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.

It’s not (just) about the baby.

It’s Christmas so it must be time for a message about sweet baby Jesus.

Imagine standing there beside Mary and Joseph and gazing down at the Babe in the Straw. Babies are so precious and lovely and full of promise…

But they’re also messy, demanding and helpless.

In stark contrast with us sophisticated grown-ups, right? Right?

Or could we be honest enough to admit that as adults:

  • Our messes get messier—and harder to clean up (think friends or family).
  • Our demanding hearts become more self-indulgent (think finances or addictions).
  • Our striving after lasting significance is helpless (think personal legacy or mortality).

It’s obviously more comfortable to live in constant distraction and denial than to meditate about such things. But deep down inside we know we are as messy, demanding, and helpless as babies.

Such happy Christmas thoughts!

But it’s not until we really understand the bad news about ourselves that we can fully appreciate the good news about our King Jesus.

He came, in the sweetness of an infant—but with a mission. He didn’t stay in the manger. He came to lead us out of our mess. He grew into the greatest man who ever breathed (the encouragement of a teacher, the grit of a general, the wisdom of a grandfather). Every man you ever admired is only a dim fraction of all that Jesus embodied.

And he’s not a historical character. He is alive and well in glory. Yet He is near to you. He sees you, knows you, likes you, cares about you. He is able to lead you through every single disappointment and burden this world throws at you. He is worth following through this life and into the next.

So Happy Birthday Jesus. But remember that we don’t just celebrate an infant in a manger. We worship much more than that. Jesus Christ entered into the messiness, demands, and helplessness of our world and by His all-surpassing might won for us a future that is precious and lovely and full of promise.

“… [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Wish lists.

I was surprised in my Bible reading this morning. I was reading in Psalm 20 where it says, 

“May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!…May the Lord fulfill all your petitions” (Psalm  20:4-5)!

I realize that I have Christmas on the brain, but that verse made me think about Wish Lists. Specifically, what would be on my own personal grown-up wish list? The more I thought about it, the more I became genuinely tearful that my loving Heavenly Father would care about what might be on such a list.

To be honest, I tend to think my heart’s desires are too silly for God to care about. I also tend to not be much of a “dreamer” for fear that the LORD’s plans will supercede mine anyway. But this morning, I took out my journal and I wrote down my heart’s desires. Nothing too spiritual or impressive. Just the sincere wishes I have for myself and my family in the new year and beyond. 

I thought this exercise would make me feel like a spoiled child leafing through the Sunday ads and circling all the things that I wanted to get. But the result was actually quite different. As I found myself expressing wishes and concerns for the people closest to me, I became extremely thankful for the many, many blessings the Father has already lavished on me. A deep sense of peace and contentment and gratitude overwhelmed me. 

So as we eagerly wrap up this calendar year and look ahead to 2021, what are your plans? What are your petitions? What are your hearts’ desires? I encourage you to express them honestly to your Father. He knows what you need before you ask anyway, but oh how He delights in His children coming close to Him and asking.

And as you discuss Christmas wish lists with your children, how can you leverage that conversation to teach them truths about their generous Heavenly Father? He is the true Giver of every good gift we have.

And speaking of Christmas, I want to invite your family to join us in worship at New Covenant Bible Church as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. We will be having three Christmas services from which to choose: December 23 at 6:00 and December 24 at 4:00 and 6:00.  There are a variety of ways you can celebrate with us!

  • In Person: If you have been looking for an opportunity to return to church services, we would love to see you for Christmas.
  • Livestream: If you are planning on staying home this year, please connect with us through our Livestream service.
  • GNNNN: Hey families: the third episode of the GNNNN Christmas Finale is now available for your family to view online. What a fun honor it has been partnering with an amazing team to bring you these videos in 2020.

I pray your family has a happy Christmas. May the Lord truly grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.


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,

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 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

You don’t have to be.

What are you going to be for Halloween? Something pretend like Princess Anna or Darth Vader? Or something really scary like 2020 or the American Political Climate? 

In case you are struggling with how to fashionably dress your fur baby this year, the most popular pet costumes according to the National Retail Federation will be pumpkin, hot dog, superhero, cat and bumblebee. Wait—do people dress their cat up as a cat or how does that work?

I’ve never personally been a big fan of Halloween. Our kids have always dressed up and gone trick-or-treating and we’ve always welcomed the neighborhood ghosts and goblins to our door. But I guess I find real life to be disturbing enough without filling my mind with additional horrors.   

And speaking of real-life horrors, this week at NCBC Kids we will be talking about Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Imagine how terrifying that was to the followers of Christ. Consider the fear of living in that political climate and seeing that injustice done to our Lord. Nothing we could conjure up for our front lawn “decor” or for Netflix could compare with the forces of evil at work on that day.

I encourage you to use Halloween as an opportunity to talk to your kids about the results of that truly wicked Jerusalem night. Because our Savior was willing to go to the cross, He defeated once and for all every fear, every enemy and all darkness. This week’s episode of GNNNN may help you to begin that conversation. 

Halloween does kick off the 8-week countdown to Christmas at my house. Now there’s a holiday I can get behind: Lights and carols and Jesus. All the candy with none of the creeps. 

