Sunday, April 11, 2021

How to stay hopeful and joyful

We live in a weird, wild, wicked, and wonderful world. Although it is not exactly what God had in mind when He created it all and saw that it was good... His eyes are still on this universe, our planet, and all people.

Although God wanted all people to live in peace, prosperity, and a good relationship with Him, they decided they knew better and preferred to do their own thing. And what a mess we made of it all!

I have been there, I have done that, and I am so glad the Lord stopped me in my tracks twenty years ago and set my feet on higher ground. He brought me back to Himself (thank you Jesus) and to His Word and because of that, I know now, it is possible to stay positive in a negative world.

👉Does the Bible have the answers for today, then? Yes, I truly believe so. Every day I feed myself with truths that are the total opposite of what the world wants me to believe and that gives me great joy! Let's look at what the Bibles says about a few of the most common emotions people are dealing with today.

  • FEARGod is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3)
  • ANXIETYHumble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • UNCERTAINTY - For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below — there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)
  • HOPELESSNESS - 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)
  • LACK OF PEACEPeace 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)
Well, you get the idea, right? It seems to me that for every negative word in the world there is a positive one in the Bible. But they will do nothing for us if we do not read and meditate and feed ourselves on those words. Do it, do it today!

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Annoyed... and anointed

The posts I share on social media are a positive mix of my daily life, faith, writing journey, and family, as most of you will have noticed by now 😀

Am I not concerned then, about world events, politics, current problems, and so on? Am I hiding my head in the sand, so to speak, when I ignore such topics?

Sure... I am concerned about such things, but I have chosen not to ventilate my thoughts (with some exceptions) on social media about current happenings, simply because I am quite annoyed with the direction my country and this world, in general, are going.

Annoyed, yes I confess it. And who wants to listen to an annoyed person?

At the same time, I know that I am also anointed... anointed to be God's faithful mouthpiece, to speak His Word, and to share His heart. 👉Anointed means I am called and confirmed by the Holy Spirit to open my mouth and use my pen and keyboard to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

My annoyance with today's politics, the lying and manipulating, the lawlessness and selfish gain, is real. So, I have to purposely make the decision each day to set aside my irritation over our godless society and magnify the goodness of God. He deserves my voice and my choice!

PS: I understand that some of you feel they just have to address such issues... please, go ahead. I appreciate your efforts.

Friday, March 26, 2021

For such a time as this: #apsalmaday

When I started the #apsalmaday video project back in February, I had no idea it would inspire people from all over the globe to read the psalms with renewed interest. 'Refreshing and enlightening', are comments I receive regularly. I have collected many other comments, messages, and emails, and I like to share a few with you.

Rasa Klein (Lithuania) is very faithful in sharing the videos on FB, she wrote to me:

I listen to your #apsalmaday videos every day and I like it very much. You know, I am sharing them on FB because I think they are very valuable and it is a great encouragement for every day.

I read the Bible every day and spend some time in prayer. 👉Your short encouragement message helps me to find the strength for everyday life. So I am glad to know you and to have the possibility to listen to your encouragement. God bless you!

Martin Podolák (Slovakia) helps with the English subtitles and also provides subtitles in the Slovak language. He is such an encouragement to me. He wrote:

A #psalmaday is such a good project for these days. We Christians know that the Bible is the living Word of God, but here it is so encouraging to see it in practice. 👉Marja's daily messages show that it is possible to get a fresh message from God's Word every day.

Her messages often give me light for the day, lead me to prayers, and motivate me to read the Word on a more personal level. Such reading is the basis for a deeper relationship with God, therefore I encourage you to join this journey and be touched by the Word of God.

Kenny Edmunds
(Michigan, USA), whom I have never met in person but only know through mutual friends in Ukraine on FB, consistently shares the videos each day. Sharing is caring! He sent me this message:

The Psalms are powerful songs, that apply to any situation in life. 👉Reading them aloud, my heart is calmed and filled with praise and thanksgiving.

Sylvia King (Texas, USA) has been responding to the daily videos on YouTube, picking a verse and sharing her thoughts. Although I do not know her personally, I am encouraged by her comments. She wrote:

#Apsalmaday stays with me all day. 👉I Love giving myself more time to not just read the Psalm, but let it, as you say, speak to me. And, fun to see which verse speaks to you and others. I was telling my husband Terrence, who does YouVersion every morning, what a plan your Psalm-a-day would be on that platform! Just the way it is on YouTube. Perfect!

Needless to say that such comments make me happy and thankful. Although most of us are not traveling at the moment, we are on this journey together... a journey through God's Word, the journey of a lifetime!

If you want to share what #apsalmaday is doing for you, let me know!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Oh soul, disturbed within me

Now that I reflect daily on the psalms for my video project #apsalmaday, it strikes me once again how appropriate in this day and age, how recognizable, how timely they are.

