Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! My weekend had a great start on Saturday morning...
The Ventura County Star published an article on December 24th, 2012, about my book Grace of Giving and the award it won. It also talked about my travels, the non-profit organisation Traveling Light we started in Holland earlier this year and much more. You can read the article on-line by following this link. If the article inspired you in your writing journey, please be so kind as to click the share or recommend button at the end. Thanks!
In 2012 I discovered a few new gems in the Christian blogging world. I really would like to highlight Blessings in His Grip, "a site designed to offer resources and helpful hints for bringing God's Word into every day prayers". Tricia and Joan post a scripture and a short prayer a few times a week. The posts are short but very powerful and practical, a great way to start the day. Please, be so kind as to check this wonderful blog idea.
Many of you may know the blog The Christian Writers' Marketplace, written by Sally Stuart, but just in case... her blog has lots of information on writing, contests, conferences, resources etc. A must have on your blog roll if you are a writer!
He will be great and will be called the Son of the most High God. The Lord God will make Him a king, as His ancestor David was, and He will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:32-33)
Mary must have been stunned when she heard the words of the angel who visited her. A kingdom without end? That was certainly unheard of. The Middle East at that time had a violent history in which kingdoms rose and fell constantly. Yes, they had enjoyed years of peace and prosperity, but it never lasted longer than a lifetime. Change was always in the air and each time a ruler took over, the people eagerly awaited better times. Certainly this time things would lighten up.
The angel’s promise to Mary however, differed greatly from the political propaganda she had heard so often. He talked about someone who would become king because the Lord God would make Him king. This was not a matter of human performance, political strategy or violent conquest. The establishment of this new king was a matter of divine appointment. No wonder His reign would be of eternal nature and His kingdom could not be taken over by a rival. The angel’s message was a prophecy of things to come. Mary carried the Kingdom seed in her womb, a small and humble beginning of something that would change the world forever.
Through Yeshua, the Son of God, the Kingdom of Heaven came on earth and it has grown into the biggest Kingdom of all. Millions, yes, hundreds of millions of people are subject to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Surely, it will never end!
This post wraps up the great benefit package, as presented in Psalm 19, that is ours when we live according to God's Word. Verse 8b is my favorite: The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The commands of the Lord are not dull or dark, they are radiant! Radiant means bright with joy and hope. Our problem is, as was the problem of the religious people in Jesus' time, that we have added too many man made rules that sucked the very life out of God's Word. Often we value tradition more than the life giving words of God Himself. In Mark 8-9 Jesus says: You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. And he continued, You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
I meet so many people who have a hard time with what God commands, but their anger and fear is often based on what religion taught them, not on the teachings of Jesus.He urged his disciples: If you love Me, keep My commands (John 14:15) and he is still urging us today. Why? Because the commands are radiant, giving light to the eyes. They will bring a sparkle in our eyes, a joy in our step and His love in our hearts!
Jesus is the center, the reference point for every teaching, no matter what the subject. We cannot have grace without Him and we cannot fulfill the commands without Him!
In the previous two posts we looked at the benefits of Gods law. For the New Testament generation the law is not something that brings condemnation, it is something that brings life... but only if we see it in light of what Jesus Christ has done. He din't come to do away with the law, He came to fulfill it. Romans 13:10 says, Love is the fulfillment of the law. If we say we are unable to fulfill the law, we are saying we are unable to love.
In Psalm 19 we can read that the law revives our soul and makes us wise. If furthermore says (verse 8), The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
Yes, they are right and give joy to the heart. Who doesn't want a fresh re-fill of joy? Joy is fruit that the Holy Spirit desires to produce in our life. Joy is something the world cannot give, never! It might give us happiness, fun, pleasure or laughter... but joy is a divine virtue that only God can bring about in our heart. Studying AND applying Gods precepts will bring joy to our hearts. That is why the Lord wants to write His greatest commandments on our hearts: Love Him first and your neighbor as yourself! That will bring a joy no one or nothing can take away from you!
Again, I want to urge you: don't shy away from learning more about God's law and grace. The books in The Ten Commandments Series will bring joy to your heart!
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7b)
God's statutes are trustworthy, they don't change with the weather or the latest trends. They can be relied upon, circumstances nor situations have any influence on God's written statutes. What was true yesterday, is true today and will be true tomorrow. Time has no influence on God's statutes, which is actually a very comforting thought.
Besides being an anchor in turbulent times, God's statutes will make the simple wise. Now that is a benefit of studying AND applying God's commandments that we should not deny. Who doesn't want to be wise?
Again, as in the previous post, I would like to challenge you to dive into God's Word (maybe with the help of one of my books) and find out how law and grace come together in Jesus Christ.
Walking through the Bible I opened the door of Psalm 19 and there, smack in the middle of David's praise, I found the blessings for studying and applying God's command-ments. Since my books are based on the Ten Commandments, I thought it would be interesting and helpful to share with you the benefits of studying His Word. I'll call it the benefit package 101.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7)
The law of the Lord is not boring, outdated, or even uninteresting... it is perfect. As the apostle Paul later wrote: the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12). God's law has not changed, the meaning has changed. In Old Testament times it was there to point people to their shortcomings and need for a savior. In New Testament times it is there to help us build a better and more godly society. The law now needs to be written on the hearts of the people.
The law is not only perfect, it is also reviving to the soul. We no longer keep or obey the law, we fulfill it by living it. And in doing so our soul gets revived, our soul gets watered, so we can flourish and refresh others. Are you longing for a revival deep down within you? Are you longing for a refreshing rain that will encourage and lift you up?
