All posts by Peter DeHaan

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages. Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.

The Final Words from New Testament Books

What Can We Learn from the Ending Sentence or Thought in Each Book of the Bible?

As a writer I know the two most important things of anything I write are the beginning and the ending. A strong opening draws readers and keeps them interested, while a powerful close gives readers something to take with them.

Though I don’t think biblical writers focused on these two areas, it’s still interesting to look at how they wrapped up their writings. Here’s a list of the last sentence or thought from each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

The Final Words in the Book of Matthew

Matthew ends by quoting Jesus, which many embrace as a personal call to action.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Mark

Mark has two endings, with the second one not found in all manuscripts. But since the first version ends abruptly and leaves us hanging. I’ll share the concluding thought in the second one.

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:19-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Luke

Luke ends his biography of Jesus by telling us what his followers did. This contrasts to what Jesus told his followers to do at the end of Matthew.

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:50-53, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of John

As a writer I especially appreciate the end of the book of John, but from a broader perspective it makes me wish more people had written about the life of Jesus. I want to know more.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Acts

Luke concludes the book of Acts with what may be Paul’s last work here on earth. This should encourage us to finish strong.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from Paul

Paul ends most of his letters succinctly and often with a bit of encouragement. A reoccurring word in many of his parting lines is grace.

“…to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:27, NIV).

“My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:24, NIV).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18, NIV).

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6:24, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Philippians 4:23, NIV).

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:28, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (1 Timothy 6:21b, NIV).

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all” (2 Timothy 4:22, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15b, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 1:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Hebrews

Though we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, it’s interesting to see a similarity to Paul’s sign offs.

“Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25, NIV).

The Final Words from James

Noted for his direct, practical writing, James ends his book the same way.

“Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters of Peter

The ending to Peter’s two letters are much different than Paul’s.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (Peter 5:14, NIV).

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from John

There seems to be no similarity in how John concludes his three letters.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21, NIV).

“The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings” (2 John 1:13, NIV).

“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name” (3 John 1:14, NIV).

The Final Words from Jude

Over the years, I’ve heard many church services end by quoting these two verses.

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Revelation

And last, we have the final words of the Bible.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21, NIV). When we read the Bible and get to the end of a book, what do we do? Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

When we read the Bible and get to the end of a book, what do we do? Do we read fast and quickly close our Bible, glad to have finished another book, or do we let the ending sit with us a while as we contemplate its words?

Women in the Bible: The Mother of Jabez

Though an entire book was written about his prayer, we actually know little about Jabez. The Bible only mentions him in two obscure verses, buried among a lengthy genealogy. We know even less about the mother of Jabez, not even her name.Mother of Jabez

We do know his birth is difficult, and the name she gives him reflects the physical pain his arrival caused her. This is all we know about her.

However, we can infer more of her traits from the character of her son. Jabez is an honorable man, more honorable than others. We also know he has a deep connection with God, for when Jabez prays a bold prayer, God answers it.

We can implicitly connect these qualities with his mother, the woman who raised him. Surely Jabez’s mother is a godly woman, who taught her son how to live an honorable life, follow God, and to pray with effectiveness. What more could a mother give to her son?

What can we do to raise godly, honorable, faithful children?

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Will God Ever Tell Us Not to Pray?

Even If We Don’t Understand Why God Tells Us to Do Something We Should Do It Anyway

A time not to pray.After giving Jeremiah a stinging message to tell the people, God gives a personal message to his prophet. He says, “You are not to pray for these people.” He says don’t plead for them or make a petition to me about them. “For I won’t listen to your prayer.”

How strange. Doesn’t God want us to pray? Why would he tell Jeremiah not to pray?

God has his reasons. He has a plan. This plan may not make sense to us. In fact, it may seem foolish. But we also believe he will work things out for the good of his people who love him (Romans 8:28).

God Said to Pray and Then Not to Pray

One time I visited a church with a friend. They were between pastors and struggling, yet a core group worked hard to help this church grow and move into their future. Since the church was in a different city, there wasn’t much I could do to help or join in their work.

However, I could pray. In fact, God prompted me to commit to pray for them every day. And I did that. Well, at least most every day.

Yet after praying for this tiny church for several months, one day, while in mid prayer, God told me to stop. He said, “I don’t want you to pray for them anymore.” This shocked me. God told me my season for praying for them was over. Click To Tweet

This small congregation had a committed group of people dedicated to following Jesus. They desired to make a difference in the community. And even though they didn’t have a pastor to lead them, they moved forward on their own. They seem to be making a difference. Yet God told me my season for praying for them was over. Though he didn’t tell me he wouldn’t answer my prayers if I continued, he made it clear I would displease him if I persisted.