One day, as a reader, we can identify with the joy of the psalmist, the next day with his grief or frustration. 👉Whatever the case, crying out to God is the common thread running through all psalms.

The other day we arrived at Psalm 42, a very well-known psalm but at the same time so refreshing! Verse 3:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God ...

Oh, I recognize that, it is the cry of my heart! Don't get me wrong, God knows me and I know Him. He is in my life, He is in my heart. But that only increases the longing, the desire for more of Him, for more of His Spirit, for more of His Father's heart. The crazier the world gets, the more I seek Him, the more I want to learn from Him, the more I listen ...

The psalmist asks a good question: Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Do you experience this disturbance, this restlessness in your soul? I do. But I also learned (by reading the Psalms, among other things!) that it is nothing to worry about. That restlessness, that thirst in our soul might be a sign,

  • that we should spend quality time with the Lord, He wants to speak to us
  • that we are in a season of change and God wants to show us new things or the next step
  • that we should schedule a time to fast in order to regain our focus
  • that God is revealing Himself to us in a new way, in other words, that we are going to learn something new about His eternal character
  • that it is time to refresh our worship practices
  • that we should pick up or pursue praying in tongues again

Hopefully, this list will help you. I am curious... is there anything particular that appeals to you in Psalm 42?

Saturday, March 06, 2021

About prayers and frustration...

With everything that is going on in the world right now, I struggle with praying (yep). I am frustrated with my own prayers. I admit it and I know I am not the only one 😁

I find myself struggling on a daily basis. Should I pray as David prayed? Lord, kill the wicked. Wipe 'm off the face of the earth! Sometimes I feel like doing that, but somehow it does not satisfy my soul. 

Well, maybe it is better to pray a nice prayer... Lord, forgive those who oppose You, for they don't know what they are doing. Hm, quite a humble prayer, based on the words of Jesus when He prayed for His accusers. However, under current circumstances, it seems passive to me.

Or maybe I should pray a prayer of love, simply because love will never fail. Lord, thank You for being love. Show Your love to those that hate You. Well, something like that. But I find this quite difficult when my heart is restless and frustration and anger are rising up regularly.

I don't know how you handle prayers for the world's situation these days, but I have decided that the Lord's prayer is probably the best proclamation prayer, 👉 and I put emphasis on this verse:

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

It doesn't really matter how I think or feel. This is what I need to proclaim over every possible situation. I hope it is your prayer as well!

Do you have a particular prayer, you have been praying lately?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Illumination Award for True Worshipers

Anyone writing blogs, books, or articles knows how encouraging it can be to receive good reviews, reports, or comments regarding your work. We all need that boost from time to time to keep going 😉

So, I am happy and thankful to be able to announce that my latest book True Worshipers received a bronze medal in the 2021 Illumination Book Awards, and well in the category Christian Living.

The fact that the book is being noticed, that the jury found it worth reading, and that it deserves an award is an encouragement to me. I know that I wrote this book for a time like this, and if you have not ordered your copy yet... please do so. It is available on Amazon.

The message in the book is based on the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well, as described in John 4. He prophesies that God the Father will be seeking a certain kind of worshipers, people who will worship Him in spirit and truth. An intriguing concept, especially in our time.

👉In the past year, our concept of worship has been challenged, on a worldwide scale. Churches had to close their doors, concerts and big events were canceled, meeting together restricted, and even singing forbidden, etc. Where does that leave us? A challenging question, whether you abide by these restrictions or not...

Of course, I had no idea the world would look like this when I wrote the book back at the beginning of 2020. That makes the message all the more interesting. I hope you will decide to read True Worshipers and evaluate whether you are one of the worshipers the Father is seeking!


Monday, February 08, 2021

A psalm a day...

In my previous blog I wrote about my #oneword for 2021: connect.

To be honest with you, I find it quite difficult from time to time to stay in close contact with people during these crazy times ... family, friends, readers of my blogs and books. Some people want to connect, others don't;  you have to be careful these days and try to feel and understand where people are in this crisis.

I often pray about it, "Lord, show me what I can do, how I can keep encouraging others and myself." Well, that's how we started our small group at the end of September which is such a precious and joyful time with several ladies.

And that is how last weekend I got the idea to record a series of videos about the psalms. For years there was a sign in our kitchen with the saying: 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'. I once brought that over from America. And suddenly the thought came to me: 'A psalm a day ...' 

Why not encourage people to read a psalm a day and get something personal out of it? A bit like an antidote to all the negative news. So I now post a very short encouragement (2 minutes) about a psalm every day and with it the challenge to read that psalm out loud and see which verse appeals to you.

Since my personal reflections are in English, people from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Ukraine, Slovakia, and the USA have already joined me in reading through the psalms.