I challenge you to read one of my books and e-mail me whether it was reviving to your soul or not...
Recently my older brother in Holland had two serious accidents in one day. First on his way to work and later on his way back home. While riding his scooter a car came from the opposite side, suddenly turned and hit him hard. He walked away from the head-on collision without a scratch, just very sore! Now, that is a miracle!
This morning I was reading Psalm 18 and I got a clear picture of God's hand... He reached down from on high and got a hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters (Psalm 18:16). My brother was not drowning in water, but he experienced a serious attack on his life and the hand of God reached down. I am so thankful He did that. And you know what, He did that because He loves my brother. Verse 19 says, He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.
Why do some people survive an accident like that while others don't? I don''t know. I don't even know if there is an answer that makes sense, but I do know WHEN God reaches down in this miraculous way, we can be very, very thankful.
As writers we sweat and ponder, we edit and wonder... is this really good material for the reader? We struggle and procrastinate, we start all over again and evaluate...
Ah, the romantic life of creating stories and putting thoughts on paper. Many of you bloggers, writers, poets and essayists know better than this... writing is the hardest profession in the world, except for alligator wrestling of course. But you know what, sometimes we actually get to do fun stuff...
This week I signed a contract for another book, hooray! It will be my fifth book with Tate Publishing and yet another one in my series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century. After my last book won the Readers Favorite 2011 Award for Best Christian Non Fiction I hesitated to send in a new manuscript, I wanted to enjoy the moment a little longer. But I learned that all glory is short lived, the show must go on. So, here we go; the work title I am using for my latest book is My Neighbor's House. The book deals with the 10th Commandment... yes, the one that says not to covet our neighbor's house or his donkey. Like I said, fun stuff happens!
Has something good happened in your writing life, lately?
This past Thanksgiving weekend we went on a camping trip. We stayed at Jalama Beach in Southern California. The weather was a pleasant 80F (yes!), perfect for long walks on the beach.
We really took time to talk with the Lord and each other about pressing matters concerning our work and ministry. We enjoyed camp fires and cup-o-noodles, I read 3 books, believe it or not, and have set some short term goals for my writing. All in all an inspiring weekend, my motivation is back!
Jalama Beach is in a pretty deserted area along the coast, so at night the stars are just spectacular! The sunsets were absolutely beautiful too. We were in awe, as the psalmist was:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
May I ask, what do you do to get inspired and motivated again?
In an ever changing world full of uncertainties I would like to share some certainties from God's Word. I call 'm the surely's of the Bible and I absolutely LOVE to read and proclaim them.
The word surely can be found many times throughout the Bible. In the book of Psalms alone it is used at least 28 times. I checked the dictionary, it explains: Surely: used to emphasize the speaker's firm belief that what they are saying is true and often their surprise that there is any doubt of this. Surely is a word that expresses and underlines our faith in God's promises. The psalmists used it all the time. Let me share some of my favorites to encourage you in this coming week:
Surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12). I love this one, the writer proclaims and acknowledges God's favor in his life. What are we waiting for, let's do the same!
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6). Despite circumstances, despite doubt and hurt, the writer proclaims God's goodness and love over his life. Whether we feel it or not, let's say these words in trust, thankfulness and expectation.
Surely God is my help, the Lord is the one who sustains me (Psalm 54:4). Don't forget to read the verses preceding David's statement here, he is in serious trouble. And yet, he is not afraid to proclaim God as the One who will come to his rescue. I am longing for that boldness, for that confidence, and I know it will grow in me as I proclaim these precious words.
Surely He will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence (Psalm 91:3).Whenever weneed healing in our body or deliverance from the enemy, we can be assured that God is willing to come to our aid. Say it, read it, pray it!
The writers used the word surely to overcome their doubts and fears, an antidote against unbelief. I think we can learn from their proclamations. Please, if there is any reason to use one of God's surely's this week, don't hesitate to do so. It will make your faith grow!
Over the past year I have interviewed a colorful variety of fellow bloggers. I have asked them about their drive, their dreams and their devotion to God.
A few months ago I started following Tracy Teppler's blog My Daily Walk in His Grace. Tracy is from South Africa and we e-mailed back and forth a few times in Afrikaans, a language quite close to my native Dutch language. Her blog is relatively young (even according to web standards) and already a real treasure in the Christian blogging world. Tracy's writing is direct, pure and often un-edited, as she calls it. I love it! I am so honored and pleased to introduce Tracy to you all, Please enjoy!
Please, introduce yourself… anything special we need to know about Tracy Teppler?
I’m a daughter of the Most High God, wife , mother to 2 teenage daughters, and a friend. I live in Cape Town, South Africa and love it. At 42 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?!
How and when did you start your blog?
I started blogging in March of this year. I was looking for Christian resources and Christian women's blogs. A friend and niece had blogs and I thought, “Why not me?” I got onto my PC and followed the prompts for starting a blog, and the rest has been an interesting journey to this point.
What is your drive behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?
At first it was a place to put down my feelings and write down what I discovered about myself and God through my quiet times. And then I started linking up (as I learnt how to do these things!) with other ladies and decided I needed to formulate why I was here and what I wanted to achieve with this blog as others would be seeing it. So I started asking myself those questions and came up with my “ My Blog Goals”.
