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52 Churches

Prayers for the People

The church’s pastor is out of town, and the laity leads the entire service. One thing they do is “prayers for the people.”

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #48

1. Someone asks us to sign their guestbook but then scrambles to find a pen. Though once common, guestbooks now seem archaic and carry privacy concerns. 

What practices do you need to change because they no longer fit today’s culture?

2. A friend invites us to sit with her and her husband. The leader gives some announcements and then asks for more. After others share, our friend stands and introduces us to the crowd. It’s a nice gesture. 

How can you introduce new people to others and thereby reduce their discomfort?

3. After a song they offer “prayers for the people.” The leader opens and then pauses. After a bit of silence, someone else prays, and a few more follow. I like their approach, effectively sharing with each other as they talk to God. 

How can you make group prayer more meaningful and less awkward?

4. Afterward we stay for coffee and cookies. We linger for forty-five minutes before heading home, happy for our time at church today. 

What should you change so that people want to tarry and enjoy Christian community?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Don’t Be a Baby Christian

Learn How to Eat Spiritual Food and Feed Yourself

The author of Hebrews (who I suspect was Paul) warns the young church, the followers of Jesus, that they need to grow up. Though many of them should be mature enough to teach others, they still haven’t grasped the basics themselves.

They persist in drinking spiritual milk when they should have graduated to solid food.

A Baby Christian

When most people hear about this passage, they assume the baby Christians, those subsisting on milk, are other people. They reason that this verse couldn’t be a reflection on their own spiritual status—or lack thereof.

The truth is that I fear the church of Jesus is comprised of too many spiritual infants.

If you don’t believe me, let’s unpack this analogy. In the physical sense, babies drink milk and are wholly dependent on others to feed them. As babies grow they graduate to solid food and begin to feed themselves, first with help and then alone.

This is how things function with our physical bodies and how things should function with our spiritual selves.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday. Click To Tweet

The Sunday Sermon

So when people go to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, they expect their pastor to feed them. They subsist on spiritual milk. They are a baby Christian. Instead they should feed themselves and don’t need to hear a sermon every week in order to obtain their spiritual sustenance.

When pastors feed their congregation each Sunday, they keep their people in an immature state (albeit with more head knowledge) and help justify their continued employment. Instead pastors should teach their church attendees how to feed themselves, to not need a pastor to teach them.

If ministers do this, they could work themselves out of a job. But that’s okay, because there are plenty of other churches in need of this same teaching.

Some might infer this means that the mature Christians, those who can feed themselves, don’t need to go to church. This is only half correct.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday, but they do need to meet together and be in community with other believers.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12-14.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Longing for God

May Our Soul Pant for God with the Same Urgency as a Deer Panting for Water

King David penned Psalm 41. He opens with a powerful image of a deer panting for water. It illustrates David longing for God. David concludes his song by confirming he will praise God. Sandwiched between the opening and ending of this Psalm, David shares the turmoil churning in his soul.

But we’ll focus on the opening two verses.

A Deer Pants for Water

Imagine a thirsty deer running up to a stream, anticipating a refreshing drink of water. This isn’t so much as to keep the deer hydrated. It’s more urgent. The deer, a mighty buck, has traveled a distance and has a vital need to drink. He’s dehydrated and needs water to live. The deer needs living water.

The buck pants after traveling in the hot sun. His chest expands and contracts as he sucks in as much oxygen as possible, as quickly as he can. He perks up his ears to listen if danger lurks. He looks right and then turns left. Confident he is for the moment safe, with no predators nearby, only then does the deer dip his head down to drink from the cool, energizing water he so longs for.

Our Souls Pant for God

Just as the deer pants for water, do we have a similar longing for God? Does our soul—our mind, will, and emotions—pant for God? Does our soul thirst for him? Do we need the living God as much as the deer needs living water to survive?

