Tuesday, January 08, 2019

God, a mystery revealed (5)

'Jesus has always been there, He is the eternal God and in union with Him all things have their proper place' I wrote in my previous blog.

It was a referral to the section in the letter to the Colossians that we are looking at in this blog series, a section that deals with the supremacy of Christ.

Let's take a look at Colossians 1:18, it says:

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Wow, so much revelation about who He is in one sentence, great! Jesus Christ is the head of the universal Church (all churches in the world), also called His body. His body on earth, as He walked around two thousand years ago: doing good and healing (Acts 10:38). That is the mandate and blueprint of the Church!

He is the beginning! Yes, He is the source of our existence, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Nothing exists without Him. The universe is being held together by Him, as we can read in some translations.

He is the firstborn from among the dead. This is interesting. When reading the Bible we find out that people had been resurrected from the dead before Jesus... but they had to die again one day. So, this verse does not mean that people can physically raise from the dead. I think that Paul (the writer of the letter to the Colossians) is referring to the words of Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25). Jesus promises eternal life for those who believe in Him!

In everything He has supremacy! In everything ... whatever we do or invent, He preceded it. Without Him we would not even exist. I hope that He may also have supremacy in your life.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

God, a mystery revealed (4)

Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone who did not believe that Jesus is God. Such opinions can lead to very interesting discussions and I certainly do not avoid such talks. However, let's not forget what the Bible has to say about it.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. This is how the passage begins that we are examining in this blog series (Colossians 1:15-20). It is a section in which the apostle Paul writes about the superiority of Jesus. The more often we read that piece, the more we learn about Him. Just do it.

We are coming to verse 17 where Paul lifts the veil a little more. I just love ๐Ÿ’— the Good News translation:

Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place.

Jesus has always been there, He is the eternal God and in union with Him all things have their proper place. That tells me if something or someone is not in union with Him, they are not in their proper place... kind of being lost. In union with Him we find our purpose, our existence will begin to make sense.

Somewhere else in the Bible that connection (union) with God has been described as follows: ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28). In Him we live and move and have our being, if you decide to believe and accept that, a totally new world will open up for you. And then (sometimes at once, sometimes step by step) that mysterious God suddenly comes very close. Awesome, isn't it?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

God, a mystery revealed (3)

In this blog series I want to focus on Colossians 1:15-20. We have already seen the awesome truth in verse fifteen: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.

We cannot see God, but Jesus made Him known during His life on earth in the things He did and said. There were thousands and thousands of eyewitnesses and many of them have passed on their experiences from generation to generation and later entrusted these stories to paper. Reading the Bible is one way to get to know God.

As we continue in that first chapter of the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colosse (which is now in Turkey), we read the following:

For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him.

My Dutch translation says 'everything was made for His glory'. Pooh, what went wrong, you may wonder. There have been quite some world rulers and governments who have made a mess of it, even up till now. As a matter of fact, it seems to get worse instead of better. Dictatorships, evil regimes and suppression ... that can never bring honor of God, right?

No, of course not. Personally, I read in those words that no one and nothing can ever exist without Jesus decision to create. And He has created everything and everyone (including leaders and people in authority) with a purpose, namely to honor Him as Creator of heaven and earth. So, it definitely goes wrong when people do not acknowledge this and put themselves above God by ignoring Him or denying His existence.

That arrogance has led and still leads to horrible situations in which personal gain and power are elevated above the welfare of a people. It should not be so. Psalm 2: 10-12 says: O kings and rulers of the earth, listen while there is time. Serve the Lord with reverent fear; rejoice with trembling. Fall down before his Son and kiss his feet before his anger is roused and you perish. I am warning you—his wrath will soon begin. But oh, the joys of those who put their trust in him!

Maybe those words sound a bit harsh, but apparently every leader and every government [and ultimately every person] has a choice to make!

Saturday, November 03, 2018

God, a mystery revealed (2)

"If there is no God, there is no reason for our existence and if there is no reason for it, there is no hope," I wrote in my previous blog post as an introduction to this new blog series in which we examine the supremacy of Christ. .

