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.

Don’t Speak About Things You Don’t Understand

False teachers slander what they don’t understand, and they will be destroyed

Don’t Speak About Things You Don’t UnderstandOver the years I’ve heard many ministers talk about things they didn’t understand. Not biblical or spiritual things, but worldly things. Out of ignorance they condemn certain people for their actions, slandering them in the process.

This is why the world doesn’t understand Jesus and his church. This is why the world thinks Jesus hates them. Though he doesn’t, the words people say when they talk about things they don’t understand sends the wrong message that Jesus has something against humanity.

In Peter’s second letter he talks about these ministers and those who parrot their uninformed views. Peter explains that these teachers who slander what they don’t understand are false teachers. They’re irrational like wild animals. They’re creatures operating under instinct, void of intelligent thought. What is the outcome of these false preachers who speak of what they don’t understand? Peter makes it clear. They’ll be destroyed (2 Peter 2:12).

Jesus is all about love. Jesus loves everyone, especially those on the outside, the people on the fringes of society who religious folks reject.Many people, who claim to represent Jesus, speak out of ignorance about those outside the church. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately too many people who claim to represent Jesus, often the ministers of his churches, speak out of ignorance about those outside the church. These false teachers cause the church to reject those in the world and condemn them, even though this isn’t what Jesus wants.

We should reject these false teachers. We should ignore what they say and disassociate ourselves from them. These false teachers will be destroyed. Peter says so.

Instead we need to align ourselves with Jesus and the love he offers to everyone. When we do this, our love will point them to him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Peter 2, and today’s post is on 2 Peter 2:12.]

The Bible Teaches Us How to Live With One Another

Scripture is packed with instructions of how Christians should treat each other

 The Bible teaches us how to live with one another.Last year I shared 13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible, and I periodically expand upon one of those thirteen reasons. Today we’ll explore how the Bible teaches us to live with each other. Although these lessons occur throughout the Bible, let’s focus on one reoccurring theme. I call these the “one another” commands. These instructions teach us how to treat each other.

The Bible contains thirty-one of these one-another instructions. Most only occur once, but four of them occur multiple times. This must mean they’re more important, or else they wouldn’t be repeated. They are:

Love One Another: The command to love one another occurs ten times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. John writes about this the most but so do Paul and Peter.

Unfortunately our society today has a skewed understanding of the word love. Consider the following.

  • I’d love to go to the movies with you.
  • I love pizza.
  • I love to read the Bible.
  • I love my family.
  • I love God.

These are all phrases I’ve used. But they convey different meanings of the word love, ranging from preference to passion. What is love? Our society often treats love as an emotion, but let’s consider love as an attitude that prompts unselfish action. When it comes to loving one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us some helpful instructions on how to do this. By following these verses we can begin to love others in a biblical way.

Encourage One Another: In four places, both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible tells us to encourage one another. Using positive words to lift others up and inspire them in their life and faith is a simple thing, yet most of us fail to do so most of the time. This is a skill we need to learn and then apply.

We all know people who encourage us. We enjoy our time with them, because we feel better about ourselves afterwards. May we be like them.

However, we also know people who we don’t enjoy being around because they discourage us, either directly through negative talk or indirectly through their attitudes. May we not be like them.

Let us encourage others and provide a positive, nurturing relationship that motivates them to do better.

Live in Harmony With One Another: Paul and Peter tell us we’re to live in harmony with one another. This is key. Harmony comes out of biblical love and is bolstered by encouragement, but there is more to harmony than that.

Two words come to mind that relate to harmony. The first is peace. We should strive to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

The second word is unity. It’s critically important for followers of Jesus to live in unity with one another. When we do so, we point others to Jesus. When we fail to do so, we push people away from Jesus. May it never be so.

Unity—that is, harmony—is important to Jesus. In one of his prayers he asks his father that we will live in unity, that we will be one just as he and his father are one (John 17:21).

Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss: The fourth of the one-another commands that appears multiple times in the Bible is a perplexing one. It’s the instruction to greet one another with a holy kiss. What does that mean?

