“Father, How are You Feeling”?

“How are you doing Father?” I had just dropped off the car to be serviced and was walking back to the Retreat Center when this question entered into my conversation with God.

So often in my journey with the LORD I share my heart, feelings, requests and He patiently listens and leans in with compassionate love. But as I was strolling back home on a beautiful spring morning here on the tip of South Africa, it occurred to me, how often do I listen to His heart, do I ask how He is feeling?

Over the years of ministry I have often asked others, “How are you doing? How are you feeling?” Ministry is listening to the heart of others and journeying through painful seasons with them. But I can’t tell you the blessing it is when someone will intentionally flip the question and ask, “How are you doing?” Even the question and the heart felt thoughtfulness is salve to the hurting soul. So I have to believe when we stop and ask our Father how He is feeling we must bless Him just by asking.

As Scripture testifies our Triune God has emotions. He is a person and just as we are created in His image (Gen. 1:27) with emotions our Creator God is filled with emotions as seen throughout Scripture:

* Love – John 3:16, Jer. 31:3                 * Hate – Pr. 6:16, Ps. 5:5

* Grief – Gen. 6:6, Jn. 11:35                  * Anger – Dt. 9:22, Rom. 1:18

* Compassion – Isa. 49:13, Mt. 9:36    * Jealousy – Ex. 20:5, Jos. 24:19

* Joy – Zeph. 3:17, Lk. 10:21

We see these emotions listed above in Jesus, who was the exact representation of the Father (Heb. 1:3). When Jesus sheds tears at the loss of his friend Lazarus, when He displays anger at the moneychangers in the temple, when He rejoices with his disciples returning from a time of ministry, we see the emotions of the Father.

Yes, there is a definite difference from our emotions as His emotions are perfect with no stain of sin. But never the less our God is a person who feels deeply. I believe it is good to ask the Father and search out His emotions concerning issues in our personal lives as well as the culture we live in.

To seek out the emotions of the Father will have a transformational impact on our hearts. He is longing for us to listen to His heart, to know His thoughts and feelings about all that is happening in and around us. He has even given us a gift to help us uncover His deepest emotions and that is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16,26). The Holy Spirit dwells in us and continues to reveal the truth of Jesus, the Living Word.

The promise in Scripture is that if we keep asking, seeking and knocking on the door of heaven to know the heart and emotions of the Father He will answer us with Holy revelation of who He is and how He feels (Lk. 11:9-13).

As I walked home listening for the Father’s response to my question, I felt His pleasure thanking me for seeking out His heart and reminding me of this unshakable truth, “I love you my son!”

Enduring Faith

Her face had a radiant glow as she stood confidently sharing her testimony before the church family. Almost a year to the date she was facing a violent storm as her husband of 15 years walked away for another woman, a close family friend.

She shared how she was sinking in despair-overwhelmed with emotion. Patty and I will never forget those dark days as she and her four children came to stay at Oceans Retreat Center to find some solace for a season as her whole world was shaking around her.

She had no source of income and not a clue where to begin. From a human perspective all looked hopeless. However, as she testified, this is where the miracle began. In the midst of her dark night of the soul she looked up to Jesus and His faithful arms to hold on to her and the children to carry them to safety.

We witnessed both through her joyful countenance and words how Jesus drove them through the storm into a precious place of His perfect peace. His healing love was displayed through the church family who became His hugs, hands, and feet and encouragement. In time doors were miraculously opened for full time work doing something she truly enjoys.

She said the days can still be long and challenging as a single mother. But all she needs to do is look back at how a faithful Savior is true to His Word and trust He will never let them go. And others have noticed. Co-workers have asked her why she can have joy despite her circumstances. God uses all things.

I was reliving her inspiring testimony this morning as I was reading Luke 8, the parable of the sower and the seed. Notice what Jesus says about the fourth soil:

“The seed that fell into good, fertile soil represents those lovers of truth who hear it deep within their hearts. They respond by clinging to the word, keep it dear as they endure all things in faith. This is the seed that will one day bear much fruit in their lives,” vs. 15.

Yes, on Sunday we witnessed the truth of this passage. A dear sister in absolute brokenness “clinging to the word, keeping it dear to her heart, enduring all things in faith.” A year later we all ate from her ripe glorious fruit of praise and thanksgiving to a faithful Father God who in Christ keeps His promises.

Maybe you are in that place of brokenness or deep discouragement passing through a difficult season. You look at the world and your circumstances and say, “there is no way through this!” Hear Jesus say, “cling to Me, hold on to My promise of love for you, and trust that I will carry you through.” It may be a year or more but you too will produce the fruit of a testimony to His faithful love for you.

A Slice of Life

Written by Patty Spykstra

It is hard to believe that Tim and I relocated to South Africa in January 2020. I must admit that missions for us isn’t quite the same as my childhood recollections, and I like to think that we are all called to be missionaries and reflect Christ in our work places, neighborhood and every day life. Years ago good old-fashioned mail and an expensive international phone call were the mode of communication and now we have Wi-Fi and cell phones. Yes, here we are in South Africa residing in a one bedroom, one bathroom “flat” or apartment, which reminds us of when we were first married. Each day at the Retreat Center is unpredictable and we have literally met people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds and upbringings.

