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Bible Insights

3 People Given a New Name by God

In the book of Genesis, God gives a new name to three people.

In doing so, God is effectively saying, I’m giving you a new identity. You may see yourself according to what your parents called you at birth, but I see you differently. I’m giving you a new name and a new future.

  • Abram becomes Abraham
  • Sarai becomes Sarah
  • Jacob becomes Israel

The Amplified Bible tells us the meaning for five of these names:

Abram/Abraham

Abram means “high, exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5).

Sarai/Sarah

The meaning of Sarai is not given, but Sarah means “Princess” (Genesis 17:15).

Jacob/Israel

Jacob means “supplanter” (one who usurps or replaces another), whereas Israel means “contender with God” (Genesis 32:28).

The Value of a New Name

Consider their original name given to them at birth. Contrast this to their new name given to them by God. How is God reorienting their perspective? Read about them in the Bible to see how they live up to the new identity God gave them. Their new was transformative.

Would you like God to give you a new name? Click To Tweet

There is power in a name.

Would you like God to give you a new name? Just ask him and then listen for his answer. Now adjust your perspective to live up to his new identity for you.

If you do, it will change the rest of your life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 15-17 and today’s post is on Genesis 17:5.]

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 2: Jesus and John the Baptist

Today’s passage: John 1:15–51

Focus verse: John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23)

We first meet John the Baptist in John 1:6. (Remember, John the Baptist is not the author of the book of John. John, the disciple of Jesus, is.)

John the Baptist comes to tell us about the light of Jesus so we might believe in him. In fact, God wants us all to believe—not that everyone will, but so that everyone has an opportunity to. Salvation isn’t a given. It’s a choice. 

After this opening passage in the book of John about Jesus being Word, life, and light, we now return our attention to John the Baptizer.

John’s purpose, his ministry, is to point us to Jesus, preparing people to accept and follow him. John isn’t the light. He serves as a witness pointing to the light (John 1:7–8).

Here are a few things John the Baptist says about Jesus:

  • Jesus existed long before John. Though we understand this because John writes that Jesus created our world, the people John addresses aren’t aware of this detail. Explaining that Jesus comes before John hints at Jesus’s eternal nature (John 1:15).
  • Jesus will bless us with his abundance (John 1:16).
  • The law, God’s commands of right behavior and proper worship in the Old Testament, comes from Moses. In contrast, Jesus will offer grace and truth instead of rules and requirements (John 1:17).
  • No one has seen God, except for the Son of God, who is also God (John 1:18). If John’s statement that Jesus is God and God’s Son is confusing, consider that Jesus later says this about himself too (John 17:21–22).

Though some people who come to hear John the Baptist assume he’s their long-expected Savior, he insists he is not. Nor does he claim to be Elijah or even the Prophet (John 1:19–21), even though he embodies the prophesied return of Elijah and is a prophet too. 

Instead, John quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about someone who will call out from a desolate place. This person will tell people to get ready to receive their Lord—that is, their Savior, Jesus the Messiah. John baptizes those who believe what he says.

The next day Jesus arrives. As soon as John the Baptist sees Jesus, he proclaims, “Look! Here comes God’s Lamb who will take away our sins. Though I baptized you with water, he will baptize you with Holy Spirit fire. I confirm Jesus is the chosen one sent by God.”

Questions:

  1. What do you think about the line that “salvation isn’t a given. It’s a choice?”
  2. How can we understand that Jesus is God and also God’s Son?
  3. How does John’s baptism differ from Jesus’s?
  4. What do you think about Jesus being the Lamb of God? 
  5. How do you understand being baptized with Holy Spirit fire?

Discover more about Jesus coming to John the Baptist in Matthew 3:13–17, Mark 1:9–13, and Luke 3:21–22. 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.

Categories
Christian Living

Go and Prepare a Place

How Engagement and Marriage Worked in the New Testament

In Bible times, when a couple became engaged, the groom-to-be with go home and prepare a place for them to live by adding a room to his parents’ house. As soon as he finished the construction, he would go to his fiancée, the marriage ceremony would take place, and they’d go live in the room he built for the two of them.

Though the Bible doesn’t detail this practice, history does. I’d heard this before, so it was nothing new to me to hear it again in the minister’s sermon.

Joseph and Mary

The message was about Joseph and Mary in the book of Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25). At this point in the narrative, Joseph and Mary are engaged. This means Joseph is building a room for them, adding on to his parents’ house. Once the room is complete, they’ll marry and begin their life has husband and wife.

