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.

If God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

God Cares for the Lesser Things of His Creation and We Are So Much MoreIf God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

In one of Asaph’s Psalms he exalts God for his power, beauty, and perfection. In doing so Asaph envisions what God might say to his people, talking about what is important and what isn’t. God has no need for our animals (possessions), for every creature (everything) is his. In fact God says that he knows every bird, and that even the insects are his.

God Cares for Birds

Does this idea that God knows every bird sound familiar? Consider what Jesus says in his teaching in what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:25-27). He tells us not to worry, that God will take care of us.

Then he reminds us of the birds. Even though birds don’t prepare for the future by planting crops, gathering the harvest, or storing for the future, God feeds them. He takes care of them.

In the non-winter months in Michigan, anytime I look out my window I see all kinds of birds, often more than I can count. Though I know some species, I can’t identify most of them. While I have trouble identifying various types of birds, God not only knows each species, he also knows each bird within each specie.

Aside from my enjoyment of watching birds, in the overall scope of life, I give little thought to birds. Yet God cares for them. Thank you, Father God for taking care of us. Click To Tweet

God Cares for Us

Jesus goes on to say that if his Father will feed the birds how much more will he care for us. As people, we’re the highpoint of his creation. We matter much more to him than birds. God cares for us even more than he cares for the birds.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 49-52, and today’s post is on Psalms 50:11.]

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong Path

Too Many People Are Spiritual Consumers Who Pursue a Retail Religion

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong PathMany in our first world culture seek to be served rather than to serve. Unfortunately, we apply this when it comes to church, too. Most people expect church to serve them, while few seek to serve the church.

This idea of receiving services influences our church selection process. Seldom do people look for a church that gives them the opportunity to serve. Instead they look for a church for the benefits it provides: the music, the message, and the ministries. They’re church shoppers, pursuing church selection with a consumer mindset.

Retail Religion

The result is a retail religion. These folks shop for a church the same way they buy a car or look for a gym.

They make a list—either literally or figuratively—of the things their new car, gym, or church must have. Then they make their wish list of what they hope their new car, gym, or church could have. And then they make a final list of deal breakers, detailing the things their new car, gym, or church can’t have.

Then they go shopping.

They tick off items on their list. With intention they test drive cars, check out gyms, or visit churches. In each case, they immediately reject some and consider others as possibilities. Eventually they grow tired of shopping and make their selection from the top contenders, seeking a solution that provides them with the most value.

Instead Pursue Service and Community

A better, and more God-honoring approach, is to seek a church community that provides opportunities for us to serve. We need to stop thinking of church for the things it will provide for us and instead consider the things we can do for it, that is, for the people who go there and the community surrounding it.

We should look for a church that provides opportunities for us to serve, according to how God has wired us, ways that make us come alive. This includes service within the church and to those outside the church. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits. Click To Tweet

Service is not an isolated activity. As we serve, we do so in community. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits.

Retail religion is out, and church community and service are in.

What Does Christian Mean?

I don’t like the label “Christian,” even though I am one. The Christian label is a loaded term. It means many things to different people.The Christian label: What does Christian mean?

To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful.

Still others think Christian refers to a political party or secular movement.

And what about mean, militant, murdering, manipulative, and money mongering?

Do you see why I don’t like the Christian label?

And let’s not forget the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, segregation, and fighting abortion (I’m referring to blowing up clinics and killing doctors, in case you’ve forgotten).

Consider the Christian label in How Big Is Your Tent?But most Christians aren’t like that, you plead.

You’re right. We’re not, but I still don’t like the Christian label.

I prefer “Jesus follower” instead.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

Deuteronomy Hints at the Horror of Jesus’s Sacrifice

We Discover Parallels Between Deuteronomy and Jesus’s DeathDeuteronomy Hints at the Horror of Jesus’s Sacrifice

The book of Deuteronomy, which most people skip and the rest of us skim, does contain interesting passages for us to consider. In one short section, God addresses capital punishment. Though the idea of executing people for their offenses may offend our sensibilities, don’t dismiss this passage.

Learn from its words. It gives insight into Jesus’s gift of the ultimate sacrifice.

