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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: Love One Another

40 Daily Reflections from the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John

Imagine what the world would look like today if Christians learned to radiate the love of Jesus to everyone around them.

Love One Another is a devotional Bible study for Christians who want to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments of all time: To love God and to love others.

Come inspire your soul and nourish your spirit with this thought-provoking, faith-building devotional from Peter DeHaan, beloved Christian author and founder of the A Bible a Day website.

If you’re searching for a Christian Bible study with lifetime application, Love One Another was written specifically for you. In his fresh and insightful manner, Peter DeHaan walks you through the New Testament books of 1, 2, and 3 John to take you straight to the heart of Christ’s powerful message of love.

Perfect for individuals, families, or small groups, this Bible study offers practical, insightful, and encouraging truths for believers from all walks of life.

Get your copy today.

Discover practical, insightful, and encouraging truths in Love One Another, a devotional Bible study to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments: To love God and to love others.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

Short of Meeting Expectations: Visiting Church #65

Our home church canceled today’s Sunday service because everyone (except us) is off at church camp, a weeklong community experience on the shore of Lake Michigan.

While many at church dislike camping, they so treasure the extended time with a church family that they go anyway. It’s a highly anticipated annual event, the highlight of the year. 

Candy and I are not there, however. For one, neither of us are campers, not even close. Second, my work schedule and writing demands make taking a week off impossible. Even with much planning, one day off is hard for me to manage with any degree of success.

Lastly, the time when everyone else arranged for campers, Candy was embroiled in an intense season at her job that took every waking minute of her time and much of mine. 

An Open Sunday

The result is that we are not at church camp and have a Sunday free.

I’m glad for the reprieve. I need it. Candy doesn’t voice it, but I’m sure she realizes I need a break from the tedious routine of our regular church service.

I have a list of churches to visit and have longed to experience this one for over a year. I met one of their staff at a speakers conference. As we talked about her church and their belief in the present-day power of the Holy Spirit, that same Holy Spirit nudged me to visit. 

“It won’t be soon,” I told her, “but it will happen.”

“Let me know when,” she said, “so I can look for you.”

I agreed, anticipating that day, not knowing it would take thirteen months. With this opening in our Sunday schedule, I email her, unsure if she’ll remember me. To my delight, she does.

Planning When to Leave

I fill Candy in on the details. “Their service is at ten, and it will take twenty-three minutes to drive there. I’d like to leave at 9:30.” 

She agrees.

As I move through my Sunday morning, I realize a 9:30 departure won’t be soon enough.

First, it’s unlikely we will leave at that time.

Second, we need a cushion in case we have trouble finding the church and to park our car and find our way inside.

Third, my goal when visiting churches is to arrive ten minutes early. This allows time for some pre-church interaction but not too much time in case there is none.

When I suggest 9:20 to Candy, she glares. And she shakes off a compromise of 9:25. “You should have told me sooner. I’m on track for 9:30. I don’t know if I can be ready before then.”

At 9:37 we leave the house. I’m frustrated. As I drive, I pray for our time at this church. I’m still not sure what the Holy Spirit has in mind. My prayer is short and direct. “Lord, may we learn what you would have us to learn and share what you would have us to share. Amen.”

We encounter road construction on the way, which slows us down some but not too much. Our GPS says we’ll arrive at 9:57 and then updates our ETA to 9:58.

A Residential Setting

The church sits in a residential area. It’s a tired-looking, older facility, a bit on the dreary side, but I don’t have time to consider it much as I round the block looking for the parking lot.

We slide into an open space and walk with intention to the entrance. A few others arrive with us. I guess we will be fashionably late together. A woman with a walker lurches forward. If we give her patient passage, the delay will be interminable. If we rush past her, we might still make it by ten.

What Would Jesus Do?

I shake off that consideration as I scoot around her. Candy follows.

Starting Time

Inside is a bustle of activity, which beckons us to the right, yet I spot a quiet, darkened sanctuary to my left. A greeter of sorts glides up to us to provide an overview of our options.

