Friday, September 25, 2015

Give me an E

In my Bible alphabet blog series E stands for Encouragement.

This is one of the few words, I believe, should be in every believer's dictionary :) Well, maybe not so much in the dictionary, but more so in daily life and attitude.

In an often negative world that is full of violence, hatred, lies, insensibility and apathy, we all need encouragement, every day! We will get it, when we start giving it.

Where will we find it? In the Bible: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Who will give it? God! May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had... (Romans 15:5).

Oh, how we should desire to go about our daily business like the believers did in the beginning. Not repeating the gossip and bad news we are bombarded with each day, but sharing good stuff. It is written about the apostle Paul: He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece (Acts 20:2).

I want to encourage you with the following words:
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Give me a D

In my Bible alphabet blog series D stands for Disciple.

Disciple actually means a follower or pupil of a teacher and comes from the verb discere which means 'learning'.

A disciple is someone with a teachable spirit, someone who is willing and committed to learn (not someone who thinks he/she knows everything already).

Jesus says some very important things to the people who want to be His disciple, for example: A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Will be like Jesus ... in thinking, talking and acting!

Not everyone believes that Jesus is the Son of God, but in general people do agree that He is the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. Is it not logical that we should learn from Him? This begins with the reading and studying of the four Gospels (do it!) and asking for wisdom and insight from the Holy Spirit.

The qualifications for discipleship are not very complicated, but quite radical: So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33). In today's terms this basically means:
  • that we must be willing to let go of everything we think to know
  • that we should not hang on to our possessions and
  • that we must be willing to give up our lives for Him

Friday, August 21, 2015

Give me a C

In my Bible alphabet blog series C stands for Christ.

Christ is NOT the last name of Jesus, but it is a Greek word which shows who He is, namely the anointed one (the chosen one).

The Hebrew word for this is Mashiach (Messiah), and that comes from the verb mashach (to smear or anoint with oil).

The first chapter of Matthew's Gospel shows the genealogy of the Jewish Messiah. Verse 16 goes like this: and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. One by one the people of that time discovered and believed that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.

One of them was the disciple Andrew. In John 1:41 it is written about him: The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). That news was, and still is, going around the world like wildfire. Every day people come to realize that Jesus is the Christ.

Christ, the anointed or chosen one. He is the Son of God, Savior of the world, Lord of lords, even your best friend (when you decide to believe in Him). Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went out (Acts 10: 37-38): You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Jesus Christ is no longer physically on earth, but He has given His anointing to believers to do greater things than He did. What an assignment!

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:21).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Give me a B

[Samaritan woman at the well by Zambian muralist Emmanuel Nsama]
In my Bible alphabet blog series B stands for Believers.

The word comes from the Greek verb πιστεύω or pisteuó which means to believe, entrust, have faith in.

The first group of believers mentioned in the Bible [are NOT to be found in the book of Acts!] were actually the people of the Samaritan town Sychar. 

Jesus spoke with a woman from that town and because of her encounter with this Jewish man, many of her own townsfolk became believers. John 4:39-41: Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

So, believers are people who have put their faith (trust, confidence) in Jesus Christ and believe His Word. In Biblical times the believers were known for their communal living as recorded in Acts 4:32, The believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

The Bible further mentions how new believers modeled after each other, a process that is still going on today! The apostle Paul writes about the Greek believers in Thessaloniki: You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia... (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). And more than that, it went worldwide. Paul writes that their faith in God became known everywhere.

I want the same to be true for the faith of modern day believers!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Give me an A

In my Bible alphabet blog series A stands for Apostle.

It is a word that only appears in the New Testament. Jesus intro-duced the term when He appointed (or ordained) several of his disciples as apostles.

In Mark 3:14-15 we can read what was expected of them:

He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
[a] Some manuscripts twelve—designating them apostles—

Disciples of the Lord Jesus that were appointed as apostles had a clear calling and function:
  • they had to be with (close to) Him
  • they had to be ready to be sent out
  • they had to preach
  • they had to use their authority
Were there more than the twelve apostles Jesus appointed? Yes! Paul, for example, was probably the most famous one after that time. Do apostles still exist? Yes! They are still being appointed today for the benefit of His church world wide. Ephesians 4:11-12 says it like this: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...

