Kingdom Hearts: Rebound and Rebuild

Written by Mike Verkaik

Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is within you.”
– Luke 17:20-21 (NCV)

On Christmas Day, I received a message from Tim early in the morning. As I listened my heart was devastated to hear that the residents living in Jim Se Bos woke up to a severely destructive fire spreading through their community.  Shack after shack was consumed in flames and many residents lost their homes and all their possessions.

With over 30 current students and teachers having traveled to South Africa on Ocean’s Kingdom Encounters, I texted them photos and videos asking for prayers for our partner ministers and the residents of Jim Se Bos. Over a month later I received a text from a high school senior, Claria, asking if we could get a cup of coffee and talk about the ramifications of the fires in Jim Se Bos. Her kingdom heart was percolating with love and compassion.

While meeting together, Claria said, “Mike, you know I am not a leader, and I don’t really know what I can do, but I need to do something. I think God is calling me to lead.” The kingdom heart within her was listening and responding her Father’s voice as He triggered a memory of what she experienced in South Africa. As Claria wrote me, “ The things God taught me and the people I met while I was in South Africa had a huge impact on my life, and I have a desire to live differently today because of the two weeks I spent there.”

The stirring in Claria’s heart to “do something” led us to ask all the high school students who had been to Jim Se Bos to meet during their study period time at school. As we talked and prayed, the group was in agreement that sitting on the sidelines was not an option. There was a unified desire to see their love for the Jim Se Bos residents birth into action to assist them in some way. Out of the meeting came the idea of Rebound and Rebuild.

Rebound and Rebuild was our desire was to use our basketball game between our rival Christian school to raise awareness and resources for Jim Se Bos. Abba’s answer to the stirring in Claria’s heart was to use the intense stage of competition as a platform to demonstrate our unified love for God and our neighbor.

The objective was to symbolize to those in attendance what divides us, our school colors, and more importantly what unifies us, our desire to be used to advance the kingdom of God. Navy and maroon t-shirts would be the representative of our differences, and the common artwork and verse on the shirts would represent our unification.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:35 (NIV)

On faith over 700 t-shirts were purchased for the game. This was the number of t-shirts needed to meet the goal we prayed to achieve. As one student said, “If we need to sell that many t-shirts to meet our goal, let’s buy them.” How encouraging it was to witness student hearts sensing God moving and responding in obedience and trust in His provision, even when we didn’t pre-sell. It was that faith and obedience which allowed for the miracle to happen. As fans purchased t-shirts from both sides, the stands filled up with a sea of maroon and navy t-shirts. When the game was ready to start the two teams stood together at half court as fans from both sides joined together in prayer to bless Pastor Raymond and the residents of Jim Se Bos.

Yes, February 20 was an amazing night at the two gymnasiums where the boys and girls teams played. Abba doubled our goal for the evening, which was amazing. However, he also taught us once again to be attentive to His voice, and obedient to His desire for us to show His love in our actions. Their were literally tears of joy from students that night, while they witnessed Abba taking a whisper in a young girls heart and turning it into a blessing for the broken and the hurting, as well as a reminder of Jesus’ desire for us as believers to work unified for His kingdom to come to earth.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
– John 17:22-23 (NIV)


The Power of Love

Written by Mike Verkaik

Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. (1 John 4:7- TPT)

Remember Huey Lewis? Or how about the movie Back to the Future? The song where the above title comes from has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks. Not because I heard it, watched the movie, or even have the desire to. It came to me on a prayer walk while I was reflecting on the conversations I had with Ted*.

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from Ted, a former resident at the motel where Oceans does ministry. Not recognizing the number, I let it go to voicemail. His message sounded something like this:

”Mike, I don’t know if you remember me, this is Ted. My family lived at the Motel where Oceans Ministries has a presence. We used to talk over lunch. I’m wondering if we could meet up sometime for lunch again? God has placed Christian evangelism on my heart and I have some questions I would like to ask you.”

