012. The Truth

There’s a lot of pushback right now on the idea of objective truth. Objective truth has become offensive to a world who believes that there’s no hope, no God, no purpose, and that meaning can only be found in inventing useful lies for ourselves to get us through this miserable thing we call life.

They’ll say, “who are you to say that he’s wrong? What he believes is getting him through the day and providing meaning for his life!”

Jesus’s opinion on the subject of truth was that there was objective truth, and that anyone who fell short of believing that one truth was deceived and wrong. That truth could not be fabricated or invented by an individual, But was only found by asking, seeking and knocking.

“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” Matthew 22

“Jesus, you can’t say that! The Pharisees found a way to interpret the Bible that gives their lives meaning! Aren’t they allowed to read the scriptures however best helps them make sense of the world?”

Jesus was always correcting the Pharisee’s understanding of the Bible. He repeatedly said, “You’re wrong. This is the correct interpretation.”

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8

“Jesus, you can’t claim to be the ultimate dispenser of *the only truth*!

Jesus prayed this over His disciples:

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17

THE Truth. Jesus makes explicit, exclusive claims on the truth itself. And how did Jesus say you’d find “the truth?”

In the Word of God.

The text is authoritative over us, not the other way around. We don’t get to judge the words of God. We don’t get to make our own truth.

It’s up to us to study, and show ourselves approved, rightly dividing His words of truth. It’s up to us to listen and learn and find out what the Holy Spirit is saying through the Bible.

The individual is not the final arbiter on truth. Truth is outside of ourselves, and it’s up to us to seek it out.

Will we be honest seekers of truth?

011. Work

You were created for something. Many somethings. You were designed for purposes. For doing. You have a mind for thinking. You have hands for doing. You have a heart for feeling. Our entire makeup points to both a purpose and a Purposer.

One of those divine purposes we were designed for is honorable work. Quiet laboring at a task until it’s compete.

Ephesians 2 says this:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What are the good works that God created for you to do? Take a second and ask the Lord. Meditating on the question of “what works am I to do” is one of the best uses of your time.

Hopefully the Holy Spirit has highlighted some things in your heart that you’re meant to be doing.

The mandate for work is something we see in the earliest moments of scripture. Scriptures says in Genesis 2,

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Work it, and keep it. This wasn’t an automated garden that spit out food prepackaged in cellophane. This wasn’t a garden that would continue to produce at full capacity without help. Overgrowth needed to be cut back. Other parts needed to be brought into the sun.

The garden needed gardeners. Adam and Eve weren’t given the option to just walk around naked, eating grapes all day.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1

What does having dominion mean? It means leadership. It means responsibility. It means you’re in charge of taking care of this thing God made. God was in charge of it, but now He’s giving that to you. 

“Rule over the fish in the sea” Like Aquaman. Be a ruler of fish. You were made to be a fish king. (Reason number 3,938,183 why Christianity is pretty cool.)

“…and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Farming, and raising cattle, and taking care of pets and caring for plants… these are good things to do with your life.

He then tells them: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

What does that mean to subdue the earth? It means the earth is wild and unorganized, and Adam needs to organize it. Make sure the plants grow well. Tend to the earth. Forge paths and build roads. Construct shelters. Fill the earth with families and communities and nations. Steward this beautiful place God made.

This type of responsibility is one of the things they were specifically designed for. Adam and Eve were made to work. Made to create. Just like God Himself works and creates.

He tends and restores, and so his Creation, made in His image, tends and restores things.

A friend of mine just fixed up my van that had broken down. That type of fixing and restoration is something that reflects the nature of God. To take something that needs fixing and to fix it, is stepping into our heavenly Father’s shoes. Taking on the family business. 

God has given each of us dominion over a portion of His creation. Your clothes. Your money. Your tools. Your toys. God gave you authority and power over those things. They’re under your control.

Are you caring for them well? Are you making the best use of those things?

Are they being wasted?
Are they a mess?
Are they disorganized?
Are they being ruined?

Or are they being used for good purposes?
Are they in order?
Are they being used as a part of a bigger plan?

Scripture is very clear, life isn’t about getting things. Jesus says in the book of Luke, “life does not consist of an abundance of material possessions.”

It’s not about becoming rich or accumulating a huge pile of wealth. It’s about being a good steward with what you’ve been given.

Do you have something that someone else needs? If so, be generous.

Do you have something that you could use for the sake of the Kingdom? Don’t withhold anything.

There was one point where Jesus needed a donkey. His disciples came to a person with a donkey and said only the words, “the Lord needs this.” The donkey was given up for the sake of the Kingdom.

Jesus needed a tomb to be buried in. (It was a short-term loan.) Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who was a believer who took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in his own linens, and put it in his own tomb.

Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector who came to faith in Jesus. The first thing he said is, “I’ve got this money here, I’m going to give half of it away to the poor, and anything that I’ve stolen that I’m going to give back four times as much.”

These people had open hands with their wealth. They were ready and willing to use it for God’s purposes.

Does this mean that every dollar we get we’re supposed to give away??

No. Not usually. Some people are called to give away everything they have. Jesus wasn’t shy about telling people to sell all they have and give to the poor. But check out what Paul says in 1st Thessalonians:

“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one”

This means you have income. You have something honorable that you do for work. There’s no room for laziness here, where you expect to live off of the generosity of other people. No Christian moochers. You work however you can so that you can provide for your own needs.

Paul’s life was a missionary life. And scripture is pretty clear, missionaries should be supported by the people they bless. The church should give to help them, so they can keep preaching the gospel. But even though it was Paul’s right to ask for money to support him in his work as a missionary, he still worked whenever he could to provide for himself so he wouldn’t be a burden to other people:

“With toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 2 Thessalonians 3

Paul is emphasizing the importance of being willing to work. Willing to labor to earn your own living. That’s honorable. Proverbs says that one who is slack in his work is a brother to one who destroys. Our Christian faith is a working faith, not a lazy one.

This goes beyond just providing for ourselves and making sure that we’re not just mooching off other people: we work so that we can provide for the people around us. So that we can meet other people’s needs.

“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1st Timothy 5

Paul says that anyone who does not provide for the people he’s responsible for is worse than someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus.

The people who live with us are our responsibility to care for. We use our possessions, our tools and investments and savings and income to provide for the people God has placed under our responsibility.

If you’re a teenager who’s reading this, you may think this is a passage of scripture that you can just ignore for now. It’s not! In fact, this is probably the best possible time for you to hear this: God wants you to be a person who can care for other people.

It’s not going to be long before you have people you are responsible for taking care of. For many of you, it’ll be just a few years before you have an actual household to care for. A husband or wife that’s not your God-given responsibility. And children who are under your care.

Begin working towards caring for them now. There are three things you can do:

Learn the skills you need to care for your future household. Find out how to work with your hands and develop an income. How to care for your home, and make your money and possessions stretch as far as they can. How to cultivate a home environment that’s good for a growing family. Glean wisdom from scripture. Proverbs has a lot to say about work, frugality, planning and running a home.