Over the years I have asked God what it is that is my gift, what is it that He would have me do, and I believe the answer to that question is that I encourage other women. Christian women, any women! And in blogging I have found the platform to do that and I am finding now, after 8 ½ months of blogging, old friends are seeing me in a new light and trusting me with their hearts and hurts and asking me to pray with and for them. My new bloggy friends also seem to feel comfortable with opening up to me. I am so humbled and I feel I am where God wants me to be right now. What do I hope to accomplish?
Encourage others, Point people to God, Give Him ALL the glory. Open lines of communication up with like-minded people and be available for those who hurt.
Your writings are fresh and honest, do you have any aspirations to publish a book or story?
Over the years the thought has come to mind every now and then to “write a book” but I don’t have the imagination to write a ‘novel.’ I remember an English teacher once telling us the best way to write is from experience and my life in general has been fairly normal so no huge experiences to draw from for a novel! About a month before I started blogging I started to type up some sort of daily devotional thinking that maybe, someday, I could put it all together and submit it as an annual devotional.
Then I started blogging and my first blogs drew from that source. And then an amazing blogger/published author by the name of Marja asked me if I’d ever considered writing a book. I still can’t get the smile off my face. However, the cogs in the mind started turning and in answer to your question, Yes, I do have aspirations (NOW) to publish a book! One that brings glory to God!
What role does your faith in God play in your daily life?
It plays a major role. Not a day goes by where I don’t question my motives, question my actions and try to view them through how my faith should have me behave. Daily I fail, daily I acknowledge I am nothing without Christ. In the past I’d have a pity party and it’d take a while to swing out of it. These days I still go there, but I acknowledge it and start reading the word, turn up my praise music and thank God for everything I can think of (even if its just breathing in and out), and I can see my attitude changing and balance being restored. Yes, my faith plays a big part in my daily life.
Top three on your ‘places-to-visit’ list…
Hmmm, Israel, Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe) - I was born in Rhodesia (now Zim) and Switzerland .
Who would you like to interview? Why?
Honestly, I have no interest in any famous figures. I would love to interview people who have overcome difficulties because of Christ and despite what they have been through, the love of Christ just shines through. People like: Anne Frank, Corrie Ten Boom. Maybe Billy Graham - ask him how he has remained true where so many others have failed.
Do you have any authors or specific books that have been an inspiration to you?
Helen Andelin - Fascinating Womanhood. Francine Rivers - Anything by her. Joyce Meyer.
Any words of encouragement to us bloggers?
Keep on doing what you are doing. You are encouraging people who you don’t even know visit your blogs. My encouragement to other Christian bloggers is to always keep it about Christ and always keep it positive and honest. Sometimes, the pain or hurt you have been through draws someone else to Christ. And that is a most humbling thought to consider.
Thanks Tracy, for being so open with us. It was a joy to have you and I am glad our communication has inspired you to think big when it comes to writing a book!
Please, visit Tracy's blog My Daily Walk in His Grace and leave her an encouraging comment.
Everytime I face a difficult or tough situation, it seems I need more words to beg and plead my case with the Almighty. I find myself reasoning, debating and desperately trying to find an explanation or answer. Well, maybe that is just me...
But isn't it true that we sometimes feel we have to explain things to God? Our prayers get longer and more complicated, sometimes to the point where we don't remember what our initial question was! My former pastor and mentor in the faith always said 'keep it simple', and again and again that proves to be the right thing to do. The inspiration to develop an attitude like that comes straight from the Bible.
As always, Jesus is my ultimate example in this. The other day I was reading in Luke 5:12-16 how He met with a guy who was covered with leprosy. Well, if you've ever been in India, you'll know what leprosy looks like and personally I have never seen anyone being healed from that disease. Now, this certain man asks Jesus to make him clean. If that isn't a tough situation, what is? However, Jesus keeps it simple and uses three words to explain divine healing: I am willing.
Ouch, I wish I had come up with a theology like that! His answer is awesome! The actual prayer that follows His statement is even shorter, more simple... be clean!No discussion, no pleading, no crying, no begging. Just authority!
We can learn so much from such a short story. It might really help to remember this encounter the next time you face something that seems impossible to overcome or conquer, it will help you to pray and speak in faith. I definitely want to try it, what about you?
One of Jesus’ boldest statements and commands can be captured in two words: ‘fear not’. His words almost sound like a cruel joke. Fear not? That’s like telling someone who is sinking not to drown.
One look at today’s headlines tells me there are many things to fear, such as wars, epidemics, terrorism, foreclosures, and cancer, just to name a few. Only a heart of stone would be untouched and unshaken by such scares. So, was Jesus mistaken or did He take things too lightly?
I don’t think so, His messages were sometimes weird, but always serious; don’t fear the things of the world, fear God! Put all of your energy there!
David prayed sincerely,
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Most of my blog posts are inspired by Scripture. I read random books in the Bible, going back and forth between Old and New Testament and I always find something to write about. Recently I have been reading the books of James, Jeremiah, Nehemiah and last week I started with Romans.
How many times have I read the book of Romans? I lost track, but I am sure I have gone over every word, every sentence and every chapter with great care and hunger. I don't need proof that God's Word is alive, I know it! As soon as I started reading, a sentence in the first chapter jumped off the page: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world (Romans 1:).
Wow! Just think about that for a second. Can you imagine that your faith, or the faith of your family, your church, your town or your country would be reported all over the world? Can you imagine that your faith would be the talk of the town, that reporters would write favorable articles about your faith? That newspaper headlines would tell of your faith... What kind of faith would that be? Well, according to the Bible size doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be big faith, it needs to be faith in action!