This is the point at which the Virgin Mary becomes pregnant under Holy Spirit power. Joseph doesn’t break their engagement, and he continues building their home. Once it’s done, they get married. But they don’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus is born.

This explanation helps us better understand the story of Joseph and Mary. But then my mind took off and found other situations where the practice applies as well:

Peter and His Wife

It’s always bothered me that Peter, a married man, would leave his wife alone while he traveled with Jesus. How could she provide for herself while he was gone?

But realizing this ancient practice—where a young married couple would live in a room attached to the house of the man’s family—gave me a better understanding. Yes, Peter’s wife would stay home as he travelled with Jesus, but she wasn’t by herself. She was with her in laws, since the room she lived in was attached to their house.

She wasn’t alone when her husband traveled. She was with family. Knowing this lessens my concerns over Peter’s wife.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins, these young ladies wait for a wedding ceremony to take place, but they don’t know when it will be. Though this seems strange to us now, it makes sense when we understand the custom of the day.

Their friend is engaged. Her wedding will take place once her fiancé completes the room for them to live in. Since no one knows for sure when this will happen, the wedding ceremony guests wait in expectation.

We can imagine the groom working late into the evening putting the last touches on the room. He finishes at last and in eager expectation he goes to get his bride-to-be, even though it’s the middle of the night.

The virgins hear he’s on his way. Five of them are ready to join the happy couple in their wedding feast and marriage celebration. The other five aren’t ready, and they’re left out (Matthew 25:1-13).

The lesson here is to be ready for Jesus to return. This leads us to the next observation.

Jesus and His Church

Jesus tells his followers that his father lives in a big house. He’s going there to prepare a place for them, to build a room for them to live. Once he completes the construction, he’ll come back to get them. Then he’ll take them to live with him so they can be where he is (John 14:2-3).

Though this may perplex modern day readers, two thousand years ago, the inference made sense to Jesus’s audience. They saw it as an allusion to marriage, to a spiritual wedding.

Jesus will build a bridal suite for his church. When it’s complete, we—collectively as his church—will marry him (Revelation 21:1-4). We will be the bride of Christ.

One day Jesus will come back to earth to get us. Then our wedding ceremony with him will take place, and we’ll live with him forever.

But right now, he has gone to prepare a place for us. And we wait for him to come back. We must be ready, for he could return at any moment—even in the middle of the night.

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

Faith Promise Sunday: Church #63

When my wife started a new job, she learned one of her coworkers goes to a church near the one we normally attend. With a non-church sounding name, I’m intrigued. We decide to visit.

As we drive to this church, I’m so glad for a reprieve from ours and the pointless messages I endure for the sake of community. Even so, I’ll miss seeing the people there. Should the focus of church be on the message or on community?

Once inside the building we weave our way through people, all engaged in conversation with friends—and too busy to notice us. How do we respond when we see someone we don’t know? How should we react?

In the sanctuary, Candy spots her coworker and waves. His face beams. He beckons us. “I’m so glad you’re here.” He is truly overjoyed to see us. How happy are we when a friend shows up unexpectedly at church?

This man and his wife make us feel so welcomed. Though everyone in a church can greet visitors, some people have a real gift for hospitality. How can we best do our part to embrace people at church? 

We learn that this is “Faith Promise Sunday,” so they won’t have a sermon. The lack of a lecture overjoys me. Do we feel we need to hear a message for church to take place?

Instead of a message, they explain the six ministries they support. Then members from the missions committee pray for these organizations and people. When they announce the pledge total, the congregation celebrates. How does our church celebrate missions?

Hearing about the work of God’s people to share his love fed my soul. I’m encouraged by a church that treats missions seriously and not as a minor add-on to a normally cash-strapped budget. Do we make missions a priority?

This church didn’t have a sermon when we visited. Instead, they talked about the missions they supported on this Faith Promise Sunday.

Read more about Church #63 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

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

Sometimes It’s Best to Say Nothing

When Job’s Friends Try to Comfort Him, Their Words Only Deepen His Distress

The Bible tells the story of Job, how Satan took everything from him: his possessions, his children, and his health. Left in deep pain with an unsupportive wife, four of Job’s friends come to offer comfort, but they fail. They should say nothing.

Most of the book of Job records the back and forth dialogue between Job and his friends.

