Category Archives: Spirituality

What’s More Important: Spiritual Introspection or Spiritual Community?

A Vibrant Spiritual Faith Looks Inward and Shares OutwardWhat’s More Important: Spiritual Introspection or Spiritual Community?

I have a Sunday morning routine. This gives me structure to how I start my day, and it provides me with the best opportunity to make it be a great one. Aside from attending to the normal needs of life, there are two parts to my Sunday morning practice.

Between waking and heading off to church, I spend an hour or two each Sunday morning writing. But this isn’t just any writing. It’s writing about God, the Bible, and church. And that writing ends up as a post on this blog. For the past several years, I wrote ninety-five percent of everything you’ve read here on Sunday morning.

Some days this writing time feels a bit too much like work, but most times it flows with effortless joy. But every Sunday, the effort draws me closer to God. It’s great preparation for what happens next.

Then I segue into the second part of my Sunday morning routine. I go to church. Unlike writing, however, sometimes I enjoy this experience and other times I don’t. Sometimes it draws me to God and other times not so much. The biggest value of church for me, however, is in connecting with other people before and after the service. Church is about community.

In simple terms, the two aspects of my Sunday morning routine are spiritual introspection and spiritual community.

Spiritual Introspection

When I write about God, the Bible, and church, it’s a time of deep contemplation about these three topics, what they mean to me, and how they might connect with others. Spiritually and intellectually this is a time when insights develop, hopefully with Holy Spirit guidance. It’s a time when God helps me take raw thoughts and move them toward clarity. And I get to share it with you here.

I relish this time of introspection. It’s personally rewarding, both comforting and confronting. Often this stands as the spiritual highlight of my week. And as an introvert, it’s tempting to stay in this place, just God and me, with no one else to distract us or pierce my time of connection with the Almighty.

But spiritual introspection is also an isolating experience. It can be lonely. This isn’t to imply that a relationship with God isn’t enough, but he created us for community. And this isn’t just community with him; it’s also community with the other people he created.

That’s why it’s important I then move into the next phase of my Sunday morning routine. I go to church.

Spiritual Community

Church means different things to different people: an obligation, a habit that they’d feel guilty breaking, a chance to partake in Holy Communion, an opportunity to praise God and worship him, and a time to learn more about God, the Bible, and faith. It’s been all these things to me at one time or another.

However, the one thing missing from this list is community. I wonder if community isn’t the real point of going to church—the ultimate reason to be there. The music and message have value, but I think they stand in second place behind community.

Our Sunday morning community should look up to God and look out to others. He created us for this: to be in relationship with him and in relationship with others. He never intended for us to pursue life alone but with others: with him and with other people at our side.

Spiritual Introspection Can Fuel Spiritual Community

Though my time a spiritual introspection occurs in isolation, it’s not meant for me alone. Yes, I share the insights God gives me with you on this website, but I feel it’s even more important that I appropriately share it with others in person.

When is the time to share it with other people?

It’s when I’m in community with them. This is where we can enjoy meaningful, spiritual interaction, such as before and after church on Sunday morning. (Of course, it can happen other times as well, but we must be intentional in forming these times and open to opportunities as they present themselves.)

This, however, doesn’t mean I need to spew forth by blog post to everyone I see. But this doesn’t mean that the words God gives me are just for me alone. Instead, I need to be alert for appropriate opportunities to share what he reveals to me to others who might benefit from it. My Sunday morning routine starts with a focus on God, which helps me to better share with others. Click To Tweet

Fortunately, this is not for me to determine alone. All I need to do is listen and obey the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit. When I do this, it makes the time of community with others more meaningful and deeper. And when this happens, it enhances the community we all need. My Sunday morning routine starts with a focus on God, which helps me to better share with others.

Of course, we shouldn’t just look for times to share our insights with other people. We should seek to connect with them in other ways, too. We can pray for one another, we can share our joys and burdens, and we can simply enjoy each other’s presence. This is the community God created us to crave and that we need to move into.

In Whose Name Do You Pray?

