Latest Blog: The reality of idols
Category: Blog -> Bible
All of us know what the Bible says about idols, right? And for a long time, I thought that “as long as I don’t pray to a statue or to an animal, etc. I’m fine.” Well, more recently, I realized that there is so much more to idols than simply “praying to something”. So I wanted to share my thoughts through this blog as well.
A week ago, we talked about “The devil’s tactics” at our Aletheia Sunday Service. We focused on the seeming shortcuts to our destiny that the devil is bringing to us all the time. However, they are not really shortcuts. They are actually dead ends that keep us away from God’s presence.
If you want to listen to the sermon again, please check out our Aletheia Mobile App, our Facebook page or Youtube channel, website, etc. You’ll find the links to our messages on all those ways.
What I want to focus on today is something that I realized AFTER giving the sermon. And that was anot... Read More
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Summer Update from the Armbruster Family|
It’s been an exciting and exhausting summer so far. Lots of things happening, great stuff and challenges. So I guess it’s time for another update.
First of all, we want to thank everyone for all your care and your prayers for our 1st service. We had a great time with Jesus and one another. Around 18 people were there, crammed in our living room. But it was actually a very nice atmosphere (which we also heard from several of our members). We had two wonderful ladies who led worship. And the sermon was,… well, I guess it went OK. The feedback we got afterwards was very positive and most people decided that they would want to come again. It was definitely a great start.
After this successful launch, we decided to have our 2nd service two weeks later, which was last Sunday. And again, atmosphere, feedback,… was just great. It was really God’s timing to start regular Sunday Services.
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Let's talk money, Part 3: How should we spend money?|
After talking about money for the last few weeks we want to conclude this topic today. First we talked about Giving (see here), then we talked about Savings (see here). Today we will discuss what we are supposed to do with what remains. Some churches are generally pretty good in talking about giving (and unfortunately sometimes for the wrong motives). Not so many churches then talk about savings. But hardly any church actually talks about “what we are supposed to do with the money that remains after giving and saving”. So that’s our topic for today.
Let’s start with something that Jesus was saying:
Luke 14:28-30 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Lest perhaps, after he has lai...
|Category: Blog -> Family||We're starting our 1st service this summer|
It’s been a long time since we have been writing a family update. Quite a bit has happened. So let me try to catch you up on all the major developments.
Let me first talk about Aletheia, then about us:
Things with Aletheia have picked up quite a bit over the last few weeks. Some of you might remember that earlier this year, I felt that God was saying that “we will have our first Sunday Service on Easter Sunday”. But it became obvious in March that that’s not going to happen. And I kind of dreaded Easter Weekend, the emotions I’ll be going through, thinking about “what we thought we would do this weekend”, etc.
Well, God is good. On that very weekend, a family wanted to meet us. We didn’t know what was going on, they just wanted to get together with us. One of those “religious blind dates” with another family. Well, turned out that they had been praying about joining Aletheia. So...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Let's Talk Money, Part 2|
In our last blog, we started the big topic of money. So far we covered the first important aspect, which is giving. Now we cover the second important aspect of finances: Savings.
The Bible consistently tells us how important saving actually is. For example:
Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Who having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provides her food in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you sleep, O sluggard? when will you arise out of your sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall your poverty come upon you like a vagabond, and your want like an armed man.
Two important principles we can learn from this verse:
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Let's talk money!|
Last night at our Aletheia Bible study, we talked about money. Did you know that Jesus talked more about money than about any other topic? If we read through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we find Jesus talking more about money than about heaven, prayer, faith, healing or any other topic. It’s interesting that man who came to the earth to save as many people as possible spends more time talking about money than about Faith, isn’t it?
Before getting into the actual topic, I want to bring everybody back to the last two blogs we wrote ( Part 1 and Part 2). A very short summary: We are saved by Faith alone. But our works are evidence whether we truly believe. Many people say they believe in Jesus, but their works don’t confirm that statement of faith. Disobedience to God’s Word is actually eviden...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Faith and Works, Part 2|
In our last Blog we summarized our Aletheia Discussion on the topic of “Faith and Works”. The following week we then built upon this topic by looking at an important question: “If we are justified by Faith alone (and works are simply evidence whether we truly have Faith) then what is the purpose of the law? If in the end only Faith matters, then why does it seem that God talks as much about the law than about Faith?” Let’s be honest: If you ask people in the church today what it means to be a Christian, then many people will give an answer along the line of “being a good person”. Does that mean that God messed up the Bible? Did He put so much emphasis on the law, obedience, sin,… instead of Faith that people nowadays lost perspective and think that Christianity is about the law more than it is about Faith?
A valid question. Let me try to give you some ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Faith and Works|
Tonight at our Aletheia Bible Study, we looked at the topic of Faith and Works. Something that the church unfortunately has gotten horribly wrong many times. Because there are two verses that at first sight seem to contradict each other. So here they are:
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
James 2:24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
These two verses are just perfect for those trying to disprove the Bible, right? You can hardly find a clearer contradiction in the Bible than in these two verses, right? Well, not so fast. Because I believe that Paul in the book of Romans and James in his letter talk about the same subject matter, but look at it from different angles. Here’s what I mean by that.