This passage in Deuteronomy talks about executing criminals on a pole. It commands people not to leave the body hang overnight but to bury it the same day. Further it goes on to state that anyone hung on a pole is under God’s curse.

Let’s relate this to Jesus:

Jesus Died on a Pole

We don’t know the exact configuration of the cross Jesus died on, but we can understand that in simple terms, it was a pole. Jesus died on a pole, and his body hung exposed on a pole, exactly aligned with this passage in Deuteronomy. There he suffered and served as our sacrifice.

Jesus Was Buried the Same Day

When Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus’s body for burial, he likely had this Deuteronomy passage in mind: that God instructed his people not to leave an executed body hang on a pole overnight. Joseph, a righteous man, made sure that Jesus’s body didn’t suffer this final indignity. Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse. Click To Tweet

Jesus Was Under God’s Curse

It’s hard for us to think of Jesus being under God’s curse, yet as he died on the cross, suffering the consequences for what we’ve done wrong, he was under God’s curse. He suffered God’s punishment for our wrongdoing. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Galatian church. He tells them, and reminds us, that when Jesus became our curse, he freed us from the curse that we deserve (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 21-22, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 21:22-23.]

We Must Be Faithful and Fruitful

God Calls Us to a Faith That Produces Fruit

Two reoccurring themes in the Bible are the ideas of being faithful and being fruitful. We are to be faithful and fruitful.We Must Be Faithful and Fruitful

The word faithful occurs over two hundred times in the Bible and shows up in most of its books (41). The word fruitful occurs thirty-one times in eleven books, spanning both the old and new Testaments. (The word fruit—which can mean something to eat or the results of our actions—is as common in the Bible as the word faithful.)

Furthermore, the command to “be faithful” appears in eight verses, as does the command to “be fruitful.” It seems that God wants us to be both faithful and fruitful.

Be Faithful

Jesus talks about being faithful and his parables support this. Don’t we all want to hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)? In the New Testament, the word faithful occurs most in the book of Revelation, both in some of the letters to the seven churches and in John’s vision where he commends God’s faithful witnesses.

In the Old Testament, the book of Psalms tops all others with seventy-one mentions of the word faithful. Though some verses address God’s faithfulness to us, others talk about our faithfulness to him: a faithful servant, faithful people, faithful ones, and faithful to him and his covenant (that is, his commands, Psalm 78:36-37).

Be Fruitful

We should note that the instruction to be fruitful in the Bible always relates to biological reproduction and the growth of a population. However, it isn’t a stretch to apply this metaphorically to other actions that produce spiritual growth, that is, spiritual fruit.

Consider the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul implicitly tells us to pursue these characteristics. God doesn’t want us merely to be faithful, he wants us to produce fruit in the process. Click To Tweet

Be Faithful and Fruitful

Too often I’ve heard people who—after working hard to serve God but achieving little—shrug and say, “Well, at least I was faithful.” Yes, they were faithful, but they also failed. God doesn’t want us merely to be faithful, he wants us to produce fruit in the process.

He wants us to be faithful and fruitful. Working hard and failing, is simply failing. Working hard and producing fruit is what God desires.

James writes that faith without deeds (which we can call fruit) is dead (James 2:26). As we pursue God and seek to serve him, we must be fruitful and faithful. God expects nothing less.

Discover What Jesus Didn’t Say

There are many things Jesus didn’t tell us to do to inherit eternal life or become saved. He didn’t say:Discover what Jesus didn't say about becoming a Christian

  • pray a prayer,
  • be confirmed,
  • go to church,
  • come forward,
  • do good things,
  • raise your hand,
  • fill out a pledge card, or
  • jump through any hoops

How Big Is Your Tent?He didn’t give Four Spiritual Laws, share The Roman’s Road, or recite the ABC’s of Salvation.

His answer was easy. His most basic instruction was “follow me.”

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 


God Loves Us and Keeps His Promises

There’s Nothing We Need to Do to Earn God’s LoveGod loves us unconditionally

In the book of Deuteronomy, a book of the Bible that most people skip, God explains his relationship to his people. He starts by saying that he didn’t choose them because of their numbers or greatness as a nation. In fact, they started out as the smallest of all peoples. It was just Abraham and Sarah when God chose them.