I like what Jesus said about it in Matthew 17:20 (TEV), I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill "Go from here to there!" and it will go. You could do anything! Notice that this translation says faith as BIG as a mustard seed, while others say 'as small as a mustard seed'. Jesus' perception of size is different than ours! He basically tells the disciples, and us today, what mustard seed faith is: something very small you can use in order to do something very big!
Faith won't grow by itself, we need to put it into action. Go ahead, use what He has given you!
Have you ever asked yourself why God needs so many words to teach us right and wrong? After all, the Bible is a huge book and sometimes it just seems a bit too much. Is it possible to keep things simple? Love God, love people... that's the Bible for dummies, right?!
Deep down inside we all know the difference between good and evil, but as believers we sometimes struggle to balance between living by the letter and living by the Spirit. Sure, having knowledge of something is not enough to be acting likewise. Knowing that pizza is fattening doesn't keep us from eating it, does it? Knowing that smoking may cause cancer doesn't keep people from doing it. Just having knowledge is not enough, we need understanding! We need conviction in our hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do this work in us. We need to yield and give Him the right of way.
According to the Bible we do indeed have knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:22, after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, God said, Now the man has become like one of us and has knowledge of what is good and what is bad. However, that knowledge wasn't sufficient, God decided to give humankind guidelines to live by. He wanted to enter our hearts, but also our heads.
In Hebrews 10:16 He says, I will put my Laws in their hearts and write them on their minds. Heart and mind, mind and heart! Once God's teachings are in both places, it becomes easier and easier to live a life that is pleasing to Him, a life that we can enjoy too. It is my desire that we will grasp this concept and that is one of the reasons why I write my books about God's law from a life with the Holy Spirit.
Heart and mind, they certainly can get along quite well!
Jesus said: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Every now and then a fun and inspiring award travels through the blogging world. I received several in the past and I am always amazed at the creativity of the people who invent and design these awards. I don´t keep track of ´m all, but this week I received a nice one from Cathy, over at Thoughts on Books. Thanks, Cathy, for surprising me with this new award. It´s a great idea to get to know fellow bloggers a little better and to take the chance to visit new blogs. In other words, awards like this keep the blogging world go round, so I am happy to pass it on.
Please, take note of 3 simple rules:
Thank the person who gave you the award.
Reveal seven things about yourself,
Pass the award on to 5 other bloggers. Leave a comment on each blog, telling them that you've nominated them for this award.
Well, here's seven things about me that are fun to share:
1. I just LOVE lasagna, but unlike Garfield I prefer it hot from the oven!
2. I have been together with my husband for more than 25 years, we have no children.
3. I love to travel, exploring new places and re-visiting old ones and I always take plenty of photo's
4. I do not have a television, but enjoy watching movies and browsing Youtube on my laptop.
5. I like my desk organized and clean
6. I desire to write many more books, bible studies, blog posts and articles on practical Christian living and spiritual growth.
7. I have learned to speak in public and actually feel in my element when doing so.
I've chosen 5 blogs. Some I have followed for ages, others I've recently started following. Feel free to go visit these lovely blogs and Cathy's as well. :)
If you are one of the 5 blogs I nominated and would like to pass it on, copy the blog award to a post, reveal 7 things about yourself, and pass this award on to 5 other bloggers of your choice. Congrats!
It was an interesting week here in the Middle East. Well maybe that is an understatement.
We witnessed first hand how a nation welcomed back their lost son. We saw how a country celebrated the safe return of one of their kidnapped soldiers, despite the heavy price tag. We learned that a human life is valued and loved here in this tiny nation. The people of Israel cried silent tears before the television as they remembered the lives of the hundreds of people who died as the result of terrorism. More than a thousand prisoners received grace and went home. Will they be thankful?
At the same moment we watched how a people captured their leader, tore him to pieces and slit his throat. The killing of a human being is a horrible thing to watch, no matter who it is. Only one thing came to mind: the people have become as vicious as their leader. The contrast of events couldn’t have been bigger.
As I pondered about the week's events I was reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and just had to stop here, May you come to know His love-although it can never be fully known-and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. (Ephesians 3:19). Those words really stayed with me the whole week. God is love, it is His desire that we come to know His love. Why? Because it will fill us with His nature, which is love. And where there is love, all fear, all anger, all rage, all failure will disappear.
A word of promise and hope for believers, but I kept thinking... how in the world do we get this message to the heart of people who know no love?
It is written about Jesus that He didn't stay in Nazareth, but went to live in Capernaum (Kfar Nahum in Hebrew) (Matthew 4:13). Today there is not much left of that old town on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee, but the old synagogue is certainly worth a visit. It still breathes the atmosphere of biblical times.
Arbel National Park
Arbel National Park was a pleasant surprise. No crowds here, just tranquility and spectacular views of the Tiberias area.
Greek Orthodox church Capernaum
As we were strolling along the shoreline of the Sea of Gallilee, we stumbled upon this picturesque Greek church near Capernaum. Tranquility, beautiful gardens and grand views of the lake... awesome!
Last week I was going through some old journal entries, just for curiosity's sake. It encourages me to read my own writing, it tells the story of my faith journey. I found this section where I was just in awe about God...
"Lord, what exactly do I know about you? What do I really understand about everything You created? According to your Word stones can listen (Joshua 24:27) and trees can talk (Judges 9:9). That goes against everything I know to be the truth. Just because I never heard a tree (or a donkey for that matter) speak, doesn't mean it is impossible.
