Saturday, August 11, 2018

Paid to preach?

In most churches it is common practice to pay the speaker (preacher, teacher, evangelist or pastor) for his speech.

This custom originates from the apostle Paul's exhortation in 1 Corinthians 9:14 where he states: the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. So far, so good.

Although Paul endorses this custom, he never made use of it himself. He continues in verse 15 with the following personal statement: Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.

Wow, strong words. He would rather die than preaching for money. So what is it? Should preachers get paid or should they deny payment? It seems a very personal choice, Paul is sharing with us. He made a living as a tent maker (see Acts 18:3) and probably did not need anyone to pay him for sharing the Good News. I wonder, however, why he uses such strong words to explain his choice... I mean, to rather die than getting paid for a good sermon... come on! (his comment made me think though... here's a radical preacher!)

Personally, I was able to make my choice as well. When I get invited to speak somewhere I do not ask for a honorarium. I do not make use of my rights, so to speak. Why not? Because I consider myself a 'tent maker', just like Paul. I work for a living and as long as I get to do that, I can freely speak everywhere. If the host insists in giving me something, I propose an offering for our non-profit organization Traveling Light.

When someone has no income from a secular job, it would be wise to receive payment for preaching/teaching, right? Maybe one day I will make use of my rights, who knows.

I am curious to hear your take on this... Do you get to speak at conferences, in churches or at women's meetings? Do you get paid to preach?


PS: I teach on paper as well πŸ˜€If you haven't done so already, you can order my latest e-book IN MY NAME on Amazon for just 2.99.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Value your readers!

In my previous blog post I wrote about my different kind of give-away: 'It is my greatest joy to see the messages God gave me, touch people's lives. If it helps them to grow in their faith, if they are encouraged and inspired... I am happy.'

Whether you are a blogger, writer or author... you have a story to tell and if what you write touches a person's heart... you did not write in vain.

In this picture I am giving a copy of my latest book In My Name to Zhenya Venidyktova. She is one of my lovely interpreters when visiting Ukraine. She speaks Russian and English fluently and it is such a joy to hang out with her. Oh, how we love to minister together to those who are hurt and in need of a touch of God.

I wish I could visit Ukraine more often and hang out with people like Zhenya.... talking about God, books, history and the future of our nations. She finished reading In My name and she wrote me a note:

"Your latest book gives a fresh look at one of the 10 commandments, not to use the Lord's Name in vain. I liked that it shows us how to really use the Lord's Name for His glory, how we can do what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. I also liked the examples from your life & ministry. It helps me to hear the Holy Spirit & to obey Him."

I thought I 'd honor her, one of my many readers, with this blog post because I truly value her!

Do you have precious comments from readers that you would like to share?

PS: If you haven't done so already, you can order the e-book on Amazon for just 2.99.

I am looking forward to your comments!


Monday, July 23, 2018

A book: the best gift!

In my previous blog post I promised to give away a free copy of my newest book: In My Name. That post received a lot of comments on FB... yeah, like more than one hundred!

But since no one really shared the give-away, I decided to give 5 books to people I hand picked πŸ˜‰

Last week we were in Ukraine, we participated in a summer camp for people from faith-based drugs- and alcohol rehabilitation centers. 230 men and women and children were present, we had a fantastic time. My husband and I taught several classes on 'the new life'.


We were very grateful for the team of interpreters that stood by our side, without them we could have done nothing. They helped us with the classes, with counseling sessions and personal talks throughout the whole week. I gave several books away as a thank you. Julia (in the picture) was very excited to receive a book. She loves the English language and she loves the Lord!

Another interpreter, Zhenya, emailed me the other day... "Marja, I am already in chapter 10. I love it!" It is my greatest joy to see the messages God gave me, touch people's lives. If it helps them to grow in their faith, if they are encouraged and inspired... I am happy.

So my dear blogger and author friends, keep writing if that is what you love to do. We never know how, when and where readers will be blessed by the very words we penned down.


You can order your Kindle book on Amazon for just $2.99.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Giveaway 'In My Name'

When my latest book came out, I promised to set up a giveaway on this blog. Well, since you're all in a festive mood celebrating the 4th of July (which happens to be my wedding anniversary)... let's do it!