When You Pray, In Whose Name Do You Pray?

This isn’t a trick question or a pluralistic way to approach the god of your choice. This is a simple question. When you pray to the God who is revealed in the Bible, whose name do invoke at the end?

When you pray: In whose name do you pray?When you pray, do you say “in Jesus’s name” or “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

Different streams of Christianity prefer one over the over. Each has historical or theological reasons for their preference, not to mention the custom of their upbringing. While some Christians may be adamantly entrenched in one practice over the other, even to the point of dogmatic rhetoric, most give no thought to their unexamined habit. This ending words often spew out without a thought to their meaning or implication.

I, for one, don’t think it really matters. A Trinitarian perspective says that God is three persons in one, so to fully embrace this belief means that either practice addresses the same God, regardless of the actual name or names used.

When You Pray, Vary How You End Your Prayer

How Big Is Your Tent?Though I was taught one way and not the other, I now prefer to mix it up. For one, this helps to keep the end of my prayers fresh and avoid mindless repetition. It also reminds me that the God, as Trinity, is involved—regardless if I name him fully or implicitly. Last, it reminds me that just as there is diversity among those who follow God, there are also diversity in how to approach him. And that’s a good thing.

It matters not what you say when you pray. What matters is that you do pray.

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.

God Tells Abraham He Will Make Him into a Great Nation

God Makes a Similar Promise to Moses

In the book of Genesis, we meet Abraham. God takes a special interest in Abraham and gives him a bold promise. He pledges to make Abraham “into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2, NIV). What makes this promise even more incredible is that Abraham is seventy-five years old and has no heirs. It would seem that this great nation God has in mind will end with Abraham’s death.God Tells Abraham He Will Make Him into a Great Nation

Of course, God has a different plan. Miraculously Abraham and his wife Sarah have a child, Isaac, twenty-five years later, when Abraham is 100 years old. Through Isaac, God’s great nation will emerge. Isaac has Jacob, also called Israel. Jacob has twelve sons, from which the twelve tribes of Israel will emerge. A great nation is born. But before this happens, Jacob and his family travel to Egypt. They stick around too long and over many generations their growing group becomes oppressed and enslaved. Four hundred years later Moses leads them out of Egypt to return to the land God originally pledged for Abraham and his family, the Promised Land. There the great nation will live.

However, this great nation almost gets derailed. The trip from Egypt to their future home in Canaan should only take a few days, two weeks tops. Instead, the journey lasts forty years, because they’re not ready to receive what God has planned for them and because of their disobedience.

Discover What Moses Did When God Offered to Make Him into a Great Nation

At one point, God becomes exasperated with them and tells Moses what he wants to do. Because of the people’s ongoing disobedience and lack of faith, God has had enough. He threatens to strike them down and destroy them. Then he’ll start over with Moses. He tells Moses, “I will make you into a nation even greater and stronger than they.”

If I were Moses, I’d jump at the chance. After all, these people—God’s chosen people—have caused nothing but frustration and dissension, complaining the whole time. I’d be happy to be done with them. I’d be honored for God to arrange a do over, starting with me and my children.

Of course, Moses, a humble man—more humble than any other—turns down God’s generous offer. He begs for a second chance for these people who don’t deserve it. And God grants it. In fact, he’ll give them many more chances in the centuries to come. Moses was a wise leader. He didn’t seek to promote himself. Instead, he wanted what was best for the people. Click To Tweet

But what if Moses didn’t fight for his people and accepted the offer God gave him? Then instead of us talking about the children of Abraham, we’d be talking about the children of Moses. It wouldn’t be the nation of Israel; it would be the nation of Moses or one of his sons.

Moses, however, is a wise leader. He doesn’t seek to promote himself. Instead he wants what’s best for those who he’s charged to lead—even though they don’t deserve it.

So, it is with God. Everything he gives us is something we don’t deserve.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 13-15, and today’s post is on Numbers 14:12.]

