Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (4)

This past summer I watched some of the soccer games played in the World Cup 2014 and I kept seeing the statue of Jesus above Rio de Janeiro and the soccer stadiums. It made me think about peace amidst the chaos. What a beautiful picture for this blog series.

What the Spirit wants to do in us, is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let's take a look at peace. The peace the Bible talks about in this scripture is not necessarily the absence of war, but peace despite the war. Not a superficial peace, but an inner peace that surpasses all understanding. Where can we find such peace? Such peace comes from Jesus Himself, it is a peace He likes to give to all people... but do we want to receive it from Him?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Often we are willing and eager to try whatever it takes (therapy, pills, counseling, meditation etc.) but not the one thing the Prince of Peace promises. Often we have more confidence in our secular methods and doctors than in God Himself. But He is the one that promises peace, a peace that will break down all barriers, all walls and all animosity. Yes, also in the Middle East.

This summer the Elav Conference took place again, in Israel. Jews and Arabs came together to pray in the name of Yeshua and to pray for the peace in their nation (yes, amidst the chaos), which will start with peace in the hearts of the people! (See this awesome clip from last year's conference)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (3)

How would people recognize you as a Christian? Do your friends, colleagues and enemies know what you stand for? Critical question to ponder this coming week.

As Christians we are not being recognized by our clothes, a cross around our neck or a Bible under our arm. No, we should be recognized by the fruit that God produces in our life. The first proof that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a believer, is that He will begin to produce godly character (fruit) in us, so we will become more like Christ. If there is no fruit, it is not reasonable to call ourselves Christians.

The fruit is Gods character in us and thus not be confused with human virtues (because they can be learned and adapted). What the Spirit wants to do in us is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Let's take a look at joy.

Joy is supernatural fruit that God wants to bring forth in and through us. This is not about being happy because something good is going on, or because someone is being nice to us. This is not about pleasure or having fun or enjoying something or someone. Being happy, enjoying ourself and having fun... there is nothing wrong with that, but happiness depend on happenings and it can disappear as fast as it came (for example, if something goes different than we expected or when trouble shows up).

The joy that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is joy despite trouble. It is joy despite pain. I am thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Christians that are currently being persecuted around the world. They are being beaten, tortured and even killed. Churches are being burned to the ground everywhere and people are on the run with nowhere to go. Yet, sometimes we hear reports (through Open Doors for example) that they somehow experience divine joy in their hearts. Two thousand years ago it was no different: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

The joy that the Spirit wants to grow in us, is joy despite worries, sickness, poverty, violence and wars. I am not sure whether in the West we know what that really means, maybe one day we will learn...

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (2)

A few weeks ago we had a discussion in our Wednesday night small group about the human nature. The Bible says every person is born with a sinful nature. Mankind is not righteous by nature, even though some people might be super sweet and loving. Sorry...

(Love, that's what this blog post is all about)

Quite simply said, sin came into the world through Adam and Eve and righteousness came into the world through Jesus. Romans 5:19 says it like this: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

That is, in short, the good news. Guilt and shame can be replaced with freedom! In the previous blog post we have seen what human nature produces... a lot of bad stuff. However, what the Holy Spirit wants to bring forth is very beautiful: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The first sign that the Holy Spirit lives in us, is that He will start to produce godly fruit (character) in our life, so we begin to look more and more like Jesus. That fruit is Gods character and thus not to be confused with human behavior or virtues (which can be learned and adapted). Let's take a look at love, which is mentioned first.

Love. What comes to mind when we think about love? Being nice to one another, tolerance, being in love, parental love...? We are often inclined to think about human love here (as in relationships, humanism, charity or eros), but Galatians 5:22 talks about supernatural love. That is not a feeling or a thought, that is a decision. That is the most beautiful and most difficult love that exists, that is:
  • loving your enemies
  • loving those that persecute you
  • loving until death
It is therefore not a fruit we can produce by trying hard, by doing all that we can. It is a fruit that will grow when we give the Holy Spirit room to change our heart.

Go ahead, ask God: Lord, teach me to love the ones that are unlovable, the ones I struggle with. That prayer will change your life!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (1)

Summertime, when the living is easy... remember that song? Summertime, when bloggers contemplate a writing break. Yeah, me too; but today I decided not to do it. There are two simple reasons for that decision; 1) on some continents it is wintertime and 2) for many people the living is not so easy.

In the upcoming weeks I will share a new blog series on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Basic stuff, short posts, straight to the point, practical and simple. It might be a good series to share with new believers or family/friends who have questions about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Who knows, it may turn out to be great conversation starter!