They give pompous speeches as Job struggles with his tenuous grasp of his faith in God. His friends do not help him feel better (Job 16:2-3). A reoccurring theme throughout the book of Job is that his friends’ words are unhelpful and received as torment (Job 9:3, 11:2, 16:2, 19:2, 21:3, 26:2).

Job grows exasperated with their failed attempts to offer support. He wishes his friends would just keep quiet (Job 13:13). He says that by speaking no words, they would actually better display their wisdom (Job 13:5).

Though this might be a bit of hyperbole on Job’s part, he offers us some wise advice.

Job’s friends could have helped him more by simply being present and saying nothing. Click To Tweet

Often words are inadequate, and sometimes words hurt more than they help. Job didn’t need his friends to try to explain his situation, offer a theological response, or interject their own personal experiences. They could have helped him more by simply being present and saying nothing.

Offering others our presence may be exactly what they need, but we can mess that up when we attempt to offer them our words too. Anyone can go and just be with a friend in need.

The best friends know when to talk and when to be quiet. And the best gift is often the gift of silence, to say nothing.

Just ask Job.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 13-16, and today’s post focuses on Job 13:5.]

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

Four Lessons from Job about Devotion to God

Job Professes His Spiritual Practices

The words of Job’s friend Eliphaz fail to comfort him. Instead they stir up anger. With a friend who speaks like Eliphaz I’d be angry too. In Job’s reply to his so-called friend, he professes what he has done to align himself with God. He claims his practices prove his devotion to his Lord.

Job Follows God

Job says that he follows closely behind God. It’s as if he walks in God’s shadow, placing each step in the footprint of his Lord. With intention he trails after God, focusing on staying right behind him.

Job Resists Distractions

Job follows God with unswerving dedication. He keeps his eyes fixed on God, walking in his path. Job does not look to his left or to his right. He tunes out worldly distractions so he can remain steadfast in keeping aligned with God, going everywhere that God goes.

Job Obeys God’s Commands

Next Job says that he keeps the commands of God. He listens to what God says and follows his words with unswerving commitment. It’s as if Job pauses in expectation for God to speak. Then he immediately obeys him, doing everything he says to do.

Job Treasures God’s Words

Job ends his testimony saying that he values God’s words more than food. Though we might think this refers to the written Word of God, the Bible, it does not. Job likely lives in a time before the Scriptures existed. This means Job treasures the spoken words of God.

Job would rather feed his soul by listening to God then feed his body by eating food. For Job to hear God speak, Job must remain in close relationship with him.

There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. Click To Tweet

The Outcome of Job’s Devotion

Job is a man who carefully follows God with singular focus, obeying him and valuing everything he says. It’s an example of godly devotion we will do well to follow.

You’d think that for Job’s dedication, God would bless him and keep him from discomfort. Yet for this time in Job’s life, he is in much distress and God’s blessings are absent in his life. Though a positive and pleasant outcome await Job, it’s far removed from his present life.

This is a hard reality to accept and to comprehend. Yet there are two things we must remember. First, God is Sovereign and can do whatever he wants.

We must accept this truth even if we don’t like it.

Second, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. In the end, we, like Job, will see God’s blessing and reward. Until then we should follow Job’s example of devotion to our Lord.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Job 21-24, and today’s post is on Job 23:11-12.]

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 Study

John Bible Study, Day 1: Jesus: The Word, the Life, and the Light

Today’s passage: John 1:1–14

Focus verse: In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4)

The book of John opens with a most moving passage. It’s lyrical, it’s evocative, and it is exquisite.

In this poetic prelude of John’s Gospel, he calls Jesus the Word, and asserts that the Word is God. This means Jesus is God. While some people may think it’s an overreach to claim that the Word refers to Jesus, keep reading.

To remove all doubt, John later states that this Word becomes human to join us on earth. Jesus becomes a man to live among us. Jesus, as the Word, shows us his glory as the one and only Son from Father God. Jesus overflows with grace and abounds in truth.

He is the Word sent to us from God.

We often assume the Word of God means Scripture. But remember that the New Testament of the Bible didn’t exist until several centuries after Jesus’s death and resurrection. Because of this, we should consider God’s Word as his spoken Word, more so than his written Word.

What if Jesus is more than the metaphorical Word? What if he serves as the actual Word of God? Yes, Jesus is the Word.

John also writes that in Jesus is life. Jesus is present when time begins and takes part in forming our existence. In fact, without Jesus, creation cannot occur. Physical life flows through Jesus at creation. In the same way, eternal life emanates through Jesus now.

