Category Archives: Spirituality

The Final Words from New Testament Books

What Can We Learn from the Ending Sentence or Thought in Each Book of the Bible?

The Final Words from New Testament BooksAs a writer I know the two most important things of anything I write are the beginning and the ending. A strong opening draws readers and keeps them interested, while a powerful close gives readers something to take with them.

Though I don’t think biblical writers focused on these two areas, it’s still interesting to look at how they wrapped up their writings. Here’s a list of the last sentence or thought from each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

The Final Words in the Book of Matthew

Matthew ends by quoting Jesus, which many embrace as a personal call to action.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Mark

Mark has two endings, with the second one not found in all manuscripts. But since the first version ends abruptly and leaves us hanging. I’ll share the concluding thought in the second one.

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:19-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Luke

Luke ends his biography of Jesus by telling us what his followers did. This contrasts to what Jesus told his followers to do at the end of Matthew.

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:50-53, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of John

As a writer I especially appreciate the end of the book of John, but from a broader perspective it makes me wish more people had written about the life of Jesus. I want to know more.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Acts

Luke concludes the book of Acts with what may be Paul’s last work here on earth. This should encourage us to finish strong.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from Paul

Paul ends most of his letters succinctly and often with a bit of encouragement. A reoccurring word in many of his parting lines is grace.

“…to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:27, NIV).

“My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:24, NIV).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18, NIV).

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6:24, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Philippians 4:23, NIV).

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:28, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (1 Timothy 6:21b, NIV).

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all” (2 Timothy 4:22, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15b, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 1:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Hebrews

Though we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, it’s interesting to see a similarity to Paul’s sign offs.

“Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25, NIV).

The Final Words from James

Noted for his direct, practical writing, James ends his book the same way.

“Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters of Peter

The ending to Peter’s two letters are much different than Paul’s.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (Peter 5:14, NIV).

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from John

There seems to be no similarity in how John concludes his three letters.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21, NIV).

“The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings” (2 John 1:13, NIV).

“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name” (3 John 1:14, NIV).

The Final Words from Jude

Over the years, I’ve heard many church services end by quoting these two verses.

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Revelation

And last, we have the final words of the Bible.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21, NIV). When we read the Bible and get to the end of a book, what do we do? Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

When we read the Bible and get to the end of a book, what do we do? Do we read fast and quickly close our Bible, glad to have finished another book, or do we let the ending sit with us a while as we contemplate its words?

The Art of Bible Study

Lessons of Art Appreciation Can Help Us Study the Word of God

Lessons of Art Appreciation Can Help Us Study the BibleUntil recently I never considered myself a creative person, and I certainly never considered myself an artist. However, I recently realized that I create art through words. I guess that makes me an artist.

As such, that means I’m studying art (writing) and I immerse myself in art appreciation (reading). We can apply this idea of studying art and art appreciation to studying the Bible and appreciating its words.

Here are four thoughts to the art of Bible study:

Spend Time to Really Look at Art

If we race through an art gallery with the goal of covering the most exhibits in the shortest amount of time, we miss the point of art. We fail to appreciate it for what it is.

So it is when we study the Bible. We must spend time with it and not race through it. I sometimes fall into this trap when I set the goal of reading the entire Bible in one year. There are days, sometimes weeks, when I focus on the number of chapters I’ve read and not on the meaning of the words they contain. Yes, there’s benefit in looking at the Bible in huge chunks, but the real value comes from when we tarry to spend time focusing on a single passage, verse, or even phrase. To get the most from the Bible, like art, we must spend time to really look at it.

Study Art at Different Distances

To fully appreciate a work of art requires that we look at it from different distances and not just from a typical viewing space. That means after our first perusal, we may want to step back and consider it from a distance. It also may mean going in close to scrutinize certain sections or to consider the artist’s techniques.

We can apply the same practice when we consider the Bible. Start with a normal read of the passage. Then pull back to look at its overall context, both within that particular writing as well as within its place in history. Last zoom in to look at the details, a particular phrase or even word choice. Each one carries meaning, often profound. With a quick read we’ll zip right past these treasures without ever noticing their presence or their implication.

