Julene Duerksen-Kapao is a mother, wife, educator and Daughter of the King. Julene’s unpaid work includes experiencing life with her super awesome whanau and creating memories. Julene taught at Longburn Adventist College for over a decade in the English and Bible Departments. Currently she is employed at Te Aroha Noa in Highbury, Palmerston North working with the marginalised and most vulnerable in the community as Learning Coordinator for the Young Parent Learning Hub and Youth programmes. Every day is both a joy and a challenge.
Obeyed the Word of The Lord
“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh” Jonah 3:3a. Are you familiar with the story of Jonah? He heard God, ran away from God, got swallowed by a great fish, humbled himself and cried to God, got spit out on land, then followed God’s initial calling. The story of Jonah sounds foolish from the outside as we watch Jonah finally journey with God rather than against. But does it sound familiar from the inside? Are you ignoring the Still Small Voice that is calling you? Do you find it a challenge to say “yes” and join the Lord in impacting the world around you? When Jonah obeyed, an entire city was saved. I wonder what He has in store for you!
My Peace I give to you
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27. Recently I was doing maths games with some children I work with. One said, “I already know that” before I had explained the game. I started clarifying the game and when I was finished the same child said, “Thanks for explaining, I actually didn’t know.” When it comes to my relationship with God, I am so quick to say, “I already know that God.” Then He quietly reminds me “my peace I give to you…do not let your heart be troubled” and I say, “Thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten.”
Why did you doubt?
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31. I have often felt like Peter. Things have been going smoothly and I feel like I am on track with the complexities of my life. Then something goes wrong, and like Peter, I find myself clawing at the water’s surface reaching for air. I’m sure Peter was stunned as the water rushed over his head. He was probably embarrassed and frustrated that his “walking on water” adventure had finished so disastrously. And then I hear Jesus’ words, “Why did you doubt?” Why do we doubt the power Jesus has to lead, bless and hold all our life? Keep your eyes on Jesus, He wants to grow your faith.
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” Proverbs 25:28.
Today I held an angry child who was learning how to process his emotions. As I wrapped my arms around him, to protect myself and the other children, I felt his heart pounding. I quietly told him that I would hold him until his heart slowed down. He closed his eyes, leaned into me and his anger slowly subsided. How often are we like this child? Proverbs paints a picture of a city broken into without walls. Self-control is a gift of the spirit promised as we build a relationship with the Father. Hold to that promise and let the Spirit “hold” you until you slow down.
No eye has seen
“It is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9. I used to think this verse was referring to heaven and the glories that await us (which are all pretty awesome). Yet as I read it again in the context of the chapter I can see that this is referring to life in the Spirit! Not just a future time, but the now. The chapter is packed with peace, wisdom and hope to the reader. Peace in understanding that Spirit, wisdom in the knowledge the Spirit offers and hope that God has prepared so much more for us. Live in the now, live with hope.
Gardening my life
“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail,” Job 14:7. The other day I replanted a young Pohutukawa that had been given to me. I don’t claim to be a “real” gardener with much of my knowledge coming from YouTube. The gifting had been a special occasion and I wanted the little tree to thrive. As I moved it to a larger container I noted how fragile the branches and root system were. I also observed how much like plants we are. Job 14 gives me hope that even in painful processes we can sprout again! I love how the Lord even gives gardening advice.
Be strong and courageous
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6. What an amazing promise! Just the other day I was reminded of the beautiful simplicity as I heard one child say to another, “Don’t be scared, Jesus will look after you.” There will be something in your life, some opportunity, some challenge where you will gratefully speak the words “for the Lord your God goes with you…” demonstrating trust in the Lord. This is a promise to teach your children and to remind believers. Memorise these words, place them on your heart and walk through life with courage.
