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Visiting Churches

When Visiting Churches We Must Keep Our Focus on God

For 52 Churches, my wife and I spent one year visiting a different Christian church every week. What we learned was amazing. Still, I knew the journey wasn’t over. We had more to do and visited more churches. I shared these new experiences in More Than 52 Churches.

Consider these three discussion questions as we dig deeper into visiting churches.

Visiting churches wore us down. Visitors to our churches may share a similar perspective. What can we do to help weary visitors experience God and enjoy community?

Each church’s worship practices varied, and their theology diverged, but the God behind them stands constant. How can we keep our focus on God and not on our church service and theology?

A slight majority of the population are introverts who may struggle more in visiting churches. Regardless of where we are on the introvert-extrovert scale, what can we do to personally embrace church visitors?

[Read more 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

What Does Perfect Love Do?

Love versus Fear

As we struggle with the paradox of fearing God and loving God, there’s another thought on the subject.

John writes that “perfect love drives out fear.”

Perfect love never fails. Perfect love is love that’s without fault, consistent and always present. God embodies perfect love.

Paul gives us a list of what love is and isn’t. Love is:

  • patient
  • kind
  • not envious
  • not boastful
  • not proud
  • not rude
  • not self-seeking
  • not easily angered
  • forgetting the mistakes of others
  • not delighting in evil
  • rejoicing over truth
  • offering protection
  • trusting
  • hopeful
  • persevering
  • never failing

This is love, perfect love, and it drives away fear.

[1 John 4:18, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8]

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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Bible Insights

Don’t Drive God Away

In Ezekiel’s Day the People Did What God Detested

In the eighth chapter of Ezekiel, God takes the prophet to Jerusalem to see the area around the temple. Each place God takes him, Ezekiel looks and sees the people doing things God abhors. God says he’ll drive them from his sanctuary.

After several recurrences, the chapter ends with God’s response to the people’s vile actions. He says:

  • I will deal with them in anger.
  • I will not look on them with pity.
  • I will not spare them.
  • I will not listen to them, even though they shout.

The people did what the Holy one detested. Their actions served to drive God away from the sanctuary. They would get what they deserved.

I wonder if we do the same thing with some of our religious practices at church today? Do we do things God detests? Do we drive him away? I hope it isn’t so, but fear it is.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 5-8, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 8:6 and 18.]

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

Do We Need to Obey God?

Doing What the Bible Says Isn’t a Requirement but a Response

In the post about how to be saved we realized there’s nothing we need to do (or can do) to earn our salvation; it’s a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). This means we don’t need to first obey God before he accepts us. He accepts us through no merit of our own. We just need to receive his goodness—his grace—through faith. It’s that simple.

But Don’t Abuse God’s Grace

In a spiritual sense, grace means receiving something from God that we don’t deserve. Just as we don’t deserve salvation, we don’t deserve his love either. We don’t need to obey God for him to love us. He loves us—despite ourselves and our actions—and he always has and always will. He loved us when we were still disobedient, still sinners.

He loved us so much that Jesus died in our place (Romans 5:8). And nothing can cause him to withdraw his love from us (Romans 8:38-39). It’s another example of God’s endless grace.

If we don’t need to obey God for him to love us or to save us, does that mean we can continue to live in disobedience to him? To continue to sin? Of course not.

 Paul writes, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2, NIV).

Work Out Our Salvation

In another place Paul writes that we are to continue to work out our salvation  (Philippians 2:12-13). He doesn’t say we need to work for our salvation, but to work it out. It’s something we do after he saves us, not before, as in a prerequisite.

This means that we choose to obey God as a response to him loving us and saving us. The Bible calls this sanctification. And we’ll spend our whole life doing it, moving ourselves closer to God as we obey him.

We don’t have to do this, to work out our salvation by obeying him. But we should want to. He has, after all, given us the greatest present of all, the gift of eternal life with him.

We choose to live a life of obedience to God, not because we have to but because we want to. Click To Tweet

Obey God

We don’t need to obey God as a requirement to be saved. Instead, once we follow him and receive eternal life our response of gratitude is to obey God. It’s how we say thank you to him for the gift of salvation he gave us.

We choose to live a life of obedience to God, not because we have to but because we want to.

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

New Book: Dr. Luke

(Dear Theophilus series, books 1–2)

Want to learn more about the Gospel of Luke? Seek insights from the book of Acts?

Doctor Luke wrote the two powerful New Testament books of Luke and Acts, giving us a compelling one-two punch into better understanding the life of Jesus and the work of his followers.