I stopped praying for that church that day. I don’t know why God had me stop, but I do know it was part of his greater plan.

Maybe one day I’ll have greater insight into what his plan was when he told me not to pray—or maybe I’ll never know. Either way I trust God in the outcome even if it doesn’t make sense to me now.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 7-8, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 7:16.]

The Art of Bible Study

Lessons of Art Appreciation Can Help Us Study the Word of God

Lessons of Art Appreciation Can Help Us Study the BibleUntil recently I never considered myself a creative person, and I certainly never considered myself an artist. However, I recently realized that I create art through words. I guess that makes me an artist.

As such, that means I’m studying art (writing) and I immerse myself in art appreciation (reading). We can apply this idea of studying art and art appreciation to studying the Bible and appreciating its words.

Here are four thoughts to the art of Bible study:

Spend Time to Really Look at Art

If we race through an art gallery with the goal of covering the most exhibits in the shortest amount of time, we miss the point of art. We fail to appreciate it for what it is.

So it is when we study the Bible. We must spend time with it and not race through it. I sometimes fall into this trap when I set the goal of reading the entire Bible in one year. There are days, sometimes weeks, when I focus on the number of chapters I’ve read and not on the meaning of the words they contain. Yes, there’s benefit in looking at the Bible in huge chunks, but the real value comes from when we tarry to spend time focusing on a single passage, verse, or even phrase. To get the most from the Bible, like art, we must spend time to really look at it.

Study Art at Different Distances

To fully appreciate a work of art requires that we look at it from different distances and not just from a typical viewing space. That means after our first perusal, we may want to step back and consider it from a distance. It also may mean going in close to scrutinize certain sections or to consider the artist’s techniques.

We can apply the same practice when we consider the Bible. Start with a normal read of the passage. Then pull back to look at its overall context, both within that particular writing as well as within its place in history. Last zoom in to look at the details, a particular phrase or even word choice. Each one carries meaning, often profound. With a quick read we’ll zip right past these treasures without ever noticing their presence or their implication.

Contemplate Art from Different Angles

A third recommendation when it comes to art appreciation is to look at a piece from different angles. Though this applies to paintings and other two-dimensional art, it’s even more valuable with sculptures and three-dimensional creations. Each viewing angle provides a different perspective on the piece, sometimes complementing other angles and other times contrasting or even conflicting. Sometimes these different angles reveal enigma and paradox. How cool is that?

As we study the Bible, we can also consider it from different angles. We start with the words and what they mean, which often reveal multiple meanings. We can consider the author, the audience, and the point of view. We can look at the type of writing and the purpose of that writing. As we do, we see the beautiful and compelling nature of Scripture as it emerges with enigma and paradox. Embrace it.

Make Repeat Visits

When we make return visits to an art gallery or a particular piece of art, we see new things we missed before: a nuance, a texture, a color. We also can interpret a piece of art differently based on our perspective. Since our lives change continuously, as do the situations we find ourselves in, our understanding of art shifts along with our life experiences and perceptions.

That’s why we need to read the Bible more than once. We need to come back to it again and again. Each time we do we have the potential to gain more from it. Both art and the Bible have layers, just like an onion. Each time we discover a new layer, it’s with the knowledge that another one lies just beneath it, waiting for us to discover it. We can take lessons learned from Art Appreciation and apply it to our study of the Word of God. Click To Tweet

Even though I’ve never heard of a Bible Appreciation class, we can take lessons from Art Appreciation and apply it to our study of the Word of God.

Women in the Bible: Deborah

Deborah’s story is in the book of Judges. Though they call her a judge, she is primarily a prophetess, a person who hears from God. She is notable as the only female judge listed in the book of Judges.Deborah

Deborah receives a message from God for Barak. Through her, God commands Barak to raise an army and attack their enemy. God even promises Barak he will prevail, but Barak balks, saying he will do it only if Deborah goes with him. She consents, although confirming that because of his reluctance, the honor of killing the enemy’s leader, Sisera, will go to a woman.

While we may infer this woman is Deborah, it is actually another woman, Jael. Even so, Deborah receives more credit than Barak for the overall victory.

Although Deborah lives in a male-dominated society, when a man doesn’t do what he is supposed to, she steps in to ensure action is taken. We commend her for her faith and her bravery. She is a strong example to all, both men and women.

[The story of Judge Deborah is in Judges 4 and 5.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Disobedience Can Have Long-Term Consequences

When God tells us to do something he has a reason and we should obey

God Tells His People to Drive Out the People in the Promised LandAfter Joshua leads the people of Israel into the Promised Land and takes control of it, he divides the territory among the tribes. Though they have conquered enough of the area to occupy it, remnants of other people, such as the Canaanites, still live there. (It’s often called the land of Canaan.) It’s up to each tribe to fully take control of their assigned region and drive out the people that live there.

We can debate who has the right to live there. Is it the Israelites who God promised could live in this land? Or is it the people who live there when the Israelites arrive? Of course, if we go back a few centuries, we see that God first gave this land to Abraham. This means Israel is merely reclaiming what God gave them through Abraham long ago. Who has a rightful claim to this land?

Drive Out the People Occupying the Promised Land

However, the discussion of rightful leadership isn’t the point in this post. The point is, what will the people of Israel do once they repossess the land? God tells them they are to drive out the people living there.

This is another item we could debate. Why can’t they peacefully coexist? Why can’t they get along? It seems fair, but God knows that these other nations will negatively influence his people, causing them to disobey him and turn from him.

Though we don’t want to make an isolationism theology based on this passage, we do see how important it is to guard ourselves against ungodly influence. For the territory given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the Bible says that they didn’t dislodge the people who lived in Gezer.  We must guard ourselves against ungodly influences. Click To Tweet

As a result the Canaanites continued to live there. They caused great problems for God’s people in the coming years and centuries. We see their reoccurring threat throughout the book of Judges, and they’re still around during the days of Ezekiel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

The disobedience of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to purge their area of ungodly influences cause problems for their descendants for centuries.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 16-18, and today’s post is on Joshua 16:10.]

How Long Do You Stay at Church After the Service Ends?

The Best Christian Community Happens After the Service Is Over

Enjoy Christian Community: How Long Do You Stay After the Service?Last week I asked, Why do people show up for church late? My wife and I try to arrive ten minutes early, a practice we developed when we visited fifty-two churches in a year. This allows for time to interact with others, to enjoy a bit of Christian community before the service begins and to prepare ourselves to connect to God.

Another thing we observed during our 52 Churches journey was how people acted after the church service ended. Some people make a beeline to the door as fast as possible without saying a word to anyone. And a couple of times we saw people leaving before the church service had even ended. But at most churches people take a few minutes to say “Hi” to their friends, talk with others, or attend to some church business. But within five or ten minutes most everyone is gone.

However, a few churches are a notable exception. There people hang out for quite a while after the church service ends. Sometimes this is for a potluck or a social time around coffee and snacks, but other times it’s simply for an extended period of connection with their church family. When Candy and I visited fifty-two churches, we determined to make ourselves available to linger in Christian community—assuming there was one. Several times this lasted longer than the church service itself, sometimes for a couple hours.

Some people think sticking around after the church service ends is foolish. But others—such as myself—think hanging around afterword is how it should be.

The reasons for these two perspectives stem from our reasons for going to church.

Three Reasons to Go to Church

1. A Duty: For those who go to church as an obligation, leaving as soon as possible makes sense. They performed their duty, now they want to get on to something else, something that interests them more.

2. To Sing or Learn: For people who go to church to listen to a teaching or sing to God or about God, they see no reason to stick around after the benediction. The purpose for being there has ended, so now it’s time to leave. Yes, they’re polite in their exit, but they have no reason to tarry. Other activities beckon, such as Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap. People who go to church for the community, realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. Click To Tweet

3. Spend Time in Christian Community: For people who go to church for the community, they realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. To realize the community they seek, they arrive early and are willing to stay late—sometimes for an hour or two. That’s when the real community happens. That’s when they can share life with each other. For me, that’s what church is all about: community.

Women in the Bible: Rahab

Rahab is a prostitute who two spies stay with when they scope out Jericho. We don’t know if they seek her for her services or merely want to get out of public view.Rahab

When the king of Jericho commands Rahab to turn the men over to him, she commits treason. She hides the men and lies to the king that they already left, but she doesn’t know where they went.

Rahab knows God favors Israel and will give the city to them. So in exchange for her protecting the spies, she asks for the safety of her family when they raze the city. In her list of who’s included as family, she mentions parents and siblings, but not a husband or any children. After securing their promise of protection, she helps the spies escape.

