Categories
Christian Living

Celebrate the Family

We Must Stand Firm Against Society’s Attacks on Marriage and Children

As followers of Jesus, we need to reclaim what the Bible teaches about family. This is because the biblical ideal of family has taken a hit in today’s culture. Therefore, we must counter this and celebrate the family.

Today’s secular society views marriage as optional, divorce as inevitable, and children as a burden. They decry the nuclear family as old fashioned and irrelevant, even draconian.

The popular notion of traditional marriage is that it represses women, shackles men, and may not even be in the children’s best interest.

This perspective is wrong, and we know it. We must stand against this twisted perception of God’s intention for us.

The Path Forward

We must encourage one another to listen to what the Almighty says and ignore what our culture says, even when they attack us for it—especially when they attack us.

As we do so, we can turn to our faith communities and churches. They must take a lead in championing this cause, to reclaim and celebrate the family as God’s preferred plan for his creation.

He made us male and female in his image, with a holy mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27-28). The safety and security of family is his provision to accomplish this.

Yet too many churches today fall short of meeting this desperate need to elevate and celebrate the family.

Instead, they push aside what Scripture says and what Jesus teaches to embrace a non-biblical understanding in the areas of marriage, families, and sexuality.

Instead, our spiritual teachers must remind us of God’s way and counter the world’s perversion of it.

Sex is reserved for marriage, children are our delight, and divorce isn’t an option except in cases of unfaithfulness. Our spiritual leaders need to elevate and celebrate the family.

Yet too many of our faith communities are reluctant to celebrate the family for fear of alienating those who fall outside it. They’ve been criticized for gearing their programming to the needs of families, but this doesn’t mean they should stop doing it.

Instead, they should also provide support for those without families—regardless of their situation or reason. This includes single parents and single adults, be it not-yet-married, widow and widower, divorced, and celibate.

Everyone has a place in God’s family, and we need to acknowledge and support them. We need to make room for all of God’s children in our faith communities.

The Truth about Family

As we celebrate the family, we acknowledge that no family is perfect—just as none of us are perfect.

Each family has an element of dysfunction in it, but only in a few cases is this extreme. In most all families its function far outweighs its dysfunction.

We need to acknowledge the good that families offer when they do it God’s way.

We need to celebrate the family, offering support, encouragement, and a safe place from a world that criticizes and wants to stop it.

The Next Steps

We can start by celebrating our own family.

Then encourage others with their families too.

Next, we should seek a faith community that supports our efforts to honor God through our family.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

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Categories
Christian Living

Don’t Be a DINK

Marriage Is for Children Not for Self

DINK stands for Dual Income, No Kids. The concept has gained traction in recent years. But it’s not an enlightened perspective. Instead, being a DINK is an idea we should avoid.

The Result of Circumstances

Some couples are childless due to their circumstances. They can’t have biological children, even though they yearn to have a baby. We should support them in their pain and walk with them, just as Jesus does with us in our disappointments.

We should be sensitive to their situation, keenly aware that most churches and their programs revolve around the nuclear family. This inadvertently causes them pain, and we should seek to minimize it.

Adoption may be an option they choose to pursue, but it’s not a given assumption. Therefore, we’d be wrong to presume this is an inescapable conclusion and push them toward adopting or fostering children.

Instead, God might use their circumstance to achieve a greater purpose and call them in a different direction.

A Matter of Choice

Other couples are childless by choice. They have intentionally pushed aside the God-given opportunity to have children. Instead of using the label of childless, they proudly proclaim themselves as child free.

I can only presume to understand their motivation.

They may have pain in their past that causes them to suppress their natural, biological urge for procreation.

Or maybe they’ve made a conscious decision to not bring children into this world. But if they don’t, who will?

Perhaps they may feel inadequate to raise children. (Hint: no one is ready to have kids, but we trust God to guide us through it.)

More likely, however, DINKs operate under selfish intent. They feel children will get in the way of their dreams and goals. To them kids are a burden, something they perceive as blocking their pursuit of happiness and personal fulfillment.

They have careers to chase and financial goals to pursue. The idea of raising a family runs counter to these self-centered goals. The focus of their marriage is self-serving and materialistic, not raising up the next generation. They are DINKs.

