In my first post about freedom I mentioned that this series would be no more than a brief summary of the teachings we shared during the freedom conferences. I realize I am only touching the surface of this subject and I hope one thing will become very clear: in order to live in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us, we need to stand firm and not become a slave again... of anything or anyone.
Galatians 5:1 says, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. That freedom is available for everyone who is willing to make a conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow Him. Then... we need to stand firm and not let ourselves be burdened again. We can stand firm by 1) making the right choices (holy living), 2) receiving and giving forgiveness, 3) confessing our sins to one another and 4) understanding the power of Communion. That last thing is what this post is all about.
Jesus came to earth to set us free from sin, but (and this we find much harder to believe) He also came to set us free from sickness! We can read that in Matthew 8:16-17, When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Jesus literally fulfilled that prophecy. He came to deliver mankind from sin, but also from sickness and ailments (which are often the result from the Fall of mankind in general). The Bible continually confirms this, for example in Luke 13:10-12, where it is written about a crippled woman When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Jesus declares freedom from her infirmity. He delivers her from her infirmity as He delivers us from our sin. The word freedom or deliverance is being used in connection with sin AND sickness.
When we take a closer look at the prophecy Isaiah uttered about the coming Messiah, we will see that he also described the liberating work of Jesus in detail. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). All different aspects of human suffering are mentioned here: infirmities (physical), sorrows (psychological and emotional), transgressions (sin) and iniquities (immorality, often inherited). There is absolutely nothing that Jesus does NOT want to deliver us from. Another wonderful confirmation can be found in the Old Testament, and well in Psalms 103:1-5, ... who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Jesus wants to forgive and heal! Hallelujah. Personally, it brought me much joy and liberty when I realized that He came to save me from sin and sickness.
Maybe you are wondering what this has to do with Communion? I personally believe that the two elements of Communion (bread and wine) symbolize the two facets of salvation: deliverance from sickness and sin. If salvation is no more than deliverance from sin, then wine would be sufficient to symbolize the blood of Jesus that flowed for the forgiveness of all sin. So why the bread? Is there more than forgiveness? YES! The bread symbolizes Jesus' body, which was wounded for our healing. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:23-31 about celebrating Communion. The Bible tells us there that some people were sick because they did not properly recognize the body of the Lord, some even died... Is it no more than logical to conclude that we can be healed if we participate in Communion in a right manner? That we will receive healing when we recognize the meaning of the wounded body of the Lord?
This is also an important key in order to stand firm in our freedom from sickness and ailments. I truly hope this series have helped you to stand firm too!
In this series we are looking at biblical freedom as through a magnifying glass; the freedom that Jesus promises us. This is not the freedom to do or say whatever we want, but freedom from sin, guilt, shame and legalism, but also the freedom to choose. This freedom is a gift from God, but it is our responsibility to hold on to that freedom. Galatians 5:1 says It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Stand firm, then! How do we do that? In the previous post I mentioned that holy living is an important key in order to maintain our freedom. Purposely choosing to obey the Holy Spirit and not our own will. If we practice this more and more, we will experience true freedom, because where the Spirit is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3;17). Another important key to keep our freedom is the receiving and giving of forgiveness and the confession of our sins.
Jesus has set us free from sin, guilt and shame, yet, we often feel burdened. We allow the enemy to enslave us again, sometimes without realizing this. Quite often our feelings of guilt or shame can grow so big that they become a real burden. This is the stick the enemy uses to hit us with, He wants to keep us feeling insignificant and guilty, so we are afraid to go to God. It is therefore very important that we absolutely know that we are forgiven. The next step is that we need to forgive others as well. If we refuse to do so we will be burdened again with a yoke of slavery. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
Besides forgiveness there is also the confession of our sins, not necessarily to God, but to each other. Sin, forgiveness, healing, confession and deliverance... somehow they are all connected to each other. We don't need to understand everything in order to believe it. To be honest, I have enough questions of my own... But, let us take a closer look at James 5:14-16, Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
In these verses we can find wonderful keys that will enable us to stand firm, in order to keep our freedom. We can, yes, we must, forgive each other. And if we confess our sins to each other and pray... we will get well. Wow, that is awesome, who doesn't want that? I wonder why we don't practice this more often, in the church, but also in our small groups at home. We can take action today:
Do you truly believe Jesus has totally forgiven you? Say it
Are there people in your life you need to forgive? Give it
Is there a person you can confess your sins to? Do it
Pray together with that person. Ask it
PS: Is it truly possible to experience freedom from diseases and ailments and to stand firm? Did Jesus die for this too? We will talk about this in the next post.
In the previous blogposts we have taken a closer look at biblical freedom. It is God's will that Christians should live in freedom. We are no longer slaves and we should not let ourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... by nothing and by no one. Freedom does not mean we can say and do whatever we want (that would be anarchy), but biblical freedom means being free from sin, shame and guilt (and many psychological and physical problems that are often the result of this). That kind of freedom is only available through grace and our faith in Jesus Christ.
Biblical freedom is also the freedom to choose. Galatians 5:1 says It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. It is somehow possible to become enslaved again. 2 Peter 2:19 clearly states that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Let's ask ourselves what has mastered us: worries, depression, sickness, addiction? We are meant to live in freedom; to not be a slave of anything or anyone. The apostle Paul gives us the key: stand firm then. In other words: protect your freedom, stand in the gap for your freedom, because the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Let me put it this way: the freedom Jesus offers us is a gift, maintaining that freedom is our responsibility. For that purpose God has created us with a free will, we must do our best to make choices in order to maintain our freedom.
