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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.

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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.

Look for what you can do to reclaim the practice of Communion from a biblical perspective that has spiritual impact. Click To Tweet

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.

Simple prayers for our children and their friends, offered daily, one prayer at a time, will make a huge difference. Click To Tweet

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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Christian Living

We Must Rethink Sunday School

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 (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Proverbs 22:6, 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 more about this in Peter’s new 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.

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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.

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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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).

As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him. Click To Tweet

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.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Hannah

Hannah longs to have children but is childless. Adding to her misery, she’s harassed by everyone around her. Though, she is her husband’s (Elkanah) favorite wife he dismisses her infertility and fails to protect her from verbal assaults from his other wife, Peninnah, who endlessly torments her.

Then, when she prays in earnest, Eli, the priest, accuses her of being drunk. Hannah’s life is in constant turmoil.

At her breaking point, Hannah cries out to God. She begs him for a son. In return, she promises to give him to God for a lifetime of service.

Unlike everyone else, God understands Hannah. He answers her plea, giving her a son, Samuel, just as she requested. She responds by singing to God: celebrating his power, the elevation of the oppressed, and the abasement of those overly confident.

A few lines of her ode may be digs at Peninnah, her chief tormentor.

After Samuel is weaned, Hannah presents him to Eli for a lifetime of service to God, just as she promised. Each year when she and her family make their pilgrimage to the temple, she sees young Samuel and gives him a new robe.

God then blesses Hannah with five more children.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 1-4 and today’s post is on 1 Samuel 1:19-20.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Ruth

Ruth is Loyal to God and to Her Mother-In-Law

Ruth is a widow and foreigner who remains faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She leaves her family to follow Naomi to Israel. The reason for her loyalty to her mother-in-law is a mystery, since Naomi is a bitter woman at this time. However, Ruth also expresses a devotion to God.

When they return, she goes out to glean grain, at great physical risk, so she and Naomi will have some food. The young widow finds favor with Boaz, who knows of her fine reputation.

Naomi sets about to find another husband for her widowed daughter-in-law, targeting Boaz and developing a strategy to bring that about. The result is capturing Boaz’s attention. He sets out to make Ruth his wife, deftly dealing with another possible suitor.

Boaz and Ruth marry. She has her first child, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse, the father of David. That makes her the great grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Let’s review: Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and God rewards her. She marries again, is saved from poverty, and has a son. As a result, she’s later honored by Matthew who includes her in the family tree of Jesus, one of only four women mentioned.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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

Who Would Like to Pray?

Let Us Pray

Recently my wife and I were hanging out with friends, good friends, the best. The time we spend together is always a spiritual experience. As we immerse ourselves in each other’s presence, God joins us.

We don’t realize time’s passing, only becoming aware of the hour after seeking out a clock. The dinner hour snuck up on us. We order pizza—not because we are hungry as much as we know we should eat.

Soon we’re sitting at the table. “Who would like to pray?” our host asks. With little hesitation, their oldest, a preteen girl offers. We bow our heads but she doesn’t launch into a flurry of words; she pauses.

When sufficiently ready, she prays, not a memorized petition or spewing phrases of rote familiarity, but considered words appropriate to the situation. When finished, we thank her and nod our approval, but no one lunges for food; we wait.

Prayer should be communication with our Father in Heaven and not a performance. Click To Tweet

“Does anyone else want to pray?” Her brother and sister both do, but her sister speaks first. We bow again. She prays, too. Her brother is next. These kids know how to approach the Almighty. Their parents have taught them well.

Only the youngest has not participated. “Do you want to pray?” his mom asks him. He nods. He’s not yet talking much so I wonder what he might say. Like his siblings, he prays from his heart; his few words surely bless God.

We affirm his prayer, just as we did for his older brother and sisters. Only then do we consider the food before us.

As I savor my first slice of pizza, I contemplate what just happened.

These kids want to pray. They place prayer over food and their siblings’ turns over their stomachs. Their reverence inspires me. The prayers they offer are not a performance for people but communication with their Father in heaven.

May I be more like them.

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

The Next Generation

On September 11, while others in the United States remembered the anniversary of a national tragedy, my wife and I celebrated the birth of our first grandson. I waited a long time for him, not with any sense of urgency but with much anticipation for the joy his arrival would bring.

Now he’s here, and I’m reminded once again of the awesomeness of life. And although biased, I think he’s the most beautiful baby ever.

In seeing him, I’m mindful that babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Though my daughter and her husband have prepared well and are doing a great job, I know they will learn some things only through experience and after a few errors.

Surely, they will make a some mistakes along the way, just as their respective parents did in raising them.

When my grandson was one week old, I asked his parents what surprised them the most so far. For my daughter it was the realization of just how important sleep was; my son-in-law voiced surprise over the amount of time a baby requires.

I remember my trepidation when I first held my daughter; I scarcely breathed for fear she might break. Each evening I gave her a bottle, and then she fell asleep in my arms. Later, I did the same for her brother.

However, when I first held my grandson, there was no apprehension, only excitement. My parent skills came back to me quickly. This is a delightful phase in my life. I relish having grandchildren.

Although I like having grandchildren, the idea of being a grandfather is jarring. I suspect, though, that will all change in an instant, at that future moment when my grandson looks up at me and says for the first time, “Grandpa.”

And my heart will melt.

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.