Become more independent now, where you’re at. I can bet that not very many teenagers reading this can say, “I’m following Paul’s instructions completely, I’m dependent on no one.” We all started as children in our parents’ house and were given everything we needed, and gradually, we’ve learned to take more and more responsibility for our own needs. Keep walking that road towards honorable self-support. Maybe you get a part time job. Maybe you start saving up for a car. Maybe you pick a bill like a cell phone or insurance, and you start paying it yourself. Even if you don’t have a job yet, you can work to become more responsible where you’re at: Do your own laundry. Clean your room and make your bed. Make your own meals.

Practice generosity towards your household. Improve at taking care of the needs of others. This means doing other people’s laundry. Or making meals for the family. Or giving people rides in your car. Watching your little siblings. Chores that benefit the whole household. These are ways that you can rehearse the attitudes of stewardship and responsibility for when you’ve got your own household in just a few years from now.

You’re not going to magically become independent and responsible when you move out. The habits and mindsets that are developed as a teenager follow you into adulthood. 

One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is that of the Good Samaritan. There are many characters in this story. The victim who got robbed. The Priest and the Levite who walked away and didn’t help. There’s the good Samaritan who actually helped.

We don’t often talk about the thieves who robbed and beat up the man. These are people with no honorable work. They’ve decided to live their life being the exact opposite of the Good Samaritan. Hurting and taking, rather than healing and helping. 

The opposite of stealing isn’t just “not stealing.” It’s becoming the sort of person who can share what you have with those in need. Who can see the man on the side of the road and take him to an inn and tell the owner, “take care of him, and if you need more money, I’ll give you more when I come back to check on him.”

Can you imagine being able to be in that position? To be the one with the attitude and the means to meet all of the needs of someone else?

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” Ephesians 4:28.

There’s a progression of choices here: You can either steal, you can work in order to have for yourself, or you can go all the way and work in order to give. You have the choice.

If you don’t have honorable work, you may feel that taking is your only option. But there’s a better way.

For those who feel like their life is becoming aimless, I have this encouragement for you: find honorable work to do. It’s what you were created for. It’s what God Himself does.

And the best news is this: when you’re working, doing the things you were meant to do, you’ll come alive.

I’ll tell you, I know God created me to teach. And when I’m teaching I come alive.

God created me to be a father. And when I’m being a father to my kid, I come alive.

When you find the things you were meant to do, and do them, your soul will come alive too.

And that’s because work is something that God gave us not just to do… but to enjoy.

Ecclesiastes 3 says:

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Work, labor, toil… these are God’s gifts to man. It’s not something we have to do before we get to the good stuff. It is the good stuff. Participating in the beauty, care and restoration of God’s creation. Tending and keeping the earth. Meeting the needs of those around us. It’s the family business. 

010. Favorite Books

Last year my mother, homeschool-mom-extraordinaire, now homeschool-grandmother, sponsored a book-reading competition between the adults and children of our family. For the entire year, we wrote down the books we read, and competed for who could rack up the highest total. Thankfully, she counted books of the Bible as separate books, so I was able to cross into triple-digits.

I’ve collected a list of my favorites from last year, and hopefully it’ll help you find the next book to add to your list this year.

I’m including a description of each book, because I acknowledge that tastes in books are about as different as tastes in food, music, fashion or hobbies. Every time I make a post asking for book recommendations, most of the suggestions are not good fits for me. Even Audible’s, “because you read this…” suggestions are very hit-or-miss. But if I get a recommendation from someone like my friend James, who has extremely similar book preferences to mine, it generally gets added to my list.

If I had to describe the perfect book for me, it would either be a practical non-fiction about living life well as an evangelical Christian, or a science fiction that explores the change of civilizations over the course of an entire lifetime, or generations, or millennia.

Daily Life

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – After reading all the “hustle” entrepreneur books there are, this book is a great correction to that mindset. This book by John Mark Comer is one of the books that had the most impact on how we live our lives in this house. We’ve almost completely eliminated the word “hurry” from our vocabulary, even as we try to get the family out the door and avoid being late to our appointments.

Margin – I will continue to read this book over and over every few years until it fully sinks in. Every time I put more margin in my life stress decreases and life feels more abundant and well-lived. If you’re a person who deals with stress and anxiety, I can’t recommend this book enough.

The Spiritually Vibrant Home – I want my home to be like the homes described in this book. I feel like I grew up in a spiritually vibrant home, but that I’ve got a lot of work to do until it’s a place that my kids describe as spiritually vibrant.

Habits of the Household – I feel like this book and the previous book go hand-in-hand. Households are life-giving because the leadership of those homes make intention decisions that oppose the default behaviors handed to us by the culture of the world. This book invites us to consider what we’re doing to take responsibility the spiritual growth of the people in our household.

Theology & Philosophy

Beautiful Resistance – Christianity is not just “your life plus Jesus sprinkled on top.” This book explores the ways that Christianity is diametrically opposed to the culture of the world, and what we as Christians can do to push back against the tides of culture instead of getting swept along with the current.

The Reset – If I had to pick one book for every worship leader in America to read this year, it would be this one. Jeremy Riddle writes about purity and purpose with such an intensity and longing. This is what the church needs more than anything else: true worshippers.

Man’s Search For Meaning – This book will give you a heavy dose of perspective. Highly suggest it for those dealing with depression, aimlessness and a struggle to find meaning in their disappointing circumstances.


Animal Farm – George Orwell tells a fantastic story about how good cultures can become eroded, and good people can become pawns for those who crave power. A very short read. I’ve gone through it probably 6 or 7 times.

The Screwtape Letters – Another book I reread every few years. I don’t think there’s a particular danger to the Christian man or woman that’s not covered by this book. We think we know what the strategies and best-case-scenarios for the enemy are, but Lewis has a fantastic perspective on what’s most important to heaven, and what’s most important to hell.

Science Fiction

Treason – I love all of the Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card. He’s without a doubt my favorite writer of the genre. This book is super weird, and answers a lot of “what if?” questions that nobody’s asking. Definitely not suitable for all ages, and it’s certainly not a book for non-weirdos.

Maps In A Mirror – Discovering the short stories of Orson Card Card was one of my favorite experiences. As someone who prefers beefy stories that span multiple large books, I was always hesitant to read short stories. But reading through the 4 or 5 collections of Card’s stories, along with his commentary was super fun as a Card-fanatic. Some of them are super dark, so read the descriptions first if you’re worried.

Foundation – I reread the Foundation series this year, along with a few other titles by Isaac Asimov. Such a fantastic writer of thoughtful Science Fiction. Not just “cowboys in space” or “romance in space” or “comedy in space…” Asimov explores the actual implications of new technologies and what each new scientific leap means for politics and culture across millenniums.

Project Hail Mary – This was another recommendation from my friend James. It reminded me so much of the Bobiverse series, and not just because it’s got the same narrator. Man gets stranded in space, and has the nerdiest possible adventure.

Children of Time – Another book that has the sort of feel for me as the Bobiverse series. If when I say, “gigantic, super-intelligent space spiders” you don’t run screaming, you might like this one. It took me by surprise.

Thrawn – I’m pretty confident that this is the only Star Wars series I’ll ever enjoy reading. There’s a lot of logic puzzling and mystery unravelling that hits the spot for me here.

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke – This one’s massive, and I didn’t actually finish it last year. After enjoying Orson Scott Card’s short stories, I tried this one out as another collection of Sci-Fi tales. The particular cadence of the narration and the structure of the storytelling made me lose track of the thread of the story on more than one occasion, so I use it as a way to fall asleep now. Works like a charm. Really good stories if you’re paying close attention though!