Contemplate Art from Different Angles

A third recommendation when it comes to art appreciation is to look at a piece from different angles. Though this applies to paintings and other two-dimensional art, it’s even more valuable with sculptures and three-dimensional creations. Each viewing angle provides a different perspective on the piece, sometimes complementing other angles and other times contrasting or even conflicting. Sometimes these different angles reveal enigma and paradox. How cool is that?

As we study the Bible, we can also consider it from different angles. We start with the words and what they mean, which often reveal multiple meanings. We can consider the author, the audience, and the point of view. We can look at the type of writing and the purpose of that writing. As we do, we see the beautiful and compelling nature of Scripture as it emerges with enigma and paradox. Embrace it.

Make Repeat Visits

When we make return visits to an art gallery or a particular piece of art, we see new things we missed before: a nuance, a texture, a color. We also can interpret a piece of art differently based on our perspective. Since our lives change continuously, as do the situations we find ourselves in, our understanding of art shifts along with our life experiences and perceptions.

That’s why we need to read the Bible more than once. We need to come back to it again and again. Each time we do we have the potential to gain more from it. Both art and the Bible have layers, just like an onion. Each time we discover a new layer, it’s with the knowledge that another one lies just beneath it, waiting for us to discover it. We can take lessons learned from Art Appreciation and apply it to our study of the Word of God. Click To Tweet

Even though I’ve never heard of a Bible Appreciation class, we can take lessons from Art Appreciation and apply it to our study of the Word of God.

How Long Do You Stay at Church After the Service Ends?

The Best Christian Community Happens After the Service Is Over

Enjoy Christian Community: How Long Do You Stay After the Service?Last week I asked, Why do people show up for church late? My wife and I try to arrive ten minutes early, a practice we developed when we visited fifty-two churches in a year. This allows for time to interact with others, to enjoy a bit of Christian community before the service begins and to prepare ourselves to connect to God.

Another thing we observed during our 52 Churches journey was how people acted after the church service ended. Some people make a beeline to the door as fast as possible without saying a word to anyone. And a couple of times we saw people leaving before the church service had even ended. But at most churches people take a few minutes to say “Hi” to their friends, talk with others, or attend to some church business. But within five or ten minutes most everyone is gone.

However, a few churches are a notable exception. There people hang out for quite a while after the church service ends. Sometimes this is for a potluck or a social time around coffee and snacks, but other times it’s simply for an extended period of connection with their church family. When Candy and I visited fifty-two churches, we determined to make ourselves available to linger in Christian community—assuming there was one. Several times this lasted longer than the church service itself, sometimes for a couple hours.

Some people think sticking around after the church service ends is foolish. But others—such as myself—think hanging around afterword is how it should be.

The reasons for these two perspectives stem from our reasons for going to church.

Three Reasons to Go to Church

1. A Duty: For those who go to church as an obligation, leaving as soon as possible makes sense. They performed their duty, now they want to get on to something else, something that interests them more.

2. To Sing or Learn: For people who go to church to listen to a teaching or sing to God or about God, they see no reason to stick around after the benediction. The purpose for being there has ended, so now it’s time to leave. Yes, they’re polite in their exit, but they have no reason to tarry. Other activities beckon, such as Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap. People who go to church for the community, realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. Click To Tweet

3. Spend Time in Christian Community: For people who go to church for the community, they realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. To realize the community they seek, they arrive early and are willing to stay late—sometimes for an hour or two. That’s when the real community happens. That’s when they can share life with each other. For me, that’s what church is all about: community.

Why Do People Show Up Late for Church?

The Timing of When People Arrive at Church Reflects Their Priorities

When do you arrive at church?When my wife and I went on our grand adventure of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, we decided we’d try to arrive at church ten minutes early. In doing so we would avoid breezing in at the last-minute, and we would have time for possible connection with other people before the service. (Sometimes we had wonderful conversations and other times it was an awkward ordeal.)

Three Times When People Arrive at Church

This also gave us an opportunity to observe when other people arrived at church.

