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Bible Insights

Can You Be a Spiritual Mother to Someone?

Some People Don’t Have Biological Offspring, but Everyone Can Have Spiritual Descendants

Paul wraps up his letter to the church in Rome with a long list of people Most of these names stream past our eyes as unfamiliar. We’re tempted to skim. But slow down.

Consider Rufus (Romans 16:13). That name only appears in one other place in the Bible, and that likely refers to a different guy. So we know little about this Rufus except that Paul greets him by name.

Paul shares no reason, offers no encouragement, and gives no backstory—other than to say Rufus is chosen by God.

Oh, and there’s Rufus’s mother. Paul doesn’t even give her name, just her role as Rufus’s mom—who has also been like a mom to Paul. This is huge.

Rufus’s mom has a biological son, Rufus. She also has a spiritual son, Paul. She is his spiritual mother.

When you think of mothers, what traits come to mind? I think first of loving. Following that comes nurturing, encouraging, and supportive. Mothers also hope for the best from their children and always believe in them. And most mothers like to feed their kids too.

I suspect Rufus’s mom is all these things to Paul.

We can all be spiritual mothers to those who need love, nurturing, encouragement, and support. Click To Tweet

Some women have biological children and others do not, either by choice or by circumstance. The ladies in this last category long to have kids but do not.

The Bible is replete with longsuffering women who pray earnestly and ache to have children. After decades of waiting, God gives them what their heart desires.

Yet whether a biological mom or not, we can all be spiritual mothers. And this includes guys too. If the idea of being a spiritual mother is a bit off-putting to men, consider the label of spiritual father.

Who needs love, nurturing, encouragement, and support? Although the answer is everyone, I’m sure some specific individuals come to mind.

Be a spiritual mother—or father—to them. You never know the impact they might grow up to have on others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 14-16, and today’s post is on Romans 16:13.]

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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Christian Living

One Body with Many Members: Correct the Church Membership Fallacy

Instead of Joining a Church, Align Yourself with Jesus

Most churches talk about church membership—a lot. Some treat it as the next step after salvation, even as if it’s salvation part two. It’s not. And if your church is part of a denomination, membership in the local church is automatic membership in the denomination.

Church Membership

With membership, many carry a smug pride of religious superiority. Others expect their membership to provide them with benefits.

Some church membership benefits are explicit, carrying specified privileges. These include being able to vote at meetings, eligibility for certain church positions, and enjoying a higher status than nonmembers, who are mere attendees.

Other church membership benefits are assumed. Basically, this means our ministers must be available whenever we need them. This includes celebrating our special events, dealing with any crisis we may encounter, and listening to our “concerns” about some church issue or theology. When we say “jump,” they’re supposed to act.

Denomination Membership

Church denominations used to be much more important than they are now. Church members were loyal to their denomination.

When they moved, they sought out a church in their same denomination. And as a member of the denomination, they’d be accepted without question at the new church—even though no one knew them. It was a simple matter to transfer their membership to the new congregation.

Most denominations struggle today. They’re losing members (and affiliated churches) at an alarming rate. Some had scandals. Others faced a theological rift between polarized perspectives, where it was impossible to please everyone. And the dissenters voiced their frustration by leaving.

Most denominations have become nothing more than institutions fighting for survival. Membership numbers are the way they gage their battle.

What Does the Bible Say?

Scripture never mentions church membership. There are no commands to join a local church. The apostle Paul, however, does talk about members. He repeatedly says that we are members of one body. That’s right. Not a church or a denomination, but a body—one body.

He writes that there is one body. He tells this to the church in Rome (Romans 12:5), Ephesus (Ephesians 3:6 and Ephesians 4:25), and Colossae (Colossians 3:15). He even gets more specific, saying we are members of his body, that is Jesus’s body, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:19-20, Ephesians 5:29-30 and 1 Corinthians 6:15a).

There is one body with many members, each with their own function (Romans 12:3-4).

What Does Jesus Want?

In his final prayer before his execution, Jesus prayed that we—his future followers—would be one, just as he and Papa are one. Why is this? By being one, we become the optimum witness to the world so that they may believe (John 17:20-21).

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. Click To Tweet

Jesus knew that if we divided ourselves by forming denominations, we would divide ourselves and our witness, fracturing the ideas of one body in the process.

He knew that by establishing church memberships, we would divide ourselves—and his one body—into two levels of followers, with some in and others second-class.

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. We automatically become a member when we follow Jesus. Local church membership doesn’t matter.

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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Peter DeHaan News

Visiting Online Church Audiobook

New Format Now Available

The audiobook for Visiting Online Church is now available. Joining the ebook, paperback, and hardcover formats of Visiting Online Church is the new audiobook version. It is auto-narrated by Maxwell.

Having endured a season of attending church online, we want to put it behind us. We desire to return to gathering in-person. Not so fast.

Online church plays a vital role in our faith communities, both now and in the future. Consider 36 online church principles, illustrated through real-world examples, to guide your online content.

Audiobook Sample

Visiting Online Church is book five in the acclaimed Visiting Churches series.