Don’t be afraid
“When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work” Nehemiah 4:15. As Nehemiah coordinated the rebuilding of the wall, the opposition grew as enemies became angry and fearful. The rebuilders prayed, posted a guard, and continued working. What can you and I learn from these verses? Dreams are opposed! There are going to be attempts to destroy plans and actions. So how can we respond? Give it to God and get on with it just as those rebuilding the wall did. I love Nehemiah’s words in verse 9, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”
“So my God put into my heart to assemble…for registration…” Nehemiah 7:5. I have been reading the book of Nehemiah recently and was captivated by the list of names in chapter 7. God put on Nehemiah’s heart to record the names of all those who had returned to Jerusalem. While reading the chapter, I pictured their dust covered feet slowly trudging home to the broken down walls of their childhood. I imagined the mix of grief and excitement that would have flooded the adults as they gathered to record names. Each of their names represented a family, a whakapapa and a history. Even in the rebuilding of walls, names are remembered and recorded. Your name is remembered too.
Praise You in the storm
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed” Psalm 71:20, 23. There are some days when my heart is heavy for the troubles around me. Life can be overwhelming. David was no different. Yet this Psalm reminds us that we can praise God in the storms of our lives. Find something today to praise God for and acknowledge His presence in your life. I praise God that I can breathe and with every breath, I acknowledge a living and powerful God.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” Luke 19:40. As Jesus sat on a donkey and slowly moved into Jerusalem, cheers erupted, children scampered to get ahead and adults moved to get a better look. Joy, praise and excitement burst through the growing crowd and the Pharisees panicked. “Tell them to be quiet” they begged Jesus and His disciples, fearing it may get out of control. Jesus’ powerful response reminded all who heard that 1) created earth responds to Him and 2) there was something to “cry out” about. Do not be silent! Jesus authority, power, goodness and the peace beyond understanding that gives humanity hope is something to shout about.
God gave us…
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” 2 Timothy 1:7. As Timothy challenged his reader to speak up, to share the gospel and to encourage the faithful; he also reminded us to be courageous. Timothy’s friends were being murdered for their faith, put in jail and harassed for their message of love, grace and a living Saviour. I find it interesting that what the Lord says through Timothy is that the opposite of fear is power and love. Not just courage, but power. And not just power, but power and love! Knowing that God is love, and that we are “known as His disciples through our love” makes so much sense. Go in power and love.
“The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble…” Psalm 9:9. We see, and experience, so many forms of oppression today. Oppression is loosely defined as “unjust treatment”. The devil loves to oppress the minds, the hearts, and the joy of humanity. The Lord detests it (look it up) and Jesus’ power-packed words encourage us to trust. Oppression may be your personal struggle, one your family wrestles with, caused by the awareness of world issues or your observation and experience of society. Yet the Lord softly whispers, “I am your stronghold”. Trust His words and if you are able, take action, join voices and be a part of the “He promises” stronghold.
“…Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you…” Acts 18:9, 10. Speak up! Numerous verses remind us to speak up for what is right. Do not be silent about Jesus’ heart. Acts 18 reminds us that the Lord is with us and we will not be harmed. Paul was at risk from the Jews in Corinth when Jesus spoke these words to him. Are you silenced by others or sense your words are not valued? When your heart is aligned with the Father, and your words are His, be courageous as you speak up in love.
“Rise up and shine, for your light has come. The shining-greatness of the Lord has risen upon you” Isaiah 60:1. What a stunning chapter! The Israelites used to impact the surrounding nations by showing the love of the Father. Yes, in all honesty, that did not always look good for the Israelites as they were distracted by the glitter of the world or were silenced in fear. Yet Isaiah challenged those who heard, and now read, his words to “rise up and shine”, to see the Lord’s shining greatness, His goodness, His justice and His reconciliation. The rest of the chapter is filled with hope and courage, reminding us that the Lord is with us.
Do you want to see?
“So the man went and washed, and came home seeing”John 9:7b. The key point in these words is that the man was told to go and he went. The man blind at birth had not even asked to see. The disciples had merely asked “who has sinned, the man or his parents?” Jesus response teaches us so much about following Christ. Jesus explains that sin was not involved in the blindness; a key point for another post. He makes mud and presses it on the man’s eyes. The man washed, then with faith went home with sight. No one believed his story yet one thing is clear – the man that was blind now could see. Jesus brings sight rather than condemnation.
