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What Does It Mean to be Yoked With Unbelievers?

The Apostle Paul presents a series of contrasting situations for us to avoid

Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He warns them not to yoke themselves, that is, to pair themselves, with people who don’t believe. The image of a yoke applies to two animals paired together to pull a load. He tells them: ” be yoked with unbelievers.”

They need to be of equal strength, and they certainly need to move in the same direction if their efforts are to be effective.

This verse is often applied to marriage, for a person who follows Jesus to not marry someone who does not believe. While this may be a sound application, I don’t see it as absolute—nor does Paul (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

I’ve seen this command to not be yoked with unbelievers misapplied by asserting, for example, that a Baptist can’t marry a Lutheran or a person of one race can’t marry someone of another race.

A secondary application relates to business, for a Christian businessperson to avoid forming partnerships with non-Christians. Again, there is wisdom in this as well, yet it is not unconditional either.

Look at some of the contrasts that follow the allusion of a mismatched yoke:

  • Right living versus wrong living
  • Light versus darkness
  • Jesus versus those opposed to him
  • A believer versus an unbeliever
  • God versus idols

Instead of applying this passage to marriage or business, let’s focus on the final contrast of God versus idols. What if the primary intent of Paul’s writing to not be yoked with unbelievers is a warning to not yoke the God of the Bible with other religions?

Do not pair God with other religions. Click To Tweet

Yoked with Unbelievers

This mixing of diverse spiritual practices is a popular trend these days. People take what they like about Christianity, stir in some Eastern religions or add a bit of Judaism or Islam, and season with some ideas of their own.

The result is a manmade religion, an idol of their own making. It’s being yoked with unbelievers. God is not pleased.

The Bible warns us not to place God and idols under the same yoke. Don’t mix God with anything else.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.]

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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Our Present and Future Hope

God Will Answer When We Pray

After Zechariah’s discouraging implication that God is weary of his people and will no longer be their Shepherd, Zechariah has some good news. He concludes his prophetic writings with an optimistic prophecy of a better tomorrow, a future hope.

This is a hope that the people of his day can anticipate. But it’s also a hope we can claim today.

What is this grand, future expectation?

For the people of Zechariah’s day, when they pray to God, he will again answer. They can count on him to be there for them. He will again call them his people, and they will again call him their Lord. They will turn to each other. Reunited.

This union with God reminds us of how Adam and Eve walked in the garden of Eden with their Creator. In the cool of the evening, they hung out and enjoyed one another’s company. They lived in community with God in his creation, spending time with one another.

We can also anticipate community with our Creator today. Though we don’t physically walk with him in a garden each evening, when we call out to him, he answers. He is our Lord, and we are his people.

Where do we place our hope? Do we live lives that reflect both our present hope and our future hope? Click To Tweet

Our Future Hope

But Zechariah has more. This message for the people’s future is for our future too (Zechariah 14:9). We await it in eager expectation . . . but for what?

Centuries after Zechariah, the disciple John has a compelling vision of the future, a look into our future. In his forward-looking revelation, John writes of a time when all nations and all kings will come together in the holy temple of the Lord and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22–26).

What a day that will be, a day we hope for and long to see. We can look forward to this time with great anticipation, the day when God will reign as King over the whole earth.

He will become the Lord of everyone. His name will stand as the only name for people to call on for their rescue, for their salvation.

This will restore our community with God, just as he intended from the beginning.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 12-14, and today’s post is on Zechariah 13:9.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

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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Count the Cost: Is Christianity Easy or Hard?

Regardless of Circumstances, God Walks With Us

In Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth, he warns them not to deceive others or distort God’s word (2 Corinthians 4:2). That is, don’t misrepresent God’s character or intent to the world.

Yet, this happens. Some people, in their zeal for Jesus, promise those on the outside that if they just say “yes” to Jesus, then all their problems will go away and life will become easy.

It doesn’t work that way.

Jesus says to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), that his followers may pay a price for their commitment to him.

