Let this bring you Hope & Joy – God is on the move!

If you want encouragement please read the blog below from a middle school student from Holland Christian. God is truly on the move empowering a new generation with His Spirit!

Today was another wonderful day in South Africa.

 It started off by another sunny morning at the Care Center where the kids came running out to greet us with huge smiles on their faces, hugs, and loads of energy! I prayed right before this time, asking again for the Spirit of God to give me and the children His peace. Sure enough, God showed up to me, blowing me away again by giving me His peace. The kids in my room were all very peaceful, and there was almost no violence that happened today. The Spirit definitely allowed me to see the kids with clearer eyes and allowed me to really see the true joy they found in each other and the little things I did to help. The Spirit was alive and working in that place and was working through all of us, which was an awe-striking experience.

We then headed out to Jim Se Bos, where we were able to make food in a ginormous pot to serve hundreds of people, providing them with a meal. I definitely felt God’s presence there, and getting to see hundreds of people’s faces light up with happiness when they received a small amount of food melted my heart. The contentment of the kids in the place was jaw dropping. After they had eaten their food, they were playing soccer with a plastic bottle, laughing, and smiling as big as the sun. This really made me think of having faith like a child because these kids have absolutely nothing, yet they delight in getting small portions of food and playing soccer with bottles. They’re not worried about tomorrow or questioning what they have to eat, which is incredible to see. We should be like that with God: we should find that same contentment in God. We shouldn’t be anxious or skeptical but instead run into the father’s arms, trusting that He already knows what’s going to happen to us and loves us more than every single star in the sky!

Right before we had to leave, Pastor Raymond spoke some very powerful words to us (that I personally think were 100% led by the Spirit). He told us that our sinful nature is selfish and wants things for ourselves, but when we’re born again and live into God’s nature we serve and love others first over ourselves. That really shows the heart of God and how loving and powerful He is. I mean, His Spirit can convert someone so broken and selfish (like me) and make them loving and wanting to serve others. That’s mind blowing to me.  Another thing he said was that the food we gave was a means by which to show a child the love God has for him or her. I thought that was also super powerful because we didn’t even have to do much to see God’s joy be present and deposited into a child’s heart. It also showed me the impact God’s love has when the people of God take action. It almost brought me to tears because God is so awesome and works in ways we can’t even imagine! All we have to do is trust and obey, and He’ll do the rest!

Pastor Raymond shared with us Deuteronomy 15:10-11.

“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

In the Potter’s Hands

For the first time in my life I went to men’s event on making pottery. Yes, you read it right, pottery. To be honest, I like the outings when you hike, listen to a good speaker, or my favorite a South African braai-US barbeque, where you eat lots of meat. But I went and somewhat hesitantly, mainly to support some friends who had planned and put it together.

And….I walked away that afternoon with tons of spiritual truths imprinted in my mind. I can now understand why God told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house, watch him spin the wheel, and work wonders with a lifeless lump of clay. God wanted the people of Israel to get a visual of who He is and what He is doing in their lives. (Jeremiah 18).

Here are some timely truths that the Spirit taught me watching the potter:

1. I’m so glad I’m not the Potter – Our pottery experts made it look so easy as they shaped the clay into different vessels. However, when they let some of the men give it a spin the clay was flying all over the place and seemed impossible to control.

I think how often I want to take over the potter’s wheel and show God how to shape me. That always turns out messy and teaches me to trust His perfect, powerful, Sovereign hands to shape my life for His glory not mine

 2.The Impurities must be Removed – We learned that the clay is taken out of riverbeds and as a result small rocks and grass or impurities needed to be removed. Also adding just the right amount of water is important as well as smoothing away water bubbles. This appeared especially challenging to the inexperienced potter.

I need to allow the Potter’s Hand to do a cleaning work in my heart. The Spirit and Word reveal my sins and I need to allow His hand to remove those sins and idols in my life through confession and repentance.

3. It is According to His design – It was amazing to watch the prepared clay in the hands of a true creative potter. His mind told his hands how to create the desired piece and one little touch of a finger would mold the clay into an amazing design.

The Father is molding each of us into the image of His own Son Jesus. And each of us is designed in such a unique and special way that we reflect some aspect of Jesus in our lives. God’s shaping of me will be different from you and we need to rejoice in how our Father’s hand had molded us for a specific purpose to given to us (Psalm 139).