Those are my favorites this year. I’d love to hear any of your favorites as well, even if we have different ideas of what a “great book” is. I’m always looking for new books to read between the revisiting of old favorites.

009. Not Peace, But A Sword

One of the earliest stories in scripture is one where the people of the world come together in unity and common purpose. It’s a beautiful “kumbaya” moment until the Lord brings it crashing down.

“The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” … from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” Genesis 11

On the surface, this story can have us scratching our heads. Man comes together and starts a community project, and God destroys it? Is God the toddler obsessed with knocking down the blocks stacked by the other children?

Unity that originates in a desire to usurp the position and authority of God is blasphemous. It’s an offense to the Lord. To say, “I’m going to cut God out of the equation, and ascend to the highest heights without Him” is the very definition of hubris.

The will of the Lord was that the builders of the Tower of Babel would be scattered. Disunified. Because the unity that they had built was around the wrong thing: a desire to replace God’s leadership, and disobey His command to fill the whole Earth. Man-centered, humanistic unity is an offense to the Lord. Unity is only good when it dwells under the leadership of the King. All other rebellious efforts will be a stench to heaven until the day they are thwarted. 

As followers of Jesus, we can retrain our minds to God’s priorities. Unity is not God’s first and only aim. In fact, Jesus (the Prince of Peace, the “blessed are the peacemakers” Jesus) said this:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Jesus is saying that there will be those who choose Earthly relationships over life with Him. He’s saying that as an ultimatum: “Follow me wholeheartedly, or else depart from me.”

Either build your life around Me, or go build your life around something else.

What’s the sword that He brings? The destruction of the unsubmitted unity that we’ve built. The only cure for building our lives on ungodly foundations is for us to lose that life and find a new life in Him.

So how do we avoid becoming the builders of a new Tower of Babel?

1. We don’t trust in the things we’ve built.

We’ve built the greatest infrastructure the world has ever seen. Cables and radio towers and satellites have connected every point on earth to every other point. Just about every piece of information ever written down is now accessible by anyone with a smartphone or computer. We’re now speaking fewer and fewer languages. Humanity’s capability to move with unified purpose is stronger than ever.

There is a curse for those who put their faith in the things man has built. Jeremiah 17 says,

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.'”

God can easily  topple the things we’ve put in place to replace Him. We have to put our hope in the Lord.

We often talk about trusting in the Lord only after our earthly safety nets have begun to fail. We’ll work on trusting in the Lord when we lose our job. We pray when we get sick and the pills haven’t worked.

God’s our backup plan. As long as we’ve got some money in the bank, we don’t see the Lord as our provider. If we can look up answers on Google, we don’t see the Lord as our wisdom.

What are you leaning on? Proverbs 3 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” This is why it’s difficult for those who see themselves as wise to trust the Lord. And it’s hard for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, acknowledges this dynamic, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

The Lord is a good provider and a good leader. He can meet our needs better than any new technology. His answers are better than anything we can find on the internet.

2. We don’t water down the gospel for the sake of unity.

The gospel is not simply, “Jesus loves you.” That’s not a message worth crucifying the King of Kings and martyring the Apostles.

The gospel is that Jesus is God, and has come to bridge the gap between God and man. Our offenses against the Almighty can be forgiven if we choose to lay down our lives and take up a new life found in Him that’s submitted to Jesus as King. We can walk the narrow road that leads to life, peace, healing and rest, but it requires us to leave behind everything else that is contrary to the Kingdom of God.

If we remove the parts of the gospel that offend, it ceases to be the gospel.

“But wouldn’t it be best if we just hold our tongue and make sure we maintain our relationships with unbelievers so that they have a path to eventually accept the gospel?”


It’s cowardly to avoid important confrontation that needs to happen. And it’s foolish to assume that you’ll have tomorrow to share the gospel, “once the time is right.”

Jeremiah prophesied, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” We ought not relate to unbelievers in a way that makes them assume that everything is ok. They are mortally wounded, and if they don’t receive help, they will die.

Paul has this instruction for us: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.”

That time is certainly now. There is tremendous pressure on those who know the truth to be silent about it. There are certainly those who do not put up with sound doctrine. But what’s our response? Preach the Word. Speak the truth. Deliver the message of the King. “Repent, and be baptized for the remission of your sins.”

And then don’t be surprised when the message of Jesus brings the sword of division. This division is all over scripture. The sheep are divided from the goats. The wheat is separated from the tares.

Our hope is that as the Church takes a stand, more and more people will be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of marvelous light. But we work against this process when we blur the lines between light and darkness.

The gospel brings conflict and division before it brings peace and unity. Preach it clearly, and watch the Holy Spirit bring people over the line.

3. We build our unity around the Lord.

Unity doesn’t appear in a vacuum. It’s always built around something. The Tower of Babel was built around self-aggrandizement and humanism. We can build something different with one another. 

Ephesians 2 says this:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We take our place in a holy building: a temple for the Lord to dwell in. As unified believers, the Holy Spirit forms us together in Godly unity, each of us as bricks that comprise a house for Him.

This unity only exists because each brick wants to be a part of the Lord’s house. Unified in common purpose and common worship. Pulled together in love by our love for the Lord, Himself.

That’s a good place to be. Fulfilling our purpose by taking our place in the house of the Lord. It’s what we were made for. Community together around worship, obedience and love for Jesus.

008. New And Old

Newer is better. Old is boring and slow.

New technologies. New tools. New toys. New Netflix series.

Replace. Upgrade. Adapt.

Eyes open for the next new thing. Adopt it early. Integrate it into our lives. Shift and change.

The cultural and technological landscape of our world is changing more rapidly than any time in history and if we don’t keep up, we’ll know we’ll be left behind.

This external race for the new has had an impact on our souls. It’s not just about upgrading the physical things around us. We now have the inclination that the newer the idea, the better it is.

New philosophies. New social movements. New hashtags.

We’re watching and waiting for the next new thing to fix the problems in our lives. Waiting for the next new video on our phone to tell us the recently discovered secret to living well. Or the new book or podcast to give us the most up-to-date tips and tricks that will solve the issues we’re dealing with.

In the Church world, we look for a “fresh revelation.” We’re looking for the Lord to do a “new thing.” We’re hoping to be a part of Him doing something that’s never been done on the Earth before.

What if the Lord is saying “go back?”

What if the way forward is actually to deny the cultural hunger for the new, and to dig up that which has been covered with dust from disuse? To return to something we walked away from?

Scripture tells of a time when the people of God were straying so far from the ways of the Lord, they didn’t even know how to experience shame anymore. God’s prophet Jeremiah predicted destruction was imminent. He prophesied that the great city would be put under siege, and they would be on the wrong end of God’s righteous justice.

Here it is from Jeremiah 6:

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.

In the very next verse the Lord gives them a lifeline. A path out of destruction.

This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Where’s the wisdom? In the ancient paths. The good way is the old way. The way back is the way forward. We expect the right path to be something new and exciting. Something innovative and pioneering. Something that keeps building on our collective achievements and gathered knowledge. But the opposite is true.