Ted and his family landed at the motel in 2021 after the ramifications of Covid-19 left Ted unemployed and his family homeless. As Ted openly admits, this was one the darkest seasons of his life as he was angry, bitter, and struggling with his marriage and kids. In the midst of all those struggles he finds himself in a small motel room with his family, surrounded by other residents who are in similar situations and struggling with their own vices.

The strongest vice in Ted’s life was anger, and it was a physical altercation with the owner which led to his families abrupt departure from the motel.

As Ted and I ate lunch together he began his conversation with thanksgiving for the love of Christ he received from the volunteers during his stay at the motel. “Mike”, he said, “I want to thank all of you for loving my family so well while we were at the motel. It was the darkest season in my life, but now I believe God had to knock us down, so we could look up. I know in the midst of my pain and shame I was not able to express my thanks, but thank you for what you are doing. “

What soul refreshment it was to listen to Ted share his faith and the miracles Abba has done in his life over the last three years. He saw and experienced Jesus’ love for him through others, accepted the free gift of Christ’s love for himself, and is living for opportunities to show his gratitude with others who are struggling with similar situations.

What a beautiful example and reminder of the power of the love of Christ. A love that is planted in us as believers, birthed out of us as we live in obedience to His command to love one another, and bears fruit when others experience His love through us. It is the message Paul was communicating to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 5:19:

And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. In other words, it was through the Anointed One that God was shepherding the world, not even keeping records of their transgressions, and he has entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God. (TPT)

How is the power of love in your life? The ability to love others on our own is limited. It is based on how we feel about the other person and the way he or she treats us. If that was the benchmark for Ted to receive love during his stay at the motel, we would not be having this conversation. However, when we live into the grace and forgiveness of our Father’s love for us, we are able to look past grievances and receive the ability to love others the way Jesus loves us. It is a 1 Corinthians 13 love, and that love is contagious and powerful.

*Name has been changed

Prayer: Dancing with the Invisible God

I was struggling to put a talk together about prayer for students from a tutoring center, this is the organization that Oceans is partner with to start a Christian high school. As nothing was coming I took a brisk walk hoping it would bring some inspiration. Sure enough a phrase popped into my head – “Prayer is like dancing with the Invisible God.” As I thought about the phrase a list of ideas came to mind.

1.Created to Dance with God – Adam and Eve, our first parents enjoyed daily conversation or prayer with their Creator and what a joy that must have been. But in the midst of “the dance” they walked away and received the invitation to join a masquerade- a lie that brought sin, shame, separation, and death.

2. A New Invitation was Given – The Father sent His only Son Jesus, and invited us to return to the dance. Jesus would pay the entry fee with His life. The dark veil that separated us from the Father’s arms was ripped in two by His death on the cross. Now there is free access, open communication through prayer. We can once again be embraced by a Father offering love, forgiveness and eternal blessings.

3. It takes Faith to Dance – Just as dancing can make one feel vulnerable so can prayer. When we open ourselves up via prayer, we may face insecurities and old lies of the enemy whispering; “You aren’t good enough to dance with Father God. You have sinned way too much He will never dance with you. Why would He show up and spend time with you, who do you think you are?”

Yet, His Spirit constantly invites us to take the step of faith and He promises we will find Him:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” Mt. 11:28

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD…” Jer. 29:12-14.

Sometimes we may take the step-but it feels like we’re dancing all alone. All our prayers and time with the LORD seem to be a solo dance void of His loving arms. During those seasons the Spirit reminds us to keep dancing in faith:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…” Luke 11:9

The verb “ask” in the original Greek means to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

4. Our Great Dance Instructor: All we need to do is daily observe how Jesus danced with His Father. For many years it seemed like silence for Jesus, but at the Jordon River as He was praying at His baptism the dance begun.

The Invisible Father God broke into creation ripping apart the heavens and through the Spirit shouted out and affirmed His Son saying; “You are My Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased…” Mark 1:9-11

It was that loving embrace from the Father that brought Heaven’s power and love into His heart and birthed the Kingdom through His ministry, death, resurrection and eternal reign.

