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Visiting Churches

A Church on Every Corner: Discussing Church #62

It’s a nondenominational church plant, with the sending congregation residing several states away. It’s curious that an out-of-state church would launch a ministry in an area noted for its religious reputation, with “a church on every corner.” 

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church #62, in an area that seems to have a church on every corner.

They meet in a school building, providing a more approachable, less intimidating environment for unchurched people. What is our perspective for having church in a traditional space? How open are we for a more visitor-friendly alternative?

When we arrive, a man standing at the parking lot’s edge greets us with enthusiasm. What a wonderful welcome. How aware are we that creating a good first impression occurs before people walk inside?

Another man greets us, opening the door with a gracious flourish. The friendly reception of these two men is infectious. I can’t wait to experience church here. What can we do to build anticipation for our church services?

To start the service they welcome everyone, asking first-time visitors to raise their hands. Many do. Normally I hate this practice, but with many visitors, I don’t feel singled out. How can we celebrate visitors without making them squirm? 

When the associate pastor announces the offering, he stresses it’s only for regulars, not visitors. This helps counter the common criticism that churches only want our money. Which example does our church follow? 

“We need to attack the lie that you can have it all,” the teaching pastor says. “It’s not possible. Something needs to give.” How can we find God-honoring contentment? How can we encourage others to do the same?

Despite the many churches in the area, the evident excitement and impressive attendance at this church suggests there’s room for one more. Should we associate church attendance and growth rates with God’s approval? Or might size be our perspective?

[Read about Church #62 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

Is it Okay to Contend with God?

Job and His Friends Contend with God

Job’s life has crumbled. His wife turned on him. And his friends don’t help. After listening to their back-and-forth dialogue that accomplishes nothing, God interjects. At last he speaks.

At one point God says, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” (Job 40:2). In this rhetorical question, two thoughts stand out. The first is the idea of contending with God, and the second is correcting him.

God enjoys it when we ask questions, just like Job. For in asking questions, we seek him. Click To Tweet

Contend with God

Though we could view God’s question as implying that he doesn’t want us to contend with him, I don’t think this is what he means.

One understanding of the word contend is to debate. Another is struggle. When it comes to God, these are strong words. It seems foolish for us to debate God, to struggle with him. God is sovereign. And we are far less than sovereign. Who are we to question him?

Yet I can’t think of any place in the Bible where God punishes his people for contending with him when they do so with respect. I can’t find a single verse that commands us not to question God or debate his ways.

In fact, I think God enjoys it when we ask questions—serious, soul-wrenching questions, just like Job.

For in asking questions, we seek him. And that’s what he wants.

Correct God

However, there’s a right way to contend with God and a wrong way. The wrong way is when we think we know better than him, when we try to correct him and tell him he made a mistake.

When we do this, we forget God is sovereign, and we try to elevate ourselves over him. This is foolish. And it separates us from God. This isn’t what he wants from us.

The Bible says, be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26). In parallel fashion, we can also say, contend with God and don’t correct him. That gives us the balance we need. God enjoys our sincere questions, but we must never forget he is our sovereign Creator and we are the created.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 40-42, and today’s post is on Job 40:2.]

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

Does Silence Scare You?

We Need to Learn to Worship God in Silence, Doing Nothing but Standing in Awe of Him

The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. However, I fear that many people miss the point of it. The intent of Revelation isn’t to give us a detailed map of the future. Instead, Revelation provides us with a grand overview of God’s ultimate power and amazing plan for the future, our future.

The goal in reading Revelation isn’t to formulate a timeline, detail the future, or argue about the end times. The grand revelation of Revelation is to comprehend the power, the grandeur, and the glory of God.

So it is with today’s text. John writes that when the angel opens the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

Silence.

Total quiet.

Nothing.

How do you deal with silence? How much silence can you withstand before you go crazy? If you’re like most people, your answer is only a few seconds.

Imagine being in the presence of God. The setting overwhelms. God sits on his throne surrounded by his people and spiritual beings. An angel brakes a seal to open a sacred scroll. Silence fills the space in awe over God’s presence, power, and plan.

The only response is to do nothing, to stand quietly, and to not say a thing. To bask in God’s essence.

Nothing happens for thirty minutes. That’s 1,800 seconds.

Tick, tick, tick. That’s three seconds. Can you stand the silence? Do you feel the pressure to say something or for someone else to break the quiet?

Now wait 1,797 seconds more. That’s a lot of quiet. That’s a quiet that honors God. It’s a quiet that God deserves. It’s one way we can worship God. 