Everything is possible with God!
If I want to be like you, I have to change the way I think, from natural to spiritual, from limited to unlimited. With the help of the Holy Spirit I can do it. I must practice unlimited thinking every day!
Just imagine that someone at work, or in church, or in your family would suddenly ask that question. Would you dare to stand up and raise your hand? Would anyone stand up at all? I admit that I would keep things on the safe side and remain silent. Sure, I am not dumb and I sincerely believe that I do have a certain measure of understanding, but who is going to proclaim wisdom about himself? Surely, we want to stay humble here, right?!
All these thoughts were going through my mind while reading James 3:13-18. He is not afraid to ask a challenging question, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. In order words, think before you answer in words, I need to see your deeds.He then shows that sometimes we think we are wise, but deep down we harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition. Anything that comes forth from bitter envy or selfish ambition he calls earthly and unspiritual 'wisdom'.
If we have any wisdom at all, it should come from heaven. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ has become for us the wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). James clearly defines such wisdom (and basically describes Jesus' character, which should be evident in the life of His followers). Wisdom is first of all
full of mercy and good fruit,
I like his list. Whenever I have a choice to act in wisdom and understanding I can check to see if my choices are Christ-like. Whenever the things I say and do, mirror the characteristics James mentioned, I know it was given to me from above. We might hesitate to call ourselves wise, but we can ask ourselves: Am I growing in wisdom?
If I were to ask you to define the word religion, what would you come up with?
I have to be honest with you; religion has gotten such a bad name that I have caught myself saying "no, no, I am not religious, I am a Christian..." Needless to say that doesn't mean a thing to the sceptic I am having the conversation with. I decided to look it up in my Penguin English dictionary:
[Rilijon] n belief in and worship of God or gods; specified system of theology, ritual and morality based on this; outlook and way of life based on this...
Way of life... that caught my attention. Religion is not a system, a theory or even a set of rituals, it is a way of life. It is not a bad word if we allow it to jump off the page and become alive, if we choose it as a way of life. This week I was reading James 1:27 and was surprised at the simplicity of his description, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James shares two principles that define the content of true and pure religion (genuine devotion to God):
benevolent love for the people in need, and
a holy life
I wonder how difficult we have made 'our' religion sometimes...
Last week I spoke at a women's conference about living with passion, one of my favorite topics. At the same time a difficult one as well, because I sometimes have to dig through layers of discouragement, disappointment, fear, and anxiety in order to touch the heart of the audience. I am so grateful it is the Holy Spirit who gently takes care of this.
Apart from my personal testimony I used bits and pieces of biblical advice and books I have read on the subject. Like something I read the other day by poet William Arthur Ward. He wrote about passion as being one of the keys to success and broke it down into manageable tips we can start practicing tomorrow. I don't know what you're working on at the moment, maybe it's a book or an article. Maybe a new blog or a letter to an agent. Whatever it is, make sure you do it with passion. I know the following will somehow encourage you, as it did me. Living with passion means, you
If I asked you to mention the one thing that brings pure joy in your life, what would you answer? Playing with the dog? Having the grand kids over? Winning the lottery? A walk on the beach? It wouldn't surprise me if each of you came up with a different answer. Of course there are no right or wrong answers here. There is however a surprising biblical answer.
Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (James 1:2-3). Calling the testing of our faith pure joy is kind of weird, I mean... I would never come up with that. But the Bible says that's the way we should look at the trials in our life. Well, let me put it this way, the trials are not necessarily pure joy, but the testing of our faith is, because it develops perseverance.
Why is it so important to have perseverance? Listen to what the next verse says, Perseverance must finish it work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Now we're talking! I love this verse because it tells me that the development of perseverance in my life must finish its work; in other words, there is an end to every test of faith, thank God! And then there is the answer to my 'why do we need perseverance' question; so that:
you may be mature
not lacking anything
When looking at that kind of end result, the testing of our faith should be pure joy indeed!
The maturity mentioned here is the Greek word teleios, which stands for: a right relationship with God that bears fruit in a sincere endeavor to love Him with all one's heart in undivided devotion, obedience and blamelessness.
The completeness mentioned here is further explained in James 2:22, faith and actions working together makes our faith complete!
Not lacking anything is a Biblical promise for believers, Psalm 34:9 says Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing!
The testing of our faith through trial and error is nothing more than the development of perseverance which will make us mature, complete, lacking nothing! Is that pure joy, or what?
Just received news that they did not receive enough RSVP's for the Readers Favorite awards banquet in Las Vegas, which was scheduled for November 5th, 2011. So, they moved it to Miami for next year, where they'll combine it with the 2012 event during the International Book Fair. Well, I got my certificate and we've decided to fly out west anyway and enjoy Southern California while it will be winter here in Holland.
Make sure you pick up a copy of Grace of Giving if you haven't done so already! You will never look at GIVING the same way again, I promise :)
We can be strong in that grace which is ours in our union with Jesus! First of all, we have to be very serious in our relationship with Jesus. Just having Him as one of our acquaintances, along with many others, is not the unity that the Bible speaks about. Unity involves a bond that cannot be broken, not even for a little while, for whatever excuse we have. Second of all, we have to exercise our walk in grace. Second Peter 3:18 says, Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We must continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of him, just like Jesus and the early disciples did. It is not enough to accept God’s gift of grace, say thank you, and store it with the rest of all our stuff. That would be the way of the thief! The Bible calls for a new lifestyle. We must turn away from our sinful lives and grow in grace! We have to grow in the grace by using it, giving it out, and, in doing so, multiplying it. Paul emphasized this in 2 Corinthians 6:1, As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain!