3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement

Don’t Go to Church with a Passive Perspective: Be Engaged on Sunday Morning

As a teenager, I often complained to my parents, “but I don’t get anything out of church.” Though they tried to reason with me, and they may have secretly agreed, their attempts to change my perspective didn’t help. What I wish I could’ve told my younger self was, “You only get out of church what you put into it.”You only get out of church what you put into it.

Yes, I could’ve tried harder. I should’ve tried harder. I finally get that.

If we go to church with no expectations, that’s exactly what we’ll receive: nothing. However, if we walk through the doorways of church on Sunday morning with intention and forethought and prayer, we’re much more likely to leave feeling better for our time there.

Here are three tips to change our perspective about church.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 1:
Be a Giver Not a Consumer

When we go to church, we miss the point if our perspective rests solely on what we’ll get from the experience. Instead, we should look at what we can give to others. This may be through our example, through our words, or through our worship.

Too many people go to church as consumers. They expect excellence with the message and the music. And if the delivery disappoints, they’ll take their Sunday morning patronage to another church. They’ll church shop.

This puts a lot of pressure—unwarranted pressure—on the preacher and the musicians. But they aren’t there to entertain us. They’re there to point us to God. But with today’s attitude of retail religion, we too often miss this.

In this discussion about giving, I’m not talking about money. That’s a different discussion for another time. By giving to the church, I mean giving our time, our attention, and our attitudes to make it better.

The church needs more givers and fewer consumers.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 2:
Be a Partner Not an Attendee

When it comes to church, we often use the word attend. As in, “What church do you attend?” But church attendance is a passive activity. We go, we stand when we’re supposed to, and we sit the rest of the time, staring at the back of someone’s head.

If we just attend church, we confirm we’re merely consumers of it.

Instead we should go as partners, looking for ways we can take part and contribute. Granted, the modern church service offers little in the way of participation opportunities, but we can find ways to contribute to the experience nonetheless. The three key times are before the service begins, after it ends, and as part of the mid-service greeting, if the church has one.

These provide opportunities to engage with others: to participate, to encourage, and to make a difference. In this way, we share in the process and influence what occurs. By being at church as a partner of it, we adopt an ownership attitude. And benevolent owners behave much differently than passive attendees looking for entertainment.

The church needs more partners and fewer attendees.

Successful Church Involvement Tip 3:
Be a Disciple Not a Critic

Consumers and attendees feel they have a right to complain when their “needs” aren’t being met. Conversely, those who attempt to engage in the process and be a partner with the church, sometimes also feel they’ve earned the right to offer “constructive criticism.”

However, this feedback isn’t only misdirected, it’s also mean and selfish. A better alternative is acceptance. As disciples, we try to accept—and learn from—the things we don’t understand, don’t like, and cause us confusion. In a way, this is the foundation of what it is to be a disciple. Disciples seek to learn and embrace a more enlightened perspective.

The church needs more disciples and fewer critics. At church, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. Click To Tweet

For successful church involvement, we must push aside notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing. That accomplishes nothing and diminishes what the church can be, what the church should be. When we go to church as givers, partners, and disciples, we will change everything.

Pursuing a Balanced Trinitarian Faith

There is an amazing little booklet, sporting a tongue-twister of a title. It is The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith by Christian A. Schwarz. In a stellar example of “less is more,” this diminutive book carries a profound punch.Pursuing a balanced trinitarian faith

The central theme is that Christianity exists in three streams, the liberals (mainlines), the evangelicals, and the charismatics. In general terms, each places their faith focus primarily on one part of the Godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively.

The perspective of each stream is correct, but at the same time, incomplete. Each of these three segments carries with it corresponding strengths. However, it simultaneously contains risks inherent from persisting in an unbalanced point of view of the Godhead.

Schwarz’s prescription for this is that all Christians should equally pursue the three parts of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, experiencing God in totality, not in part. A Trinitarian faith. In doing so, our understanding of who God is will become more balanced. The result is that we will all arrive at the holistic center of who God is, being more unified in the process.

