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!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The healthy soul (4)

"If our soul has been damaged (in the past), we need inner healing and restoration" I wrote in my previous blog. Soul pain finds its cause  in disappointment, rejection, abuse, manipulation, curses, etc. etc. Very often damages to our soul can be traced back to childhood years and experiences.

👉Soul pain does not get cured by itself nor does it disappear because we ignore it! Very often self-medication (alcohol, (prescription) drugs, behavioral adjustment, isolation etc.) is being used to suppress this invisible pain.

I have heard that our soul is like a sponge that absorbs all our experiences (good and bad). If we do not squeeze a wet sponge regularly, it will become heavy and it will smell bad; this also applies to our soul.

The importance of  soul cleansing is crucial. It may not solve all physical problems, but I am convinced it will solve most. Soul cleansing basically means bringing our deepest secrets out in the open, talking them over with someone and praying together for healing. Let's go back to the text in 3 John 1: 2 where it says:

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

Being healthy, just as (as well as, being similar to) our soul is doing well. Based on those words, I dare to say that a healthy soul is the foundation for good physical health and of course it starts with knowing for sure that we are safe in God's presence. The Psalmist describes it this way: Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62: 1).

We can try all the medicines and therapies that the world has to offer, but only in God will we truly find peace for our souls. From there, further healing can and will follow, although often step by step. And yes, that will bring us back to the invitation of the Lord Jesus: Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls...

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The healthy soul (3)

"Taking care of good physical health cannot be separated from taking care of a healthy soul," I wrote in my previous blog and I added that Jesus invites us to find peace for our souls with Him. However, that does not mean that trauma and damage will disappear with the click of a finger, it takes time.

I find it very interesting that Jesus is called the Overseer of our souls. In 1 Peter 2:25 we can read:

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The Greek word for overseer there is επισκοπος (episkopos) and it means "overseer, supervisor". So we could say that Jesus watches over our souls to make sure that everything goes well. It is only logical that we should discuss our soul issues with Him. The Holy Spirit is thereby a Helper and Counselor.

👉It can be good to discuss soul issues with another person as well. It will greatly help to pray together and ask the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and revelation about the root of the pain and then be quiet together and listen to His soft voice. God wants to go beyond  pain relief, He wants to heal.

If our soul has been damaged (in the past), we need inner healing and restoration. When that happens, physical healing often takes place as well. The Bible also shows us how we can take care of our souls on  daily basis:

  • Proverbs 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
  • Proverbs 3: 21-22 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul.
  • Proverbs 13: 3 He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his soul
  • Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

We can spend our lives trying all kinds of medicines, remedies and therapies to suppress or alleviate the pain, but nothing will really help if we don't discuss it with God. I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36, For what will it profit a person if he wins the whole world and suffers damage to his soul?

Thank God, damage can be repaired!

Monday, August 19, 2019

The healthy soul (2)

To what extent does our soul influence our physical health, you may wonder? The answer is: more than you think!

The numbers vary, but the majority (some statistics say more than 85%) of our physical problems are psychosomatic.

Psychosomatic means: a physical  condition caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress.  It often means that doctors cannot find a physical explanation for symptoms we might have. This is not a shocking discovery. It is something that can be found in the Bible. In 3 John 1: 2 it says:

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

Here, health is linked to the well-being of the soul. Quite a revelation, but also understandable when we consider what is going on in our soul. Secular writings interchangeably use spirit and soul, but Biblically speaking there is a clear difference (I wrote about this extensively in my book Grace of Giving).

The soul includes our emotions, our mind, our will, our memory and our imagination. Our soul stores things up, is sensitive, is easy to influence, can be damaged, but can also grow and flourish. Let me just mention a few scriptures as an example (read them in the context):
  • Joshua 23:14 ... and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls...
  • Psalm 35:9, ... and my soul shall be joyful in the LORD ...
  • Psalms 41:4, ... have mercy on me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.
  • Psalm 42:6 ... O my God, my soul is cast down within me?
And I can go on and on, you can search for 'soul' in the Bible. Taking care of good physical health cannot be separated from taking care of a healthy soul. That reminds me of the invitation Jesus gave:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11: 28-29).

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The healthy soul (1)

Vacation time here in The Netherlands is just around the corner. For some it will be the perfect time to take a blog break, for others the right time to write or read blogs.

I usually opt for publishing a series of short blogs that are easy reading, yet inspiring. For example the summer ABC series I published several years ago. Still very encouraging!

