Becoming a Beautiful House – Soothed

How our minds and the truths in scripture are intertwined continues to astonish me. Attending and speaking at the conference “Just Jesus” for Christian Counselors in the Cape Town area, was a blessing. One presenter in particular who shared research linking childhood trauma, the mind, and future addictions particularly caught my attention.

For example when a young child falls and is hurt, the comfort of a parent releases a natural chemical in the brain similar to opium which assists in calming the child.  But what is also amazing is how this same chemical is released in the parent to calm them down. What a Creator God!

The sad news however is when children are not comforted by a parent or trusted adult in their pain or trauma there is a much greater likelihood of a struggle in the future with some form of additive behavior. This brings us to last week’s blog and the 4 S’s presented by author and psychiatrist Curt Thompson of the need for healthy spiritual hearts to be Seen, Soothed, Safe, and Secure. When these are present in our lives Christ creates a Beautiful House within!

God created us to be comforted or soothed in our pain in order for proper healing to take place and scripture supports this. Reading John 20 we learned how Mary Magdalene’s heart was being transformed as she was SEEN by the Resurrected Lord Jesus.  Being truly SEEN by the ONE who loves us fills our hearts deepest longing.

In this text we also see Mary was SOOTHED by her Savior. A great picture of being SOOTHED is a parent or trusted adult holding and comforting a child who had just taken a spill on their tricycle and blooded their chin. It is the hugs and loving voice that brings a soothing calm to the crying child.

In John 20, Mary’s tears were real and inconsolable. Even when two angels in dazzling white robes, sitting where Jesus body was laid said, “Dear woman, why are you crying? (vs. 13) she did not calm down. You would have thought the sight of these glorious beings in an empty tomb might just help a little, but no. We read on that when she mistakes Jesus for the gardener she is still crying (vs 15).

Yet, when Jesus speaks her name with compassionate love (she is seen) followed by an embrace (she is soothed) it is then the tears of pain and sorrow turn to tears of overwhelming joy (vs. 16). From the text we realize the hug was heartfelt as Mary did not want to let go, she did not want to risk losing the One who loved her perfectly for who she was.  The text continues Jesus kindly says, “Mary do not cling to Me for I have not ascended to the Father…” (vs. 17).

More to follow about this phrase next week, but the promise that awaits Mary is that she will not be left alone, soothing will be still be tangible when Jesus as King ascends to the Father.  Mary eventually lets go of Jesus trusting that something even greater than she can imagine will happen.

What an amazing gift for us to comprehend that God sent His son Jesus to earth, in order to take on all our pain caused by sin and a sinful world and bury it in the grave. We praise the resurrected Jesus who sees us and soothes our hurts. Yes, we will still suffer and stumble in this world until all is made right,  but in the mean time we have a Savior who sees us and soothes us with His lasting love.

He is the Perfect Parent who runs to us in all our trauma. He lovingly calls us by name and wraps His loving arms around us and brings true comfort to our deepest needs.  And as we receive His soothing love we then become agents of His comfort and peace to others around us who need to hear His voice and feel His wrap around love holding them, knowing we are apart of His Beautiful House.  This is how His Beautiful House living with us will cover the whole world.


Becoming A Beautiful House – Seen

This past Sunday my wife Patty and I were invited to join the Gospel Outreach Church in Masiphumelele  to celebrate with them the remodeling of their building. About three years ago a generous gift was give to Oceans Ministries, which allowed us to contribute to this much needed expansion.

In Africa everything moves slowly so to see progress finally being made and the old wall removed to make additional space to worship was truly a reason to give praise. Anyone who worshiped here before vividly remembers how packed the small worship space was especially on those windless days with services easily lasting 3 to 4 hours.

As the custom for most African churches, I was asked to preach and I spoke on “The Father’s Beautiful House.” It is wonderful to meet in a bigger space, but the building itself is not the Beautiful House the Father is looking for. Our heavenly Father desires to invade the hearts of His children with His perfect, overflowing love. He wants make our very heart His home.