Candy decides to snag a cup of coffee, leaving me alone to wallow in discomfort. When she rejoins me, we head toward the sanctuary and my friend warmly greets us. 

Relieved to see a familiar face, I introduce her to Candy and then mutter my despair over cutting the time too close. It’s exactly 10:00. She dismisses my distress with a nonchalant wave. “We don’t start on time here,” she says with a smile. As proof she gestures to the throng still behind us.

I follow Candy into the sanctuary. She bypasses many viable places to sit as she moves too far forward for my comfort. Although sitting toward the front results in fewer distractions, it also makes observation of the congregation more difficult.

It’s a challenge to balance engagement with examination when visiting churches, and I’m not sure which one the Holy Spirit wants me to focus on today.

Room-darkening shades cover the few windows in the space, and the lights are low. I’m not sure if I like the subdued, almost mystical, vibe or not. The room is about as wide as it is deep, with two hundred chairs, which might be 40 to 50 percent occupied.

I expected a bigger sanctuary with more people, but it’s mid-August. Church attendance typically ebbs to its low point of the year during late summer.

A Musical Experience

A worship team of five opens the service. It’s a contemporary assembly with the leader on guitar. Joining him are a backup guitarist, bass guitarist, someone on keys, and another on drums.

Their sound borders on grunge. Without much coaxing, I envision them cutting loose. They remain restrained, however, suitable for a church service but disappointing for me.

With words displayed overhead, we sing a contemporary song that is new to me and then another and another, four that I have never heard and most of which I struggle to even mouth the words.

“Sing a new song,” the Bible says repeatedly (Psalm 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, and 149:1, as well as Isaiah 42:10.). I try to shove aside my discomfort with the acknowledgement that the Bible never says to give God the old songs we know and like.

The chorus of one song starts to click with me, and I sing along—more or less. One phrase grabs my attention: “we are defiant in your name.” (A later search online reveals we sang “More than Conquerors” by Rend Collective.)

Self-described as spiritually militant, this line connects with me. I give it to God as my new song.

As we sing, one woman dances worshipfully off to the right and several more join her with flags on both sides of the stage. Easels of artwork flank each side as well, yet I see no one working on art during worship.

A couple of people raise their hands as they sing, but they are so few that I don’t want to call attention to myself by joining them, despite a gentle Holy Spirit nudge to do so.

Demographics

Our numbers continue to grow, and by the end of the fourth song I estimate the place is about 60 percent full. Most seem to be older generations without many Gen-Xers or Millennials. 

Millennials are supposed to be more open to spiritual things, and my expectation was that I would see them at this church, which is more open to spirituality through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t see any millennials. I suppose their openness to spirituality doesn’t make them equally open to a spiritual experience in a church building, or they just aren’t aware of this church. 

I fully suspect these spiritually-open Millennials are hanging out elsewhere in nontraditional settings and times. I want to be with them. I also know that not all that is spiritual is good, so I pray they’re drawn toward a biblical, Jesus-focused spirituality and not one that runs counter to it.

A Good Greeting Time

After a half hour, the music winds down and gives way to the greeting time. This church does better than most in making this awkward time feel not so awkward for visitors. Many give us a sincere welcome, sharing their names and asking ours. They are genuinely interested.

With gentle probing they learn about us without prying: “Are you new to the area?” asks one. “Where do you live?” inquires another. “Is this your first time here?” queries a third. “Are you looking for a new church?” And so on.

A countdown display measures the time allotted for greeting. I don’t know where it started, but I notice it during a lull in conversation when it says 45 . . . 44 . . . 43 . . . Then my friend comes up and welcomes us again.

We’re nicely engaged in conversation when someone taps her shoulder and points to the screen. The counter has hit zero and the screen is now blank. My friend is supposed to give announcements, intended to start when the timer hit zero. She scurries off to her assignment.

She gains the attention of the crowd and corrals our disparate conversations. We sit down, but I only half listen. I want to continue our conversation, but we can’t. After the announcements, a prayer follows, and they ask first-time visitors to raise their hands.

