Friday, April 03, 2020

Good times, bad times


It is quite interesting (and quite irritable as well) to see that every time a disaster, drama, or crisis occurs, experts' arise, shouting whether or not it was punishment from God, whether the end of time is near and whether or not Jesus will come back soon.

With the passing of time, things quiet down on the battlefield of doomsday thinkers, prophecies, conspiracy theories, and global plots. Until the next catastrophic event of course ... then everyone dares to speak up again.

What I often miss in their messages which (much to my annoyance) pop up everywhere in Christian Facebook groups and forums, is some form of love, grace, and hope. Anyway, each his own thing.

Looking at the history of humanity, it is quite obvious that there have always been good and bad times. Times of peace and war, of abundance and hunger. Yes, the so-called fat and lean years. The world didn't end and life resumed. Usually with people being full of renewed energy, confidence,  and many good intentions.

In bad times, we will often see a massive search for God, while in good times a general idea that we are doing just fine by ourselves is quite common. I don't really know if there is a healthy balance in this, maybe it is such a curve that keeps us alive, the ups and downs, the mountains and the valleys, the periods of great creativity and innovation and the times of indifference and consumption.

Every person on the face of this planet experiences times of joy and sorrow, of blooming and withering, of letting go and starting again. As a matter of fact, we see this happening on a larger scale as well. We see it in our country, our economy, our earth ... there is always that curve, called 'seasons'...

👉 As for the return of Jesus. He had something to say about it:

So be ready all the time. For I, the Messiah, will come when least expected (Luke 12:40, TLB).

I have often wondered what kind of moment that will be. A moment when He is least expected, don't you think that is interesting? I wonder if the 'experts' take that into account when they write their end-time scenarios. Basically, we do not know! The key is to be ready to meet God, all the time. Then, and only then, can we truly live a quiet life, no matter what happens.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fear of dying

Actually, I don't feel like blogging about it at all ... But the other day I thought of something that I would like to share with you. Hopefully, it might be food for thought or at least a good conversation starter.

I was wondering what is behind the massive fear of the #Coronavirus. I believe, in essence, it is the fear of dying. I can't think of anything else. Can you?

Let's be frank. What is the worst thing that can happen to you if you have this virus? That you die from it. So, the fear we see rising all around us is actually the fear of dying.

That reminded me of a song by blues guitarist Albert King: "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die." A song, written by Loretta Lynn, if I remember correctly.

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. How true is that. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but as Christians we should not fear death. Romans 14: 8 says: If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

The crucial question here is: do you belong to Him or not?

The apostle Paul went even further: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21). Ouch, I am not there yet. I want to stay on this earth for a while longer. But I also want to be able to speak as Paul did, simply because I have given my life to Jesus as well.

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
[John 11: 25-26]

And, oh yes, here's the Albert King song.
















Thursday, March 19, 2020

Guidelines

Following guidelines. In context of the Corona virus we are busy doing so on a worldwide scale these weeks. And that is a good habit. Washing hands regularly, keeping distance, working from home when possible ... well, you name it. Those guidelines are there to ensure our physical health.

I would like to share a few spiritual guidelines to ensure the health of our souls.

Last year I posted a series on this blog about a healthy soul and it focused on the words in 3 John 1:2,

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Just as your soul prospers. It is so important to keep that in mind, especially now that a virus is spreading that fills people with fear, absurd fear. Fear is not good for the soul, fear torments and it paralyzes.

So, how do we take good care of our souls? I have listed a few basic guidelines, hopefully, they will help you.

💦Spend time with Jesus
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened... and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29)
💦Praise and worship
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103: 2) 
💦Listen to His voice
Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake (Isaiah 55: 3) 
💦Speak and receive sweet words
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Wisdom has a name

If there is anything that we should desire, it is wisdom. "God knows the way to wisdom," I wrote at the end of my previous blog. Yes, and that way brings us back to Proverbs 8, the chapter on wisdom.