The five functions as mentioned above are given by Jesus for the building up of the church (the body of Christ on earth). Most churches today still recognize and have evangelists, pastors and teachers, but to a much lesser extent apostles and prophets. That is weird if you think about it, because they are needed to equip (new) believers for work in service of God!

Christ gave them to us until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Well, I am sorry to say, but we are not there yet. So we must ask the Holy Spirit to continue to appoint apostles for the benefit of the church.

If you have a clear calling on your life (a desire, a passion, an inner conviction) to be with (close to) Jesus, to go out and preach (in your street or the other side of the world) and to use your God given authority, then that is a calling from Jesus Himself. Don't let ANYONE stop you to answer that call!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Give me an A

On my Dutch blog I have started a summer vacation series on Biblical words. Kind of like an ABC on Christian basics.

The posts are short and clear and fun. Each letter stands for a word that we use quite often, sometimes so often that it has lost its meaning. I know you all don't have time to read long blog posts, but yet you want to be encouraged...

So, please join me as we go through the alphabet in the coming weeks. I will make each post up as we go, so I have no doubt it will be a refreshing blog series :)

I will do my best to share great, inspiring, uplifting and sometimes funny posts. I hope you will read along and share 'm with your friends and family when you think a post is fitting and timely. Are you ready?

Give me an A!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Restored relationships (8)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

This blog series about reconciliation turned out to be a little bit longer than I intended it to be. And even then I barely scratched the surface of this interesting topic. There is so much to learn and read and do and write about it :)

Reconciliation simply means 'restored relationship' and that is the foundation of the Christian faith.

It shows the heart of God: He desires HEALTHY relationships on various levels: Reconciliation between Him and mankind, between Him and Israel, between Jewish people and Gentiles and.... between you and me and the people around us!

God desires friendship with all people. An important Scripture about the heart of God in this can be found in Colossians 1:19-20, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [that is Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

That is good news. God is not mad at mankind, He reconciled all things to Himself and made peace. The problem is that we are the ones who often refuse to take His kindness as an example. We often hang on to bitterness, anger, jealousy, hatred, slander and gossip. God does not want this. He loves mankind and He wants us to love one another and to live in peace.

Romans 12:18 says: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Is that easy? Nope! Should we try? Yep.

It is not an option. We have received the assignment to tell others about the possibilities of reconciliation and we should desire to restore relationships, wherever we go. Corinthians 5:18-20 says it like this:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

We all have the ministry, this message, of reconciliation which, by the way, does NOT mean that we should only TALK about restored relationships... of course we must ACT this out as well, on a personal level.

Would the world look different if we did so, what do you think?
Is there a relationship that you could mend?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Restored relationships (7)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

'As far as God is concerned, the friendship has been restored' I wrote in the previous blog post. Reconciliation simply means 'restored relationship'. The Bible shows that concept on various levels: God and mankind in general, God and Israel specific.... 

And what about us... how do we relate to one another? What can be said about the reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jewish people)? Currently we can see a worldwide anti-Semitism rising up again, with severe hatred in Europe and the Middle East. Have we not understood God's plan of reconciliation?

Why are the Jewish people different from all other people on earth? Did they ask for that? Did they make it up? No! God wanted it that way. In Leviticus 20:24B He says: I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. Israel and the Jewish people were set apart because they would bring forth the promised Messiah. Jesus (the Jewish Messiah) acknowledged this fact in His discussion with the Samaritan woman when He said that salvation would come from the Jews (John 4:22).

Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a Jewish mother. He lived and worked in Israel. He came to bring reconciliation between God and all of mankind, starting with the Jewish people! He said: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24).

The apostle Paul explains it again in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Until the time of Jesus it was forbidden for Jewish people to mix with other peoples/nations (and in some orthodox circles it is still so). It drastically changed when the apostle Peter began to understand Gods grace through a vision (Acts 10:28). The good news of reconciliation is now for everyone! (Acts 10:34-36).

Through our faith in the Messiah our relationship with God has been restored as well as our relationship with the Jewish people, we are now brothers and sisters of one Father. Romans 10:12 explains it like this: For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

God's specific plan with Israel (also called the olive tree) is still standing. The gentiles (non-Jewish people) are branches that are being grafted into this tree. We will grow together and bear fruit!

