The Only Identity You Can’t Lose

Who are you?

That’s a broad question. Perhaps a narrower but maybe not easier-to-answer question is, “Where do you primarily find your identity?”


Here are some options:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Career
  • Wealth
  • Status
  • Power
  • Body
  • Sibling
  • Child
  • Achievements
  • Sexuality
  • Freedom
  • Faith

Every person you know fits into one of those categories.

The problem is, almost all of those identities can be taken from you.

Your spouse can pass away or leave you. Your child, parents, and siblings can and most certainly will, one day die. You can lose your job and your wealth overnight. Your status is always in flux, and likely if you lose your spouse, job, or wealth, you’ll lose your status too.

Your power or influence over others will eventually wane and no matter how much you have, you’ll always want more, as with wealth and status. Your body won’t always look the way it does–gravity is undefeated in that battle–no matter what pop up ads and spam emails say.

Your achievements will dim with time and will become less important. A corrupt government or invading force can axe your freedom. Your sexuality, over time, will impress fewer people and fulfill you less and less, especially in the pursuit of “sexual freedom.”

The single thing identity that can’t be pried away is your faith.

Specifically for Christians, our identity is in Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

We are permanently united to the person of Jesus through saving faith in him. This foundation is unshakeable. His promise is unbreakable.

Death cannot strip this away.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38–39

Jesus has defeated the final enemy. His victory has already been counted and established.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:54

If the Biblical claims and promises of Jesus are true1 it is the only identity worth building your life upon.

But death takes nothing from the one who already has eternal life.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3

Don’t build your life on something uncertain. Don’t live for something that will, in the end, merely fade away. Take hold of the promises that Jesus offers, for death claims everything else.

  1. A big if for many, to be sure. But nevertheless an if worth exploring.


The Challies 2016 Reading Challenge

Want to read more in 2016?

Me too.

One of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, created the 2016 Reading Challenge to give direction to people who want to tackle more books this year.

Here’s a link to the 2016 Reading Challenge. He’s got plans for 13, 26, 52, and 104 books. You can click the image below for a larger view.


I’m currently tackling the 52 book challenge, aiming for a book a week to keep pace.

If your year of reading hasn’t started out how you hoped, never fear! You can start fresh today and still easily tackle 13 or 26 books, or if you’re ready for a quicker pace, you’ll need to read a book a week plus squeeze in an extra seven somewhere along the line.

Instant is in and tweets and status updates are easier to digest because of their low caloric value. But book readers continue to be influencers and leaders because books change and sharpen minds.

I had to do a little retrofitting to make the books I read so far fit this list. It’s going to take more planning going forward to make it all work, so that’s my next task.

Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2016.

Completed in 2016

  1. The Damascus Countdown – Joel Rosenberg The final book in The Twelfth Imam trilogy. My friend Grant got me hooked on Joel Rosenberg, who some call the “modern day Nostradamus.” I’m not sure his interpretations of some biblical prophecies are completely accurate, but he writes captivating Christian thrillers.
  2. The Speechwriter – Barton Swain A hilarious tale of being a speechwriter for former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, you’ll laugh a lot but probably walk away from the inside view of a political office with a more jaded perspective.
  3. The Third Target – Joel Rosenberg From ol’ Joel’s newest trilogy, a first-person perspective of a journalist meeting with leaders of ISIS and navigating reporting on a peace process in the Middle East. One of my favorite Rosenberg books.
  4. Awe – Paul David Tripp – Tripp says our problem with worship is that we aren’t in awe of God and his love for us, so we look to other things (money, sex, relationships, work) for temporary satisfaction. I agree with the premise and recommend the book because I see the battle happening for my awe daily in my own life.
  5. Stuff Matters – Mark Miodownik A fascinating look at the everyday materials that make up our world. Miodownik’s passion for the seemingly mundane (like paper and concrete) help you appreciate the simple stuff we take for granted.
  6. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr A captivating historical fiction novel set during WWII from the perspective of a young blind girl in Paris and an orphan boy in Germany. Doerr crafted some of the most incredibly, descriptive prose I’ve ever read, and the story is a simultaneously heart wrenching and beautiful picture of humanity.
  7. Do Over – Jon Acuff Acuff melds helpfulness and humor in an amazing way. I was highlighting like a madman and note taking nonstop in this book about taking charge of your career, and laughing the whole way through. I’ve already given this one away as a gift.
  8. Fool’s Talk – Os Guiness The great-great-great grandson of the famous brewer helps us think about the role of apologetics and persuasion in evangelism, tackling big objections to Christianity and sharing interesting anecdotes along the way. Fairly intellectual, but a helpful guide on evangelism in a pluralistic, postmodern world.