Doing life and ministry in a country that at times seems so progressive and then we are reminded that things are not what we are used to with load shedding (power outages) and the sewer bubbling up unto the property to cause flooding on campus. However, these annoyances do not compare to life a few kilometers away where there is a drastic contrast. In these nearby townships a whole other world exists- with tin shack after tin shack-most without plumbing or electricity. Since I don’t write the blog often and I could potentially have a whole lot to share, so I decided to “give a slice of life” about the gathering of believers in the different communities we have joined in worship on a regular basis. Tim has had opportunity to preach in each of these churches, sometimes with advance notice and other times he is invited to speak when we arrive at the service.

First off, we love that we can worship outdoors on the property of Oceanview Care Centre under a covered patio. Pastor Raymond his wife Pamela lead this church, some familiar faces are here with Bernie, the director, and a couple of other teachers, as well Isabella. Pastor Raymond and the elders have a HUGE heart to teach the Word of God, sing, worship, give, and encourage. You can often hear Pastor Raymond reminding the group of mostly women and children that they are not victims but victors! The services are in English but a few phrases in Afrikaans always seem to slip in, the group is primarily Coloured-the title they like to be called. There is always much laughter, joy and a few tears in the midst of the service. Pastor Raymond and Pamela also oversee a team who feed hundreds of people in nearby townships experiencing much poverty and they are also heading up a crèche or preschool.

The other church we attend is in Masiphumelele and primarily a Xhosa speaking congregation. This is where our “retreat-mates” Thobeka and her daughter Sunny attend. At this service men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle, there are always testimonies in either word or song and this group is kind enough to hold their service in English when we attend. We love when prayer time happens as each people group speaks out loud in their own native tongue. When Oceans’ Kingdom Encounter students visit this church each person is encouraged to share a song or testimony as well. This church currently meets in a small house of sorts with the hopes to make it more of a structure conducive for a larger gathering.

Within walking distance here in Fish Hoek we also attend a local church with a more typical building, however the chairs are the white stackable outdoor ones. This church is most like what we are accustomed to with a praise team, youth group, children’s ministry, and nursery. Here we are blessed to interact with a multitude of people from varying places and cultures. There are 13 official languages in South Africa and many are represented in this congregation. The prayer group is what got us first visiting this church and we later found out that the pastor and family lived just up the street. A genuine friendship has developed with Pastor Ryan and Tammy and we welcome our times of sharing over a cup of coffee and an almond croissant. The groups from the US may not stay long enough to attend a Sunday service, but always join in one or two Monday nights of praise and prayer. The visiting students will always say this is a highlight of the Kingdom Encounter.

We are blessed to worship together with these 3 groups of believers here in the Fish Hoek Valley. We are grateful to support and encourage each of the pastors, their families and congregations in different ways whether that be providing food, a get away at Oceans Retreat Center, funds for building improvements or bringing teams from the US to encourage them in person. In the midst of our language differences, in the midst of our different styles and ways of worship, TOGETHER we focus on praising and honoring the King of Kings who IS in control of all things! This unity is what the unbelieving world needs to see! This is the body of Christ.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

Preparing for Home

Last week we received the sobering news from my mom that their good friends were killed in a traffic accident. The four of them had just spent the week traveling around Colorado having a wonderful time together. The two couples parted ways and a few days later found out that their dear friends lost their lives when another car hit them.

John and Paula were Jesus people. They loved sharing about their Savior and living for Him. Their lives bubbled over with a love and joy for life, which flowed from the throne of Heaven.

As Patty and I received the news of this difficult loss we thought about what their reception must been like that moment in heaven. I’m sure the welcome party was big as they were saturated with hugs of perfected love and hearing their Father say, “well done good and faithful servants, welcome home my beloved children.”

For me when I hear of an unexpected loss like this it makes me think of how quickly our time on this earth can end. It makes me search my own soul and ask am I prepared for my homecoming? Have I lived in such a way that I can be confident and even excited for that coming day?

One of the questions I envision Jesus asking me is this; “Did you love Me?” Now He already knows the answer to the question, but it’s for me to uncover what is in my heart. Just like He asked Peter 3 times before he ascended to heaven:

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you burn with love for Me more than these?” (Jn. 21:15).

Heaven is a place of pure love, God is defined as “love”, and when Jesus was asked what was the greatest of all commandments He stated;

“Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.” (Mt. 22:37).

 My greatest preparation for entering in Father’s house is to wrestle with the 1st and greatest commandment. Is being in an intimate love relationship with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit priority in my life? Does my heart “burn with love” for Him more than my family, ministry, the stuff of this world?

I know I’m saved by grace through faith and there is nothing I can do to earn my salvation but to trust in the gift of love giving to me at the cross (Eph. 2:8-9). But it is that unconditional love from the Father through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice forgiving all my sins that should warm my affections red hot.

The greatest preparation for my homecoming is to make the 1st Commandment my greatest passion in life. When I feel my heart growing cold or losing my first love I know something is getting in the way of my love relationship. I can get too busy doing ministry, too distracted by the world, harbor anger or bitterness, or have a sin in my life that strangles my soul.

I’m reminded by the sudden home coming of John and Paula that the #1  thing I need to do to prepare my heart for heaven is to be love sick. To have intimacy with the Loving Father the priority of my life. To daily dwell with Him in worship, Hear from in in His Word, and share my heart with Him in constant prayer. This opens up the door of heaven for the Holy Spirit to come and pour out His love so that I can love Him more and long for eternity with Him.

In these days filled with uncertainty, the questions is set before us, “Do you love Him?”