Mission Accomplished! Now What?

Well, I did it. Enter a blog post each day for a whole month. Mission accomplished! Yes, I did cheat a bit as I was on vacation for two weeks and so I had to plan and schedule posts, but in a way that only meant more work. It was an interesting experience, but I am not sure if forcing myself to write something benefited the quality of some of the posts. I don’t know. I am not sure if I will do it again next year, but you’ll never know. I might.

I also came across NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Write Month. On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. Starting November 1, you can update your word count in that box at the top of the site, and post excerpts of your work for others to read. Watch your word-count accumulate and story take shape. If you write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, local time, November 30th, you can upload your novel for official verification, and be added to our hallowed Winner’s Page and receive a handsome winner’s certificate and web badge. We’ll post step-by-step instructions on how to scramble and upload your novel starting in mid-November. This seems like an interesting challenge as well, and something which can be combined with the NaBloPoMo (as I can submit the daily writing to my blog). Yet I won’t be writing a novel, but have some ideas for a book. Luckily I still have 11 months to decide.

So, now what? Well, I think I am going to take a small break from blogging. I may post here and there, but no long series, no deep theological stuff. Apart from December being a busy month as it is, I will also be preaching on the topic of Christian dating (so I might submit my notes to my blog), and am working on a paper/teaching on eschatology, which should be done by February, and I am working on a document for the vision and implementation of a men’s ministry for my church, so there is plenty to do apart from blogging.

But it has been a good experience in terms of disciplining myself. I can still grow a lot in the area of discipline. Now I am not saying that being disciplined in blogging, but the underlying theme can be applied in other fields obviously.

Lastly, Eric, thank you for inspiring me to join on on this NaBloPoMo quest. I had fun!

Until I post again,
Marc

All Out of Words

I think I reached the point in this month of blogging that I am all out of words. Since tomorrow is the last day of the battle I am sure I’ll finish strong, today, after traveling for almost 18 hours back from the States to Amsterdam, I can honestly say that I am bushed. So, this will be a short post, because I am ready for pizza and a movie, right here on our living room couch, and I can tell you that I am already looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. See you all tomorrow for my last post for this month.

Take the Long Way Home

The last two weeks we have been visting grandpa and grandpa in Surprise, Arizona. And time just flew by. We started off by a long trip from Amsterdam to Phoenix, as we stranded in Detroit, missing our connecting flight to Phoenix due to long queues at security. But, this ended up being a blessing more than anything, because these extra four hours gave us an opportunity to feed Elora and feed ourselves in a relaxing way while waiting patiently for our next flight. After almost 24 hours of traveling we finally came to our destination, still in pretty good shape actually. In the two weeks that followed we did a lot (swim, eat, visit Tombstone, go see an American Football game, go to church, shop, watch a lot of Food Network, celebrating Thanksgiving twice, watching Monday night football, watching the parade – some of these will be material for future posts for sure), but we combined it all with lots of laughter, relaxation, and just good fun.

But, to quote a famous Dutch standup comedian, “something is only fun because it ends, because if something is fun and it never ends, it’s not fun anymore” (which obviously applies to everything but seeing and savoring God, but that’s besides the point), and so we find ourselves on our way back to Amsterdam. We are leaving sunny Arizona with its 27+ degrees Celcius, and come back to 4 degrees Celcius. But, it’s all good. Why? Because I am a creature of habit, and I can take only so much of doing nothing and just sit and read. Still, to use the title of an old Supertramp song, we are taking the long way home. It’s leaving a place that is wonderful to be at for a place that’s, although called home, a place where life is real again, duty calls, and agendas are overbooked. And so it’s a long way home in the sense that I for one have mixed feeling about it. I want to go home, but I don’t, but I do. And although December is filled with happy family times (Elora’s -first- birthday, Sinterklaas, and of course Christmas) I cannot get around the feeling that I long for January already, when everything is back to “normal” again. But let’s not get ahead of myself here. I just see a challenge up ahead of trying to see the joy in everything. And where my good friend Eric was challenged to find this in November, it’s more December for me.

I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing, but for now, it’s getting back first. Taking the long way home.