You can follow the video series on my YouTube channel, my IGTV, Facebook, Twitter, and MeWe. Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Monday, February 01, 2021

My #oneword for 2021

At the beginning of a new year, I often pray for a word. Yes, one word that will become a common thread throughout the upcoming months.

A word that gives color and meaning to the year. After a few days of praying and listening, I finally got my #oneword for 2021 about three weeks ago: connect, or associate, hook up, relate.

My first reaction to that word was one of amazement. Connect? How? We are under worldwide orders to isolate ourselves, to not hang out with other people (well, that is my interpretation). But that first thought led to another thought: Connection contradicts isolation. And so my #oneword turns out to be quite revolutionary; connection is the opposite of isolation.

God's thoughts are opposite to the thoughts of the people in this world. This has always been so, and always will be. The Bible warns against loneliness (it is not good for man to be alone and a sheep that strays from the flock is in danger) and calls believers to look after one another and to keep hospitality a priority. Yes, in good times and bad times.

I see my #oneword for 2021 as a reminder that right in the midst of a world that has gone insane I can/must have a different message, that I can/must extend the invitation of Jesus: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I trust that He will show me whom I can 'connect' with from day to day.

Do you have a word for 2021? 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The good armor (8)

In this last post about the armor of God, I would like to take a look at all scripture verses we discussed and well in full context, that is as in Ephesians 6:10-18.

I will do so step by step for clarity sake (the words in italics are Bible verses):

  • Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. 👉The power is the Lord's, we should not event try to rely on our own strength!
  • Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks. 👉What is the purpose of this armor? It will enable us to stand up gainst evil, even if all others and everything else is falling down.
  • For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. 👉Never forget this, the fight is NEVER aginst people, it is against the powers of darkness.
  • So put on God's armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. 👉Again: let's make sure we keep standing. Do not bow down to Satan.
  • So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. 👉Stand ready, be alert, don't be sidetracked, keep attention!
  • At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. 👉At all times, don't wait for better times, stand ready now!
And so we have come to verse 18. It looks like a new sentence, even a new paragraph, but we should not seperate it from the prevous verses, If we do so, it will lose value and we will miss a very essential part of the armor.

Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God's people.

We can arm ourselves from head to toe ... but if we don't do so in prayer, we can't take the fight. Always pray, pray persistently. Is that possible? Yes, otherwise it wouldn't say so. Praying is talking with God, which is possible anytime, anywhere ... we don't necessarily have to sit at the table with our hands folded. Be alert. Is that possible? Yes, I believe so. It does mean that we have to put aside all things that distract us.

With good armor, we fight a good fight (2 Timothy 4: 7).

Monday, January 18, 2021

The good armor (7)

Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation... we looked at it briefly in the previous blogs. They are the God-given weapons we need to fight with and to protect ourselves with in a hostile world.

When we read verse 17 in the sixth chapter of the letter to Ephesians in its entirety, it says:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. So, what is this sword? The Spirit of God or the Word of God, or maybe both? Surely, we are not supposed to stab people with Bible verses, as if we were in a sword fight ...

No, that would not be wise. However, this verse does show us that the Word of God is sharp, and no doubt powerful. The Bible is not just a book full of letters, it is a book full of life. Jesus said to His disciples, The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).

Such an awesome statement. The words of Jesus are spiritual and full of life, which is why they are still speaking to people today (two thousand years later)! His words are not theory or theology, but spiritual truths. In Hebrews 4:12 the Word is described like this:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The sword, we cannot and should not live without it. Reading (and then doing) the living word is essential everyday food!

Monday, January 11, 2021

The good armor (6)

In my previous blog I described briefly how we can use our faith as a shield to ward off the attacks of the enemy, actually to ricochet them.

Let's read on in Ephesians 6, verse 17a.

And you will need the helmet of salvation ... Most translations say: 'Take the helmet of salvation'.

👉A helmet offers protection against head injuries. So actually this is not a weapon, but none the less part of the armor. Kind of like a musician who cannot properly play without his sheet music. Although not an instrument, sheet music is essential for performance.

The helmet of salvation, how should we see it? The Bible speaks of being saved from eternal death that was the result of sin. But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved (Ephesians 2: 4-5).

God's love and grace exceed our shortcomings. He offers us eternal life in His presence if we are to believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Being 100% sure that He has rescued us from darkness and brought us into light protects us from every other thought ... Thoughts that we are not worth it, that we are lost, that it is not for us, that we did awful things ...

In that same chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, it says in verse 8: For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it.

Receive that gift and let it guide your thinking, it can save you a lot of headaches!

Sunday, January 03, 2021

The good armor (5)

Truth, righteousness, and the willingness to be a messenger of peace, I mentioned these weapons in the previous blog posts about the spiritual armor.