In My Name is the 7th book in a series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century and the back matter reads:

‘Lord’ is not a word to end our sentences with when we talk to Him, nor is it a filler to make our prayers sound more holy and authentic. ‘Lord’ is His personal revelatory name and He gave it to us for use on a daily basis.

It is one thing to claim we don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, but what do we do? Are we bringing honor to His name? Do we have a genuine love for His name? And most of all, is everything we do and say then, done in His name? The letter of the Old Testament law says ‘do not use the Lord’s name in vain’, Jesus however urges every believer to ‘honor His holy name’. We will find out how such a commandment can become practical and applicable for believers today, not by focusing on what we cannot and should not do, but by focusing on what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us and through us. The Holy Spirit desires to change us from the inside out.

May we all discover a new and fresh way to bring honor to His name. May we use God’s name with power, purpose and reverence in effective ministry all over the world and in doing so be a generation that fulfills the ancient scriptures right here and now in the 21st century.

So, if you would like to win a free copy of In My Name:
  • leave your comment on this blog and
  • share this post on social media.
That's all! I'll be drawing a name when I come back from my travels after next week. In the meantime you can check out reviews here:

Jeanette's blog : "A life changing book.."
Cecelia's blog : "Another outstanding book..."
Amazon : "Marja has an uncanny ability to make a difficult biblical truth both simple and profound."
Reader's Favorite : "An excellent read..."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reviews: give and take

As bloggers we love to get comments on our posts, it encourages and motivates. As writers and authors we love to get feedback on our articles and books, whether that is in the form of emails, shares on social media or honest reviews.

Of course we are excited about our own work, if not... something would be wrong 😁Even with little response to our writings, most of us would probably continue to do what we feel God has called us to do.

However, it is always good and useful to reflect and pray about our writings, to learn new skills, to develop existing ones and (let's not forget!) to comment on the work of others.

Reviews... it is a give and take business. Do for others what you want them to do for you; everyone loves to receive positive feedback from their readers!

Blogger and author Jeanette Levellie wrote a review about my latest book IN MY NAME on her blog Love Splashes and she posted a 5-star review on Amazon. She wrote:

"I found myself not only thinking of God and his name in new, intimate ways. But the teachings of In My Name  changed the way I pray!" 

Her comments are very encouraging to me and I am thankful for her postings. Have you subscribed to Jeanette's blog

Readers Favorite gave my new book a thumbs up in several reviews. One reader wrote:

"...clear writing and a straightforward concise message."

As bloggers/writers/authors we can meet on Goodreads as well, there are several interesting groups where books are discussed and reviews are given. Several years ago I started the Christian Nonfiction Lovers Book Club. We are currently revamping the topics, so feel free to join in!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Solomon's question

I am a curious person by nature. I like to ask questions, simply because I like to learn. And yeah, I have questions for God as well.

Throughout the Bible we encounter many people who had  questions for God. Like Solomon for example. He had built a temple for God's presence but at some point he found it hard to believe that the Lord God would actually be there. You can read all about that in 1 Kings 8. In verse 27 he asks this question: ‘but will God really dwell on earth?’ I have used his question in my latest book In My Name. I quote:

"It might as well be one of our questions today. Are You really, really with us Lord? Are You there when we pray and prophesy in Your name? Can we trust You to show up when we need You? Is Your Holy Spirit in us and among us equivalent to the presence of Jesus on earth? Does that sound familiar?

Some of my questions over the years have been: How come nothing happened when we prayed for my sick friend? Why didn’t You show up when we called on Your name? Why didn’t You heal my niece when we prayed? I don’t know about you, but I can relate to Solomon’s question. Will God really dwell on earth?

We talk about Him and His presence, a lot. But talking about Him is not the same as experiencing Him. Many people talk about God, some of them even from a pulpit, but they never had a real encounter with God. The Bible states that God’s presence fills the heavens and the earth, but what about our living rooms or back yards? πŸ‘‰What about our church buildings and religious gatherings? 

How come we can sit in a meeting and not sense God at all? How come we can be in a church setting where it is all about God, but it seems He decided not to show up? I don’t know about your experiences, but I have often felt disappointed about the emptiness of our religious activities. I have often felt powerless when my prayers weren’t being answered and God seemed a million miles away. Yes, I can certainly relate to Solomon’s question."