I explored this in another post where I speculated that this command might be a “sacred act of intimacy for the church community.” Then I admitted that I’m not really sure.

Another thought is that greet another with a holy kiss might be like a secret handshake, a way to express Christian affinity without saying a word. I suppose that works, too.

Or we could interpret this command to greet one another with a holy kiss as a principle that implies acceptance and affection with all others who follow Jesus. This also might be a viable interpretation of this confusing phrase.May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us. Click To Tweet

In addition to these four, there are twenty-seven other one-another commands in the Bible. As we strive to follow them and put them into practice, the Church of Jesus will grow, and the world will be better for it.

May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us.

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What Does the New Testament Say About Temples and Priests?

Through Jesus we become his priests and his temple, which should change everything

Jesus makes us his priests and his temple.In the Old Testament the people go to the temple to encounter God. The priests help them in this; they act as a liaison between them and God.

In many ways we still do this today. We go to church to encounter God. We look for our ministers to help us in our quest, to act as a liaison between us and God.

But this is a wrong perspective. We cling to the Old Testament practice and largely forget how Jesus fulfilled it. Peter helps us understand this in his first letter. He says we are living stones built into a spiritual temple, prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

Yet from our perspective of going to church to encounter God, this verse is confounding. It turns what we do upside down, and that’s the point. Jesus came to turn the old ways upside down and make something new for us.

We need to embrace this. We need to change our perspectives.

Living Stones: As living stones our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We live to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. We live to tell others about him through our actions and even through our words. Our faith is alive, and our actions must show it.

Spiritual Temple: As living stones we become part of the construction of his spiritual temple. And if we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him because, as his temple, we are already there and can experience him at any time.

Holy Priesthood: As living stones we are being made into a holy priesthood. If we are truly priests through what Jesus did for us, then we don’t need ministers to point us to God, explain him to us, and assist us in encountering him. God is preparing us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.

Spiritual Sacrifices: As living stones and holy priests, serving God in his spiritual temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice. This spiritual sacrifice negates the need for many of the animal sacrifices and offerings we read about in the Old Testament.Through Jesus we do things in a new way. Click To Tweet

This thinking is so countercultural to the way most Christians live today that it bears careful contemplation. Through Jesus we do things in a new way. We are living stones built into a spiritual temple, being prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.

This can change everything—and it should.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 2, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:5.]

One Way That Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament

Jesus turns the celebration of Passover into the celebration of Communion

One Way That Jesus Fulfills the Old TestamentAs the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, Moses instructs them to have a special meal with their families and neighbors. They celebrate the first Passover. From then on Passover becomes an annual celebration.

Fast forward a couple millennia. Jesus gives his disciples instructions to celebrate Passover together. As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus adds something new to their tradition and gives it fresh meaning. Taking the bread they’re eating, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for the sacrifice he’s about to make. Then he repeats this with the wine.

The Bible records this event in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:15-20. Paul also gives instructions about this remembrance in his letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22-29.

These passages provide us with the basis for how we celebrate Communion. We may also call it the Lord’s Supper, The Holy Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or Holy Eucharist. They all mean the same thing. They all direct our attention on Jesus and what he did for us to reconcile us with Papa.

When Jesus institutes what we turned into the sacrament of communion, he fulfills the Old Testament practice of the Passover. That means he takes something old and adds his own twist to make it something new.

From this we see three key elements of Communion:

Part of a Meal: We see the practice of Passover and Communion in the Bible as part of a meal. Matthew and Mark note that Jesus’s reflections happen as they eat. Luke adds some additional detail. He records a second mention of the cup after the meal. The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not an act separate from it.The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not separate from it. Click To Tweet

With Family: Neither Passover or Communion take place in a large church gathering or religious ceremony. Both happen as a private gathering within a community of family or close friends—our squad. The people celebrate Passover in homes with family (or with neighbors). The Communion Jesus shares with his disciples occurs in an intimate setting with his close friends. This shows us Communion isn’t something that happens at church but apart from it, usually in homes.

