Gratitude & More of God!

Written by Patty Spykstra:

Who would have thought that RT Kendall would join us for dinner? Yes, author of More of God is a regular guest as we listen to his book online.

I was struck by Kendall’s words “if we desire more of God we need a spirit of thankfulness.” With honesty he addresses grumbling and gratitude. Kendall is always quick to mention his own struggles and openly shares how the Holy Spirit convicted him of his lack of thankfulness. He also reminded us, while we ate dinner, about the Israelites grumbling, how only 1of the the10 Lepers was thankful, and the impact of our words. Kendall states: God hates ingratitude, gratitude must be taught, and God loves gratitude. These phrases prompted me to come up with my own list. I encourage you to do the same.

I have Ingratitude to God for:

1. I am not in control.
2. I don’t think something is fair.
3. I simply do not like what is happening. 4. I don’t trust God’s plan.
5. I want immediate results.

My list includes a lot of “I statements.” Am I more focused on me than the Great I AM? I did not expound on my reasons for ingratitude, but perhaps you can talk about your list with someone else or as a family and find scriptures to refute what may be at the root of ungratefulness in certain areas of your life. There will be days which are just difficult and unfair and it is okay to share or vent to others, but learning to “dignify the trial” as RT would say is key to moving toward a living a life of thankfulness and more of God.

How was I taught Gratitude & how do I model Gratitude:

In his book Kendall examines the power of words; words that may be spoken or written or passed along. The book of Proverbs and words of Jesus come to mind when thinking about this topic. Who modeled gratitude to you? Do you and I model gratitude?

I have Gratitude to God for: There is something powerful about speaking words of gratitude. Here is the start of my list reflecting on 2020.

1. Being Here. Oceans Retreat Center started out according to plan, with excitement about the high school mission team and the Haven work team, with celebrating the dedication and sharing that time with family, friends and local ministries, but then things drastically changed. Being here for such a time as this has reminded me that I am not in control and need to accept what each day brings. I need to acknowledge that God may have a different way of working all things together for His good and I need to trust His sovereign plan and who would have guessed that plan would include a coffee shop!

2. God’s Word. When Covid restrictions came into place our Oceans’ team realized how little control we possessed and as a result scheduled a weekly time of study and prayer with Mike & Dawn in the states. Reading through Climbing Prayer Mountain, the book of Ephesians and now John has been a time of spiritual growth for each of us and we can always count on Thobeka’s prayer including “Lord we thank you for your Word.”

3. Gift of Song. Africans sing and dance! When we are worshipping with those who exude such JOY, it is truly contagious, even when it is a 6-hour service. The Blessing by Kari Jobe and Waymaker by Leeland are also powerful songs that testify who our God is!

4. Fellow Believers. It has been such a gift to connect with others seeking to make the Father known and spend time in prayer and fellowship. “Encouraging the encouragers” has always been a mantra of mine and with all the cancellations Oceans Retreat Center has been able to offer a few days away to those ministering on the frontlines. Also thankful to bless the Oceanview preschool teachers, Bernie and Marion with gift cards as well as local pastors in the townships. Thanks to many of you Oceans Ministries has also provided food and other provision for many others during this season.

5. Each of You. The number of phone calls, prayers, texts, emails, pictures and songs sent, tangible gifts, and support particularly this year has been a huge hug from our Father. The trust you place in us to be good a steward of your gifts humbles us. We offer our sincere thanks from Fish Hoek SA and in Michigan. We miss the love, laughter and meals shared during those busy months that now seem ages ago and yet the slower pace of life forced us to listen and encourage those God has called us to minister to one at a time.

Now that I’ve gotten started on this list, I could go on and on and Tim may never have me write this blog again.  So I end with this:

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.“ Hebrews 12:28

I pray that each of us can testify that even though our lives have been rattled our foundation has stood firm. In the midst of so much uncertainty, loss, and fear may we find within our souls a spirit of gratitude and worship for our God!