1. Arrive Early: For a few churches most everyone arrived early. They sat in respectful anticipation of what was to come, reverently waiting for the service to begin.

2. Arrive Right on Time: At other churches many people timed their arrival with the starting time of the church service, not a minute earlier and not a minute later. They arrived right on time. At some of these places, the people were in the facility early, trying to squeeze in some pre-church activity, but not yet seated in the church sanctuary. In other places, they rushed in at the last moment.

3 Arrive Late: Yet at too many churches, the starting time seemed more like a guideline. At these churches over half the congregation showed up after the service had started. They arrived late. Sometimes this was understandable since the service didn’t start on time either. The church had conditioned people to arrive late, because the service started late. However, even for those services that started on time, the practice of people arriving during the singing of the first, and even the second and third songs, alarmed me.

When Do You Arrive at Church?

Yes, I understand that sometimes things come up to keep us from getting to church on time. This is most pronounced for those with young children in tow. I remember those days well. And other times we may oversleep, not get around as fast as we’d like, or encounter delays on the drive to church. Yet these things should be rare, not common. Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers. Click To Tweet

For people who habitually arrive at church late, I wonder if it doesn’t reveal a bit of their heart. That God isn’t important enough for them to show up early in anticipation of what he’ll do. That church attendance is one more thing to squeeze into an already-too-busy schedule, so they can check it off there to do list.

Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers.

Arrive at church early, arrive at church in expectation, and arrive at church prepared to worship.

Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Technology May Keep Us Connected but It Can Leave Us Empty

As a society, we’re more connected than ever before. But many people also feel lonelier than ever. With all our connection opportunities, why is this?Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Our smart phones and social media allow us to communicate and stay in touch with more people than we ever could in the past. These technologies erase distance and compensate for time differences. We can communicate instantly with most anyone in the world. We can also enjoy shifted communication with people in different time zones or who are on different schedules.

Yet despite all these connections, it’s challenging to truly connect on a deep, meaningful level. The internet or wireless communication doesn’t allow us to be physically present with another person. We can’t reach out and touch a friend online. Giving someone a heart-felt hug is impossible on social media. These things fall short in providing us with the true, interpersonal connection we need.

We Need Community to Enjoy True Connection

The reason that technology can’t provide meaningful connection is that we crave community. And an online community is a poor substitute for a real, in-person community. We desire to be physically present with others and engage in living life with them. Though technology can mimic it (and for some people this is all they have, sorry), it can’t truly replace it.

This is because God created us for community. We have an innate desire to be in community with others. God desires to be in community with us, just as the Godhead—the three in one Trinity—exists in community with itself. Remember, he created us in his image. That means if community is important to him, it’s inherently important to us. But how can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? How can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? Click To Tweet

The Church Should Provide Community

Though people debate the purpose of church, a key reason for church is to provide community for its people. Every church should exist to provide community, fulfilling that desire for internal connection that God placed within us. Unfortunately, too many churches fail at providing a safe, nurturing community for their people. Some churches neglect this responsibility altogether, while others try to offer it, but they fall short.

Though connecting with people online has its value, it’s a poor substitute for what we truly need. Don’t login hoping to find meaningful connection and community online; go to church instead.

Read the Bible with Intention

Study Scripture in a Different Way to Glean More from It

Read the Bible with IntentionFor most of my adult life, even going back to my teenage years, I’ve read the Bible most every day. Yet there were a few times when I needed to take a break, when my Bible reading practice had fallen into a rut—the deep rut. Yes, I was reading words, but those words failed to connect with me. They had lost meaning, because I had lost focus.

I recently emerged from one of those times, and I’m back reading my Bible and studying its words with gleeful abandon. Here are some things I do when studying the Bible to engage with its words and remain open to receive its insight.

Ask Why the Passage is in the Bible

The Bible is an odd collection of writings with different genres, different writing styles, and different points of view. Sometimes I seriously wonder why some of these things appear in the Bible.

However, I believe God has a purpose for every word in the Scriptures. So I ask, “Why did God include this passage in his written Word?” The answer tells me why I need to concern myself with the passage.

