About Peter DeHaan

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (https://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.

We Must Finish Strong and Not Coast Our Way into Heaven

How we start doesn’t matter, because what counts is how we finish

We Must Finish Strong and Not Coast Our Way into HeavenPaul writes to the Philippian church to encourage them. He shares his personal ambition in hopes they’ll do what he does. He says he pushes himself to reach a goal and to win a prize, an eternal reward.

In another place Paul talks about running a race. He runs with intention. He runs to win (1 Corinthians 9:22-26). So should we.

This idea of pressing onward to win a reward is a call to finish strong. We should strive to move forward, to pursue Jesus until the very end of our lives. Though we may retire from work, we should never retire from Jesus. The goal is not to slide into heaven by the smallest of margins but to be ushered in triumphantly because we won our race.

Some people decide to follow Jesus and think they’re all set, that they don’t need to do anything more to hold onto him. They assume they’re in and wrongly conclude they can do whatever they want the rest of their life, because as far as eternity is concerned, their actions don’t matter. They think they’re all set.

They’re also wrong. Jesus doesn’t want us to coast our way into heaven. He wants us to pursue our faith as though it is the only thing that matters, because it is.When we follow Jesus, we press on toward a goal to win a prize. Click To Tweet

When Jesus calls us to follow him, he calls us to a lifetime of following him. When we follow him, we press on toward a goal to win a prize. We can’t lose sight of that. We must finish strong. We must finish our lives strong, for us and for Jesus.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Philippians 3, and today’s post is on Philippians 3:14.]

Read the Bible in Your Favorite Translation

It doesn’t matter which version of the Bible you read, as long as you read it

Read the Bible.People often ask me, “Which version of the Bible should I use?” My answer is quick. They should select a version of the Bible that they will actually read. An unopened Bible means nothing.

In my decades of reading and studying the Bible, I’ve enjoyed seasons where I focused on a particular version. While this gives me a pleasing variety, it makes memorization hard. Though I can paraphrase many verses, which is a compilation of the different translations I’ve read, I can quote few with complete accuracy.

Here are some of the versions of the Bible I have read at some point in my life. For many of these, I have read the entire Bible in that particular translation.

King James Version (KJV): As a child the only Bible available to me was the King James Version. I struggled to comprehend its words then. I still do now. However, many of the verses that I can quote are from the KJV, no doubt due to learning them in Sunday school is a small child. Yet as soon as other versions became available, I set the KJV aside.

The KJV remains popular for three reasons. First, it’s still used today in some fundamental churches, many of which insist it’s the only version to use. Second, it’s in the public domain, which means it can be freely copied and reproduced without any fear of copyright violation. Virtually all other versions of the Bible are under copyright which restricts how they can be used. Third, is that the KJV is what is commonly quoted when a Bible verse comes up in a movie or TV show. This helps fix the KJV in our mind.

Good News for Modern Man: The first alternative I had to the KJV was Good News for Modern Man. This made the Bible accessible to me in my early teens.

The Living Bible: This was soon followed by The Living Bible, which was the first version I read from cover to cover. Multiple times. I wore out my copy, with it literally falling apart. It was my go to version for several years.

New King James Version (NKJV): For a time I attended a conservative church that entertained the NKJV as an acceptable alternative to the revered KJV. While this removed the old English words from the Bible, it only made it a bit more accessible. I never really connected with this translation.

New International Version (NIV): After a time, I settled on the New International Version of the Bible. It is both accessible and understandable. I have read the entire Bible several times in this version. It’s also the one I usually study from. Many claim the NIV is the most popular version of the Bible (though others insist it’s the KJV).

The Message (MSG): This version of the Bible is perhaps most accessible to me, making the words come alive in a way that’s easy to apply and to convict.

Amplified Bible (AMP): My first exposure to the Amplified Bible left me a bit frustrated, for it used many words to convey its thoughts. But that’s why they call it amplified. I then lacked the patience to consider its verbosity. However, later in life I begin to appreciate its amplified portions for the deeper insight they provided.