We can tap into God’s grace if we are sincere about becoming givers, the way Jesus had in mind when he spoke to the rich young guy. The man did not have the strength to do it; but then, he denied the invitation to become a disciple of Jesus. He was not in unity with him; he wasn’t willing to give it all. Is our attitude towards Jesus right? Is our commitment to live according to his teaching sincere? Jesus said in John 14:23, Whoever loves me will obey my teaching. We can become cheerful givers if we stop trying with our own strength. We have the example of Jesus, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God.
We can start off with self-disclosure. Check your attitude: see in what areas you are holding on to things. Evaluate your relationship with God. Is it a vibrant friendship, or are you bored with him? Is honesty a basis in your relationship with him? Reread the Scriptures that talk about giving and grace. Feed your spirit with Jesus’s teaching by meditating on his words, by reading it aloud, and by talking things over with him. Last but not least, check your giving. Pray over your money, bless it, and give to God what belongs to him. For starters, bring ten percent of your paycheck to the church that feeds you, your storehouse. Do so before you spend it on anything else, and watch God at work.
Be joyful in your giving, and you will notice you have entered that experience called grace.
In the previous post I wrote about God's grace not being a one-time moment of truth, but an ongoing experience in our lives. We need to continually live and grow in grace, the apostle Paul understood that and wrote about it extensively. So, let's go back to Chapter 6 of Grace of Giving:
Paul is gentle in his attitude towards the Corinthians; maybe he knew giving was a delicate subject. In 2 Corinthians 8:8 (NIV) he says, I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. Paul speaks the language of the Spirit, especially concerning God’s law. He no longer barks God’s commandments at his listeners: do this, don’t do that, and shut up. No, he explains the new way of obeying God to them. It is no longer about obeying a set of rules; it is all about fulfilling them in a manner of love! Romans 7:6 sums up Paul’s new way of looking at things, No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.
No longer is he trying to tell people what to do (remember that once he was a zealous Jew, a Pharisee, committed to the law), no longer is he driven by the outward signs of religion. Instead of stuffing the Ten Commandments down people’s throats, he urges people to change their minds, to obey God from the inside out, and to be sincere in their love for God and others. He measures the level of their giving with the sincerity of their love.
Paul experienced God’s grace firsthand; he writes about it all the time. He saw God’s grace in many aspects of life, not just in giving. Grace, God’s free and unmerited favor, can be found throughout the history of mankind. The Bible talks about the spirit of grace, the message of grace, the grace of God, the throne of grace, and so on.
You may wonder how to actually live in that grace and how to benefit from it. How do you know if you have received God’s grace? Listen, It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:5) God poured out his grace on mankind—on you and me. If it weren’t for his grace, we wouldn’t be here! God has showed us favor, even in times when we rebelled against him when we were still sinners. God poured out his grace on mankind when he gave up his Son as a sacrifice for our wrongdoing. Grace is invisible, yet it is evident in everything God has done for us! Second Timothy 2:1 tells us that grace is ours. As for you, my son, be strong through the grace that is ours in union with Christ Jesus.
We can be strong in that grace which is ours in our union with Jesus!
Thanks everyone for your kind words and congrats on my award-winning book Grace of Giving :) I truly appreciate all the support. Before we'll move on with the grace chapter from that book (as I have been sharing over the last few weeks) I like to mention a few things:
The Readers Favorite 2011 Awards Banquet will be held in Las Vegas during the10th annual Vegas Valley Book Fair, November 3-6, 2011. If you're in the neighborhood, join the book fun!
I received the Liebster award from fellow blogger and friend Maria Morgan, make sure to check her inspirational blog Life Lessons and see what that is all about. Thank you Maria, I so appreciate your kindness! I wish to present the Liebster award to 5 other bloggers. There are just a few rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Give the Liebster Award to five bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And best of all – enjoy!
The Liebster award is presented to blogs with less than 200 followers, but definitely deserve more! So here we go, I picked from my blog roll:
Yes! Praise the Lord, I am so happy. I am honored to announce that my latest release Grace of Giving has received GOLD! Today the winners were announced on the Readers Favorite website. If you decide to visit this website, you'll notice how many books have been entered in 70+ different categories. They have already entered information about the 2012 contest, so if you're an author make sure to check that as well.
Grace of Giving has been voted best Christian Non Fiction in their Readers Favorite 2011 Awards Contest. Needless to say that I am thrilled and thankful for such recognition. If you have not yet purchased a copy of this book, this might the be the moment to win you over :) For less than 10 bucks you'll have a treasure in your hands! It's a great book for self study or group discussion. It is available at most internet book sellers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders etc.
In the previous post I wrote about God's grace not being a one-time moment of truth, but an ongoing experience in our lives. We need to continually live and grow in grace, the apostle Paul understood that and wrote about it extensively. So, let's go back to Chapter 6 of Grace of Giving:
We need to learn to be aware of his grace in our life, which will save us a lot of trouble because it is not a one-time moment of truth, it is an ongoing experience in our lives! The Apostle Paul knew that as no other. He opens the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans with the following words: Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.