Making the right choices actually means to live a 'holy life'. When I was younger I thought that people who lived so called holy lives were boring; we used to make fun of them. Thank God I have learned that holy living means I have to make choices: one time for Jesus and after that every day... I must choose to do what my old nature wants (also called 'the flesh') or what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer and talks to every believer, but quite often we are not so trained in listening. We need to silence many other voices (radio, television, news paper, thoughts, talking etc.) to hear Him. We must learn to listen in silence.
In order to stand firm we must make the choice to live a holy life, this choice is two-fold:
We must purposely separate ourselves from sin, and
we must purposely seek fellowship with God
Separation from sin means: not doing what everyone else is doing, saying no when we need to, never acting without thinking, but asking for guidance and listening. Seeking a closer fellowship with God can be trough our heart (prayer), our soul (music, worship), our mind (studying the Word) and our strength (service). In order to stand firm and to keep our freedom, we need to make the right choices, every day!
In the next post we will take a closer look at freedom from guilt and shame.
In this series we will be looking at freedom through a magnifying glass. Freedom as mentioned in Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
It is not as easy as it seems to give a personal definition of freedom. If you struggle with an addiction you want to be free from that burden. If you have a sickness you want to be free from that pain. If you have continual thoughts about fear and worry, you want to be free to think different thoughts. Well, we can all fill in the blanks... From a personal point of view we can all come up with a definition of freedom, based on our own experiences. If we would ask any group of teenagers to give a definition of freedom, we will get a totally different response then when we would ask the same question to a group of elderly people. For young people freedom often means: doing whatever you want or feel like, saying whatever you want or feel like, living without rules. This is the freedom the world promotes. But if we are really honest we know, in our heart, this is not real freedom, but anarchy (chaos, misrule, state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority).
Biblical freedom is totally different from worldly freedom; it is freedom from sin, shame and guilt, but also the freedom to choose. As human beings we are created with a free will. God has put the freedom to make choices in every person, whether you are a Christian or not. The freedom from sin, guilt and shame however, can only be obtained through grace and by faith in Jesus Christ, by asking Him to come and live in us with his Holy Spirit. Don't ask me why this is the only way. God has decided so and I cannot add or change anything. The Bible keeps it simple with a wonderful promise: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Who doesn't want that, who can refuse such an offer?
To be truly free and staying free... starts with making a choice for Jesus. We all have the freedom to do so. No one can force a person to make that decision, but we can surely encourage others to make this choice. If you desire to be truly free, ask Jesus to come and live in your heart. It is no more complicated than that. After we make that choice it is our responsibility to keep our freedom, to not be a slave again. More about that in the next post.
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14)
Each time I start a new series on this blog it is exciting to see whether a subject has the reader's interest. Curious as I am, I checked the blog statistics after my previous post and I am thankful to see that many are reading with us.
We will take a closer look at freedom as the Bible mentions it. What kind of freedom is that and, to make it practical, how do we maintain that freedom in our daily lives? The basic scripture I am using for this series can be found in Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
It is very clear from this scripture that it is Jesus Christ who offers us freedom. Not our relationships, not money, vacation, therapy or medication. Nothing or no one can give it like Jesus does. It doesn't really matter which subject is being discussed, everything starts and ends with Him. Everything starts with putting Jesus in the center of our lives, our thinking and acting. Therefore it will be useful to start this series with a proclamation, a statement, of who He is. Feel free to read aloud the following:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:15-20).
Jesus is not just someone we talk about or read and sing about. He is the Son of the living God and He wants to live in us with his Holy Spirit. In that way making our body his temple, his home... a place where He loves to live. Now, no one in his or her right mind wants to live in a prison, not us, not the Holy Spirit! That is why Jesus offers us freedom, real freedom, and He wants us to keep living in that freedom. The reality is, that maintaining our freedom does not come automatically. Often we find ourselves (sometimes without realizing it) again enslaved by sin, sickness and/or worries... Maintaining and enjoying our freedom starts with understanding what that freedom is all about.
If you sincerely want to think about this subject it might help to write down, for yourself, what real freedom means to you.
In the next post I will write some more about worldly freedom versus biblical freedom.
Not too long ago my husband and I spoke at a conference in Germany about the theme FREEDOM. A week later we shared the same messages during a youth conference in Belgium. The responses to this theme were very positive, sometimes surprising and always moving. One thing became very clear: maintaining our Christian freedom does not happen automatically.
On this blog I would like to take a closer look at the theme FREEDOM. In the coming weeks I will share short, readable and understandable summaries of the five sessions that make up such a conference. The scripture we have used as a foundation throughout all sessions can be found in Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. A remarkable scripture. At first sight I thought: Duhhh... for what else? Of course He has set us free for freedom. You don't need a degree in theology to understand that. But as I was reading along, it became clear that living in freedom is not to be taken for granted. It is possible to become burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Maybe you think slavery is not of this time and age. Maybe you think slavery is limited to addiction, or maybe you have no idea at all when thinking about that word. But, when we look around us, we can see millions and millions of people who are a slave of:
money (whether having nothing or having too much)
approval (being a people-pleaser)
power (either manipulating and intimidating or being manipulated or intimidated)
laws and rules (being legalistic and not being open to the Living Word)
fear and worries (not being able to think differently)
sickness and ailments (having given up on healing)
television (watching what we don't really want to see)
fantasy (living in a make-believe world)
Nicotine, drugs, alcohol, medication (purposely destroying the body)
pornography... and the list goes on and on
It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian, a Muslim or an Atheist, no one escapes the joke of slavery that tries to come on us if we are not careful. Yet, the Bible is very clear about it: we are supposed to live in freedom. In the next post I will take a look at biblical freedom versus worldly freedom and furthermore concentrate on the three words that link the first part of Galatians 5:1 with the last part: STAND FIRM, THEN.