Think about it: reconciliation = end of conflict! Wouldn't it be great to see that happening in our world today? It starts with this question: Have you fully accepted His plan of reconciliation?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Restored relationships (6)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

In the previous blog post I wrote very shortly about the system of atonement that God had set up for His people Israel. According to this old covenant blood had to flow for the forgiveness of sins and each time that happened reconciliation between God and mankind was made possible.

In Hebrews 9:7 we can read about the sacrificial services the high priest used to perform under the old covenant: But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

Despite the fact that we mostly don't like all that bloody business, it is interesting to read on in the book of Hebrews. For example verses 9 and 10: This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

The old covenant prepared the people for a new covenant God was going to establish. And this time not just with the people of Israel, but will ALL people! Christ came as a high priest of the new covenant and His suffering, death and resurrection put an end to all the blood sacrifices. In verse 12 we can read it as follows:

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

This is glorious. We no longer have to suffer under sin and guilt and shame. He has set us free, eternally! If we accept and believe that and if we give Him permission to change our heart, our thinking, our talking and our doing, then we will be able to truly live in freedom. There is NO LONGER any need for the shedding of blood. We continue to read in verses 13 and 14:

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

We can serve the living God in freedom. If we would truly understand this, we would be able to live much more relaxed and war and violence would stop... In verse 17 and 18 the writer of Hebrews explains again that a covenant (in this case the reconciliation between God and Israel) was put into effect through blood:

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.

Under the old covenant cleansing took place by the use of blood. If no blood flowed, no forgiveness took place. That is how it used to be between God and Israel. How different is it now between God and people (yes, we will always come back to the first level of restored relationships: that between God and mankind). Verse 26 says: But he [Christ] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

As far as God is concerned, the friendship has been restored, with Israel and with all other nations. Now it is up to us... how do we react? How do we interact with each other? That is what the next blog will be about; the reconciliation between Jews and gentiles (non-Jewish people)....

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Restored relationships (5)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

Restored relationship is really the simple meaning of the word reconciliation and it is the foundation of the Christian faith. The restored relationship between God and mankind is the first and most important level of reconciliation and certainly the most beautiful one. A second level that I want to mention on this blog is the reconciliation between God and His people Israel.

We have already seen in this series that a healthy relationship between God, the Creator of the Universe, and all mankind is possible as a result of the blood of Jesus that flowed once and for all when He was crucified. Colossians 1:19-20 describes it like this: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [that is Jesus/Yeshua/Isa], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross

Blood, that has a negative sound to it, but biblically speaking life is in the blood. Without blood there is no life, even scientists know this :) Keep that thought...

Thousands of years ago God decided to dedicate one nation to be His very own, to set them apart. This is what holy means: to be set apart. Many people today reject this thought and are in disagreement with God (not a good place to be!) But whether people like it or not, it is still a fact. Leviticus 20:24-26 says: you are to be holy to Me, because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

God did not choose Israel because they were so wonderful and so great, on the contrary, it was the smallest nation of all at that time! But He loved them and He had made promises to their ancestors, Deuteronomy 7:7-8: The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers....

It made God sad that they disobeyed Him all the time, for example by worshiping other gods and by neglecting His laws. He wanted to keep a healthy relationship with them, but sin kept defiling their friendship. So He set up a system for reconciliation: blood had to flow (the offering of animals) for the forgiveness of the sins of the people, with an annual summit called the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

In most world religions we still see this: blood has to flow (whether animals or people) in other to please the gods... which we think is horrible. But, wait a minute, wasn't blood offering God's idea? What exactly did He had in mind when he set up the system for reconciliation? Let's take a closer look at that in the next blog.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Restored relationships (4)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

Restored relationship is really the meaning of the word reconciliation and it is the foundation of the Christian faith.

The restored relationship between God and mankind is the first and most important level of reconciliation and certainly the most beautiful one.

God, the Creator of the Universe wants a personal friendship with human beings. Contrary to the gods of other world religions, God is not angry at humanity. He loves people and He longs for a healthy relationship with you and me. A relationship that will not be sabotaged by guilt and shame and does not depend on all kinds of good works. It is a relationship based on mutual LOVE.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).

Atonement (the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ) has a rich history which has been described in the first books of the Bible: the reconciliation between God and Israel. That is the second level of reconciliation and I will write some more about that in the next blog post.

Jesus said: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Good, better, best news!