Can you?

In My Name is available in Kindle format on Amazon for $2.99.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Who am I, that I should go?

Have you ever asked that question? Who am I that I should go?

Thousands of years ago Moses had a life-changing encounter with God in the desert. God wanted him to go to the Egyptian Pharao and ask for the release of the enslaved Israelites. Moses was hesitant and began to ask some serious questions... What is your name? What can I tell them? Who am I that I should go? You can find the story in the 3rd chapter of Exodus.

In my latest book 'In My Name' I have used this encounter to describe how God's presence and His name are connected.

"The significance of the name Yahweh is that it not only confirms God’s existence but even more so His presence! Before Moses asked God which name he could use, he posed another question: ‘who am I, that I should go?’ Have you ever asked that question? Who am I that You should ask such a thing of me? To go and lay my hands on someone who is sick. To donate money that I have destined for something else. To open my mouth and share the Gospel with my co-worker.

We often do not consider ourselves worthy or equipped to take on the very task God has assigned to us. So it was with Moses. God responded by saying ‘surely I will be with you’, which, at first sight, not really answered the question. However, it turns out to be a very good answer when we realize this encounter was not about Moses, but all about God revealing Himself to Moses!

So often we, like Moses, act like everything that happens and that is being said revolves around us (whether we are capable or ready or whether we are the right person for the job), while in reality everything revolves around God. So, in answer to Moses’ question God confirms His personal, protective and holy presence (verse 12) right before He reveals His name (verses 13-14). That tells me we cannot separate His personal name from His personal presence."

Can you relate to the questions Moses asked?

πŸ‘‰In My Name is available in Kindle format on Amazon for $2.99.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

That name in prayer

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where someone used the name 'Lord' as a filler? Annoying for sure, but it always makes me alert... how do I use God's name?

My new book In My Name offers a New Testament perspective on the 3rd commandment... Do not use the name of the Lord in vain. In Old Testament times people were stoned to death for misusing the name of the Lord. Thank God we live in a different time, because I believe we all use His name in vain from time to time. I quote from page 27:

"I remember a prayer meeting we attended, many years ago. We had joined together with a group of believers to intercede for a brother in our church who was very sick and much too young to die (so we thought). We took turns praying and pleading with the Lord to add some extra years to this person’s life. I remember that a certain man in this group used the name ‘Lord’ in his prayer about every four words.

At first I ignored it, but as he went on and on it began to irritate me. His prayer was sincere and passionate, don’t get me wrong. However; I suddenly had this thought: he is using the name of the Lord in vain. No, he was not swearing, but he used the name of God ineffectively. He used God’s holy name as just another word to make up his sentences.

Never before did it occur to me that even believers can misuse the name of God when talking or praying. How often have you been present in prayer meetings where His name was used as a common word? I think we can all relate to this."

Can you relate or not? Or maybe I should ask: are you using His name without thinking?

πŸ‘‰In My Name is available in Kindle format on Amazon for $2.99.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

In My Name

At the beginning of this year I specifically prayed for several things (concerning my writing activities) to come to pass 😁. It is so easy to become occupied with a thousand good causes and ideas, but really... what I want to do, and what I believe God called me to do, is to write more books.

So, there I was, staring at a blank computer screen and a journal with a huge amount of hand written pages with thoughts and questions, begging God to help me. Well, He did! He is faithful and good. During my vacation in Portugal I began to write with a very tight planning. February for writing, March for editing and proof reading, April for publishing and printing. Have you ever done this?

And so the latest title in my book series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century has been released May 1st. In My Name is the 7th book in the series I have been working on for years now. It is a short study based on the 3rd Commandment which tells us not to use the name of the Lord in vain.

I have linked this commandment to the words of Jesus in the Lord's prayer: 'hallowed be your name'. It is one thing to claim we don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, but what do we do? Are we bringing honor to His name? Do we have a genuine love for His name? And most of all, is everything we do and say then, done in His name?

Reader's Favorite gave it a thumbs up in several 5-star reviews:

"Definitely an enlightening read!"

"Clear writing and a straightforward concise message."

"An excellent read..."