4. Strengthened in the Fire – The pottery teachers taught us that when the unique piece of pottery is created it is then placed into the kiln to dry it out and to turn it from clay to ceramic. The hotter the fire the stronger the ceramic.

The ouch part! If we don’t go through the fire of adversity and testing we will remain weak and will easily crumble. The Father uses trials, testing, difficult seasons to strengthen our faith and so that we trust in His love alone. Without the spiritual fire we will not experience the spiritual joy of being formed more and more into the image of Christ His Son.

We are living in a season where the Father is doing a molding work in our lives. May we have the courage to stay on the wheel and allow His Sovereign hands to form us as believers into a people reflecting the glorious image of His Son Jesus and confess with Isaiah the prophet:

“Yet, O LORD, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.” (64:8-9)












“To Hell with the Forgiveness …” or the Jesus Way

I know the title may sound shocking-but I believe it fits the cultural climate in which we are living. The late Timothy Keller brings this thinking out in his watershed book “Forgive, Why Should I and How Can I?”

We see the results of unforgiveness and the horrific results daily playing itself out right before our eyes through media, in our institutions, communities, cultural clashes, countries, churches, and in our homes.

What is at the root of the awful atrocities happening in Israel with Hamas, could it be deep seeded hate going back centuries between brothers Isaac and Ishmael? Will there ever be a diplomatic solution to remove the bitter roots running through the generational lines? Not unless true forgiveness happens.

And the more our world moves away from Biblical forgiveness the more hate will grow as an uncontrollable cancer poisoning and destroying souls in its path.

Keller builds his case for forgiveness on Jesus’ parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Matthew 18:21-35.

You remember how the master called for his worker’s debt of what would be in our day $400 billion dollars – more than the gross national product of 80% of the countries of the world today. Can you say, “that is a big debt!”

But when the servant pleads for mercy he is forgiven – That is amazing grace!

Yet, Jesus goes on to show how when the forgiven servant was owed $5.00 from another he would not forgive him the debt and sent him to prison. When the master found this out he said to the man:

“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.”

Jesus adds –

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Jesus parable brings us back to the “Simple Gospel” where we find ourselves with a debt of 400 billion sins that are forgiven by Christ’s work on the cross to all who receive His mercy and grace. But when we choose not to forgive others an offense, so minute compared to our debt before a Holy Father God, it shows we don’t understand the enormous debt paid for us.

Keller shows how the early church lived this forgiveness out in a Roman culture where they were victims of horrific abuse and persecuted, they were the hated minority. And as a result of their forgiveness the Gospel of Jesus transformed an entire culture in a few hundred years.

If ever followers of Christ are needed as agents of forgiveness it is now. How we need to get back to truly seeing the weight of our sin, the price of Christ’s forgiveness, resulting in His bride spreading the healing fragrance of forgiveness to a bitter and angry world.

I challenge you to pick up and study Timothy Keller’s book. He does an amazing job showing how forgiveness and justice must work together as well.

Here are two more great books on forgiveness that you should add to your library:

“Total Forgiveness” by RT Kendall

“Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better” by Brant Hansen




Slice of Life: Letting Go and the Gift of the Found Coins

Blog written by Patty Spykstra

After the July’s Men’s retreat in Colorado, Tim and I had a few days before flying back to South Africa. What joy we had watching our kids ride in the Littleton Criterium and what fun to later cheer on the professional bikers from all over the world. Then on Sunday we worshipped, shared communion, and bid goodbye to loved ones.

Our return flight was one delay after another, we finally landed in Cape Town two days later, grateful the local taxi strikes were in negotiations. Traveling between the US and SA can be an emotional and spiritual transition from one culture to another culture and this time a bit of a physical strain due to my back.

Back at Oceans Retreat Center 19 Zimbabwe boys and their coaches greeted us. I was thankful that one worker was able to spend a few nights on campus, and I knew the worker lived close by. The taxi strikes disrupted transportation for so many. Fires were intentionally set to keep people from leaving townships and blocked roads prevented food deliveries. School were closed for a few days. Wages were lost. The poor were impacted the most.

Since our return, new homeless faces wander Fish Hoek and at night often line their cardboard beds just outside the retreat center. Load shedding continues to impact the country and at its worst-means no electricity for up to 10 hours a day. The recent wind and rainstorms are the worse in a long time to hit Cape Town. Shacks were lost, lives were lost. Tim read about a farm destroyed by flooding-now no crops will be harvested, and no work available for thousands. No work means no money and food shortages are predicted.