By sitting in silence, in the presence of his glory, we can worship God. Click To Tweet

No music, no song, and no singing. Just silence. By doing nothing we can worship God. By sitting in silence in the presence of his glory, we honor him.

Does silence scare you? It shouldn’t. When done right, it shows God our adoration.

Maybe we should worship God in our silence more often. We can start right now.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 4-8, and today’s post is on Revelation 8:1.]


Read more in Peter’s devotional Bible study, A New Heaven and a New Earth: 40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation.

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 Online Bible Study

Get a Free Online Bible Study for Your Small Group, Sunday School Class, or Meeting

Peter DeHaan, a lifetime student of the Bible and prolific Christian author, announced that starting on Monday, January 2, 2023, he’ll post an online Bible study. The first lesson of the study will go live at 8 a.m. EST on the first Monday of January. Then on each subsequent Monday, the next lesson will post.

The first online Bible study is on the beloved book of John, the gospel of Jesus from the apostle John.

Author Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity

“These online Bible studies come from my popular Dear Theophilus series of devotional Bible studies,” DeHaan said. “Though they’re already available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover, I’m excited to share them online to facilitate group discussion.”

Use the online Bible study for your small group, Sunday school class, or Bible study, on whatever day you meet.

Groups can adapt the study for whatever schedule works best for their meetings.

As a former small group director, Peter also shares meeting tips to help users maximize their time together.

In addition, the next four studies have been announced. Each one will follow online as soon as one study wraps up.

Learn more about these online Bible studies.

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

May You and Your Family Have a Blessed Christmas

Make Jesus the Focus of Your Celebration

With Christmas falling on Sunday this year, I planned to wish you a blessed Christmas on my weekly Sunday post. Alas, I’ve already wished you a merry Christmas in the past—three times.

So, instead of repeating what I’ve already written or reprising an old post, I’ll give you a round-up of some of my top Christmas posts from the past.

May you have a blessed Christmas. Click To Tweet

May you receive them as my Christmas gift to you and carry them with you throughout the day—and the year. May you have a blessed Christmas.

Not surprisingly, I write about Christmas a lot. Over the years, I’ve mentioned it in 62 posts.

As you celebrate Jesus this year, may you have a safe, happy, and blessed Christmas.

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his birth in Peter’s new book, The Advent of 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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Church #62: Off to a Great Start

I notice a church sign in front of a school. It’s not been there before. I’m quite sure. I’m partial to churches that meet in nontraditional spaces. They are more likely to be nontraditional in their approach to God, being spiritually invigorating and providing a breath of freshness.

As a bonus, they don’t have the hassle of a building to distract them or the expense of a monthly mortgage payment to weigh down their budget. I have high expectations. Church is at 10 a.m.

It’s a new church, a nondenominational church plant, with the congregation that sent them residing several states away. It’s curious that an out-of-state church would plant one in an area noted for its religious reputation, with “a church on every corner.” Even so, they did just that.

First Impressions

The day is mild and sunny. A light breeze presents the perfect combination of weather, belying the norm for an August day in southwest Michigan. We arrive ten minutes early. The parking lot is about half full.

A man stands along the walk at the parking lot’s edge. He doesn’t need to direct us to the entrance because there is only one set of doors. A most gregarious fellow, he is there to greet us.

What a wonderful welcome to church. With his broad smile and easy banter, we immediately feel at ease. His laidback embrace lets me know our experience here will be a good one.

At the door stands another man. He sports a red T-shirt, asking the question: “How can I serve you?” With an engaging smile, he welcomes us, opening the door with a gracious flourish. The friendly reception of these two men is infectious. I can’t wait to experience church here.

Our greeting isn’t over. Just inside stand a couple, also wearing red T-shirts. They further welcome us. We exchange names and they repeat ours, making a pointed effort to remember them.

Excited to see us, we talk a bit. Among other things, they tell us about the coffee and snacks that await us inside. Having never received such a grand welcome when visiting a church, we move into the meeting space.

Meeting Space

The room is curious, more resembling a church than a school. It is a modern space, about square, with a permanent stage in one corner. The flat floor hints that this is an all-purpose room, albeit now nicely carpeted and smartly finished.

An out-of-place scoreboard hangs high on one wall, but there’s no hint that the space would work for a sporting event.

Chairs, arrayed in three sections, face the stage, offering enough room for about two hundred. A music video plays, providing background sound and a nice visual on the screen overhead. After a couple of minutes, the video stops and a countdown timer appears, starting at five minutes.

My excitement mounts. With only seconds remaining in the countdown, the worship team scrambles to the stage.