Shove Aside What We Think We Know

I remember hearing an enlightening sermon that explained what Jesus meant when he talked about a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). The problem is that I can’t find any support for that interpretation. Therefore, I must shove aside this compelling teaching because it is likely in error.

Just because a minister tells us something, doesn’t mean it’s right. They could be wrong. Sometimes they are. Too much of what I’ve heard from the pulpit on Sunday didn’t come from the Bible that I read the rest of the week.

We need to hold to the teachings of others loosely and not let them influence how we understand the Bible. Instead we should let the Bible influence how we engage with the things ministers teach.

View the Bible Passage from the Character’s Perspective

As we read a passage from Scripture, explore the point of view of the author or the story’s protagonist and antagonist.

  • What might David have been thinking when he wrote the twenty-third Psalm (Psalm 23)?
  • What might Jeremiah have been feeling when he was lowered into the muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:6)?
  • Why did Judas turn on Jesus and betray him (Matthew 26:16)?

As we gain insight into these questions, we can grasp a fuller understanding of the passage we’re reading.

Examine the Bible Passage in Context

We read the Bible through the lens of our perspective: our life, society, and experiences. Yet we need to first consider the words of the Bible from its context of when it was written, its culture, and the situation that frames it. Then, and only then, are we in a position to examine it more fully.

Consider How the Bible Passage Applied Then

Once we have a deeper insight into the context, we can begin to consider how a passage of Scripture might have applied to the ancient people who were its original audience. And that might be completely different than how we understand it today.

Contemplate How the Bible Passage Might Apply Now

Only after we’ve considered its context and how it might have applied to the ancient world are we in a position to try to extend those principles to us in our world today. Now applicable truth can emerge. Before opening the Bible ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight. Click To Tweet

However, we shouldn’t go through this process alone. Engaging Scripture in community is beneficial, but relying on the Holy Spirit to provide insight is essential. Before opening the Bible, ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight.

As we study the Word of God using this process—under the influence of the Holy Spirit—we will gain deep layers of understanding that we would have otherwise missed.

When Should You Change Churches?

Changing Churches Should Be Rare, Not Commonplace

When Should You Change Churches?In our Facebook group we discussed the post “When Not to Change Churches.” Justin asked a pertinent question: “When should you change churches?”

I knew part of the answer, but I needed to contemplate how far to take my response. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the reality that sometimes I changed churches for the wrong reasons.

I’ve changed churches eight times in my life. Some of you might think that’s a lot and others might think that’s not much at all. Of the eight times, five were for the right reasons, while the other three fall into a gray area and may lack a sound motive.

Here are the reasons for when you should change churches.

Change Churches When You Move

When you move out of the area and it’s no longer practical or feasible to continue going to your old church, it’s time to find a new one. Don’t delay. Set about finding a new church right away. Each Sunday you take a week off from church makes it a little bit harder to return to that practice. And if you wait too long, you may never go back.

Change Churches If Yours Closes

Each week churches close. It’s a statistical fact. And if it’s your church that shuts down, then you’re faced with the task of finding a new one to plug into. Churches seldom shutter abruptly. There’s usually plenty of warning. They’ve been dying a slow death over months, years, and sometimes even decades.

It’s sad anytime a church closes, and there may be a time of mourning over what you lost. In addition to not having a place to go each week, the friends you’re used to seeing typically scatter and end up at various churches. So, in addition to losing your church home, you’ve also lost your church family.

When this happens it’s time to find a new spiritual community and make a new church home.

Change Churches If You’re Called to Do a New Thing

Sometimes one church will start another one. It may be a satellite location or planting an independent church. You may be part of the launch team. Though this could be a short-term responsibility, it’s usually a long-term commitment.

Another scenario occurs if God calls you (that is, the Holy Spirit prompts you) to move to a different area and help start a new church. Whether in name or in function, this is being a missionary. Leaving one church as a missionary is an obvious time when it’s appropriate to change churches.