It is my hope that you are willing to read along and that you will be encouraged by what the Bible teaches on the subject. We need it more than ever!
We just came back from a wonderful vacation in Israel. On our last day we visited a very special place, close to Hebron, the Sorek caves. It had been on my 'places-to-visit' list for some years, actually ever since I wrote Breath of Life. The main character in this book is called Sorek.
At the time of writing I purposely picked that name. I wanted a name that was unknown, yet biblical, so I searched for weeks until I came upon a verse in Judges 16:4, Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. I immediately liked the name Sorek. I found out that the name appears only once in the Bible and that it has a prophetic meaning. Exactly what I needed for the main character in my book.
The Sorek caves are now part of the National Park system in Israel. After a long search in the mountains south of Jerusalem we found the entrance to the park. Upon arrival we noticed that a couple of school buses had gone ahead of us. Hundreds of Arab and Jewish students came to admire this underground miracle as well. We walked down a natural stairway and descended into the caves where it was warm and humid (exactly as I had described the womb in Breath of Life) and at first it appeared dark. After our eyes got used to the darkness, however, we became aware of the incredible sanctuary we were in. Because of small orange and pink spot lights the cave's shapes, forms and colors looked like a scene in a science fiction movie... it felt like we had arrived on another planet. Wow, awesome! Indescribable...
Following a small and slippery pathway we wandered through the caves. After the school children left it was so quiet, only drops of water falling... It was truly amazing to be there. Sorek has his origin in Israel, that makes him a very special child!
Seventh Month of Tishri
"Is it truly possible to become so overwhelmed by our natural circumstances that we forget the power of the Living Word? I was complaining about the darkness, and forgot that He overrules everything, even darkness! Darkness has no power over the Real Light. Let’s reverse that today: the Real Light overpowers the darkness. I’ll leave you with the words David wrote about this subject. You can find this in Psalm 18:28, You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light."
It's been kind of quiet at my blogging desk for the last few weeks... I am still traveling in Israel and enjoying a good vacation. The weather here reminds me of Southern California where we have spent many beautiful winters. Flip flops and shorts... that's about all I need :)
Anyway, thanks for all the lovely reactions to my birthday give-away. It was fun to see how most of you were able to give excellent one-word descriptions of your blogs. I was amazed!
This morning I asked my husband to pick a name, and the winner is... Susan Reinhardt. Congratulations, you will receive a copy of the first book in my series on the Ten Commandments, Sacred Sabbath. I received the message for this book in 2004, which seems ages ago now, but I believe it is more accurate than ever. Enjoy!
I'll be back to blogging next week. Shalom from Israel.
Believe it or not, but I will turn 50 this week. Never thought that day would come so fast after my 40th birthday. It seems the last few years accelerated, but maybe that was because I've been busy ;)
Anyway, for one thing, this special day will be a good moment to give away some goodies. My upcoming book (My Neighbor's House) hasn't been released yet... so I'll throw in a classic: Sacred Sabbath, God's way to multiply our time and restore our joy. This book contains a serious message for America as well as lots of encouragement for the church as it is.
You don't have to sign up for anything, just leave a comment and a link to your own blog (a little promotion never hurts) and use ONE word to describe your blog!
I'll ask my husband to pick a winner, or two, and I'll send you the book when I come back from my trip to Israel. Happy blogging....
So far we have learned a lot from Jesus's words regarding the parable of the talents:
The advancing of the Kingdom is an assignment for the believers
Jesus will ask us what we have done with the talents he gave us
Building God's Kingdom is not an option!
God is still the owner of our talents, we are the stewards
Everyone has received at least one talent from God
Let's go back to His words, one more time. Matthew 25:14-15 says, Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. What struck me the most in this scripture is the part where it says 'each according to his ability'. That shows the love and care and precision of our heavenly Father. We will receive just what we can handle, something that fits our personality. That means our talent is unique for the building of Gods Kingdom.
We are able to do something in a way, no one else can. Of course, there are many people with a writing talent. Personally I know hundreds of people who do a much better job than I do. My writing talent in itself is not so special. But... my writing talent in combination with my character, background, humor, and knowledge is very special! The way I see things, perceive things, process things in my mind and the way I add a personal touch to a story... THAT makes my talent unique.
So it is with your talent. Maybe nothing special in itself... But, in combination with your unique personality, experiences and background it becomes a unique tool for God. He desires to use everything and everyone to spread His Word and Truth around the globe; whether we use a pen, brush, screwdriver, or crochet hook!
Let's continue to look at the parable of the talents and the Kingdom. We have learned some interesting things so far. The Bible speaks about money or property being entrusted to the servants or workers. Basically this is about something we can work with, to build His Kingdom. Something we have received from the Lord: money, talents, opportunities...