The audiobook is currently available from GooglePlay, Apple Books, and Kobo, with more outlets being added.

Get your copy of Visiting Online Church today.

Book Trailer

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Visiting Churches

Church #60: A Missed Opportunity 

I meet a woman at a writers conference. In addition to being an author, she is also a pastor. She’s launching a new church in an underserved downtown urban area.

The Vision

Her dream is a church for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds—a colorful mosaic of folks who seek to grow together in Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit. She shares more. Her passion draws me in. Her vision inspires me. I want to be part of this great adventure. 

I occasionally see her online, reminding me of this church. Being part of this church is not inconceivable, even though the downtown area is about thirty minutes away. I share my excitement over the possibility with Candy.

She doesn’t see the opportunity I see. Urban church experiences in a rundown area aren’t what she wants, but she does agree to visit once. 

I go online to find the details. Their website casts a vision for a downtown church, but it also talks about their meetings in a suburb. Details appear for a suburban church service, but not for a downtown one. 

In frustration, I fill out the contact form on their website to seek clarity. A couple of weeks later I receive a response, not from my friend, but from her associate. They have not yet started meeting downtown and are presently only gathering in the suburban location.

We are welcome to join them.

The problem is the suburb is northeast of downtown, while we are southwest. It would take an additional fifteen or so minutes to get there. Forty-five minutes is too far of a drive, even to visit a church one time. For us, it’s a missed opportunity to experience their gathering.

The Result

Several months later, I think about this church again. I wonder if their downtown meetings have started. I revisit their website. A picture of the downtown remains, but they have no mention of their downtown vision or meeting there.

I’m disappointed. It’s a missed opportunity.

I understand that dreams can change, and vision can shift. I assume they’ve given up on reaching the downtown urban area, just like many other well-intentioned folks. They are now content in the suburbs. Most people are.

[Read about Church 59 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’s Conclusion

A common lament of Job throughout the story bearing his name is his begging God to answer his pleas. However, it seems that Job (and his friends) are too busy talking to give God a chance. When God does respond, Job’s friends are rebuffed, and Job’s righteousness is affirmed.

Now we can read Job’s conclusion to the entire matter.

Job’s brief reply to God’s discourse is humble and contrite. After acknowledging God’s complete knowledge (omniscience) and total power (omnipotence), Job unabashedly admits:

“I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” This is Job’s conclusion to his ordeal. May we follow his example.

With all of our knowledge and assumed understanding of God and his ways, I think that Job’s words are more often an appropriate and accurate posture then for us to assuredly spout our religious opinions (theology) as if they were fact.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 40-42, and today’s post is on Job 42:3.]

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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Christian Living

Hold on to Every Thought

Make Our Thoughts Obedient to Jesus

Paul tells the church in Corinth to capture every thought and make it obedient to Jesus. Likewise, Proverbs advises us to guard our thoughts (Proverbs 4:23). (Some translations say to guard our hearts, putting a different twist on the same concept).

This is often hard to do—but not impossible.

Though I’m still working on it, my solution is to distract myself from wayward thoughts. When I remember to do this, they usually dissipate quickly. My distractions take two forms:

Quote the Bible

The first verse that comes to mind is in James: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). This is good advice to follow, but when I cite it, I end up focusing on what I’m trying to escape. It doesn’t help me control my every thought.

Instead, my go to verse is from Revelation: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). This passage places my focus on God, praising him, worshiping him, and acknowledging his eternal existence.” The enemy doesn’t like that.

I end up reciting this verse just about every day, often multiple times.

The key to holding every thought captive is remembering to pray. Click To Tweet

Pray

Another way I distract myself from wrong thinking is to pray. The enemy doesn’t like that either. However, I don’t pray that I’ll stop thinking wrong thoughts or for strength to hold them captive; that also focuses my attention on what I’m trying to escape. Instead I pray for someone else.

Just as I have one predetermined verse, I have one predetermined person who I will automatically pray for when wrong thoughts beckon. This keeps me from wasting time, trying to determine who I should pray for and gets me to the praying part quickly.

Capturing every thought and subjecting it to Jesus is usually quite easy when I remember to cite scripture or pray. The key is remembering to do so.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 10-13, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 10:5.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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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Christian Living

What Do You Think about Retirement?

Working for God Is What Matters Most

I’ve worked from home since 2000. Over the years curious neighbors, seeing me at home during the day, have asked if I’m retired. I smile and shake my head. More recently the question has shifted to “When are you going to retire?” Again, I shake my head. Retirement isn’t on my radar.

In truth I’m not planning on retiring—ever. My hope is that I’ll be able to write until the day I die. Toward that end, I pray that my writing will continue to improve throughout the rest of my career. God is not calling me to retire but to write. My purpose is to advance his kingdom through my words.

I need to have a reason to get up each morning—and for me that is to write. If I didn’t have work to look forward to, I fear I would squander my day, filling it with secondary activities and useless pursuits. Retirement could do that for me.

Retirement From Work

For some, labor emerges as a draining drudgery that they can’t wait to escape. They work to earn a living and as soon as they retire, they’ll let their retirement benefits and investments pay their bills without the need to toil to receive a paycheck.