The good way is the old way. Returning back to the way we were made to be. Returning to our Creator and to simple faith in our God. Living lives of faithfulness and rest. Human beings were put together in a specific way for a specific purpose. The further we get from that, the more painful the natural consequences. And the longer we walk the road, the further we have to walk back if we’re going to find the right path again.

C.S. Lewis nails this: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

Sadly, in the Old Testament story, the people of God don’t go back to the ancient paths. Jerusalem is destroyed. Solomon’s temple is reduced to rubble. The people are led into exile.

Civilizations crumble when they lose the good way and the ancient paths. And if we don’t receive this warning and turn back to the old ways, we’ll end up headed towards destruction.

How do we rediscover the good way? 

We look to the ancient wisdom from the Lord. Open up your Bible, and read Abraham and Moses. Wisdom of 4000 years ago. We read the words of our Creator. We read the words of Jesus. And we ask the Holy Spirit to help our heart to bend to the Book, instead of the Book bending to our modern sensibilities and moralism.

Secondly, we seek out the wisdom of the ancient. Those with grey hair. Who can’t seem to figure out the settings on their phone.

It’s our instinct to sideline those who don’t seem to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing times and technologies. Our impulse is to seek counsel from those in our own generation. Who seem to better understand our life’s drama and complexities.

It’s the habit of many teenagers and young adults to intentionally reject the ways of their parents in trying to form a sense of self that’s separate from their mother and father. To latch onto the new thing, and to dismiss the parents. “They just don’t understand.” “They’re stuck in the past.” 

But in ignoring the previous generations of our parents and grandparents, we cut ourselves off. There is time-tested wisdom in these generations. All 31 chapters of proverbs is a father teaching his son the way to live. Scripture is explicit: the younger generation needs the older.

“Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old,” says Job 12:12.

We would do well to pull up a chair and listen to the grandparents. To hear the wisdom of the aged. It’s not fast. It’s not flashy.

It’s faithful. It’s trustworthy.

If you don’t have a parent or grandparent to listen to, seek out one in your church. Someone who knows the Lord and who isn’t on Snapchat. Who has seen all the fads come and go, and who still chooses simple faithfulness to the Lord.

Go back to the old ways. There’s life there.

007. Seven Reasons To Love The Church

It’s not in vogue to love the church. All the cool kids are deconstructing and turning their back on religion. They see it as outdated, oppressive, patriarchal… also, scheduled way too early on a Sunday morning. 

I sympathize with those who have hearts for justice and want to distance themselves from the institutions that they believe are to blame for hurt and abuse. But throwing out Church will never be the right move.

Here’s seven reasons to love the church. 

1. Church is where God is.

You say, “God is everywhere” and “God is with each believer.” Isn’t it just where two or three are gathered, there He is? You’re missing a crucial part: “In His name.” How often do we gather with believers “in the Name of the Lord?” For most Christians it’s once a week at church. And guess what? That’s where God’s presence is. That’s where He can be found. Among the people who showed up. Among those who came to praise. Church is a weekly appointment with the Lord that He puts on the calendar. Now’s the time to RSVP. 

2. The Church is unbeatable.

You say, “Aren’t we moving away from religion into a post-Christian society?” You may be, but the Church will be undefeated and everlasting. Jesus said that He was building His Church on a rock, and that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it. There’s nothing that can obliterate the church. The enemy has been trying for 2000 years, and no physical, cultural or social force has managed to wipe it out. Scripture says, “thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” Victory is assured for the church. Overcoming the opposition is the destiny of the Body of Christ, because Christ is the cornerstone, and there ain’t no shaking Him. 

3. Church is an opportunity to restart, reorient and repent.

We’re all sinners in need of God’s grace. Whatever life we’ve been living this week, we can have a fresh start together. Check this out: we can be ministers of the forgiveness of God to one another. When we confess our sins to one another, we can forgive each other and be the ones to deliver the grace of God to one another. Christ says, “Whatever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” Woah. 

4. Church is a party for the Lord.

Church is the place where we get to praise the Lord with the same sort of tools that have been used for millennia: loud instruments. God’s people have been using noisy percussion along with stringed and blown instruments since before the days of Moses. We continue the practice today, because it seems that God enjoys it. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a good voice or not, join in and sing your heart out to the Lord! Our need to party and make a ruckus isn’t a sinful inclination, it’s an instinct that’s meant to be let loose in the house of the Lord! 

5. Church rehearses and proclaims the Word of God.

The pulpit is the throne for God’s Word. When we sit under the teaching of Jesus, we become more holy, more wise, and more pure. It fulfills Jesus’s final command: to make disciples here on Earth, and to teach them to obey all that He commanded. A vital Church grows because of the faithful teaching of the Word of Christ and the apostle’s doctrine. 

6. Church attendance encourages faithful religion.

Consistency, discipline and faithfulness to the Lord are good things. And spiritual practices that are repeated daily, weekly and yearly make for Christians who follow the Lord even in seasons of silence and drought. Going to gather with the Church builds those spiritual practices, (and is itself a spiritual practice.) 2 Thessalonians says, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us.” Don’t knock tradition. It’s important. If you really want to make room for the Lord in your life, be faithful, even religious, in seeking Him as a part of your weekly routine. 

7. Church disciples the next generation of believers.

Growing up in church made me who I am today. Proverbs speaks to the wisdom of training up children while they are young in the truth, so that they can continue it into adulthood. Modern “wisdom” decries indoctrination and says kids should be left as an empty shell to discover what they were meant to believe later on. Scripture contradicts that advice in the strongest of terms, and teaches that through discipline and instruction children are brought up on the right path. Church is part of that process of imparting truth into the hearts of our kids. 

Church is a good thing.

You can’t love Jesus and hate the Church. Jesus loves the Church, and if you’re on his side, you’ll be pro-Church. Give church another shot. It’s worth the mess and the issues. God’s there. He’s worth it.

I’ll leave you with this from Reinhard Bonnke: 

“Why go to church? Think of it like this. Candles stand in candlesticks, light bulbs go into light sockets, and trees grow in soil. Without candlesticks, candles would fall over. Without being plugged in, light bulbs would never shine. And without soil, trees would simply die. For Christians, the church is a candlestick, a power source, and somewhere to put down roots – so that you can stand, shine, and grow. Alongside the Bible and prayer, the church is one of the rich resources, which God has given us in our lives as Christians.”

006. New Opportunities

New Years is a reminder that time is passing. Like the alarm that wakes us up in the morning or the shock we feel when someone we love looks older than they used to. It’s good to be jolted out of unthinking autopilot and into intentional, deliberate living. 

Most don’t set New Year’s Resolutions. Most don’t do year-end reflections or new sets of goals. 

The objections to New Year’s resolutions are many.

“You know most people quit in February, right?”

“Don’t set yourself up to fail.”

“I’m doing the best I can right now, and another goal isn’t going to help.”

“I don’t want to feel limited.” 

“I can improve without setting goals.”

I get it. For those that have experienced disappointment again and again, setting goals for the future seems like just putting another nail in the coffin. 

I won’t tell you what you need to do. Maybe none of this works for you. But I’ll tell you what has consistently worked for me: reflection, dreaming, and goal-setting. 

Reflection involves looking back. Not just at the last year and its accomplishments and special moments, but back on your life in general. What’s worked and what hasn’t. What help have you received, and what stumbling blocks do you keep running into.