Currently reading

  • Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith I have a habit for reading books about habits. Goldsmith is an executive coach who helps people who dominate the business world handle that nagging problem of behavioral change, and he only gets paid if they’re successful. Chockfull of “of course!” wisdom on changing habits and behavior, but helpful because of the sheer simplicity.
  • Future Crimes – Marc Goodman We’re currently watching Person of Interest and I’m reading this book, so I’m ready to go off the grid entirely and smash all of my internet-connected devices. A pessimistic but realistic look at the reality of everything being hackable, and what that means in a world of hackers, criminal masterminds, and organized crime. Eye opening and fear inducing, and if you don’t have eternal hope for the future, well, I don’t know how you make it through this one without being entirely freaked out and saddened at the state of our world.


  • A book about Christian living (Awe – Paul David Tripp)
  • A biography
  • A classic novel
  • A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • A book about theology
  • A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • A book your pastor recommends
  • A book more than 100 years old
  • A book for children
  • A mystery or detective novel
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book about a current issue


  • A book written by a Puritan
  • A book recommended by a family member
  • A book by or about a missionary
  • A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr)
  • A book written by an Anglican (Fool’s Talk – Os Guinness)
  • A book with at least 400 pages (The Damascus Countdown – Joel Rosenberg)
  • A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • A book with a great cover
  • A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers (Stuff Matters – Mark Miodownik)
  • A book about church history
  • A graphic novel
  • A book of poetry


  • A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • A book written by an author with initials in their name
  • A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • A book about worldview
  • A play by William Shakespeare
  • A humorous book (The Speechwriter – Barton Swain)
  • A book based on a true story
  • A book written by Jane Austen
  • A book by or about Martin Luther
  • A book with 100 pages or less
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book about money or finance
  • A novel set in a country that is not your own (The Third Target – Joel Rosenberg)
  • A book about music
  • A memoir
  • A book about joy or happiness
  • A book by a female author
  • A book whose title comes from a Bible verse
  • A book you have started but never finished
  • A self-improvement book (Do Over – Jon Acuff)
  • A book by David McCullough
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book about abortion
  • A book targeted at the other gender
  • A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
  • A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

Two Simple Resources for Tracking Bible Reading

Maybe you started the year with a plan to read through the Bible. By now, maybe you’ve fallen behind or you’re contemplating giving up.

Here are a couple resources to make things just a tiny bit easier to follow through on one of the most worthwhile things you can do this year.

1 – Tracking a Reading Plan Across Your iOS Devices

Reading Plan is a free, simple app for starting a bible reading plan. You can customize:

  • the plan you’re using
  • when you started your plan
  • which app the passage will open up in on your device
  • alerts and reminders for reading

 reading plan app 
It’s not the prettiest app, but it gets the job done. 

There are hundreds of plans available to download through the application.

My favorite features are:

  • the ability to mark all days before today as read (great if you’re using the app to track a plan you already started or have been reading but forgot to mark it complete)
  • auto scrolling to the last place you left off

The syncing across iOS devices isn’t speedy, but it works. I’ve used other trackers that have lost my progress and been a pain overall, but Reading Plan has been solid.