As an Annual Celebration: Jesus says we are to celebrate Communion in his honor to remember him. Paul adds to this, writing that Jesus also said, “do this, whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11;25). Though we may interpret Jesus’s words to mean every time we have a meal, the context is Passover, so a better understanding is every time we celebrate Passover, which is an annual event.

When we observe Communion every week at church, even once a month or quarterly, it can become routine and lose its meaning. Instead we should treat it as an annual celebration that we greatly anticipate and highly revere.

When we add this to the concept of a family meal, Communion could elevate to the level of a treasured family celebration similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas: a special time with family gathered.

The ancient practice of Passover and Communion bears little similarity to what we do today. I can’t ever recall celebrating communion in church as part of a meal. Communion was always a ceremonial representation, included as part of a church service.

The bread was reduced to a small bit of bread or a cracker. The wine was reduced to a mere sip, barely enough to wash down the morsel of food we ate just before it. In doing so we trivialize Communion by making it less than what it should be.

Let’s take back Communion. We can return it to an annual celebration in our homes with our family. And we will do it in remembrance of Jesus.

Put Your Faith in Action

Good deeds and right living don’t earn our salvation, but they do confirm it

Put Your Faith in ActionPaul writes to his friends in Thessalonica. He reminds them—and us—that salvation is a gift from God. We can’t earn it and can only receive it through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it seems that many people do try to earn their salvation through their actions, by living in right ways and doing good works for others.

James helps us put this into perspective. Though our actions don’t earn our right standing with God, they do prove it. He asks, “How can I see your faith apart from your actions?” He goes on to say, “I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice. You’ll know my faith is real by the things that I do,” (see James 2:18).

From God’s perspective, our actions don’t earn us anything. Yes, doing good may earn us attention from other people. We can receive appreciation from those we help and admiration from those who watch us. Yet to God our good works don’t matter.

Then why should we bother?

It’s through our right behavior and what we do to help others that we prove we have faith. By putting our faith into action, we demonstrate that it’s real. Faith without works is dead.Our actions say thank you to God for what he has done for us. Click To Tweet

We don’t act in certain ways to garner God’s favor. Instead, the things we do emerge from our gratitude for what he has done for us. Think of our actions as a tangible way of saying “thank you” to God for the gift he gave us.

By his grace and through our faith, we receive salvation. We need nothing more. But if we truly appreciate this gift of what he has done for us, then we show him by what we do.

We put our faith into action. And that honors God.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is James 2, and today’s post is on James 2:18.]

Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?

The Bible offers little support for a minister to preach a sermon to us at church

Why Do We Listen to a Sermon at Church Each Sunday?Many changes occurred in church practices because of the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. One of those changes adjusted the emphasis of the Sunday service. The reformers had concern over the focus of Sunday gatherings being on the altar and the celebration of the Eucharist. They intentionally shifted the focus away from that and to the sermon. I understand why they did it, but I think they were wrong.

When Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NIV), he provided the basis for us to celebrate communion. This gives biblical support for us to periodically observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our gatherings, be it on Sundays or at other times.

However, I don’t see any biblical command to have a paid minister preach a sermon to a local congregation each Sunday. In fact, I see little biblical support for this. Here’s what I do see in the Bible:

Preach to Those Outside the Church: Jesus told his followers to go around and tell others about him. He said to “preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Here’s a direct command from Jesus to preach, but the setting isn’t inside the church walls, it’s outside the confines of the church, in the real world. Although this gives a command to preach, we miss the point. The teaching Jesus talks about isn’t to those who are already on his team, it’s to those who aren’t.

Teach New Converts: In Acts we see the apostles holding regular classes to teach about what it means to follow Jesus (Acts 2:42). Since back then almost everyone was new to the faith, think of this as a new members class. Note that this is an example of what the church did, not a command to do it. This teaching is optional, but if we do it the focus is likely on new converts.

Give Updates: Another example in the New Testament of people speaking to local congregations is when traveling missionaries or church delegations visited local churches. They spoke to the people to update them on what was happening elsewhere and to share stories of God at work. The purpose of these talks seems to be to offer status reports and provide encouragement. Again we see this as an example of what the early church did, but there’s no command for us to do likewise.