Later, Joshua confirms Rahab and her family will be spared, while the rest of the city will be destroyed. She then lives with the Israelites.

In the New Testament, Matthew reveals Rahab is one of Jesus’ direct ancestors and the great-great grandmother of King David. She is honored as only one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Further, the book of Hebrews affirms Rahab as a person of faith, one of only two women included in its impressive list. Finally, James confirms Rahab is righteous because of her actions in hiding and protecting the two spies.

While our reaction may be to judge Rahab for her profession, God sees her differently, as a righteous woman of faith, rewarding her accordingly.

[The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6; she is affirmed three times in the New Testament.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

When God Calls Do We Answer? When He Speaks Do We Listen?

Punishment May Await Us If We Fail to Listen to God

Listen to God When He Speaks: Our Actions Have ConsequencesIsaiah wraps up his lengthy prophecy talking about judgment. He prophesies that God has destined the people for death. That they will be slaughtered.

Why would a loving God want to kill his people? Through the mouth of Isaiah, God explains why. He says that when he calls his people, they don’t answer. It would be like you and me passing each other on a path. You say, “Hi,” but I ignore you. That would be rude. It would disrespect you. And that’s exactly what God’s people do to him. They’re rude and disrespectful.

And to make sure we don’t miss his point, God rephrases it. He adds that when he speaks, his people don’t listen, either. That would be like you telling me, “Wait! Don’t step into the road.” But I ignore you, walk into traffic, and blam! A car hits me. So it is with God’s people. He tries to warn them, but they don’t listen.

Our Actions Have Consequences

Instead of answering, instead of listening, they do the exact things that God says are evil. They intentionally do what displeases him. That’s premeditated disobedience. They may figure they’re free to ignore what God says because they don’t think it matters or because they assume there will be no consequences. At least they haven’t seen any consequences for a long time.

But God’s patience is at its breaking point. He says, “Enough is enough; your time is up. You ignored me and disrespected me long enough. You’re about to enter the punishment phase,” all because they didn’t listen to God.

We may have a similar view of God, perhaps not directly but indirectly. We may choose to ignore God because we think it doesn’t matter, that we’ll still get into heaven. We may assume there will be no consequences because we haven’t seen any yet. However, just because God loves us and will forgive us doesn’t mean our wrong actions won’t have negative outcomes. When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen. Click To Tweet

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 65-66, and today’s post is on Isaiah 65:12.]

Why Do People Show Up Late for Church?

The Timing of When People Arrive at Church Reflects Their Priorities

When do you arrive at church?When my wife and I went on our grand adventure of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, we decided we’d try to arrive at church ten minutes early. In doing so we would avoid breezing in at the last-minute, and we would have time for possible connection with other people before the service. (Sometimes we had wonderful conversations and other times it was an awkward ordeal.)

Three Times When People Arrive at Church

This also gave us an opportunity to observe when other people arrived at church.

1. Arrive Early: For a few churches most everyone arrived early. They sat in respectful anticipation of what was to come, reverently waiting for the service to begin.

2. Arrive Right on Time: At other churches many people timed their arrival with the starting time of the church service, not a minute earlier and not a minute later. They arrived right on time. At some of these places, the people were in the facility early, trying to squeeze in some pre-church activity, but not yet seated in the church sanctuary. In other places, they rushed in at the last moment.

3 Arrive Late: Yet at too many churches, the starting time seemed more like a guideline. At these churches over half the congregation showed up after the service had started. They arrived late. Sometimes this was understandable since the service didn’t start on time either. The church had conditioned people to arrive late, because the service started late. However, even for those services that started on time, the practice of people arriving during the singing of the first, and even the second and third songs, alarmed me.

When Do You Arrive at Church?

Yes, I understand that sometimes things come up to keep us from getting to church on time. This is most pronounced for those with young children in tow. I remember those days well. And other times we may oversleep, not get around as fast as we’d like, or encounter delays on the drive to church. Yet these things should be rare, not common. Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers. Click To Tweet

For people who habitually arrive at church late, I wonder if it doesn’t reveal a bit of their heart. That God isn’t important enough for them to show up early in anticipation of what he’ll do. That church attendance is one more thing to squeeze into an already-too-busy schedule, so they can check it off there to do list.

Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers.

Arrive at church early, arrive at church in expectation, and arrive at church prepared to worship.