Gift 42 – Confession


Confession is a gift, a way of setting yourself before God’s holiness for untangling.  John the Baptist calls us to “keep with repentance.” In part, I believe this means inviting the posture of confession into every act and attitude so that the seed of God’s Word may send its roots down deep into well-tilled soil.

I scribbled a short confession last night after spending a few hours learning from an Anglican priest.  He spoke a lot about “the rule of life” and demonstrated a powerful focused-ness on Christ, as though he was just a spoke revolving around a center.  Being exposed to this kind of life stung like salt water in an open cut.  The prayer below was the result of the healthy stinging.

I pray that you would learn to love confession as a way of opening your little hands to the grace of God.


I confess my idolatrous pace,
my resistance to Your rhythms,
my tangled heart and mind.
You want to speak; I say You’ll have to yell over the crowd.
You want to move; I am not good at this dancing.
You want to heal; I desperately cover the wound.
I fear You have become a footnote in my day, and therefore my days, and therefore my life.
I fear You have become a heartless habit before meals, a line before bed.
I fear You are one of many tabs.
You say to take off my shoes, but I know nothing of Sacred.
You say to receive, but I am too production-oriented for Your Sabbath gifts.
You say to speak, but I still microwave my prayers.
But I have seen You in Your sanctuary
and beheld Your power and Your glory.
Because Your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify You.

Gift 33 – Blessing


“Wow…I mean [deep breath]…wow.”

Those were my first and only words for about ten minutes after Amanda told me she is pregnant. Now that the idea of becoming parents has had time to sink in, I’ve decided to better organize my thoughts into a blessing for our future son or daughter.

Historically, and still today in many cultures around the world, a paternal blessing is an essential ingredient for a child’s growth and flourishing. Perhaps the importance of such a blessing is even more evident by its nonexistence in this culture in which 63% of youth suicides, 71% of pregnant teens, 90% of all homeless and runaway teens, and 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes*. In his interview with Christianity Today, Bill Glass (pro football player and founder of the prison ministry Champions for Life) speaks of the importance of a Father’s blessing. “It’s got to be said out loud. It’s got to be stated.”

So here’s my attempt at a blessing for you as you grow, Little One. The language of it feels almost out of place in a world in which so little is sacred, but these words represent my heartfelt prayer for you to walk a path that goes beyond the expectations of your culture, up into the high, green country of life to the fullest where Jesus leads those who surrender to his love.

May you be a rebellious citizen of light
in the dominion of darkness.
May you be a vision of Resurrection Life
in the Valley of Dry Bones.
May you be an Easter-hopeful traveler
on the long road to Emmaus.
May you be a joyful Sabbath child
in the chaos of ten thousand tabs.
May you be a bread-and-wine kind of worshiper
in the trend of fast-food feelings.
May you be a beacon of “foolish” integrity
in the Big Business of underhanded dealing and compromise.
May you be an instrument of grace
in a world of scorekeeping, sin counting, and wrong weighing.
May you be an agent of peace
in a world ravaged by war.

May you care deeply.
May you be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a friend to those in need—may you take up the case of strangers in the land (Job 29).
May your heart break for what breaks His.

May you trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him (Prov. 3).
May you chase after understanding as one runs after riches (Prov. 3)
May you rise early to seek wisdom and choose her over beauty (Wisdom of Solomon 6 & 7).

May God’s intimate friendship bless your house (Job 29).
May you love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6).
May you seek first his kingdom and his righteousness so that your delight may be in Him (Matthew 6 & Psalm 37).

May you hate what is evil, cling to what is good (Romans 12).
May you be an inconvenience to the wrongdoer, an opposition to oppression, and an enemy to injustice.
May you deal gently with the broken.

May you have open ears and a hesitant tongue (James 1),
May you serve eagerly.
May you be a good character in a great story.

May you be curious and inquisitive, asking tough question.
May you love learning,
May you listen well.

May your heart be a tree planted by streams of water,
a well tended garden,
freshly tilled soil,
a deep, pure well,
a tall glass of grapefruit juice.

By his light may you walk through darkness,
By his Word may you hear his voice,
By his glory may you fear his Name,
By his table may you find your sustenance,
By his rebuke may you recognize his affection,
By his love may you know his embrace,
By his Church may you discern your purpose,
By his Spirit may you live each day.