Paul simply states that by faith we can live in God’s grace; he calls it an experience. Living in God’s grace is something that will manifest itself in our lives for others to see. God’s grace is a power that will back up the work we do, it will keep us from failing. Grace does not mean that we can rest on our lazy behinds and let God do all the work. Praying, “God, make me a giver,” without taking any action is not going to change anything. God’s grace will help us to become givers when we start working on it. The Apostle Paul must have experienced this quite clearly in his own life, because he describes the process in a few sentences in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by God’s grace I am what I am, and the grace that he gave me was not without effect. On the contrary, I have worked harder than any of the other apostles, although it was not really my own doing, but God’s grace working with me.
God’s grace is working with him! That is the key to success. If we stop fighting our battles and struggling all alone, and we accept God’s grace then it will work with us! We need to team up. Success is guaranteed! From a human point of view, it is almost impossible to become a true giver in God’s kingdom; we have to let go of so many sacred cows. With the help of God’s grace, however, we are able to do this.
It truly helps to no longer look at God’s commandments as outward rules but rather as inward change. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to change our perspective and attitude from “thou shall not steal,” to “I want to give.” John 1:17 makes it clear: God gave the Law through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Trying to work this out without accepting the grace that Jesus freely offers us is futile. It just won’t work. With God’s grace, however, we can expect miracles, and we will recognize his mighty hand in every situation like the Apostle Paul did when he started off with telling the people in Corinth about the grace that God had given to the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 8).
It turned out they gave large gifts, much more than Paul expected, although they were poor. Paul recognizes the grace of God in this; the people could never have done that of their own accord. In verse 7 he encourages the folks in Corinth to start living in that grace too. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Wow, they must have been a super church; somewhat like many churches in America, excelling in faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love. Yet, they had been missing an important point: the grace of giving. He urges them to use this gift from God. If we are serious in leaving the way of the thief behind and becoming true givers we will need to use it too.
During his devotional time my husband received some words of instruction for the season we are living in. One of the things was: study and live grace. The Bible is full of scriptures on grace, so that will keep us busy for a while :) We also ordered some books about grace (Philip Yancey, Joseph Prince etc.) which we will read and discuss together. We furthermore decided to read and re-read the chapter I wrote about grace in my newest release Grace of Giving. I thought it would be helpful and inspirational to share parts of that grace chapter on this blog. Although I wrote it specifically on the subject of giving, it contains many nuggets applicable to our life in general. I can only hope it will be an encouragement to you. So here we go:
The grace of giving
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor.
2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV)
It is one thing to leave the way of the thief behind and another thing to become a true giver; to follow in Jesus’s footsteps and give it all you’ve got. It is one thing to say, “I do not steal,” but another thing to say, “I am a giver.” How can giving become a desire of our hearts? How can giving become part of our new nature?
Let me ask you the following question: how can a sinner become righteous in God’s eyes? How can we, as human beings, share in God’s glory? One simple answer: grace. It is God’s grace that makes many things possible for mankind. Grace is a word that we don’t hear much outside the church, yet it is so powerful! Favor, mercy, or goodwill are more commonly used. The Penguin English Dictionary describes grace as follows: supernatural power given by God to the soul to enable it to attain virtue and salvation. Grace is another one of God’s gifts to us! Grace is God’s free favor on our lives; we did not do anything to deserve it. When we receive that gift, we can start using it to overcome difficult situations. The dictionary says it is a supernatural power. The Bible explains more extensively what grace is and what it can do in our lives.
Jesus, for example, had God’s grace on his life. Luke 2:40 (NIV) talks about Jesus’s childhood: And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Grace was upon him, that tells me grace is something extra, almost like a gift from God. God’s grace was upon Jesus when he was a child. While growing older, the grace of God was no longer just upon him, but it filled him! That tells me Jesus grew in grace; he became full of it! The opening chapter of John’s gospel contains the following statement in verse 14, The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.
Now, God did not just reserve his grace for Jesus; he gave it also in abundance to the believers, starting off with the first disciples. Acts 4:33 (NIV) tells us that “much grace was upon them all” in the same way as it was in the beginning upon Jesus. However, the disciples grew in grace too. A couple of chapters later (Acts 6:8 NIV) the martyr Stephen for example is introduced as follows, Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Grace was not just upon him, but it filled him!
Grace is so much more than a simple gift or a blessing; it is a power. God’s grace does not stop at our salvation; we can continue to live in it and grow in it. Once we become conscious of his grace, his undeserved favor in our lives, we will find out that it will help us conquer and control many difficult situations. As human beings, we have a tendency to depend on our own strength, to fight our battles all alone. We don’t have to do that because God’s grace is there to sustain us. We need to learn to be aware of his grace in our life, which will save us a lot of trouble because it is not a one-time moment of truth, it is an ongoing experience in our lives!
Have you ever met people who have a certain effect on you? Being around them for a few minutes encourages and inspire you. You walk away feeling on top of the world. On the other hand, being around certain people can have the opposite effect; you feel negative, afraid or even angry. Now, the post I am about to write is NOT about the effect other people have on us, but about the effect we have on other people!
As I am journeying through the book of Isaiah I stumbled upon this delightful resting place. I lingered there for the longest time :) while eating the words that nourished me. Chapter 32, verse 17 says: The fruit of righteousness will be peace, the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. Go ahead, read it again and again. It is such a powerful scripture and it holds wonderful promises for the reader. While reading, I noticed two things that I would like to share:
The fruit of righteousness will be peace. It is a fruit, which means it doesn't pop out full grown, it will show itself small and over time grow into maturity. In other words, don't panic if peace is not written all over your forehead with big letters.
