Monday, July 30, 2012

Final cover My Neighbor's House

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?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baptism unraveled (5)

In my previous posts I wrote about 'the doctrine of baptisms' as the Bible mentions it. We have taken a closer look at that one baptism, the beginning of everything, namely the baptism into the body of Christ, our rebirth. I also wrote about the baptism in water and about the baptism in/with the Holy Spirit. The Bible mentions one more baptism which is again different than the ones I just mentioned: let's call it the baptism of suffering.

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!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baptism unraveled (4)

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
  • to endure
  • to heal
  • to overcome

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!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Today is the day

Of all decisions we can take in life, the one to seriously follow Jesus Christ is the most important, a matter of life and death. It takes one step to stand at a brand new beginning...

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
(2 Corinthians 6:2)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baptism unraveled (3)

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)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Baptism unraveled (2)

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.