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Christian Living

Does Your Faith Depend on Signs and Wonders?

Believe in Jesus and Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48, NIV). It’s a warning we should all consider with care. Some people have an experience-driven faith. They need a continual dose of signs and wonders to sustain their trust in God.

What Are Signs and Wonders?

Signs and wonders refer to supernatural manifestations of Holy Spirit power. These miraculous events escape tangible explanation.

They can include healing people, receiving a prophetic word, having supernatural insight, even raising people from the dead, and so on—just as we read in the Bible and as Jesus promised we would do.

The Error of Excess

There’s nothing wrong with signs and wonders, but to expect them to occur on a regular basis in ordinary life is not reality for most people (though for some it’s normal).

These individuals continually seek out signs and wonders by traveling from conference to conference and jumping from event to event.

They need a supernatural experience to give them a spiritual boost. Yet eventually the effects of the mystical elixir fades. Dismayed over the void that is left, the spiritual adventurer goes out in a desperate search for more.

And they are often distraught until they find it, crying out for God to provide.

So continues a never-satiated cycle to sustain their experience-driven faith.

The Error of Absence

The opposite of those who need to see signs and wonders to maintain their belief in God, are those who deny the very existence of the supernatural.

They explain away Holy Spirit power in the church today because it’s not something they have personally encountered—or are willing to accept as possible.

To justify their position, they go through theological gyrations to rationalize what they want to believe—or what they aren’t willing to accept. Their explanation is weak at best.

We need a sustainable faith that doesn’t depend on experiencing signs and wonders and at the same time have a biblical faith that accepts the work of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

A Balanced Perspective of Signs and Wonders

I know people—and love people—in both camps. They are on a spiritual journey with Jesus, just like me. On our walk with our Savior, we all need to avoid the error of both extremes when it comes to signs and wonders.

We must have a sustainable faith that doesn’t depend on experiencing signs and wonders and at the same time have a biblical faith that accepts the work of the Holy Spirit.

Just as chasing an experience-driven faith is bad, so is denying it.

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: The Advent of Jesus

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh, new way with this Advent devotional.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas and miss its true meaning. Why not make this holiday season a special time for preparation to reflect on the Messiah’s birth?

The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior

In The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior, Peter DeHaan leads readers through a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging way.

In this Advent devotional, you will:

  • draw closer to Jesus
  • celebrate the season with a deeper, more biblical outlook
  • focus on the meaning behind the holiday
  • celebrate Jesus’s arrival throughout Advent and into Christmas
  • marvel over the birth of our Messiah

If you’ve been longing to grow closer to Jesus this holiday season, pick up this illuminating devotional that will guide you through Advent. Each day’s brief and impactful reading includes thought-provoking questions and a meaningful prayer.

The Advent of Jesus will prepare your heart to worship and celebrate with a new passion. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of amazement for the season.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

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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Visiting Churches

Church #58: Not So Friendly

Today, we head to one of the area’s larger churches. In the past, they had a visible presence, but I’ve not heard much about them recently. Their website boasts that we’ll find “a warm and friendly group of people.”

I bristle. It’s like telling someone you’re humble or you’re honest: if you have to say it, you probably aren’t. Experience tells me they’ll try to be friendly but will fall short. 

Their “First Impressions Team,” sporting blue name badges, will be located “throughout the building” and available to answer questions. I suspect I should dress up, but their website says to “come as you are.” What a relief.

Charismatic Church

I can’t tell it from their website, but I know they’re a charismatic church, part of the Assemblies of God denomination. Even their name obscures that fact. Their website has only one mention of their affiliation, which is in small type at the bottom of one page. 

So many of the charismatic churches we’ve visited have left me disappointed. I wonder what today will bring. I see a photo of their lead pastor.

He’s a thirty-something hipster and not at all what I expect for a church with reputed conservative leanings. With this enigma confronting my mind, my anticipation for their service heightens.

The church facility enjoys a visible presence with easy access from the Interstate. We follow the arrows for visitor parking, but we don’t find it. So we park where everyone else does, glad for a spot under a shade tree, which will keep our car cool on this warm July day.

An Urge to Flee

Always anxious before visiting a new church, today my gut churns even more, and then a sharp pain surprises me. My heart thumps. In near panic, I fight the impulse to flee.