The guitar player barely makes it in time, but to their credit, they launch into song when the timer hits zero. The worship leader plays keyboard, flanked by a guitarist and backup vocalist. The drummer sits behind them, along with a bass guitarist.

With a rock sound, we sing two songs in the opening set.

The associate pastor comes up and welcomes us. He asks first-time visitors to raise their hands. Quite a few do, including the couple sitting next to us.

With few empty seats, attendance must approach two hundred, quite remarkable for a new church during the month of August. I suspect a huge jump in the fall.

He tells us to greet those around us. This period of welcome is neither stellar nor lame, but it is pleasant, despite a lack of time for meaningful connection.

Then he announces the offering, stressing that it’s only for regular attendees, not visitors. They don’t use offering plates but velvet bags with wooden handles. They are awkward for me to pass. As the offering bags work their way down the rows and across the aisles, the associate pastor gives some announcements. 

The church is only four months old, having launched on Easter. In a few weeks they will have a “gathering with the pastors” for new people who want to learn more about the church.

He also plugs small groups, “E-3 Groups,” which stands for Encounter, Embrace, and Engage. Taking August off, the groups will resume in September. After a few other announcements, he reads selected passages from Psalms.

After this respite, the worship team leads us in four more songs. All are contemporary, but none are familiar. The senior pastor, who is taking a break from teaching in the month of August, dismisses the children for their own activities. Then he introduces today’s guest speaker. 

Guest Speaker

He is the founding pastor from the church that sent this team to plant a church. He opens by giving some background. When they decided to plant a church, they considered several possibilities across the United States but kept coming back to this region, even though there didn’t seem to be a need. 

Despite the many churches in the vicinity, this area is “over-Bibled and under-Jesused.” Given this church’s rapid numeric growth and the excitement surrounding their gathering, I think they’re right in their assessment of a need to plant a church in this locale.

Today he will speak from Philippians chapter three. Ushers pass out Bibles to anyone who doesn’t have one and would like one. I’m not sure if this is just for the service or to keep. The Bibles are English Standard Version (ESV).

In a bit of irony, however, the pastor uses the more popular NIV for his discourse. 

“We need to attack the lie that you can have it all,” he says. “It’s not possible. Something needs to give.” Although most engaging, I struggle to catch all the nuances in his rapid-fire delivery. 

The apostle Paul was willing to lose everything so he could gain Jesus. “What are you willing to lose?” He reminds us of the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl in Matthew 13:44–46, where a man and a merchant are both willing to give up everything for one great treasure.

Then he quotes Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

He concludes his message with a prayer, followed by a time of introspection, reminiscent of an altar call, sans “with every head bowed” and an invitation to come forward. “Is Jesus the point in your life?” he asks.

The worship band comes up for a closing number and then the associate pastor dismisses us with a benediction. The staff is available up front for anyone who wants prayer.

After Church Interaction

Before I can talk to the visitors sitting next to me, they scoot out. During the greeting time, I learned the guy behind me shares my first name. I’d like to talk more to my namesake, but he is already engaged in another conversation, as are the folks who sat in front of us.

With no one to talk to, we make our way out.

In the lobby stand the couple who greeted us when we arrived. They remember our names and conversation. They wish us a good day and invite us back.

This church is off to a great start. They are already making a difference in the community and poised to make an even greater impact in the future. Their numeric growth is obvious and the potential for spiritual growth is present.

They are meeting an unmet need in what some would call an already over-churched area.

[See the discussion questions for Church 62, read about Church 61 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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Why Do We Love God? When Do We Love Him?

We Must Adore the Almighty Regardless of Our Circumstances

It’s easy to love God when things go well. When our lives are great and we receive his blessings, we can thank him, praise him, and appreciate his goodness. It’s easy to love him when life is good.

However, life isn’t always so good. Sometimes our lives are a mess. When we don’t receive God’s blessings or experience his favor, do we still love him? We should, but our situation makes it much harder. In fact, for some people hardship turns their love of the Almighty into blaming him.

Although understandable, this isn’t right.

Love God Because

When we love our Creator during the good times, we may be loving him because of what he’s done for us. We love him for his favor. We love him for his blessings. We love him because he’s benevolent.

Love God Despite

But when we’re going through difficult times, we must love him too. This is much harder to do, but we must press forward to love him, despite our circumstances. He deserves our love regardless of our situation.

How Does Job Relate to God?

In the Bible, Job, at first, has every reason to love his Creator because of what he did for Job. And when it’s all taken away from Job, he has every reason to turn from God and blame him. But he doesn’t.