Jesus comes so we may have life and live with abundance (John 10:10). This theme of life recurs throughout the book of John, with his writing mentioning life in forty-one verses, more often than any other book in the Bible.

The life of Jesus, and the life through Jesus, gives us light. Just as the sun that Jesus created illuminates our physical world, the light that Jesus gives off now illuminates our spiritual world.

This light shines for us in the darkness that surrounds us, exposing the evil in our world. Best of all, this light of Jesus overcomes the darkness, pushing it away. This means good is stronger than evil. God is more powerful than Satan. Hold on to this truth. Don’t forget it.

Jesus is the light. As the light—our true light—he comes into our world to save us. Though many do not recognize him or accept him, everyone who receives him and believes in his name become children of God, born of God.

Because of Jesus we’ve been born into the physical realm, and through our belief in him we are born a second time into the spiritual realm.

Take time to contemplate John’s profound opening to his biography, revealing Jesus as the Word, the life, and the light.

Questions:

  1. What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?
  2. How does the Word of God impact your life each day?
  3. What does it mean that Jesus is life?
  4. What does it mean that Jesus is the light?
  5. How does knowing that Jesus took part in creation inform our understanding of him?

Discover what else John says about the Word of God in 1 John 2:14, Revelation 1:1–2, Revelation 19:12–13, and Revelation 20:4. 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.


Categories
Christian Living

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

Each Day We Must Seek God for the Provisions We Need

Asking God to supply us with our daily bread at one time mystified me. It seemed like a vain repetition (Matthew 6:7) for something that didn’t matter to me. Yet when I learned the context of this request, it made sense.

Two thousand years ago many people struggled with food scarcity. Having enough to eat was a daily concern.

Asking God to provide us with the bread we need each day is, therefore, a request for what we need to live. And it’s a reminder to depend on him to take care of us.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray in this way (Matthew 6:9-13). It’s a model for us to guide our daily prayers. One of my daily practices is to recite this passage and then pray it in my own words.

To keep this prayer from becoming a rote exercise, I strive to vary my wording and to contemplate each phrase as I make my request.

My version of “give us today our daily bread” became something like “God, give us today what we need to live.”

As I begin thinking about praying for our daily bread in this way, I developed an image of what that request meant. It evolved over time and eventually became an incorrect perspective of seeking God’s daily provisions for our lives.

Though this took place over several years, I got to a point where when I asked God to give us today our daily bread, I envisioned an old stingy man, wearing a dingy gray robe, handing me one small piece of bread and a tiny cup of water.

This was the basic provision I needed to stay alive. And that was what he was giving me.

Yet God is not stingy.

He wants to supply us extravagantly with what we need, with what we ask for. James reminds us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2).

I desperately needed to change my perspective of what it meant when it came to God supplying me with my daily bread.

My Daily Bread

To reform my view, I begin to envision God in a grand storehouse of provisions, one heaped high with every possible thing I could need. He stands in this vast warehouse of supplies he’s prepared for me and my family.

Wearing a royal robe and impressive gold crown, he sports a broad smile. He stretches his arms wide in a grand display of generosity. It’s all there for me. He’s already prepared what I need for my day, and it’s in stock, ready for me in a moment. All I need to do is ask.

“God, give us today what we need to live, to thrive, and to accomplish your call on our lives.” Click To Tweet

So instead of saying something like “God, give us today what we need to live,” I updated my wording.

Envisioning his grand stockpile of what he’s prepared for me, I expectantly say something like “God, give us today what we need to live . . . and to thrive . . . and to accomplish your call on our lives.”

That’s what I ask for, and that’s what I receive.

And just like the Israelites gathering their manna—their daily bread—each day (Exodus 16:14-31), I, too, make this request of God each morning.

It would be foolish for me not 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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

We Don’t Need No Sermon: Visiting Church #63

A few months ago, my wife started a new job. One of her coworkers goes to a church near the one we normally attend. “I’d like to visit it sometime,” she says, catching me off guard. With a non-church sounding name, I’m intrigued. 

Her openness to go there surprises me. “Are you looking to change churches?”

Taking a Break

“I just want to visit once,” she says with a decided tone. “Besides, you need a break from our church.”

She is right. I so need a break. I long for a respite from their too-long, too-pointless sermons. Once again, I find myself enduring the church service so I can enjoy church camaraderie afterward.

The music at our current church is okay. I persist in it as an act of worship. I sing and occasionally lift my hands to honor God, but not because I necessarily like the selections or the playing.