Change Churches If Jesus Isn’t Part of It

Jesus is central to Christianity, and he must be part of every church that bears his name. If you go to a church that has pushed Jesus aside or fails to acknowledge him and what he did for us, then question if it’s truly a Christian church. A church without Jesus is a church that doesn’t warrant your attention. If Jesus isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t be there either. It’s time to change churches.

Change Churches If Your Present Church Is Hindering Your Faith

This one is harder to define, but sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is so misaligned with who we are and where we are in our walk with Jesus, that it gnaws at our soul. Persevering in that environment pulls us away from God and threatens to derail our faith. I would never encourage anyone to persist in a church community that is damaging their relationship with God. If this happens, it’s time to find a new church community. Seek one will help you draw near to God and encourage you in your faith.

Are There Other Times to Change Churches?

What about other beliefs? Christianity is filled with various viewpoints on faith and theology. If Jesus remains the core, I encourage us to accept one another for our other differences in belief and practice. Yes, some people view these differences as heretical, but I don’t think Jesus does. Based on what he prayed in the Bible (John 17:20-26), I know that he wants us to get along, to remain united, and to act as one. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave.

Of the eight times I’ve change churches four were because of moving and one was for a church plant. The other three were more dubious. The first was because I was bored, the second was because our kids weren’t plugged in, and the third was to fulfill my deep desire to go to church in my community, with my neighbors, and worship with my family. The first was selfish—though I did meet my future wife there—while the other two were more laudable, even though they fall outside my list of five reasons to change churches. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave. Click To Tweet

This implies there may be a sixth reason to change churches, but it’s one that’s hard to define. Its subjective. And any time something is subjective it means that our emotions can replace logic, which allows us the latitude to make about any determination we want. And usually that decision leads us to change churches even though we probably shouldn’t.

But regardless of the reasons of why you want to change churches, before you do, take a careful look at when not to change churches. Pray about it, and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. If he says it’s time to move on, then move. And to help you on this new adventure, check out “How to Find a New Church.” May God bless you in your search for a new church home and guide you to the place he wants you to be.

The Bible Uncovers the Spiritual Realm for Us

We Get a Glimpse into the Spiritual Realm Through Scripture

The Bible Uncovers the Spiritual Realm for UsIn wrapping up our series of why I love the Bible, here’s reason number thirteen. Though it’s last, that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. In fact, it might be more important. It’s about the spiritual realm.

We live in a physical realm. In our physical world, we experience it with our senses. We see things, touch things, and hear, taste, and smell things. Through our senses, we experience our physical reality.

However, there’s also a spiritual aspect of our existence, which embraces the spiritual realm. Though we can’t tangibly experience this spiritual reality with our senses, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Through the Bible we get a peek into the spiritual realm and can get an awareness of what that implies.

Here are some aspects of the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us:

Three Characteristics of God

Through the Bible we can discover three critical characteristics of God. First, he is omnipotent, which means he’s all powerful, Almighty. Next, we see that God is omnipresent. This means God is present in all places at the same time. He is everywhere, all the time. Third, we see God as omniscient, which means all-knowing. God knows all things. everything.

These words all start with omni. Omni means all. God is all powerful, all present, and all knowing. I like to say that he’s omni God, that is, he is all, all we need. He is everything.

Three in One God

From the Bible we get the concept of God as a Trinity. In the Trinity we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet they are one.

He is three entities, yet one entity. He’s three and one at the same time. Confusing, right? The Bible reveals this to us, and we addressed this characteristic of God in prior reasons of why I love the Bible: reason #2, #3 and #4.

Holy Spirit Power

Let’s focus for a moment on the Holy Spirit. As we’ve already covered, the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to us. More than that, the Bible also reveals the Holy Spirit’s power. Though we see the Holy Spirit at work throughout the Bible, he takes center stage in the book of Acts, with close to one hundred mentions. The Holy Spirit also takes part in creation, as covered in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. And the Holy Spirit is there as the Bible concludes, taking a central role in the last chapter of the last book.

The Holy Spirit is powerful and the Holy Spirit lives in us. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit and then obey what he says.