2 – Additional Ribbons for Marking Your Physical Bible

I’ve been using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan for the last few years. It’s a 4-chapter per day plan, and each chapter is in a different part of the Bible. I love getting to spend time in different genres and sections of the Word, but it’s a hassle to always flip around in my paper Bible.

Fortunately, I have a smart friend named Big Al who googled “how to add extra ribbons to your bible” and made me an aftermarket ribbon marker and now my Bible looks like this.

 bible with ribbons 
Here’s what you need to make your own:

  • a Bible with a binding (i. e. leather is ideal, but basically not a paperback)
  • ribbon (3 colors, assuming your bible already has 1 ribbon)
  • scotch / clear tape
  • scissors
  • a business card or piece of cardstock paper
  • bonus: a lighter if you’re into fire
  1. Measure your ribbons against your Bible and make them at least 6 inches longer.
  2. Cut the business card to be about 2 inches tall and 1 inch wide.
  3. Tape the ribbons close together / overlapping and side by side, using about an inch worth of tape vertically for extra hold.
  4. Open your Bible and insert the card with ribbons in between the pages and the outer binding, at the spine of the book. You may need to trim your card to get it to fit. You’ll want it to be just smaller than the gap so it doesn’t slide too much.
  5. Stuff the card into that gap, pushing it down at least an inch or two
  6. Cut ribbons to length
  7. Use a lighter to burn the ends of the ribbons so they don’t fray. Use a wet rag to put out the flame if you don’t want to burn your fingers (don’t use the wet rag if you do want to burn your fingers). 

    Here’s a shot of the card sliding into the binding.

    Anything I can do to reduce the friction of actually opening up my Bible is worth that effort.


    Chemex Instructions: The Best Way to Brew Coffee

    The AeroPress was my first love when it came to moving beyond the automatic drip coffee maker. It’s still my favorite way to make coffee when I’m traveling.

    But there’s a new brew method in my life, and we’ve been going steady for nearly two years.

    Meet the Chemex.

    8 cup chemex instructions

    If we were judging brewers by their covers, there’s no doubt the Chemex could win a beauty contest.

    But beyond that pretty hour-glass figure is a simple way to brew the cleanest, most delicious coffee you’ve (likely) every had at home.

    The Chemex is just a fancy pour over (meaning you physically pour water onto the grounds which are in a filter). What makes the Chemex special is its filters. These unique, thicker filters remove any bitterness from the coffee.

    If you’re ready to dive into amazing coffee, you might get held up wondering how to use this thing. Here are my Chemex instructions for how to brew and what equipment you need.

    How much coffee do I use?

    The magic formula for us is using 20 grams of water for every 1 gram of coffee beans / grounds. That’ll give you nice-tasting, not-too-bold, not-too-watery coffee. If you’re looking for something stronger, try a 15:1 ratio of water to coffee.

    We have an 8-cup Chemex (with the wood collar, naturally) but we normally just brew 35 grams of coffee (700 grams of water) which produces 3 mugs full of coffee (2 for me and 1 for my more caffeine-sensitive wife).

    What temperature of water?

    Start with 195° Fahrenheit for my American friends or 90.5° Celsius for the rest of the galaxy.

    Depending on the surface you put your kettle on, the temperature will start dropping rapidly. You can keep the kettle on a burner to keep it warm, or just pour quickly (but not too quickly, noted below).

    How Should I Put in the Filter?

    I’m glad you asked.

    You should wet the filter (I just swish it under running water) and center the side of the filter with 3-folds directly over the lip where the coffee pours out.

    Lots of people complain that the Chemex hiccups (and I did too!) until some genius on the Internet mentioned that if you put the 3-sided part of the filter over the pour spout it leaves a gap for air to release. Surely this was done by design, so that pour spout is also an air escape.

    How much water should I add at a time?

    With the first pour, if you’re using freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee, the coffee should bloom (i.e. puff up). I normally start with 150 grams, and once the bloom collapses a bit and the water has mostly dripped through, I add 150–200 grams of water at a time.