Since God so loved us
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” John 4:11. What would this look like in your life? In the unique life journey we are each on making an effort to love one another will look very different however I challenge you to learn the name of the cashier at the supermarket, offer to pray for and with a stranger, do something for your spouse they wouldn’t expect, learn the names of those under 10 or over 80 in your church, invite a visitor home for lunch after church, greet the petrol attendant and genuinely engage in conversation. Love is meaningful human connections. Just as God loved us, we are challenged to love others.
I will trust in you
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” Psalm 56:3. Fear can look like a doctor’s visit, a fractured relationship, that looming difficult conversation, doubt, a phone call and so much more. Navigating life includes navigating the complexities embedded in relationships, finances, faith and all the unique aspects of you. These few words in Psalm needs to be on a bright orange sticky note around your home. Rather than focus on the fear, focus on the trust! While typing this I am reminded to do this very thing. Trust. Trust that God has your future, your best interest and you purpose at the centre of all that comes my way. I choose to trust in God.
We have this hope
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Hebrews 6:19a. What does hope look like to you? I love the imagery in this text of hope being an anchor. The stresses, worries and the unexpected of this world pull at every aspect of us: our courage, our health, our relationships…everything. These words overflow with confidence; they are not “we may” or “if you do this you have”. No, they clearly state “we have”. Other than the anchor for a boat, an anchor can be defined as “a person or thing which provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation”. That is the anchor we have: hope in the Lord provides an anchor for the souls, firm and secure.
How far would you go…
“…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” – Ruth 1:16b. Ruth states her intentions courageously. Naomi had no room to question Ruth’s determination in remaining in a relationship. How far would you go with your loved one? I venture to say most of us would do most anything for those we love. Ruth demonstrates the enormous sacrifice attached to saying “I will go as far as it takes” as she proclaims her vow to Naomi. In a beautiful metaphor of Jesus’ journey with us, Ruth exemplifies commitment and perseverance to another human. She had seen something in Naomi, a spark of faith, the peace of hope and the contentment in relationship with Jehovah.
When we gather
I was recently at a church service with only 20 people (including those of us leading). There were several present who did not share the Christian worldview. So after the service finished I asked the person next to me, “What brings you to this little service?” The young man looked shy and replied, “I always feel at peace when I leave. I come every week. I like feeling at peace.” I shared Matthew 18:20, “…where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” and told him that Jesus himself is with us when even two people gather to share the Word and worship. A giant smile filled his face and he said, “Yeah, I thought so”.
Do not worry
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” Matthew 6:25a. The range of things I could worry about is long: the kids, my husband, bills, work, our new role as a foster family and of course our cold house! So let’s be honest, each of us has a list. It may be different, but we have a list. Yet Jesus Himself says, “Do not worry about your life.” He goes on to remind us that we cannot change anything through worrying. Jesus’ answer comes a few verses later, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” Amen! Turn your face up, towards the Father, and trust.
Does God’s compassion make you angry?
Jonah is an intriguing prophet. He is a great example of God pursuing us even into the storm. He is also a beautiful example of going into frightening mission space. However, what intrigues me the most is his anger at God for forgiving and loving the converted city of Nineveh, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” Jonah 4:1. In his own conversion story, Jonah did not allow anyone else to experience compassion and the ability of God to transform hearts. How easily we can slip into this mind-set. We treasure God’s compassion for us and those we love yet we can be unforgiving to others whom we think do not deserve God’s compassion. Let us rejoice with ALL who turn to the Lord.
In our world today of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+…we witness the power of words. People share truth and lies, life hacks and abuse, love stories and venomous hatred at a dizzying and confusing pace. I recently witnessed the brokenness of someone who was on the receiving end of a fake Facebook profile and the lies and pain this created. Proverbs 12:18 points out that “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” It is the second part of this verse that brings peace in the midst of worthless words, disappointment and hopelessness: tongue of the wise brings healing! Tune into the words that bring healing. Check in to the Saviour.
Trust in the Lord
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:5, 6. A few years ago I embarked on a new employment journey. The first few steps of the journey were incredibly challenging however I had the assurance that the Lord had given me a clear picture of how He would use me and that I was on the right track. I have found myself repeating this promise continually. Are there areas in your life that you find yourself ‘doing it alone’ in your own strength? This passage lets you off the hook and invites you to put everything fully in God’s hands.