Thanksgiving, but to Whom?

Today a dream comes true. This may sound like an overstatement, but for years and years I always wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving on actual U.S. soil. I know, I know, I am Dutch, so what do I care about this celebration. We don’t even (really) celebrate this in the Netherlands. And why should we, for it’s not our history. But there is something about an actual celebration of thanksgiving. Sure, there are similar holidays like Easter and Christmas which are celebrated across the globe which also end up being times where the family all comes together and eat a lot. In that way it seems no different from Thanksgiving. And you may be right, if looked upon in its current version, because, like Easter and Christmas, also Thanksgiving has become a commerical monster which seems impossible to slaughter (that in comparison to the many turkeys). But in a similar fashion it can be stated that also Thanksgiving is a celebration where the original spirit is long gone. Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving are nowadays all about food and presents. Yes, we give, but in our hearts it’s more about what we get in return. You can be honest here… And I am not necessarily talking presents here.

But, it’s Thanksgiving today, and I am happy to celebrate on its original soil, so let’s do an overview of the first Thanksgiving, in the hope that its original spirit is revived, meaning to acknowledge the provision of God. In order to do this I am going to fall back on the studies of Chuck Missler. All I will say is: happy Thanksgiving, and I invite you all to thank the God of the Bible for His amazing provision (the family and friends with which you can celebrate it, the house with all its provisions in which you can celebrate it, the big turkey and all the other food so you can celebrate it, the television in whatever size so you can watch all the football that’s on, your highly intricate digestive system that has to cope with the aftermath of your gluttony, etc, etc, but most important the provision of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised again so that all who believe in Jesus will have eternal life and are reconciled with God, so that we can see and savor the glory of God for ever.)

http://khouse.org/articles/1997/111/

The early settlers of America, who braved the privations of those incredibly difficult years, were a fabulous lot, indeed. We can hardly imagine the burdens they endured to make a new life for themselves in a new land. Their turning point began one Friday in the middle of March,1621.

Samoset
An Indian, wearing nothing but a leather loincloth, strode up their main street to the common house, and to their startled faces boomed in flawless English, “Welcome.” His name was Samoset, a sagamore (or chief) of the Algonquins. He had been visiting the area for the previous eight months, having learned his English from various fishing captains who had put in to the Maine shore over the years. He returned the following Thursday with another Indian who also spoke English, and who was to prove “a special instrument of God for their good, beyond their expectation.” His story was to prove no less extraordinary than the saga of Joseph being sold into slavery to Egypt. His name was Tisquantum, also called Squanto.

Squanto
His story began in 1605 when Squanto and four other Indians were taken captive, sent to England,and taught English to provide intelligence background on the most favorable places to establish colonies. After nine years in England, Squanto was able to return to Plymouth on Capt. John Smith’s voyage in 1614. Lured and captured by a notorious Capt. Thomas Hunt, he, with 27 others, were taken to Málaga, Spain, a major slave-trading port. Squanto, with a few others, were bought and rescued by local friars and introduced to the Christian faith. Thus, it appears that God was preparing him for the role he would ultimately play at Plymouth. He was able to attach himself to an Englishman bound for London, then he joined the family of a wealthy merchant, and ultimately embarked for New England in 1619. He stepped ashore six months before the Pilgrims landed in 1620. When he stepped ashore he received the most tragic blow of his life. Not a man, woman, or child of his own tribe was left alive! During the previous four years, a mysterious plague had broken out among them, killing every last one. So complete was the devastation that the neighboring tribes had shunned the area ever since. The Pilgrims had settled in a cleared area that belonged to no one. Their nearest neighbors, the Wampanoags, were about 50 miles to the southwest. Stripped of his identity and his reason for living, Squanto wandered aimlessly until he joined the Wampanoags, having nowhere else to go. But God had other plans.