The Holy Spirit comes and lives within people who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was raised from the death. The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin and points the way to the Truth. Besides that, one of the first things He will start doing once He takes up residence in someone, is producing fruit or producing godly character. He will do this so we can become more and more like Jesus Christ.

Why is it necessary to become more like Jesus? We're already pretty nice people, aren't we? Well, sorry... but our human nature brings about many bad things. The headlines confirm this every day. The Bible says it like this: The acts of the flesh [human nature] are obvious: sexual immorality impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21).

Ouch, that is not a nice list. Thank God, the Bible does not stop there. Verse 22 says: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

About that fruit (with nine different tastes) I will write in the next nine blog posts, beginning with LOVE.

Will you join me on this journey?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The journey...

A few years ago my husband and I started a non-profit organization called Traveling Light. Whenever we can, we travel all over Europe and the Mediterranean to visit Christian drugs- and alcohol rehabilitation centers, struggling churches, small-scale organizations etc. etc. We simply offer encouragement in forms of practical help, financial support and spiritual encouragement.

The other day I was reading (again) in Lynn Austin's book Pilgrimage, and I was touched and encouraged by the following paragraph, which really made me think. I hope it will stir up your thoughts as well:

'It might be our natural tendency to build impressive monuments for Christian ministry, but it isn't God's way. We are supposed to go out into the world, not wait for the world to come to us, even if God has to turn our comfortable lives upside down to get us to do it.
I'm told that in the original Greek language, the wording of Jesus' Great Commission reads: "As you are going into the world... make disciples." Jesus assumes that we will be going; His orders are to make disciples along the way. When He sent His disciples out two by two to teach in all of the villages, He didn't tell them to buy a chunk of land and build an impressive building. He said, "Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts" (Mark 6:8). I call that traveling light.
Jesus wanted them to trust God and the Holy Spirit's leading, not build elaborate projects and programs and ministries.'

Sometimes I wonder what Christianity in the Western world has become... We are often really busy maintaining our buildings and ministries, which leaves no time for the journey...
I truly believe we have to go back to the simplicity of the assignment we have received as Christians: making disciples along the way, no matter whether our journey is local, national or international.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Life on the couch?

On rainy days like today, I enjoy reading through old journals... just to measure my spiritual growth and development. I came across a page where I had written with big letters:

I cannot live a godly life on automatic pilot

I wrote it in a period of my life where I became aware of the talents and passions God had planted in my heart.

Talents and passions that need to be worked out and exercised and that will keep me from spending a life on the couch.

I wrote it down long before Twitter became popular, but I think it makes a cool tweet, don't you?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Peace in a world of violence

This past week I emailed back and forth with a Spanish publisher regarding my book Grace of Giving. That's always fun and exciting. Just thinking about the new readers I will reach with this message of generosity makes me jump for joy.

A few years ago, while working on my book Grace of Giving, I studied the parable of the good shepherd in John 10 extensively and ultimately John 10:10 became the foundation scripture for the book. While studying however, my attention was also drawn to John 10:9. Jesus says there: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

For the longest time I wondered about the coming in and going out. Once we belong to Jesus and have entered his Kingdom, who wants to go back into the world? With Him, without Him, going in and out, that would be stupid, right? That would be like the ancient Israelites wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt for the simple reason that the meat was better there! No, the going in and out had to be about something else.

Jesus is the gate to eternal life and we can only enter through that one gate; which certainly narrows our choices down! We will come in, that is: we will enter his Kingdom, a spiritual realm where God's will is being done. The Bible says the Kingdom cannot be seen, but it is within reach or within us (Luke 17:21). We will go out, that is: into the world. We are not of this world, but we still live in it! And then... we will find pasture!

Wow, we will be able to find green pastures and quiet waters amidst the trouble and turmoil in this world (Psalm 23). That is a very comforting thought. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. It is possible to enjoy safe pasture despite all the unrest in this world, despite all the bad news and the uprisings, despite political and economical unstability.

We have to trust God to provide that safe pasture for us. We must not engage in negative talk about this world but continue to proclaim His promises and bless all people! Jesus said in John 16:33, In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world! Take heart! Be encouraged! The world cannot invade the Kingdom, but we must bring the Kingdom into the world and share our peaceful and safe pasture with others, so they will get a glimpse of what a life with Jesus is all about!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Writer's muse

Due to lack of inspiration for a quick blog post (which none of you suffer from, I suppose), I rummaged through the bins of the past and came upon something I wrote many years ago, just after finishing my first book (how interesting)...