If you have read any of the previous books in this series, you will certainly enjoy this one, which encourages you to invite God's presence in daily situations. ‘Lord’ is not a word to end our sentences with when we talk to Him, nor is it a filler to make our prayers sound more holy and authentic. ‘Lord’ is His personal revelatory name and He gave it to us for use on a daily basis.

In My Name e-book is available on Amazon for 2.99. The paperback version is basically for distribution within Europe (unless you don't mind to pay the shipping costs).

If you want to do a review on your blog, I will be happy to send you a complimentary copy for reviewing purposes.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Purpose of the church (8)

Thank you very much for reading this blog series about the purpose of the church and also for your valuable comments.

"The purpose of the church is simple, namely that everyone gets to know Jesus well" I wrote in my previous blog post. Simple maybe, but apparently not so easy to implement. In personal conversations I often discover that people can faithfully go to church for years and years and yet do not know Jesus personally. That is quite tragic and I really hope and pray that we will all experience a refreshing renewal and change in the way we do/are church.

Of course, we can not solely expect that from leadership (sometimes they have no clue either), we are in this together. Let us take a look again at the words in Ephesians 4: 11-13. This time, for the sake of clarity, I used the Good News translation and cut it into pieces because the sentences are very long:
  • It was he [Jesus] who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.
  • He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service
  • in order to build up the body of Christ.
  • And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God
  • we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature.

Wow, we shall become mature people (a perfect man the NKJV says) attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. What a wonderful purpose. I want that! Even if I have to sit in a pew for a while :)

I suggest that we all compare the above list (the Word of God) with our church setting and customs and ask ourselves some critical questions: Is there a five fold leadership available in my church/congregation to prepare me to serve, so that the church/congregation can grow, and do we get to know Christ better? And finally .... am I on my way to maturity?

I sincerely hope that we will be church, with a purpose!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Purpose of the church (7)

'Biblically speaking, the church will not be built up by programs and methods, but by the servanthood of believers', I wrote in part 6 of this series.

Interesting, isn't it, to read the words in Ephesians 4:11-13 slowly and compare them with the way we do church today. So far we have seen:

  • that Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers (Amen, let's not add or distract anything and acknowledge and appreciate all of them.)
  • to equip his people (we are not supposed to stay ignorant or dumb, we should grow and be trained.)
  • for works of service (not for what we want to do, but for the works He has prepared for us to do.)
  • so that the body of Christ may be built up (now, that is the way to do it).
The Body of Christ, that is: the believers, the church (local and universal), is being built up (grows) when the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers train the believers to serve God. But that is not all there is to it ... Let's continue to read:

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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God

Ah, there is a higher purpose than just gathering knowledge and being of service. We must stop fighting each other and eventually form a unity! In the Today's English Version it is written: And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God. I should have known, we do not play church simply because we have been doing so for ages, no ... the goal is that we will form a unity and get to know the Son of God well!

The longer I think about the words in Ephesians 4-11-13, the clearer it becomes. The purpose of the church is simple, namely that everyone gets to know Jesus well! Equipping leads to service leads to spiritual growth leads to the knowledge of Jesus which leads to unity .... regardless of our background, upbringing, education or religious denomination.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

7th book in series released

I am taking a little break from my blog series about the purpose of the church... for a good reason :) The latest title in my book series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century has been released this week!

'In My Name' is the 7th book in the series, I have been working on for years now. All bloggers that write and publish books, will know how much effort, time, love, struggle, frustration, doubt and jubilation is hidden in the writing process. 

Finding time, or should I say: making time to write, turns out to be the hardest thing to do, again and again. I wrote the bulk of this book while on vacation in Portugal; not a bad place to work after all.

'In My Name' is a short study based on the 3rd Commandment which tells us not to use the name of the Lord in vain. I have linked this commandment to the words of Jesus in the Lord's prayer: 'hallowed be your name'. It is one thing to claim we don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, but what do we do? Are we bringing honor to His name? Do we have a genuine love for His name? And most of all, is everything we do and say then, done in His name?

‘Lord’ is not a word to end our sentences with when we talk to Him, nor is it a filler to make our prayers sound more holy and authentic. ‘Lord’ is His personal revelatory name and He gave it to us for use on a daily basis.