God’s Perspective

In God’s created order, he expects his creation to produce offspring. This is necessary for the perpetuation of the species. In fact, the first command the creator gives Adam and Eve is to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

And God repeats this instruction to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:7). Had either command been ignored, our species would have died out.

In this way, we see that having children is not only necessary for the survival of the species, but it’s also commanded by God.

Yes, children are expensive, and they can distract us from doing what we want to accomplish for ourselves. But they’re also a blessing—the more the better (Psalm 127:4-5)!

By raising children in a God honoring way and teaching them to follow Jesus, we pursue a more worthy calling. We look beyond ourselves to invest in the next generation (Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4).

Don’t be a DINK. Instead, be fruitful and multiply.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

Categories
Visiting Churches

A Church That Meets in a Public School Gym

Excitement Prevails

I removed every church from my list that was part of a denomination. At best they would merely offer variations of what we’ve already experienced—and rejected.

Left are three churches with intriguing implications. Perhaps one will click with Candy. We’ll visit them the next three Sundays. This church meets in a public school gym.

Shopping for Church: Searching for Christian Community, a Memoir

Meets in a Public School Building

The first church meets in a public school building, which automatically increases my affinity with them.

By renting space, they save themselves from the financial obligation of a mortgage and the maintenance stress of owning a building, one largely unused 97 percent of the time. I see them as wise stewards.

Their mission is to “glorify God by making disciples.” Their vision is “to become an Acts 2 church.”

Though the passage begins and ends with worthy intents, the middle part may not work in our materialistic society with its consumerism mindset: holding “everything in common” and selling their possessions “to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44–45, NIV).

I wonder how closely they follow this example. Supporting this, they have five pillars: prayer, worship, instruction, community, and outreach.

A Bit Lost

Their service begins at ten and we plan our schedule accordingly. I’m glad for a little more pre-church time for my Sunday morning routine than what I have most Sundays.

As we head down the road, my prayer for our time there is fresh, as I’m able to avoid some phrases I fear I repeat too often. The sunny day further boosts my spirits. My expectations are high.

A black pickup truck driving next to us seems lost, making random lane changes, slowing down, and speeding up. They pass us and then we pass them. When I turn toward the school, they turn too.

“Maybe we’re both visiting the same place,” I tell Candy with a grin.

I turn again and they follow. I drive to the specified location, but there’s no sign of a church. There are no cars and no people. But I spot cars in another lot, and I go around the block to get there. So does the pickup.

“I hope they’re not following us, because we’re as lost as they are.”

I pull into the parking lot with the cars. But there are no signs to confirm a church meeting will happen. Though I see people, no one is close enough to ask. A couple gets out of the black pickup.

The guy looks familiar. We say “Hi” and confirm we’re both looking for the same church. However, we can’t verify we’ve found the right one until we go inside and ask.

We head to the gym where the service will be, but the other couple heads in a different direction.

Excitement Abounds

Inside the gym we meet another person, who also welcomes us—the third one to do so. We talk at length. Excitement permeates the place. A low, portable stage flanks one side of the gym. Stackable chairs, arrayed in three sections, will seat over two hundred.

Most people are younger than us and very few are older. It’s great to see young families in church, with lots of kids and teens. Aside from seniors, the only other group who might be missing is the college crowd, but there are no colleges nearby.

We sit midway up in the center section. The chairs are functional, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable.

Five vertical floor-mounted banners stand next to the stage, reminding us of their five pillars. Before the service starts, more people welcome us, including our son and daughter-in-law’s neighbors—the ones who told us about this church.

Even though we’re visitors, it’s great when people recognize us.

Polished Worship Music

A worship team of ten gathers on stage to begin the service, leading us in an opening song. It’s upbeat like The Church with Good Music, perhaps more polished but without as much edge.

Two guys play guitar, with a third on bass. A drummer and keyboardist round out the instrumentalists, with five more on vocals, ably led by their pastor.

After this solitary song comes a welcome, opening prayer, and greeting time. A women’s quartet sings to an accompaniment track during the offering. Then we sing several more contemporary songs, all energetic and inviting.