When He spoke, the world was created. You can find those words in Psalm 33:9. Besides the world, He created you and me and He embedded His creating power in us (by giving us His Holy Spirit). That is why we love to build, design, fabricate and invent. That is why we love to write!

Never before would I have thought it possible to write so much about just two verses in the Bible, like I did in Sacred Sabbath. It tells me something about the enormous impact of God's words. If just two verses give enough inspiration for a book, just imagine how many books are hidden in the Bible! People get inspired every day, all over the world, when reading God's word.

Think again about that word 'inspired', it means in-spirit. I don't get inspired because I am so good and wonderful, it is because the Spirit is alive in me. He shows me things I simply could not see before. Reading God's word must be like being with Jesus. The gospel of John ends with these words: Now, there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written!

Wow, I am looking forward to endless inspiration! Isn't that every author's dream?

PS: Are you sometimes looking for inspiration in the weirdest places?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pros and cons of FB pages

Back in 2006 (yeah, when I started this weblog) my first book in the Ten Commandments Series was released: Sacred Sabbath. It was basically a book about time management: taking a day of rest after every six days of work.

Not too long ago I was reading through that book again and while making notes I was amazed at how timely the message still is in 2014. So... (and this is how my mind works) I decided to make a Facebook page for this book series. Not just for the latest or upcoming one, but for the whole series!

The downside: I gotta bother my friends (you!) to like the page. The upside: it is a great way to give away snippets and one liners for friends to share and tweet. As more and more books are being translated in different European languages I tend to 'neglect' my English speaking audience... (forgive me). So I thought FB would be an easy way to stay connected, even if we miss each other's blogs every now and then :)

So, I hope you will visit the Facebook page and I would be honored to receive your LIKE.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Born again ABC (5)

In the previous blogs on the subject of being born again, we have seen that the Bible clearly speaks about two different kind of births. The spiritual birth is not the same as the natural birth. But, why is it necessary for a human to be born again, or: to become spiritually alive?

The fact that we need to become spiritually alive, implicates that by nature we are spiritually 'dead'. In Colossians 2:13 we can read: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. The Bible speaks about living people who are 'dead' because of their sins.

Being not physically, but spiritually 'dead' means there is a barrier between man and God. Ephesians 2:1 (Good News translation) says it like this, In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. Sin stands between God and mankind and makes us spiritually dead for communication with Him. I always had trouble accepting this, I used to believe in the goodness of mankind. But one look at today's headlines tells me the opposite is true.

It is easy to see this in little children, we must teach them to do GOOD, the bad comes naturally. Every human being is born with a sinful nature. Kind David wrote: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5). This is why we all need to be born again! This is why we need to accept the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers, and turn our back to sin.

There is so much more to be said about the born again experience, about the new life that we can receive, but the most important thing is to admit that we need it! Why not accept what He wants to give us (Ephesians 2:5): to be alive with Christ! That acceptance is the most important decision we can make in our entire life.

Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for other believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart. For through the living and eternal word of God you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal, not mortal (1 Peter 1:22-23)

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Born again ABC (4)

When reading through the previous blog posts on this subject, it turns out that the term 'born again' is not as strange as many people think it is. The Bibles speaks about it in several places.

That the term being born again raises curious questions is understandable. It is after all something we cannot really grasp with our human (limited) mind. Even a scholar and learned man as the Jewish leader Nicodemus didn't understand it: How can someone be born when they are old? Nicodemus asked. Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born! (John 3:4). I do learn from his question that being born again happens at a later point in life. This can be when we're 10, 20, 30 or 80, it doesn't really matter.

Nicodemus did not understand the difference between the natural and spiritual birth. All he knew was the new life that came forth from a human being. The Bible, however, speaks about the new life that comes from God. We are not being born again of a human being, but of God! How that works exactly, I don't know, but I do know that it works. In 1 John 5:1 it is being described as follows: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God... Well, that is not too complicated, isn't it?

The main question therefore is: do you believe that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one, the Messiah)? This is a question of epic proportions since millions and millions of people all over the world are looking for the answer, especially within the Jewish and Islamic religions. It is a very important question that can only be answered with yes or no. If your answer is YES, you can and will experience the spiritual rebirth. Dare to say it out loud: I believe that Jesus is the Christ, He is the Son of God. If you sincerely mean this, it will without a doubt change your life forever!