God’s Provision
Massasoit, the sachem (or chief) of the Wapanoags, entered into a peace treaty of mutual aid with the Plymouth colony that was to last as a model for forty years. When Massasoit and his entourage left, Squanto stayed. He had found his reason for living: these English were helpless in the ways of the wilderness. Squanto taught them how to catch eels, stalk deer, plant pumpkins, refine maple syrup, discern both edible herbs and those good for medicine, etc. Perhaps the most important thing he taught them was the Indian way to plant corn. They hoed six-foot squares in toward the center, putting down four or five kernels, and then fertilizing the corn with fish: three fish in each square, pointing to the center, spokelike. Guarding the field against the wolves (who would try to steal the fish), by summer they had 20 full acres of corn that would save every one of their lives. Squanto also taught them to exploit the pelts of the beaver, which was in plentiful supply and in great demand throughout Europe. He even guided the trading to insure they got full prices for top-quality pelts. The corn was their physical deliverance; the beaver pelts would be their economic deliverance.

The First Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims were a grateful people-grateful to God, grateful to the Wampanoags, and grateful also to Squanto. Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving, to be held in October. Massasoit was invited and unexpectedly arrived a day early-with an additional ninety Indians! To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into their stores for the winter, but they had learned through all their travails that God could be trusted implicitly. And it turned out that the Indians did not come empty handed: they brought five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys. They helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. In fact, they also showed them how to make one of their Indian favorites: white, fluffy popcorn! (Each time you go to a movie theatre, you should remember the source of this popular treat!) The Pilgrims, in turn, provided many vegetables from their gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour with some of the summer fruits which the Indians had dried, the Pilgrims introduced them to blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. Along with sweet wine made from wild grapes, it was, indeed, a joyous occasion for all concerned. The Pilgrims and Indians happily competed in shooting contests, foot races, and wrestling. Things went so well (and Massasoit showed no inclination to leave) that this first Thanksgiving was extended for three days. The moment that stood out the most in the Pilgrims’ memories was William Brewster’s prayer as they began the festival. They had so much for which to thank God: for providing all their needs-and His provision of Squanto, their teacher, guide, and friend that was to see them through those critical early winters.

A National Institution
By the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving Day had become an institution throughout New England. It was officially proclaimed as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday in November, it was changed by an act of Congress in 1941 to the fourth Thursday of that month. Originally observed to acknowledge the provision of God, let us also make this national holiday a very special time to thank Him for our own provision-our families, our sustenance, and, above all, our redemption in His Son! Let’s also pray that He might restore the religious freedom that those early Pilgrims cherished so dearly-and that the current enforced paganism that has invaded our land be curtailed. This country is now becoming what the Pilgrims had risked their very lives to flee from.

Prosperity Gospel

Let me start off by saying that I do not support the so-called “prosperity gospel,” which is teaching that authentic faith in Jesus Christ will result in material prosperity, that financial gain is to be expected when you trust Jesus Christ, and that you will be abundantly successful in everything that you do. The two biggest preachers supporting this theology at this moment are Joel Osteen, who is the pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and holds 40,000 people weekly and over 2 million via broadcast media, and T.D. Jakes, who is the pastor at The Potter’s House, and holds 30,000 people weekly. Let me first show you a clip from both of them.

Joel Osteen

T.D. Jakes

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I listen to these people I get excited, I feel empowered to get out there. But why is that? Because they are great motivational speakers. They have a way of talking to you to get you excited, but what you should listen to is their use of Scripture and the context they use it in, and you will come to the conclusion that it is false teaching. Now I could give you a whole explanation on why I fervently despise the prosperity gospel, but whatever I would say John Piper said it better, so let me show you a clip of what he has to say about it.

Why John Piper is Upset About the Prosperity Gospel

“The prosperity gospel is no gospel, because what it does is offer to people what they want as natural people. You don’t have to be born again to want to be wealthy and therefore you don’t have to converted, to be saved by the prosperity gospel. When you appeal to people to come to Christ on the basis of what they already want 1 Corinthians 2 makes no sense. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore if you offer to people what they do not consider foolishness in the natural man you are not preaching the gospel, and the prosperity gospel offers to people what they desperately want as fallen people. Gives it to them, and grows huge churches. So I am on a crusade to crucify the prosperity gospel. I hate the prosperity gospel, because I love the glory of God.” – John Piper

Should I say more? I don’t think so, but I’ll leave you with this piece of Scripture, which I think every preacher should take to heart. In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”