Matthew 25:14-15 says: Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. It is the man who hands out the talents. A talent is not something we can earn or buy or go to school for. It is a gift from God and it is our assignment to receive it and use it. The question we should ask ourselves therefore is not 'Do I have talent?', but 'What is my talent?'
A talent is an inborn ability, something the Creator put in us while we were still in our mother's womb (see my book Breath of Life, for more on this subject). It is something that:
we can do fairly easily
we enjoy doing, and
that gives us satisfaction
Of course a talent needs to be stimulated, developed and perfected. We can do that by using it! Did I start my writing career writing books? No, not really. I practiced the art of writing in short stories, essays, poetry, articles, columns, press releases etc. etc. Someone once said that talent is 10% gifting and 90% hard work. I think that comes very close to the truth. God gives us our talent(s) as a seed, we need to water it...
TIP: It is very important that, next to our job, family and social life, we make room for our talent. That is the first choice we must make. Turn off the television one evening a week, for starters, or go into another room and ask God to show you WHAT He has put inside of you and HOW He wants you to use it for His glory... that is: to change the world around you.
It is fun to write this series on Talent & the Kingdom in a period that I have two new books published, one in the USA and one in Holland. My Neigbor's House is the fifth book in a series about the Ten Commandments in the 21st century and deals with the last commandment: do not covet... It will be available later this year and I can only pray and hope this book will be a tremendous help in your spiritual journey.
In the previous posts we have seen that building or advancing God's Kingdom is not optional, it is an assignment, a calling we receive from the King. Let's go back to Matthew 25:14-15: Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The next thing we can learn from this introduction to the parable of the talents is that the man entrusted his property (talents, money) to his servants. He entrusts the property to them, which means he is still the owner! His servants are the stewards.
Jesus is still the owner of whatever He has entrusted us with. Whether that is money, talents or opportunities. However, we are called to do something with it, so as to reach other people, who can reach other people... yes, you got it. It doesn't matter which field your talent is in. Let's say you bake the best apple pies in town. Why not organize a coffee morning once a month or so for women in your street? Women you may never meet in any church. Ask your kids to make flyers and start inviting people. You do not have to preach or teach, this is about building relationships. The deeper conversations will come before you know it... especially after everyone has enjoyed your scrumptious apple pie!
This is only a very simple example of using (managing) the very thing God has given you. He is still the owner and entrusts us with basic assignments. It is His desire that we will go into the world with what we have and with what we can do. Let's not make this too difficult :) He trusts us to go for it.
4) God is still the owner of our talents, we are the stewards!
The very last parable Jesus shared before His crucifixion was the parable of the talents and the Kingdom. I believe His disciples really got that message, because after Jesus went back to heaven to be with the Father, they went on their way to build God's Kingdom.
With us, things are often different. We can hear so many sermons preached on such a parable that we tend to forget what it is all about. Let's look again at the introduction Jesus gives: Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey (Matthew 25:14-15). The man calls his servants. That same calling goes out to all of us. Each person who gives heed to the call of God to put his or her life in His hands automatically receives the call to build the Kingdom.
To build the Kingdom means to tell other people about Jesus, using whatever means you have been given. It is written about Paul that boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31). Jesus came to earth to announce the coming of His Kingdom. He talked about it all the time, even for forty days in a row after His resurrection (Acts 1:3)! Can you image your pastor teaching about the Kingdom for forty (Sun)days :) There is definitely a lot to learn about this subject!
Maybe you do not see how God's invisible Kingdom and our visible work come together. Maybe you're just waiting for good things to happen, or maybe not? The Bible clearly teaches that we are co-laborers with Him and that there is work to do (which we have so beautifully called 'the great commission). Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians (4:11) about this kind of co-laborers: These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. People who work for the Kingdom of God are a comfort for their spiritual leaders, not a danger.
Just try to imagine that Jesus calls you and some of your friends, as in this parable. He entrusts you with something, he gives you something you can work with... let's call it tools. Money, talents, opportunities... it doesn't really matter what we call it. The question is... are we willing to use it?
I ended my previous blog post with the words: 'The advancing (expanding) of the Kingdom is an assignment for the believers'. I am using the term 'the advancing of the Kingdom' to describe the growing amount of believers in Jesus Christ (here on earth).
It is God's desire that every person will welcome King Jesus in their heart and so become a member of God's family, a citizen of the Kingdom. Jesus explains it this way: The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it (Luke 16:16).
As workers, or co-laborers, in the Kingdom of God we have received tools: spiritual gifts, but also natural abilities/talents. Jesus tells a great story to emphasize our assignment to work for this Kingdom in Matthew 25. Let me highlight His introduction: Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. It doesn't really matter whether this parable is about money, talents or opportunities, the main point is that God entrusts his people with something for a bigger purpose.
Jesus starts this story with the announcement that the man is going on a journey. If Jesus would have left after speaking these words, we still would have learned a spiritual truth: the man does not go away for ever, he is coming back! We also live with the expectation that Jesus is coming back to check on our work, to ask what we have done with the very things He entrusted us with.
2) Jesus will ask us what we have done with the talents he gave us
Later this month my husband and I will give a workshop Talent & the Kingdom in a church in Holland. In preparation for this service, we have been reading the parable of the talents, as found in Matthew 25, and it is amazing what we can learn from the words of Jesus about this subject. It doesn't really matter whether this parable is about money, talents or opportunities, the main point is that God entrusts his people with something for a bigger purpose.