Goal setting without reflection will lead to making the same mistakes year after year, It will lead to goals that don’t take into account your strengths and weaknesses. Goals that ignore your habits, routines and default patterns that you find yourself in.

Learn from your experiences. Digest the knowledge you’ve gained in the past year and turn it into actionable wisdom for the future. 

Personally, when I set goals without reflection it leads to a constant pining for that which doesn’t exist yet, and a lack of appreciation for how far I’ve come. It can be a process of unfair self-criticism, which is a problem that doesn’t get solved through achievement or checking all your boxes. 

Reflecting on the ways that the ball has moved forward can give you hope and encouragement for what’s to come. 

Dreaming is the second key process I walk through at the end of the year. What could be? How could life change for the better next year? What special moments could be made? What worthwhile endeavors could be taken on? How could we look back on 2023 and be glad at what we spend out time and attention on? 

I love Zig Ziglar’s “wheel of life” for this step. Split life into 7 segments, and dream big for each one. In one, five and fifty years, what could your spiritual life look like? How could you deepen your social relationships? How could you boost your health, and what would that mean for your life in general? What’s possible in your family? What do you actually want to be doing in your career? What sort of financial situation do you want to be in? 

All of these require habit changes, sacrifice and deliberate action to actually improve. As we dream, we’re thinking about the cost of attaining them. Not to discourage us, but to put each in to perspective. We all would love to have 500 million dollars in the bank and to have a flawless physique that almost never gets sick. But the amount of focus and dedication it takes to accomplish those things are likely not what we are willing to put in, and would probably cause all the other segments of our life to shrivel up. 

Practically, what could your situation look like if you really put things in order and invested dedicated effort? 

And then when you’ve spent time reflecting and dreaming, you can actually begin to write goals that guide your growth. 

Without those two steps, you’ll end up making impulsive goals based on your momentary frustrations, or letting other people make your goals for you. 

And then what sort of goals do you make? You make S.M.A.R.T. goals. Goals that are specific enough to inform your life decisions. Measurable enough to know if you’re actually hitting them or not. Attainable because they’re the right size, and you’ve got all the tools, plans, and resources to make them happen. They’re relevant to your own life because they match the dreams that motivate you and the responsibilities you’ve adopted. And lastly, they’re time-bound with a deadline, and require regular action, whether that’s daily, weekly or monthly.

I’ve got a series of goals for 2023. Most of them are the sort that aren’t helpful to share publicly, but I’ll tell you three of them. 

I want to read through the New Testament three times. These past two years I’ve read through the Good Book cover to cover each year, but this year I’d like to really focus on the life and ministry of Jesus, and the growth and instruction to the church. If you’re a Christian and haven’t read through the Bible all the way through, I would encourage you to put this on your list. It’s about 70 hours on Audible, and you can get the audio and text for free with the YouVersion app on your phone. It should take you about 13 minutes a day if you stretch it out through the whole year, but I’d suggest just going for it and reading it through in a month or two. 

Double my exercise totals from this year. This will be my third year keeping track of my exercise totals. Miles walked/runned, pushups, pullups, jumping jacks, etc. I doubled most of the totals from last year (and certainly doubled the total effort I put in.) I’d like to double it again this coming year. I’m not setting any benchmark goals when it comes to my health. No target body weight or amount I can lift. I’d like to just get the effort in and trust that regular execution will have an effect even if I can’t see it. 

And lastly, I want to write 300 posts on this blog. They won’t all be masterpieces. But I hope that with regular practice I’ll get better at thinking through and expressing what’s most important. I’ll get better at carefully saying true things, and going through the exercise of fully thinking through a topic, instead of leaving it as a vague mess in the corner of the mind. 

What if I don’t reach these goals? What if I fail? The benefit of setting these goals for me is that they target my efforts. If I don’t read through the New Testament twice, and I only exercise just as much as I did last year, and I only make it to 176 blog posts, I’ll still have done far more than I would have just waking up each day and asking myself, “what do you want to do today?” 

I’m pretty sure that goals are good. I encourage you to set some this year. 

Have a wonderful new year. 

005. Will You Be Filled?

Last night, about 15 people from our church walked the streets of the surrounding neighborhood and sang about the birth of Jesus. Over and over, front doors opened to reveal the delighted faces of people who were glad to hear the songs of Christmas.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation… burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Isaiah 52

On Sunday mornings, we’ve unpacking the songs found in the first chapters of the Gospel of Luke. We’ve looked at the songs of Mary and Zechariah, and on Christmas morning we’ll be looking at the Song of the Angels. But there’s a fourth song found in Luke sung by a man named Simeon.

Scripture says he was just and devout, and he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” The Holy Spirit had told this faithful waiter that he would not die until he had seen the Savior.

As Mary and Joseph are taking baby Jesus to the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord in obedience to the Jewish regulations, the Holy Spirit arranges an encounter with this Simeon. Simeon sees the baby, and just as with the other faithful waiters in the previous chapter, Simeon is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to praise and prophesy. He sings:

“My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

He reveals that Jesus is the glory of Israel, but also a light to the Gentiles, who have been grafted into the family of God.

If you’re a Jew, this is good news! Your King has come!

And if you’re a Gentile, this is good news! You are invited into the family of God through the work of Christ!

God loves every nation, tribe and people. Salvation is for absolutely everyone.

“Mary did you know?” Yes. She knew. She heard the songs and prophecies of Gabriel, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, and her husband Joseph. The identity of her child was not a hidden mystery. The Holy Spirit is active and spreading the news through every willing heart.

Do you have a willing heart this season? Will you allow yourself to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to be moved to sing praises and prophetic songs that declare that the King of Kings has come?

004. Apps I Use Every Day

Searching out and trying new apps can be a huge waste of time. Especially when they take so much time to set up and start using well. But finding just the right tool for the job can make things way easier.

Here’s a list of the apps I use on either a daily or weekly basis. Hopefully it will cut out some searching time for you. Are any of these apps needed to live a happy, productive life? Absolutely not. But they do make things incrementally more simple and organized for me.

I should mention, all of these are iPhone apps. I don’t know if there is an Android version for them.

Notes and Documents

Notion – I just discovered notion this year thanks to my friend Kevin Romeo. It’s a note-taking and database app that I’ve started to use as my second brain. I categorize my notes in projects, areas, resources and archives, depending on how often I need them. It’s become my primary way of capturing notes and ideas.

Google Drive – I’ve been using Drive and Google Docs for a decade now. It’s only been this year that I got serious about folders. I went through and deleted a few thousand documents and organized the others into folders that made sense. In many cases I combined the information from several sheets into a single document, and now I’m able to use that information instead of it being lost among the mess. I share music charts with my students by putting them into shared folders and texting them out.

Voice Memos – For songwriting ideas, and vocal exercises for my students. Very helpful to have an easy way to record and send audio quickly. I’ve got about 300 of them sitting on my phone right now that I should weed through soon.


Fons – Probably the most important app I’ve found in the last five years. This app handles all of my music lesson booking and billing. I can send out bulk messages and cancel and reschedule lessons. when needed so easily. My students get text message reminders of lessons, and they can book and reschedule lessons on their own. Every morning I open up this app and just teach the lessons on the calendar. It’s so easy. This has saved me so much time and confusion this year.