Our hearts were created for His beauty to dwell within and to be the temple that glows with the radiant glory of His presence. The Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the Father’s restoration project. He is  rebuilding His beautiful house within our very being. His presence living in us will transform us. His glory reflected through us will cause others to know Him (see Hab. 2:14).

Author and psychiatrist Curt Thompson uses 4 words that he strongly believes every heart needs to experience to reflect the beauty of God. They are:  To be Seen, Soothed, Safe, and Secure. Because of sin these slipped away, however in Christ those deep heart needs can be met.   I encourage you to take some time to read John 20 and put yourself into the resurrection story. For the next few weeks we will see how these 4 S’ flow out of this transforming passage.

Seen – Mary, who we are told had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus was the first to encounter the resurrected Christ. She knew shame, guilt, and heartache from her past, but Jesus saw through all that and loved her. It was that love that brought her to the tomb early in the morning. And Jesus appeared to her first, and when she does not recognize Him because of her tears, He says her name, “Mary!”(vs. 16) Hearing His voice awakens her heart to know that the this IS Jesus, Jesus who sees her with His eternal eyes of perfect love.

At the cross Jesus took all of Mary’s shame and our shame upon His naked body.  Jesus did not run away or  hide like Adam and Eve, but He allowed Himself to be publicly humiliated so that we would not have to take the punishment. Because of the death of Jesus we are seen through the cross as forgiven and beautiful children recreated in His image.

Deep in every heart is a desire to be seen, one example is the uncontrollable cravings social media offers. However sooner or later those seeking healing through this emptiness eventually realize it is never enough, not even with millions of views. No amount of likes or recognition eliminates the shame.

To be seen by The One who knows all our sin and shame and still loves us is the answer.  The Resurrected Jesus teaches us that we are forever seen by His perfect love.  When Mary realized it was Jesus who had called her name she cried out, “Teacher!” (vs. 16).  She experienced the healing truth of a Beautiful Savior, One who saw His beautiful daughter no longer covered in shame.

Put yourself in this story. Listen for the voice of the Spirit calling your name. Open your spiritual eyes to know that you are truly seen and loved by your perfect Father in Heaven.


The Gardener Within

I wasn’t too happy to realize that some sort of caterpillar-like bug was invading a garden at Oceans Retreat Center. I diligently attempted various solutions to remove the pests but these creatures are resilient. In fact it appears they are thriving and multiplying.

So the other day I decided to get the pick, shovel, and rake and go to the source. As I dug deep in the dirt to remove roots that spread throughout the garden my thoughts drifted to the recent season of Good Friday and Resurrection Day.

Could these pesky caterpillars be an analogy of my soul struggling with sin. No matter how much I desire a right relationship with God, sin keeps creeping in, no matter what I try to get rid of it. I sincerely desire a flourishing and beautiful spiritual life rooted in the love of Christ, yet sin keeps popping up and eating away at my soul.

BUT, praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Holy Spirit that on Good Friday that all changed. The Father loved me so much He sent His Son to dig down to the root of my soul. He attached my innermost being on the cross with Him, and through His death put an end to sin and its power and all its deadly effects. And on the Resurrection day, He planted through the Holy Spirit His life in me giving me a newly created soul rooted in Him.

Remember Mary Magdalene crying that Sunday morning at the tomb? She addressed Jesus as The gardener!!! (John 20:15). To me this speaks volumes. I believe John records this detail to point us back to the garden of Eden, the Creation story and the creation of man and woman.

Our parents, Adam and Eve, were called not only be at home in the beautiful garden of Eden and in perfect fellowship with the Father, but also to join together in order multiply this place of harmony all over the world (Gen. 1:28). They were given a mandate along with their children to bring God’s glorious garden to the ends of the earth, to fill the world with beauty as the Father’s precious and beloved children.