Paul in his letter to the Romans states that faith is all that is needed for salvation. His focus is on: “All are s...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Hearing God's voice|
Last Friday we had a great discussion at our Aletheia Bible Study group. Our topic was “How to hear God’s voice”. For the last few weeks, we’ve been stressing that “praying is not about telling God what we want, but praying is about what God wants us to pray”. Now the question that many people then ask is: “How can I hear God’s voice?” That was the topic of our discussion last Friday, and that’s what I would like to share here as well. So here is a summary of what we talked about.
First of all, I want to start with a disclaimer: I cannot tell you how God speaks to you. I could tell you how God speaks to me, but that won’t be helpful to you. Cause God won’t speak to you in the same way that He speaks to me. So no, I cannot teach you how God will speak to you.
However, what I can do is share some biblical principles on how we can hear God’s voice. And as we practice these principles, we will le...
|Category: Blog -> Family||March Update from Munich|
Recently I got a few requests again from people, asking me how we are doing, how things are going, etc. That gave me a hint that I probably haven’t been writing a blog for a while. And yeah, it’s been 2 months. So it’s time for an update.
Overall, there are no major news since the last time I wrote. But in small things, life is certainly changing. So here are a few things:
Overall I think I can say that 4 of us have fully arrived by now. Me and Abigail never had any major struggles. Anna and Noah are slowly settling down. Anna is now really connecting well with her class and school. She’s now fully integrated in her class. She gets invitations to birthday parties, she’s exchanging “friends books” with her classmates (a typical German school tradition), she’s now nearly as fluent in German as she is in English, she’s again one of the top students in her cla...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Prayer Blockers|
In our small group this week, we have been talking about prayer blockers. The Bible often speaks about how powerful our prayers can be. And some of us might have seen glimpses of really powerful prayers. Maybe we prayed for a miraculous healing. Or maybe we prayed for a situation that seemed absolutely impossible, and God did things we could never have imagined.
But let’s face it: Many times we do get disappointed. We simply get exhausted in prayer, and eventually we give up.
So tonight, we looked at several different prayer blockers that come straight from the Bible. Our goal is to remove these prayer blockers from our lives, so that we can pray “effective, fervent prayers that achieve much” (paraphrased from James 5:16b)
This list is not complete, but it does contain the most important elements that the Bible describes as hindering our prayers.
Not Praying according to God’s will
I already wrote a whole blog ab...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Prayer: The most rewarding (or frustrating) activity|
2 weeks ago we have started a new topic in our Aletheia Small Group. The topic is prayer. And since this topic is essential for all Christians, I wanted to keep up here on our blog what we are talking about. Because even if we can’t discuss this topic with everybody, like we are doing on Friday nights, it’s nevertheless an aspect in our Christian life that we believe every single Christian can improve on. If you don’t think so, then let me just ask a few questions. For example:
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God? (Part 1)|
It’s time for another Bible blog. And I want to write about something that we discussed in our Bible Study recently. I’ll write on this topic for the next few blogs. But it’ll all be around this same topic. The topic is basically a simple question to Jesus from His disciples, and a full chapter answer to this simple question. The question can be found in Matt. 18:1.
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
I don’t know about you, but if I put myself in the disciples’ shoes, and I have this kind of question in my mind, I know what I’m thinking of: Huge Evangelism events. Major church conferences. Mass conversions. Raising millions of Euro (or whatever currency you use) and giving all that money to Christ-honoring projects and/or to poor and needy people. In other words: Doing lots of big, major, visible and recognizable stuff in Christ’...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Happy New Year from the Armbruster Family|
Happy New Year to you all. We had some very busy weeks before Christmas, and have taken a good break since. That’s why we haven’t posted much over the last few weeks. But as we were able to regain some strength, we now feel ready to do some work again. With the beginning of next week (Jan. 09th) life goes back to normal. Until then, we enjoy some slow time.
So, here are a few things that have happened since our last update:
Overall, we are getting more and more settled here in Munich. Of course, we are at very different levels. I still feel surprisingly comfortable here. I expected a lot of struggles, and back-culture shock coming home. But so far, that has hardly happened. On the contrary. I have come to appreciate so many things here that far outweigh the struggles. And I’m more and more thankful that God called us here. (My first day at the Indoor Swimming Pool and Sauna in 12 years...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Adjusting to Munich life|
Over the last few days I had several people asking me how we are doing these days. My first reaction was: “Read our blog!” Then I realized that actually, I haven’t written a family update for quite some time. So instead of blaming others, I guess I should first look into the mirror and tell the guy in the mirror to get his act together. So here is our update from the last few weeks:
Overall, I feel like we are through the valley. Last time I wrote about the struggles we had, especially Anna. Well, looks like she is the one who had the greatest turnaround over the last few weeks. Back in Shanghai, she loved her school. She talked about her teachers, her classmates, etc. all the time. She showed pictures, she told everybody about the projects they did, etc. Obviously, she didn’t do that last month. But we see that coming back. When we have our CG on Friday nights, she starts showing pictures, telling everybody about her school, etc...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Samson's Fall and Restoration|
Since life is getting a bit more routine again here in “good old Germany” I wanted to start writing blogs about the Bible again. I’ve done this for a while last year, but I put it on hold for more than a year, since “finishing well in Shanghai”, moving to Germany and settling down here really took all our focus. But now I feel I can get started again, and I’m aiming for 2 or 3 teachings in a month. And today I want to get started with a story I read to my kids yesterday: Samson’s strength. We can read about him in the book of Judges, Chapters 13 – 16.