I don’t like calling attention to myself this way and grouse at the thought of it. I don’t want to play along, but I always do, albeit without much enthusiasm. Even so, I’m relieved we don’t need to stand and introduce ourselves, as at Church #20 (“Different Language, Same God”). 

Someone hands me a card, which I accept, hoping this will end the attention I feel foisted upon me. Thankfully it does. The card invites us to stop by the welcome center after the service for a gift. 

Live Expectantly

The minister stands to give us his message, based on Luke 1:5–25. He talks about living expectantly. Imagine waking up each morning and asking God, “Daddy, what are we going to do today?” What a grand way to live life, but few people do.

Instead of living expectantly, we live with expectations, which are bound to disappoint us. I certainly had my expectations about this church, its size, its attendees, and my experience here. I’m sad to admit that today my expectations overshadowed my expectancy.

He wraps up with his prescription for how to live expectantly. The worship team reassembles, playing softly as he gives a call to action. I’m not really listening to what he says, only enough to know that it’s not a typical altar call.

Prayer Time

After the closing song, they move into prayer time, the third part of the service.

Prayer teams come forward in pairs, while most of the congregation files out into the lobby. A few linger for their own time of sharing and praying. Some go forward to meet with the waiting prayer teams. Gentle music plays to produce a safe and holy place.

“Do you want prayer for your knee?” I ask my bride.

“No, you can pray for it at home.”

That wasn’t the response I expected—or wanted. I long to tarry, but I know Candy does not. I hand her the gift card, which she accepts with an eager smile. 

“Meet me in back when you’re done,” she says, smartly granting me space without subjecting me to her eagerness to leave. 

I sit as I try to formulate a reason to go up for prayer. Each thought seems trivial. I consider simply asking a prayer team if God might give them a word to share with me. At the same time, I don’t know if they would be comfortable handling such a request.

I certainly don’t want to put them on the spot or make them uneasy. It’s one thing to pray for people in reaction to their request and quite another to proactively listen to what God would give you to share with them. 

I’ve done both, the first with ease and the second with trepidation, fearing that I might not hear correctly or in my anxiety to respond, I might mistake my nervous thoughts for Holy Spirit insight.

Instead of going forward, I sit, basking in God’s presence. He asks me gentle questions, which I jot down for further contemplation. Even so, I’m sad. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to a church that had time for prayer at the conclusion of each service.

At one time I would have been on one of the prayer teams, listening, praying, hugging, and sometimes healing. That seems a lifetime ago. I so miss it. A deep longing emerges. I want to be at a church that allows the laity to minister to one another, not relegating us to passive pew sitting.

My friend is half of one of the prayer teams. She and her partner stay busy praying for others. If they experience a lull, I will go up to talk, open for whatever prayers they will offer or words they might share.

I don’t have a chance. They steadily move from one person to the next, without a break. What they’re doing is more important than what I’m contemplating. I head out to find my bride.

Post Church Reflections

Candy stands at the welcome center, engaged in conversation. The gift was a coffee cup, which she passed on accepting because we already have too many. I catch the end of their conversation, and we turn to leave. One person welcomes us and adds, “Hope to see you next week.”

I know he won’t, but I don’t say so. Instead I nod to acknowledge I heard him and say, “Thank you.” I know it’s an awkward response, but it’s the best I’ve come up with so that I don’t give them false hope or be rude by saying we won’t be back.

As we drive home, I’m deep in contemplation, but Candy’s thinking about eating, which is usually my post-church priority.

We talk a bit about the prayer time, me with nostalgic longing and her contrasting it to the church we once attended.

There they played music loudly during the prayer time, so intense that we struggled to hear and be heard. Despite our numerous pleas, they never turned the music down. Leadership claimed loud music was most conducive to post-church interaction and the prayer team needed to deal with it.

“They do their prayer time right,” I say. “This is how it should be done.”

Candy agrees. 

“The sermon wasn’t great, but God gave me a lot to think about,” I add. “It will take me a while to process it.”

“I didn’t like it,” she responds. I know my spouse well enough to know she’s done talking about church. We go to Burger King for lunch.