If you have read any of the previous books in this series, you will certainly enjoy this one, which encourages you to invite God's presence in daily situation. Reader's Favorite gave it a thumbs up in a 5-star review.


'In My Name' e-book is available on Amazon for 2.99. The European paperback version will come out beginning of May. 

PS:  I will post a give-away soon!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Purpose of the church (6)

'The equipping must always lead to service', I wrote in my previous blog post. We are being equipped in order to serve God. That sounds pretty cool. Of course, deep down in our heart we all want to do something useful for God. But doing good works .... to what purpose? For sure we do not (and cannot) earn God's love.

Let's go back to our base text (Ephesians 4: 11-13) for this series about the purpose of the church:

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 NKJV says it like this:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...

So, we do not work in His service for ourselves and weird enough not for God either. He does not need anything from us. In Acts 17:25 we can read: And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. No, we do not serve God in order to become a better person in one way or another. We serve, so that the Church will be built up.

There are many churches and denominations complaining about a decline in growth. This often results in the implementation of all kinds of ideas to make the church services more attractive. But biblically speaking, the church will not be built up by programs and methods, but by the servanthood of believers.

We should not expand the number of seats in a church or congregation, but rather call the people in the seats to take action. Whether there are twenty or two hundred people present. We do not grow by gathering more knowledge (let's be honest, how many sermons can a person hear?) but by doing what we have learned.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Purpose of the church (5)

And  He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry... (Ephesians 4:11).

How often can you read such a text? Not often enough, I think. We can learn so much that will help us today to build a healthy spiritual community, a church that is truly the Body (the representation) of Christ on earth.

Jesus gave it like this for a reason; let us not take anything away from it and add nothing to it. I sincerely believe it would be very useful to take a closer look at the forms of leadership in our contemporary churches in light of Ephesians 4:11-13. By the way, I think it is easier to start a new church with these verses in mind, than to reorganize an existing one with the dogma's, patterns and systems already in place, but that aside.

The people (whether you are a hairdresser, construction worker or nurse) who are called and assigned to one or more of the five functions, tasks or ministries mentioned must always bear in mind that they do that work as part of a team in order to to equip (prepare, get ready) believers to serve God. The Good News Translation calls it 'works of Christian service'.

When we think about the purpose of the church these verses keep popping up. We do not come together just to come together (although that can be very useful from a spiritual and social point of view) but to be equipped for work in the service of God. In that sense we could see the church as a vocational school. We don't know much when we enroll, we learn and learn and ask questions and do our homework. We are not supposed to stay in grade 5 or 6 for ten years, we are called to grow and graduate!

The equipping must always lead to service. There will come a time when we will put the acquired knowledge into practice, when we will do what we have learned. There comes a time when we are going to share God's love with a world in need, whether that is around the corner or in a distant land. In doing so it is very possible that we are called once more... to equip others!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Purpose of the church (4)

'The five are called together for a common task ...' I wrote in my previous blog entry. I was referring to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers as mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11-13. People who are appointed or given by Jesus for a certain task.

For the sake of clarity, let's go back to that text again:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service (NIV translation). What is their job? Equiping believers for work in God's service. The Good News translation states: He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service...

That is quite a responsibility. Together (as a team) they must equip (prepare, get ready, arm) the believers to be of service to God. There is no one who can do this on his or her own. Nowadays I see shepherds (also called pastors, reverends, priests) struggle to do this all alone. It is, in my opinion, no wonder that many end up on the couch with a burn-out. Only Jesus himself was shepherd, as well as teacher (rabbi), apostle, evangelist and prophet!

It has never been His intention to put all those qualities in one person! He desires cooperation in a team so that we can keep each other accountable and no one will get the chance to rise above the other. There is no hierarchy in these five functions / tasks. If such a thing exists, we must base it on 1 Corinthians 12:28 where it says: And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...The shepherd and evangelist are not even mentioned here.

I truly believe we are missing something in our spiritual growth and development if we are being equipped by just one (perhaps two) of these people. Suppose you only listen to a teacher (preacher) and never learn from an apostle what it is like to be sent out and travel and plant churches. You could just end up sitting in a pew for thirty years (with a lot of knowledge, yes) without ever going into the world ....

Now, that is unthinkable, right ...?