In the coming weeks I am planning to write about the wounded soul and healing. Where did I get that idea? Well, we have just returned from a visit to Ukraine where we have prayed with many people for deliverance, salvation and healing. And I discovered again that most of the physical pain has an emotional root.

How soul pain manifests, is different for everyone.  People can experience a lot of pain as a result of rejection, abandonment, feeling unseen, abuse, oppression, disappointment and discouragement and so on, and so on. All these things are like stabbing wounds in the soul that fester and infect and come to the surface, sometimes years later, in physical problems for which doctors cannot find a cause and thus no proper cure.

During our ministry time in Ukraine, we have again experienced how the Holy Spirit can point out precisely such issues (which we have hidden deep down inside) so that healing, restoration and deliverance becomes possible. I want to devote a few blogs on this particular topic.

I sincerely hope you will read along, comment and/or share with friends.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Womb story

The abortion debate has been flaring up again, more vicious than ever before if you ask me. Arguments for and against are coming from the democrats, the republicans, the churches, the pro-choice and pro-life organisations and so on and so on.

It is a shame that we all raise our voices over the ones that have no voice... yet. What if the child could speak from within the womb? What if the child had a message for us... from above?

In 2008 my book Breath of Life was published by Tate Publishing in Oklahoma, USA. A precious story about creation, as seen (and told) through the eyes of the unborn child. In 2011, a Dutch translation of the book was published in The Netherlands and later German and Italian editions followed.

The American publisher is no longer in business and right in the middle of a nasty court case on charges of money embezzlement (not necessarily an ideal situation for new and emerging authors). In the meantime my stock had been reduced to a minimum, so I decided to publish a revised paperback edition for my European audience and a $2.99 Kindle edition on Amazon. And you know what? It couldn't be more timely!

Simply, because the story in Breath of Life is timeless. I wrote this book in order to give the unborn child a voice. I wanted to give him a chance to tell his side of the story. Let's be quiet and listen to the pure wisdom of a child who is still very close to the Father's heart. Who knows, maybe we can learn something.

Don't miss out on this precious story. It might change the way you look at life.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

The Holy Spirit introduces Himself

Most of you may have heard about me and I suspect some of you have even read books about me and have thoroughly studied my actions. I am glad that you do not deny my existence and I am grateful for the special place that I have received in your life.

Strangely enough, the fact that I live in your house does not mean that you know me personally. For many people, I am unfortunately no more than a mystery guest. That saddens me because I want more. I want attention!

Simply, because it is the Father's plan that you and I develop a close relationship. Your pastor knows about this, because every week he sends you home with the blessing from 2 Corinthians 13:13, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. By that fellowship (unity) He means the community or intimacy that should be between the two of us and other believers. Perhaps your reluctance to have this intimate relationship with me stems from the fact that we do not communicate so often.

It has come to my attention that many of you have a somewhat distorted image of who I am. In fact, I have even heard that some spread rumors of me being a mystery, rather vague and somewhat elusive. I have no idea where such ideas come from, but I do think that people have developed a certain opinion about my personality based on metaphors.

Yes, on comparisons that describe me as a fire, wind, a dove, or heavenly power. Those comparisons are certainly true, but that is not who I am. That is just what I can be compared with. Just as Jesus is not a vine, piece of bread or water well, those are comparisons that say something about who He really is.

Even though I was personally sent to the earth by Jesus Christ, when He sat down at the right hand of our Father, that was not my first trip. I was here from the very beginning. You can read in the Bible how my presence affected creation, how I empowered people to do extraordinary things, and how I was present at the conception of the Son of Man. All those stories about the past are powerful of course, but to be honest, my current position is crucial for today's church.

I know about your difficulties and struggles and I know sometimes you wonder where it will end up with all those empty pews and church buildings. But let me encourage you: if you don't stop or restrain me, you'll see great things happen.

I am the helper, comforter and teacher and would appreciate it if you would come to me with your questions. I will show you the way to the complete truth. I will convince you of sin and justice. I will dare to tell you things about the future and will always honor Jesus in everything I do. Moreover, I will bring back to you every word that Jesus has ever spoken, for that reason alone you should desire to get to know me better.

To be honest, I don't know if it is necessary to entice you even further, but I would still like to give you some gifts, spiritual gifts. Those gifts are freely available and it is my desire that they will visibly work in you, for the benefit of the common good of course.

You can reach me by calling me by one of my beautiful names. Yes, I have many names, just like the Father and the Son. Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Christ, Holy Spirit of Promise and Eternal Spirit to name but a few. Let's agree that you no longer call me mysterious, foggy, or vague. On the basis of mutual respect, I am happy to enter into a close friendship with you. Listen, I am calling you by name!