As the deer traveled in the hot sun to find life-giving water, we, too, travel through the difficulties of life to find God’s living water. But for me my search doesn’t feel as imperative. Yes, I know I should have a longing for God. But in actual terms, my search for him, and to be with him, doesn’t carry the urgency it should.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart. Click To Tweet

Seek God with All Your Heart

For our soul to pant for God the way a deer pants for water, we can start by seeking God with our whole heart. Three of David’s other songs mention this: Psalm 22:26, Psalm 27:8, and Psalm 69:32.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 41-45 and today’s post is on Psalm 42:1-2.]

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Christian Living

Freedom in Jesus

Our Right Standing with Christ Frees Us from Rules, but Don’t Abuse This Freedom

Jesus’s sacrificial death releases us from the obligation of Old Testament laws. We have freedom in Jesus and don’t need to follow rules. Instead, we follow Jesus.

Yet we need to guard against getting carried away with our freedom. The Bible has much to say on the subject.

Free in the Spirit

Paul writes to the church in Corinth that Jesus (the Lord) is Spirit. Through his Spirit we have freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Free in Christ

Paul reminds the church in Galatia, that Jesus has set them free, free from sin. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to be weighed down by being slaves to rules and regulations.

Free to Do Good

Yet some of the people in the church in Corinth overreach when they pursue their freedom through Jesus. They claim that they had the right to do anything, but Paul points out that not everything is beneficial. Not everything is constructive.

Instead of doing whatever they want to do, they should seek to use their freedom to do good for others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Free to Love One Another

In similar fashion, Paul writes to the church in Galatia. He reminds them that they are free through Jesus. But this doesn’t give them the freedom to pursue self-gratification, that is, to indulge in human desires. Instead, they should use their freedom in Jesus to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Free to Live

Peter also confirms what Paul says, writing that we are to live as free people (that is, not under the law or bound by rules). We must take care, however, not to use this freedom in Jesus as a cover for evil living, that is, as an excuse to sin (1 Peter 2:16).

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others. Click To Tweet

Freedom in Jesus

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others, not out of obligation but as a response to what Jesus did for us.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: Old Testament Sinners and Saints

How Are the Old Testament Characters Applicable to Your Life Today? 

Find out in this devotional Bible study on 100 compelling Biblical men and women from the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is filled with inspiring stories, influential heroes, and impressive triumphs. But it’s also woven with the stories of broken people who make mistakes and suffer disappointments. Through an array of colorful and awe-inspiring stories, we can learn much about ourselves and our powerful God in this devotional Bible study on 100 Biblical men and women.

Old Testament Sinners and Saints: Discover What These 100 Colorful Bible Characters Can Teach Us Today

Filled with familiar and eclectic names of sinners and saints, you’ll uncover how their stories from thousands of years ago apply to our personal struggles today. Pour through 100 characters who compel you to live differently and help you see your life and faith from an entirely new perspective.

In Old Testament Sinners and Saints, you will:

  • Uncover how the Old Testament can transform your life
  • Learn from the mistakes and triumphs of these characters
  • Gain a fresh perspective on familiar Biblical stories
  • Discover how to deepen your faith
  • Embrace the timeless message of hope found in the Old Testament

Join Peter DeHaan, Bible teacher and author, in this study on 100 Old Testament men and women whose stories offer us hope, assurance, and abundant lessons on who God is and his limitless power over history.

This devotional for women and men is ideal for individuals, small groups, and Bible studies. Each day’s study includes a short reading, a thought-provoking question and additional Bible readings to go deeper with the lesson.

If you’ve ever wondered if the Old Testament stories apply to your life, then start with the Old Testament Sinners and Saints and discover what 100 intriguing Bible men and women can teach you today. 

The succinct readings give a brief but impactful overview of the Old Testament characters while showing you how to trust in God’s plan even when you don’t know what the future holds. These lessons will not only take you on a journey through the Old Testament with Bible heroes like Abraham, Moses, Ruth and David, but will also strengthen your faith.