God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined. Click To Tweet

Paul details this heavy cost. But along with each threat he gives assurance of God’s provision (2 Corinthians 4:8-9):

  • Hard pressed from every direction, but not crushed
  • Perplexed, but not in despair.
  • Persecuted, but not abandoned.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed.

So when we follow Jesus we can expect to be harassed, mystified, attacked, and hurt. Yet in this, God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined.

We must count the cost before we follow Jesus, because committing ourselves to him may bring about hardship, but take courage knowing that God will prevail and help us through these trying situations.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 4:2, 8-9.]

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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God’s Book of Life

Is Your Name on the List?

Chapter 2 in the book of Ezra overflows with names. We often skim it or may face the temptation to skip it altogether. Buried among this dizzying array of names is a sidenote that’s easy to miss, but it carries an important lesson.

Many of the Israelite exiles prepare to return to God’s promised land. Among them is a group of people, but they can’t prove their heritage. They search for their family records but do not find them.

As a result, they can’t serve as priests because their inability to prove their lineage to Aaron makes them unclean for service.

Someone did not keep good records, and the price for their sloppiness is exclusion from the priesthood. They didn’t value their heritage and that makes them ineligible to serve.

The Good List

Although Santa Claus has a good list and a naughty list based on behavior, God does not—even though many people believe differently. True, the Old Testament values genealogies and lineages to determine who is in and who was out, but Jesus did away with that.

Instead, he saves us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It’s open to everyone. God’s grace and our faith puts us on God’s list. Our family tree doesn’t matter to God.

Jesus’s book of life is the only book we need to be in. It’s the only list that matters. Click To Tweet

The Lamb’s Book of Life

The only list God has is the book of life. David talks about it (Psalm 69:28), and so does Paul (Philippians 4:3).

But most of the references to the book of life occur in Revelation, which is fitting because Revelation concludes with us going to meet Jesus in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Usually, John calls this the book of life, but twice he refers to it as the Lamb’s book of life. That is, Jesus’s book of life.

It’s the only book we need to be in, the only list that matters. We don’t need to keep our own records to prove we’re on this list because God maintains it. He enters our names when we follow Jesus, and never crosses them off.

Thank you, Jesus for saving us and entering our names in the Lamb’s book of life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezra 1-3 and today’s post is on Ezra 2:59-62.]

Check out the parallel passage is in Nehemiah 7:61-65.

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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We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine Our Motives When We Give

Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. It’s about generosity. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What Should We Avoid?

Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way.

When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2).

God says that that when we bless others, he will bless us even more. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle Generosity

In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7-9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]

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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Do You Seek God First for Healing When You Are Sick?

Azariah the Son of Oded

Azariah, son of Oded, comes to Asa, King of Judah. The prophet tells the king, “If you see God, you’ll find him. If you walk away from him, he’ll walk away from you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). That is, to seek God first.

King Asa takes the prophet’s warning seriously and acts. He decides to seek God. He implements spiritual reforms and restores worship. The nation is at peace—at least for several years.

Then Asa makes a treaty with another king and goes to war against Israel. Another prophet, Hanani, goes to Asa criticizing him for relying on another nation, king, and army instead of God. This time, instead of responding positively, Asa takes offense and throws the sage in prison.

Things go downhill from there.

Seek God Today

A few years later Asa has a disease develop in his foot. Although painful, he does not seek God for healing. Instead he relies on doctors to cure him. They don’t. Two years later Asa dies.

In all instances, we are wise to seek God first. Click To Tweet

Many Christians in developed countries today act just like King Asa. When a medical problem arises, they rush off to the nearest doctor seeking the wisdom of people to restore them to full health.

And if the first physician doesn’t produce results, they’ll pursue a second opinion from another medical professional.

They don’t seek God for supernatural healing.

I’m not sure if this is because they’re not conditioned to turn to God for their physical ailments or if they don’t believe he can heal them. At best, they may whisper a short prayer asking that God will enable the physicians to heal them.