The church offered much but overall came up short of meeting expectations. Maybe I expected too much.

[Read about Church 64 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Job Can’t See the Big Picture

God Perspective Matters More

As readers of the book of Job, we are privy to the whole story: Satan torments Job in an effort to prove that Job’s Godly devotion is conditional, that it is dependent on circumstances.

Job, however, does not have the luxury of this grand view. All he knows is that his once amazing life is now in shambles. He is in pain, and with seemingly nothing left to live for, he wants to die and end his misery.

With a limited view of God and not knowing the back-story, Job’s only conclusion is that this is God’s doing. His perspective is to blame God.

Job lacks an understanding of God’s overarching purpose at work. Job is unaware that once he proves himself faithful and that the enemy, Satan, is proved wrong, all that Job lost will be restored—two-fold (Job 42:10).

In many ways we are like Job. We lack a comprehension of God’s overarching plan and end up blaming God for our pains, our disappointments, and our anger.

If we could just see a glimpse of God’s big picture, then we would know that he in not the source of our frustration, that it lies elsewhere; we would see the reward that awaits us if we but stay on course.

Job did just that, even though he didn’t see God’s big picture.

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Should We Observe the Sabbath?

God Intended for Us to Take a Day of Rest Each Week

The Old Testament talks a lot about the Sabbath. God wants his children to work six days and then rest on the seventh. In fact, he commands that they observe the Sabbath. But lest we think this is an Old Testament thing, God says it’s a lasting covenant for generations to come.

That makes it sound like it applies to us today, that he expects us to observe the Sabbath too.

Let’s unpack what this entails.

The Sabbath Is Holy

First, God says that we are to observe the Sabbath because it is holy. He doesn’t state why it’s holy. He merely decrees that it is. He’s sovereign, so he can do that.

Because the day is holy, it’s sacred, belonging to him. We are to regard it with reverence, a day deserving our respect. Many of us have lost sight of this fact. It’s time to reclaim the Sabbath as holy.

The Sabbath Is a Day with No Work

At the time when God says to observe the Sabbath, the Hebrew people have just ended a time of enslavement, working continuously, toiling every day without a breather.

Taking a break would emerge as a welcome respite, giving them a chance to recover from the week that was and recharge for the week that will be.

The Sabbath Is a Day of Rest

Though slavery still exist today, most of us aren’t under its evil grasp. Yet many in the modern world still act like we’re enslaved. We’re a slave to busyness. We need a break from our jumble of continuous activity. We need a Sabbath rest, a day set apart from the other six.

Those Who Don’t Observe the Sabbath Deserve Death

So that we know how serious God is about this, he says that everyone who doesn’t observe the Sabbath deserves to die. Yikes! We can debate if this is an immediate physical death or an eventual spiritual death or something else, but that discussion misses the point.

God wants us to know he takes observing the Sabbath very seriously.

What the Sabbath Doesn’t Entail

Though I’m still looking for it, I haven’t found a verse where God commands his people to go to the temple (church) on the Sabbath (Sunday).

Yes, he does prescribe certain religious observances where the people go to the temple, and some of those days fall on the Sabbath. But I haven’t found a verse where he tells them to go to the temple every Sabbath—only special ones.

How Can We Observe the Sabbath Today?

How can we apply God’s command to observe the Sabbath to our life today? This is up for each person to determine. We have three biblical principles we can use to guide us.

1. Holy

First, it’s a holy day, set apart from all others. What should we do to treat the day as holy and not like the other six days of the week?

2. No work

Second, we are to do no labor on the Sabbath. What constitutes work is up for us to determine. A task that gives us joy is not work and may be an opportunity to worship God on this holy day.

3. A Day of Rest

Third, the Sabbath is a day of rest. What constitutes rest? Taking a nap? Spending time with family and friends? Going to church? Any activity that recharges us may apply as rest.

We need to reclaim the Sabbath as a holy day of rest without work. The details of how we do this are up for us to decide.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 29-31, and today’s post is on Exodus 31:14-16.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 4: Angry Jesus

Today’s passage: John 2:13–24

Focus verse: “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16)

When you think of Jesus, what image comes to mind? 

