The B-I-B-L-E

How important is the Bible, really? Isn’t it merely an ancient book of tall tales and fables and an outdated code of conduct? It is routinely asserted in our culture that the Bible is full of inconsistencies and errors. Certainly enlightened 21st century civilization no longer finds the scriptures to be a relevant source of wisdom or a reliable source of knowledge! 

What say you? 

Christians for two thousand years have embraced the scriptures as inerrant and essential, affirming that the Bible is the primary way we know God, know what he’s doing, and know what our response should be.  

Scripture itself is pretty darn confident about its own importance:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8). 

Scripture says, “Look at me! I’m perfect, sure, right, and pure!” Scripture also claims to bring you: a restored soul (yes, please), wisdom, a joyful heart, and insight for living. What we most want, deep down, for ourselves, our children, our families—those things are promised to us as by-products of loving God’s word.

It’s easy to treat the Bible like the world treats it: as boring, or irrelevant or repressive. It’s easy to rush through life and forget to pause and enjoy the promises of God. It’s so easy to forget what a rich treasure God’s word is.

But as parents we can’t afford to forget. We have the privilege of modeling a life of rhythms that slow us down long enough to give God time to restore our soul, make us wise, fill our hearts with joy and give us some insight for this crazy life. It’s an honor to teach the next generation about how perfect, sure, right and pure God is, and His word is!

So I challenge you this week to have a conversation with your kids about how amazing the Bible is! Pull them near you and whisper the promises of God to them straight from scripture: He sees you. He loves you. He is for you. If you don’t have a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible, I highly recommend it for all ages—even moms and dads. It says,

“No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back His lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”

The LORD “commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:5-7).

Standing on the promises,

It’s gonna be okay.

You know that part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when all hope seems lost and Lucy magically hears a comforting whisper that she just knows is Aslan? He said, “Courage, dear heart.” And after last week, that’s exactly what I need to hear whispered over me.

Maybe you do too. Please be encouraged. God is on His throne. Undaunted, unworried, and in complete control. Everything is going to be okay. Or as another of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, once said, “The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that one day everything sad will come untrue.” And that’s why they call it the good news.

So for anyone out there struggling to make sense of the world, anyone overcome with anger or oppressed with anxiety, I pray like the apostle Paul that your,

“hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).

Courage dear hearts!

All things new.

  1. Kick 2020 to the curb. Check.
  2. Ring in the new year. Check.
  3. Make new year’s resolutions. Check.
  4. Begin new endeavors: running, purging stuff, budgeting, clean eating, etc.. Check.

Fresh starts are great. We imagine a better version of ourselves, our families, our lives. We make lofty goals. We want to believe we will be different this year. Thankfully, as we mature in life and in Christ, we are different this year.

Would you mind sharing what’s on your mind this particular New Year’s Day?

  • What word would you use to describe 2020? It felt different to each of us. Was it painful, frightening? freeing? restful?
  • In what ways have you seen God mature you in 2020?
  • In what ways do you want to grow or improve in 2021?

I think the word I would use to describe 2020 is unpredictable. And not just in the events that occurred that we wouldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares. Obviously no one predicted COVID-19, apocalyptic hail, or the Iowa derecho that devastated our community.

How different people responded so differently to those events was also extremely unpredictable. Including me. In addition to everything else, 2020 was also the year my twin daughters left home to go to college out of state, an event I had been dreading—for, well, 18 years. And I survived that loss and many others. God, in His mercy, allowed me to feel untethered from the people and things on which I used to rely for stability and significance. I’m pleased to say that by the grace of God this was a year for me of unpredictable peace and surprising resilience.

One way I want to improve in 2021 is in consistency. I want my spiritual rhythms and my growth in following Jesus to be consistent—not a series of starts and stops all year long. I want to consistently and creatively invest in the relationships that matter most to me, starting with my marriage and extending to my kids and the rest of my community. And although our family typically starts a new year doing Whole30, I want to be consistent throughout the year that in all things, even caring for our health we do it to the glory of God.

So how about you? How would you answer the above questions? I would love to hear your thoughts! And please take a few moments in your family to process these ideas. Even in a pandemic we are allowed to have hopes and dreams and aspirations. To ponder what the Lord has done and to prayerfully dedicate this next year to Him.