That same Spirit of Christ lives in all who believe and gives us faith to step on to the dance floor and believe the Father in His perfect time will flood our hearts with Heaven’s perfect love. He is the one that hears our prayers.

How we need dancing followers of Christ who will break through the fears, shame, and lies of the enemy and give us courage to get on the dance floor, to offer that prayer of faith. Our Father is waiting with arms wide open to wrap us in love and together as Father and beloved son or daughter dance together for His glory!

I’m not exactly sure how the teenagers received it all, but I trust that hearing the invitation to prayer and knowing that the God of the universe sees them in these tough teenage years will be encourage them to step forward in faith on that dance floor.

I’m not sure where you may be today, but I know I need to step out on the dance floor once again with my Abba Father! I hope you’ll join in as well!

“If you earthly fathers, though you are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” Luke 11:13

The Other-side of the Foot-JOY

Last week I shared about the cut out of a wooden foot I found while climbing to my prayer spot on Elsie’s Peak. I love the words of truth inscribed on the this piece of wood:

“Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.”

These words are such an encouragement as the Oceans Board and staff walk forward in faith with the vision of being apart of a Christian High school here at the Oceans Retreat Centre. Many details accompany this decision and the reminder that He IS a living God brought strength and hope.

And yet there is more…..I find it both amazing and crazy that this “footprint” is still nestled by a rock on the mountain and written on the other side of the foot are these words from Nehemiah 8:10:

“The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.”

Sometimes when we ask God to speak to us we never know how that may be so I was excited to read Nehemiah 8:10 and the surrounding verses. In fact I ended up reading the entire book of Nehemiah. The Spirit blessed me as Nehemiah’s words highlighted the vital importance of joy in our walk of faith.

Perhaps you recall how God calls Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and to inspire a broken people to rebuild a broken wall. Through prayer and hard work despite extreme opposition the wall is miraculously rebuilt in 52 days.

But what is even more amazing than that is the rebuilding of the people’s hearts as a true revival breaks out as seen in Chapters 8. The miracle of the rebuilding of the physical wall opened their hearts to the spiritual power of God. An entire day was spent listening to the Word read out loud, there was a time of confession of sins, and worshiping God. The Holy Spirit came down in power as seen by many tears which led to true repentance.

In the midst of the weeping, Nehemiah called the people to cease from their wailing and shouted it was now time to celebrate, since “the joy of the LORD is their strength!” As I reread those words I sensed the LORD reminding me “it’s time to find joy in My strength alone.”

For me personally, it has been a season where the LORD has been revealing more of His glory, more of my weakness and sin, and challenging me to adhere to His call to follow boldly in faith. It has been a season of weeping, but yet the Holy Spirit is reminding me that He is a good Father and now is a time for JOY! Joy is one of the greatest gift from the fruit of the spirit.

Perhaps you have heard JOY described as:

Jesus and You with nothing in the middle!

Often when I’m not experiencing JOY it is because there is something in the middle of my relationship with Jesus and me. Often “that something” is the idol of self and shows up in fear, doubt, people pleasing, pride that wants to control, and a host of other sins that take my eyes off trusting in Jesus alone to be my strength.

As Nehemiah and the people of Israel stepped out in faith to rebuild the wall they saw the mighty hand of God at work and it humbled them. It brought their focus back on the LORD. They repented. Their hope was renewed. The result was JOY!

The Oceans Team wants to thank so many of you for your prayers, encouragement and support as we seek to keep our focus on the true JOY GIVER!

We have witnessed God’s mighty hand at work as we humbling move forward with the plans for a Christian High School. We patiently wait and know without a doubt it is definitely not by “our might or power” but only by His strength. We desire to remove any of the junk clinging in-between us and Jesus-as we focus on the other side of the footprint and know the JOY of the Lord is our strength.

We pray whatever impossibilities you may be facing you will encounter Jesus, the ONE who is more than enough to meet all your needs for His glory!

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” Psalm 126:5-6.