I believe I honor God with my physical act of worship, even though my mind is seldom engaged. I do it for him, not because I feel like it.

Their hour-long sermons, however, seem pointless. Our teaching elder is a gifted scholar with an occasional quirk in his delivery when he diverges from his notes. My beef is that he only teaches.

He gives no application. It’s an info dump, sans meaningful spiritual relevance. At best it’s an entertaining lecture. I leave each Sunday no closer to God than when I arrived. I head home with no challenge to live differently or conviction to change or correct anything. 

His messages tell me about the Bible, but his words don’t draw me to God. “Knowledge puffs up,” Paul writes to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 8:1). I fear we are a puffy church, self-satisfied over the depth of our Bible knowledge. 

Mostly he reminds me of what I already know. More pointedly, his ultra-conservative theology often chafes at my soul. Too often I anticipate where he is headed and whisper emphatically, “No, no, no!” 

Despite my silent warning, he goes there anyway. He ends up where I think he shouldn’t, espousing a view of God I don’t see much support for in the Bible as much as emanating from blindly following accepted fundamental principles. I fear I will one day protest too loudly.

“You’ve had a bad attitude for the past two weeks,” my wife reminds me.

She’s right, of course. On our drive to church the past few weeks I sigh and sometimes murmur that I can’t bear the thought of sitting through another sermon. Then we pray. And later I do what I don’t want to do: listen to another download of Bible knowledge without a greater purpose.

A break from this will be good.

As we drive to visit the church Candy’s coworker attends, I’m so glad for a reprieve from ours and the pointless lecture. Even so, I will miss seeing the people there.

A pang of guilt stabs my heart. It’s like I’m cheating on my church by seeing another one. I feel unfaithful. I am unworthy of their friendship.

First Impressions

We could drive past our church to get to this one, but I choose a different route. We pull into the parking lot to see a typical-looking church building, despite their nonconventional name. I expected something different.

The parking lot appears mostly full, and I pull into an open spot next to the dumpster. As we walk to the building, I see two and then four spots reserved for visitors. All are empty.

We can easily tell where to enter the building, but once inside we don’t know where to go. A few people cautiously greet us. They know we aren’t regulars, but at the same time they aren’t sure if we’ve visited before or if this might be our first time.

I ask one of them where the sanctuary is. She uses her head to point us in the right direction, which is opposite of what I assumed. We weave our way through the people, all engaged in conversation with friends—and too busy to notice us. 

Instead of standing around and looking pathetic, we open the closed doors of the sanctuary. It’s an octagon-shaped space with a high sloped ceiling converging in the center. Block walls and impressive wooden beams give an open feel.

Oscillating fans mounted on the walls tell me they lack air conditioning. Today that doesn’t matter. Despite warm weather for this time of year, we’re still within winter’s final grasp.

With padded pews arranged in four sections, the room accommodates three to four hundred. “Pick any place you want,” I whisper to Candy, “but please not too far toward the front.”

A Grand Welcome

Instead of moving, she stops to scan the room. Off to the side, she spots her coworker and waves. He beckons us. His face beams.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” he smiles. He is truly overjoyed to see us. He introduces us to some friends and invites us to sit with his family in their usual spot, even though they aren’t yet here. “Sharon will be so surprised to see you.”

A gracious man, we feel most welcomed. Then he excuses himself and joins the worship team gathering on the stage.

As predicted, his wife is indeed surprised to see us. She is as excited as he. They both make us feel so welcomed, so embraced, so loved.

It’s an ability I don’t have, and I’ve seldom seen people who wield this skill of hospitality so adeptly as this couple. Though everyone in a church can, and should, greet visitors, some people have a real gift for it. 

Raising Money for Missions

We learn that this is “Faith Promise Sunday,” so they won’t have a sermon. The lack of a sermon overjoys me, yet I wonder, what will fill the time? Is this their annual budget drive?

We once visited a church when they did this (Church #32, “Commitment Sunday and Celebration”), securing pledges for the upcoming year. They even brought in a heavy hitter to lead the fund drive and maximize the pledges.

Though it lacked an emotion-laden plea, I still squirmed a time or two. Will today be like that? I’ll need to wait to find out because we have an opening song set first.

A contemporary team leads us in song: the song leader on guitar, two female backup vocals, bass guitar, keys, drums, and Candy’s coworker on percussion. They have a light rock sound, though it’s obvious the lead guitarist is holding back—way back.

Some of the songs are new to us, but even the familiar ones move at a slower pace than I like, so I struggle to sing along.