There’s another prayer, and the kids leave the gym for their own activities. Though all the common elements of a church service are present, today they feel fresh, full of meaning, and exuding life.

This is church as it should be—at least for me.

Living and Leaving a Legacy

For his message, the pastor roams the stage, with an iPad strapped to his palm as an extension of himself. He glances at it periodically as he scrolls through his notes. After a while I forget it’s there.

They’re in the middle of a series, “Living and Leaving a Legacy: Lessons from Malachi.”

He runs through a lengthy list of stats about the significantly higher risks children face when they come from fatherless homes. It’s dramatic, sadly sobering.

Even more so is the reality that half of all children live in homes without their biological dads. How much better our world would be if men would stick around to live with the kids they fathered. Though a few have no choice, most do.

With this as an introduction, he pauses and prays again before reading today’s text from Malachi 2:10–16. The priests in Malachi’s day lead the people astray through their poor example.

They divorce their wives and marry foreign women, both prohibited by the Law of Moses. In doing so they commit idolatry and adultery. This is point one: “They profane the covenant of marriage.”

Though there is much more to his message, neither of us catch any more points. Perhaps we’ll need to come back next week to hear point two.

Regardless, he has much more to share. To leave a legacy, we need to produce godly offspring. This starts with parents and includes the Word of God. We also need to get involved in church.

He sums up his message with the encouragement, “It is most rewarding to see our kids grow up to follow God.” This is our chief legacy.

Wrapping Up

He concludes by giving the congregation a set of challenges applicable to each life situation: parents, dads, married couples, and single adults.

As he runs through announcements, the kids return to join their parents. Today the church talks in depth about child sponsorship through Compassion International.

A few members share their experiences sponsoring kids in developing countries.

People can learn more after the service, even select a child to support. After an hour and a half, the service ends with a request for everyone to help pick up chairs.

More people welcome us, and we enjoy meaningful conversations with several. After a while, I walk across the now chairless gym to talk with the visitors who arrived with us.

I learn they normally go to The Rural Church—the fourth one we visited and which I called “country fresh.”

“We visited there last fall,” I tell the man. “That must be why you look familiar.” He nods but seems doubtful.

But as we continue to share our stories, he remembers me. We had an extended conversation when we visited his church six months ago.

“Your church is one of our top choices. We really liked it. We’ll probably revisit it in a few months.” I hope we’ll see him when we do.

Final Words

It’s been an hour since the service ended, and the crowd has thinned, but twenty or thirty people linger to hang out. The pastor remains at the exit of the gym, talking with an attendee.

We walk up and he tells us more about their church, including how they bring on new members. He isn’t being presumptuous, just helpful. I appreciate the information.

I also realize this church is one of my top choices, perhaps even moving into first place. As we discuss our experience, my bride confirms the music was good.

Though she stops short of my level of enthusiasm, she doesn’t dismiss them either. I suspect we’ll return. I hope we do.

We have two more churches to visit. Then we will narrow down our options, and Candy will decide. Part of me wishes I had never promised her she could pick our next church.

Nevertheless, I’m excited about visiting the next two churches, revisiting our top picks, and finally settling down.

Takeaway

Doing church in new ways—like a church that meets in a public school gym and forgoing usual expectations—can bring in a freshness and vitality that today’s seekers want.

[Read about the next church, or start at the beginning of Shopping for Church.]


Read the full story in Peter DeHaan’s new book Shopping for Church.

Travel along with Peter and his wife as they search for a new Christian community in his latest book, Shopping for Church, part of the Visiting Churches Series.

This book picks up the mantle from 52 Churches, their year-long sabbatical of visiting churches.

Here’s what happens:

My wife and I move. Now we need to find a new church. It’s not as easy as it sounds. She wants two things; I seek three others.

But this time the stakes are higher. I’ll write about the churches we visit, and my wife will pick which one we’ll call home. It sounds simple. What could possibly go wrong?

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Visiting Churches

The Simulcast Church

Two Options in One Building

The budget program I’m involved with on Wednesday mornings also has a Thursday evening option. Though I’m not a regular volunteer on Thursdays, I help from time to time. It’s bigger, with more classes, more clients, and more volunteers.