In these three scenarios we see people speaking either in the church or outside it. But nowhere do we see a command for clergy to preach to a local congregation in church each Sunday. So why, then, do we have a weekly sermon?The people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. Click To Tweet

What should we do differently?

Paul answers this in his letter to the church in Corinth. He says when we gather together each person should be ready to share a song, teaching, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. The purpose of this is to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Paul’s instruction, his command, is that the people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. With such little biblical support to have a professional minister deliver a sermon on Sunday mornings, maybe it’s time for us to abandon the practice. Instead let us begin ministering to one another as the Bible instructs.

Good Things Are Coming; the Bible Says So

The Bible isn’t the point, it’s the God revealed in the Bible

Hebrews chapter 10 opens with a line worthy of contemplation.

It says, that the Law—that is the Old Testament—merely hints at what we have to look forward to, of the good things God has in store for us. The law shouldn’t be our focus. Instead we should give our attention to the real things that the law points to. That would be God (Hebrews 10:1).

Though we are right to reverence the Bible and hold it in high esteem, the Bible isn’t the point. The purpose of the Bible is to direct us to God. He is who we should reverence. He is who we should stand in awe of. He is who we should worship, not the Bible or the words in it.

But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that the Law—the Old Testament—isn’t enough. Following its rules is insufficient to perfect us as we try to draw near to God. Though the context of this verse is about the sacrifices offered every year, we can expand this thought to encompass all the rules we read about in the Old Testament.

What we see in the Old Testament isn’t enough to make us right with God. In theory, if we followed every rule perfectly every time, that would be sufficient. But no one can do that. It’s humanly impossible. We falter and fall short.The Bible isn’t a set of rules to bind us. The Bible points to the God who frees us. Click To Tweet

We must keep this in perspective. The Bible isn’t a book of laws we must follow. It’s not a set of rules to bind us. Instead, the Bible points to the God who frees us.

May it be so. May we find freedom through Jesus and shake off the slavery of legalism.

God is the point, not the Bible.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 10, and today’s post is on Hebrews 10:1.]

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3 Essential Aspects of Christianity

Living for Jesus is simple, but we often make it harder than it needs to be

3 Essential Aspects of ChristianityThough some people try to turn their walk with Jesus into a complex set of criteria, in reality living the Christian life is simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it is simple.

Here are the three essential aspects we should consider as we follow Jesus. In practical terms, this is what it means to be a Christian.

Worship God: As a follower of Jesus, we want to put God first. We do this as we worship Him. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). I understand this principle, but figuring out what it means presents a challenge. Yes, we worship him on Sunday morning, but we also worship him the other 167 hours of the week.

We worship God by how we live our lives. We worship him by the things we say and do. We worship him with our thoughts and attitudes. And we worship him when we practice the next two essentials of our Christian faith.

Pursue Community: God exists as Trinity, as three in one. God is a community. He wants to have a relationship with us that reflects his community. Yes, we should have a fearful reverence for God. And we should love him as our perfect heavenly Father. But amid this resides living with God in community.

Beyond having community with God, he wants us to be in community with his other children. He created us to crave connection. We aren’t to live out our faith in isolation but to love one another. Community means we encourage one another, support one another, and put one another first. Which takes us to the third essential aspect of living the Christian life.

Prioritize Others: As we walk with Jesus, we esteem others as more important than ourselves. This is hard in today’s me-first society. But it is Jesus’s way. We sacrifice our ego and set aside our plans in order to do what is best for others.

That’s what Jesus did. That’s what we should do. And this doesn’t just apply to those in our spiritual community, but it also applies—in fact it especially applies—to those outside our Christian bubble.

Putting others first concerns our neighbors, the people we meet as we go about life, and those within our circle of influence. By putting others first, we show them Jesus’s love. Without saying a word, we can point them to Jesus.