Many of us know the story, right? Samson has superpowers that come from his hair. When his wife Delilah cuts his hair, he loses his strength and gets captured. And then in the end, he kills many of his enemies (but also himself) by destroying their temple.
When I read this story to my kids yesterday, I was struck by a particular phrase:...
|Category: Blog -> Family||The Ups and Downs of Relocation |
it's time for another update from the Armbrusters. The last few weeks have been interesting, with lots of ups and downs. But overall, things are sometimes messy, but not beyond what you should expect when you moved continents 4 months ago. So here are a few things about us and Aletheia.
Overall we are really on VERY different levels when it comes to adjusting to Germany. I myself feel totall comfortable here. It's early November, it often has between 1 and 5 degrees in the morning. But I love it! We still need no heating in our house, and even being outside in cold weather is totally comfortable. I just love the autumn colors, the warm sunshine, the nature that is available everywhere. There are so many things freely available here that I missed in Shanghai. And I love being back.
Noah and Abigail also feel comfortable here, as they are too young to really be emotionally bound to Shanghai. And we already saw that when we wer...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Getting ready for our 1st small group|
Life in Munich continues to feel more and more “normal”. We had a few rough stretches over the last few weeks, but overall, we are arriving and settling down more and more.
Anna starts enjoying her school more and more with each week. Her language is picking up each day, she now surprises me again and again by using words I never use. She now understands (nearly) everything that is being said in the classroom, and she can now also mostly express herself in German to her teachers and her classmates. The school actually provides German classes for those who need to “catch up” with their German compared to those who lived their whole lives in Germany already. That certainly helps her. Academically she is a little bit ahead of the others, since her level at her school in Shanghai was higher than the level at the same age according to German system. That makes the transition easier, she can catch up with her German without having to wor...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Life in Munich has started|
It’s been longer than usual since I wrote the last update. And I guess there are two main reasons for that. There’s not that much news (at least not outside our family), and we’re getting really busy here. Let me try to explain a bit:
We’re getting busy
A couple of weeks ago, I had a short WeChat conversation with a friend in Shanghai. Wasn’t meant to be deeply meaningful, just catching up a bit on “how things are going over there”. She then asked me how we are doing. So I shared a bit on what’s about to begin. And I got shocked myself. Cause basically, within the last 3 weeks, all of us started a pretty packed schedule. I didn’t notice it until that WeChat conversation. And suddenly I realized that we have really arrived in “everyday life in Munich” now.
As mentioned before, I...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Settling Down and Getting Ready|
the last couple of weeks have been less exciting/scary than the first few weeks here in Munich. But nevertheless, we're certainly not bored. We are basically taking turns between "being really busy" and "taking a much needed rest".
I wrote the last blog on the night of the day we got the keys to our new home. As you can imagine, things just got busy from there. First of all we had to move in here, including a whole day (and expensive) trip to IKEA, to get our furniture. Then we helped our friends getting their apartment empty. (The lease for the place of our friends where we stayed for those 40 days was up end of August. Since they just had their second baby and couldn't really be in Munich, we did some of the work for them, to return their apartment) And then of course there is a lot of legal stuff to do: We had to register with the government that we live here now, we had to register kids for school, we had to upd...
|Category: Blog -> Family||God showed Himself Faithful, once again|
after exactly 40 days of waiting, frustrations, doubts and confusion, God showed Himself Faithful once again. After signing the contract for our new home 2 days ago, we have now received the keys for the apartment. We have now officially arrived in the city of Munich. All Glory belongs to God and God only!
Many of you have followed us over the last few weeks and know the frustrations we went through. I didn't send out an email for every blog I wrote (Don't want to SPAM you all with too many emails). But feel free to read (or read again) through the last few blog entries. I think you can feel the different stages we went through over the last few weeks. But as of today, that season is over, and it's now a time to celebrate. And to praise God for His faithfulness.
Now let me tell you a bit more about "what happened" since I last wrote.
Last Sunday I wrote to you about the 5 places that we looked at and that we w...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Back on Track|
well, a lot has happened again. Here's my way of trying to summarize things.
First of all, we got out of the valley from last Monday. I realize that the last blog I wrote was quite emotional. And yes, we were quite emotional over what had happened. But somehow, God brought us out of it quite quickly.
Just to be clear: I don't have all the answers yet. On the contrary. I still don't know what happened last week. I still can't figure out why I was (and still am) soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo sure that God spoke to me that we will get that place, just to be rejected nevertheless. I am still wondering whether I messed up or what's going on. And yes, I'm still struggling to move on. I felt God was speaking to me again over the last few days (more on that in a minute). And I realized I have become more hesitant: "Is it really God this time? What if something like last week happens again?" So yes, I...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Confused and desperate|
what happened in the last few days was very confusing to us. To make a long story short: We have around as many leads to a place as we had when we arrived here a month ago (=none). And we're really confused about what just happened.