In that chapter "wisdom" is being presented as a woman; a wonderful fact in itself 😁

If you read chapter 8 carefully, you will discover the riches hidden in wisdom. Nothing in the whole world is more precious than wisdom. The chapter also contains quite a few special statements. Just to mention a few:
  • My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just: none of them is crooked or perverse (verse7 and 8). Who can claim such a thing?
  • I love those who love me and those who seek me find me (verse 17). Where have I heard that before?
  • For whoever finds Me finds life (verse 35). Who said that?
Surely, it is clear that wisdom which is more precious than gold, silver and rubies is Jesus Christ himself?! In Colossians 2: 3 it says about Him:  He is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God's wisdom and knowledge. We need to get to know Him better in order to gain wisdom. This can be done by reading His words and asking the Holy Spirit (our Teacher) to explain what we are reading.

Jesus is the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

[I talk about this in detail in my book My Neighbor's House].

Monday, March 02, 2020

Where to find wisdom?

In my previous blog posts, I wrote about 'coveting' and 'healthy desires'. Thou shalt not covet ... who doesn't know these words from the Bible? To covet basically means yearning to possess something or greatly desiring something (especially when it belongs to someone else).

Are all desires wrong? No of course not. That same Bible says (Proverbs 8:11) that nothing we can ever desire can be compared with wisdom. Then it makes sense that we have to go after wisdom, right?

The search for WISDOM is a wonderful adventure. Do you know who wrote about such a quest? Job. When we think about Job, we usually think of all the drama in his life, but there was also a passionate search for wisdom. Job 28:13,

👉 But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding?

Let's continue reading what he has to say about it, verses 15-20,

It cannot be bought with gold. It cannot be purchased with silver.
It’s worth more than all the gold of Ophir, greater than precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.
Coral and jasper are worthless in trying to get it. The price of wisdom is far above rubies.
Precious peridot from Ethiopia cannot be exchanged for it. It’s worth more than the purest gold.
“But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding?

Quite honestly, the price of wisdom cannot be determined, it far exceeds everything of value. We live in a world where there is a lot of knowledge and science. But wisdom, true wisdom, where can it be found? In verse 23, Job says: God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found,

I think that is a valuable clue. Don't look for education, experience or science ... God knows the way. That takes us back to Proverbs 8, the chapter about wisdom. Several clues can be found in that very chapter. Do you see them?

Monday, February 24, 2020

More precious than rubies

"Go, and find out what healthy desires are," I wrote in my previous blog, quoting Mark 11:24 where it says, Therefore I say unto you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.

If we are allowed to pray for things we desire, 'desiring' in itself can not be wrong; although most of us have been taught it is. I think that is precisely why the tenth commandment is not a restriction, but a challenge to find out what we may and should desire. That has also been the point of view in my book My Neighbor's House.

Paul writes about the tenth commandment: I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” It is that simple, really. 😁

Do not desire covet) the things of someone else, but go after what God has reserved for you. I consulted the Bible and came to Proverbs, chapter 8, the chapter about wisdom. In verse 11 it says ...

For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.

Nothing, absolutely nothing we can ever desire can be compared with wisdom. Doesn't it make sense then, that that is the very thing we should go after?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

To covet or not to covet

When I was a teenager, I found the Bible and Christianity a little oppressive. So many rules and laws. And fun things? They were prohibited, of course. I had this idea that becoming a serious Christian would limit my 'freedom' and so I kept postponing the choice to live for Jesus.

Although I did not grow up in a very "conservative" church, the Ten Commandments were an invisible guide in our family. I always thought the tenth commandment to be difficult: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. Well, can't we do anything at all then?

After I had given my life to Jesus, I slowly began to see that those words were not meant as a restriction, but rather as a challenge. A challenge to find out what we should desire. No, not our neighbor's stuff ... but the very things that God has reserved for us.

Have you ever read it that way? It became the approach in my English book My Neighbor's House. Go, and find out what healthy desires are. In Mark 11:24 it says: Therefore I say unto you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. Obviously, this is not about our neighbor's stuff.  But then, what is it?

Friday, February 07, 2020

Downsizing: how decluttering graces your heart and home

We live in a very (and I mean: very) small house in The Netherlands. Everything is tiny: the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom. Because we have such limited space, we do not have a lot of stuff. I do not collect anything (well, books maybe) and we do not keep things we do not need.