Grow in your faith and deepen your understanding of Jesus and his church from these two amazing books in this special box set.

In Dr Luke, lifetime student of the Bible and founder of the website ABibleADay, Peter DeHaan, digs deep into the beloved Gospel of Luke to unearth 40 thought-provoking gems that can inform your beliefs and transform your life. Then build on that foundation by exploring 40 more jewels from the book of Acts.

Part devotional. Part Bible study. Life changing. No fluff.

In this book, you’ll discover:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • The people who angered Jesus the most, why they frustrated him, and how this applies to us today
  • The importance of community and getting along
  • The example to minister to each other, serve as priests, and tell others about Jesus
  • The model of sharing life with other believers

In Dr. Luke you’ll encounter eye-opening insights from passages you thought were familiar. Find fresh truths as you gain a broader appreciation of Luke’s biography of Jesus and the account of his followers as they formed the Christian church.

Ideal for both individual or group study, this book includes scripture references and questions inviting readers to go deeper.

Get Dr Luke today to expand your understanding of Jesus and his church.

[This was first published as Dear Theophilus Box Set, Dr. Luke.]

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

Wasn’t 52 Churches Enough?

For 52 Churches, my wife and I spent one year visiting a different Christian church every Sunday. It was an amazing journey that allowed us to experience the vast scope of Jesus’s church.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

The experience expanded our faith as we celebrated God in various local branches of his church. Yes, the worship practices varied and theology diverged, but the God behind these churches stood constant. It was good. So good.

We wrapped up the year in awe of God, appreciative of the diversity of his church, and grateful for the impact of the people we met along the way. We also felt relief (though mixed with a degree of sadness) as our journey concluded, and we celebrated a return to our home church on Easter.

In truth, visiting different churches week after week was exhausting. It wore us down. Even though our journey started as a fun adventure, toward the end it took more effort to walk into an unfamiliar church each Sunday with open eyes and fresh enthusiasm.

Yes, we learned so much and met so many amazing people, both leaders and laity, but it was good to reclaim the regular routine of going to our home church every Sunday.

Still, I knew the journey wasn’t over. We had more to do.

Yes, the fifty-two churches we visited were a diverse group. But by design, they were all within ten miles of our house. Expanding our journey will unveil greater diversity, new insights, and more to celebrate. Therefore, we’ll look for more churches to visit, but we can’t—we won’t—do this every Sunday.

Instead, we’ll plan our visits sporadically, as our schedule allows, while maintaining a firm connection with our home church. This time, however, instead of methodically selecting churches based on their distance from our house, we’ll strategically choose them to realize the greatest range of experiences. This will maximize the scope of our journey and magnify our lessons.

But first, I’d like to share a couple of personal notes. As I mentioned in 52 Churches, I’m an introvert—as is slightly more than half the population. Navigating new social settings challenges me. This includes visiting churches.

Even though I never got past my apprehension of walking into a new church each Sunday, it did become easier as the year progressed, since visiting churches became our new Sunday norm.

This time, I expect visiting to not be as easy. Since these church visits will unfold at irregular intervals, my Sunday norm will be going to our home church. Visiting a church will be an anomaly.

Therefore, despite having done so over fifty times, I anticipate walking into these churches to be more difficult, not less. I’ll simply be out of practice and will encounter more—not less—emotionally laden moments.

Also, I want to affirm Candy, my wife and accomplice, for these visits. I couldn’t have asked for more. Having her at my side for each of the first fifty-two churches made a huge difference. Throughout, she was a perfect partner on our journey.

Each week she would contact the church we planned to visit, verifying key details. And each week she went without complaint, offering her full support to me and our adventure. This became our normal Sunday practice for a whole year, and her support was essential.

This time, however, lacking a specific plan and schedule, we’ll need to discuss where we’re going and when. I anticipate some give-and-take that each marriage—each partnership of two people—encounters from time to time.

Nonetheless, I know her support will shine just as brightly this time as last. Having covered this, now I’m ready to start, but before we resume our church visitations, let’s revisit our return to our home church, Church #53. We’ll start with a condensed version of what I shared in 52 Churches.

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

Why Love Matters the Most

Last week in my post, How Important is Knowledge?, I noted that many in our society—and the Western Church—esteem knowledge above all else, while Paul says that love is more important. That is, love matters.

In another place Paul elevates love over several other things as well, such as supernaturally using other languages, giving prophetic words, having spiritual discernment, exercising deep faith, possessing a giving heart, and enduring physical hardship.