In the next blog post I will take a closer look at WHY we need to be born again, namely the blockade between God and mankind: sin.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Born again ABC (3)

In the previous blog about spiritual rebirth we have seen that Jesus is pretty clear about it; there is more than a natural or human birth, there is also a spiritual birth. These are two different happenings. We could say that the Bible speaks about a natural birth and a super natural (spiritual) birth.

The first chapter of the gospel of John describes how Jesus, the Son of God, came to the earth. Some people believed in Him, some people did not believe in Him. It is still the same today. The Bible says: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13).

The first time we are born in a natural way (out of our parents) and the second time in a supernatural way (out of God)... that is, IF we decide to believe in Jesus and to receive Him (in our life, in our heart, in our mind). The natural birth is not our choice, the supernatural (spiritual) birth is! After all, we have been given the free will to NOT receive Jesus, to NOT believe in His name and thus to NOT become a child of God... and so miss out on the rebirth.

The New King James translation says it like this: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Wonderful, isn't it? We can simply say this: I receive you Jesus, I want to believe in You. That sounds very simple, but such a prayer (and that is what it is) has life changing consequences!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Born again ABC (2)

The previous blog post ended with a question: why do we often talk and act so difficult, complicated or even vague when it comes to the need of being born again, especially within the church...? I honestly do not know the answer, if there is one. I am glad Jesus kept it simple and said: You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7). Do not be surprised! It is normal.

The Bible shows us that prior to these words Jesus spoke to Jewish scholar Nicodemus, He said: Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. Well, duuhhhh... that is kind of logical, right? You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that. Not exactly what we expect to hear in a discussion about important matters between the Son of God and a theologian. But you know what we can learn from His words? There is more than a natural or human birth, there is also a spiritual birth. Those are two different happenings.

Well, that makes life a bit less complicated, doesn't it? We enter this earth through natural birth, which was not our choice, but the choice of our parent(s). Then there is something like a spiritual birth. Do we have a choice in this or not? Read it in the next blog....

Monday, March 17, 2014

Born again ABC (1)

In our home group we are currently going through my book Frisse Kijk and these past weeks we discussed chapter ten: rebirth. We had interesting discussions about 'being born again', but at the same time I noticed that not everyone present was so sure about what the Bible says about the subject. I decided it would be useful to write down some basics in a new blog series. So, here we go....

In most churches there is not a lot of teaching on this subject. Maybe because in some denominations it is considered normal (give your heart to Jesus and you are born again) while in other denominations it is not part of the theology (we have inherited a Christian tradition). Yet, I believe every Christian should understand what it means to be born again (also called new birth or spiritual birth) and be able to explain it to someone else.

There are several places in the Bible where we can find scriptures about 'being born again', but the most famous and most used verses are written down in John, chapter 3. Jesus is speaking about the subject with Jewish scholar Nicodemus and tells him (verse 3): Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. See the Kingdom of God... can you see it? Do you understand what that means? We cannot see (or understand/grasp) the Kingdom* (which Jesus spoke about very often) unless we are born again. Wow, that's pretty straight forward talk. It shows how important it is to be born again.

Jesus is talking about the opening of our spiritual eyes so we can SEE (understand) His Kingdom for what it is: not a place or a country, but a spiritual realm where righteousness, peace and joy reign, with power. Why do we often talk and act so difficult, complicated or even vague when it comes to the need of being born again, especially within the church...? In verse 7 of the same chapter Jesus says: You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ Do not be surprised! It is normal.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Author to author

Translating author Lynn Austin
Last Thursday night I had the honor and privilege to meet with author Lynn Austin. She came to The Netherlands to promote her first non-fiction title Pilgrimage.

In the weeks prior to her visit I slowly read her latest release and was pleasantly surprised. The book is filled with nuggets of wisdom and truth! Lynn writes with raw honesty about the desert period she went through in her own life. Pilgrimage is a very inspirational book. I can absolutely recommend it. Give it as an encouragement to a friend or family member who is going through a hard time!

It was such a fun evening. Lynn showed photo's from her trip to Israel and shared the spiritual lessons the journey through that dry land taught her. I was asked to translate her message; how cool is that?! Many people came to the event and enjoyed Lynn's message and book signing.

Our very own Dutch singer/songwriter Christian Verwoerd (click on his name to see a video clip from Israel) was present as well, and performed several songs. His music turned out to be just right for this evening.

PS: I just received word this week from two of my foreign translators. The German translation of Breath of Life and the Spanish translation of Grace of Giving are finished and ready to be edited!

I sincerely hope your week had some writing highlights as well!