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.

“Every Square Inch…” Prayers for a Christian High School

This last week I was once again climbing up my “Prayer Mountain” also known as Elsie’s Peak. Just before arriving at my favorite spot I noticed an usual piece of wood, and when I looked closer I realized it was a foot- and these words were inscribed on it “Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God!” As I picked up the piece of wood, my heart skipped a beat, “Was I seeing things? Was this for real,” I thought to myself.

Over the last several months the Oceans’ board and team have fervently been praying about partnering with a Christian Tutoring Centre and launching a Christian High School on the Oceans Retreat Centre Campus. This opportunity came about through a series of conversations and God ordained meetings and would be an amazing blessing to the valley as there is not Christ-centered high school anywhere nearby and the need is enormous for so many reasons.

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older or maybe because I have experienced the cost of moving forward in faith and the spiritual battles that accompany such steps. It is times like these that I know I need to be on the mountain and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer. So, when I saw that wooden cut out of a foot and read the words on it I felt the LORD was saying, “keep stepping out in faith-this is My doing not yours and remember every square inch of this world comes under My dominion and reign.”

Stumbling across this wooden foot at the top of Elise’s Peak reminded me of the words from one of my favorite heroes of faith, Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch theologian and prime minister of the Netherlands, who boldly claimed:

“There is not a square inch in the whole dominion of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

These powerful words of Kuyper’s along with his passionate heart led him to start an Educational movement with a Christian emphasis not only in the Netherlands but through out North America. And that vision continues to have a global impact today for the glory of God.

Today more than ever a Biblical World and Life View that is founded on trusting and believing in Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God and knowing that He reigns as the Sovereign King will ground teenagers growing up in this broken world.

So many young people in South Africa are wrestling with the emptiness of this life and struggling to find hope; the same humanistic spirit that has swept through the countries of the West has hit African shores with a vengeance. The gospel of self as the ultimate god has brought nothing but despair, depression and destruction.

The Oceans’ board and team believes God is opening doors and prompting us to seek Him and trust Him as we take this step to leave His foot print in the valley. What a a great opportunity this would be to point students to “Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  To allow Biblical truths to be presented in every arena of education and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of each student.

The words on the wooden foot led me to recall these promises in Daniel 7:13-14:

“In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Moving forward in faith, the Oceans’ Board and Team is asking for your prayers as we take this next step-believing that it will only be through His miraculous work that a footprint will be left for His glory.

Peace in 2024: Father’s Home

On Christmas Day over 100 families in Jimsebosh, township lost their homes. In a matter of minutes the fire consumed everything but their lives. A day of celebration turned into heartache and despair. These people who suffer daily trying to find food and a job just to survive now have to start over with nothing, so hard to understand.

Yet, a few weeks later we were invited to attend a thanksgiving service that Love in Action ministries put together for these families. The worship was amazing, tears were flowing generously throughout the room, and by the end of the service many of these who lost everything found a new home through Jesus Christ.

 All this made me think of the passage we have been looking at the past few weeks from Philippians 4:4-9, and what is our true home. Maybe the best description of what our true home is like is found in verse 7:

 “The peace of God that transcends all understanding which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The word for “guard” is a military term, referring to fortification or protection from an on coming enemy. It is God’s peace living within us overwhelming our heart with His presence no matter what external battles and trials we may encounter.

In the book of Acts 16 Paul and Silas worshiped in prison because of the peace of God dwelling deep within them. This type of peace is not found in stuff or the idols of the world we chase after. And yet we continue to search frantically within the depths of our souls for this peace. Only when we embrace heaven’s true and lasting peace found in a relationship with Jesus will our souls be satisfied.

This section of Scripture ends with these final thoughts from Paul to the church:

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Vs. 9.

Paul is saying live as I modeled to you and shared with you and then you will know the peace of the Father and Son making their home in you through the Holy Spirit. Paul could make such a bold statement because the Peace of God made His home in Paul’s heart. He could write these words from a prison cell where he would soon die because of the powerful peace of God living in him. There was no fear of death because the perfect peace living in him gave him hope of the eternal home of peace soon to come.

I know people who have absolutely everything this world claims will give you peace and yet they are miserable because they are living apart from the peace of God. It is only living in absolute dependence on the life, death, resurrection and reign of King Jesus that will encounter perfect peace that passes all understanding.

If you recall the last two blogs I shared how heaven’s peace comes as we fix our minds on the truth, which is the saving work of Jesus Christ and that we continue to worship in Him through praise and prayer in every situation.

This is exactly what happened at the service at Jimsebosh. Jesus was exalted, the cross was preached, and the Father’s peace found a home in the hearts of His beloved children for all eternity. No fire, no scheme of man or the enemy will ever be able to take their eternal home of peace from them.

So as you enter into this new year with all the unknowns and uncertainties may you find the shalom of God filling your hearts home.

“Rejoice in the Lord always …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to god. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”