As for this weekend, however you celebrate or don’t, be safe out there and remember one thing you don’t have to be for Halloween is afraid.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). 


Get along.

Well folks, I bought my first Christmas present this week. Can you believe there’s only 70 days until Christmas!

When my kids were little, they always asked me, “Mommy, what do you want for Christmas?” And my answer was always the same. “I want you kids to get along.” 

Hey, we honestly had a pretty loving, unified and peaceful home. But kids will be kids and newsflash–kids will be sinners too. And any time they intentionally hurt or irritated or angered one another, it also hurt me. So I’d tell them, every single December, the best way they could honor me, and truly make it “the most wonderful time of the year” was by loving each other well. 

There was once a holiday season where Jesus had a similar request. He was celebrating His last Passover with his disciples. In fact, it was Jesus’ last supper. His final meal on earth.  

You know what it’s like when you’ve worked so hard creating a wonderful environment for that special moment–inevitably that’s when all heck breaks loose. The family photos. The birthday party. In the car on the way to Christmas Eve services.  

And as if on cue, right in the middle of His very special occasion, Jesus’ disciples started bickering. “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” Luke 22:24. 

I am! 
Am not. 
Am too! 
Am not. 
Am too! 

Or in this case, 


And can you guess what Jesus says? “You guys need to get along!” 

In John chapters 14-17, Jesus gives a heartfelt and beautiful plea to his followers to love each other. Serve each other. Be at peace with one another. Live with joy together. 

He prays for us–that we would be one just as Jesus and the Father are one. That’s some serious unity. 

Our world is becoming more polarized by the minute. But my brothers and sisters this should not be true of us! Unity in Christ is not optional. It’s imperative. It’s the proof that we are actually His disciples. We gotta get along. And not a false peace, but real, true, family unity–the way we want our kids to love each other. 

So the next time there’s some big sibling rivalry or conflict in your family, let it help serve as a reminder and encouragement that brothers and sisters in Christ also should not fight. Consider: Is there anyone I need to forgive from my heart today? May we all sincerely pray for hearts which shine the sweet light of unity into this darkened world. 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). 

March 13, 2020

I’ve heard of Christmas in July–but I haven’t heard of Christmas in March! But the way our curriculum falls in the calendar this year, has us learning about the birth of Jesus this week in NCBC Kids.

I pray this is a good thing. It’s good to consider the gift of God’s Son at a time we aren’t shopping for Christmas presents. Good to consider the light of the world coming to a world of darkness at a time we aren’t stringing lights on our houses. Good to imagine the eternal Word made flesh and coming humble and low as a baby at a time we are not distracted by the tinsel and the trappings.

So let’s take some time this week and marvel in this miracle. Gaze at the tenderness of God. Be astonished at the Almighty Creator of everything becoming part of His creation. Pull out the Christmas hymns and listen afresh. The song Arrival by Hillsong Worship is one of my favorites in imagining all the ways Jesus condescended to come here and live with us. I hope it’s a special time of reflection in your home.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).

January 16, 2020

There’s an old saying that says, “You can never go home again.” If you’ve ever tried returning to your hometown after a long absence, you know what I mean. Even if everything at home stays exactly the same, you have not; so it is very difficult if not impossible to ever return to things the way they were. If you try, you’ll usually be disappointed—no matter what the Hallmark Channel tells you.

Imagine returning “home” to a place you’ve never actually been-but have only heard about from your parents’ and grandparents’ stories of the “good old days.” The days before war and exile and slavery. The days when you could worship God freely and enjoy your own language and culture and land.

Maybe that’s how the Israelites felt as they returned to Judah after being captive in Babylon for 70 years. Excited to finally be free. Amazed to be returning to the Promised Land, literally God’s Country. Walking for days to get back home again. You come around the last bend and up over the last hill and you look down at Jerusalem and see…Desolation. Ruins. Disappointment.

I love how honest God’s Word is. God tells us the truth about life. Life is no fairy tale where one kiss makes a happy ending. Life is a series of ups and downs, one step forward and two steps back. Life is a challenge. Have you noticed? Even after God miraculously steps in and frees His people from captivity, that doesn’t mean it’s clear sailing from then on. There’s going to be work to do. There’s going to be opposition. There’s going to be trouble.

Let’s remember to also teach our kids the truth about life. Life is hard. And that’s okay. It is meant to be. Trouble doesn’t mean God isn’t with us and it doesn’t automatically mean we’ve done something wrong. The truth is God’s plan is simply bigger than we can see and His plan includes our troubles. The truth is, God is bigger than our problems and He promises to take care of us through them, no matter what.

Consider this week’s story in light of whatever your family is facing right now. This week’s story is about overcoming: poverty, discouragement, neighborhood opposition, legal woes, relational tensions. In the midst of the trouble it is difficult to see how it might end well. But this story (and our story) ends well. Because, as always, God is faithful.

He was faithful to keep all His promises and send us our Savior. Jesus showed us how to face trouble faithfully. And He won us victory over our worst problems: Sin, death, and the grave. Hallelujah!

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33