We all know the results of the fall and sin’s deadly grip on those who are created in God’s image. But because of the resurrection of Jesus all those who have died and rooted to Him by faith, have a life in eternity awaiting them. This sacrificial act changed everything. A new garden and Gardener are in place, He reigns as King and is making all things new. Paul clearly states this in 2 Cor. 5:17:

“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone the knew has come.”

This is the powerful truth of the Resurrection!! Don’t miss this! Jesus made all who are in Him into a new garden that will bear beautiful fruit. Don’t allow the enemy’s lies via media and other false messages in our world discourage you.

The Gardener has come to till the souls that are full of thistles, thorns, and deadly pestilence that have ravaged His children, and He has dug deeply and removed it all and transformed their souls into beautiful gardens for His glory.

So don’t be discouraged when you identify a sin in your life. Be reminded that because of the blood of Jesus we can confess that sin, ask for Him to get to that root be renewed and replanted with His love as the source. Whatever sin or temptation you may be struggling with, remember He promises to walk beside us and help us grow in His flourishing garden. Where the enemy has brought barren deserts to our soul, His Spirit in us will bring streams of living water to thirsty souls with the good news of the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20).

So fellow follower of Christ may we encourage one another to let the Gardner do His redeeming work in us and through us so that His glorious and beautiful garden may flourish and grow to reflect Him in all we do and say.

How’s your heart?


Written by Mike Verkaik:

How’s your heart?

That is the question I asked myself and the team as we started several days of our kingdom encounter at Oceans Retreat Center. The Spirit placed it on my mind after  reading Psalm 119:81 which started with the words, “I’m lovesick” (TPT)

I am so blessed to join students whose desire in traveling to South Africa is birthed out of living a life of lovesickness to know and understand more of their Abba Father. Providing them with time and a focus to have their hearts go hard after His glorious presence. Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The Oceans kingdom encounter includes experiences in worship, prayer, service, study and journaling. Below are excerpts from blog entries that the students wrote for family and friends.  Be blessed and encouraged as you read the encounters they had as  they ran hard after their God:

Student 1:

Pastor Raymond assigned our team to partner with a group of 3 or 4 people from the community, and pray over the storms in their lives. I walked up to a group of 4 men, and heard some incredibly tough things they are going through in their lives. Then, one man in my group, who I recognized from the last time I was in South Africa, shared how he struggled with a spirit of fear. I was surprised as I remembered him being incredibly outgoing and welcoming as he sang in front of church. A spirit of fear is something I struggled with before my first trip, and still struggle with sometimes now. A fear of what the people around will think if I try to stand out as a person who lives their life fully devoted to Jesus Christ. To hear that a man, so outgoing and joyful in the Lord, struggles with a similar thing as me, gave me encouragement, and it was a privilege  to pray over him. Praying for peace for him, as well as for confidence to continue being outgoing for the Lord, made me feel the Lord’s peace the most on this entire trip.

Student 2:

I personally had a really cool encounter with God and how God sent signs for me that perfectly went with how I prayed for him to give me signs: I was sitting on top of Elsies peak with Fish Hoek to my left and Simonstown to my right. As I was praying and looking over False Bay I asked God to give me a sign that He was here and in my life. It wasn’t that I was doubting as much as I was just needing an extra boost of confirmation. While looking at the water there was a weird light spot in the water, and the shape of the light spot reminded me of a scar that one of my buddies had. It was a really weird thing to be symbolized but it was what God sent my way. 

Then I went to my Bible to read a passage from a book that was similar to my buddies name. When I was flipping to that chapter I did not yet know what verse I was going to read. Then, God put a voice in my head that said, Isaiah 60:4. I flipped to that verse and the first sentence of the verse was, “Lift up your eyes and look about you.” So I finished reading the passage and put my Bible away so that I could just look around for another sign. After about 5 minutes of looking, I saw a lighter shade of water again and this time it was shaped like an arrow. Believe me when I say this, the arrow was clear as day. 