New Living Translation (NLT): This is the most understandable of all the versions listed here. But as the easiest to comprehend, it must sometimes sacrifice nuance for simplicity. For someone new to the Bible, I recommend they start with the NLT.

The New Jerusalem Bible and New American Bible (NAB): I’ve explored both these versions of the Bible for access to the books of the Apocrypha, which was removed from the Protestant Bible, including the King James Version, a couple centuries ago. Though these translations allowed me to explore the books of the Apocrypha, I missed the clarity I enjoyed in the NIV, NLT, MSG, or AMP.

Common English Bible (CEB): I’m currently reading God’s Word in the Common English Bible. I selected this version simply because it contains the Apocrypha. I studied all the books of the Apocrypha in this translation and am currently reading through the New Testament. In many cases its slightly rephrased sentences capture my attention and provides insight that I missed up until now. However, other verses provide a different sense of their meaning. But this gives me an opportunity to contemplate those words more carefully.Explore the Bible in all its fullness. Click To Tweet

I have read and studied the Bible in these versions, plus a few more. Additionally, I have read the entire Bible in the Living Bible, NIV, MSG, AMP, and NLT. And I’m presently working my way through the CEB.

I share my summary of these books and my experience reading them to encourage you to explore the Bible in all its fullness. The version you select doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find a translation you can immerse yourself into.

Explore the Bible, and let God reveal himself to you.

Tweeting Martin Luther

Martin Luther’s 95 concerns were distributed in printed form and essentially went viral

500 years ago, Martin Luthers' 95 theses went viralMartin Luther lived five hundred years ago. He was born at the dawn of the modern era. He became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. A key technology in birthing the modern era was the printing press.

The printing press also helped drive the Reformation. It propelled the spread of information. This moved a premodern society into the modern era. (A similar change occurs today, as the internet helps us move from the modern era into the postmodern era.)

This printing technology broadcast a message of spiritual enlightenment to a people poised for religious change. We politely refer to the transformation that emerged as the Protestant Reformation, but the word revolution might better describe the spiritual rebellion that followed.

The fuse that ignited this came from a list of ninety-five concerns that this German monk had about the abuse of one specific church practice: the sale of indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to buy their salvation. We call Luther’s talking points ninety-five theses. He wrote it in Latin, so the masses wouldn’t know about his concerns.

However, without Luther’s knowledge, well-meaning followers translated his ninety-five theses into German and printed copies for the people to read. This turned his handwritten list into a printable tract, which saw wide distribution throughout the country and spread his concerns to a much larger audience.

Though not all Germans could read German, they could understand it as others read to them. What they heard disturbed them, likely in part because many of them had paid for full indulgences, which Martin essentially outed as a scam.

Then others translated his ninety-five points into other European languages. This spread his message across the continent. Though five centuries prior to the internet, his list of ninety-five theses went viral—long before the information super highway and Twitter existed.The private discussion Martin Luther sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead... Click To Tweet

Outrage ensued. The private, internal discussion he sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead, a revolution resulted.

But Martin never wanted to lead a rebellion or become its figurehead, he didn’t intend his ninety-five points to attack the Roman Catholic Church, and he certainly didn’t mean to spark a revolt.Tweeting Martin Luther in 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

Martin wanted to work for change within the system. But the laity, now aware of his concerns, were poised to rebel against what they saw as an unsympathetic Church that exploited them and didn’t care about them or their plight. The people wanted a religious revolt, and that’s what they got.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Speak Truth in Love

Being both honest and kind is how we grow in our faith and mature through Jesus

Speak truth in love.When Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he tells them to speak what is true with love. This should be our guide in all that we say. While this makes sense, it’s harder to put into practice.

Truth: This phrase, to speak truth in love, starts with a call for honesty. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy.” Better still, the Bible commands us not to lie (Leviticus 19:11).

Yet how often do we tell a tiny fib to protect someone’s feelings? Is this okay? How often do we tell someone an untruth because it is expedient? Or maybe we lie to avoid a confrontation or having a difficult conversation.