How Big Is Your Tent?As I learn more about each of Christianity’s major streams, I become more appreciative of what each as to offer, making my faith fuller. This helps me be more accepting of my brothers and sisters from all Christian walks.

[Read my review of The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith.]

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.

 

The Bible Presents Us with a Narrative to Inform Our Lives

Reading the Bible as narrative frees us to experience God in a fuller, deeper way

Continuing in our series of why I love the Bible, we’re on reason number twelve. I often say that I read the Bible as a narrative. Simply stated, it’s a story, a grand, epic tale. It’s a story about God’s relationship to us. Reading the Bible as narrative means we don’t primarily view it as a rulebook, legalistic account, or instruction manual. Reducing the Bible to these things serves to remove its power and lessen its impact.Read the Bible as narrative.

When I read the Bible as narrative, I can enjoy the story. But it’s much more than a story. Here are some of the things I can glean from the stories in the Bible.

The Bible Provides Examples to Follow

As we look at the lives of the characters in the Bible, we can learn from them, from the things they do, the things they don’t do, and the outcomes they realize as a result. In simple terms many of the people in the Bible provide us with an example to follow. Consider how Daniel conducted himself in Babylon.

The Bible Gives Situations to Avoid

Just as we see many admirable traits to emulate, the lives of these biblical people also warn us of situations we should avoid. Cain is the first character that comes to mind.

Often, the same person provides both an example to follow and a situation to avoid. After all, no one except Jesus is perfect. That means everyone else in the Bible is flawed, with worthy and unworthy traits to consider. We must learn from both. My namesake, Peter, is one such example.

The Bible Offers Wisdom for Living

In addition to examples we can follow, we also see situations of awe-inspiring wisdom. King Solomon comes to mind, regarding his judgment for the two women who both claim a child as their own.

The Bible Reminds Us of Sin and its Consequences

Since the Bible’s filled with people, it’s also filled with sin as it documents their lives. Repeatedly, we see people who do the wrong thing and suffer as a result. This reminds us that we can’t live as we please and not feel the consequences. Consider evil Queen Jezebel.

The Bible Records Prayers to Emulate

A key part of the biblical narrative is its many prayers. Though the Bible records most prayers without commentary, some prayers receive affirmation as God honoring or validation through God’s answers. Again, let’s look at Daniel as he prays to understand a vision.

The Bible Shows Us How to Praise God

The Bible narrative also contains many worthy examples of people offering praise to God. Recall when Solomon dedicates the temple. When we read the Bible as narrative we are both educated and entertained. Click To Tweet

Of course, the narrative of the Bible also provides us with much more. Many of its stories are classic literature that have worked their way into our culture.

When we read the Bible as narrative, we are both educated and entertained. If you’re not already doing so, start reading the Bible today as narrative.

Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

Do You Want More From Life? A Spiritual More?

  • I’m not talking about more money, power, or prestige.
  • I’m not even talking about more love or respect.
  • I’m certainly not talking about the latest gadgets, a new car, a nicer home, tastier food, or better sex.Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

I’m talking about more from a spiritual standpoint. I yearn for a “spiritual more.” I suspect—deep down—you do, too. Everything else is a hollow substitute for what God has to offer, not just any god but the God revealed in the Bible: biblical God.

But we don’t often find this “spiritual more” at church—at least not how today’s society practices church. We may not even find biblical God there. Most churches fall far short of what God intends for us to experience. We’re drinking Kool-Aid, and he’s offering us wine.

Though I do go to church, I often wonder why. The purpose of church isn’t the music or the message; it’s about community. True church is connecting with God and connecting with others. It’s an intimate spiritual community with true friends who matter, mean something, and stick around. This is where we find a “spiritual more,” as part of a community of like-minded Jesus followers who diligently pursue the God revealed in the Bible. I call this biblical spirituality. This is why I write and blog.

I’m not a guru and may not even be a worthy guide; I’m a fellow pilgrim. Let’s journey together as we pursue biblical God and seek to grasp this spiritual more. It starts when we follow Jesus—and if you’re not ready for that, come along anyway; it will be a great trip.