Jesus Came to Save and to Heal

Oh, how this must grieve God with our lack of faith and unwillingness to trust him with our health and our future. Remember, Jesus came to save and to heal. If we trust him for our salvation, why won’t we trust him for our healing?

Though this isn’t a call to dismiss medical treatment, it is a plea to seek God first and then consider modern healthcare as an adjunct or secondary source. Sometimes God will heal us directly and other times he will work through physicians.

But in all instances, we are wise to seek God first.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 16-18, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 16:12.]

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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What Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

Hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best we can to our life and culture today. Click To Tweet

Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

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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Jabez Asks God, That Your Hand Would Be With Me

The third line of Jabez’s prayer is: “that Your hand would be with me”

Having just asked God for greater blessing—in order to bless others—and more influence—in order to help others—Jabez realizes that he needs God’s direction and guidance so that he may proceed wisely and justly.

Indeed, having more blessing and more power can easily become a heady thing, distracting or even corrupting the recipient Jabez, being aware of this risk, makes his third petition one of soliciting God guiding hand.

Just as Jabez modeled for us, may we ask God that your hand would be with me.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4 and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. And read more on The Prayer of Jabez.]

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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Three Things to Remember About Temptation

In Three Things About Sin, the prescription for sin is to deal with the temptation before it gives way to sin. It’s like getting a vaccine; preparing now to avoid a bigger problem later.

The Bible teaches us three things about temptation; they’re in the form of promises that we can claim and rely on.

1. Our Temptations Are Not Unique to Us

Others have struggled with the same issues in the past.

2. God Will Limit Temptation to What We Can Handle

God doesn’t tempt us and he does limit the enemy’s power to do so.

3. God Will Provide a Way Out

We can ask God to enable us to see the way out, give us the will to take it, and the strength to persevere.

And then we can withstand the temptation—just as he promised.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8-10, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 10:13.]

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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God Gives Us Living Water

Living Water Flows from God’s Temple and Is for Our Benefit

In the Old Testament, the people perceived that God lived in the temple. They saw this as his residence on earth. To connect with him meant they had to go to the temple.

As Ezekiel winds down his lengthy prophecy, the man in his vision brings him to the doorway of the temple. And we go there with them. The man is about to reveal something extraordinary to Ezekiel—and to us: living water.

Water flows from the temple and produces a river. It’s wide and deep. Many trees grow along its banks, finding sustenance in its life-giving water. Living creatures thrive wherever the river goes. And not just a few.

Ezekiel says that swarms of God’s creation will make their home in this pure water that comes from him.

What’s more, God’s water has restorative properties. When it encounters saltwater, God’s flowing river will make the salty water fresh. Saltwater has little value. It can’t sustain human life. So, God will take something unusable and make it usable. That’s what he does.

When he makes salty water fresh, he redeems it to make it pure again, to make it good, and to make it capable of supporting life. That’s what God’s water does.

We also see this idea of life-giving water elsewhere in the Bible.

Living Water in the Beginning

During creation, God proclaims that the water will team with living creatures (Genesis 1:20). As part of God’s amazing creation, he places within it life-giving water.

Living Water at the End

In Revelation, we see Jesus sitting on his throne as a shepherd. He will lead us to springs of life-giving water (Revelation 7:17). In doing so he brings us back to God’s perfect, idyllic creation. To the world as he met it to be.

God’s living water gives us eternal life. Click To Tweet

Living Water through Jesus

Jesus—who was there at creation and will be there at the end—connects these two bookends. He says, “If you’re thirsty, come to me, and I will give you something to drink. If you believe in me, living water will flow from you” (John 7:38).

Imagine that. God’s living water flowing through us because we came to Jesus and believed in him.

And when Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well, he offers to give her a special kind of water (John 4:9-14). She—and everyone else—who drinks of Jesus’s water will never be thirsty again. A spring will well up inside her, and us, to produce eternal life.

God’s living water gives us eternal life.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 46-48, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 47:1-9.]

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.