Above All Else
What is the safety line or boundary in your life? For each of us it will be unique. However, God has outlined the area for you that will protect your heart, mind and soul. Proverbs 4:22 makes it really simple if you are unsure: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Our hearts tend to hold guilt, fear, shame and so much more. If God does not have control of our heart and we are not actively guarding our heart we can be consumed in areas that do not bring us peace or bring glory to God. Invite God today to show you the boundary line for your life. Guarding your heart brings peace and life.
Daughter of a King
The wall was covered in photos. As a little girl I would spend ages staring at the faces in the photos. One day as I pondered a photo of my dad with a woman that was not the grandma I knew, Grandma Arlene said, “That’s June. That’s your dad’s mother, she was an amazing woman.” I knew that my Grandma June was my dad’s biological mother. She and Grandma Arlene had been friends before June was killed in a car accident. Grandma Arlene respected June, loved me and passed on all the love that I would have been given from June. I will forever treasure those simple gestures of her sharing memories with me that honoured my other namesake, June (June+Arlene= Julene). She was love and acceptance, a true daughter of the King. Arlene Duerksen passed away on Friday at 97 ½ years old. “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable”. 1 Corinthians 15:50
Joy is an Outlook
“Bless Jehovah, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name,” Psalm 103:1. My husband and I often ask our children how their day was on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being terrible and 10 being amazing. They both usually score their day quite high, so I have to be clever in getting them to articulate what was so good. One day my 9 year old said, “It was just awesome! I was happy all day!” That is a Psalm 103 attitude about life. For so many of us how our day goes is all about outlook. The next verses talk about His benefits, healing and forgiveness. I pray joy, peace and wholeness in your life.
Jesus Our Example
Do you ever feel like church is too hard? Maybe it would be easier to “give it a miss” this week? The body of Christ is made of people, broken people, and that reality can make church messy. Recently, I was reminded of a snippet of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4:16. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” This struck me as Jesus would have felt the glares, heard the whispers and experienced the subtle hatred, yet He joined in worship. He joined in community and prayed. Jesus gives us the perfect example of how we can engage in worship and church.
Promise & Hope
The other day was hard. It was painful. I listened to a young person share their story of broken promises, broken systems, broken relationships and broken hearts. As the young person shared, we began to shape a new story of hope, meaning and transformation. I love Matthew 11:28 which says, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The young person sharing was tired, burdened and broken. Aren’t we all the same in some way? Jesus took time throughout His ministry to stop and listen, give hope and offer the transformation only He can provide. Are you tired? Jesus promises to carry your burdens and give you rest.
What, or who, do you listen to?
I recently sat in a learning session where we were challenged to think carefully about the words we speak over ourselves, our children, our relationships and more. Even joking can detract from the intent of love and acceptance. As I listened I was able to remember times when people have spoken words of blessings and graciousness over me and I was challenged to do the same. There is a stunning example of how to speak over those we love in Zephaniah 3:17. “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Holy Spirit In us
What is your default? In this world, our natural default is defence, judgment, anger, fear, running away, building alliances and more. In reality, the way we respond in uncomfortable situations is our default. Galatians 5:22-23 talks about the fruit of the spirit and spells out how we can respond when we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Our spirit is always in tension around how we respond to the daily frustrations, struggles, surprises, joys and more and I know I for one do not always get it right. I’m so grateful that Christ journeys with me
The Link Between Belief & Salvation
Most Christians can rattle off John 3:16 without a second thought. It truly is a beautiful verse in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world…” yet it is the next two verses that reveal more of Christ’s heart. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned…” (17 and 18a). The word “condemn” belongs to the deceiver, God’s enemy. And that was never God’s purpose in sending His son. It was always to create relationships. I love the hope those next two verses give the reader. Christ himself is speaking about the link between belief and salvation.
New Heart, New Spirit
The other week I heard the story of a man who had given his heart to Christ while in prison. Accepting Christ’s transforming love changed this man’s life, his relationship with his wife and his heart. He stopped using his “not guilty” plea for the charges he was facing and changed his plea to “guilty”. He is now serving over five years, however he is filled with peace. This man’s story reminded me of our own experience with salvation and God’s transforming grace. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26. When we enter relationship with the Father, He changes our heart.