When I wrote about our house hunting last time, we had several leads, with "Place A" being the one that God clearly put on our hearts, but we had C as a backup. So last week we got 2 news: First of all, Place C also fell through. The landlord decided on someone else. We weren't too unhappy about it. First of all, it would have been a temporary place either way (It's too far out) and we would have had to buy a kitchen. And since we knew that God was leading us towards Place A, it kind of made sense. We asked God to not bring us into the situation where we get offered another place while Place A isn't decided yet. So we thought: "Well, that's the answer to that prayer as well."...
|Category: Blog -> Family||The Munich Shooting|
many of you have heard about the Munich shooting that happened a few days ago. First of all, we want to say: We're safe. We are not personally affected by this. The only thing we noticed was that there were a lot of police cars speeding by near our house that night. We were wondering what was going on, where they were all going. Then a few minutes later, a friend asked us whether we are OK. So we checked the news and realized what had happened.
The "funny" thing is that I had an appointment to look at an apartment at 5pm that day. I had an appointment at 2pm, and was on my way to the second place. But on the train I felt God didn't want me to go. So I canceled and decided to go home instead. Well, the shooting happened at around 5:50pm. The apartment wasn't directly at the crime scene. But my guess is that I would have been on my way home when it happened. Since they stopped all the trains, all public transportation,...
|Category: Blog -> Family||By Faith, we have something! By sight, we do not!|
I'm really struggling to write an update about our situation today. Cause I don't really know what's happening, and what's going to happen. So maybe, writing to you all today is more for me. Maybe I need to process the whole situation by writing it down. And I don't really know yet what exactly I'll write. Let's just get into it, and we'll see what comes out in the end.
So, last Wednesday I shared with you all that "nothing was happening". And we started being a little bit panicky about it. Around half of the month was gone, and nothing seemed to be moving. Well, since then, A LOT has happened.
As part of the Theological Studies I am doing these days, I was studying "The Glory of God". And I realized that God is more committed to His own glory than He is to you and me. The point of creation was to bring Him glory. And that's the point why He made you and me: To bring Him t...
|Category: Blog -> Family||Still House Hunting|
thank you so much for all the encouraging feedback we got from many of you all over the world. We feel so blessed to be part of God's family. And though we feel a bit isolated and lonely these days, we know we're not alone. Thank you so much for all the prayers, support and encouragement we received from all of you.
So here's an update: The main challenge is: We're still looking for an apartment. And what doesn't make it easier: From the outside there doesn't seem to be much happening right now. The first week, we were able to look at three places. This week, we have nothing lined up so far. A few tentative leads. But nothing concrete yet. Frustrating.
On the positive side: I did look at a place last Sunday. And I got a sense in prayer that "this one is it". Ryoko felt similar about it (independently). We just hope and pray that this was really from God, not our own imagination, impatience or wishes....
|Category: Blog -> Family||Arrived in Munich|
it's been a while since we were writing on our blog. Over the last year or so, as God started calling us towards Munich, we realized that the transition and the move will have to take all our focus, time and energy. We wanted to make sure that we finish well in Shanghai and don't neglect anything that needed to be done while we were still in Shanghai, because we were too busy keeping this blog alive. That was our priority. That's why we put the blog on hold for the last 10 months or so.
But now that we have arrived in Munich, we want to restart this blog and at the same time, keep everybody updated on "how things are going with us" here in this new place. So we'll restart this blog today, and you'll get a mix on here between some of the teaching (like I've done before), personal updates about us and our family, and of course also how the church project is going. And today we're starting by simply keeping you al...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Do not worry! But do plan!|
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Over the last few weeks my wife and I had some discussions about our future. Every now and then we all need to ask ourselves (and if we're married, also our spouse) questions like: Where are we going? What's our purpose? Are we heading in the right direction?
One of the questions that we now start to seriously consider is: How are we going to finance our old age? What kind of retirement plan will we set in place over the next 3+ decades to make sure we can live once we're old?
We had some great discussions and have taken some first steps in this direction. Obviously, we want to follow Biblical principles here. And as we discussed Biblical principles on money, saving, future, etc. we realized how many people in the church do not follow God's princi...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Keeping Vision Alive|
Exodus 3:11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
We're currently enjoying our summer break, so I'm thankful that I can spend some extra time with the kids, playing, swimming,... And of course, also some extra time reading Bible together.
As much as we think that "we are reading the Kids Bible for the kids" I'm amazed how much God actually speaks to us as we try to teach the Bible in a kids-friendly way. That's exactly what happened yesterday as we read the story of Moses again.
God obviously had a HUGE plan for Moses. He was to be the one that God would use to lead His people out of Egypt, bringing them into the promised land. God's plan was already pre-written. He knew the importance of Moses' leadership years later. I have a feeling that the devil knew that too. I don't have any bibilical evidence for thi...
|Category: Others -> Society||Facing the challenge of Smartphones|
My family and I moved house earlier this week. So everything is new right now, we observe everything. Where's the nearest supermarket? What's the best way to get to the office? What is the neighborhood like? Those of you who have moved with kids you know how you look at everything very differently for a while, until a certain routine sets back in.
So while being in this "observing everything" mode, I also noticed something again that I kind of got used to by now: It's how busy people keep themselves with their Mobile Devises. Everybody keeps him-/herself busy all the time. People watch movies. They text and read unimportant blogs from people they have no relationship with and no interest in knowing what's going on in their lives. But they still read it. They read articles about topics that they have absolutely no interest in, simply because someone sends them the link.