When you come to a fork in the road…
May you pray earnestly, choose wisely, and go boldly.

When you wrong others…
May you sincerely feel remorse, humbly seek forgiveness, and wholeheartedly pursue reconciliation.

When you are wronged…
May you remember your own wrongs, forgive fervently, and move on freely.

When you meet challenges…
May you assess yourself meekly, persevere stubbornly, and overcome honorably.

When you wake each morning…
 May you bathe wholly in God’s love, to heal all your wounded places, cover all your naked places, and strengthen all your weak places. 

And when you are tired and ready…
 May your mourning turn to dancing, your sorrow into laughter, and your death into resurrection.

*John Sowers, The Fatherless Generation. pg. 36-37

Gift 32 – Learning as Play

Making goofy videos like the one below might seem a bit…pointless.  Especially when you consider the papers that need grading, the lesson that need tweaking, and the endless flow of emails that need responding.  So why take all the time to make a silly rap video?

I really believe that teachers are teaching more than just their content area.  The way we talk about the new things we’re learning, the questions we ask, the ways we respond to the ups and downs of life–these life-postures and attitudes are teaching, too.  Maybe students need to see their teachers loving learning and having fun in their content area before they can learn to do the same.  Though growth requires hard work and discipline, education also must be playful if teachers and students alike are to maintain a sense of joy, wonder, and discovery.  So here’s a peak at the H.C. Bible department at play…


Bible Department Rap from Holland Christian Schools on Vimeo.

Gift 28 – To Join the Conversation

Turn on the T.V., open your computer, or visit your local…pretty much anywhere there’s people, and it won’t take you long to find conversations unfolding about controversial topics.

“What do you think about immigration?” Or, “What’s your view on homosexuality?”

These conversations in particular (among others) are in the spotlight almost daily—and everyone seems to have an opinion. But before you jump into the dialog, I want to suggest 9 requirements that must be true before you speak, or rather, 9 red flags: sure signs that you are not ready to join the conversation.

1. If you’re joining a discussion out of a motivation to “win,” then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

2. If all your thoughts can be summarized in 140 characters or fewer, you’re probably not ready to be a part of the conversation.

3. If you’re comfortable hearing only one side of the argument, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

4. If you think you have an easy or simple solution to a complex issue, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

5. If you are quick to speak but slow to listen, then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation (James 1).

6. If you haven’t yet considered whether your opinion could possibly be wrong, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

7. If your heart is not burdened to the point of sacrificial action on behalf of those to whom the “issue” relates, then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

8. If you haven’t yet empathized with multiple perspectives on a given issue, or put yourself in the opposing “side’s” shoes, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

9. If you don’t yet have love for your enemies or you haven’t yet taken the time to pray for those of an opposing viewpoint—and not just for them to change their minds—then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation (Matt. 5).

If after satisfying all 9 requirements you still hold the same perspective, great. Wonderful. To be clear, my intention isn’t necessarily to change your beliefs or opinions by considering these warnings; rather, to ensure that any conviction you might have is rooted in compassion (John 8:1-11). It is important to remember that you can have a “correct opinion” or a “right stance,” but without the humble posture of a servant you will be wrong every time. Christ emptied himself and came to his enemies as a servant (Phil. 2, Rom. 5); do not think you are above doing the same.

Do I have thoughts on immigration policy or on the topic of homosexuality? Yes, I do. Are my beliefs simple enough to boil down to a mere “for” or “against,” or a slogan on a bumper sticker? I’m afraid not.

The homosexuality debate suddenly becomes just a little more complex when you’re sitting across from a mother whose son took his own life after begging God for years to change the way he feels. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the words of a woman I once met: “One night it was raining and I couldn’t find him [her son] anywhere. Finally I found him laying in the soccer field behind our house, sobbing uncontrollably because he felt stuck and didn’t know what to do.”

Immigration becomes more than an “issue” when you consider what kind of conditions could make a mother so desperate that she would send her child a thousand miles on the top of a truck, or across a dangerous desert, just to find a new place to live.