    If you add a bunch of water all at once (say 400+ grams), your coffee will probably taste murky, like you just found it in a closet of your grandma’s mothball-ridden clothes. I’ve done that on more than one occasion and basically cried the rest of the day.

    Don’t get too zealous with your pouring. It’ll ruin everything.

    How long does it take and in what order should I do everything?

    The entire process, with heating your water (mega fan of the electric kettle, which makes things much quicker), grinding coffee, and adding water should take about 15 minutes. The process is mostly dependent on how quickly the water heats up and how much coffee you’re brewing.

    I do things in this order:

    1. Heat the water in (electric) kettle
    2. Measure whole beans on a scale
    3. Grind the beans coarsely
    4. Wet the filter and put in Chemex
    5. Add coarse coffee to Chemex
    6. Check temperature of water and begin adding when it hits 195°
    7. Add water 150 – 200 grams at a time
    8. Drink like a champion

    What grind of bean should I use?

    Medium-coarseness is ideal.

    If it’s too fine, your coffee will turn to mud in the filter and get clogged and taste awful.

    If you use coffee that is too coarse, the water will drip through too quickly and the coffee won’t have much taste.

    Adjust accordingly.

    What equipment do I need?

    These five items are listed in order of importance. Picking them all up will set you back around $215, which is no tiny investment.

    I suggest getting started with the Chemex and filters along with a kitchen scale, so that you can accurately brew. That combination will set you back $90, assuming you already have a way to heat water via a standard tea kettle or electric kettle, and you’ll have to grind the beans at the store or shop you purchase them in.

    Chemex and Filters

    Surprisingly, if you want to use a Chemex, you need to have one in your possession.

    For $70 you can snag the classic 8-cup Chemex (for the thirsty / party people out there) and a pack of 100 filters.

    It’s way cheaper to buy filters at a local hipster coffee joint (normally around $10 / box of 100) or World Market (shocking, right?). Amazon, for some reason, rarely has fair prices for filters.

    If we’re getting particular, I like the square unbleached filters because they look cooler and are easier to grab and chuck in the trash when you’re done brewing.

    Chemex Bundle: 8-cup Classic Glass Coffeemaker and 100 Circle Filters for $69 at Amazon

    Chemex 8-cup Coffeemaker for $60 at Amazon

    100 Square Non-Bleached Filters for $18 at Amazon

    Kitchen Scale

    eat smart kitchen scale
    To start, hands down, you 100% should buy a cheap kitchen scale. It will take your coffee game to the next level overnight.

    Any scale with a decently wide base will do–just make sure the Chemex can rest safely on it. I also prefer a scale that measures in grams, but hey, whatever mass-measuring system that floats your boat will do. The 8-cup Chemex fits perfectly on the EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale.

    EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale $20 at Amazon


    weber thermometer
    This may seem silly, but burning your coffee is easy to do. Please, for the love, don’t pour boiling water over your grounds. That’s just wrong.

    This $10 Weber one has served us well, but be careful not to submerge it fully under the water.

    As a bonus, it works as a meat thermometer too.

    Weber 6492 Original Instant-Read Thermometer $10 at Amazon

    A Burr Grinder

    burr grinder
    Fancy burr grinders can set you back hundreds. If you want to start with a more reasonably priced grinder and you’re not afraid to use a little elbow grease, this $22 Hario hand grinder will get you going.

    We’ve been using this low-end1Cuisinart Burr Grinder for years. It’s not good enough for a coffee shop or espresso, but for the Chemex you’ll be just fine.

    Hario Coffee Mill (Hand Crank) $22 at Amazon

    Cuisinart Burr Grinder $65 at Amazon

    Gooseneck Kettle

    Hario Gooseneck Kettle
    For just over $40 you can add the most unnecessary yet somehow life altering tool to your coffee crafting collection: a gooseneck kettle.

    Most kettles have a normal spot and pour from the top, meaning you end up with about half of the water you brewed on the floor, counter, and your toes (if you brew barefoot).