Shopping for Church: Searching for Christian Community, a Memoir

The Thursday evening budget program meets at a different church, and we head there today. Not only do I know how to get to this church, but I also know how long it will take, which removes both items of uncertainty from our typical Sunday church visits.

A bit of online investigation reminds me this church is part of a denomination, one prevalent in the area. We’ve already visited three: The Outlier Congregation, The Traditional Denominational Church, and The Church with a Fresh Spin.

Their website also informs me they have one service time but two options, with the second being a simulcast feed. They name the second option but not its location. Curious.

Navigating to the Sanctuary

We arrive fifteen minutes early to a packed parking lot, with some people already using their overflow spaces. Just as I’m about to veer toward one, I spot a couple of empty slots in their main lot and scoot into one.

The facility entrance I use on Thursdays is far away and, though I’ve never been to the sanctuary, I doubt that door is the best one to use.

The main entrance, complete with a covered drop-off area, is not close either and would require more walking than I want to do in the biting wind of today’s weather. Though a bright sun beckons, the conditions are far from comfortable.

The closest door is a side entrance, which is where most people head.

We follow them, suspecting that once inside, we’ll need to wander around to find the sanctuary. As the door closes behind us, we have two options: one flight of stairs going down and the other up.

We go up, ending in a medium-sized room of undiscernible purpose. It’s too large for a classroom and too small for a fellowship hall. We weave our way through it, spilling into a hallway, one lined with mail slots for member communication.

Two People Reach Out

An older gentleman walks up, smiling broadly. “Should I know you? You look a little familiar.”

“No,” I assure him. “We’re visiting today.”

“Welcome!” We shake hands and exchange names.

“I sometimes help on Thursday nights with the budget program.”

He smiles again. “Sometimes my wife and I help out too.” Maybe we have seen each other after all.

“We have two options for the service. One is in the sanctuary,” he says with a tip of his head to indicate a general direction. “It’s live. The other is simulcast, and you can watch on a big screen. But they’re both the same.”

Though he doesn’t explain how to find simulcast option two, it’s somewhere in the building.

We chat some more. By the time we’re finished, I feel at ease, having enjoyed a pleasant connection, even though I’ve already forgotten his name, despite my best efforts not to.

Candy and I head to the sanctuary. We take a meandering path but find it with no wrong turns or needing directions.

People stand about in the narthex, all engaged in conversation. Seeing no one available to talk to, we snake our way through the crowd toward the sanctuary. As we near, one woman aborts her conversation to greet us. She knows we’re visitors and welcomes us warmly.

We have a pleasant conversation, and she introduces her friend to us. By the time we make it to the sanctuary, I feel embraced and accepted, ready to immerse myself into the service.

What a key difference a couple of people can make. An usher seats us and hands us bulletins.

Facility Observations

Based on the construction, I judge this part of the facility to be about fifty or sixty years old, though it’s nicely maintained. The sprawling structure has several additions, explaining our confusion on where to enter and how to reach the sanctuary.

With steep vaulted ceilings, the space is long and not wide, reminiscent of older cathedrals, though not as ostentatious, except for the impressive organ pipes on one side.

An elegant oversized cross draped with a white burial cloth is the focus up front. It’s flanked by two banners proclaiming, “He has risen, just as he said.” On each side of the stage hangs a screen, poised to guide us through the service.

The room seats about five hundred and fills fast. No wonder they need overflow space in another part of their building, though having two services might be a better solution.

The attendees’ age skews older. Candy and I are in the younger half of the crowd. Though I spot some young families, I see no one who looks college-aged and notice only a few teens. I wonder about the ages of the folks in the simulcast room. Do they skew younger?

The Service Begins

When the service begins, we’re at about 80 percent capacity. We sing two contemporary songs to the light pop accompaniment of a piano, guitar, and drums, with two vocalists.

Though the male and female singers stand on the stage, the musicians are sequestered to the left, on our level in the corner. The words appear overhead on the dual screens. The pipe organ sits unused and, to my wife’s delight, we never open their traditional hymnal.

Following the opening song set is a short liturgy and then a “special music” solo. Though the words appear in the bulletin, no one sings along. It’s a performance, and we reward the singer with resounding applause.