The Bible passage that I use for this series is Colossians 1:5-20. Verse 15 begins beautifully: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. In that one sentence we find the key to believing in God or not ... Jesus Christ has made God visible, has made Him known. We must go to Him with all our questions about God, eternity and the purpose of our existence.

That same verse continues like this:

He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.

Some translations say: the firstborn over all creation. Jesus as always been there. His time on earth (about 2000 years ago) was only a very small part of His eternal existence. As if we were allowed to peek inside his life. He is and will always be superior to all created things.

Shortly before Jesus was taken prison, He prayed to the Father for all believers and said: Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 17:24).

What a great prayer! The love of God was there before anything came into existence! Which makes perfect sense when we consider that the Bible says that God is love. It is with that same love that He loves the world (all people) ๐Ÿ’– ... yes, even if you reject him!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

God, a mystery revealed (1)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” [Psalm 14:1]

How often has it been said that the atheist actually denies the very God, he/she is angry with? The denial of a God who created the heavens, earth and humanity is leaving many (young) people in an existential crisis. If there is no God, there is no purpose and if there is no purpose, there is no hope.

But let's say God exists, then who is He? Has He made Himself known to His creation or can we conveniently make up our own god(s)? The latter has resulted in a smรถrgรฅsbord of opinions, pictures and images of God. It seems that the more we advance in time and knowledge, the lesser we understand who He really is.

I grew up in a Christian family. That doesn't mean, I automatically had a clear picture of God. He was real but distant. When I seriously began to read my Bible, I started to get to know Him better. In this blog series I will share some of the things the Bible teaches about God. Actually, I will share one of my favorite parts: Colossians 1:15-20. The sub heading reads The supremacy of Christ. It will bless your socks off, I promise!

It starts like this:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

Such depth in one simple sentence, incredible! This is the key to knowing God. Jesus Christ has revealed the invisible (mysterious) God. We do not have to make up our own image, we can simply look at the life of Jesus if we want to know who God really is. If you have never done so, grab a Bible and read the Gospel of John or see the movie with the same name. You will find out for yourself whether there is truth in the words above or not.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A writer's glorious blues

Musing over a blog post? Re-writing an article for the umpteenth time? Discouraged about a book-deal gone wrong? Well... most of us have been there. We procrastinated. We failed and tried again. We cried and picked up the pieces... again.

And so the story of our writing journey continues. ๐Ÿ‘‰Who knows we are writing life stories for a next generation that is growing up with smart phone language and emoticons. Although some people will never read a book in their life, let alone write one, one day someone will be inspired and motivated by the words we are putting on paper.

I must have been 5 or 6 years old when I knew I loved reading and writing. I ran up and down to the local library several times a week to get new books. I wrote little journals, diaries and short stories at a very early age. God put it in me, I just know that for sure.

Back in 2006 my first book was published in the USA. It has been a long and bumpy road ever since. I have doubted my calling. I have had writer's block. I have been discouraged a thousand times. I wanted to quit several times. But you know what? I am still here and I am still writing. Even if no one would ever read my stuff, even if no one would ever buy one of my books... I would still write. Simply because it is what I love to do.

I am getting used to the up's and down's this journey brings. I learn from my mistakes and I cherish the highlights.

I entered my latest book In My Name in the Reader's Favorite 2018 Awards. Knowing that they receive thousands upon thousands of entries in more than 140 categories I knew I needed God's favor to be noticed. But a girl can ask, right?

My book did not win an award. But I am thankful to announce that In My Name was a finalist in the category Christian - Devotions and Bible Studies. Such moments make the writer's blues glorious again. We get pushed forward, we believe we can do one more article, one more blog or yet another book :)

Thank you readers, thank you bloggers. Let's continue to encourage one another!

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer [Psalm 45:1]

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 ๐Ÿ˜€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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜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? ๐Ÿ‘‰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?

๐Ÿ‘‰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?

๐Ÿ‘‰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 ๐Ÿ˜. 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.