This morning in the metro I was standing next to a woman w...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Standard and Forgivess of God|
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
In my last blog (http://simplesecrets.info/blog.php?blogid=57) I shared with you why I personally think that mistakes are sin. Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions, whether you agreed with me or not. I liked all your responses, especially when you disagreed with me in a very respectful way. How different the world would be if we could all disagree with such love and respect for one another.
Now after finishing the last blog, I did realize that I could be misunderstood. Those of you who don’t know me and simply read that particular blog could think I’m a nasty, legalistic, condemning and unpleasant Christian whose mission is simply to make everybody around me miserable. So while I stand to what I wrote, and still believe it (I believe mistakes are sin!) I also want to...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Sins and Mistakes|
Over the last few months I had multiple discussions on the topic of "Sin and mistakes". It all started when I was giving an Alpha Talk on the topic of "Why did Jesus die?" Obviously, to answer that question we need to establish the point that "we are all sinners". So in that talk I used the term "mistakes" once or twice referring to sin. Afterwards someone came to me, correcting me: "You shouldn't use the term ''mistake' when referring to sin." I didn't get it. So he explained: "Because mistakes aren't sin!"
Initially I didn't agree. So we discussed, explained to each other what we meant (Many arguments simply happen because we mean different things using the same term). So basically what it came down to was this:
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 7|
Luke 15:31-32 And he said unto him, Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry, and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Over the last few blogs we have been addressing the younger brother. The one who feels that he is missing out on life by staying in the Father's house. So he decides to leave and comes to the end of himself. But when he decides to return, he is immediately embraced and fully restored by the Father.
Most people mainly look at the younger brother in this story. We even call the parable that of the Prodigal Son. I think we make a mistake doing this. Because really what these parables are really about is the Father's heart, not so much about what kind of weird stuff the people do. So really, we should focus on the Father, His love, His compassion, His forgiveness, His restoration,... And not so m...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Church and Same-Sex-Marriage|
My thoughts on Same-Sex-Marriages
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the "fundamental right to marry" the discussions on this topic have gone viral everywhere. Many reports have been written from all kinds of angles. Many people have changed their picture on Facebook to rainbow colors, expressing their support for same-sex marriages.
Now for me, I am obviously a follower of Jesus. So I don't need to explain how I stand on this topic. But for those who might not be aware of what the majority of Christian churches believe, here it is:
So that's my be...
|Category: Blog -> Bible|| The Heart of the Father, Part 6|
Luke 15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Last time we looked at the younger son's Far Country Experience. And we left off when the son decided to return to his Father. He finally came to his senses and realized that "being a servant in the Father's house is infinately greater than anything outside the Father's house". So the son comes to his senses (v. 17) he decides to return to the Father. But he is willing to take a low place. He is willing to say: "Father, I don't deserve your to be called your son any longer. But please, at least, allow me to live here and serve you. I'll earn my way back into your house."
That's the mindset of the son as he returns. However, he is in for a surprise.
Luke 15:20 And he arose, and came ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 5|
Luke 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Alright, so far we've looked at the younger son's decision to ask the Father for his share of the inheritance. Once the Father gave him his share, the son left home. Now let's see what happens next.
The younger son was obviously full of confidence. His fear was that he would miss out on life "out there". He wasn't satisfied in the Father's house. So he felt the need to leave.
Now here's the little detail the son didn't consider. In the Father's house, he can enjoy endless resources. The Father is obviously very rich, and He is willing to share everything He has with His children (as the Father will state in verse 31). However, once the son leaves the house, his resources are now finite. He could take some of the Father'...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 4|
Luke 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided unto them his living.
So far we looked at the first two parables, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. (I haven't sent out an email for the last Blog Entry when I covered the parable of the Lost Coin. If you are interested in reading that one, then please click the following link: http://www.simplesecrets.info/blog.php?blogid=48)
Now we've come to one of my favorite parables in the whole Bible. The Prodigal Son, or as I call it, the Parable of the Waiting Father. It's an amazing story that so speaks from my heart. I can so very well relate to both brothers, because I've been like both of them in different seasons of my life.
Again, I want us to remember that the two sons are a representation of the two g...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 3|
Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
In the last two blogs, we've been looking at the the Parable of the Lost Sheep, or as I call it, the Parable of the Searching Father. Now today I want to look at the parable that is recorded immediately after it: The Lost Coin.
On first sight, the parable seems to be telling the same story. Something gets lost, then someone finds what was lost. And then there is great rejoicing. And then Jesus says that "that's what heaven is like when one sinner repents. There's a great party!"
However, after taking a closer look at this parable, I did realize that there are some distinct differences. First of all, in the first parable, the sheep actively goes out. The sheep that gets lost wanders off, due to its nature. (Isaiah 53:6 makes it clear that it's the nature of sheep to get lost. ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 2|
Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.
In the previous blog we looked at the lost sheep. The religious leaders at the time knew that they were the shepherds of the nation of Israel. Jesus is calling them out: "Go after the lost sheep, don't condemn them!" And the sinners and tax collectors also hear what Jesus is saying. They have been excluded so far by the religous system. But they hear Jesus say: "God is NOT like that! God is looking for you and wants to bring you home!" So clearly Jesus is speaking to both groups of people.
And then Jesus concludes his parable with this weird sentence. He is saying (paraphrased): "Guys, I rejoice over that one sheep more than I do rejoice over those 99 sheep."
This of course leads to some legitimate questions. What about tho...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Heart of the Father, Part 1|
Luke 15:6-7 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.