And while many have pointed out that the emotional appeal of an issue doesn’t dictate whether something is right or wrong, the human element can, and must, influence our posture as we seek and teach Truth, knowing that human beings are involved. It might not always change what we believe, but it has to change how we think about and treat people. If these conversations truly are attempts to get closer to the Truth, then we would do well to remember that Truth is a person, a being. When Jesus said, “I am the Truth,” he made it relational; he made it personal.

We live in a broken place, and everyone hurts. Things have gotten messy on political levels, social levels, and personal levels, and we’re sitting in the middle of it. We are all called to repent. We are all in need of grace. No one is completely right except Christ, and his company cannot be joined without great humility and grace. Hurting human beings are involved on every side of every issue, which means there is no room for cruelty, thoughtlessness, carelessness, or pride in the conversation. On the contrary, these discussions need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and so must be founded in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal. 5).

All opinions, judgments, or decisions from the Church relating to homosexuality must come from Christ’s own Body lying in the grass next to the young man sobbing in the rain. Every opinion, judgment, or decision from any other place will most Henry_Thomas_Bosdet_painting_of_Jesus_before_his_crucifixion_3certainly be the wrong one. And all opinions, judgments, or decisions regarding immigration must come from Christ’s own Body—the ultimate refugee—who knows what it is to be mocked, protested against, rejected, spat upon, and exiled to a cross. Every opinion, judgment, or decision from any other place will most certainly be the wrong one. Yes, we will talk, and we will debate, and we will go to the Bible, but our stance must become and remain prostrate.

And after prayerfully concluding on what is permissible and what isn’t, what is pursuable and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t, we must never forget that it is the duty of the Church to shoulder the load, whatever it may be, alongside those who are called to walk with Christ (Matt. 23). So if you’re not ready to carry another’s burden, you’re most certainly not ready to join the conversation.


Gift 26 – There is a River


In one of the most underrated Biblical texts, the prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of water coming from the temple in Jerusalem, the place where God lives. The small stream flows east, and as it travels becomes wider and wider, deeper and deeper. Ezekiel walks in the current until it becomes too deep, when “the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.” As the river continues to flow east, fruit bearing trees spring up on either side because of the fresh, life-giving properties of the water.

Ezekiel watches in amazement as the torrent floods into the most unlikely of places: the Dead Sea. Because of its high salt content, the Dead Sea is notoriously barren (I mean it’s called the Dead Sea after all). No fish. No life. Not even seaweed.

But something extraordinary happens when the river from the temple crashes into the lifeless seawater. “When it empties into the sea, the salty water becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live” (Ezk. 47:8-9).

What does this all mean? It’s important to know that visions, like poems from high school English class, can have multiple layers of meaning and often use pictures and places as symbols. And while I do not want to be disingenuous to the original context and meaning of Ezekiel’s vision—a message of hope and life for a captive Israel—this particular revelation is a testament not just to what God would do with his captive people, but what he has been doing all along: bringing life to dead places. This is God’s specialty.

In the very beginning God burst into the chaotic emptiness with a declaration of life—“Let there be light!” he said to the void, and there was light. All throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God rushes into dead places—the barrenness of Abraham and Sarah, the brokenness of Jacob and his family, the suffering enslavement of thousands in Egypt, the hopelessness of a people carried off to Babylon, the frustration of rebuilding a city that has been destroyed—and every time He brings life into a seemingly hopeless situation. And of course, in the gospels God plunges once more into the depths of the grave, the ultimate “dead place”, only to arise victorious over death itself.

But guess what—God’s not done. He is still charging into the dead places of the world: places of despair and deprivation; injustice and pain; dead cities and nations, dead communities and relationships, dead homes and dead hearts. And he is still bringing life. This is the mission of God.

To restore,

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ to revive,

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ to refresh,

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ to renew.

The only thing left to uncover from Ezekiel’s vision is what exactly does the water represent? Some have argued that the river is a picture of God’s people, called to join in mission of the Lord. Others suggest that the life-giving tide represents God’s own Spirit overflowing the temple walls and going out into the world. But which is it?

The answer—Yes.

You are invited to join the people of God, filled with the spirit of God, to carry out the mission of God in bringing life to dead places. There is no higher calling than to join this rumble and flow of the thundering river of life.

More to come on what this looks like…