Why do we teach on this subject? Well, many people
presume that natural talents cannot be used for Kingdom purposes, that only spiritual gifts matter
are not aware of the talents God has given them
do not use their talents for the Kingdom of God
Let's be honest, most of us use our God given talents in a secular job, so we can have worldly success, which enables us to buy earthly possessions. That may be a harsh truth, but it is the answer to the question: if I do not use my talents for God, for what or whom do I use them? It will be a real eye opener to take a closer look at the words of Jesus as found in Matthew 25:14-15. These two verses are the introduction to the parable: Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. I have written down several principles based on this introduction and I will share them on this blog in the next couple of weeks. I hope you will enjoy reading with me and be inspired to use your talents for His glory. (At the end of this series I will write more on how to discover your talent.)
It is clear from the context that this parable is about the Kingdom of God. When Jesus says 'it will be like', He is talking about the Kingdom. He uses this and previous parables to explain that the Kingdom of God can only grow and expand when the workers are alert and do their job. The workers are the ones who have received His message. Jesus gave the keys for this (spiritual) work to his followers: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19).
Many books and commentaries have been written about these instructions, but I want to emphasize the fact that the Kingdom cannot be separated from the assignment to bear fruit. The Kingdom (the spiritual realm where God's will prevails) is not something we live in while reclining on the couch, watching t.v., and eating popcorn. There is work to be done; God wants everyone to enter His Kingdom. In Matthew 21:43 Jesus says to the religious people: Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
1) The advancing (expanding) of the Kingdom is an assignment for the believers
It's funny! I stumbled upon an old post, written back in 2008, about the financial crisis and I found it hard to believe that the headlines are still talking about the exact same thing today. We haven't come very far since 2008...
The media is crying crisis and financial disaster, day after day. Tiring really, if you ask me. I cannot help but think that if the world suffers, the Kingdom is thriving! Jesus warned us for unwisely investments a long, long time ago. He said: Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven... (Matthew 6:19). How simple can it get? If we would have listened to Him and invested our money and time in faith-based programs and charities, we have no reason to worry. This time should be our greatest victory!
God promises us an abundance off all kinds of good things in return for 10% of our income in Malachi 3:10 and I don't care if that is Old Testament, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever! The Bible is full of financial advice, but do we want to see it? Of course life is more than money. Jesus went on to say, So do not start worrying: where will my food come from or my drink or my clothes? (These things are the things the pagans are always concerned about). Your Father in Heaven knows that you need all these things! Now, THAT is a very encouraging thought that I will take with me this week.
By the way: Have you changed the way you spend or invest your money since the so-called financial crisis broke out?
Once a year (more or less) a writer has the privilege to share the cover of his or her upcoming book with the audience. Today that privilege is mine :) YES!
Last week we finalized the cover of my upcoming book My Neighbor's House, the 5th book in my series on the Ten Commandments. It will be a few more months before the book is available for pre-sales... but hey, I don't mind looking at this beautiful cover for a while. It gives me time to get used to the idea that yet another book will be added to this growing series.
Fragment of the blurb on the back cover:
What do we do with the old pages of Exodus 20 in this current age and time? How do we apply them in our daily life? It is one thing to say, “Oh, I don’t envy my neighbor, his house, car, or wife. I don’t desire what someone else has.” But come to think of it, what do you desire? What are the desires of your heart? Are you passionate for the right things?
Tell me... what do you think, eye catching cover or not? How do you choose a cover?
A huge crowd has gathered around Jesus as he prepares his disciples for things to come. Right in the middle of all his practical instructions, Jesus suddenly says, I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished... (Luke 12:49-50). I cannot read this any other way than that Jesus is talking about his suffering. Jesus longs for the fire of the Holy Spirit to be ignited on earth, but He has an assignment to fulfill: the suffering for the sins of mankind.
The Bible tells us also about another conversation Jesus had with his disciples where the same subject came up. James and John wanted to obtain a place next to Jesus in his glory. But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38). There we have that baptism again. It is here that Jesus connects the baptism of suffering with the cup He is about to drink. That cup is of course the symbol for the new covenant, but also for the suffering. Right before his arrest in Gethsemane Jesus prayed: O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39).
The suffering Jesus experienced was horrible. He was tortured and crucified, while innocent, to pay for the sins of all mankind. His suffering brought us forgiveness of sins and deliverance form guilt, shame and sickness. His assignment was completed on the cross. Yet, in his conversation with the disciples He forewarns them that a form of suffering would come upon them. In his discussion with James and John he says: You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized (Mark 10:39). Jesus warns his followers, be careful : you will suffer. Jesus did not talk about suffering as a result from sin and sickness, because that is exactly what He died on the cross for. He talks here about suffering because of the gospel. Hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide are experiencing this.
The disciples discovered later on in life what this baptism of suffering really meant, and they wrote about it on several occasions, for example:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! (1 Peter 4:12-16)
This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News (2 Timothy 1:6-8)
It is no coincidence that scriptures about suffering for the sake of the gospel often mention the fire or flames of the Holy Spirit as well. Let's take this warning serious and never forget that with the fire of the Holy Spirit a suffering for the sake of the gospel comes along!
