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Christian Living

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.

To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful.

Consider the Christian label in How Big Is Your Tent?

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).

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 How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Discover What Jesus Didn’t Say

How to Inherit Eternal Life

There are many things Jesus didn’t tell us to do to inherit eternal life or become saved. He didn’t say:

  • pray a prayer,
  • be confirmed,
  • go to church,
  • come forward,
  • do good things,
  • raise your hand,
  • fill out a pledge card, or
  • jump through any hoops

He didn’t give Four Spiritual Laws, share The Roman’s Road, or recite the ABC’s of Salvation.

His answer was easy. His most basic instruction was “follow me.” Then he wants us to be faithful and fruitful to honor him.

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Three Ecumenical Guidelines

Ecumenical Is a Word Some May Be Unfamiliar With

One definition of ecumenical means “relating to the worldwide Christian church.” A broader understanding is “establishing and promoting unity among religions.” More generically, ecumenical simply means “worldwide; universal.”

In simple terms, I understand ecumenical to mean unifying. So that means ecumenical guidelines are advice to unify us. Yes, we need some ecumenical guidelines in our world today.

Towards this goal, three ecumenical guidelines—that is, unifying guidelines—advance our understanding:

“In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things charity.”

Though the author of this brilliant advice is in debate, its wisdom is not.

May our list of essentials be short, our non-essentials held loosely, and our mercy and tolerance without limit.

[This quote is often attributed to Augustine, but that cannot be confirmed. John Amos Comenious advocated this in the 1600s, and he may have been citing Peter Meiderlin.]

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Accepting Those Who Believe Differently

From my research for 52 Churches I learned a great deal about the larger faith community I’m part of. This includes having charismatic experiences at some of the churches.

Perhaps the most significant so far is courtesy of the United Methodist Church and their document “Guidelines: The United Methodist Church and the Charismatic Movement.”

It’s a bit formal, but contains some profound principles that when followed will allow charismatic and non-charismatic believers to peacefully coexist, realizing the unity that Jesus prayed for and desires from his followers.

Though it was written by the denomination for itself, the truths it contains are applicable to any Christian group.

Consider some of the document’s headings:

  • “Guidelines for All”
  • “For Pastors Who Have Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Pastors Who Have Not Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Laity Who Have Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Laity Who Have Not Had Charismatic Experiences”

Some observations:

  • The first guideline is foundational: “Be open and accepting of those whose Christian experiences differ from your own.”
  • The two sections for pastors are virtually identical.
  • The two sections for laity are quite instructive and helpful,
  • These principles are applicable to just about any polarizing disagreement in the church over doctrine or practice.

The main point of all this is we need to be ready and willing to accept those who may have different faith perspectives and experiences.

That’s unity; that’s what Jesus wants.

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

In Whose Name Do You Pray?

When You Pray, Whose Name Do You Invoke?

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, 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.

Vary How You End Your Prayer

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.

Since God is trinity—the great three in one—it matters little which phrase you invoke when you end your pray. What matters is that you do pray.

This will please God and honor him.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

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.

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.

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.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

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.”

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.

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 How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

42,000 Protestant Denominations

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

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.

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 How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Take a Step Toward Christian Unity

Where I used to live, a fair number of people attended church. None of them went to the church I attended and, as far as I know, no one else attended the same church as their neighbors.

Even more confounding is that there were two churches within a mile, but no one attended them either. In fact, we all drove by other churches as we motored to our own church of choice.

How sad.

Even though we are all of the Christian faith, we fail to abide in that reality. Instead we denominate ourselves into disparate subgroups based on our individual traditions, preferred practices, and pet perceptions of what it means to be Christian.

This wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. He wants us to be one—just as he and his father are one.

Unity was the intent, but disunity was the result.

Although our enemy would prefer that we not follow God at all, his backup plan seems to be to hold us in adamant disagreement. This may be almost as an effective ploy.

While we can’t quickly repair these centuries old rifts, a good first step is to be open-minded towards our brothers and sisters, willing to listen to what they have to say and accept them regardless. This would show God’s love to another, something that is also important to Jesus.

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Feasting on the Religious Buffet

The Western World, especially the United States, is largely an individualistic, narcissistic society.

In applying this mindset to religious matters, the in thing is to seek spirituality in an individualistic, narcissistic way. We pursue the formation of our religious convictions as if we were at a buffet, a religious buffet.

We pick a little bit of one thing, try a tad of something else, combine two things that were never intended to go together, and so on.

The result of our religious buffet is that we end up creating a God that is who we want him to be. We effectively make God into our image. We dumb down the divine. This is not wise, and just because we feel justified in the process, it doesn’t render the results as right or worthy.

In college, I learned that there are two theories for how electricity moves through a conductor. (If you care, they are electron theory and hole theory—and they move in opposite directions.)

Each has its relative merits in aiding in the understanding of all things electric, but mixing the two together only results in confusion and consternation. They are mutually exclusive; when combined, the results are untenable.

Likewise, with our religious buffet is untenable. Attempting to live in a religious amalgamation won’t work. We need to pick one thing and go with it, fully and without reservation. For me, it is the God who is revealed in the Bible. Adding anything to that is only a distraction.

Use the Bible as your faith foundation to pursue the God—and his Son—who are revealed in and through it.

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

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.