“This in My Story this is My Song…”

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood”

Do you know the refrain of this great hymn by Fanny Crosby? It is a heartfelt response to the great salvation we have in Christ!

“This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long”

Recently, Oceans Retreat Center was blessed to have Jim Terpstra and Mike Verkaik out to do some remodeling. Their work was amazing and appreciated and reminded me of how God often needs to make changes or remodel our lives. He rearranges and reshapes our lives. He gives us a new song to sing to give Him praise for only what He could do.


Every Wednesday night a recovery group meets at ORC to study the book “Stepping through the Lord’s Prayer.”  For two weeks we were blessed to have Jim leading, this was particularly meaningful since he contributed to the book with his testimony.

The group listened attentively as Jim “sang this powerful song” of praise to his Savior, a Savior who found him in the darkest night of his soul through addictions and lifted him out. Although Jim did not actually sing this melody to the group, his honesty opened up the room for the Holy Spirit to work in all of our hearts and give hope for the power of God to rescue the most desperate sinner from the grips of death and bring him into freedom in Christ. Truly, his life is a song of gratitude and part of his personal history.

There was a 17 year old young man at the meeting who wanted to hear more of “Jim’s song.” A few days later we gathered for lunch and “Jim’s song” continued and brought a powerful connection. Hearing more of Jim’s testimony gave the young man a boost of much needed encouragement on his own road of healing.

“Jim’s song” continued as we worshipped at the Gospel Outreach Church in Masi. During the Sunday service there is a precious time when the all the members of congregation are challenged to give a testimony. It is not uncommon to hear 10 or more people of all ages from five year olds to senior saints sharing what the Lord has done. Hearing portions of scripture, a song or a story of God’s mighty miracles of provision, help with school work, and of Jesus’ blessed assurance each and every Sunday is an incredible encouragement.

When you attend the Gospel Outreach Church visitors are warmly welcomed to the front to share their story. Jim’s honesty and sincerity about the battles and victories over his addiction offered hope to many. At the end of the service a church leader publicly thanked Jim and stated how it was good to be reminded that Africa is not the only place that is overcome with addictions. “Jim’s story” was a living testimony that there is hope in Jesus.

I challenge you to think of what your story may be. How is the Holy Spirit reshaping and remodeling you today?  If you can sing from your heart, “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine!” You have a story to tell. Your story has power because it is about giving praise to your Savior who brought you out of the bondage of sin by His blood and brought you into the Kingdom of your loving Father by the Holy Spirit.

Somebody today needs to hear your story, your song of praise to your Savior for all He has and continues to do for you!

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name. Each day proclaim the good news that He saves. Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise!” Psalm 96:2-4





Thanksgiving for a Father who Acts

How do you know you are loved by someone? Back in high school when I was dating Patty, I distinctly recall the first time I spoke the words “I love you!” It was a big moment. I will never forget her response, she hesitated for a moment and then replied, “I like you too!”  I remember driving home that night feeling foolish, I put myself out there and did not receive the response I was looking for.

Together we laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn’t so funny for an insecure 17 year old. Patty would later tell me that she thought I told other girls I dated the same line. She desired more than simply words, she wanted proof. Her love language was all about actions.

If you think about it love is much more than a sentiment or a feeling of butterflies bouncing around in your heart. The word “love” can be cheap if it is not followed through with actions that prove or back up the words.

If you survey Scripture from Genesis to Revelation you will notice the Words are all about a Good Father who is constantly showing His love through actions. A God who makes a promise to His Children and then in HIs perfect time fulfills it.

What is the most well known Scripture on love in the Bible? I would say John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

The Father showed His love by giving His greatest gift to save us “His only Son.”

Romans 5:8 highlights this:

“But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Even though my heart was filled with sin and rebellion, nothing good in me, the Father was so moved by love for me that He gave me His most precious gift. This is the source of true love flowing from the Father who acts to save His beloved children.  And His love does not stop there it continues to pursue us all the days of our lives eventually bring us to our everlasting home in heaven.

Thanksgiving time is always a great reminder to give praise and thanks to a Father who is always acting in love on our behalf. Take time this special week, (at least in the US) to stop and remember all His acts of love He has shown you this past year.

Maybe it has been an especially difficult year and you are finding Thanksgiving difficult, go back to to the two verses above and dwell there.  Let the Holy Spirit remind you of a Father who has acted on your behalf. I pray you will know and trust that you are His beloved child through the gift of Jesus and His active love will flow over you.

As we look back this past year we are overwhelmed by a Father who has acted through His beloved children to allow us in Africa and the US to make His love known. We praise and thank our Father for so many of you who have prayed, served along side, and provided so we can be apart of demonstrating His love to spiritual and physical orphans.

On behalf of the Oceans Team we thank and praise Abba for being agents of His active love.







Table Time

There is something mystical about fellowshipping with others around a table. It is hard to put it into words but a shared meal with others has a power to break relational walls, open hearts up for authentic conversation, and permeate the room with heavenly love and joy.

We experienced this the other night at Oceans Retreat Center with a group of teachers from Ocean View Care Center. The table was the tool to open our hearts to one another and to unlock a time of transparency. This gave room for the Holy Spirit to do His good work moving through the room with touches of love, joy, and healing shalom.

Take a quick survey of Scripture and you will find tables, feasts, festivals, and fellowshipping around food as a central focus. Our Good Father put it into the DNA of human relationships. Read through the 4 Gospels and watch how many times Jesus is at a table bringing a teaching, healing, and pouring out love.

For me some of the most precious words in the Gospel are found in John 13-17. Around a Passover Meal just prior to His death Jesus unleashes truths through words and actions on the heart of living as an authentic follower of Christ. It was that same night that Jesus left us with a lasting table challenge. The bread and the cup representing His body and blood to be our continual feast to empower us to live in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Is it any surprise that our enemy will attempt to distract people away from communing around a table. He doesn’t want us to have real fellowship with others and especially our Heavenly Father. I recently heard a local high school principal here in South Africa challenge a group of parents to share a meal together with their teenager. Yes, create time and space for real face to face communication to take place. The screen world that we live in is making for a lonely, desperate generation, desperately in need of a holy time of table fellowship.

Maybe part of the problem of the disunity in our world, the church, and our homes is a lack of table time.  We rarely take time to hear those around us. The table gives us time to listen, look into someone’s eyes, and hear their soul speak. I believe our Creator made us in such a way that the table opens us up to real relationships with others and our Heavenly Father.

We have a great chance during the upcoming Holiday Season to make room for table time. Invite others to your table and watch how the Holy Spirit can use it to bring His Kingdom to earth.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6


A Theology of Weakness

Take a few moments to ponder this famous painting from Rembrandt of The Return of the Prodigal Son. What do you see from his interpretation of Luke 15:11-32? I was challenged by this idea after listening to a book called “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship” by Peter Scazzero.

Scazzero pointed out that the three main characters in the painting. At the center you have the loving father embracing the prodigal who is bald, broken, and humbly bowing as he seeks forgiveness for leaving the father for the empty pleasures of the world. But off to the right side you have the older brother dressed like the father, but full of scorn standing in judgement of the younger brother.

The painting and the passage highlighted to me all week that our Father in heaven is attracted to weakness! In the story, we are reminded that both sons are lost. One was drawn to the world for love the other was lured to works. Countless sermons have been preached on the prodigal, but not many on the older son who sought love with a striving, legalistic spirit, thinking some how by his efforts and works the father would love him.

The younger son “came to his senses” and in a picture of true repentance turned his face from the world back to the father. Hoping that the goodness of the father’s love would take him back if only as a servant. The older son was invited into the party and the father’s love. But we are left with the story ending with him remaining outside of the banquet hall in anger.