Children’s Message and Offering

As the minister calls the kids forward for the children’s message, he invites the youngsters in the overflow room, where they view the simulcast, to join us in the main sanctuary, granting them permission to run in church. Soon they arrive, sprinting in along the side aisle, faces beaming.

About twenty-five sit and anticipate what the pastor will share. He talks about trust and taps a boy for an object lesson. “Do you trust me?”

The boy thinks he might.

“Then turn around and when I count to three, fall backward, and I’ll catch you.”

It takes two tries, but with the second attempt, the boy succeeds, providing a visual aid to support the minister’s lesson.

After the kids return to their parents in the sanctuary and simulcast room, the pastor gives the morning prayer (a traditional congregational prayer). Following it is the offertory prayer, given by a member.

As the ushers receive the collection, we listen to a piano solo and fill out the friendship folders, passing them down our rows. Immediately after the offering is a second one, this one for the benevolence fund. We sing another song and hear another prayer.

Message: The Joy of Believing

The minister stands on the stage to deliver his message, separated from us by both distance and height. A gulf divides us.

Sitting in the middle of the sanctuary, I’m too far back to make out any facial expressions of the preacher, so the folks in the back must have a terrible view.

His message is “The Joy of Believing: Facing Our Doubts,” based on the passage in John 20:19–31. It focuses on the story of Doubting Thomas.

Though Doubting Thomas becomes Believing Thomas, he’s known for his former condition, not his ending state. The pastor talks about moving from hope to belief, from doubt to knowledge.

The sermon is long. I grow tired and squirm. I want to take notes but jot nothing new—except that this account only appears in John.

After the message comes a closing prayer and a reprise of the special music number. This time we join in. To dismiss us, the pastor sings the benediction, something I’ve rarely encountered and am surprised to hear.

The service ends.

Heading Out

The minister stands by the main exit, acknowledging the congregation as they pass by.

With hundreds of people to greet, he’s on autopilot, mechanically shaking hands as we file past. Sweat beads on his forehead. He doesn’t make eye contact with us and is already looking at the next person in line, as though eager to finish his ordeal.

Though I missed it, the bulletin says they have a coffee hour afterward. The minister didn’t mention this from the pulpit, and nobody invites us to stay.

With no one to talk to and no reason to stick around, we retrace the meandering path we took on the way in, eventually returning to our car. The service lasted ninety minutes, with the message pushing an hour.

Though the service was pleasing, it offered nothing special. Neither of us feels a reason to return. I didn’t see anyone from the budget program, but at least I know about the church in case a client has questions.

Candy asks when we’ll stop visiting churches so she can make her selection. I, too, sense the need to stop looking and settle down, to stop dating churches and commit, but there are a couple more I want to visit first, in expectation that my bride will like them.

Takeaway

Look for old practices at church that no longer make sense—such as your minister shaking hands with hundreds of people after every service—and offer a fresh and meaningful alternative.

When you run out of space for your morning service, seek creative and low-cost solutions, like a simulcast.


Read the full story in Peter DeHaan’s new book Shopping for Church.

Travel along with Peter and his wife as they search for a new Christian community in his latest book, Shopping for Church, part of the Visiting Churches Series.

This book picks up the mantle from 52 Churches, their year-long sabbatical of visiting churches.

Here’s what happens:

My wife and I move. Now we need to find a new church. It’s not as easy as it sounds. She wants two things; I seek three others.

But this time the stakes are higher. I’ll write about the churches we visit, and my wife will pick which one we’ll call home. It sounds simple. What could possibly go wrong?

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

We Must Rethink Sunday School

Reform Sunday School as an Education Service to Your Community

It may be strange to see Sunday school on this list of things we must change for our churches, but we should carefully reexamine it. Do you know the original mission of this Sunday program?

It was to teach poor children how to read. And the church used the most accessible book to them, the Bible. It was a pleasant side effect that in teaching children to read, this Sunday educational program also taught them about God through the Bible.

By the time public schools came into existence and took over this job of teaching children how to read, Sunday school had become entrenched in churches.

Instead of realizing they had accomplished their objective and shutting it down, they shifted its focus to teach the church’s children about God.