“And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:5).

May your family have a truly joyful New Year, whatever it may bring.

In the flesh.

I love all things Christmas——especially the music. I have been humming “I love those J-I-N-G-L-E Bells” all day. But if I’m not careful, I can let my human preference for the fun and frolic of the holidays keep me from doing the hard work of meditating and reflecting on, “The Word became flesh.”

Christian celebration of Christmas is not about magical elves or flying reindeer or talking narwhals (IYKYK). For worshippers of Jesus, the Christmas celebration centers on something, if we’re honest, that’s even more challenging to believe. 

“…The real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us does not lie [with atonement or the resurrection or biblical miracles], but in the Christmas message of Incarnation” (J.I. Packer. Knowing God. Intervarsity Press 1993. Page 53).

Christians actually believe that the second person of the Trinity (already a divine enigma), the eternal Word of God, by whom all things were created and in whom are held together, took on human flesh, in the form of a baby, grew in Mary’s womb, and was born with all the limitations of a tiny infant boy.

The Word became flesh. The Word who created the heavens and the earth. The Word who knows the stars by name. The Word who told the oceans, “This far you may come and no farther, here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11). The Word whose breath gave life to the first human flesh, clothed Himself with the same.

Creation needed saving and so Jesus our Savior came. To rescue us from these bodies of death. A salvation that would never be corrupted by sickness, pain, or decay was won for us through His Incarnation. He was born to die for us so that we could live through Him.

“…the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works…” (On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius).

I have heard all this before. I’d get it right on a test. I’m guessing you would too. But I never want to let doctrinal familiarity keep me from pausing to think about it deeply or to rob me of the worship this season requires.

“O come now, hail His arrival, the God of creation. Royalty robed in the flesh He created. Jesus the maker has made Himself known. All hail the infinite infant God” (“Arrival”. Hillsong Worship).

“Fragile fingers sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorns. Tiny heart whose blood would save us, unto us is born” (Chris Rice, “Welcome to Our World”).

Let us adore Him,

Do something.

Hey ya’ll! Fun fact: our college girls are home!

Lizzy mentioned to me how strange it was that after being gone so long and experiencing so many new adventures the thing she found herself talking about with the ones she loves is….COVID.

I want to turn the corner. COVID is here. I get it. But certainly there are some other and better things to occupy our minds and fuel our conversations and spur our actions?

A friend told me this week that when an outbreak of the bubonic plague closed theaters in London, William Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony & Cleopatra.

Sometimes when life gives us lemons, we need to get out of bed, take a shower, and get to work making lemonade.

Did you know:

  • Beethoven composed his greatest works, including the Ninth Symphony after going completely deaf.
  • Joseph Pilates developed a physical training regimen while imprisoned in an internment camp during World War 1.
  • And the Great Depression brought us inventions such as: Scotch Tape, the ball point pen,  chocolate chip cookies and the car stereo.

There’s no end of stories of heroes who made a positive impact on the world in spite of, or perhaps because of the challenging circumstances they faced. Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela. Or look to the scriptures: Moses. Joseph. Daniel.

Challenging times aren’t an excuse to disengage from life. They are actually times to let God use us to do something great. What amazing thing does God want for you right now? For your marriage, your family, your career, your prayer life, your gospel witness in your world?

Benjamin Franklin, another great hero borne out of adversity once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Let’s let God work in us and through us to do something great this week.

2020, Thanks.

Oh, brother, how to celebrate Thanksgiving?

And I don’t mean the great “Invite-Grandma-Or-Not Debate of 2020.”

I mean, if I’m honest, I’m much more apt to list my grievances than to count my blessings this year.

But did you know that giving thanks, actively practicing gratitude, brings amazing scientifically-proven benefits?

They include:

  • Improved psychological and physical health
  • Better sleep
  • More confidence
  • Stronger relationships
  • Greater resilience

To quote one gratitude expert: “It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” David Steindl-Rast

Centuries before we had any scientific studies, or helpful websites like gratefulness.org encouraging gratitude, the Bible has been teaching us to be thankful. Over 100 times “give thanks” is mentioned in scripture. We are told, not only to be generally grateful—but to give a Name to the source of our blessings. To thank the One from whom all good gifts come.