Over the next few days and weeks, I want to share a few of my thoughts on one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. I always loved Luke 15: The Parable of the Searching Father (or "Lost Sheep"), the Parable of the Lost Coin and then the Parable of the Waiting Father (or Prodigal Son).
I don't know yet how many blogs this will actually fill. I'll just get started today, and we'll see when I'm finished.
So let's set the context right: Luke 15 is one of those days where Jesus is scandalizing the religious teachers. Verse 1 says that the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jes...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Part 5
Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
There is so much to say about the devil's tactics, and how to resist him. One day we plan on writing a book on this topic as well (Though we can't give any promises on the timeline as of right now, so we can't tell you anything concrete yet). But let's wrap up this mini series in our blog on a positive note. So far we looked at the devil's schemes. Now let's look at the passage that shows us how to defeat him.
Maybe you have read Eph. 6:10-18 before, the Armor of God. This passage gives us the clearest description on how we can defeat the devil, how we can resist him. At first it can sound difficult and strenous. But I firmly believe in 1. Cor. 10:13
1 Corinthians 10:13 There has no ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Audio of the Sermon|
In case you are interested, here is the audio file to the sermon I gave on the topic we are currently covering in this blog: Resist the devil's schemes.
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Part 4|
Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Throughout the last few blogs, we have been looking at the devil's temptations. Basically there are three main ways in which the devil tempts us:
It's fascinating to me to see that the last temptation is exactly what God did with Eve as well. Remember what the serpant said?
Genesis 3:4-5 And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
First of all, the devil...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Part 3|
Matthew 4:8-9 Again, the devil took him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said unto him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
We already covered the first two temptations in our previous blogs, now let’s look at the third temptation that the devil throws at Jesus: The devil is offering Jesus the kingdoms of the world.
A little bit of background here: The devil is called the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). Why is that? Well, he is the god of this world, because of our sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, death has entered this world. The devil started having dominion over humankind. The devil has become the god of this age.
At the same time, God has already promised Jesus the kingdom. For example:
Psalms 110:1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Part 2|
Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, And said unto him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
In the previous post, we looked at the first temptation: Using the resources God has given us to turn against God. Now we're looking at the second temptation: Testing God!
Remember: When the devil tempted Jesus the first time, Jesus responded by quoting scripture. In other words Jesus said: "I put my trust in Scripture, I put my trust that everything that is written in Scripture, I trust that the Father will keep every single word that He said in Scripture!"
So now the devil takes that very trust one level further: "Alright Jesus, so you trust in everything that Scripture i...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Temptations of the evil one, Part 1|
Matthew 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at our church. Speaking has become more and more of a passion for me. And I love when God gives me a word, I release it, and then (often to my surprise) people actually respond to it.
Last Sunday's message was based on Jesus' temptations that we can read about in Matthew 4. And I want to share some of the things I have taught over the next few days in this blog. This is Part 1, it'll probably be three parts in the end.
So let's get started: Jesus just got baptized, then He was led to the wilderness, to fast for 40 days. Those 40 days are nearly over. Jesus is hungry and exhausted. And since He is also fully human, He probably thought about the 1000 things He would eat as soon as the fast is over. (That's what I am mostly thinki...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Wicked people|
Psalms 36:10-12 O continue your lovingkindness unto them that know you; and your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me. There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.
Have you ever caught yourself judging someone else? "This evil person did something so horribly bad." Or maybe watched the news and then simply came to the conclusion: "Those evil people,... I would never do something like this."
I think David had these kinds of thoughts at the beginning of Psalm 36. We don't know what happened that day, what he was thinking of. But for some reason he started being very negative about someone else.
Psalms 36:1 The transgression of the wicked says within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
And for the n...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Generational Curses|
You shall not bow down yourself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, (Deuteronomy 5:9)
Generational curses. A highly misunderstood topic. Being parents now, talking with other parents, listening to adults who deal with childhood issues and how these issues affect them now as adults,... Generational issues are very, very real. But what does the Bible actually teach about it?
There are basically two extremes on this topic. One extreme are the people who say that "Generational curses don't exist". Each person is an own individual, independent of our parents. So how we behave as adults has nothing to do with our parents.
I personally would not agree with this view. Mainly because I've seen it in my own life and in many other people's life. Childhood experiences, especially with...
|Category: Blog -> Leadership||Team Culture|
If you try to be everything for everyone, you end up being nothing for anyone
One of my personal highlights each year is to attend the Global Leadership Summit, or as we call it here: GLS (http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/). It's a fascinating experience. The speakers are world class, and every year we learn amazing things. Most people who attend the summit here speak very highly of it, love the teaching and are determined to "do something better from this day onwards". Every year is awesome.
One of the topics that is covered in several talks each year is the whole aspect of "Team Culture". There was one talk by Patrick Lencioni that really rocked my world. I don't remember his exact words, but the meaning was basically this: "If you try to be everything for everyone, you'll end up being nothing for anyone."...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Jesus and His Gentle Victory|
Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Since it was Easter Weekend, I felt I needed to watch "The Passion of Christ" again. It still gets me every time. Especially the flogging. While I don't agree with 100% of what the movie shows, it's certainly an awesome description of the sufferings of Christ. I love those flashback scenes (e.g. when Jesus is walking up the hill with the cross, and it cuts back to him standing on the hill, teaching that you should "love your enemies". Unbelievable). And I love how Christ's character and His purposes are still being fulfilled in the midst of His suffering. (e.g. how Jesus' conversation with Pilate led him to discuss the most important question: "What is Truth?")