When we resided in Southern California, we were living in a huge farmhouse. The many rooms were filled with furniture, collectibles, and other stuff. The total opposite of our little home in Holland. And you know what? We have learned to be happy in the big as well as in the small house. Why am I sharing this with you? Because downsizing does not have to be horrible. Getting rid of clutter can be fun and bring incredible relief.

fellow author Susan Rohrer
In our 👉 Christian nonfiction lovers book club on Goodreads, our book of the month February is Susan Rohrer's book: Downsizing: how decluttering graces your heart and home. I read it last year and it is more than an inspiring read, it is very helpful. Rohrer proves that the practical and spiritual work together quite well and effectively. It is truly a joy to read how the author uses Biblical principles to help us clean up stuff and organize our closet space.

I like her practical approach, and especially the chapter about having to move a parent to an, often much smaller, elderly home and how to prepare everyone in the family for the challenges such a move will bring. I highly recommend this book if you seriously want to learn how to live with less!

We have added a #giveaway in our Goodreads club as well. We have asked members to enter the giveaway by simply sharing their personal thoughts on downsizing. Do you need help decluttering your own home? Are you daunted by the idea of downsizing your elders' belongings? Do you have a downsizing tip to share?

Just post a few lines in the Goodreads thread and you'll be entered to win a Kindle edition of Susan's book.

Monday, January 27, 2020

All my friends have issues REVIEW

Recently we hosted a #giveaway in the Christian nonfiction lovers book club on Goodreads. Our book of the month was Amanda Anderson's book All my friends have issues.

All my friends have issues was released in 2019 by Thomas Nelson Publishers. In our Goodreads club, we asked members to enter the giveaway by simply writing about a special friendship in two or three sentences.

Hey, it doesn't hurt to sharpen our writing skills when discussing books.

I personally enjoyed reading Amanda Anderson's book for several reasons. First of all, because it has a healthy dose of humor and that always helps when tackling serious topics. Serious yes, because friendships can enrich our lives or make our lives difficult.
Amanda Anderson

Second, because the book is loaded with life stories. Amanda has a way of telling great stories. She paints pictures of daily life that are colorful, fun and sometimes even hilarious.

And third, the author offers many practical tips. Good friendships are hard to come by and hard to keep, so it wouldn't hurt to read a well-balanced book about this topic. All my friends have issues is such a book.

I found the chapters a little long for my taste, but that probably tells more about my reading style (not wanting to put a book down in the middle of a chapter) than her writing style.

I could buy a bookmark of course :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

My #oneword for 2020

In general, I do not participate in online games and hypes, but I do like the #oneword challenge. In the past, I posted about my words, thoughts, and experiences and it was always a good experience. However, in recent years I did not give myself the time to think about a word or to wait for a word (recognize this?).

At the beginning of this new year, however, I did get a very clear word for 2020 on my heart (from the Holy Spirit): expectation. The questions I asked myself were: do I still pray with expectation, expectation that God will do something, that circumstances will change and people will be touched? Do I still expect new things in my work, my family and my calling?

The scripture that came to my mind was Psalm 5: 4: Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. How about that? Bringing our requests before Him in the morning and then what? Wait with expectation!

I sense, I have to learn again to pray like this, with the expectation that something will actually happen. I'm happy with that word for a new year, it triggers something, it stirs up something...

Do you have a word for 2020?

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Light of the world (4)

In my previous blog I mentioned the song of Simeon. In this song, he referred to the words in Isaiah 49: 6, where God himself speaks. I will also make you a light for the Gentilesthat my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

A light for all nations, till the ends of the earth, not just for Israel. This clearly points to Jesus. He came for the whole world, for all people. The first followers of Jesus understood very well that they had the task of telling not only their Jewish friends but the whole world about that light. Just read Acts 13:47 where Paul and Barnabas are speaking: For this is what the Lord has commanded us:‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' And with those words, they quoted Isaiah 49: 6.

Pooh well, you might say, this is quite a difficult assignment, because the world is rather dark. Didn't Jesus make it sound a little too easy when He told people you are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). How can we effectively spread that light, how can we be that light in this world? Personally, I think the first followers of Christ had questions about the practical side of being light-bearers as well, but they came to a discovery that I would like to share it with you:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4: 6). God wants to shine in the darkness of our hearts, if we allow that of course. Invite Him to do so if you have never done that. Come on, just ask Him.