Unaware of my anxiety, Candy presses forward, and I fall in step alongside her. It’s going to be okay. I begin to pray. By the time we reach the door, my breathing is back to normal, and my pulse has slowed. I’ll be all right. Thank God!

Two greeters stand at the nearest entrance. The pair smiles broadly and holds open the doors. “Welcome youngsters!” The man is twenty years or so my elder.

I wonder if this is his attempt at flattery or if we represent youth to this congregation. While we have been the youngest people present at too many churches, I don’t expect that to happen today.

“I don’t know you,” says the woman. Affable, her directness carries an edge.

We admit to being first timers and exchange names. I don’t catch theirs, and I doubt they remember ours. We soldier on in. Despite people milling about, all act preoccupied. Once again, we’re invisible.

First Impressions

We walk slowly, giving people time to approach us, but no one does. And we see no one for us to approach, either. Where are those blue-name-tagged “First Impressions” folks mentioned on their website? We have yet to see one.

Based on the facility and decor, I expect an usher handing out bulletins, but there isn’t one. With nothing else to do, we stroll in and sit down. 

The large sanctuary seats about eight hundred on the main level. The sloped floor and auditorium seating, although contemporary in intent, gives a stoic vibe. There’s also a balcony, but, unlit, it must be closed. With only a smattering of people sitting down, they’re not even close to needing it. 

A countdown timer on dual screens tells us the service will begin in a few minutes. At some churches the counter signals the launch of the service, while at others it serves as a mere guideline, an anticlimactic tease. Today it is both.

Trying to Worship

The worship team of nine begins leading us in song when the display hits zero. Most of the people, however, aren’t ready to worship. Many aren’t even sitting down. Conversations continue as the band plays.

Just as I’m settling into the chorus of an unfamiliar tune, a reunion between two people occurs to my left, with their loud conversation distracting me well into the third song. I want to worship God. I must focus on the words I’m trying to sing. Even so, focus evades me. I can’t worship.

The band boasts three on guitar, with an electric bass, keyboard, and drums. Three vocalists round out the group. The vocals balance nicely with the instruments, though they’ve cranked the overall volume too high.

Most disconcerting, however, is the subwoofer that sends out sound waves to press against my chest with each beat. It causes me discomfort, but Candy can’t feel it.

Eventually we end up with about three hundred people, half of whom wander in well after the service starts. They’re mostly older than us, with few families and no children that I can see.

By the end of the fourth song, the flow reduces to a trickle. Is worshiping God in song not important to them or was this just a prolonged prelude?

After ten minutes, with most everyone finally seated, the lead pastor welcomes us. He’s everything I expected. I can’t wait to hear his message.

Welcome

His open, casual demeanor is geared toward visitors, yet his occasional use of church jargon would leave the unchurched confused. I wonder how much of my speech is likewise salted, despite my efforts to purge my words of Christianese. 

He refers to the bulletin, and I’m irked no one gave me one. I can’t look at the section he mentions or read the additional information. Then he sits down as a series of video announcements play. 

Communion

When he returns to the stage, he leads us in communion. “Everyone is invited to the table,” he says, “to encounter Jesus in their own way.” He explains the process, so we know what to expect. They serve both elements on one platter.

The “bread” is small oyster crackers. As for the clear liquid, I wonder if it’s white wine or clear grape juice. This is the most inclusive communion service I’ve ever experienced.

As a teetotaler, communion wine unsettles me, and I brace myself for its assault. It turns out to be grape juice, but my preoccupation over it fully distracts me from celebrating communion as I want.

Guest Speakers

We sing some more, and then the senior pastor introduces the guest speakers. I groan, hopefully to myself, at this news. I really wanted to hear their pastor, not some missionaries. But theirs isn’t a typical missionary message.

Instead, they share their story of how God prepared their future restoration even when they were in the middle of deep turmoil. 

They are effective communicators. God’s work in their lives is compelling. I jot down three one-liners: “Storms in life are inevitable,” “God is present in the storms,” and “May we see God’s hand in the center of our storms.”

Though the message doesn’t apply to me now, it one day might. I’m glad to know their story of hope.