While some of these issues may be shades of gray, others are black-and-white. The point is Paul tells us to speak truth.

Love: The guiding principle in how we express ourselves honestly is love. Love should temper what we say and how we say it. We want our words to help and not to hurt. Love is the framework for truth telling.

Yet sometimes out of a desire to love, we hide the truth. We obscure what is real because it is the easier path to take. This is a show of love, but it’s outcome isn’t truth.

We need to speak what is true and to do so with a loving attitude.We need to speak what is true and to do so with a loving attitude. Click To Tweet

Grow: Though speaking the truth in love feels like wise advice, it’s not always the easiest path to take. Being both honest and loving at the same time can be a challenging thing to do. But we must persist in this effort.

When we speak the truth in love, Paul tells us that we will grow in our faith and develop maturity as the group of people—the church—who follow Jesus.

That’s why speaking truth in love is so important. We do it for Jesus.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Ephesians 4, and today’s post is on Ephesians 4:15.]

The Bible Offers Us Hope for the Future

Because of God we can anticipate a better tomorrow

The Bible gives us hope.There are many reasons why I love the Bible, in fact I list thirteen. One of those reasons is hope (Psalm 119:74). The Bible is filled with hope. It’s mentioned 180 times in both the Old and New Testaments.

Hope in the Old Testament: The word hope appears ninety-seven times in the Old Testament, in sixteen of the thirty-nine books. Interestingly, the word hope isn’t found in the first seven books of the Bible. Psalms, however, is filled with hope, thirty-four times (such as Psalm 9:18). Job comes in second place with eighteen mentions (Job 13:15, for example). Much of the hope that appears in the Old Testament occurs in the writings of the prophets, who look forward in hopeful expectation to a better future (consider Isaiah 40:31).

Hope in the New Testament: Hope appears eighty-three times in the New Testament and pops up in twenty-four of the twenty-seven books (consider Romans 5:2). Interestingly, in the five books written by John—who writes extensively about love—hope only pops up once, in his gospel. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, doesn’t mention hope directly. However, the book winds down looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). That’s something to hope for.The book of Revelation ends looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth. Click To Tweet

Hope in Our Present World: Some of the times hope is mentioned in the Bible, it anticipates a better tomorrow in our physical world: a hope for provision, a hope for deliverance, and a hope for protection, to name a few (check out Psalm 37:9). When we place our trust in God, we can be filled with hope that he will take care of us throughout our life.

Hope in Our Future Reality: In other places when the Bible mentions hope, it’s a perspective that transcends our physical realm (such as Acts 23:6). It’s hope in a spiritual eternity with God; it’s the hope of heaven. This anticipates an existence with no pain, sorrow, or disappointment. Some might call it paradise and others, Eden reborn. In this future reality, we will commune with God. We will worship him, serve him, and just hang out.

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

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

What’s the Only Thing That Counts?

Paul tells us that faith and love is what matters most

What’s the Only Thing That Counts?In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he opens chapter five with a discussion about freedom and slavery, about following the law and not following the law. He says that in Jesus these things have no value.

His explanation of this is a bit confusing. It’s a passage we need to go back and reread to try to understand what this prolific biblical writer is trying to tell us. But if we don’t quite grasp it, that’s okay. He summarizes his point in one succinct line: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6, NIV).

The only thing that counts is love expressed through faith.

Think about it.

May we use our faith to express our love to others. It’s the only thing that counts. Click To Tweet

Faith is the starting point. We have faith in God the father through Jesus the son as revealed by God’s Holy Spirit. We have faith that God lives in us and is through us. We have faith that a better tomorrow awaits us, both in this world and in the next. We have faith that God is with us in all circumstances and at all times, that he answers our prayers aligned with his sovereign wisdom.

But faith alone fall short. James tells us that faith without action is dead (James 2:17). While action could mean many things, let’s go back to Paul. He says that through our faith we are to express love. That’s what matters.