In my previous posts I wrote about the baptism into the Body of Christ, that one baptism by which anyone can become a member of God's family. We are all born into a natural family and we also need to be born into a spiritual family, which is simply called rebirth. At rebirth we receive the Holy Spirit as a seal, as proof that God is with us. The baptism in water is a visible confirmation on the outside of something invisible that happened on the inside of us. It is a step in obedience, as Jesus said.
As Christians we could be thinking, 'well, what else could I possible need? I am a child of God, and Jesus lives inside of me through the Holy Spirit.' Yet, the Bible talks about another step: the baptism in or with the Holy Spirit. That is not a term the Pentecostal movement has invented, it is one that John the Baptist came up with, more than 2000 years ago. He said, I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). John wanted to prepare the people he was baptizing by telling them there was more to come. I find it fascinating that he knew about the baptism in the Holy Spirit long before it happened, he spoke prophetic words.
A few years later, right before his ascension into heaven, Jesus confirmed the words of John, For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Jesus clearly shows that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the same as the receiving of the Holy Spirit at rebirth. His own disciples had received the Holy Spirit not long before that, in a very special way, Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-22). Wow! 'That is it' we would think, they are ready to go into the world. But Jesus tells them to wait until that same Holy Spirit would come on them with power (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit was always there, He is God as Jesus and the Father are God. They are one! We can read about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. We can read how he came on people for specific purposes or a specific time, as with Moses, Samson, Eliah and Saul. We can read how he lived in people, as in Joseph (Genesis 41:38) and Daniel (Daniel 5:14) and He also hoovered over the waters in Genesis 1. The Holy Spirit is nothing new, but the way He now lives in people and gives them power is different. That really started with Jesus, who did not need rebirth, because He was born of the Spirit. However, He was baptized with the Spirit when He came up out of the water. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1). It turned out he needed this empowerment to withstand the temptations of Satan.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not so much about the Holy Spirit himself (who already lives in us) but more about the power released. We should not be thinking about human power here (which often manifests itself in shouting, pushing, etc.) but about supernatural power. That is, for example, the power:
to resist temptation
to be bold
The apostle Peter explains it as follows: God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear (Acts 2:32-33). The outpouring, baptism or filling (whatever you want to call it) with the Holy Spirit is something that is visible and audible. In other words... we might be able to keep our rebirth kind of hidden, but that is not possible when we receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit!
In my previous post I described how we can become a member of the Body of Christ, the universal church of believers, through one baptism. That one baptism is also called rebirth. The Bible also speaks about a doctrine of baptisms (Hebrews 6:1-2). I believe that out of that one (most important) baptism, other baptisms will follow. Let's take a look at the baptism in water.
In Old Testament times the Jewish ritual of ceremonial washing was quite common. Because of continual sinning, people needed to be cleansed again and again. In the New Testament John the Baptist announced a new form of ritual cleasing: the water baptism as a sign that people had truly turned their backs to sin. He called on the people to seriously repent from their sinful life and to be baptized. He did no longer use the ceremonial wash basins, as was the Jewish custom, but he went to a place where there was plenty of water. John 3:23 says about it, Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized.
Jesus came to John as well, to be baptized, which is a crazy idea of course, because Jesus was without sin. He did not need to repent, let alone to be baptized for the washing away of His sins. Yet, Jesus persuaded John to go ahead and do the will of God, Jesus answered, “For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do.” Then John agreed (Matthew 3:15, CEV). I love that, Jesus sets the example for all of us and humbles Himself. He could have said: 'dear John, I don't need any baptism'. Who could have contradicted Him? But He purposely decided to be obedient and do the will of His Father.
We can read how years later this new form of baptism (ritual washing) is being continued by the disciples. Paul challenged the people of his time, And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name (Acts 22:16). Here, we see again the principle of washing away sins. Through Jesus our sins are forgiven, through water baptism our sins are being washed away. That is why the apostle Peter says we should not look at baptism as a ritual cleansing of dirt, but as a pledge of a clear conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21). Personally I do know a lot of people that have seriously given their life to Christ, they have turned away from their old life, but they still have a guilty conscience which keeps them from feeling truly free. Often it turns out they have not been baptized, which symbolically would wash away their sins. They know their sins have been forgiven, and yet they carry them around.
In the New Testament we can read many scriptures about water baptism and as I have written in my first post, the arguing about baptism (at what age it should take place and how much water should be used) has resulted in many church splits and family feuds. Personally the words of the Lord Jesus were enough to convince me not to join that discussion: 'we must do all that God wants us to do.' The New King James translations says, It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. If you are in doubt about the water baptism, would you please take some time to think about Jesus' words?
Apart from the baptism in water there is something as the baptism in/with the Holy Spirit, which I will discuss in the next post in this series. I hope you will read and think with me!
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8)
In my previous post about baptism(s) I mentioned the fact that the Bible says there is only one baptism, but at the same time speaks about a doctrine of baptisms, plural. Is the Bible contradicting itself? How do we read this?
When I was a few weeks old my parents had me baptized. It took me nearly forty years before I was able and willing to confirm the promise they had made to God before the church. I was baptized in 2001 after I gave my life to Christ. Was one baptism not enough and did I have to do it all over again?
Of course not! To be honest, I don't think the baptisms the Bible speaks about have anything to do with age, with being a child or an adult. The more I study Gods Word about this subject, the more I am convinced that there is indeed one baptism that is important for ALL people, and that is the baptism into the body of Christ. The other baptisms mentioned in the Bible are a result of this one, as we will see in the upcoming posts. I have made a very simple chart.