In considering these three essential aspects of Christianity, we can further simplify them with one word: love.Love is how Jesus lived his life, and love is how he summed up the entire Old Testament. Click To Tweet

Love is how Jesus lived his life, and love is how he summed up the entire Old Testament. He condensed the Law and the writings of the prophets into two simple perspectives: love God and love others (Matthew 22:38-40).

Furthermore, in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth he talks about love. He ends this well-known passage saying that the greatest thing of all is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is what matters most. As we worship God, pursue community, and put others first, we exemplify the love of God.

May we all love well. That’s what it means to be a Christian.

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For Many Christians, It’s Time To Grow Up

One of the reasons we learn about God is so we can teach others

It’s time we start eating solid food.In the letter written to the Hebrew people who follow Jesus, there’s a short phrase that’s easy to skip over. The author, who I suspect is Paul, criticizes the people he’s writing to. He says they should be at a point in their faith journey where they can teach others. Instead they are content to be taught. They’re drinking milk, but they should have moved on to solid food.

Notice that the writer doesn’t call out specific people. He makes a general statement to all who receive his letter. That’s everyone. In our Christian society today, most people remain content to have someone teach them. They seldom take time to teach others about God, their faith, and their faith Journey.

Our churches today are filled with people who crave milk. Even though they are mature enough to eat solid food, they haven’t grown enough to take that step. Instead they’re content to suck milk from a bottle.

This is to their shame and to our shame. We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves.We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves. Click To Tweet

Teaching can take several forms. It might be standing before a group and giving a lesson. It might be sitting in a circle and sharing what God is doing in our life. Or maybe it’s one-on-one interaction when we encourage a friend to move forward in their faith and to make Godly decisions.

Some people delude themselves by claiming they’re not ready to teach. But I think most simply find it’s the most comfortable thing to do. They prefer to go to church and sit passively in their pews so that someone else can give them milk to drink.

Instead we should adopt a new attitude. We should realize we have insights, knowledge, and experiences that can help others. Everyone knows something that will benefit the people we talk to. We need to share what we know. Likewise everyone we encounter knows something that we don’t. We must be ready to hear what they have to say and learn from them.

Our job is to grow in our faith, and then to teach others. It’s time to start doing that.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12.]

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We Should Pay Attention When Jesus Says, “But I Tell You.”

Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets when he gives new meaning to the old ways

We Should Pay Attention When Jesus Says, “But I Tell You.”Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). One way he did this, the most significant way, was to satisfy the anticipation found throughout the Old Testament for a coming savior, a Messiah, who would save his people.

Jesus also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by changing the way people viewed God and treated others. We’ve talked about this in another post. Because of Jesus we became God’s temple, and we’re to serve as priests to one another. That means we don’t need to go to church to seek God or have a minister lead us. Seriously.

A third way Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets is by giving us an enlightened understanding of the intent behind the literal interpretation of what the Old Testament said and how the people thought. He does this in the teaching we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” Each time Jesus makes this transition from the old way to the new way, he says the words, “…but I tell you.”

Consider the following examples:

Murder and Anger: The Old Testament said murder was wrong (Exodus 20:13). Jesus says we need to control our anger (Matthew 5:21-22).

Adultery and Lust: The Old Testament commanded us to not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Jesus says that lust is just another form of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

Divorce and Commitment: The Old Testament made it easy for a man to divorce his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus says the only justification for divorce is adultery, else couples should stick together and make it work (Matthew 5:31-32).

Keeping Vows and Avoiding Vows: The Hebrew traditions said to not break your promises, but to fulfill all the vows you made. Jesus says to not make a vow at all (Matthew 5:33-34).

Revenge and Forgiving: The Old Testament people could exact revenge on those who hurt them, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24, though this was actually to keep people from retaliating in disproportionate ways). Jesus, however, says don’t resist evil (Matthew 5:38-39).

Hate and Love: Another old Hebrew tradition said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus turned the law into principles to guide our behavior and exhibit the heart of God. Click To Tweet

Jesus took the legalistic approach of the Old Testament Law and the people’s interpretation of it, and he turned them into principles to guide our behavior and exhibit the heart of God in how we interact with others.

May we follow these new ways of Jesus.