Wrapping Up the Service

Afterward, the senior pastor returns to the stage and introduces the offering. The ushers pass the offering plates with quick efficiency, yet they somehow miss a few rows. Miffed because they skipped him, one man chases down an usher so he can present his gift.

Having completed his mission, the man returns to his seat while the pastor asks the prayer teams to come forward after the service to be available for prayer. As for himself and the rest of the staff, they will scoot out for their monthly visitor reception. The service ends, and most people scatter.

Post-Service Interaction

Candy thinks she sees someone she knows and goes over to investigate. I tarry, waiting to meet the man at the other end of my row, but he’s already talking to someone else, and it seems it will be a long conversation.

I scan the auditorium but see no one I can approach, and no one comes up to me. Soon I’m standing alone, with a gulf of emptiness around me. Not wanting to look too pathetic, I meander over to Candy. As I do, I look for the prayer teams up front but see no one.

After my wife wraps up her conversation, we head toward the door. 

“We could check out the visitor thing,” says my bride, “but why bother? We’ll never be back.”

I’m relieved. “Good point.”

Service Overview

We didn’t hear their lead pastor speak, but we did hear a worthy message, one that will stay with me. I’m glad to know this couple’s story of God’s provision and restoration.

From that standpoint, the hour-and-forty-five-minute service was worth it, but the rest of our time here left me disappointed. I didn’t worship God today or experience Christian community.

I walk out feeling lonely.

At the door stand two people with blue nametags, the first ones I noticed all morning. At least now I know what the tags look like. Pleasant folks, we say our goodbyes and step out into the warm sunshine.

[Read about Church 57 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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

Four Lessons from Job about Devotion to God

Job Professes His Spiritual Practices

The words of Job’s friend Eliphaz fail to comfort him. Instead they stir up anger. With a friend who speaks like Eliphaz I’d be angry too. In Job’s reply to his so-called friend, he professes what he has done to align himself with God. He claims his practices prove his devotion to his Lord.

Job Follows God

Job says that he follows closely behind God. It’s as if he walks in God’s shadow, placing each step in the footprint of his Lord. With intention he trails after God, focusing on staying right behind him.

Job Resists Distractions

Job follows God with unswerving dedication. He keeps his eyes fixed on God, walking in his path. Job does not look to his left or to his right. He tunes out worldly distractions so he can remain steadfast in keeping aligned with God, going everywhere that God goes.

Job Obeys God’s Commands

Next Job says that he keeps the commands of God. He listens to what God says and follows his words with unswerving commitment. It’s as if Job pauses in expectation for God to speak. Then he immediately obeys him, doing everything he says to do.

Job Treasures God’s Words

Job ends his testimony saying that he values God’s words more than food. Though we might think this refers to the written Word of God, the Bible, it does not. Job likely lives in a time before the Scriptures existed. This means Job treasures the spoken words of God.

Job would rather feed his soul by listening to God then feed his body by eating food. For Job to hear God speak, Job must remain in close relationship with him.

There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. Click To Tweet

The Outcome of Job’s Devotion

Job is a man who carefully follows God with singular focus, obeying him and valuing everything he says. It’s an example of godly devotion we will do well to follow.

You’d think that for Job’s dedication, God would bless him and keep him from discomfort. Yet for this time in Job’s life, he is in much distress and God’s blessings are absent in his life. Though a positive and pleasant outcome await Job, it’s far removed from his present life.

This is a hard reality to accept and to comprehend. Yet there are two things we must remember. First, God is Sovereign and can do whatever he wants.

We must accept this truth even if we don’t like it.

Second, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. In the end, we, like Job, will see God’s blessing and reward. Until then we should follow Job’s example of devotion to our Lord.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 21-24, and today’s post is on Job 23:11-12.]

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

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

When Is the Best Time to Do Good?

Helping Others Is One of Many Ways to Worship God

I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion.

Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as to do good by helping a person in dire need.

We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it.

What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps to do good, the option that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday to do good?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now 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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Christian Living

7 Tips to Form a Bible Reading Habit

Be Intentional About Spending Time in God’s Word Each Day

I read Scripture every day and have for most of my adult life. I’ve formed a Bible reading habit. It’s become an essential part of my life, just like eating and sleeping.

Reading God’s Word has become natural and normal for me. And I encourage everyone to develop a daily Bible reading habit too. Yet I understand this is a struggle for many. A friend recently asked for any suggestions I might have to help form a Bible reading habit.

Here are my seven Bible reading tips:

1. Select a Time

Pick what time of day will work best for you to read the Bible. For many people this is first thing in the morning, as a start to their day. Others like to end their day by reading Scripture. Or there may be another time that works best for you.

As you figure out what time each day you give to God to read Scripture, be sure to give him your best time slot. Don’t give him what’s leftover. Avoid trying to squeeze Bible reading between other aspects of your life. Just as God desires for you to make him a priority in your life, the same applies to when you read his Word.

The important thing is to decide on a time to read the Bible each day. Then do it.

2. Start Small

Don’t make a grandiose plan. Start small. Just as it would be foolish for a runner who only runs short distances sporadically to decide they’re going to run a marathon the next day, the same applies to Bible reading. Don’t commit to reading the entire Bible in one year if you scarcely read it at all now.

Set a low goal that will be easy for you to achieve. This will allow you to find quick success and encourage you to press forward.

If you’re just starting out, I suggest you commit to read one verse a day. Just one. It will only take a few seconds.

I recommend that you read from your favorite book in the Bible. Make it easy to do, keep it simple, and make sure it’s enjoyable.

3. Set a One-Month Goal

Read one verse every day for at least a month. This will establish a habit of regular Bible reading. Though one month is often enough to form a regular routine, it could take two or three months for a good habit to develop.

The goal is to get to a point where you automatically read your Bible at the time you picked each day. The intent is for Bible reading to become an essential part of your daily practices.

Just as we would never forget to eat a meal or skip sleep, reading the Bible deserves the same perspective.

4. Keep the Momentum Going

After one month, build upon your success and keep the momentum going.

If keeping a streak will help motivate you, make a chart to track each day you read your Bible. The goal is an unbroken chain of daily Bible reading. Keep your streak going.

Or if you can motivate yourself through rewards, set a small prize for yourself each week. Do this on a specific day. Pick an incentive that means something to you and will motivate you. Then choose a larger reward for the end of each month.

5. Expand Your Practice

Once you’ve established a habit of daily Bible reading, you can then consider reading more than one verse each day. You might want to move from one verse to one paragraph.

Later you might want to move from one paragraph to one section. Just as most Bibles put the text in paragraph form, they often group similar related paragraphs together in the section, often with a subheading.

6. Consider Setting an Annual Goal.

Once you’ve done this for a full year. You’ll have surely formed a regular Bible reading habit. It’s perfectly acceptable to continue what you been doing over the past year into the future.

Yet if you want to read more, consider reading a chapter a day. Here are some ideas to guide you in this, with both monthly reading options, as well as reading the New Testament in one year.

Regardless of how much of the Bible you decide to read each day, remember that it’s not about the number of verses you read but the impact your reading has on you. Click To Tweet

I encourage everyone to at some point read the entire Bible in one year. This is a commitment which will take 12 to 15 minutes every day, so don’t start with this right away. It would be like trying to run a marathon before you trained, so build up your Bible reading skills, just as a runner would build up to a marathon.

7. Pursue Balance in Your Bible Reading

Regardless of how much of the Bible you decide to read each day, remember that it’s not about the number of verses you read (quantity) but the impact your reading has on you (quality).

May God bless you as you read his Word and form a Bible reading habit.

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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Visiting Churches

The Worship Team: Discussion Questions for Church #57

During our 52 Churches journey, many people suggested we visit today’s destination, but it was too far away. When the building’s former occupants became too few to carry on, another church took over the building and launched a new gathering.

Consider these six discussion questions about Church 57.

A sign in the drive, too small to easily read, directs traffic in two directions. Unable to read it without stopping, I guess. Do we need to rework our church signs so that they actually help?

After we enter, the worship team begins playing to start the service. This church has a reputation for its many talented musicians, and we’re seeing the results. What is our church’s reputation? What do we need to improve?

A leader asks us to break into groups and discuss the purpose of church. We’re nicely started when she tells everyone to wrap things up. What is the purpose of church? How should it function to meet this intent?

With their minister gone, the intern fills in. He shares a string of Bible verses and intriguing soundbites, but I fail to grasp their connection with the purpose of church. What should we do when the message falls short?

The worship team plays softly to end the service, while the prayer team comes forward to pray for those who seek prayer. How open are we to pray for others at church? And away from church?

When the music starts for the second service, we hustle out of the sanctuary and leave. How can we allow more time for people to experience community after the service and not shoo them away?

Both before and after the service we had rich interaction with people we knew. But I wonder about our reception had no one known us. How can we make our pre-church and post-church interaction more inclusive of people we don’t know?

[Read about Church 57 , Church 58, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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

God Speaks to Job…and to Us

When God Speaks, We Must be Ready to Listen

Job’s friends come to comfort him. At least that’s how it appears, but in actuality they’re not much help. Their words assault Job and his character. In exasperation Job goes on a sarcastic rant against his so-called friends and then becomes poetic as he contemplates God’s power.

He ends this part of his discourse by saying, “Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14).

Job uses thunder to imply God. That’s a powerful metaphor.

Today, we have a scientific explanation for thunder. And even though we comprehend thunder in an intellectual way, it still produces an all-inspiring sound that gets our attention.

Imagine how the ancient world viewed thunder: booming, terrifying, powerful, unseen. It might be as close as they can come to comprehending God. Yet even this falls short, far short.

Like thunder, God is both powerful and unseen. Who can understand that? Also, like thunder, God can have a booming loudness. And he can be terrifying, too.

Yet in contrast, God can also be a still small voice, a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). Which is it?

Both.

God Speaks to Job

Job is in the midst of unimaginable turmoil, of unbearable pain. Everything has been taken from him, except for his breath and his faith—and both of those are tenuous.

He seeks God for answers. He desires to hear God talk and explain what has been happening. He likely wants to hear the booming voice of God to assure him who’s in control and that there’s a purpose in all he has gone through.

In addition, if God spoke in a loud booming voice, not only would Job hear, but so would his unhelpful friends. God would put them in their place, or so Job hopes.

And, later, when God does speak to Job, it’s out of the storm (Job 38:1). And what accompanies a storm? Thunder, loud, booming, terrifying—both God and the storm.

When God speaks, are we listening? Click To Tweet

God Speaks to Elijah

When Elijah has his moment of doubt, he also waits for God to speak. First there’s a wind. Then an earthquake. And finally a fire. But God isn’t in those things. God isn’t loud, booming, or terrifying. Instead he is a gentle whisper. And when God’s whisper comes, Elijah is ready to listen (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God Speaks to Us

God can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it’s loud and other times it’s soft. Maybe God speaks to us through nature, or friends, or circumstances. Through it all, God speaks to us.

The question is, are we listening?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 25-28, and today’s post is on Job 26:14.]

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

A Different Prescription For Prayer

A Parable about Prayer

In Matthew 20, Jesus shares a parable, predicts his death, and teaches about serving. He also heals two blind men. Nowhere in this chapter does he mention prayer, yet in this passage I see two insights about prayer. It’s a different prescription for prayer, and we will do well to follow it.

First, the mother of James and John makes a request of Jesus. She asks if her sons can be given places of honor, sitting on Jesus’ left and right. Jesus’ response is, “You don’t know what you are asking!”

I suspect that many of our prayers evoke the same response, “You don’t know what you are asking.”

Just as James and John’s mother did not have a right understanding of Jesus’ purpose and intent, missing God’s perspective, so to, we often miss God’s intent and fail to see his perspective.

As such our prayers are off base, asking for the wrong things, which are inconsequential.

How often do we make a vague request for God's blessing, mercy, or grace? Click To Tweet

In the account of the blind men being healed, the men boldly call out for Jesus to have mercy on them. When Jesus hears them, he asks, “What do you want?” They have already asked for mercy, but Jesus wants them to be specific.  As soon as they ask to see, he gives them their sight.

How often do we make a general request for God’s blessing, mercy, or grace? These are vague, non-expectant petitions. When making such a plea, how can we ever realize the answers? When our requests are specific, the answers become obvious—and praiseworthy.