If faith is the starting point of the one thing that counts, love expressed is the outcome. Love is a confusing word in today’s modern society, covering the full gamut of emotions from preference to passion. But to understand the kind of love that Paul is talking about, we should go back to the Bible, we should go back to the words of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. He starts out by saying, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).

He ends his explanation of love with these words, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Did you catch this? In Paul’s trio of traits, he starts with faith, and he ends with love. Hope is what connects the two.

May we use our faith to express our love to others. It’s the only thing that counts. Paul says so.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Galatians 5, and today’s post is on Galatians 5:6.]

 

New Book! 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century

New book about Martin Luther

95 Tweets reveals our past so we can reform our present.

95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanCelebrate the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five concerns to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

Most Protestants have heard of Martin Luther, but they know little more.

Discover what Luther said in his history-changing document that people talk about but have never read.

  • Learn what Luther’s ninety-five theses meant 500 years ago.
  • Understand the significance behind his work.
  • Explore how the ninety-five theses apply to us today.
  • Consider reformation as an ongoing effort.
  • Reassess your spiritual practices.

95 Tweets explains the meaning behind each of Luther’s ninety-five concerns. Then it updates the basic premise of each one, reframed as ninety-five tweets, complete with hashtags. 95 Tweets concludes with a present-day list of ninety-five tweets for the modern church. The intent is not to criticize her but to encourage ongoing reforms.

Get your copy of 95 Tweets today!


Peter DeHaan, PhD, writes about biblical spirituality. He urges Christians to push past the status quo and reexamine their practices. Many people feel church let them down, and Peter seeks to encourage them as they search for a place to belong. But he’s not afraid to ask tough questions or make people squirm. Peter earned his doctorate from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, awarded with high distinction.

Get your copy of 95 Tweets today!

What Is a Micro Church?

Bigger isn’t always better and the micro church proves this

Micro Churches: A case when smaller is betterLast week I wrote about the emergent church. Today we shift the discussion to micro church. Emergent church and micro church, are these alternate labels for the same thing or different? The answer is maybe.

The concept of a micro church can go by different labels. Other names, some of which might be more familiar, include simple church and organic church. Some micro churches are house churches, but not all of them. And some house churches are micro churches, but, again, not all.

It’s easiest to describe a micro church by looking at its characteristics:

Streamlined Structure: Micro churches have only a minimal amount of structure and just enough to allow them to function. Their organization tends to be flat as opposed to hierarchical, with a more egalitarian operation.

No Paid Staff: At micro churches people minister to one another and serve as priests to each other, as we find described in the New Testament. They don’t have a need for paid clergy or to maintain anyone on a payroll.

Priesthood of all Believers: Since micro churches have no paid staff, they have no clergy. This isn’t a problem since they embrace the priesthood of all believers. This means that the people in the community minister to one another, teach one another, and help one another. They feel no need to subjugate this to professional ministers. Because of the nature of their faith they are automatically priests.

Deemphasized Sunday Service: The micro church doesn’t place as much emphasis on a Sunday morning service as traditional churches do. In fact, they may not meet on Sunday or even once a week. Their gatherings may not even resemble a church service.At micro churches, weekly church gatherings prepare people to go into their community and serve. Click To Tweet

Missional: The micro church has a vision to serve. They have a mission. This makes them missional. However, their mission is not inwardly focused but outwardly focused. Their internal gatherings, be it like a Sunday service or something else, are to encourage and prepare the people present to go out into their community and serve. Therefore, many micro churches have at its core one particular vision, a mission, around which people gather.

Focused on Multiplication: The micro church isn’t concerned with growing its numbers, but it’s vitally interested in growing influence. Micro churches seek to do this by helping others start their own micro churches to address other needs in the community. Their simple structure makes this easy and fast. This is why they view themselves as organic. They’re constantly growing, changing, and reproducing more of their kind.