Then, we can actually proclaim 'For I was once darkness, but now I am light in the Lord' (Ephesians 5: 8).

Friday, January 10, 2020

Light of the world (3)

'Light shines in the darkness, we certainly do our best with all our lights and candles during the dark winter season. But let's not forget, the One who can truly take us out of darkness (enlighten us), the real light is Jesus! With those words I ended my previous blog.

How wonderful when a person receives that revelation. Let's take a look at someone who experienced that a long time ago ...

A certain Simeon lived in Jerusalem. He was a good and honest man and he deeply respected the law of God. He was full of the Holy Spirit and lived in the firm expectation that the Christ would soon come. When he saw the child Jesus in the temple he began to shout to God: ... my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentilesand the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2: 30-32).

Simeon saw the prophetic words from Isaiah literally fulfilled and it made him sing for joy. It's going to happen, God has kept His word. The light is here! Can we sing like he did? Do we dare to sing like Simeon because we actually believe that Jesus Christ is the light for the world?

When Jesus grew up He confirmed that truth: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9: 5).

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Light of the world (2)

'The Bible frequently speaks about light in darkness', I wrote in my previous blog. As a matter of fact, this already starts in Genesis 1 where we can read that darkness was over the surface of the deep... until God spoke: "Let there be light." And there was light.

Light in the darkness, we can also read about this in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Kind of a recurrence of Genesis 1, but with a profound truth revealed:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That creation story, ➽ light in the darkness, keeps coming back in the Bible. The prophets understood it, just as the disciples did. In Isaiah 42: 5-7 it is written like this: This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentilesto open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darknessGod gave Jesus as light to the people of Israel and then also to the other nations.

Light shines in the darkness, we certainly do our best with all our lights and candles during the dark winter season. But let's not forget, the One who can truly take us out of darkness (enlighten us), the real light is Jesus!

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world (John 1: 9).

Monday, December 23, 2019

Light of the world (1)

'What shall I preach about, this Sunday', my husband asked. 'About the light of the world, I answered quickly. Such a beautiful topic during these dark days before Christmas. And so he did. And I decided to write a short blog series about it. Will you join me in contemplation?

We live in a world with a lot of darkness. War, violence, terrorism, pain, abuse, sadness, and loneliness, you name it. There is, of course, nothing new under the sun. About 700 years BC the prophet Isaiah wrote: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9: 2).

A land of deep darkness, brrrr, recognize this?. The light was a promise, something to look forward to. The Bible frequently speaks about light in darkness. Quite logical if you ask me, because the Bible is the Word of God and God is light. In 1 John 1: 5 it says: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

How does that light come our way? Into our world, our country, our cities and into our personal darkness? Well, God sent His Son Jesus to the earth, this event will be celebrated worldwide at Christmas time. Jesus said: I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (John 12:46). Are you in the dark? Does it feel dark around you? Jesus wants to get you out of the dark! This, my friends, is not an empty promise.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12).

Monday, December 02, 2019

For she was a shepherd

Does it ever happen to you, reading a well-known story in the Bible and suddenly you notice something you never noticed before? It happens to me quite regularly...

Recently I read the story in Genesis 29, where Jacob is on his way to Haran to find a wife. When he comes to a well with his herd, he addresses a group of shepherds. In verse 9 it says: Jacob was still talking with them when Rachel arrived with her father's flock, for she was a shepherd.

Rachel was a shepherd? I did not know that. The best-known shepherd in the Bible is David (well, except for Jesus who is called the Good Shepherd). I wonder whether Rachel had a slingshot to shoot rocks with, just like David. I wonder whether she chased lions and bears, just like him. I wonder whether she played a musical instrument, just like David?

I am trying to imagine what kind of woman Rachel was. Probably not the kind of lady looking in the mirror all day. Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face (verse 17). She probably owed her good figure to the many walks with the herd :)

I find it intriguing that the Bible specifically mentions that she was a shepherd. In Hebrew, the word shepherdess is the same as shepherd. Shepherds (and therefore also shepherdesses) play an important role in the Bible, as guardians of sheep and as overseers of a local church.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

I love it, these special women in the Bible!