After I saw the arrow, I followed the end to where it was pointing to the mountains across the bay. As I was looking I saw a path in between the mountains, and the path had a couple zig zags, then it split into a Y shape. Immediately, the word “choose” shot into my head. It was telling me that I need to choose to be a follower of the Lord myself. I cannot rely on my parents and how they raised me to choose that, I need to choose. Also, I need to choose all the right choices just like Jesus would have chosen when he was on earth. So that was a life changing experience and I love how I can share that with all the readers.

Student 3:

“If you knew that Jesus was coming in the next few weeks, what would you change.” When Pastor Raymond asked that question, I was swarmed with a feeling of guilt. I was thinking about it and I was like, why do we need to change? We shouldn’t want to change, we should be living to our full potential and live up to our fullest when it comes to God. We shouldn’t just change and pray more or worship more or help people more because we know he’s coming. We should be able to do that now, not knowing when he is gonna come. 

That is something that really stuck out to me and made me think a lot and reflect on my decisions I have made and the decision I want to make in the future when it comes to growing my relationship with God.

Student 4:

During this trip I had this word on my mind: “foundation”.  I am really trying to build my foundation on Christ and to grow a deeper connection with him. Throughout these two weeks I really felt God talking to me through other peoples actions and words. 

Yesterday there was this man praying over us at Overflow Church and he was talking about having a foundation with Christ and how he saw a vision of wet cement and how your foundation will always be rocky at times, but God will always dry that cement and I really felt God speaking to me in that moment. I also learned this about His foundation while I wrote in my journal on a rock by the ocean.  I had a vision of a wave, and how the flat part of the water is Gods love for us that will never change, and when the wave is building up, that is the storms we are going to have to face throughout life, but God will always bring us back to shore.

So how is your heart? May you seek and find the lover of your heart today and encounter His Kingdom overflowing with love!!!!

The Powerful Fruit of the Resurrection

Jim has made the long journey to Africa 8 times. He is a gifted craftsman and has used his skills to bless Oceans Retreat Center with helping with an addition, put in a kitchen, windows, flooring, electrical work, Jim can really do it all.

But what’s even more amazing than his work gifts is Jim that has brought 8 of his grandkids on the journey with him to encounter what the Holy Spirit is doing across the ocean in the continent of Africa.

Resurrection Sunday I watched Jim serve side by side with 3 of his grandkids, delivering food parcels to needy families in a gang and drug infested housing complex. They not only offered food with love but prayed powerful prayers over residents.

Watching Jim serve with his grandkids over Good Friday and Easter weekend and the many other times Jim has been out-highlights the powerful fruit of the resurrection. I will never forget the day Jim stopped by the church office when I was pastoring in Michigan.

Jim didn’t waste anytime telling me about his battle with addictions and his long journey seeking freedom from the bondage and pain it caused. But from his humility and honesty I could sense the Holy Spirit doing a deep work in his heart. He knew that he was powerless and needed a power greater than himself to break the strongholds of the enemy.

Jim put in the work of daily dying to himself and attaching himself to the cross of Christ, soaking in the blood of forgiveness, and letting the God of the Resurrection fill his heart with supernatural power to walk in the love and freedom of Christ in him. It all didn’t just happened over night, he took the time to painfully take the steps on this journey.

He experienced what Paul prayed about in Ephesians 1:19:

“His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…”

Jim has shared his story about this resurrection power working in him with many- including the teams he has been on in Africa. The Father has used His testimony to produce amazing fruit and I got to witness it again on Resurrection Sunday as the same resurrection power in Jim has passed on to His grandkids.

Being fairly new to the grandpa role I want to follow his example with my grandkids. I hope I can share and serve with them out of the “incomparably great power” of the resurrection of Christ that raised me out of the bondage of my brokenness and sin and seated me in the loving arms of the Father.

Our families, neighbors, the lost and hurting all around us need to witness the powerful fruit of the resurrection in our lives. May we join Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:19 and ask the Father to fill each one of us with an experiential understanding of the resurrection power, which raised Christ from the dead. It is the same power living in you and living in me. A power, which is greater than any power this world has ever seen.