Sometimes you see certain video clips come by that just want to make you scream Hallelujah! That's the BEST news I've heard this week. Share it!

This  particular one caught my attention because my husband recently went to Mauritania!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Restored relationships (3)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

Restored relationship is really the meaning of the word reconciliation and it is the foundation of the Christian faith. The restored relationship between God and mankind is the first and most important level of reconciliation.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [that is Jesus/Yeshua/Isa], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).

Maybe you are thinking 'what does it matter whether I have a good relationship with God or not, I can do without...' But, you know, a healthy relationship with the Creator is the basis for all other relationships we have. A healthy relationship with God means being sure that you are forgiven and loved. Yes, we can never say that enough: God loves you, He is not mad at you.

Living out of that perspective means we can live without bitterness, hatred, jealousy, fear, anger, doubt and shame. The Bible calls this living in freedom... We do not need to live a day longer under fear and condemnation if we:
  • acknowledge that we have sinned
  • accept His forgiveness and
  • make the decision to turn our backs to our old life
That foundation (the restored relationship with God) will help us on a daily basis in developing and maintaining all other relations we have, whether it is our parents, children, partner, co-workers or friends.

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul (Proverbs 27:9 MSG).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Restored relationships (2)

Reconciliation: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

In the previous blog post I wrote: 'reconciliation basically means restored relationship and that is really the heart of God, the foundation of the Christian faith.'

Often we have (without being aware of it) developed  our own image of God. Some see God as an angry man who sees every mistake and never gives a compliment. Others see God as holy and out of reach. And again, others might see Him as a good old fellow who loves everyone and doesn't judge...

If we want to get to know God better it is important to talk with Him, listen to Him and read His Word. We cannot expect pastors and professors to do that for us. In the same way as we cannot leave it up to others to get to know our lover, friend, child, partner a little better. We must invest time in the relationship!

The Bible clearly states where and how the relationship between mankind and God (the Creator) went wrong. God decided to make mankind according to His image and likeness, thus a living soul with a free will. The first people used that free will to go their own way and to NOT listen to God... well, nothing new under the horizon so far... many people are still doing that today!

The relationship between God and mankind has been distorted ever since. Which, by the way, does not mean that God isn't communicating with people, He does so all the time. But sin (going our own way) stands in the way of a healthy relationship with Him. That is why many people have a love-hate relationship with God. As long as everything is okay, many people believe He is kind of out there, but the moment things go wrong, He gets the blame. Even people who do not believe in God feel deep down inside that He must exist... but are too scared to admit it.

Sin stands in the way of a healthy relationship with God and this often results in feelings of guilt, shame, anger or fear. Well, that is not the way we want to have relationship, right? Not on a human level, not on a godly level. And this is exactly where reconciliation comes around the corner. God offers us restoration of the relationship with Him. In Colossians 1:20 (GNT) it is described like this:

Through the Son [that is Jesus, Yeshua, Isa], then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.

God has offered us peace. The question is how we answer His peace proposal.

Do we keep fighting and struggling... insisting in going our own way? Or do we accept His peace offering?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Restored relationships (1)

A few weeks ago I started a new blog series on my Dutch blog; a series about the four levels of reconciliation. I want to share it on this blog as well, because I believe it will be a great help in building healthy and strong relationships.

Reconciliation is a beautiful topic and at the same time a very sensitive and difficult topic. We all experience disappointment in relationships. We get discouraged, we have too high expectations, we give too much, or too little... well, you name it.

When I started thinking about this topic, I realized that reconciliation is the Biblical basis for healthy friendships and relationships. Reconciliation is kind of an eminent word that isn't used much in our daily language. It means: end of conflict, restoration of friendly relations, reunion, bringing together (again), restoration of peace...

Reconciliation basically means 'restored relationship' and that is really the heart of God, the foundation of the Christian faith. At the beginning of this year my husband and I spoke at a conference in Germany about the theme reconciliation, about the four levels of reconciliation to be precise. The response to those messages was compelling and I think that sharing this topic (in a short version) on this blog will give fresh inspiration to you . The four levels I want to write about are:
  • Reconciliation between God and mankind
  • Reconciliation between God and Israel
  • Reconciliation between Jews and gentiles
  • Reconciliation between you and the people around you
The exploration and better understanding of this theme will contribute to healthy relationships in our lives. I hope you will read along and invite others to join us for this series.