Friday, November 14, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (10)

This is already part 10 in the series on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23. It is very interesting what precedes these verses:  What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these...

Ouch! I am sure we can all recognize some of this happening around us. Thank God, the word doesn't stop there... But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In the last part of this blog series we will take a closer look at self-control or, as the KJV says, temperance. Nowadays that is probably a word which will make people laugh or frown. Let's be honest: in the Western world we live in a time and culture of abundance. Eating a whole bag of potato chips or half a box of chocolates, purchasing fashionable purse number twenty, browsing the internet for hours and hours at the time, drinking too much, wasting precious time in front of the television etc. etc. Too much, too much, too much.

Self-control, temperance... not our strongest point. The more we try, the more we fail. And that is exactly why God wants to help us. Without self-control we are weak and an easy target for the enemy. Proverbs 25:28 says: Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

The self-control the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us is not the kind of effort we sometimes undertake, as in 'I can do it if I want to' or 'just a little longer and I made it'. It is self-control at the most unexpected moments. Right when we think we can NOT do it, the Spirit wants to come alongside to help. We can simply ask Him to do so!
Less of our own will, more of His!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (9)

We are nearing the end of this blog series about the fruit the Holy Spirit wants to bring forth in the lives of believers.

What the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is truly 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 gentleness.

Does 'being gentle' mean that we must be soft? That people can walk all over us? No, of course not. The Lord Jesus is gentle, but I wouldn't dare to call Him weak or cowardly. In Matthew 11:29 He says: I am gentle and humble in heart. Gentleness goes together with being humble: daring and willing to be the last or the least.

Practically, this means:
  • not always wanting to be right,
  • regarding someone else more important than ourselves,
  • extending grace and not being judgmental...
In our efforts to be important, popular, nice and pretty we often forget that this was not the focus of Jesus' ministry. He brought gentleness into a violent world and they hated Him for it. And this is still so today. Being gentle is definitely a way to get noticed in the world today... daring to be gentle in situations where debate is rising and grace is nowhere to be found.

Personally I am not too good at this. That is why I have a big need to see this supernatural (godly) fruit become visible in my life. Gentleness is not a human virtue, it is supernatural character of God Himself... in us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (8)

Throughout the ages people from all kinds of religions have done their best to be recognized; recognized from the outside that is... Just think about wearing hats, head coverings, toga's, habits, crosses and beads. However, the outside doesn't always say much about the inside, and that is really the place where God wants to bring forth fruit.

What the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is truly beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In this blog series we have come to faithfulness. The King James Version says faith.

Isn't that what faith-fulness really is: being full of faith...?

The faith that we receive as a gift from God, and that needs to bear fruit in our lives, is not the faith from our parents, church or friends, but it is supernatural faith from God! Hebrews 11:1 tells us what kind of faith(fulness) that is: 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (NKJV)

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (MSG)

To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. (GNT)

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. (AMP)

Amen. I want to be recognized by that kind of faith, what about you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (7)

Personally I find it useful and refreshing to take a step by step look at the fruit the Holy Spirit wants to produce in our lives. I hope you are enjoying it as well, as we are beginning to see that we cannot force these things to grow in our lives and they cannot be learned.

It is super natural character of God Himself which will grow in us when we give room, when we yield our will to His.

What the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, is truly beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Today I want to stop and think about goodness.

Goodness, that's an interesting one... We probably all know good people and maybe they do not even believe in God. Well, yeah, some people are simply more friendlier and more generous than others. Doing good is something we can learn from our parents, or in school, or from some kind of philosophical book. Is that the goodness the Bible talks about in this context? No, that is not the kind of goodness (friendliness, generosity, goodwill, grace, honesty, integrity, kindness, mercy, righteousness, beneficence, honor, humaneness, kindheartedness) when talking about the fruit of the Spirit.

The divine fruit 'goodness' goes much, much further than a positive human characteristic. We are talking about a goodness as mentioned in Luke 6:35 (GNT), Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Well, Jesus explains it in a way that leaves no discussion, don't you think? Doing good to our enemies. And then that last part, a real eye-opener... God is good to the ungrateful and wicked. Ouch, is that really true? I have never heard someone preach on that one...

Being good to ungrateful people... when we find ourselves doing that, we can be sure His character is being formed in us :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (6)

Fruit of Gods Spirit in our lives, what a wonderful concept. That fruit is not the little things we can do for Him or in His name, that fruit is the development of His character in us. more of Jesus, less of me...

It doesn't matter what our strong or weak points are, but it matters what His Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, and that is truly 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 kindness, which in the Greek language is chrēstotēs. When researching the Bible we can find out that this is not our every-day kindness, the nodding to our neighbor or the friendly word to our co-worker. That sort of kindness is great and definitely to be praised, but the kindness that God wants to bring forth in our lives is kindness of a different order...

It is the kindness the apostle Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly... Kindness when being slandered? You gotta be kidding, right?! Well, it surely gives us a great exercise for this week: Do I allow the Holy Spirit to work through me or am I always going ahead of Him?

Supernatural kindness, that goes against all political correctness. That is being kind when we do not feel like it, that is kindness when we do not want to give it. Jesus explains it like this: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35).

Ouch and ouch again... being kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Now, that is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fruit of the Spirit (5)

When talking about the fruit that God wants to bring forth in our lives, I sometimes hear people say: 'Yeah, kindness and goodness, I can see that in my life. But patience? No, that is not my strongest virtue.'

No, not your strongest virtue, but certainly Gods! His fruit in our lives is not the same as our human or natural character, it is supernatural character of the Lord Jesus Himself. It doesn't matter how we try to perform or what we want to produce, it matters what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us, and that is beautiful: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Forbearance or longsuffering or patience... Supernatural patience; that is not the kind of patience we have when it suits us. That is not the kind of patience we have with the ones we love (our children, partner, parents or dog!). No, that is patience with ALL people.  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Ouch! Be patient with everyone? You must be kidding, right?!

Well, He is not kidding. But we must bear in mind that we can never, ever do this in our own strength, it is work from Him in us. God is patient, absurdly patient if you ask me... 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance...Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation (2 Peter 3:9 and 15).

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.