Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Readers Favorite Award 2011

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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Growing in grace (2)

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Growing in grace (1)

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:

Chapter 6
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! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

The effect of righteousness

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)

Have a great weekend everyone. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interview with Wyn Barratt

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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Power of God

During the past few weeks I have posted on The Will of GodThe Plan of God and The Voice of God.
We learned that the will of God is not so much something we should ask for, but something we should do. It is a general instruction for the Believers. The plan of God is more specific for each person, depending on your character and circumstances, and will be revealed step by step. About the voice of God we noticed that it is much more than spoken words. This week I would like to take it a step further and share some things about the power of God. 

When we decide to live God’s will (in other words, to obey His Word) He will slowly begin to reveal His plan for our lives. Learning to hear His ‘voice’ is absolutely necessary in this stage to be able to follow His instructions. But that’s not all. We also need His power to work with us and through us. The power of God is an unlimited source that supplies anything and everything we lack in our lives at a certain moment. The power of God is available to us through the Holy Spirit. Please, note that the Holy Spirit Himself is a person, not a force.

When the Holy Spirit lives in us, He is there to help us, hence His name The Helper. Often we only think of Him as a help in trouble, but He is also there to help us in our daily lives, with our daily chores. (Think about Adam and Eve complimenting each other.) When we do all we can in the natural we need to rely on the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to make our work effective. Many things can be done and accomplished by sheer will power, but only the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit can change our efforts into effective work for His Kingdom. The Bible clearly shows that God wants to share His power (through the Holy Spirit) with us: 
  • Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you
  • 2 Peter 1:3, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him. 
  • 2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind (or self discipline). 
When we think of God’s power displayed, we often think of the opening of the Red Sea, the sun standing still at a believers request or Daniel surviving the lion’s den. Wonderful examples, but most of us don't see such things happen every day. Although the exact same power is still available today and can have earth shaking results we will, for practical reasons, focus on His power in a smaller context, namely our daily lives. 

We are in need of God’s power every day, not necessarily to move mountains and open up the seas, but to overcome tough situations, to learn new things, to discern trouble and to do our work. God's power displayed on a smaller scale doesn't mean we have to yell, to jump, to push or to swing the chandeliers (although that can be fun) to make it happen. It means we have to call on the HELP of the Holy Spirit when needed, instead of doing it all by ourselves. Let me give some examples of the power that is available to us on a daily basis: 
  • The power to resist temptation
  • The power to endure
  • The power to proclaim
  • The power to overcome
  • The power to save 
  • The power to heal 
His power can be evident in every area of our lives but we have to ask! I would call for Believers everywhere to start uttering breath prayers all day: Holy Spirit I really need your help with this or that...

The Holy Spirit is our Helper and He  desires to display God's power through us, so we can be witnesses... until the ends of the earth!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Readers Favorite Contest 2011

I've been in and out of the house a lot lately, not much time for a good post (on the power of God, as promised).  So allow me to quickly share some great and exciting news.

Grace of Giving is one of the finalists in the Readers Favorite 2011 Awards Contest. This year there are more than 50 categories and they received more entries than ever. Grace of Giving is one of the five nominees in the category Christian Non Fiction.

You can see the 2011 Contest Finalists list here