Instead he chose them because he loved them. And he continues to choose them because he made a promise to them, and he keeps his promises. His love lasts over the centuries, despite their unfaithfulness to him and in the many ways they reject him over and over.

We can take great comfort in this.

God Loves Us and There’s Nothing We Must Do to Earn It

The people of Israel didn’t need to earn God’s love and attention. He gave it to them freely. In the same way, there’s nothing we need to do to earn his affection. We don’t need to do good things, love others, or even obey his commands to gain God’s love. Instead, he loved us first, and in response we may opt to react to his love by doing things that please him.

Too often, we get this backwards. We don’t behave better to earn God’s love; we behave better because he loves us.

God Loves Us and There’s Nothing We Can Do to Lose It

God loved the people of Israel first and continued to love them despite their many missteps. In the same way, God doesn’t withhold his love for us when we screw up. He maintains his love. It’s always there. There’s nothing we can do to push him away or cause him to withdraw his affection of us. We don’t behave better to earn God’s love; we behave better because he loves us. Click To Tweet

We often get this backwards, too. We assume that when we mess up, he will withhold his love and punish us. Yes, sometimes there are consequences for what we do—punishment, if you will—but this is a result of his love and not the withdrawal of it.

God loves us unconditionally, even if this is hard for us to comprehend.

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

How to Find a New Church

When It Comes Time to Change Churches, Attitude Is Everything

Last week we talked about when not to change churches, instead of looking to find a new church. Too often people treat their church as a commodity and behave as a consumer, switching their loyalty over trivial things. Most of the time, however, the best action is to view your church as a marriage and try to make things work. Seldom should you divorce your church and seek a new one.8 tips to find a new church.

Even so, sometimes we need to find a new church home. Maybe we just moved, or our church closed. Perhaps we do it for the sake of our kids, seeking a church community to encourage them in their faith and support our efforts at home. And sometimes newlyweds decide it’s best to not subject one of them to the other’s home church but to find a new one where they can start their life together with a new church family.

If you find yourself in a situation to change churches, here are some tips to do it wisely and enjoy the best outcome. In doing research for my book 52 Churches and subsequent works, my wife and I visited over a hundred churches. In doing so we learn how to visit churches, both the right things to do and the wrong things.

But before you go church shopping, first ask, “Is changing churches necessary?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then take these steps:

Research Options Online

Look online to learn about the church before you visit. When considering church websites and social media pages, be aware that some are more like dating profiles, showing you what they want you to see, obscuring reality, and ignoring faults. Others are more realistic.

Look for what to expect and how to get the most from your experience there. Note their location and service times. Sometimes it’s worth double-checking this information, as more than once a church’s website gave us wrong information. Then schedule a time for your visit.

But what if the church isn’t online? If a church today doesn’t have an online presence, it’s unlikely they’ll be around tomorrow. Save yourself the grief, and skip them.

Pray Before Hand

In visiting fifty-two churches, my wife and I prayed as we drove to each one. And once we finished visiting churches, we continued this practice each Sunday. These prayers often vary, sometimes focused on our own struggles and other times on our desire to learn what God would have us to learn. Often, we pray we’ll have a positive impact on others, and sometimes we ask for an openness to receive what others would give to us. More than once I’ve had to pray for my attitude. But the key is to pray, and let the Holy Spirit guide those prayers. Prayer makes all the difference.

Look for the Positive and Expect Good Things to Happen

If you visit a church looking for what’s negative, you’ll find it. If you seek things to criticize, you’ll uncover plenty. The key is to arrive with God-honoring expectation. Every church has something positive to offer, just as every church has its struggles. No church, just as no person, is perfect. Look for the good and celebrate it.

Arrive Early and Be Prepared to Stay Afterwards

It’s hard to connect with people at church during the service. And even those churches that allow for connection time as part of their service, often fail to do it well. Instead, plan to arrive early so you can interact with people before the service begins. And don’t schedule anything afterward, so you can stay as long as you want without the pressure of time. Sometimes my wife and I would hang out for five or ten minutes after the service and leave because we weren’t able to talk with anyone. But other times we’d be there for an hour or two after the final “Amen,” enjoying rich Christian community. Often this involves food, which is in added benefit.