Eventually the effect of that fruit in my life will be quietness and confidence. The effect is something that will be seen by others, it is what I leave behind as I go about my daily life.
What exactly is righteousness? The Bible explains it clearly: Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 3:22). So, our righteousness bears fruit (peace) and it has an effect (quietness and confidence) throughout the day. My question today is: is that the effect we have on others? Do they see quietness and confidence in us or stress and doubt?
Let me leave you with a few scriptures on the fruit of peace, and the effect of quietness and confidence. Read 'm aloud, meditate on 'm and start living 'm.
PEACE: Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble (Psalm 119:165)
QUIETNESS: In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)
CONFIDENCE: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1 John 5:14)
Today it is my pleasure to post an interview with fellow blogger Wyn Barratt, all the way from Australia! I have been reading Wyn's blog Ponderings for a long time and last month she finally (at 82!) published her first book with Xlibris. I think she deserves an interview :) Here we go, enjoy!
Please, introduce yourself… anything special we need to know about Wyn Barratt?
I was born in England. The Second World War was on during my high school days. If there had been an air raid the night before we didn’t have to go to school the next day (assuming the school was still standing!) Consequently we hardly had any education during those years 1939-45. I attended the local Baptist church where I met and finally married Geoff Barratt. We had four children two girls and twin boys and emigrated to Australia as ‘ten pound Poms’ in 1966. In 2008 God gave me a promise and a wonderful gift. He promised me a hope and a future. At the grand of age of eighty that was amazing! His gift to me was in writing poetry. The Holy Spirit prompts me with ideas and words and I just write down what comes into my heart and head.
My husband passed away on Easter Saturday night in 2010. He was ill for years with diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
How and when did you start your blog?
On October 18th 2008. I started because a friend started one and helped me set it up.
What is your drive behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?
I wanted to share my thoughts with others in the hope that they would learn to love God too. God gave me the gift of writing poetry just before my 80th birthday. I joined the Shoutlife website, which is a Christian one, and posted my poems between my blog and Shoutlife.
You are quite active in social media, which is admirable at your age. How do you keep up?
I sometimes wonder that myself. I tend to groan and panic a bit when I realize I have taken on too much. I can’t say no to anyone and apart from the invitation to jump off a cliff I have accepted all offers and suggestions, albeit with some trepidation. I have withdrawn membership of several places like Twitter and My Space and a couple of lifestyle sites where I felt uncomfortable or didn’t fit in. I joined Facebook only to keep in touch with my family. My family is both large and scattered geographically. I don’t see them very often so at least I can find out what is happening on Facebook.
You have recently published your first poetry book! Congratulations. What have you learned from the publishing process, so far?
It is still somewhat of a mystery. For instance My book Love Letters to the Master was published on June 24th , my husband’s birthday , which was very nice. It was weeks later that I discovered a number of agencies was already selling my book and I still hadn’t received a copy myself. Frequent phone calls to my ‘production assistant’ seemed more helpful than just sending emails. Next time (if there is a next time, as I still have nearly one thousand poems in my computer,) I will know the best moves to make from experience.
What are your poems about?
The persons of the Trinity and my love and gratitude for my Lord and all that He has done for me and been to me. They show the ups and downs of my spiritual progress in a lot of ways. A friend has told me I preach a bit too, but in a gentle way I hope.
What role does your faith in God play in your daily life?
It is my only reason for living. I have bouts of depression in spite of this, especially since my husband passed away after 60 years of marriage. Because of his ill health we rarely left the house and didn’t make friends easily, although we attended church as often as possible. I miss the companionship, friendship, and outings. I remain in the house even more now than I did when Geoff was alive. I haven’t become used to doing things alone yet. My favorite pastime is walking over Muttonbird Hill, a steep hill that protrudes from the sea wall. I hope that the Lord will call me when I am out on that hill. It is so beautiful, yet wild. I talk to the Lord as soon as I awake in the mornings and frequently through the day too. Being alone I can talk aloud to Him, but of course I have to remember not to do that when I am out in public!
Do you have any authors or specific books that have been an inspiration to you?
Marja Meijers!! I am not normally a reader but since I heard about her books I devoured them hungrily. I love her straightforward style of writing and sincerity and way of expounding the Scriptures. As I am reading I exclaim to myself “Of course! Why didn’t I see that before?” I fell in love with Sorek[main character in Breath of Life] and wept copious tears over him. She set my heart on fire for the aborted child.
The Shack is a favorite too. Totally unlike anything I have read before but I enjoyed it immensely.
Also a new book, Robert Greyeagle’s first novel, ‘Unto these Hills.’ He is a great writer. I was gripped from the beginning and couldn’t put the book down. I can’t wait for his next one which is titled ‘Luke the Drifter’. His books are about his people the Cherokee.
Finish these sentences:
I wish I had…started writing at a much earlier age but God’s timing was perfectly matched to my need
I wish I could…write wonderful words to show the beauty of God and His Majesty and tell the world how wonderful He is. I wish everyone would give their lives to Him
I wish…I never disappointed Him and that when I enter Heaven He will say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.
Yes, I can see in answering these questions that my life is just wrapped up in my dear Lord and Savior. He is my life and I wouldn’t want to live without Him for a single moment even though I can still get into a lot of trouble with my mouth and impetuosity. I regret to say that I am the sort of person that jumps off the proverbial cliff and then looks back to God and asks, ‘Is this what You meant?’ I am going to be a happy pupil in the school of the Holy Ghost for a long time.