I love the movie, though I'm always hesitant to watch it again. It makes me u...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The Real Temptation|
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
You don't have to be a Christian for a long time to learn about Temptations. Bad stuff that we know we shouldn't do. But more often than we want to, we do it anyways. And most of the time, we regret very, very quickly after "doing what we knew we shouldn't have done".
I love the story of the first temptation, the serpant tempting Eve. Cause it gives us such great insights into "what's at the heart of temptation".
Most of us know the story. God creates the whole world, in the end Adam and Eve. He puts them in this perfect Garden, gives them many trees to eat from. But He also says: "That one, don't touch. Or you'll die.&quo...
|Category: Blog -> Family||The Charm Bracelet|
Over the last few weeks I read a great book: Bringing up Girls by James Dobson. Having two daughters now, I really want to understand girls more. I understand our son relatively well (he shows many of the character traits that I have as well, so I can relate to him very well and understand him relatively well). But our girls are a bit more of a mystery to me. (Not to my wife however. I guess it's natural that most parents understand children of their own gender a bit better.)
I want to encourage every parent of a daughter to read this book. It's just a great read, full of scientific, biblical and experiential truths. Absolutely worth reading.
However, the story that gripped me the most was one about a Charm Bracelet. I'm not sure if it's a real story or ficticious. But either way, it really spoke so strongly to me. The short story is available online,...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||It is NOT about the nail|
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23-24)
A few days ago I came across this video. (Hosted by Youtube, so the video might not be accessible in all countries)
I love these kinds of videos. They are very entertaining, but they really speak truth int our lives.
Heart attitudes REALLY get exposed in marriage. It's easy to hide when we are single. But in marriage we just have to face the ugliness in our own hearts. There's no hiding anymore. There's no running away. There are only two extremes: Face realities about the state of your heart. Or separation. There's nothing in between, at least not long term....
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Faith in the face of danger|
Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, of which you were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. (Jeremiah 42:16)
A few years ago my wife and I went through a crazy stretch. We didn't have our kids yet, but life was just hectic. Both of us having fulltime jobs (Back then I was working as a programmer, not working for our church), both of us being heavily involved in ministry. Then we had a trip to Germany in that season. We just felt completely overwhelmed. And we thought: "This is not going to work, something has to go." So we seriously considered resigning as leaders of the Alpha Ministry in our church, taking a step back, and focusing on what is more important: Marriage and job. We prayed and asked God what He wanted us to do.
The answer we received was the very verse I started this blog with, Jeremiah 42...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Right Action, Wrong Motives|
Then said David, you shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD has given us, who has preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goes down to the battle, so shall his part be that waits by the supplies: they shall part alike. (1 Samuel 30:23-24)
Ministry can play a bad trick on us, if we are not careful, right? It can bring us to the point where we become proud. I fall into this trap far too often. Doing something “for God”, and it all seems great and noble. Until one day in my quiet time, God asks me this simple question: “Why did you do what you did?” And too often I have to then confess my pride, my arrogance and my selfish motives. God started exposing my false motives around 18 months ago, and I’m still disgusted at how wrong some of my motives still are, despite knowing better in my head.
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The criminal crucified with Jesus|
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, Today shall you be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Many of us know this story. Jesus was crucified next two two criminals, being executed for their crimes. One of them curses Jesus along with the crowd. The other one however realizes who Jesus is. He realizes: "We deserve this. But Jesus didn't do anything wrong. He is innocent." And then he says the words that changed his eternal destination: "Remember me when you come into your kingdom". This guy realizes: Jesus is God. I'm a sinner. He is the way to heaven. So all he can do is making one last request: "Take me with you, please!" And Jesus declares: "OK, let's go to paradise together. Your request has been granted."
Wow. So simple. So what are the key elements of the criminal's faith?
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The size of our Faith determines the size of the Miracle|
And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stopped flowing. (2 Kings 4:6)
All of us want to receive God's blessing. Some of us for slefish reasons (God, give me a big house, a cool car and enough money so I can take my whole family across the ocean for vacation at least three times every year). Others ask for material blessings so that they can bless others. And again others ask for more eternal blessings, e.g. they ask for the Fruit of the Spirit to be developed in their lives. But all of us want to be blessed by God.
And of course it's God's desire to bless us. He wants us to live great lives in this world. Think of Solomon and the wealth he received. Think of Job, once he passed the test. God's desire is to bless us all in one way or the other. Not necessarily always financially. But He does want to bless us and g...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||The ultimate Freedom |
I had an interesting experience with my kids a couple of days ago. It all started when we saw a rock climbing place. Near a river they put up a small area where you could climb up different levels of difficulty. The easiest part was just like a ladder, to get used to the height. The most difficult wall was absolutely impossible for someone like me to climb.
When our kids Anna (6 years old) and Noah (4 years old) saw the wall, they were very excited. Since we weren't prepared for this, we didn't bring any equipment. So we allowed them to climb the easiest part (the ladder). But what amazed me was how differently I treated the kids.