It didn’t matter that this was the parent’s responsibility (Proverbs 22:6, as well as Deuteronomy 6:6–7 and Ephesians 6:4). Though parents can supplement their efforts with other resources, let’s not depend on Sunday school to be one of them.

English as a Second Language

We could use this as justification for shutting down our Sunday schools, but a better approach might be to reform this practice from the internal program that it has become back into a service effort to help those in our community, just as was the original intent.

One example that would apply in many areas in the United States is to look at teaching English as a second language (ESL). Though many ESL programs already exist, they don’t reach everyone.

Beyond ESL classes, meeting any unmet community educational need would fit nicely.

Regardless, the church should reform their Sunday school practice to address needs in their community.

Parents should resume their biblical role to tell their children about Jesus. They are the primary spiritual educators of their children. This removes the need for Sunday school, which we can re-envision as a program to help those in our community.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Christian unity and loving others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 22-24 and today’s post is on Proverbs 22:6.]

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

God as our Father

A Word Picture of What a Good Dad Is Like

The sixth word picture is God as our father and we as his children.

Although not everyone had a good biological father—in fact all human fathers make mistakes in raising their children—our spiritual father, God, is without fault, raising us out of perfect love and without error.

With God as our spiritual father, that is our father in heaven, we see him as being wise, loving, disciplining, and patient. Also, as our father there is the hope of us one day receiving an inheritance from him.

For us as God’s children, we are loved, cared for, given generous gifts, and protected. We are also heirs, looking forward to an inheritance that we will one day receive from him—eternal life for all who follow him.

Lastly, just as adult children have the potential for friendship with their earthly parents, we too, are poised to become a friend with our heavenly parent, God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 7-9 and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 7:14.]

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Children and Communion

Reclaim Our Practice of Communion from a Biblical Context

In their practice of Communion some churches allow children to take Communion (the Eucharist) and others don’t. I’ve seen both occur at various worship services, but I don’t know which practice is more common.

A similar consideration is the issue of closed Communion versus open. For churches that practice closed Communion, only members of their church (or denomination) may partake. All others must watch.

For churches that practice open Communion, both members and nonmembers can celebrate the Lord’s Supper, although they often place restrictions on just how open they are.

I understand the rationale for restricting children and nonmembers:

Some churches that exclude children do so over concerns that they’re too young to understand what’s happening, that they’ll go through Communion as a ritual void of spiritual significance.

A similar explanation occurs over nonmember involvement.

In both cases, well-meaning church leaders limit participation in Communion out of respect for its significance and a desire for only those who fully understand it to take part.

Though I understand this, I don’t agree. Let’s look at Scripture for the context.

When Jesus introduced the sacrament that we now call Holy Communion or the Holy Eucharist, he did so on Passover. In doing so he expanded the meaning of Passover to be a remembrance of his death to save his people.

In the Old Testament, Passover occurred once a year. It was a meal celebrated in people’s homes with their family and neighbors. Jesus didn’t change any of these practices when he taught us about the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.

Yet our practice of Communion today has moved far from its original context.

A Shared Meal

In Scripture we see Passover and Communion as part of a meal, not a symbolic cracker and sip of juice. Imagine someone showing up at your house in the middle of dinner.

You invite them in but don’t offer them any food. They watch while you eat.

Wouldn’t that be rude? Of course.

The same applies to visitors at our church who we make watch our Communion remembrance of Jesus. We celebrate, and they sit idle. That’s just as rude as not feeding a guest in our home.

A Family Event

In Scripture we see both Passover and Communion occurring in a home setting with family and friends (not at a church service).

When Moses instituted Passover, he didn’t say that only the adults could eat. The whole family participated. The kids didn’t need to be a certain age before they could eat the Passover.

Since it’s a meal, we have our entire family gathered around the table. No loving parent would ever sit their children.to eat and then not put food on their plate. But isn’t this what we do when we don’t let children take Communion?

An Annual Remembrance

Passover occurred once a year. Not once a quarter, not monthly, and not each week, but annually. I worry that many people have taken Communion so frequently that it ceases to be a time of remembrance to relish and becomes a ritual to perform.