Venmo & Cash App – Sending money is way easier now than it was a decade ago.

Social Networks

Facebook & Instagram – With all the time that I’ve wasted on these apps, I’ve wished that I could cut the cord and walk away. But there are a couple of features that are important to me that make these apps valuable, even with the time-drain. Most of my students find out about our lessons and classes through social media, and I want to be able to share and discuss important topics with the community.

To push back against the pull these apps make to dominate my time, I’ve cut down on the number of social networks I use. Facebook and Instagram are pretty much the only ones left. I’ve also unfollowed just about everything, and that’s made the newsfeed either empty or uninteresting enough to remind me that I don’t want to be scrolling.


Audible – My audiobook library has enriched my life so much. I struggle sitting down to read a paper book but I love having my headphones in as I do chores or drive. I’ve reread my favorites over and over as I wait for the monthly credits to drop into the account. And the audio version of the Bible is just 75 hours long. Doable in a year for anyone.

Pocket Casts – I don’t listen to a ton of podcasts, but I’ve gotten through quite a few of the 500 available episodes of The Minimalist podcast. I like that the listening speed on Pocket Casts is in 10% increments, so you can find just the right speed for each show.


BGstats App – I talked about this on my board game recommendation post. I love keeping track of each time we play games together as a family. Finding the next game we want to play is so much easier, since we can look and see what we’ve played recently, and what has been sitting on our shelf for a while.

xkcd: OS – My favorite comic strip. I’ve read all 2707 of them. My kind of humor, and often very educational.


Spotify – You’d think that the music teacher would be the one in the house that uses playlists the most, but my wife actually is the champion of the music in the house. I use Spotify to teach every day though, and having playlists of music for voice, drum, guitar and piano lessons saves a lot of time. I’ve got very few personal playlists. Mostly just one that’s called, “now worship” that includes all the worship music that pushes me towards the Lord for this season of life.

instTuner – Free guitar tuning and pitch pipe app that gets used 50 times a week.

Pro Metronome – Very cheap metronome app that’s surprisingly flexible. This one’s nice because you can save a playlist of tempos to cycle through during an event.

AutoPad – Simple ambient pad loops to use for worship. I would use this more if I could keep track of the silly dongles. I’m still miffed they took the headphone jack away from the iPhone.

There you go! Hope you find a gem.

003. Excuses

My first question at most of my lessons is, “how was practice this week?” The answer to that question usually sets the agenda for our time together. I can help with areas where they got stuck, and we can build on the things that went well.

My music lesson philosophy is that 90% of the learning and growth should happen at home, and not at lessons. I do all I can to aim and accelerate that at-home 90% when the student and I are at our lesson together.

Oftentimes though, practice didn’t happen. And when there was no practice, the students always feel like they need a good excuse.

These students have given me thousands of excuses over the years. My favorites have been:

  • We had our grandparents visit.
  • I left my music sheets in the car.
  • I had a sleepover.
  • We went to the grocery store. (hard to keep a straight face during that one.)

Very rarely does an excuse actually account for the reason that not a single minute of the 10050 that have elapsed since our last lesson was spent in practice. Students have 168 hours each week, and no excuse of “I was too busy” ever actually works. It’s not quite honest.

Honesty would sound like:

  • Circumstances made practice more difficult this week, and I chose not to do the extra work to practice.
  • Every day, it didn’t cross my mind to practice, and I have no systems in place to remind me.
  • I chose 100 other things to do this week instead of practicing.

We don’t like to be honest about our choices, because it lays responsibility on ourselves. We opt instead to blame things we can’t control. “My mom had to run some errands, so she didn’t remind me” is easier to say than, “I chose not to practice.” It’s more comfortable to offload our responsibilities to others.

It makes sense if you’re very young. Nothing is your fault because your life has been other people’s responsibility since you were born. Many of the most laughable excuses I get come from students who are 5, 6 or 7 years old.

“I couldn’t practice because my mom went to the store.” I get it. Your mom is the one who initiates and chaperones your practice, and she didn’t make it happen this week. You, the child, see her doing other things, and assume that’s the reason that you didn’t get reminded and made to do the work.

“I couldn’t practice because I got a new pet frog.” That’s understandable. You don’t have the capacity to remember your commitments, nor the character to be able to switch from something exciting and new, to the boring and difficult. You’re 6 years old for crying out loud.

But being 6 is a temporary situation. If we’re 16 and we give the same excuses as our younger selves, we’re revealing a lot about how we view the world. As we grow up, we’ll either adopt responsibility, or we’ll infantilize ourselves.

The truth is that we, ourselves, are the number one factor when it comes to getting things done or not. A full-force push in the right direction will almost always yield results, however small. But if we drag our feet, and wait for the world to exert painful pressure on us before we make ourselves do the work, in most cases, the work won’t get done. And if work does get done, it will never be anywhere close to our full potential.

Students, you know what’s more important than getting practice done? Maturity.

Maturity is the ability to adopt responsibility. To bear a load that we could otherwise shirk. Maturity is what makes the difference between someone who others can rely on, and someone who cannot be productive unless they’re being dragged along by others.

Mature people are the people who make a real difference in the communities they live in. They are the people that serve as the role models, the life-savers, and the godsends for everyone around them.

Mature people live by adopting responsibility, and then working to fulfill that responsibility even if it means denying the parts of themselves that want to do other things, which it almost always does.

These mature people live for tomorrow rather than today.

They live for others rather than themselves.

And they live for meaning rather than pleasure.

This is the admonition I would like to give all my students who give me excuses that are more immature than their age should allow. Mature. Grow. Carve out more and more responsibility for yourself, and then chase after the character that will allow you to fulfill those self-inflicted obligations.

For most people, the greatest benefit of music lessons isn’t becoming a professional musician or attaining a position at the top 1% of musicians that play their particular instrument.

For most students, the greatest things they get out of music lessons are things like the opportunity to see small personal investments add up to something valuable. And the discipline to repeat something until it’s right. And the ability to adopt the humble position of novice without giving up.

You want to know a secret? It’s ok if you didn’t practice this week. Music doesn’t need to be in your life of top ten priorities in your life. If you chose rest, family, education, exercise, recreation and friendships over music this week, that’s ok.

Just own the decision. Be honest.

And know that this next week, you’ll have another opportunity to live out the list of things that are most important to you. And if music gets put on the back burner again, that’s ok too.

If your half-hour lesson is the only time you want to devote to growing your skills with your instrument, I’m ok with that. I won’t fire you as a student. But I will be honest with you and tell you that you won’t make very much progress week to week. And you might not reach the goals that we discussed when you started taking lessons.

Let me leave you with this, one of the most important things you can do on a daily, weekly and yearly basis is to sit down and write out a list of the responsibilities you’ve adopted and the goals you’ve made, and then to compare that list with a report on how you spend your time.

If those two things look similar, I can almost guarantee that you’ll fulfill your responsibilities, meet your goals, and continue to grow as a person. And if they don’t match, I can almost guarantee the opposite.

And if your list of goals and responsibilities is very small, or difficult to nail down, then adding and editing that list is the biggest next step that you can make to mature and grow as a person.

I love having a front row seat to see students grow and develop. That’s deeply meaningful for me, and it’s one of the great joys of my life.