Is it Jesus, meek and mild? The little children gather around him and he gazes at them, his eyes brimming with compassion. 

In another scene, Jesus stands on a boat near the shore. He instructs the people who flock to hear his counter-cultural words that remove judgment and emphasize love.

Another image is Jesus as the Good Shepherd—our Good Shepherd. He cares for his sheep, feeds the little lambs, and protects the flock from danger.

For the one sheep that wanders off and gets lost or hurt, Jesus searches for it, finds it, and carries it back to the fold in his gentle, loving arms. Oh, to be safe in the arms of Jesus, secure in his embrace.

We celebrate Jesus who feeds the hungry, heals the hurting, and gives hope to the hopeless. We uphold his example and want to be more like him.

And even when the mob comes to arrest Jesus, he does not resist them. He does not seek his freedom or call an army of angels to rescue him. He goes with them without complaint.

Later, when on trial, accused and facing death, he says nothing to defend himself. He stays silent and accepts his fate.

This is how I view Jesus.

Yet Jesus has another side, one that’s easy for us to forget. It’s a physical Jesus, intense, one consumed with zeal. 

In Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus goes to the courtyard of the temple. He finds people conducting business instead of worshiping God.

Some sell the cattle, sheep, and doves needed for the various sacrifices. Others serve as a currency exchange. They make a nice profit for their efforts. Though both enable worship, they don’t belong in the temple courts, at the very doors to the temple.

Incensed at how they have disrespected his father’s house, Jesus fashions a whip. He drives the merchants out of the temple’s courtyard, including their animals. He overturns the tables of the money changers, scattering coins everywhere. “Get out! My father’s house is not a marketplace!”

No one tries to stop him. They scurry away.

Is this an example that gives us permission to get violent for God? No. Remember that Jesus is God. His actions promote worship that respects his Father and the temple as a place of worship and connection.

Instead, this passage serves as a reminder to not let money and the world’s activities encroach on our worship time and our worship space.

Questions:

  1. When you think of Jesus, which of this lesson’s images come to mind? 
  2. What practices might we do today that make Jesus just as angry?
  3. How does your zeal compare to Jesus’s?
  4. How willing should you be to make a ruckus for Jesus?
  5. What must you do to not let money or worldly activities detract from your worship?

Discover the foreshadowing of this event in Psalm 69:9. What insights can you glean from this passage?


Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John

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

Categories
Christian Living

What Does God’s Grace Mean?

Jesus Offers Us the Gift Of Salvation; All We Need to Do Is Accept It

We read in scripture that we are saved by God’s grace through faith. There’s nothing else we must do. It is God’s gift to us. We can’t earn it. All we need to do is receive it (Ephesians 2:8-9). He doesn’t want any of us to die, to perish—no not one.

God’s Grace is a Gift

Grace means to receive something good that we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve to be saved, but God offers salvation to us anyway. He does this because he loves us, and he loves us unconditionally.

All we need to do to receive salvation through God’s grace is to follow Jesus. That’s what he told the people to do: “Follow me.” We do this when we believe in him. This is what it means to be born again.

It’s that simple.

There are no steps to take, no hoops to jump through, and no requirements to meet. Easy peasy. And don’t believe anyone who tells you anything different. If someone insists you must do something first or follow a bunch of rules, they’re a modern-day Pharisee or a slave to the Old Testament law that Jesus fulfilled.

Not Your Ordinary Religion

Christianity is unique compared to all other religions. This is because we don’t need to do things to earn our salvation, our right standing with the Almighty. Jesus offers it to us as a present, and all we need to do is accept his free gift.

We don’t need to change our behavior. We don’t need to take a class. And we don’t need to make sacrifices to become right with him. We just need to say “yes” and except the gift of God’s grace.

Contrary to what most people think and to how many Christians behave, Christianity is not a performance-based religion. It is grace based. Never lose sight of that.

Changed Behavior Is a Response

Once we receive Jesus’s gift of salvation, through God’s grace, our response may be to change our behavior. But this isn’t a requirement. It’s optional. And it comes later.