The Practice of Communion

Unless we lead a church, we can’t change its practice of Communion. Attempting to do so won’t bring about reforms and could get us kicked out.

Instead, we should follow our church’s conventions for Communion with God-honoring respect, while reframing the practice in our minds to embrace its biblical, spiritual significance.

As individuals, however, we can reclaim the history behind Communion. We can celebrate the Lord’s Supper around the table, at our home, with family and friends, once a year.

My family does this each Easter Sunday. (Another ideal time might be Good Friday.) We do this to remember what Jesus did for us when he died as punishment for our sins to make us right with Papa.

Look for what you can do to reclaim the practice of Communion from a biblical perspective that has spiritual impact. Then go do it.

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

Praying for My Children

Pray for Family and Friends

Ever since our daughter was born, I knew I should pray for her, as well as for her brother, when he came along. I did pray for them—when I thought of it—which wasn’t very often.

I felt guilty for not doing what I knew I should do. And when I did pray, my prayers were always the same. My words repeated. They felt stale. When it came to praying for our children, I was stuck in a rut.

Praying for Our Children

When the oldest was in middle school, her youth group leader gave us a handout. Titled “Things I Pray for My Children,” it listed twenty-three items to guide our prayers. I began praying one item each day.

At the end of twenty-three days (or a little bit longer if I missed a day) I started the list over and prayed through it again, making one request each day.

The prayer list empowered me to pray for our children. I no longer felt guilty about neglecting this aspect of their spiritual development.

After a few years, however, the list had grown stale. Though I continued to pray, I began to struggle. About that time, I came across another list, a prayer card: “31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids.”

This one had thirty-one suggestions, one for each day of a thirty-one-day month. Though both lists had similarities, no items were an exact duplicate. I now had thirty-one new ideas to guide my prayers.

On the months with thirty-one days, I used the thirty-one-day list. On the other months, I used the twenty-three-item list. And when I had run out of items for those months, I went off the list and came up with my own things to pray for our kids.

Praying for Their Friends

As they got older, I added their best friends to the list too. I did this because their friends were emerging as a bigger influence in their lives than their mom and me. I wanted their friends to be godly influences, so I prayed for them.

When they started dating, I prayed for those they were dating. One dated a lot and the other not so much. In college, I added their roommates.

Though the makeup of the list changed over time, the two people I consistently prayed for were our kids. Because I prayed for the people they were dating, their future spouses received years of prayer before they were engaged, even before they met.

These simple prayers, offered daily, one prayer at a time, were huge.

Praying for Grandchildren

After they were married and the prospect of grandchildren became more realistic, I took a step of faith and began praying for their future children, my future grandchildren. Using the same two prayer lists to guide me, I prayed for God’s blessing on what would be.

As each grandchild was born, my prayers for them became more real. Having invested years of prayers before their arrival served to deepen my love for them.

Praying for Great Grandchildren and Great, Great Grandchildren

Along this journey of praying for my children and grandchildren, God prompted me to an even grander calling. He told me to pray for my future great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. This was hard to do at first because that reality resides so far in the future. And though it’s realistic that I may someday see and hold great-grandchildren, it will only be by God’s grace that I live long enough to welcome great-great-grandchildren.

Praying for Future Generations

The story doesn’t end there, however. Praying for the next four generations of my descendants wasn’t enough. God prompted me to pray for the next ten. It was hard to get my mind around this, but I’ve faithfully prayed for them, as a group, ever since.

Then one day as I prayed, I misspoke. Instead of praying for the next ten generations, I said “twelve” in error. But before I could correct myself, God assured me that twelve is the number I should use going forward.

Interestingly, twelve is a recurring number in the Bible: twelve tribes in the Old Testament and twelve disciples in the New Testament, symbolically connecting the two parts of God’s Word.

In addition, twelve pops up often in the books of Moses (twelve pillars, twelve stones, twelve loaves of bread, twelve oxen, twelve silver plates, twelve silver bowls, twelve gold dishes, twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve lambs, twelve goats, and twelve staffs), as well as in the future-focused prophecy of Revelation (twelve stars, twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve foundations, twelve apostles, twelve pearls, and twelve crops of fruit).

And for me, twelve generations.