Although these things have value, they aren’t as important as simply loving one another. In fact, without love, these other things don’t even matter, not really.

Love is the greatest thing of all. Click To Tweet

I’ve often seen well-intended followers of Jesus seek an impartation of supernatural gifts, especially speaking in tongues, but I’ve never seen anyone ask for more love. Yet if we really believe what Paul says, that love matters, then love should be the first thing we ask for.

After all, Paul does say that love is the greatest thing of all.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 13:13]

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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Bible Insights

When God Calls Us to Act, We Better Act

May We Never Be Lax about Doing the Work of God

The book of Jeremiah contains prophecies about many of the countries that surround God’s people, many countries that tormented them in the past or are tormenting them during Jeremiah’s time. One of these countries is Moab.

Here’s the backstory.

Lot’s oldest daughter has a son. His name is Moab, and he becomes the father of the Moabites. Later it is the Moabites who hire Balaam to curse the people of Israel, but that backfires. Moab does this even though God told Moses to not harass or provoke the people of Moab.

Yet throughout the centuries the people of Moab repeatedly harassed the people of Israel. Along comes Jeremiah who prophesies against Moab. Everyone will come against Moab to destroy her.

Then in the middle of his prophecy, Jeremiah inserts a curious phrase, placing a curse on anyone who is lax in doing God’s work against Moab.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work. Click To Tweet

Don’t Be Lax in Doing God’s Work

Though this curse specifically relates to God’s goal of punishing Moab, I wonder if we can extrapolate a general principle for us today. Specifically, God is not pleased with us if we are lax about doing his work.

May we never displease God. May we never be lax about doing his work. Instead may we diligently do all he calls us to do. He can call us to action through Scripture, the written word of God. And he can call us to action through the Holy Spirit, the spoken word of God.

Though I don’t suspect God will call us to punish another nation, he does call us to promote the kingdom of God, in the spiritual sense. May we hear what he calls us to do, and may we follow through with all diligence.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 46-48, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 48:10.]

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 to be Saved

Discover What the Bible Says about Salvation

Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, shares a succinct and essential truth about salvation. He tells them how to be saved, which reminds them how they were saved.

He writes “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

By Grace

Our salvation starts with God’s grace. Grace gives to us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve our right standing with Father God that came to us through Jesus when he died in our place for the wrong things we have done

As we explore how to be saved, it doesn’t start with us but with God and his grace.

Through Faith

The second related item is faith. This is our part. We must receive the grace that God offers to us through faith. We must believe.

It doesn’t make sense to most people. It seems too easy. So they pile more requirements upon it, as if making it hard will make it mean more.

Yet through faith we can receive God’s grace. This is how to be saved.

A Gift

Lest there be any doubt, salvation is a gift that God freely gives to us. It’s a no-strings-attached present from the Almighty. That’s what God’s grace does.

Not Works

We can’t earn our salvation anymore than we can earn a gift that’s already been freely offered to us. Yet when many people consider how to be saved, they think there’s a list of requirements they must meet, that is, there are a set of prescribed steps they must go through to earn their salvation.

But we can’t work to become eligible to receive a present from God that he’s already given to us. All we need to do is open that gift.

To be saved, we make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

How to be Saved: Follow Jesus

When we consider how to be saved, we must acknowledge that God’s gift of grace is something that we receive through faith. But how do we do that?

It’s simple. We make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. That’s the essential message that Jesus tells people when they ask him how to be saved, how to have eternal life. He simply says follow me (Matthew 9:9, John 1:43, John 8:12, John 10:27, and many more.

I follow Jesus. Do you?

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

Church Improvement Tips

We witnessed more than a few oversights, errors, and blunders that could turn people away. Sadly, many occurred in more than one church. Here are some pointers, some church improvement tips, to consider so you don’t scare away guests.

Consider these four discussion questions: 

1. Realtors stress curb appeal. So should churches. 

What can you do to make the outside of your building inviting? How can you ensure the inside continues the positive experience?

2. Having an online presence is critical to attract new people. Short of a personal invitation, most people won’t visit a church that lacks an inviting online presence. 

What steps can you take to invite people to your church?

3. People attend a church for the service. Make it easy for everyone to participate. 

What can you personally do to help newcomers better understand and take part in your service?

4. To remain viable for the long term, a church needs to look outside themselves. Too many churches have an internal focus. 

What outward-looking initiatives could you pursue?

Consider these church improvement tips and pick one to focus on. Then move to the next one.

[See the prior set of questions, the next post in this series, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 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.