Changing how we act, what we say, and what we think is something we do to say “thank you” to Jesus. This shouldn’t be a burden, something we do out of guilt, or an obligation. It’s a choice we freely make for him with no strings attached.

Changing our lifestyle for Jesus once we follow him should be a natural response for receiving the greatest present anyone could receive: the gift of eternal life.

Does God Owe Us Anything?

I acknowledge that I’m saved through Jesus and by God’s grace. I don’t need to earn it—I can’t. As a result of receiving Jesus’s salvation, my response is to change my life so that it more aligns with Jesus. This is an ongoing, lifelong process which I gladly pursue day by day.

And this is also the area I once struggled with. I used to think my good behavior, right living, and efforts to grow closer to God somehow earned me his favor. That he owed me because I studied Scripture, prayed, and fasted.

The fact that I gave money to advance his Kingdom and made sacrifices for him somehow must mean I’d earned his attention and deserved his good will. I expected I should receive his blessings because I had earned them.

This, of course, was wrong thinking on my part. Though I relied on God’s grace to save me, I forgot about his grace as I moved forward in my life.

Receive God’s Grace

Remember what we covered earlier: God’s grace is to receive something good that we don’t deserve. I don’t deserve God’s favor, blessings, or protection. I can’t earn it, and he doesn’t owe it to me. But by God’s grace he does all these things for me and more.

Following Jesus and living for him is all about God’s grace. Never forget that.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Mother’s Day, Ascension Sunday, & Baby Dedications

This nontypical, nondenominational church enjoys a good amount of positive local buzz. Today is Mother’s Day. I’m apprehensive because visiting a church on a holiday never provides a typical experience.

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church 64.

Two young women at the entrance to the parking lot smile and wave as we pull in. What a nice greeting. What can we do at our church to help make a great first impression on others as they arrive?

Inside the facility I spot a lady wearing a T-shirt that suggests she’s a greeter. Her broad smile beckons me. I ask for directions, and she’s most helpful. When people look at us, do we appear approachable or repelling? 

With in-the-round seating, the worship team faces each other to get cues from their leader. Those closest have their backs to us. Though disconcerting, it’s less like a performance and more worshipful. How can we remember church isn’t a concert?

Today’s also Ascension Sunday. With the focus on mothers, singing about Jesus’s resurrection is the closest we’ll get to acknowledging his ascension. What does Jesus’s return to heaven mean? How can we better celebrate his ascension?

They conduct several baby dedications, striking a nice balance between the ceremony and celebrating the child, without dragging it into a too-long ritual. While parents take the lead in raising their kids, how can we better support their efforts? 

The minister wraps up with an altar call of sorts, but he drones on, and I soon tune him out. How can we keep our worship fresh and avoid the rut of repetition in our church services?

A big church, they offer excellent teaching and music, with many programs and service opportunities, but they struggle providing community and connection. I leave spiritually full and emotionally hungry. How can we help people leave church spiritually and emotionally filled?

This large church held baby dedications on this Mother’s Day and Ascension Sunday. They offered much, except for connection.

[Read about Church 64 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Pray When it Doesn’t Make Sense

After Job’s so-called friends fail so miserably to comfort him in his time of need, after they criticize and malign him, God steps in. God puts them in their place for what they said and affirms that Job has spoken truth.

Then God tells the friends to prepare a sacrifice and to ask Job to pray for them.

Picture the situation. Job’s life is in shambles. He is destitute and in pain, despising life itself. The only people who will even talk to him, attack him and his character, pulling him down even further. Then they have the audacity to ask him to pray for them!

If you were Job, how would you respond?

God accepts Job’s prayers—and then restores his fortunes twofold. Click To Tweet

Praying for them would be a hard thing to do; it would be far easier to give them the payback they deserve, but not Job. In the midst of his torment, he prays for his misguided friends even though they seem to be in a much better state than he is.

God accepts Job’s prayers—and then restores his fortunes twofold.

What if Job had refused to pray for his friends, might God’s response have been different?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 40-42, and today’s post is on Job 42:7-10.]

