Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pure religion

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):

  1. benevolent love for the people in need, and
  2. a holy life
I wonder how difficult we have made 'our' religion sometimes...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Living with passion

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

Believe while others are doubting
Plan while others are playing
Study while others are sleeping
Decide while others are delaying
Prepare while others are daydreaming
Begin while others are procrastinating
Work while others are wishing
Save while others are wasting
Listen while others are talking
Smile while others are frowning
Commend while others are criticizing
Persist while others are quitting

Monday, September 19, 2011

The testing of your faith

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
  • and complete,
  • 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?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Readers Favorite Award 2011

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 :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing in grace (4)

Let's continue with chapter 6 of Grace of Giving.

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.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Growing in grace (3)

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! 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Blogging buzz....

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:

Heather Sunseri over at Balance with purpose.
Traci over at My daily walk in His grace
Lisa Tortorello over at her author's blog
Aileen Sewart over at Aileen's Thoughts, and
Cherie Hill over at Journal of Faith