Beyond twelve, I know that at some point God will up the number to one hundred. That’s heady stuff, but when the time comes, I’ll embrace the challenge, full of faith that he will answer these prayers for our descendants for hundreds of years to come.

Yet one thing remains. As I pray for our grandchildren and future great-grandchildren and the generations that follow, I continue to pray for our children every day.

And I’ll never stop.

[Update: This is an excerpt from my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide. I have now taken the bold step of praying for all future generations of my offspring, through to the end of time.]

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids

Good for Children of Ages

I’m quite familiar with the NIV (New International Version) Bible. The NIV is the version I use most for Bible reading, studying, and research. And it’s the version I usually quote in my books. But what about the NIrV?

Though I’ve heard about the NIrV (New International Reader’s Version), I knew very little about it and was excited to have the option to check it out.

Based on the NIV, the NIrV uses shorter sentences and replaces longer words with shorter words. It’s created for a third-grade reading level. This makes it even easier to read and understand then the popular NIV.

That makes the NIrV ideal for people new the Bible, people who struggle to understand the Bible, and people who use English as a second language. And it’s also ideal for younger readers.

NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids, Hardcover, Full Color

To make the book kid friendly, NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids is packed with colored illustrations that aid in the learning experience.

Tailored for “kids ages 4-8” it’s in a single column format, omits the distraction of chapter and verse notations as well as footnotes, and includes an informative double-sided poster.

Aside from the text, there is much to explore.

The NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids is a great resource for children of all ages. If you sometimes struggle to read the Bible, NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids might just be the right version for you—even if you’re not a kid.

The book’s small font may be uncomfortable for young readers. And it’s important to point out that this is a complete version of the Bible, which contains many passages not suitable for children. This is the only concern I have for an otherwise really great book.

If you know a kid or are a kid at heart, check out NIrV, The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids.

[Legal stuff: I received this Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, #BibleGatewayPartner.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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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10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Christian Living

How Can We Be Children of God if Jesus is the Only Son of God?

Discover How God Can Have One Son and Have Many Sons (and Daughters) Too

The Bible calls Jesus the Son of God. We see this in forty New Testament verses from speakers ranging from his disciples to his detractors, including evil spirits and even Satan.

Saying that Jesus is the Son of God suggests there’s only one Son. Indeed, other verses—such as John 3:16—call him God’s one and only Son.

This means that God is Jesus’s father, and Jesus is his only Son.

But if Jesus is the only Son of God, why does the Bible also call us sons and daughters (children) of God? If we receive him (John 1:12), are led by his Spirit (Romans 8:14), and have faith (Galatians 3:26), then we become children of God.

As his children, is that why we pray to him as “Our Father” (see Matthew 6:9) or should only Jesus get to do that?

The Bible is not contradicting itself. Jesus can be the one and only Son of God and at the same time, we can also be sons and daughters of God. Here are two ways to understand this.

The Bride of Christ

Jesus talks often about the groom (bridegroom) and his bride, implying that he is the groom and his followers are his bride.

John the Baptist testified that he came to pave the way for the Messiah: Jesus, the bridegroom. The bride belongs to the groom (John 3:27-29).

The apostle John reinforces this in his epic vision that includes a future wedding of bridegroom and bride. Jesus is the Lamb, and we are his bride.

As the bride of Christ, we become God’s children through marriage. God has one Son, and through our marriage to his Son, we, too, become the children of God.

However, this idea of being spiritually married to Jesus is hard for many people to accept, especially men. Fortunately, there’s another analogy that’s easier to grasp.

Through Adoption

Another illustration of our relationship with Father God is adoption.

Paul writes that by receiving God’s spirit we’re adopted into God’s family, becoming his sons and daughters. Through God’s spirit, we can then call him, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

Being adopted as his sons and daughters was God’s plan from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Adoption is a beautiful image. As adopted children, God selects us; we’re chosen. The act is intentional.

Through adoption we then become God’s heirs, co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 4:14). As heirs, we receive eternal life from him (Titus 3:7).

We Are Children of God

Through our spiritual marriage to Jesus, we become children of God. Through our spiritual adoption into his family, we also become children of God. As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him.

Praise Father God.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.