Others retire out of necessity. The physical demands of their labors have taken a toll on their bodies, making work an increasingly difficult or painful task. Or it could be that the mental acuity needed to perform at peak levels has slipped enough to make continued work inadvisable. These cases all call for retirement.

Then there is mandatory retirement, usually age related.

I hear of people retiring at fifty-five or in their forties, even as young as thirty-eight. What will they do with the rest of their life? Given our increasing life expectancies, they could end up with more years retired than worked.

Never Retire from God

Though we may opt to or need to retire from work, we shouldn’t adopt a similar attitude toward God. What he calls us to do for him doesn’t have a retirement age. We should continue our labors for him for as long as he gives us breath.

Each new day is a gift, and we shouldn’t waste it. We should wake with anticipation on our minds: “God, what are we going to do today?”

Yes, the details of our work for God may change as we age, but the privilege to live a life of service to him never ends.

Don’t Wait

I often hear people talk about their retirement plans, of what they’ll do when they retire. Of all the extra time they’ll have to serve God. Though they may be too busy now, they’ll have plenty of time once they retire. Except that they usually don’t have more time.

Many a retiree has told me, “I’m way busier now than when I was working.” I suspect that if they’re not serving God when they’re working, they’ll not find the time to do so when they retire.

Therefore, don’t wait to serve God when it’s more convenient or you expect to have more time. Do it now. By developing the practice of serving God now, you’ll be in a better position to continue that—or even expand on it—when retirement rolls around.

Though you can retire from work, don’t retire from God. Click To Tweet

Do It Now

What is God calling you to do? What are you passionate about or interested in? Seek ways to pursue these things now. Don’t put them off until later, because later may never come.

If you’re already retired from work, how can you use your retirement years to better serve God. And if you’re looking forward to retirement, there’s no need to change course. Just make an adjustment to what you do now, so that retirement can move you into a more God-honoring season in your life.

Though you can retire from work, don’t retire from God.

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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Peter DeHaan News

Love Is Patient Audiobook

New Format Released

The audiobook for Love Is Patient is now available.

Joining the e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats of Love Is Patient, is the new audiobook. It is auto-narrated by Maxwell.

Love Is Patient is a devotional Bible study on 1 and 2 Corinthians, letters written by the apostle Paul to the fledging church in Corinth.

The Corinthian church had issues. Lots of them, just like many churches today. Through this chapter-by-chapter study, we’ll examine Paul’s teaching to this struggling church.

In this insightful exploration of 1 and 2 Corinthians, we’ll discern how his instructions to them two thousand years ago best apply to us today.

Love Is Patient Audio Sample

Love Is Patient is book 7 in the beloved Dear Theophilus series.

The audiobook is currently available from GooglePlay, Apple Books, and Kobo, with more outlets being added.

Get your copy of Love Is Patient today.

Love Is Patient Book Trailer

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Visiting Churches

Advent Service: Discussion Questions for Church #59

One of the area’s megachurches has intrigued me for years. I once wanted to be part of it. Now I’m not sure. Our first visit came several years ago, long before the original 52 Churches project. Now we return for a fresh look. It’s Advent and they have an Advent service.

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church 59.

As we drive to their facility, I pray for our time there, what we will learn, and what God wants to teach us. Do we remember to pray before church? What is the focus of our prayers?

An usher hands me a bulletin. This isn’t an usher-and-bulletin church. The paper states “Advent Liturgy.” This certainly isn’t a liturgical congregation. How can we engage in a service if it’s different than what we expect?

The subdued playing lacks the excitement I anticipated. They teach us a song in Latin. The timing befuddles me. The words perplex me. When the music doesn’t click, how can we push through and worship God anyway?

I assume the liturgy, restrained playing, and song are something different they’re doing for Advent: changing the familiar into something with a mystical aura. What can we do to breathe freshness into our adoration of Jesus?

During the greeting time we have brief interactions with those sitting around us. But, unable to move, we then stand writhing in awkward isolation while conversations abound around us. How can we best greet those who need it most?

I suspect this Sunday’s teaching is typical and the rest of the service is not. Somber music pulls me down, while liturgy pushes me away. I must work to embrace all forms of worship. How can we help people overcome barriers to encountering God?

“I loved the teaching,” I tell Candy, “but I don’t have the energy to try to plug into a large church.” How can we help people plug into our church without making them work too hard?

[Read about Church 59 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

Consider Job’s Daughters

A Refreshing Perspective

At the conclusion of the book of Job, God blesses him even more than before. One of the blessings mentioned is that Job has ten children. Seven are sons and three are daughters. Let’s look into Job’s daughters.

What is interesting is that in an age when sons are revered and daughters are essentially ignored, righteous Job elevates his daughters.

It is Job’s daughters who the Bible mentions by name, not his sons.

Additionally, Job grants his daughters an inheritance, along with their brothers.

This is a counter-cultural move—and one that I think pleases God greatly.

May we do the same.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 40-42, and today’s post is on Job 42:13-15.]

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.