Perhaps Emergent: Last week we defined the emergent church as an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. In considering this definition and the above characteristics, it’s easy to see a connection between the emergent church and the micro church. This doesn’t mean they’re the same, however. It just means they tap into a similar underlying angst of spiritual speakers to pursue community and help the world in new and unexpected ways, ways that the traditional church has missed.

I embrace both the emergent church and micro church concepts as practical and effective ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world seeking relevance and purpose in a confusing existence.

Was Jesus a Feminist?

Jesus elevates the standing of women and treats them as equal to men

Was Jesus a Feminist?As the book of Matthew winds down, we see in chapter 28 that Jesus rises from the dead, appears to his followers, and ascends into heaven. As he arises, he leaves us with the Great Commission: to go throughout the world and tell others about him.

In reading this chapter it’s easy to miss something that seems trivial but is actually a huge deal. When Jesus rises from the dead, who are the first people he appears to? He first reveals his risen form to a group of women. I think this is intentional. Here’s what happens.

Jesus’s body is placed in the tomb. After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and another Mary go to the tomb to ceremonially prepare Jesus’s corpse for a proper burial. What they encounter shocks them.

The earth quakes. An angel opens the tomb and sits there. He tells the women not to be afraid, that Jesus isn’t there and has risen from the dead. The angel shows them the empty tomb and tells them to let the other disciples know.

Jesus’s victory over death is huge news. This accomplishes what he came to earth to do. Everyone needs to know. He chooses women to carry this all-important message to his followers.

However, the culture of the day didn’t give any credence to the testimony of females. It was a male-dominated society. Women were treated as second-class citizens. Imagine that: The world’s most important news ever is delivered by people the culture overlooks and even dismisses.

But by his example, both during his life and after his resurrection, Jesus seeks to change that. He considers women fairly. He treats them as equals to men. His attitude and actions toward women is counter-cultural for the day.Jesus may have been the first feminist. Click To Tweet

Jesus may have been the first feminist. Though feminism is a loaded term—that means different things to different people—the dictionary tells us that feminism is believing in and advocating for the equality of women.

Though much has changed in the 2,000 years since, there is still more work to do. We, both male and female, should follow Jesus’s example and pursue gender equality. After all, both men and women are his children. He loves us all just the same. We should do likewise.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 28, and today’s post is on Matthew 28:8-10.]

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The emergent church seeks to be biblically relevant for a postmodern people

What Happened to the Emergent Church?Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed that every time I turned around I heard something about the emergent church. I wrote about this in my dissertation, with one long chapter devoted to the topic. My thoughts on the emergent church were greatly influenced by Phyllis Tickle’s mind-blowing book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

What is the emergent church? The emergent church is an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.

At the time I speculated it was easier to find a book on the emergent church then to actually find an emergent church. Though I don’t think this was true, it certainly seemed that way. After all, the very nature of the emergent church shunned structure, organization, and hierarchical leadership. These traits made emergent churches hard to find.

When I write about the church in this blog, it’s usually from the perspective of emergence. I want to see our present-day church practices emerge from what they are to produce something more meaningful that abounds with relevance for today’s spiritual seekers.

When I talk this way, it often comes across as criticism, but I only want what’s best for the church—that is, for us as followers of Jesus—so that the church can become more than what she presently is. I write about the church because I love her and want to see her reach her potential. I want to see the church emerge to become something grander. I long to see the emergent church and wish to be part of one.

All this talk about the emergent church, however, was a decade ago. What about now? It’s been years since I’ve heard the phrase emergent church mentioned. Was the emergent church movement a fad that arrived for a moment and left just as quickly?

No. The impetus for the emergent church still exists. It’s just that we don’t hear that phrase anymore. Despite this, however, around the world people—who love Jesus but gave up on his church the way it’s currently practiced—are seeking out new expressions of faith community. They are emerging to do something new and something fresh. But by their very nature, we don’t hear about them. This is because the philosophy of the emergent church shuns self-promotion and distrusts marketing.

The interest in emergent churches is still there, even if the label has slipped away. Perhaps instead of looking for an emergent church, the better path might be to start one.Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet