Are you Listening?

“Tim are you listening?” I can still picture where I was sitting when my first grade teacher caught me checked out without a clue to what she just said. Listening is hard work and not just in school, but for all of life. It seems today many struggle with listening, we are checked out like I was in first grade-living in our own dream world.

Recently, The Father has being speaking to me about the utter importance of listening. In the world which we live in the norm seems to be constant shouting. The last few weeks two books have grabbed my attention on this topic. One is titled the “Insanity of God,” by Nik Ripken. The Ripken’s were missionaries in Africa and despite receiving much favor from God, also experienced overwhelming disappointment and loss in their time of service.

Seeking to restore their souls back in the US they felt a tug of God for them to find  and listen to persecuted Christians around the world. The main question they wanted answered, “was Jesus really worth it?” The result of listening not only answered their question with an emphatic “yes!” but also brought healing to their broken hearts. Jesus came alive to them like never before. Nik described his experience with the Chinese house church movement as people who know the cross of Christ in their suffering and choose to live out of His resurrection power.

After listening to hundreds of testimonies of the most persecuted believers from around the world the Bible was no longer a history book for Nik but the living, active Word of Jesus-who is worth living and dying for.

The next book that spoke to me is “The Listening Road,” by Neil Tomba. As a pastor in Dallas,Texas Neil notice a disturbing trend among people in his church – they were finding it difficult to speak about God to those outside the four walls of the building. So right in the middle of Covid Tomba set an example for his congregation and biked 3000 miles across the US speaking – and more importantly listening to strangers. He  simply asked them about their faith, life experiences, and matters of the soul. He took time to listen.

I loved this book, not just because I have also dreamed of doing this on my bike, but because of the fruit of listening. In this book Tomba intentionally listens to the stories of others and this opened up unbelievable conversations which in turn led to prayers, tears, healing, and the love of Christ being shared.

Both of these books revived within me the art of listening. It reminded me of how when my children were young I earnestly listened to them with my whole heart.  There is such value in listening to voice of others and to the voice of God.

One morning as Patty and I were talking about this we were brought to James 1:19,20:

“My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteousness…”

Being “quick to listen, but slow to speak,” is hard work. Yet, I hear the Spirit saying “Tim are you listening to Me, are you listening to others?” At this very moment in our lives, taking time to listen could be the most important thing you and I do-not just for our souls but also for the well being of our brothers and sisters in this crazy world we are living in.




How do you identify?

It seems like the question of the day has to do with your identity. Meaning who you are and what you belong to. The culture has gone crazy with labels searching for illusive peace by figuring out one’s one’s belonging found in identity.

Your tribe, race, gender, political leaning, super bowl pick, religious beliefs, social status, inclusive, exclusive, conservative, liberal, right, left, pro, against, kneel, stand, mandates, no mandates, and on it goes.

This desperate search for identity goes back to how we were created. Your DNA was created to belong and from the time you were conceived you desperately long for it. Because our very first parents Adam and Eve listened to the lie that identity can be found in self as the center things have gone terrible wrong (Read Genesis 3). As a result fear drives our quest and the result will always lead to disunity, hate, isolation, and spiritual and physical death.

500 years ago the battle over identity was fierce in Europe. Two young pastors in Heidelberg, Germany had a passion to help young people find their true identity and came up with a teaching tool called the Heidelberg Catechism. If you can find a greater Biblical summary statement of how you experience true identity found in question and answer 1 & 2 let me know.

I believe the only hope for our fractured culture is an encounter with the triune God-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-who bring true identity saturated by His healing love.

Take a few minutes and ponder the truths below let them flood your soul with a love that brings a lasting identity of true belonging as sons and daughters of the King!

What is your only Comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven. In fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to Him, Christ, by HIs Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and make me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Three things:

First, how great my sin and misery are;

Second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery,

Third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Speaking of super bowl, I didn’t get to watch it here in Africa but got to listen to a powerful testimony of the super bowl MVP Cooper Kupp.  When pressed on the pressure of the game and what winning the MVP meant, he gave glory and thanks to God and said:

“I’m validated not by anything I have done on the field but my worth from God my Father!”

Now there’s a statement of some one who knows belonging is not what we have done but what our Father through the gift of Christ has done for us.







“The Homemaker”

For quite some time now on Sunday mornings Mike and Dawn Verkaik and their team faithfully pick up children and teens from the Wooden Shoe Motel and bring them to Haven Church. After the worship service they loaded up the van and headed to a local fast food restaurant to treat them to lunch.

Recently they realized the environment was getting more difficult to have fellowship with the group and discuss what they learned from the truths taught that morning. They needed a quieter place, one inviting and warm that would help with honest conversation. Haven Church graciously opened up their doors to host the lunch and Mike described the change as transformative.

In a homey and safe atmosphere while “breaking bread” honest and healing conversation began taking place. The Holy Spirit moved in illumination and His love anointed hearts with loving encouragement. The Holy Spirit dwelling among us is such an incredible, indescribable gift.  Perhaps you can recall times in your own life when you could strongly feel His presence working like the gathering Mike shared.

In fact I would describe the Holy Spirit as a “Homemaker.” When I think of a homemaker, I picture someone who takes any sort of house and turn it into a home of love, security, warmth, encouragement, honesty, friendship. It is a place where an atmosphere of shalom resinates and for some reason you want to stay longer or return as soon as you can.

Jesus teaches His followers that it is best for Him to not be with them in flesh and blood. He says this because when He ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit would come to make the Father and Jesus a home in believers hearts:

“And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Savior (or advocate) the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like Me – and He will never leave you…And my Father will love you so deeply that We will come to you and make you Our dwelling place,” (PT John 14:16,17,23).

Patty and I got to personally experience the power of “The Homemaker” this past weekend. On Saturday Oceans hosted a retreat for a group called Virtuous Girls, a ministry to young women 13-18 years old, who have faced all sorts of storms in their young lives.

As we made the necessary plans for this day it seemed as if everything that could possibly break down at the Retreat Center did. Even the morning of the retreat our walk-in fridge, which was repaired just a few days ago, was a sauna. Can you say “Spiritual Warfare!” In addition, I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very spiritual.

But back to the retreat, after Patty and I shared with the young ladies the leader handed me a bottle of oil and asked us to anoint and pray over each of the girls. “The Homemaker’s” peace and presence brought tears of assurance and hugged many of these broken and fatherless girls with the arms of Abba Father.

After we finished praying over the last young lady, Samantha, the leader asked us to take a seat, it was now our turn to be anointed and prayed for. I can’t tell you how the words prayed over us and the Retreat Center brought a needed shalom to drive away fear, insecurity, and it’s rotten fruit of stress.

The Spirit is always at work-often behind the scenes-in order to reveal the Father and the Son constructing our hearts to be a spiritual home of transcendent love and peace. The lunch time gathering in Michigan and the prayer time here in South Africa both direct us to recognize the gift of having our hearts be the home of the Holy Spirit.

In the midst of a world of distractions and spiritual battles we are called to invite “The Homemaker” to do His powerful transforming work in our lives showing us the gift of the Father’s love in Jesus.

“But now you can ask, and keep on asking Him! And you can be sure that you’ll receive what you ask for, and your joy will have no limits! (John 16:24)




You need to fight for the family!

In the congregation this past Sunday morning was a mother grieving the murder of her son due to gang violence. Another mom was heart broken because of the recent suicide of her son. And sitting right next to Patty and I was a young teenage girl who was miraculously just rescued from a sex trafficking ring about to send her to another country.

At the end of the service the pastor called all the children and young people to the front of the church. He asked the men in the church to gather around them, which there were only 5 including the pastor and myself. He asked me to pray healing over them from the pain they have experienced from fatherlessness in the home as well as sexual, verbal and physical abuse, which has traumatized many.

The situations and the circumstances that bring about such excruciating pain are varied and complex. Yet, at the bedrock of each one is a broken or nonexistent family. Divorce, spousal abuse, fatherlessness, children born out of marriage all contribute to extreme pain are represented not only in this township church but throughout the world.

Recently I read the book “How The West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization,” by Mary Eberstadt. The main thesis of the book is that both family and faith work together as a “double helix of society, each dependent on the strength of the other for successful reproduction.”

It was an insightful read with much empirical evidence to show when the traditional family breaks apart so will faith and when faith is lost family will break apart to the detriment of culture. Faith and family work as a team for the blessing of culture. We can see this throughout the Biblical narrative as well. God made His covenant promises to families from Genesis to Revelation and blessings flow to families living by faith who become blessings to society (see Gen. 12:1-3, Acts 2:38-39).

On Sunday we were surrounded by the curse of the break down of the traditional family unit. Where was the father to stop the young teen girl from being lured into sex trafficking? Would the two boys be alive today if there had been an intact family unit founded on Biblical faith? So many unanswered questions to ponder.

Before I prayed over the children and teens that Sunday morning, the pastor took a moment to ask for forgiveness on behalf of their earthly fathers. He did not mince words as he spoke about neglect, abandonment, abuse, and not demonstrating a saving faith reflecting the love of Father God. The word of my prayer was an ardent plea that through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Jesus His Son a healing transformation would take place to break the curse through the Father’s love. A love seed planted into their hearts that one day would spring forth a new family tree bringing blessings to many generations to come.

All day our hearts ached for the pain inflected on so many we worshiped with earlier. Yet, we can’t help but praise God for the spiritual family we encountered Sunday. The many woman and few men are working tirelessly to reverse the curse and plant seeds for the next generation of families. Sunday reminded us of the battle over the family. How we need to fight on our knees and with our lives for a revival of the Biblical family. Yes, society will mock you for the fight and it may cost dearly, but history will record a family of faith in Christ is the greatest gift to a broken world.

“The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Geness 12:1-3