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good. For His steadfast love endures forever” Psalm 107:1 and elsewhere).

Give thanks—to whom? To the LORD. Why? He is good. His love is strong and forever.

He is good. He is never bad. He is never irritable, or impatient or unkind. He is never easily angered. He is not arrogant. He doesn’t mock you or look down on you. He is good. And wise and noble and gentle and honest and trustworthy and faithful and kind.

And not only that but while He is busy being good to you, He is busy loving you—with a love that is stronger than your greatest love. No one has ever loved you like the LORD. His is a forever love that never dies. A forever love that doesn’t diminish over time. He doesn’t fall out of love. He doesn’t move on. No parent, child, lover, or friend’s love comes close.

Our Creator knew that life would smack us around with all sorts of drama. Circumstances can overwhelm us like the ocean’s wave after wave after wave. And when it feels like all hope is lost and there is not one blessing left to count: There, even there, we have a precious gift to hold onto. A precious reason to give thanks.

The Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever.

As you meditate on the heart of God this Thanksgiving, I pray it will create in you a gratitude so great you need a journal to capture all the goodness 2020 has brought.

Happy Thanksgiving!

You can read more about the science of Gratitude here:
Seven Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude
The Neuroscience of Gratitude

Not again.

If you’re like me, you are not thrilled with another round of tightening COVID restrictions and increasing shut downs. I was hoping we’d be over this by now! And if I’m not careful my “not again” mentality can easily slide into “this is hopeless.”

Which reminds me. Around the time that I turned 40 (quite some time ago LOL) I remember feeling so frustrated that the struggles in my heart were the same old struggles that had been infesting my heart back at age 25 and 30 and 35. Maybe not to the same degree, but there, continuing to cause relational damage nonetheless.

Still impatient. Still easily irritated. Still holding grudges. Still self-centered. In a nutshell, still far from the standard of love we find in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Not again! I thought I’d be over this by now! How have I not outgrown this weakness?” And my “not again” mentality often slid into “this is hopeless.”

The simple truth is that it isn’t a question of “weakness” or immaturity. It’s actually a lot more serious than that. It’s called sin. We’re sick with it. It’s chronic. It’s perpetual. And it’s terminal.

But it is not hopeless.

For those of us in Christ, we have a Father who completely knows us and still loves us even though we are still sin-sick. He is not a fickle friend who hits the road when the “real you” comes out. You aren’t too much for him to handle. He’s not disappointed you don’t have your act together yet. He fully knows yet fully loves.

“There is tremendous relief knowing that [God’s] love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am often so disillusioned about myself…” –J. I. Packer, Knowing God.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything” –Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage.

We’ve all got COVID-fatigue. Even worse, we’ve got sin-fatigue. But let’s not slide into despair. We are fully known. We are fully loved. That’s enough.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7).”

Take refuge,

God is sovereign.

Our God is sovereign. 

Merriam Webster defines sovereign as: “Possessed of supreme power. Unlimited in extent. Enjoying autonomy.” 

When it comes to the events and consequences of 2020, God is sovereign. He is fully aware, totally in control, and completely at work.  

And, when it comes to the events and consequences of the personal hardship you are feeling today, God is fully aware, totally in control, and completely at work. 

It’s been a rough week for folks. Job loss, COVID-19, home repair, family strife, addiction, infidelity, injury, accidents, social disgrace, and embarrassment. These things are horrible, shocking, and they make us wonder where God is in the midst of our chaos. 

He isn’t surprised. He hasn’t disregarded the impact this would have on your life. He is for you. In fact, He means for this difficulty to be doing something excellent for your life and for the lives of those you love. We can’t see yet exactly what it’s working in our souls, but we can trust God that He is still possessed of supreme power, even when we feel helpless. 

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”(1 Chronicles 29:11-12). 

Reminding myself (daily) that our God is sovereign is the only way I can:  

Keep calm and carry on.

Be different.

Lord have mercy this world feels like it’s going insane. All the things that used to make normal life normal have been disrupted.  Regular, previously mundane human connections have dramatically changed or ceased altogether. No longer can we take for granted the privilege of visiting the sick, gathering for holidays, having coffee with a friend, giving loved ones a hug.