    The Gooseneck, like a gentleman and a scholar, has an appropriately named gooseneck spout that pushes the water from the bottom of the kettle so you can pour like a decent human being, not wasting a drop of your perfectly brewed water and being able to properly wet all of the grounds in your Chemex evenly and fairly, without discrimination.

    Hario V60 Gooseneck Kettle for $42 at Amazon

    Wrapping Up

    It’s a big step forward to dive into a coffee apparatus that takes more time than a standard automatic coffee maker or, heaven forbid, a Keurig. But the Chemex process is a delightful one and your taste buds (and friends you share with) will undoubtedly thank you for it.

    Barebones Chemex Equipment ($90)

    All-In Chemex Equipment Setup ($206)

    Simple Chemex Instructions and Recipe

    20:1 ratio, water to coffee | 195° F brew temperature | 3 cups = 35 grams of coffee grounds and 700 grams of water

    1. Heat the water in (electric) kettle
    2. Measure whole beans on a scale
    3. Grind the beans coarsely
    4. Wet the filter and put in Chemex
    5. Add coarse coffee to Chemex
    6. Check temperature of water and begin adding when it hits 195° F
    7. Add water 150 – 200 grams at a time, using a ratio of 20 grams of water to 1 gram of coffee grounds
    8. Drink like a champion

    1. as far as burr grinders go


    The Simplest Way to Create a Graphic With Text Overlay on iOS

    At some point, nearly everyone needs to make a graphic. There are countless tools for adding text to an image. Photoshop and Pixelmator give you tons of options and range in difficulty of use, but for an on-the-go, simple app, Typorama is unbeatable.

    typorama logo

    In fact, I own multiple design programs but often reach for Typorama because it’s so fast and simple. It creates images as good or better than what I would on a computer in less time.

    When you open the app, you’re brought to the main screen which prompts you to choose a background and displays free-to-use images (using Pixabay as a database) along with a search bar. You can peruse the near-endless list of images by scrolling down, or you can search for an image type of your choice.

    typorama main screen

    If you aren’t looking for a specific image to put your text over, scrolling is a great start. These images seem to be curated based on the quality and popularity.

    You can also import your own images and slap some text on it.

    Here’s what I love about that app that sets it apart from others:

    • free-to-use, integrated image search
    • custom options for sizes optimized for Instagram, Facebook, iPhone wallpapers, and more
    • 30+ included text / font styles for overlaying on your image
    • fine tuning tools for image adjustments–filters, overlays, color enhancements and every color you’d hope for with a color picker for text
    • Text tools to easily 3D rotate the text to have it align with an object in the photo to create a multi-dimensioned look
    • An eraser feature to make it look like the text is behind a portion of the image

    Here’s an example of one of my favorite uses of Typorama, utilizing the eraser tool for added depth.


    Check out their Instagram feed to see the magic people are creating with Typorama.

    What makes Typorama special is that it’s simple, speedy, and makes a person without design skills look like a pro.

    With font options like Cutesy, the app doesn’t exactly scream masculinity, but there are plenty of options for whatever style of image you want to create.

    I sometimes use Typorama in conjunction with another design program. I’ll create the text overlay using the transparent option (the first option when you open the app), save it, and email it to myself to do more design work on my computer.

    My biggest gripe is that there isn’t a way to save images and go back and edit the text style later. Once you leave the image you’re working on to go to another, you can’t go back and tweak the text–you’re stuck recreating from scratch.

    A quick tip: each font or text style has multiple options for how it will display, so each time you click on the same font, you’ll get a slightly different design style.

    I’d love to be able to fine tune the styles more, but simplicity beats customization here.

    I most commonly use the app to create lock screens with verses on it. My wife designed the first image and the second I slapped together in less than a minute.

    The app is free but displays a Typorama watermark without an in-app purchase of $2.99. That in-app purchase unlocks all text styles and the watermark designer.