So, when we pray, it should be specific and it should be with God’s perspective in mind. This is a different prescription for prayer.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 20-22, and today’s post is on Matthew 20:20-22 and Matthew 20:29-34.]

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

Help One Another

We Must Be Willing to Share Our Concerns If We Hope to Receive Help

One of my newsletter subscribers emailed me with a question. He wants to do what the Bible says about loving one another (such as in 1 John 3:11).

He’s willing to sacrifice to meet the needs of his brothers and sisters in Jesus, but how can he do that when he doesn’t know what their needs are? How can he hope to help one another?

Even praying for them—something everyone can do—is hard when they won’t share what their needs are.

When his church takes prayer requests, “the tendency is to request prayer for someone else who is sick” he says, and not themselves. “It seems that the lack of openness and transparency prevents Christians from fulfilling the command to love one another.”

I get this. I’ve experienced it.

I too often hear people complain about their spiritual community for not being there to help one another—of helping them during their time of crisis.

Yet they guard their struggle as if it’s a huge secret and won’t let anyone know what they’re dealing with. How can Jesus’s church love one another, help one another, and pray for one another, when we keep them in the dark?

A Friend in Need

Once God brought to my mind a friend who had moved away. The Holy Spirit prompted me to reach out to him because he was struggling. Beyond that I had no clarification.

Did God want me to pray for him? Was I to encourage him? Perhaps I was supposed to visit him to help with something or just to be present. Or was the need financial?

It had been a couple of years since we had any direct contact, but through others I knew the general trajectory his life had taken. So, I wasn’t surprised when the Holy Spirit told me to reach out to him.

I emailed him and told him that God brought him to my mind that morning. “How are things going for you and your family? Do you need anything? How can I pray for you?”

He responded later that day, giving me a glowing report of his life, his work, and God’s provisions.

I felt a failure for thinking his life was in crisis. According to his report, he was doing better than me. I assumed I hadn’t heard correctly from God. It sometimes happens. But I wondered how I’d gotten things so wrong when the instruction seemed so clear.

Discouraged, I pushed aside my desire to help one another and my failure to correctly hear the Holy Spirit’s nudging.

A year later he and his family were in town. He invited me and some other long-ago friends to visit them at a vacation condo someone had gifted them with for two weeks.

We had a marvelous time catching up and renewing our friendship. During a quieter moment in their visit, it was just my friend and me.

He gulped hard and told me about the struggle he had the year before, how he lost about everything and the difficulty he and his family went through. I asked him when, and he told me August. That was when he was at his lowest. It was in August when I had emailed him.

I wanted to scream. “I would have helped you! I was ready to do whatever I could. But you didn’t give me a chance.”

We must learn how to properly share the difficulties of our lives with others and avoid being stoic when we should be honest. Click To Tweet

Yet I kept my frustration to myself, because letting him know now of my readiness to help then would do nothing to alleviate the pain he went through.

I’d heard right from the Holy Spirit after all. Should I have pressed into my friend’s assurance that everything was okay? Should I have tried harder to help him even though he said everything was fine?

Basically, he lied to me. As a result, he missed the blessings God was preparing to give him through me—and perhaps others.

If we are to help one another, our community must be appropriately transparent and honest.

We Must Seek Balance

We all know people in a perpetual crisis. Their life seems to bounce from one disaster to another, and they’re always pulling everyone around them into it. It’s a quick way to lose friends and alienate others, especially when their own bad decisions are the continual cause of their problems.

Yet to avoid being that person, we often overreact to this concern, shielding others from our struggles. When we do this, we miss God’s blessings through them, and they miss the opportunity to serve us in Jesus’s name.

We must learn how to properly share the difficulties of our lives with others and avoid being stoic when we should be honest.

This is the only way we can hope to help one another.

Two Questions to Help One Another

If we are to truly help one another, we must ask ourselves two questions:

1. Who should I share my concerns with?

2. Who needs my help, even if they insist that they don’t?

And if we don’t know the answer to the second question, we can pray for them (James 5:16). Though I did pray for my friend, despite his insistence that everything was fine, I could have been more diligent about it.

In the future, when the Holy Spirit’s direction doesn’t align with what people tell me, I’m going to defer to God.

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.