I sat, the more I was amazed. The man was working very fast, noticing everything, and refilling everything before anyone might need something. As a food service veteran, I noticed his constant attention to detail. Everything was perfect because this man was working faithfully—even if few noticed.

Watching this man work so meticulously, I recalled Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12).  Paul understood how a faithful worker might win others’ respect—offering a quiet testimony to how the gospel can infuse even seemingly small acts of service for others with dignity and purpose.

I don’t know if the man I saw that day was a believer in Jesus. But I’m grateful his quiet diligence reminded me to rely on God to live out a quiet faithfulness that reflects His faithful ways.

Appetite for Distraction

I set my phone down, weary of the constant bombardment of images, ideas, and notifications that the little screen broadcasted. Then, I picked it up and turned it on again. Why?

In his 2013 book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr describes how the internet has shaped our relationship with stillness: “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Living life on a mental jet ski doesn’t sound healthy. But how do we begin to slow down, to dive deeply into still spiritual waters?  

In Psalm 131, David writes, “I have calmed and quieted myself” (v. 2). David’s words remind me that I have responsibility. Changing habits starts with my choice to be still—even if I must make that choice over and over again. Slowly, though, we experience God’s satisfying goodness. Like a little child, we rest in contentment, remembering that He alone offers hope (v. 3), soul-satisfaction that no smartphone app can touch and no social media site can deliver.    

Sins Remembered No More

I never saw the ice. But I felt it. The back end of the pickup I was driving—my grandfather’s—fishtailed. One swerve, two, three—and I was airborne, flying off a fifteen-foot embankment. I remember thinking, This would be awesome if I wasn’t going to die. A moment later, the truck crunched into the steep slope and rolled to the bottom. I crawled out of the crushed cab, unscathed.

The truck was utterly totaled that December morning in 1992. God had spared me. But what about my grandfather? What would he say? In fact, he never said a single word about the truck. Not one. There was no scolding, no repayment plan, nothing. Just forgiveness. And a grandfather’s smile that I was okay.

My grandfather’s grace reminds me of God’s grace in Jeremiah 31. There, despite their tremendous failings, God promises a restored relationship with His people, saying, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will remember their sins no more” (v. 34).

I’m sure my grandfather never forgot that I’d wrecked his truck. But he acted just like God does here, not remembering it, not shaming me, not making me work to repay the debt I rightfully owed. Just as God says He’ll do, my grandfather chose to remember it no more, as if the destructive thing I’d done had never happened.

First on the List

The morning commenced like a track meet. I practically jumped out of bed, launching into the teeth of the day’s deadlines. Get the kids to school. Check. Get to work. Check. I blasted full throttle into writing my “To Do” list, in which personal and professional tasks tumbled together in an avalanche-like litany:

“ . . . 13. Edit article. 14. Clean office. 15. Strategic team planning. 16. Write tech blog. 17. Clean basement. 18. Pray.”

By the time I got to number eighteen, I’d remembered that I needed God’s help. But I’d gotten that far before it even occurred to me that I was going at it alone, trying to manufacture my own momentum.

Jesus knew. He knew our days would crash one into another, a sea of ceaseless urgency. So He instructs, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

It’s natural to hear Jesus’ words as a command. And they are. But there’s more here—an invitation. In Matthew 6, Jesus invites us to exchange the world’s frantic anxiety (vv. 25–32) for a life of trust, day by day. God, by His grace, helps us all of our days—even when we get to number eighteen on our list before we remember to see life from His perspective.

How can we turn to God first each day? On stressful days, what helps you trust Jesus with things demanding your immediate attention?

More Than Brand Ambassadors

Competition in the internet age has become fierce. Increasingly, companies are developing creative ways to attract customers. Take Subaru, for instance. Subaru owners are famously loyal, so the company has invited “Subbie superfans” to become “brand ambassadors” of the vehicles.

The company’s website says, “Subaru Ambassadors are an exclusive group of energetic individuals who volunteer their passion and enthusiasm to spread the word about Subaru and help shape the future of the brand.” The company wants Subaru ownership to become a part of people’s very identity—something they’re so passionate about that they can’t help but share.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes a different “ambassador” program, one of inviting others to follow Jesus. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others” (v. 11). Paul then adds, “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (vv. 19–20).

Many products promise to meet deep needs, to give us a sense of happiness, wholeness and purpose. But only one message—the message of reconciliation entrusted to us as believers in Jesus—is truly good news. And we have the privilege of delivering that message to a desperate world.

Slow-Walking Sin Out the Door

Winston knows he’s not supposed to chew them. So he’s adopted a sly strategy. We call it slow-walking. If Winston spies a discarded, unguarded shoe, he’ll casually meander in that direction, grab it, and just keep walking. Slowly. Nothing to see here. Right out the door if no one notices. “Uh, Mom, Winston just slow-walked your shoe out the door.”
It’s apparent that sometimes we think we can “slow-walk” our sin past God. We’re tempted to think that He won’t notice. It’s no big deal, we rationalize—whatever “it” is. But like Winston, we know better. We know those choices don’t please God.

Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we may try to hide due to the shame of our sin (Genesis 3:10) or pretend like it didn’t happen. But Scripture invites us to do something very different: to run to God’s mercy and forgiveness. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

We don’t have to try to slow-walk our sin and hope no one notices. When we tell the truth about our choices—to ourselves, to God, to a trusted friend—we can find freedom from the guilt and shame of carrying secret sin (1 John 1:9).