Everything starts with that one baptism, the baptism into the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. I have noticed two things. 1) We were all baptized by one Spirit (and thus not by men, as in water baptism) and 2) we were baptized into one body, that is the body of Christ, the universal church of all believers.
My first reaction when I read this scripture was: Okay, so this is obviously not about water baptism, but about the baptism into the body of Christ. How does someone become a part of the body/the church of Christ? Well, not by signing a membership paper, not through study, status or family tradition... although quite often we have made it to be like that. No, we become a member of that one body through rebirth. Titus 3:4-5 explains this pretty well, But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
I love that, the washing of rebirth... that is not about baptism in water, but about the moment we surrender our life to Christ, a decision He seals by giving us the Holy Spirit to be in us and with us forever. There is no water present at rebirth, or it has to be our tears :) Through rebirth we are being baptized into the body of Christ, into the family of God. In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul tells the believers, Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
The most important choice we can ever make is the choice to invite Jesus into our heart. That is a matter of life and death... a step from darkness into light. Personally I believe this is the ONE baptism the Bible speaks about in Ephesians 4:5 (one Lord, one faith, one baptism). Jesus as our foundation... from there on out we will look at the other baptisms mentioned in the Bible.
Years ago a small book surfaced in Holland. It contained a list of all the contradictions in the Bible. The author shared his skeptical and critical remarks with the readers. Can't blame him, since he is not a Believer. I am sure books like that have surfaced in the USA as well. My question is: how do Christians handle scriptures that seem to teach an opposite lesson?
From time to time I stumble upon such contradictions in the Bible. However, they do not give me a reason to be cynical or skeptical. On the contrary, they give me reason to dig deeper into the Word in search for explanations. Baptism is such a topic; for centuries people have debated and argued about this, which has resulted in church splits and family feuds. The Bible seems to add to the confusion by proclaiming one baptism, There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6) and several baptisms as mentioned in Hebrews 6:2, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
So, what's the deal here? One baptism or more? There is no doubt in my mind that the scholars and educated of our time have figured out an answer... However, I would like to share a fresh look regarding this subject on my blog, not from a theological or doctrinal point of view, but from a biblical point of view. I will do so in a series of short posts on:
the baptism into the body of Christ
the baptism in water
the baptism in/with the Holy Spirit, and
the baptism in/of suffering
I do not pretend to have all the answers, on the contrary, I have many questions. But I am sure that with the help of the Holy Spirit we will be able to unravel some mysteries around baptism. I hope you are as curious as I am. If so, please keep an eye on this blog!
It is my pleasure to host an interview with fellow blogger Dawn Paoletta who writes at Beneath the Surface. She is an aspiring author, seeking to be published. Well, who isn't :) Please, take a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy as Dawn shares part of her writing journey ...
Please, introduce yourself… anything special we need to know about Dawn Paoletta?
Well, I love bottomless cups of coffee, long conversations, living like a local tourist, contemplating deep thoughts (silly ones, too) and quietness. I am married to my best friend Angelo, have one sweet girl, Katherine (11) as well as 2 cats,1 dog and a bunny! What you need to know is how amazingly aware I am that this life that I am living is a mist. I am on a mission to know, love and serve Jesus Christ every second with every breath He allows me to breathe. I fail daily and rely fully on His grace. The older I get the less I care about what others think and the more I see His beauty, grace and joy everywhere.
How and when did you start your blog?
I started this blog after I suffered a hip injury last Memorial Day weekend of 2011. I had been feeling strongly that I needed to share my writing for a while, but once I was unable to work, teach class, do nothing but sit, it was as if God whispered, "Now." I also had gone on a white water rafting trip with my daughter's Girl Scout group about two weeks prior to the injury and I had so many God insights about our river guide, I felt I would bust if I did not share! The whole trip felt like one amazing adventure of God saying, "See me here", "I'm like this", this is "how I am with you"...and I really felt for two weeks after as I burned with insights that God was pressing within me to share what He showed me...publically, but I was a bit clueless about how to go about it. I finally got the blog started and it was my second post: The River, The Journey and The Guide. I think it reflects my writing "voice" and style on the blog pretty accurately, although I have been told that my writing has developed and changed over the course of the year.
Have you taken any steps to become a published author?
Funny you should ask. One of those God affirmations came in the form of a wonderful local book coach, who has given me the gift of a manual and some input to start. I started a Fiction Murder Mystery, which is a tale of redemption, which I shelved. I feel God is leading me to write something closer to home. I have a title and some of the outline. It is about some of my more recent lessons in life. It is written with the same voice I bring to my blog. My goal is to use the manual Lisa Tener gave me back in March to as she says "bring my book to life"! I am hoping to have a first draft by the end of this year. God willing. OK, really, God is willing, I need to be more disciplined to see it through to completion.
What role does your faith in God play in your daily life?
I love the verse in Acts: In Him we live and move and have our being. That sums a lot of my daily life up. I want to be like that tree planted by the water, in Jeremiah 17: fearless, confident in Him. God used those verses to speak to me when I was a new Christian. I know what it is like to lean on the arm of flesh. I have learned much the hard way. Now I want to abide in Him and exalt His name, forever and encourage others to do likewise!