Get Old Testament Sinners and Saints and see how these rich, amazing stories can transform your life today and draw you closer to Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Significant Interactions

My pre-church prayer seems mired in the rut of routine. So it is when we pray this morning and head out for today’s church. Even so, I pray for significant interactions.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #47

1. When my wife confirmed the time for this church, they invited us to arrive early for coffee. I would have stayed afterward, but to come early is more awkward than I’m willing to endure. 

How can you make sure your efforts at connection are easy for people to accept?

2. With everyone ignoring us when we arrive, we sit. A woman comes up and tells us what to expect during the service, including communion. No one in forty-six churches has done this. 

How can you help visitors feel at ease and know what to expect?

3. Today is the first time on our journey where I’m free to focus on the moment of Communion and not worry about the method. 

What can you do to help others better engage in your service and encounter God?

4. After the service a man greets us and asks how he can pray for us. This is another first on our journey. I so appreciate his offer. 

In what ways can you be available and ready to pray for others?

This Sunday was a day of significant interactions. If only we experienced this at more of the churches we visited.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Do You Know You Are a Priest?

As Followers of Jesus We Become His Priests. It’s Time to Start Acting Like It

Aside from sharing my first name, I like Peter in the Bible. His concise writing packs a lot of practical teaching into his two short letters. He writes to those who follow Jesus. He talks about us being priests.

Peter describes us in four ways: as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and “God’s special possession,” (1 Peter 2:9). While all four labels pack much value, I particularly like the idea of priesthood.

In the Old Testament, only select people could become priests. Priests had to come from the tribe of Levi, which ruled out everyone from the other eleven tribes.

In addition, they had to be a descendant of Aaron; this eliminated most of the rest of the tribe of Levi. Plus they had to be male, thus removing all women from consideration. Last they couldn’t serve until they turned twenty-five, making younger men have to wait.

That was quite restrictive. Either someone was in or not. There were no exceptions. Jesus changes all of that.

Under Jesus, spiritual service is not limited to a select few born under the right conditions or possessing certain credentials. In Jesus’s church the door to priesthood is thrown wide open. We are all eligible to be priests. In fact we are all priests by virtue of being his followers.

Under Jesus the priesthood becomes something we all should embrace as our calling. Click To Tweet

As priests we minister to each other and shouldn’t expect someone else to do the job for us. As priests we don’t need special clergy to serve as our liaison to God; we can approach God directly. Under Jesus the priesthood as a special ordained position becomes obsolete.

Instead the priesthood becomes normal, something we all should embrace as our calling.

Today’s paid ministers and pastors are an extension of the Old Testament priesthood, something Jesus effectively eliminates when he fulfills the Law of Moses. It’s time we start acting like his priests and stop expecting the clergy to do our jobs for us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:9.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Bible Offers Us Hope for the Future

Because of God we can anticipate a better tomorrow

There are many reasons why I love the Bible, in fact I list thirteen. One of those reasons is hope. The Bible is filled with hope. It’s mentioned 180 times in both the Old and New Testaments.

Hope in the Old Testament

The word hope appears ninety-seven times in the Old Testament, in sixteen of the thirty-nine books. Interestingly, the word hope isn’t found in the first seven books of the Bible. Psalms, however, is filled with hope, thirty-four times (such as Psalm 9:18).

Job comes in second place with eighteen mentions (Job 13:15, for example). Much of the hope that appears in the Old Testament occurs in the writings of the prophets, who look forward in hopeful expectation to a better future (consider Isaiah 40:31).

The book of Revelation ends looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth. Click To Tweet

Hope in the New Testament

Hope appears eighty-three times in the New Testament and pops up in twenty-four of the twenty-seven books (consider Romans 5:2). Interestingly, in the five books written by John—who writes extensively about love—hope only pops up once, in his gospel.