I wish you well in discovering those things worth investing in with your daily habits and sacrifices.

002. Game Recommendations

As the holidays approach, I’ve been asked to provide some board game recommendations. For the last 5 years, my wife and I have played over 47,000 minutes of games together, spread out across 187 different games. We keep track of every time we play, along with the final score and how many minutes we played.

When it comes to board games, it’s not about the “best game.” While some games are objectively better than others, it’s more about finding the best game for the personality, preferences and mood of the group you’re playing with. So I’m going to offer up a few lists to help you find a great new game for whatever group you find yourself in over the holidays.

2-player games for couples

  1. Fox in the Forest – Two player euchre-like game. Aim to win either most or none of the tricks, but not all of them!
  2. Fox in the Forest Duet – A cooperative version of the previous game. Try to collect all the treasure from the forest by winning the right tricks at the right times.
  3. Hive – Chess with bugs. Surround the other players queen bee while protective your own.
  4. Jaipur – Set collecting game with camels to carry all your goods.
  5. Call To Adventure – My wife likes the character building aspect of the game. Take your hero on adventures to train their skills and gain rewards.
  6. Dice Throne – Battle yahtzee. Use your dice to activate special abilities to smash the other player. The original game had 6 different characters in one box, but now you have to buy them in pairs.
  7. Carcassonne: The Castle – One of the first games we got as a married couple. Compete to see who can profit more from the construction of various districts of the castle.

4-player games for casual gamers

  1. The Crew – Cooperative trick-taking game that gives you missions to complete as a team. This is the game we played the most in 2022. It got played 44 hours with 22 different people. My grandpa likes it. My dad likes it. My brother likes it. My sister likes it. My brother-in-law likes it. My sister-in-law likes it. You get the picture. It’s ridiculously cheap for a game that provides this much enjoyment.
  2. Wingspan – Lay eggs. Gather food. Collect birds. Beautiful artwork. Surprisingly educational too.
  3. Splendor – Buy mines to get gems to buy mines to get gems. Simple and straightforward.
  4. Azul and Sagrada – These games feel very similar to me. You’re drafting tiles or dice to place on your board to score points. My wife likes these better than I do. All together, we’ve played over 20 hours of these games.
  5. Cryptid – Logic puzzle. Everyone has a clue, which together points to a specific location on the board where the mythical creature is hiding. But because we all want to be the first to make the discovery, we have to deduce what everyone else’s clues are, and combine them with our own to guess at the correct spot. One of my all-time favorite games, but it can be a lot to keep track of in your head.
  6. Magic Maze – You’ve got just a few minutes to escape the magic mall. Players can move any piece, but only in the way that’s on their player card. No one player moves pieces north, another south, another player can use escalators, and another player operates the portals.
  7. Photosynthesis – A relaxing game about growing trees in the forest. Or is it? Maybe it’s a cutthroat battle to claim as mush sunlight as you can while you watch your opponents trees wither in the lethal shade? Depends on the mood you’re in when you play, I guess.
  8. Red7 – This is a very quick card game that makes you put your thinking cap on. Compete in an ever-changing competition for the best tableau. If you can’t be on top by the end of your turn, you’re out.
  9. Sonora – this game is currently dominating the flick-and-write board game genre. (Actually, I can’t think of any other games in that category.) Flick your discs onto the board, and use its placement to fill in the right spots on your board to achieve satisfying chain-reactions.
  10. Revolution – A bidding game that I can never seem to win. Claim regions of the game board by having the most supporters in the area. Gain those supporters by buying their loyalty, blackmailing them, or using the threat of force.
  11. Dominion, DC DeckBuilding, Ascension and Fort – All great games that use the same mechanic. Draw cards, use them to buy more cards for your deck.

Larger games for when you have the whole afternoon

  1. Scythe – 2-5 players. It’s like Settlers of Catan’s big brother. My favorite part about the game is that, while there’s always the threat of a battle breaking out and someone stealing all your hard-earned resources, it rarely happens because battles are generally a lose-lose situation for both parties. The artwork is fantastic, and the expansions are super fun. This game originally intimidated me and stayed on my shelf for a year until we finally got it out. The rules are far simpler than it looks.
  2. Terraforming Mars – 2-5 players. Make a handsome profit while gradually make Mars a habitable place to live. I love the slow pace of this game.
  3. Pandemic Legacy – If you enjoy regular Pandemic, this will rock your world. We played through seasons 1, 2, and 0 over the course of a few years with some friends, and it was amazing. You get about 15 games out of each box, and it is an exciting experience. I won’t give any spoilers away, but each round you’re opening sealed envelopes, solving mysteries and uncovering quite the twisted plot.
  4. Honey Buzz – A worker-bee placement game about producing the best honey. Really beautiful game with awesome pieces.
  5. The Captain is Dead – This game always gets our group excited. You feel like you’re living out the last 5 minutes of a sci-fi tv show, the ship is falling apart and the warp core is about to explode, and the aliens are beaming aboard. It has a very pandemic-feel, in that you’re trying to accomplish the overall mission while putting out all the fires that keep popping up.
  6. Root – The cats have always run the forest, but now the eagles are moving into their territory. There’s a growing faction of rodents that are protesting the war, and there’s a raccoon vagabond running around mucking things up. A nice asymmetric battle for control of the forest.

Games for big groups

  1. Codenames and Codenames Duet – Make it your New Year’s resolution to toss the junk party games like Apples to Apples (and all their clones) and to get some actually good games for big groups. Codenames is fantastic for any size group over 6 people. And the duet version can be played with two people, which is neat.
  2. One Night Werewolf – It’s classic mafia, but it’s over in just one night. All the deduction and debate has to happen while a timer’s going, and after that you vote. There’s an app that narrates for you and gives you instructions on what to do, so that everyone at the table can be playing at once.
  3. Bang! The Dice Game – The dice version of this game is so much better than the original. It’s yahtzee cowboys and indians. The sheriff and his deputy need to find out who the outlaws are before they get shot. We’ve played this game with as many as 12 people before.
  4. Patchwork Doodle – A tetris-like “fit the piece in the spot” game for an unlimited amount of players.

Games for kids

  1. Catan Junior – Just like classic Catan, but a little softer on the disappointment.
  2. My Little Scythe – I still can’t believe this exists. I would have never thought when playing regular scythe that it could be a game for kids, but they do a fantastic job. It’s probably the best kids game we own. The kids travel around the board getting into pie fights, upgrading their wagons and collecting trophies.
  3. Race to the Treasure! and Hoot! Owl, Hoot! – Cooperative games for kids. We played these with Esther when she was 4, and it was a good introduction to winning and losing, and playing according to rigid rules.
  4. Tsuro – This is a great game for adults too, but it’s on this list because the rules are simple and the game is short. Place tiles, and don’t let your dragon fall off the edge of the map!