Let's read a little further in Ephesians 6 until we arrive at verse 16: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. The TLB translation says: In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.

Flaming, fiery arrows of the enemy? Faith as a shield? So, how exactly does this work in our daily lives? Faith is the assurance of things we hope for and the evidence of things we cannot see (Heb. 11: 1). Faith basically means that we do not doubt the existence of God, that we accept the Bible as His Word, and that we know He keeps His promises. If we can see that kind of faith (assurance) as a shield, we will understand that it will ricochet everything that brings doubt or goes against God's Word.

Everything yes, because flaming arrows are fired at us on a daily basis; thoughts that suddenly enter our heads or our hearts ... Is it all true? Does God Really Love Me? Have I been forgiven? Is the Bible actually true? etc. etc. We can extinguish those fiery arrows (meant to set our thoughts and feelings on fire) with faith.

The kind of faith that makes us say aloud: Jesus is the truth, God loves me with an everlasting love, Jesus has completely forgiven me of all sin, and His Word endures forever. I dare you to raise that shield when all kinds of lies and doubts about God and His Word are coming your way. Go right against it, proclaim the truth. This is how we fight the spiritual battle.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

This time of darkness will not go on forever

The other day I was praying for a word of encouragement to share with the members of the Christian Nonfiction Lovers Book club on Goodreads. Just something more than a regular Christmas greeting...

The Lord reminded me of a scripture I had read just days before. So, I shared it on Goodreads and it triggered a lot of positive responses. Then I shared the word on Facebook as well and last, but certainly not least,  I want to share it with my blogging friends! Take it to heart, it might be exactly what you need to hear today!

"I was reading Isaiah 9 in my NLT Inspire Bible and verse 1 says: Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. I took that as a rhema word for today and it is my hope that sharing it with you will bring joy to your heart and encouragement to your soul.

God has designed the times and seasons. According to Genesis 8:22 there will always be seasons as long as the earth exists. Seasons in nature, seasons in life. A new spring is coming. Amidst this ever circulating cycle of life, God remains faithful and His love endures forever. He knows the past, present, and future… and yet, He is concerned with every detail of your life.

It is this amazing God who inspires us today and tomorrow and in the year to come. May His love guide you, His grace compel you, and His peace surround you."


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

The good armor (4)

"We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments,"
writes the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4.

He understood spiritual warfare like no other. And you know what, God's weapons are just as much for us today. In my previous blogs, I wrote about truth and righteousness.

Let's continue to read about the armor in Ephesians 6:15, where it says that we should wear as our shoes the readiness to announce the good news of peace. Other translations speak about sandals of willingness, shoes of preparation.

👉We put on shoes when we are about to go out of the house. On a shelf they have little value. Knowing we can bring peace in a situation is not the same as actually doing it! The willingness to be a messenger of peace is much more than a good intention, it is something that must be put into practice.

Let's make it practical. Part of our armor is to be peacemakers in difficult situations, to offer God's peace when someone is troubled, to settle arguments that have been going on far too long, and to share the good news about the Prince of Peace... Jesus.  Easy? No. Possible? Yes!

Jesus had a good reason for saying: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5: 9).

I want to be blessed. What about you?

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The good armor (3)

Being encircled (girded) by truth, what a nice thought from my previous blog. We can survive in a world full of lies when we are protected by the truth!

Let's continue to read about the spiritual armor as described in Ephesians 6. Verse 14 speaks about a breastplate of  RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Now, in general, most of us don't walk around in medieval clothing items anymore, but I think the idea of our righteousness being able to take a beating (attack) is quite clear.

The Bible says that no one is righteous by nature, not one! (Romans 3:10). Only God is righteous. Jesus is also called the Righteous One. Why? 👉Because He came to earth to present His righteousness in exchange for our failures and mistakes, for our sins.

Righteous means as much as: good, virtuous, upright, worthy, ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, just, honest, innocent, faultless, sinless, uncorrupted, pure, noble... well, you get the idea, it ain't about us! Within Christianity, as well as in all major world religions, we can see people trying to achieve some form of righteousness by working hard and following all kinds of rules. But then again, the more people try, the more they feel like failing.

This is exactly why Jesus' offer is so crucial. Our sins in exchange for His righteousness. What a deal! He offers forgiveness for our iniquities and thereby declares us righteous. 💓That righteousness (knowing that we are forgiven!) is our armor; it protects our whole being. In Romans 3:221-2 it says:  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 

Not because of good deeds, but because of faith we are declared righteous before God. This eliminates guilt, shame, failure, fear, and judgment. Knowing that we are forgiven... we should wear it like impenetrable armor. If you have made the choice for Jesus, don't let anyone tell you that things are not right between you and God. This is an area where many spiritual battles take place.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).