With Anna, things were very simple. All I had to tell her was this: "Anna, when you feel scared or not safe, then just stop, and come back down." She completely understood, I didn't have to tell her anything more. She gave it a try, took a few steps, got scared, came back down. A few minutes later she t...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Living a victorious life|
1 Chronicles 14:10 And David inquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? and will you deliver them into my hand? And the LORD said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into your hand.
1 Chronicles 14:14-15 Therefore David inquired again of God; and God said unto him, Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them opposite the balsam trees. And it shall be, when you shall hear a sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, that then you shall go out to battle: for God has gone forth before you to smite the army of the Philistines.
A few days ago I had an interesting enounter with God's Truth from His book. Not that I didn't know this before. But sometimes we need to be reminded of the Truth again.As I was reading through the book of 1 Chronicles, I was again amazed at how much David actually relied on God in everything that he ...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||When you find a turtle in the mouth of your baby|
A few days ago I was cleaning at home. We were expecting some friends over for lunch. Abigail (8 months old) was sitting on the floor in the living room. She often does that. She's a very peaceful child. We're so thankful that for a time we can just put her on the floor, surround her with some toys, and then do something we have to do with two free hands, while she entertains herself.
So that's what I did. Put her on the floor, went into the kitchen, got some cleaning stuff and started cleaning the floor. When I came back I saw that Abi was having something in her mouth. Next to her was the small turtle glass. I saw small stones that fell out. So I took a look at her more closely. The thing she had in her mouth was big. And black. Oh oh,... It was the turtle. My 8 months old daughter has a whole, alive turtle in her mouth. That's one moment I will probably tell her for the rest of her life,...
It was one of those moments that you have to exp...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Serve people, do not use them!|
Over the last year or so, God has been taking me on a journey. It's a painful journey. But it's a necessary journey to undertake. God has been challenging me over and over again about my motives for doing ministry.
We all know what we are supposed to do, right? We are here to serve others. After all, that's what Jesus commanded us. "The greatest among you shall be your servant." Sure, we all want to be great. So let's get involved in serving. In ministry.
So we ask God what He wants us to do, and we receive The Calling. Sometimes a BIG calling. Maybe He wants us to start a church or a ministry. Or maybe He promises us that He will grow a ministry and reach hundreds or thousands of people. Maybe it will be a ministry with great public recognition. So we get all excited about it. And we tell God: "I'm in! Let's roll and change the world!"
Many of us start with such noble ambitions. And that's all wonde...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||One of my heroes: Caleb|
And they spoke unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which flows with milk and honey. Only rebel not against the LORD, neither fear you the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (Numbers 14:7-9)
When you ask Christians about their heroes in the Bible (besides Jesus), then you usually get very similar names. For men it's often Paul, Peter, King David or Joshua. When you ask women the same question, you often get names like Esther, Ruth or Naomi.
But there is a person that is pretty high on my list of heroes in the Bible that hardly gets mentioned: Caleb. Let's recap quickly: The Israelites came out of Egypt and stand at the border to the promised land. God tells t...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Life in all its fullness|
The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Most Christians are pretty familiar with this verse. Jesus promises us "life that is more abundantly". The greek word behind the word "abundantly" is the word "περισσος perissos per-is-sos'". Strong dictionary defines this as "exceeding abundantly above". Obviously, a life that is superior and better than a life without Jesus.
But what most people misunderstand today is what this "abundant life" actually looks like. In today's church the abundant life is generally considered a "comfortable life". Nice family, good money, no stress, no opposition. And of course no sickness. "Life the way I would feel most comfortable".
However, that's not the meanin...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Christmas: Whose birthday is it after all?|
Whose birthday is it after all?
Christmas season will be here soon. And many countries will change. People will spend a lot of money on Christmas gifts and receive a lot of gifts that they don’t like. Others will feel extremely lonely and commit suicide. Some people like me will miss “Christmas at home”. Some will have the most wonderful time of the year, as they finally reunite with their extended family and have an opportunity that they only have once a year.
But what is Christmas really all about?
Well, most people would give a quick answer: At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Alright. But who is He actually? Is He just a historic figure? A great religious teacher? A very influential Rabi?
Well, Jesus didn’t leave that open to us. Jesus claimed that He is a human being whose identity is God. He said that He will decide where every human being (including yo...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Be wise with your time|
Time is short
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalms 90:12, KJ2000)
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, KJ2000)
Did you ever wake up and thought: “Man, I can’t believe it’s already this time”? Maybe you are surprised that it’s already Christmas season. Or a dreaded presentation that you thought is still “a while to go” now has highest priority on your schedule, because you are running out of time to prepare. Or maybe you look at your children and wonder: “How did they grow up so quickl...
|Category: Blog -> Bible||Did John the Baptist waver in his faith?|
The simplest form of Evangelism
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Are you he that should come, or do we look for another? (Matthew 11:2-3, KJ2000)
Many people ask a very legitimate question when they read this passage. It usually goes something like this: John knew his whole life that Jesus was the Christ. He baptized Him and saw heaven opened. He always declared that he was not the Christ, but that he was preparing the way for Jesus (Matthew 3:11ff). After John's question, Jesus immediately called him the greatest man born of a woman (Matthew 11:11). John always said that Jesus must increase, he himself must decrease (John 3:30).
If that’s all true, then how come that this great man suddenly doubted Jesus? Isn’t this exactly John expected when he said “Jesus must increase, I must decr...