Niche games for weirdos

  1. Vast – Imagine a game where every player has their own very different set of rules to play by, as well as a completely different way to win. One player is playing as the dragon who wants to ascend to the surface and escape the cave. Another player is playing as the knight who wants to kill the dragon. Another player controls a horde of goblins who revere the dragon who want to tear the knight limb from limb. Another player is an immortal thief whose trying to lift a curse. And the last player is literally playing as the cave itself, trying to collapse on all the other players. Lots of pros. The cons are that the rules are hard to teach, because you’re basically teaching five different games to five different players.
  2. Captain Sonar – Best with 8 players. This is classic battleship with two teams of four, each piloting a submarine trying to corner and torpedo the other. The captain navigates the vessel, while the first mate operates the weapons and systems. The engineer makes sure the engine doesn’t explode, and the radio operator is listening in on the other submarine’s transmissions, trying to pinpoint it’s location. I’ve played this game 19 times, and It’s always a blast.
  3. KeyForge – Dueling collectable card game. Similar to other games, except instead of trading individual cards, each deck must stay together. The only reason this is on the list is that I hope someone else gets into the game and comes to play with me.
  4. Twilight Imperium (4th Edition) – The last game I played took 11 hours. It was glorious. Think giant space epic where alien species are battle for control of the galaxy. Lots of diplomacy and bargaining. So. much. content!
  5. Power Grid – Everybody’s dream as a kid was to grow up to operate an electrical grid for the continental U.S., right? This game is a neat economic adventure. Really well put together. Set up like ticket to ride, but built quite a lot deeper than that. Not everybody’s cup o’ tea, but I really like it.
  6. Dead of Winter – For those interested in a cooperative zombie survival game with some neat decision-making and item search mechanics. In about 40% of the games there’s a secret hidden traitor to the group. That possibility puts everyone on edge and makes it hard to fully trust anyone.
  7. Warp’s Edge – This game’s actually a solo board game. You’re flying this spaceship that has the ability to rewind time any time it’s destroyed, and you’re trying to figure out how to survive the fleet of enemy ships that keep attacking. My wife and I actually play this together and try to beat each level as a team.

Games not to buy this year

  1. Apples to Apples – It’s the worst game of all time. Don’t do it. And don’t buy any of the 872 clones of this game too. (I’m looking at you Cards Against Humanity.)

Non-game recommendations

  1. Bgstats app – Hands down my favorite app on my phone. Keeps track of every play in a huge database that spits out beautiful charts and graphs. Because of this app, I’m more likely to remember the great games I own, and choose the right game for each occasion. Totally free, but the paid expansions are worth it. Apple and android.
  2. Card Sleeves – If you like a game, you should take care of it. Sleeves help cards last longer. I’ve got about a dozen of our games sleeved. Dominion, Fox in the Forest, KeyForge, DC Deckbuilding are all protected against spills and general wear and tear. Make sure you get the right size sleeve for the specific card you’re sleeving.
  3. BoardGameGeek – A massive database of every board game that’s ever been created, along with reviews, suggestions, rule clarifications, downloadables, photos, average playtimes… it’s got everything. This is really helpful when you’re trying to get a feel for whether a game is right for you.

As always, the best gift is to actually play with the board gamer in your life. So give me, I mean, them… a call!

001. Speak Up

No lifeguard on duty. Danger high voltage. Beware of dog.

If there’s a physical danger, we put up a sign in bright yellow or orange or red. Reflective, angular with exclamation points. Watch out. Hazard up ahead. Slippery when wet. And in case you don’t get the picture, here’s an image of a stick figure experiencing a gruesome death by blunt force trauma or electrocution.

It’s an act of love to spell out the dangers of certain courses of action. To help others avoid pain and tragedy by pulling the fire alarm, or just a simple, “careful, that plate is hot.”

But as has happened in every arena, what is good is now called evil. And vice versa.

In many cases, the Christian Church has buckled under the pressure to stay quiet. To let the world world without any warning offered.

We’ve developed a fear of saying anything that divides. Which puts us at odds with the Christ that says He came to bring division to the Earth.

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Luke 12

Under the threat of being called judgmental, we’ve zipped our lip. For fear of losing relationships, we’ve edited our gospel. In many circumstances, we’ve begun to convince ourselves that the danger isn’t quite as bad as we had previously thought, and our words of warning probably wouldn’t accomplish much anyways. It’s not worth the risk of losing our accepting reputation.

Christian mothers and fathers need to speak up. Grandfathers and grandmothers in our churches need to tell it like it is. The church needs to deliver the truth clearly and unapologetically.

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. The words we say have the power to shine the light of God onto someone’s life. Ephesians speaks of certain words “giving grace to those who hear.”

What are these words? Truth spoken in love. Gracious words, seasoned with salt. Words that pull people to the Lord. Jesus’s words like, “repent and believe the gospel,” “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” and “the kingdom of God is at hand.”

The main reason the early church martyrs were killed was because they refused to stop preaching. Their message was rejected, and yet they still preached. They were threatened, and yet the word of their testimony was not silenced. They loved not their lives to death.

Is that sort of boldness possible today? Can we have the courage to faithfully deliver the call of Christ to the world, amidst ridicule and accusation?

I’m not talking about shouting “Jesus loves you” in the middle of a crowded movie theater. I’m not saying that every conversation you have with unbelievers needs to be about Jesus.

I’m asking, when it’s time to speak, will we? Scripture calls us God’s ambassadors, who’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, we’ve been employed by the King, and given the mission to plead with those around us, “come back to God!”

Do we plead? Do we even bring it up?

It’s a sin of omission to know we should speak, but instead keep our mouths closed to “keep the peace.” As it says in Ecclesiastes, there’s a time to keep silent, and there’s a time to speak. Will we be able to open our mouths when it comes time?

“Oh, they know what I think…” Do they? Your silence is sending a message about what you believe whether you like it or not. Does the passion, urgency and frequency of your gospel message convey that you think this is a life and death matter?

“It’s not my place…” Are you sure? The Lord’s given you a message and a mission. On judgment day, when you’re standing face to face with Jesus, what will you say that you did with the message of the gospel?

“Unity is the most important thing…” It’s really not. Knowing God is the most important thing.

And unity does not mean that we sweep our disagreements under the rug and act like there’s nothing wrong. Unity means coming together around the thing that unifies us. If that’s not the real gospel of Jesus, we’re in the wrong crowd. The Tower of Babel is a great picture of ungodly unity. And a prophetic picture of the ultimate end such anti-God efforts have.

Jesus shares this parable of good and bad trees:

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12

What’s the fruit that determines the state of our heart? Our words. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

And what will be be judged by? Our words. Were they evil? Were they empty? Was there any truth to them? Or were we just spitting out the lies that the world wants to hear from us?

Here’s the truth:

God is your maker. He made everything that exists. And He made it with purpose and intent. The only way to discover and live that purpose is by living with Him.

God is the righteous judge. He’s going to set things right. And if you’re guilty of breaking any of His righteous laws, then “setting things right” involves your punishment and destruction.

God is love. And in His kindness and mercy, He created a single path that you can take back to Him. That path involves His Son Jesus receiving the punishment that you deserved.

Jesus is the only way. Many will say that this is a “free gift” but the reality is that it’s only free in that the comparison of what we give to what we receive is so out of balance, it might as well be free. But the cost is your life. This is what the way of Jesus looks like:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Mark 8

The way of Jesus means losing your life for the sake of the gospel. And in return, we receive an eternal life that reveals that the life we were living before was actually death.

Speaking up for the gospel is worth it. It’s worth whatever retribution the world throws back. It’s worth the risk of being misunderstood. It’s worth the loss of relationships and the feeling of awkwardness.

Speak up, Church!