The backup vocalists occasionally raise their hands in praise, but no one else does in the congregation of about one hundred. (I see only adults, so the kids must be in their own program.)

Not wanting to confront their practices, I clasp my hands behind my back to prevent any spontaneous wayward movement. Besides, I don’t want to call attention to myself.

Then one of their three pastors explains Faith Promise Sunday, an event they’ve been moving toward for the past couple of weeks. This is for missions, not their general fund.

Distinguishing it from a tithe, this is an above-and-beyond commitment to support missions work. Alluding ever so briefly to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, he gives biblical precedence for setting aside money each week to support those who do missionary work.

By asking for a faith pledge they will be able to let each of the six groups they support know how much money they plan to give them for the year. Ushers pass offering plates to collect the pledges.

Supported Ministries

With this as a backdrop, they spend the next forty-five minutes or so explaining each of these ministries. They start with three local ones.

The first is an after-school program with a structured time for homework, tutoring, literacy, recreation, and spiritual expression. It recently relocated to this facility. For the first time, its two staff members can receive a paycheck.

The second local ministry is an urban church, which also just relocated. They now have more space, at a lower cost, for their growing ministry.

The third is a husband-wife team with Youth for Christ. Not having local connections, they struggle to raise support.

For the three non-local missions, the first is in the US, a couple of states away. It’s a Christian youth home, which struggled for a while when they refused to capitulate to their state’s insistence that they do not mention faith or God. Having found a workaround solution, their program is again full. The church also sends mission teams there to help.

Next is a program in the UK, part of a global organization that works with schools, community projects, businesses, and churches to repurpose churches with a focus on mission, discipleship, and study.

Rounding out the six is a missionary couple covertly working in a Muslim country, one closed to missionaries. Theirs is a solitary effort, with no local community support or Christian connections. They struggle emotionally.

Lay members of the missions committee come up to pray for these organizations and people. Then they announce the pledge total: $44,900. The congregation celebrates this generous commitment. We close with another song set, this one much shorter.

The associate pastor dismisses us with little fanfare.

No Sermon

“We’re sorry you didn’t get to hear a sermon,” we hear more than once. 

I’m not sorry at all. I heard what I needed.

The work of God’s people to share his love, both locally and around the world, fed my soul. I find encouragement from a church that treats missions seriously and not as a minor add-on to a normally cash-strapped budget.

As far as church services go, this was one of the best I’ve experienced in months.

As a bonus, our friends invite us to their house for a Sunday meal. It is so good—and so right—to spend time with other followers of Jesus in intentional community.

[See the discussion questions for Church 63, read about Church 62, 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

Are Our Beliefs Flawless or Flawed?

If We Claim to Know the Truth, That Implies Every Other Perspective Is Wrong

The book of Job is mostly dialogue between Job and his four “friends,” with God having the final word—as he should. The words of Job’s four friends aren’t much help.

At one point in Zophar’s monologue he claims that Job said his beliefs are flawless and he is pure before God. No one stands pure before God, just as no one is flawless in what they believe.

However, today many people carry this same assumption about themselves: that their beliefs are flawless. Yes, we must seek truth in our pursuit of God, but we must hold it loosely. After all, we might be wrong.

Unfortunately, not many people see it this way. They see their viewpoints as unassailable and without fault. This implies that all other perspectives are in error. These other people are, therefore, wrong in what they believe.

When it comes to matters of faith, it seems no one stands in complete agreement with anyone else. Though some may hold views closely aligned with what others say, 100 percent harmony doesn’t happen. Or if it does, it doesn’t last long. Inevitably differences of opinion will occur.

That’s a huge factor as to why we have 43,000 denominations in our world today. When people disagree, they draw lines. They push away those with different beliefs, even those with slightly different views.

No one’s beliefs are flawless, and that includes our own. Click To Tweet

Our Beliefs are Flawed

Yet no one’s beliefs are flawless, and that includes our own.

Instead of arrogantly assuming our beliefs are faultless, we should instead adopt the humble viewpoint that our beliefs are flawed: mine, yours, everyone’s. It’s as if we’re seeing through a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What we know now, what we think we know now, we see in part. And for now, that needs to be enough. Later, we’ll see in full, but that won’t occur while we’re on this planet. It will happen later.

For now we must humbly accept the reality that our theology is incomplete, that no matter how sincere, our beliefs are flawed.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 9-12, and today’s post is on Job 11:4.]

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.