Let me know your email address, and I’ll send you a free e-book, How Big Is Your Tent?

When Asked about Salvation, Jesus Said, “Follow Me”

When people talked to Jesus, the discussion was often about the same thing, whether broached with the phrase “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of heaven,” “eternal life,” “salvation,” or “saved.”

When asked about salvation, Jesus told people to "follow me."Sometimes the people asked, what must we do? How can we receive it? And Jesus responded.

Although his instructions varied with the person and situation, the thing he said most often was simple: “Follow me.”

There were no steps to check off or hoops to jump through.

How Big Is Your Tent?In the centuries that followed, especially the last few, well-meaning people added requirements. They took something simple and inserted their own twists. But there’s little biblical support to insist upon these man-made expectations.

Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

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.


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How Does the Old Testament Law Fit Our New Testament Faith?

The Old Testament Law gets us started and points us to Jesus

Why is the Old Testament Law in the Bible? How is it relevant for us today? Many followers of Jesus ignore the Law they read in the Old Testament, and a few people pick which parts of it they want to follow and dismiss the rest. As for me, I’m searching for a way to connect the Old Testament Law with my faith and make sense of it without being weighed down by it.How Does the Old Testament Law Fit Our New Testament Faith?

Courtesy of Matthew, we know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law but not eliminate it (Matthew 5:17). In addition, Paul writes that the Law of the Old Testament served as our “guardian” until Jesus came (Galatians 3:24). Does this mean we can get rid of the Old Testament Law? Not so fast.

The word guardian is interesting. Let’s dig into it. In considering some fifty translations of the Bible for this verse, Guardian occurs in 17 of them. Here are some of the words used in other versions: tutor (12 times), schoolmaster (7), disciplinarian (7), custodian (4), “in charge of us” (4), teacher (3), guide (3), governess (2), trainer (1), chaperone (1), babysitter (1), child-conductor (1), master (1), and gateway (1). And just to be thorough, we have pedagogue (1), under-master (1), and “watching over us” (1). Finally, the Message says, “we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law,” that is, the Old Testament Law.

Education and the Old Testament Law

Let’s consider the theme of education (tutor, schoolmaster, teacher, guide, trainer, and more). In elementary school I learned the basics from my teachers. In junior high and high school, we built upon our basic education to more fully understand our lessons. And in college we expanded our understanding further. Then later still, our life lessons built upon all our formal education.

What my elementary school teachers taught me wasn’t wrong, but it was incomplete. The same goes for high school and college. Even now, I continue to build upon my initial levels of education as I grasp for a deeper understanding of the basics I once learned. This same concept applies to most of the other words that the various translations use for this verse. We shouldn’t view the Old Testament law as wrong or as irrelevant, but it is incomplete. Click To Tweet

In the same token, we shouldn’t view the Old Testament Law as wrong or irrelevant, but it is incomplete. We must build upon it. The Law moves us forward in our faith in Jesus. Then, as we mature, our understanding transcends into something more, something much more.

It’s as if the Old Testament Law gets us started and points us in the right direction. Then Jesus furthers our education by building upon it. The Law isn’t something we should ignore, nor is it the goal. The Law is the beginning, and Jesus is the end.

42,000 Protestant Denominations

Christianity Today recently reported that there are 42,000 Protestant denominations. That is shocking.42,000 protestant denominations

However, given that in the United States we have a consumerism mentality, this development is hardly surprising. Consumerism says that if you don’t like the church you are at, you keep shopping until you find one. If you can’t find one that fits, you start your own.

Compounding consumerism is the celebration of the individual. Individuals don’t value community or the collective good. Instead, blazing one’s own trail is celebrated and exalted. But individualism is selfish and self-centered. The attitude is, “it’s all about me.”

However, 42,000 Protestant denominations are not what Jesus had in mind at all. His intent was one—and that includes the other streams of Christianity, too.

How Big Is Your Tent?Why can’t we just be one in Jesus and forget about our denominations, our disagreements, and our doctrines?

Consumerism and individuality is not the goal, unity is.

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.