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Tamar

A Women Takes Extreme Action to Get What Is Due Her

Tamar is a victim who takes extreme action to vindicate herself. She’s the daughter-in-law of Judah. She suffers at his hand, responds with guile, and has twins with him. Later she is one of four women mentioned in Jesus’s family tree. Talk about a messed-up situation. Here’s her story:

Tamar marries Judah’s oldest son. He’s evil and dies. She’s passed on to his brother to produce offspring in his stead. The brother doesn’t cooperate, and God kills him. Judah promises Tamar his third son when he’s old enough and sends her back to live with her parents to wait.

He has no intention of following through. He lies to her.

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Once she realizes this, she dresses like a hooker, and waits where she knows Judah will be. Not knowing who she is, he sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant. He uses her.

When Judah finds out his daughter-in-law is pregnant, he condemns her to die.

Then she reveals who the father is. Judah confesses his role, and he professes his daughter-in-law as righteous. They, along with their son Perez, are part of Jesus’ genealogy.

Tamar’s drastic steps ensure she will have a family and be cared for; God ensures she has a legacy.

The story of Tamar concludes in Matthew 1:3. She’s also celebrated when the elders bless Ruth in Ruth 4:12.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 36-38 and today’s post is on Genesis 38:24-26.]


Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 3: Jesus’s First Miracle

Today’s passage: John 2:1–12

Focus verse: He revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

Consider the miracles Jesus performs. He heals people with broken bodies, casts out evil spirits, and even raises dead people to life. Whatever their situation, Jesus makes their life better—much better.

Yet his first miracle, right after he calls Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael to follow him, includes none of these grand supernatural signs.

Jesus’s first miracle is less astounding. Compared to his other incredible wonders, his first one is trivial. Yes, it’s still a miracle. We shouldn’t lose sight of that. Yet on the scale of supernatural significance, this one ranks near the bottom.

What is this miracle? Jesus makes wine from water at a party.

Here’s the situation.

Three days after Jesus calls his first disciples, they attend a wedding celebration. Mary, Jesus’s mother, is present too. Midway through the reception, social disaster strikes. The groom runs out of wine. 

This isn’t a life-or-death situation, but only a public embarrassment. Yes, the people will remember what happened, that the man didn’t give them enough to drink. They’ll talk about his shortsightedness and failure to care for his guests.

The man’s failure could come up at every wedding for years to come. It will form the basis for how the people in this town regard him and his bride. For years they’ll carry the stigma of running out of wine and disrespecting their guests.

Having nothing left to drink jeopardizes no one’s well-being. In fact, since many have already drunk too much, they may be better off not drinking any more.

Mary, aware of what happened, edges up to Jesus and whispers, “They ran out of wine.”

Jesus dismisses her concern in a way that seems disrespectful, but she ignores his apparent disregard for the groom’s plight. Instead, she instructs the servants, “Do whatever he says to do.” She’s done what she can and trusts Jesus to do what she cannot.

Despite telling Mary that he doesn’t want to get involved, Jesus acts. He tells the servants to fill six large jugs with water. Together they will hold well over one hundred gallons. They follow his instructions, and he tells them, “Take a sample to the master of ceremonies.”

The master takes a sip of the water, which Jesus has miraculously turned into wine, and commends the bridegroom for saving the best for last. This is unlike the typical practice of serving the best wine first and holding back the lesser quality vintages for when people have drunk enough not to care.

Jesus’s disciples see what he did, turning water into wine. In doing so, he reveals his power to them. Based on this, his disciples place their trust in him.

Questions:

  1. What does Jesus turning water into wine tell us about him?
  2. Do you think Jesus will help us avoid embarrassment today, like he did for the groom?
  3. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said to do. How willing are you to obey whatever Jesus tells you to do?
  4. Why do you think Jesus performed miracles? 
  5. Do you believe the miracles Jesus did can still happen today? Why?

Discover some of Jesus’s other miracles in John 4:39–54, John 5:1–15, John 6:1–2, and John 9:1–7. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.


Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John

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

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.