Thursday, October 31, 2013

Those who had been scattered...

'Read your Bible, pray every day, pray every day... and you'll grow, grow grow.' Remember that song? I used to sing that as a child, not realizing the words were/are very prophetic. The song is a payer, a proclamation: read your Bible and GROW!

Currently I am walking through the Book of Acts and I am taking my time to do so. It is not about reading a Bible book as fast as I can, but for me it is all about stopping and thinking about the scriptures I am reading. That way, traveling through the Bible becomes a real adventure. In the coming weeks I will share some of my thoughts on this blog, just for meditation purposes. I have done so before, when I took you all on a journey through the gospel of Luke. The blog posts I wrote then, were short and powerful. I hope you will find inspiration again.

This morning I was reading in the 8th chapter of Acts. It describes how persecution began against the first Christians, On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

That is bad news, for sure. Just imagine that they would come to your house and dragged you off to put you in prison. Such a horrible thought. Yet, it still happens every day in many nations around the world.

Verse 4 of the same chapter tells us how those first believers reacted to this situation, Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Wow! The believers were being scattered throughout the land. Did they give up all hope? Did they complain about their circumstances? Did they feel sorry for themselves? NO! They made good use of the situation, they preached the good news wherever they went. They used their negative situation in a positive way. We can surely learn a good lesson from these first believers.

The question I am asking myself and you, as reader, is: how do we react to negative circumstances? Are we able to use them in a positive way?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happiest church

At the moment I am reading an interesting and inspirational book. It is called Faith under Fire, written by Andrew White (the vicar of Baghdad).

Apart from my own books and books by fellow bloggers, I hardly ever recommend or review books on this blog (simply because by doing so, people will try to put me in a box). But books about the world wide (persecuted) church really have a place in my heart. They ALWAYS teach me important life lessons. At some point Andrew White writes:

"Despite the fact that St. George's is constantly under fire, it is the happiest church I have ever served in..."

That one sentence jumped off the page and I thought: wow... It puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Father, forgive us for being spoiled...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GIVE yourselves to God (4)

Oh well, so many articles, thoughts and debates about Christianity, Somehow we find it difficult to make our inner convictions visible. Church attendance, theology, gifts, functions, servant hood and other outer works are being submitted to thorough research again and again. We will, however, always end up at the cross at Calvary. That is where Jesus gave Himself in total surrender. He laid down His life in order to give life to all mankind.

Surrender. What a beautiful and difficult word, it is the foundation of the Christian faith. Surrendering ourselves, everything we have learned, everything we possess and everything we did wrong. Surrender is the dawn of a new beginning. God desires total surrender from every human being. Not because He wants to control us, but because He desires to heal and renew each aspect of our lives and to use it for His work here on earth. Offer yourselves to God, Paul says. That is giving our whole being as an instrument of righteousness. According to the Bible our whole being is spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The scripture I am using as a basis for this series can be found in Romans 6:12-14, Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

In the previous blog posts we have seen that our spirit is born again (a new creation) and our soul is being saved (preserved). So, what is the deal with our body? The Bible says that our earthly body is mortal (see Romans 6:12 for example) and will therefore perish. Many churches regard the body (also called the flesh) as sinful and therefore most sermons will rather be about spiritual things than about physical things. Sermons about the body are not so popular. But the Bible speaks about it often and always in a very clear and simple way!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). We need to offer (give) our body to God as a LIVING sacrifice. That sounds a bit theatrical, but it simply means we have to make our bodies available for His service.... to do stuff! To use our hands and to move our feet, maybe even to go to places where no one wants to go.

The Bible warns against wrong use of the body (sexual immorality, gluttony etc.). In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we can read the following, Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Honor God with your bodies. What a strange command, how do we do such a thing in our daily lives? We have often learned that we should not give too much attention to the flesh. But... the human body is a temple wherein the Holy Spirit desires to live. We have to keep that temple clean. Let's be honest, if we do not feel at home in our own body, why would the Holy Spirit feel at home? Let's make sure we have a clean house! Give your addictions, cravings, bad habits, pains and frustrations to Him and ask the Lord to do a work of renewal.

Together we are the body of Christ on earth. If we do not do what He did when He walked around on this earth, how can His name be glorified?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

GIVE yourselves to God (3)

"I surrender all..."Yes, we do sing that from time to time. Surrendering all, giving it all to Him. What does that really mean?

The scripture I am using as a basis for this series can be found in Romans 6:12-14, Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Offering ourselves, giving ourselves to God, means surrendering our whole being to Him. According to the Bible that is spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Sadly enough there are many Christians who struggle desperately with spiritual, emotional and physical problems (and sometimes all three). A struggle that takes up most of our time and attention, so we never get to the point where we can offer ourselves to be used as instruments in His service. But this does not have to be so, it can change! Take courage, keep reading. 

In part 2 of this series we discovered that the most important moment in a person's life is when we surrender our spirit to God (when we believe in Jesus Christ). God's Spirit comes to live in us and revives our spirit, we become a new creation. In this post we will take a closer look at our soul. How do we give our soul to God? 

According to the Bible our spirit can be renewed (born again), but our soul gets saved. We call that salvation. In Peter 1:8-9 it says that the salvation of our souls is the end result of our faith, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Our soul does not perish, on the contrary: it gets saved. This means that, despite the fact that we become a new creation through rebirth, we keep our same old soul. The soul with all it's pains and hurts, disappointments and struggles. I do not have enough space on this blog to write extensively about the human soul (see chapter 8 of my book Grace of Giving), but for one thing the human soul consists of our emotions.

We do not receive a new and clean soul... Sometimes people say: repent and turn your life to Jesus, all your worries will be gone. This is a little bit too simple. YES! In Him it is possible to be free from all our burdens (sin, shame, guilt, sickness, pain and worries), but that does not happen automatically. It is very important that we also accept Jesus Christ as the one who has access to our soul, so He can work on it. He wants to be the shepherd and overseer according to 1 Peter 2:25, For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

GIVE your soul to Him so He can do the necessary work. He will guide and direct, heal an deliver, feed and protect your soul. Expose your secrets and tell Him: Lord, this is my inner struggle, I need your help. Please be the shepherd of my soul. The healing and cleansing of our soul is a life long process (because we keep experiencing stuff) and not always easy. But it will surely set us free!

PS: if this series helps you, forward it to a friend!