The final book of the Bible, Revelation, doesn’t mention hope directly. However, the book winds down looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). That’s something to hope for.

Hope in Our Present World

Some of the times hope is mentioned in the Bible, it anticipates a better tomorrow in our physical world: a hope for provision, a hope for deliverance, and a hope for protection, to name a few (check out Psalm 37:9).

When we place our trust in God, we can be filled with hope that he will take care of us throughout our life.

Hope in Our Future Reality

In other places when the Bible mentions hope, it’s a perspective that transcends our physical realm (such as Acts 23:6). It’s hope in a spiritual eternity with God. It’s the hope of heaven.

This anticipates an existence with no pain, sorrow, or disappointment. Some might call it paradise and others, Eden reborn. In this future reality, we will commune with God. We will worship him, serve him, and just hang out.

Some people follow God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in this world. And that may be enough. Other people pursue God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in the afterlife. And that is another reward.

The Bible is filled with hope, and it fills us with hope: hope in God for tomorrow and beyond.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 6-10, and today’s post is on Psalm 9:18.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Let’s Reclaim Easter Before It Loses All Meaning

According to those who track public thought and opinion, the majority of people don’t realize that Easter is a religious holiday—or at least a holiday with a religious origin. Given this, we must reclaim Easter for what it means.

The commercialization of Easter is strange. To start, we have Easter bunnies and Easter eggs, with the implication that the rabbits produced the eggs. How illogical is that?

Then there are colored eggs (both the real and plastic varieties), Easter baskets with a requisite bed of faux grass, pastel colored candies, and my favorite, the marshmallow peeps.

We send our children on Easter egg hunts and pile them with sugary candy. We do all this with nary a mention of Jesus.

Jesus is our savior who died in our place for all our sins (the mistakes we make throughout our lives). Then he proved his mastery over death by rising from the grave.

Celebrate Easter

If there is any connection between all this and Jesus’s history-changing victory over death, it certainly escapes me.

Where is the empty cross, the open tomb, and the risen savior? (Though it would seem a bit sacrilegious to chomp into a chocolate Jesus.)

In light of this disconnect between the origin and present reality of this day, my goal is that with each dip into commercialized Easter, I will have a conscious reconnection to historical Easter.

As I nibble on my peeps, I will meditate on Jesus and all that he did for us through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Let’s all strive to reclaim Easter.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Which is More Important, Good Friday or Easter?

Should Christians focus on worshiping Jesus who suffered or Jesus who rose from the dead?

As we moved through Lent to approach Holy Week we anticipate four significant days: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (which some call Resurrection Sunday). The last two, Good Friday and Easter, stand as momentous occasions for all those who follow Jesus.

Though Christians worldwide acknowledge both as significant days that are essential to their faith, they tend to place more emphasis on one over the other. Indeed some choose to worship the suffering Savior, while others focus their attention on the risen Savior.

Good Friday or Easter?

For the first group, Good Friday is their solemn day of remembrance, with Easter as secondary. The other group breezes past Good Friday to arrive at Easter, the pinnacle day for their faith.

In reality, we need both Good Friday and Easter. Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter.

Jesus needed to die in order to cover all our mistakes and reconcile us with God. He also needed to rise from the dead, to resurrect, proving his mastery over death. We need both death and resurrection.

Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter. Click To Tweet

Jesus Had to Die

Jesus needed to die as our ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices and he needed to live again to show that his death wasn’t the end but a new beginning, both for him and for us.

Jesus Had to Rise

Let’s balance our faith practices by placing equal emphasis on Jesus as our Savior who died and who rose from the dead. We need both Good Friday and Easter. May our observances this year show that reality.

Thank you Jesus for dying for us so we don’t have to pay for our mistakes, and thank you Jesus for overcoming death for us so we can, too.

Whether you prefer Good Friday observances or Easter celebrations, this year, seek to embrace both with equal reverence and excitement

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.