Additionally, the systems that used to make life feel secure have been disrupted. Our world has lost confidence in the press, the police and the political process. Our leaders can’t seem to reach consensus—not even on scientific facts and truth. The consequences of this societal upheaval and division aren’t just national—they are personal. Individuals in our communities are increasingly lonely, angry, anxious, cynical, and hopeless.

Take heart. There’s a different way for followers of Jesus.

As the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).

And he said also to the Ephesians, “Let me say this, then, speaking for the Lord: Live no longer as the unsaved do, for they are blinded and confused.” (Ephesians 4:17 The Living Bible).

There is meant to be a stark contrast between the world and the church. For those of us who comprise the Body of Christ, the way we think, feel and behave must be different. We must be different.

We do not find our security in the systems or defenses of this world. Though some trust in chariots and some in horses, we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). When we see our country rapidly sinking into the quicksand of sin and chaos, we are assured that we can trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock (Isaiah 26:4). In the political affairs of the world, we don’t fret. We trust God’s word that teaches that God Himself removes kings and establishes kings, and He puts the authorities in their places of power (Daniel 2:21, Romans 13:1). We are not afraid to hear bad news, instead our hearts are firm because we trust in the LORD (Psalm 112:7). And personally, we don’t allow ourselves to view God as absent, impotent, or disinterested—we know we can trust Him to help us, strengthen us and uphold us with His own loving hands (Isaiah 41:10).

One way in which we are dramatically different from the world is trust. Our trust is placed somewhere higher, stronger and better. We trust someone whose trustworthiness is absolutely not diminished by an election, a pandemic, an illness or an accident.

Our lives are safe because we trust a king who is powerful, good, faithful, aware, involved, and capable. Our hearts are safe because we trust a friend who cares for us whatever our circumstances or feelings. Whatever happens in this crazy world, our sovereign God can be completely trusted.

It’s such a pleasure to trust Jesus with you all in such certain times.

Intentional.

Here’s a little story about me. When I was a mom of little ones one word kept popping up in every podcast, every Bible Study, and every book. It was a challenging word that hung darkly over my mind like this morning’s thick mist: intentional. Being told to be intentional in my parenting felt so demanding, so daunting and so daily. Survival: that was the goal most days. But parenting purposefully, with a plan and goals and expectations? That seemed impossible to even imagine. Nevertheless, I knew God was prompting me to be a more intentional parent, whatever that meant.

I started and stopped (AKA quit) many attempts at intentionality with devotions, chores, quality time, bedtime prayers, and dozens of other initiatives. I’m sure many of you are consistent rock stars with charts and calendars and plans and things. I was not.

But there was one way that I managed to be consistently intentional. I was determined to really know my kids. I became a student of them. What made them laugh? What frustrated them? What were their interests? How were they growing and changing? What were their “love languages?” Where was childish foolishness slipping into patterns of willful rebellion?

By God’s grace I simply wanted to intentionally know them as unique, interesting, developing individuals made in God’s image. Not just little people. But people-people. 

(God thought it would be funny to introduce identical twins as an added bonus challenge).

Knowing my kids has been a rewarding lifelong study. I have watched them willfully irritate each other, bully, manipulate, judge, gossip, be lazy and irresponsible, waste time, waste money, procrastinate, and repeatedly crash their cars. But I have also watched them overcome intense fears, deal with toxic friendships, deflect peer pressure, work hard to achieve goals, defend each other, befriend the lonely, wake themselves up early to spend time with Jesus, and devote themselves to following Him forever.

Intentionally studying them helped me be able to disciple them through the hard times and celebrate with them in the victories. Now that they are grown adults, I’m really glad I know them. Turns out they are pretty cool people-people.

So that is my story about how once upon a time God challenged me simply with the word “intentional” and how that affected my focus as a mom. I hope this encourages you wherever you are on your parenting journey. What is God’s challenge for you right now? Is He asking something of you that seems too demanding, daunting, or daily? That very challenge may be His way to bring you great reward next year or in a decade or two. He is faithful. You can trust Him.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).