Despite what Job goes through, he doesn’t blame God. Click To Tweet

Though the Bible doesn’t say that Job loves God, it does imply this when we see Job steadfastly affirming God for who he is, despite the turmoil he undergoes. This isn’t a gushy, emotional love.

It’s an intentional, push-through-the-hard-times effort to give God what he deserves: our resolute devotion despite our circumstances.

Job’s wife condemns him for maintaining his affirmation of God, his love for his creator. She says, “To end your suffering, just curse God and then die (Job 2:9). Job doesn’t agree. Despite what he’s going through, he doesn’t blame God (Job 1:22 and Job 2:10).

Though the way we show God we love him may vary with our circumstances, we must always love him. It’s easy to love him because of what he does for us, but we must also love him despite what we’re going through.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 1-4, and today’s post is on Job 2:9.]

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

God as a Vine

Word Picture: Vine

Another word picture to help us better understand God is that he is the vine and we are the branches. We can view God as a vine, as our vine.

In this, God is revealed as the source of nourishment, the giver of life, and the means of support, sustenance, and existence.

For us, as branches, we are completely dependent on him for everything. We can produce fruit only through him. 

Also, just as fruit trees are pruned, so to, we are pruned in order to be more productive. 

Additionally, note that branches that are unproductive are removed. The pruning may be painful, but it is necessary if we are to produce fruit.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 13-15, and today’s post is on John 15:1-6.]


Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.

Categories
Christian Living

Are You Reading the Bible or a Secondary Source?

Be Careful When You Study Books about the Bible

I recently heard about a minister who said that none of his seminary classes studied the Bible. Instead, each professor had students study books about the Bible. Though this minister learned theology, he knew the Bible from a distance in a sterile, formal manner. He didn’t know Scripture in an up close and personal way.

I wonder how widespread this is. I fear that it may be. Thinking back to the thousands of sermons I’ve heard, I’d call some of these messages Bible lite or Bible basic. A few didn’t even mention Scripture. It’s a sad reflection on seminary degrees, on the overall failure of advanced education to produce practical application.

This is why I don’t study theology as an intellectual pursuit.

My College Experience

Yet I get this practice. In college I took an elective class on C S Lewis. I was most excited about what I’d learn—until I read the syllabus.

During the semester, we only read one book by Lewis. The rest of our time—most of the class—we spent reading about Lewis. These scholarly tomes—authored by academics who had spent their career studying Lewis—left me bored and “none the richer” when it came to Lewis’s writing and his wisdom.

Aside from reading Mere Christianity, that class did little else to enhance my appreciation for the work of C S Lewis. (I’d already read The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and several other of his books.)

Books about the Bible

Am I saying we shouldn’t read books about the Bible? No.

But we must be careful in how many we read. If we only read books about the Bible and never actually read the Bible itself, something is out of balance.

Books about Scripture that help us to better read, study, and understand the Bible are ideal resources. This is the goal of every book I write about the Bible, including me Dear Theophilus Bible studies, Christian devotionals, and Bible resources. My books are not the end but the means to move into a deeper understanding of Scripture.

When we study the Bible, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us and help us better understand the text. Click To Tweet

Though I occasionally consult resources as I study Scripture, it’s not often. But I’m grateful for those books and the authors who wrote them. Mostly, however, I rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me and help me better understand a text.

As I move forward in studying Scripture, I find I use books less and the Holy Spirit more. This is as it should be.

Scripture Points Us to God

The point of the Bible, of course, is to point us to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and deepen our connection with him. Learning about Scripture for the sake of learning is a shallow pursuit that offers no eternal value. Yet too many fall into this trap, including, I fear, some seminaries.

This is why I encourage daily Bible reading and studying. It’s become a lifelong habit for me, and I pray that it becomes one for you too.

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Peter DeHaan News

Peter DeHaan’s Books Now on Smashwords

One Outlet Provides Worldwide Access

Peter DeHaan announced that all his titles are now available on Smashwords. Smashwords is an international seller of e-books around the world, available in over 200 countries.

Smashwords joins other leading online stores, such as Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo, along with a host of regional and specialty outlets that make Peter DeHaan’s books readily available.

“I’m excited to have my books listed on Smashwords,” says author Peter DeHaan. “As the world’s largest distributor of indie e-books they’ll make my books available in countries that may not have other book-buying options. Quite simply, they’ll allow more people to easily access and read my books.”

Author Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity

DeHaan currently has published thirty books, including Women of the Bible, Visiting Online Church, Jesus’s Broken Church, 52 Churches, and many more.

His series include the Dear Theophilus series of devotional Bible studies, Bible Bios, Visiting Churches, and Holiday Celebration, along with several standalone titles.

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 booksblog, and weekly email updates.