Can you give us a few good/fun reasons why we should visit Rhode Island?
Oh, Yes! Rhode Island may be the smallest state but there is so much beauty to be seen, here. We have the most beautiful coastline and lovely state parks as well. We have amazing diversity from rural farm areas and hiking to an amazingly active Capitol city which remains fairly easy to get around, visit and enjoy the sites. I am actually getting ready to do a series called The Local Tourist where I will regularly feature Rhode Island's sweet spots and unique places to visit!
What writing-related struggle have you overcome?
I think learning to be concise. Not rambling. Yet, if you know me that's how I talk. So I have to overcome myself when I write! That's where God helps me. But the issue I am trying to overcome right now is directing some of my writing time into the book I am writing. I believe I need to discipline myself, prioritize and focus on writing daily for this book. I look at the blog as my place to "workout" in writing. Like an athlete training for his specific sport or event. I am stretching and working my writing muscles at my blog space! I enjoy blogging so much...I feel like I was meant to do it. However, my heart's desire has always been to be a published author; I never even knew what a blog was until a couple of years ago.
Top three tips from you as an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach.
1. Listen to your body & keep it simple (except when it says eat chips in front of the Telly!). Just because everyone else is doing the latest fitness trend does not make it right for your body, mind and lifestyle! Our bodies were made to move. It's not as hard as you think. Learn to enjoy bending, stretching and the way the body is designed to move, that is the beginning!
2. A little is better than nothing. The battle is in the mind but the victory will come when you act - the Just Do It campaign works. The feelings follow the action. Just move a little and see. Choice is a powerful thing. You can train yourself to like healthier foods and exercise regularly...one step at a time. Take the first step, then the next. Don't over think it. It's easier than we make it out to be!
3. Try new things! Balance is about rolling with what comes your way and remaining flexible, consistent. Our lives change and so do our preferences. The sport that worked when you were in college may not be the thing for you today. I think there are many ways to stay active and make healthier choices. If you have never been successful with a program, keep exploring options for movement. Don't quit seeking. Simply walk, or even try ballroom dancing. Be an exercise explorer. Never give up giving yourself grace to start again...just like in our walk with the Lord!
Any words of encouragement to us bloggers?
Well, I am still new but I have learned a lot. I think the best thing I can say is live your life like a local tourist. Everywhere you go and everything you see is a story, a lesson or a poem waiting to be expressed and shared. Every single moment presents an opportunity to learn, teach, and be stretched. I carry a journal everywhere I go- I think everyone should. I explore and experience everything as an inquisitive visitor to this world. Pretend you're on assignment from God to investigate and discover hidden gems in every place you go and every person you talk to. Expect miracles. He is everywhere!
Although I am right in the middle of finishing up the final edits of my upcoming book My Neighbor's House, I still get really excited about positive responses to my previous books. I am so grateful for reviewers who take time to post favorable and well written reviews of one of my books on their blogs or on Amazon.
I realize more than ever that, although writing is kind of a lonely job, the books and blogs we produce are nothing without a group of faithful readers. They are really the ones spreading the word. I do my best to be that reader and encourager for others, and at the same time I am thrilled when someone surprises me with an excellent review :)
Fellow blogger Dawn Paoletta wrote a very helpful review of Grace of Giving on her blog Beneath the Surface. Her blog is certainly worth a visit (I am listening to the sound of rolling waves and seagulls right now) as she has a great variety of posts and book reviews. I will post an interview with Dawn later this month. She will share a bit more about her writing journey with us. I have no doubt she will inspire us all! So, please keep an eye on this blog.
Grace of Giving is available through all major book sellers, if you rather order the Kindle edition, please click HERE.
In my previous post we have seen how the Holy Spirit came to replace Jesus here on earth because Jesus went back to the Father in heaven. It was better for the believers that it happened this way. If there is one thing we learn from this event, it is that God is one, yet three. The concept of the Trinity is hard to understand for many people, maybe due to our Western way of thinking. In the Hebrew language however, it is a common principle; the word echad (one) is being used to describe a unity consisting of different parts.
As human beings we are made in the image and likeness of God, three and yet one. Spirit, soul and body and yet one human being. Think for instance about the following example. We can cry inwardly and feel depressed, but outwardly we can look cool. Soul and body work differently, but they cannot be separated. So it is with God. When Jesus was on earth He only did what He saw the Father doing, they talked with each other often. The Holy Spirit now lives inside the believers, but tells us only what He hears from the Father, they listen to each other. In this way they each do their own work , but they cannot be separated.
In John 14:26 Jesus says: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. The Holy Spirit has specific functions here on earth. One of these functions is that He will teach us everything. He is our teacher. What good is it to have a teacher that we never talk with, that we never ask questions and that we do not know personally? That wouldn't work in any school or college. It would be difficult to attend classes with interest and to learn from such a teacher. Communication is the key word, especially with the Holy Spirit who lives in us. If we never talk with Him, we will not get to know Him.
Getting to know Him better is what the Bible calls the 'fellowship with the Holy Spirit'. More about that in the next post. For now I would like to encourage you to ask the teacher some questions. I am sure we all have questions about the Bible, about certain scriptures or stories. Take a cup of coffee, sit down and ask the Holy Spirit (who lives in you if you are a child of God) to give you wisdom and insight. He will do this, He longs to do this. Let me know whether He helped you or not...