As I studied the picture I find myself in both the brothers. How often I have turned to the world for acceptance, to heal the pain, and seeking to please others in order to mask my own insecurity. And how often can I relate to the other brother possessing a religious spirit and striving to earn the Father’s love, failing to see it is not earned through effort, but weakness.

I’m trying to remember back to all my theological studies, which is difficult the older I get. But I don’t think we spent a lot of time talking about a theology of weakness. And yet the Bible is full of characters that were weak and broken. Noah got drunk, Moses had a temper, David loved the ladies, Elijah had depression, Rahab was a prostitute, and how about the flaws of the 12 disciples.

As I kept meditating on the picture above a question arose in my spirit, “where is Jesus in the painting?” For sure we see Him in the Father, as Jesus said, “when you see Me you see the Father,” (Jn. 14:9). But for the first time I saw Him in the prodigal. Jesus became weak, broken, and bore the filth of all my sin on His being. The culmination of the cruse came at the cross where He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The wounded, weak, sinless Savior took my sin with Him and experienced the depth of hell to heal the worst of sinners. But because of His humble submission the Father ran to Him and raised Him from the dead to be our King and forever Savior. Jesus became the prodigal to bring us into the loving arms of a Father who runs to all who embrace their weakness and need for the wounded Savior.

I still have both the prodigal and the older brother plague my soul at times. So in my weakness I daily have to turn back to the Father and let Jesus carry me back into His forgiving and loving arms.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble – Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Jame 4:7-10 

Overcoming the Boomslang

The mountain was covered with indescribable beauty as wild bouquets of flowers dotted the rocky mountain side. As we were enjoying this breath taking hike my heart stopped as just 2 feet ahead of me a snake crossed the trail into the bush. I jumped back at least two feet and grabbed my friend Johann, who was wondering why I was holding his arm, as I pointed to the rustling grass. Just as he peered over it the snake came flying out of the brush, yes it was airborne and flew to the other side of the trail and quickly slithered down the hill.

Still in shock I said to Johann, “what kind of snake was that?” “Oh thats a boomslang, one of the deadliest snakes in South Africa.” He went on to say that their venom is so powerful when it bites you with large fangs located in the back of the jaw the victim may die as a result of internal and external bleeding. “But don’t worry,” Johann said, “they are more scared of us than we are of them.”  For some reason those last words didn’t bring me a lot of shalom.

At least in the states rattlers warn you when angry and I have never seen a snake fly like I did the boomslang. As we hiked on I was told these snakes also like to hang out in trees.  Needless to say the beautiful spring day hike was ruined as not only did I need to keep my eye on the path, now I had to look above as well.

My family knows I don’t have a lot of fears in life but snakes happen to be one of them. As a young boy I would battle with ferocious snake dreams. Patty will never forget the time when we were first married and I woke her up by pounding a pool stick under our bed fighting off the vicious cursed creatures.

Now I’m not 100% certain, but perhaps my hate and fear for snakes is linked to Genesis 3:14ff and the curse that God the Father put on satan for tempting Adam and Eve in the garden.

“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.”

My encounter with the boomslang was a great spiritual reminder for me. Yes we have a very real enemy who is still very dangerous. He loves to frighten and control us by fear. A fear that has the capacity to paralyze you and me for the rest of our “earthly hike.” A fear that potentially can causes us to miss the beauty of the Father’s Kingdom all around us.

Praise be to God for the promise and fulfillment of Genesis 3! We as followers of Christ do not have to live in fear of the cunning cursed creature. His head was crushed at the cross along with his biting control over us.

Jesus shares this powerful truth with us as well:

“I saw satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you,” Luke 10:18-19.

In the spiritual realm the serpent has been crushed by Christ at the cross. And the Christ who lives in all who believe has given us “authority over all the power of the enemy…” 

Just as Johann said the boomslang is more afraid of us as we are of him so too, satan is more afraid of Christ followers who claim their true authority in His rule.

And all of God’s children said – Amen!