Room 47 – Repentance & the Voice of God!


Written by Mike Verkaik:

This past Sunday we followed a new devotional pattern started by my son, Chad. On the weekends we read from Tim’s new book, Stepping into the Lord’s Prayer. As Chad was leading us through chapter 4, I began to hear the theme of this blog when he read, “ We are created to be in relationship with heaven, to hear and speak to the Father. Sin hinders this (Psalm 66:18), but confession opens our ears to hear the loving language of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (p. 67)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a week long Quest in Georgia. There were 22 men in attendance from various parts of the country. As we were getting ready to leave our facilitator asked us, “How will you respond if people asked about your week?” The consensus was, “It was an accepted invitation to have an encounter with Jesus.” That encounter began when each of us arrived with a willing spirit to examine our lives, confess our deep seeded sins, to dwell in His word, and to pray for His will and guidance in our lives.

It was out of that repentance, seeking and praying that I share the following encounter of discerning the voice of God with Brian, a friend who invited me to the Quest.

Working at the motel can be a dark place. I was feeling that darker side Thursday morning as I awoke at the Quest. I can’t explain it, but I definitely felt it around me. As I lay awake, I spent the next hour in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal it to me. During that hour of prayer I was drawn to think about room 47 at the motel.

As Brian and I began our half-mile walk to the morning session, I shared my prayer time and room 47 with him. He suggested that we both press into the motel ministry during our morning devotional/prayer time, and I agreed.

When we returned, God had spoken to me about the darkness, but Brian returned saying, “there is something about the number 47. I don’t know exactly what it is.” As lunchtime approached Brian asked if I would join him in a time of prayer and fasting over lunch, to press in even more on the motel, Oceans Ministries and the number 47.

We began our time alone seeking what the Holy Spirit might speak to us individually. As I sat down, I have to admit that I did not know how to pray over the number 47. My initial thoughts were, “Lord, you put this more on Brian’s heart. So in the stillness, I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the significance of this number. Sitting there on that rock, I began to write:

Holy Spirit what do you want at the motel?

Bigger presence, pursue a larger dream. The number 47 – do we rent the room? Make it a prayer room? Study room? Remove all the curtains, let the light it. Have praise and worship? Establish a place of peace, respite?

When we joined together, I asked Brian what he heard about 47? To my shock he said, “Mike, I heard nothing other than it was really about you, not me, so what did you hear?” I responded, “Rent the room, establish a place of peace, get rid of the bed, (Dawn is not ready to sleep there), and have a bigger presence.

Needless to say Brian and I were excited, and both agreed I should pursue the idea of renting the room when we returned home. The following Monday I went to the hotel to tutor some students and afterwards met with the owner of the motel. As we ended our conversation I asked, “ Are there any rooms available to rent?” He responded that there was none, so I asked, “What about Room 47?” “47, he responded, “that room is vacant, but it doesn’t have a bed in it.” I just smiled and said, “Perfect, because we don’t want a bed, we want a place to meet people.”

After some prayer and price negotiation, we decided to offer a rent price for the room for 12 months. The owner accepted, and December 1 Oceans will begin a new facet of ministry.

We are not sure what God has in store for Room 47, or having our extended presence at the motel, but will continue to prayerfully wait in expectation of what He will do with our radical obedience. We will also never forget the journey that lead us to renting the room and what is needed to continually stay connected and discerning the voice of our Father.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

The Blessing Challenge!

The song birthed out of of the Covid-19 pandemic “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes has been a grace to many around the world. Straight out of the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6:22-27 and directly from the heart of the Father these words shine forth God’s deep love over His children.

Sunday as we were singing this song the worship leader stopped the singing and shared what the Lord had put on his heart.  He reminded us that it is easy to sing this wonderful song of blessing over our lives and the lives of our families, but he continued, “Can you sing this song over your enemies or over people that have deeply hurt you in your life?”

It was a powerful moment as he challenged people to sing the song again this time beseeching God to bless enemies, family members who have hurt you, a boss you are bitter at, a political party you don’t agree with, a friend who has betrayed you…” As we were singing the words:

May His favor be upon you and a thousand generations and your family and your children and their children and their children…

As we joined together in one accord tears were wiped away and arms reached out to bless. A mighty wind of freedom entered the building. A powerful peace remained long after the service was over.

One of the many things Africa has taught me is the miracle of forgiveness. Recently we talked to a man in his 70’s who lived through the horror of Apartheid. He and his family were forced to give up their home that they lived in for years and be relocated to a township all because of the color of their skin.  Yet, this man openly shared that he had no bitterness nor did he play the victim card toward the government who did this to him. Patty asked him how he could have so much peace after all the terrible things that happened to him and his family?  He said, “Forgiveness has set me free!”

One of the greatest signs of true and total forgiveness is when you can bless your enemies and ask God to bless them as much as He would bless you. This is exactly what Jesus taught and lived out in such a way that a new Kingdom Revolution began, a revolution that will one day will overcome the world. Listen to His powerful command in Matthew 5:43ff:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Sunday as we were singing favor and blessing over our enemies I sensed the Lord saying this is how my Kingdom will grow the most in this hour! I challenge you to play “The Blessing” and sing it over your enemies and those who have hurt you. You may have to sing it several times before the peace comes, but it will come and you will experience the freedom and victory of the Kingdom of Heaven and you will be apart of a revolution that will not be stopped!

Here is the link to The Blessing from South Africa:

Look for the Water Spouts!

June through October is whale season here in South Africa. The Southern Right Whales come near the shore during this season to birth their calves. During the first few months of the visitors passing by local folk would ask me if I saw the whales in the bay. It seemed like everyone was seeing these large creatures of the sea but us.

It was getting a little frustrating to be honest.  Patty and I would make sure to walk near the shore and scan the horizon and just when we thought we spotted one it turned out to be a big brown rock being pounded by the waves.

Until one day we went for a walk and plopped down on a bench with our tuna sandwiches and chips and watched and waited. Mesmerized by the picture perfect scene I thought I saw water spouts shooting up and quickly pointed it out to Patty.  Sure enough we spotted our first group of Southern Rights frolicking in the bay. It was breath taking to watch these behemoths which measure up to 60 feet in length and weigh several tons slide effortlessly with a powerful kick of their gigantic tail.

Since our first sighting I have learned a little about whale watching. I need to stop walking around and just sit and take in the scene. Focusing my eyes on the horizon for a water spout, which doesn’t look like much but indicates something gigantic is about to surface that will take your breathe away.

The whole experience of whale watching has been a good tutorial on how to watch for the ways of God in the midst of the vast unknowns flooding over our world like an endless ocean. We know from Scripture that God is intricately involved in every detail of our lives (see Psalm 139) and that all things work out for our good and His glory to those who know His love (Romans 8:28). But if we are honest it can be really tough to see God in the midst of it all.  Just this morning I talked with a woman who can’t pay the rent because she only works 2 half days a week in a hotel that has been left empty because of the virus. And her story can be multiplied by 1000’s.

What are we to do in the midst of the pandemic, explosive political tensions, and an on slot of spiritual attacks from the father of lies?  Find a spiritual bench, sit your soul down and wait in faith with your eyes focused on the horizon looking for spiritual water spouts.

Remember the well known words of Psalm 46:10:

                                     “Be silent, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation.                                   I will be honored throughout the world.”

We can rest our anxious souls down and focus on a God who is our “refuge and strength always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble and waters surge! …The nations are in uproar and kingdoms crumble! God thunders and the earth melts! The LORD Almighty us is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress,” (Psalm 46:1-7).

Our Father is out there, keep looking and you will soon see the water spouts and know something gigantic is about to surface and His glorious plan will take your breathe away.