Since our return to SA, the devastation and the plight of the poor have left me struggling. I usually see the hope, but this time things weighed heavily upon my heart. The needs are so many and the loss too much to bear at times. Oceans as a non-profit does what it can in tangible ways with donations of food, bedding, blankets, funding and encouragement to those we support. Yet in the big picture sometimes it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I was tired, weary and feeling the weight of the burden. Perhaps you have had those moments? Days? Weeks? Months? Jesus says in John 10:10

“I have come to give you everything in abundance,

more than you expect-life in fullness until you overflow.”

I was not feeling fullness or overflowing, I knew I had to trust and to let go. In myself I am not capable of meeting all these needs and Oceans Ministries simply cannot be the answer for every individual. Jesus says come to Him and He will give us everything in abundance. This promise from Jesus is not just for me, and you, but also for the poor and those in need. I was once again reminded to let go and focus on our Heavenly Father, to seek His help in every need for myself and others.

And then as if to spur on my act of letting go-this letter arrived from a mom and son who had been a part of an Oceans Kingdom Encounter. A portion of the letter is used with permission:

“We recently moved and while packing things up, we came across several jars/boxes of old coins-mostly pennies and quarters. We decided at that moment that whatever money we found around the house we would donate to Pastor Raymond to help feed anyone in need. Enclosed is a check for $135-our ‘found’ coins! Thank you for showing the Father’s love to many is SA!”

A coin is such a small amount compared to millions of dollars, yet these coins found all over the house made a difference. God is the One to provide in His timing and in His ways. He certainly wants us to do the best we can, yet we in and of ourselves cannot be the answer, He is. The timing of the letter, the check, and the act of obedience were an encouragement and reminder to Let Go Again and Let God. 

God takes every little bit we offer to make a difference. The $135 donated by a mom and middle school son was given because they knew the heart of the Father. They came to Him, received in abundance, and the response was to make Him know by giving the gift of the ‘found’ coins.


The Simple Gospel – From Groaning to Glory!

Did you know groaning is a spiritual act? Yes, that’s right, there is a deep spiritual groaning that those who have come to experience the Simple Gospel will participate in.

Last week, torrential rains and gale force winds hit the Western Cape of South Africa. At the Oceans Retreat Centre the rains caused flooding and our water tanks to overflow. The winds left broken tree branches scattered throughout the property and 52 mph gusts caused a wall to come crashing down. It took several days to clean up the mess left behind.

But what we faced was nothing compared to the informal settlements that saw total destruction of homes and loss of lives. In an economy with food prices rising and well over 40% unemployment this was another major blow especially to the poor. Sometimes the only thing you can do is let out a sigh or a deep groan.

Lately, Patty and I have viewed too many funeral’s online of friends and those we knew from the churches we served in the States. Some have passed on way too young and others have battled chronic diseases that cut their life short. Again, more deep groans.

The same Holy Spirit that reveals our sin, brings us to a saving faith in Jesus, showed us our loving adoption by our Abba Father, is also sanctifying us, and has deposited in our souls a longing for the “Glory to Come!” (Rom. 8:18,30)

The Simple Gospel awakens us to the fact that we are pilgrims on a journey and this present world is not our home. Our spirit, sealed with the Holy Spirit, longs for the glorious home awaiting us for all eternity.

Notice Paul’s incredible words concerning this:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:23).

Did you catch that, even creation is “groaning” with us.

When our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned it brought not only death and decay to them, but also creation (see Rom. 8:20). So according to the Word the floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, extreme temperatures, etc. is the voice of creation “groaning-this is not how it was to be.” Creation also longs for the Day when Christ returns and makes all the wrongs right, restoring the sons and daughters to the Father without sin, sickness, and physical separation. This includes restoring creation to perfection.

The Simple Gospel shouts out that we can have hope that a glorious future is coming for the Father’s children (8:24, 28-37). This world is not our home “we are just passing through.” And this hope birthed in us by the Holy Spirit becomes a powerful testimony to a world in chaos. We who are anchored to Christ, through the Gospel, have this hope living inside us, a living hope, which testifies that Jesus Christ is our glorious hope. He is why we are able to stand in the midst of heartache, loss and uncertainty.

The suffering and pain around us and even in us should lead to a spiritual groan, which becomes our prayer, “Come Lord Jesus Come!”