Finding Christian community is the main reason we should not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), which most people think means going to church. If you can connect with the church community, it makes all the difference.

Adapt to Their Practices

Visiting a church is like visiting someone’s home. You want to respect their practices. This means if you’re a raise-your-hands or jump-up-and-down type of person, but the church isn’t, follow their practice. Don’t stand out in a bad way. This distracts from your experience, as well as their worship. However, if their style is more exuberant than you’re comfortable with; feel free to be yourself.

Look for Ways to Contribute

Whether you’re visiting once, making a follow-up appearance, or attending as a regular, look for ways to give back to the church. This might mean offering encouragement, looking to pray for people (either out loud or silently), or being a positive influence anyway you can. Though my wife and I didn’t contribute monetarily to the churches we visited, you may feel differently. In which case you can also give financially.

Make Repeat Visits

Visiting a church once makes an initial first impression. This may be accurate, but it might not. One church encouraged us to come back twelve times before deciding. Of course, they knew anyone who came back that often, would form a habit and stick around after the three months was over.

I’m not sure if you need to visit twelve times, but certainly more than once is needed. When my wife and I moved, we faced finding a new church home. For those churches that we revisited, our first experience often differed from our second. Sometimes it was better, and other times it was lacking. Regardless, one visit isn’t enough.

Get Involved

As we talked about in “3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement,” it’s important to push aside a passive perspective when visiting a church. This means avoiding notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing—which are all too common at most churches.

Instead the goal is to be engaged on Sunday morning. This requires that we be active, adopting three alternate perspectives: we need to give instead of consume, we need to be active not an attendee, and we must be a disciple and not a critic. This simple change in attitude will alter everything we experience at church. If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community. Click To Tweet

If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community.

Three Ecumenical Guidelines

Ecumenical is a word some may be unfamiliar with

Three Ecumenical GuidelinesOne definition of ecumenical means “relating to the worldwide Christian church.” A broader understanding is “establishing and promoting unity among religions.” More generically, ecumenical simply means “worldwide; universal.”

In simple terms, I understand ecumenical to mean unifying.

Towards this goal, three ecumenical—that is, unifying—guidelines advance our understanding:

“In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things charity.”

Though the author of this brilliant advice is in debate, its wisdom is not.

How Big Is Your Tent?May our list of essentials be short, our non-essentials held loosely, and our mercy and tolerance without limit.

[This quote is often attributed to Augustine, but cannot be confirmed. John Amos Comenious advocated this in the 1600s and he may have been citing Peter Meiderlin.]

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus

God Speaks to the Prophet Amos through a Vision

Regardless of How God Speaks to Us, We Should Listen to What He SaysGod can speak to us in various ways.

The words of the Old Testament prophet Amos appear in the book of the Bible that bears his name. The words come to him in a vision. But the Bible doesn’t tell us the circumstances surrounding the vision or how it occurred. The vision may have come to Amos at night in a dream or in that early-morning time between the unconsciousness of sleep and the consciousness of being awake. Or perhaps the vision came to Amos as he was praying or fasting or meditating. Regardless of the details, God speaks to Amos in a vision.

Some of the other prophets also have visions but not all. For other prophets, such as Jeremiah, the Bible simply says that the word came to them. And God spoke directly to Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Job, and Isaiah. Other times, angels serve as messengers to carry God’s word to his emissaries.

Regardless of the process, however, God speaks to his people. It may be through a vision, words, or thoughts. It may be through an angel, a person, or another means. The method doesn’t matter but the message does.

Be Faithful When God Speaks

When Amos receives his vision, he proclaims it to the people. A scribe records it for us to read in the Bible. In this way, Amos is faithful to his vision. God speaks to him, and he shares it with others.

I wonder if God spoke to other people who weren’t faithful with his message. They didn’t proclaim it to others and therefore those words didn’t make it into the Bible. We’ll never know, but it’s worth considering. Are we ready to listen to what God says to us? Click To Tweet

God speaks to us, too. Are we ready to listen to what he says? And when we hear, are we faithful to say or do what he says?

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Amos 1-3, and today’s post is on Amos 1:1.]