Miracles and More

Throughout the Bible we read about miracles, of supernatural events that transcend physical realities. Some people make ineffective attempts to explain away miracles through logic, science, or reason. All attempts fall short. Through faith, we accept the miracles we read about in the Bible as the manifestation of the reality of the spiritual realm.

Angels

The Bible reveals angels and other supernatural beings to us. These aren’t harp-playing cherubs, floating on clouds, with child-like innocence plastered on their face. These are powerful spiritual beings, created by God, who do his bidding and even battle on our behalf.

Evil

The Bible also reveals another element of the spiritual realm to us. It is Satan, the devil, he exists in the spiritual realm, yet we see evidence of his work in the physical realm. Many people imagine Satan as God’s counterpart, doing battle against each other is equal, opposing forces.

Yet the Bible reveals that Satan is an angel created by God. He later rebels against his maker. God, as creator, is more powerful than his creation. That means God is more powerful then Satan. Though the devil enjoys a time of authority to cause havoc in our world today, in the end God will win. And he will conquer his enemy, Satan. The Bible reveals that we’ll experience a new life, a spiritual life that continues after physical death. Click To Tweet

Life After Death

Last, the most important element of the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us is that we will experience a new life. This is a spiritual life that continues after physical death. Though no one is sure what our life-after-death existence will be like, the Bible reveals to us that it is real. As followers of Jesus, we can expect to spend eternity with God in the spiritual realm. And then it will all become clear (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We are more than corporeal, so much more. We are more than just a body. Let’s not even consider our physical being first. Instead let’s begin with our spiritual being and build upon it: we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The Bible reveals the spiritual realm to us. Though it’s hard to comprehend from our present, physical reality, the Bible gives us glimpses into it and what it means. We must grasp this and accept it, for it is our future. And when we get there, I suspect it will be more real than the reality we currently experience in the physical realm.

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong Path

Too Many People Are Spiritual Consumers Who Pursue a Retail Religion

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong PathMany in our first world culture seek to be served rather than to serve. Unfortunately, we apply this when it comes to church, too. Most people expect church to serve them, while few seek to serve the church.

This idea of receiving services influences our church selection process. Seldom do people look for a church that gives them the opportunity to serve. Instead they look for a church for the benefits it provides: the music, the message, and the ministries. They’re church shoppers, pursuing church selection with a consumer mindset.

Retail Religion

The result is a retail religion. These folks shop for a church the same way they buy a car or look for a gym.

They make a list—either literally or figuratively—of the things their new car, gym, or church must have. Then they make their wish list of what they hope their new car, gym, or church could have. And then they make a final list of deal breakers, detailing the things their new car, gym, or church can’t have.

Then they go shopping.

They tick off items on their list. With intention they test drive cars, check out gyms, or visit churches. In each case, they immediately reject some and consider others as possibilities. Eventually they grow tired of shopping and make their selection from the top contenders, seeking a solution that provides them with the most value.

Instead Pursue Service and Community

A better, and more God-honoring approach, is to seek a church community that provides opportunities for us to serve. We need to stop thinking of church for the things it will provide for us and instead consider the things we can do for it, that is, for the people who go there and the community surrounding it.

We should look for a church that provides opportunities for us to serve, according to how God has wired us, ways that make us come alive. This includes service within the church and to those outside the church. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits. Click To Tweet

Service is not an isolated activity. As we serve, we do so in community. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits.

Retail religion is out, and church community and service are in.

What Does Christian Mean?

I don’t like the label “Christian,” even though I am one. The Christian label is a loaded term. It means many things to different people.The Christian label: What does Christian mean?

To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful.

Still others think Christian refers to a political party or secular movement.

And what about mean, militant, murdering, manipulative, and money mongering?

Do you see why I don’t like the Christian label?

And let’s not forget the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, segregation, and fighting abortion (I’m referring to blowing up clinics and killing doctors, in case you’ve forgotten).

Consider the Christian label in How Big Is Your Tent?But most Christians aren’t like that, you plead.

You’re right. We’re not, but I still don’t like the Christian label.

I prefer “Jesus follower” instead.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.