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Bible Insights

Though David Says That God Is “My Refuge,” I Doubt David Feels It

When it Comes to God, Should We “Fake it Till We Make It?”

Psalm 142 is a prayer of lament. David’s hiding in a cave, likely fearing for his life. He feels alone with no one walking alongside him or having any concern for him. He cries out that he has no refuge, no protective shelter, no safe place.

Even though it seems his hideout in his cave provides a refuge, it’s a physical safety. Perhaps he also seeks a spiritual refuge. He feels he has none.

In his despair, he cries out to God. He writes, “I say, ‘you are my refuge,’”

Note that he doesn’t proclaim that God is “my refuge.” How could he do that when he just said he has no refuge? He merely says that he said it, not that he confidently believes that God is “my refuge.”

Push Through the Doubt

This reminds me of the phrase, “Fake it, till you make it.” I’m not sure how I feel about this adage when it comes to God and spiritual matters, or when it comes to anything, for that matter. But it seems that’s what David does.

Though he says God is my refuge, he doesn’t believe it. Not at that moment. But he prays it anyway. He’s pushing through his doubt, hoping to reemerge to find confidence in God again.

David isn’t being disingenuous in his prayer. He’s being honest—bluntly honest—as honest as he can be in that moment. He’s struggling to reach out to God amid despair and overwhelming opposition.

My Refuge

Intellectually, David may know that God is “my refuge,” but emotionally he’s not feeling it. Physically he’s not seeing it. Yet spiritually he pushes through. He cries out to God, saying words in faith that he can’t yet put his confidence in.

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example. Click To Tweet

But he knows he’ll get there. He knows that his weak prayer will move him from human doubt to godly confidence. And God, I suspect, patiently waits for David to get there, for David to get to a point where he moves from going through the motions to a place of faith.

So David can boldly proclaim, “You are my refuge!” (Psalm 142:4-5, NIV).

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 140-144, and today’s post is on Psalm 142:4-5.]

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

Longing for God

May Our Soul Pant for God with the Same Urgency as a Deer Panting for Water

King David penned Psalm 41. He opens with a powerful image of a deer panting for water. It illustrates David longing for God. David concludes his song by confirming he will praise God. Sandwiched between the opening and ending of this Psalm, David shares the turmoil churning in his soul.

But we’ll focus on the opening two verses.

A Deer Pants for Water

Imagine a thirsty deer running up to a stream, anticipating a refreshing drink of water. This isn’t so much as to keep the deer hydrated. It’s more urgent. The deer, a mighty buck, has traveled a distance and has a vital need to drink. He’s dehydrated and needs water to live. The deer needs living water.

The buck pants after traveling in the hot sun. His chest expands and contracts as he sucks in as much oxygen as possible, as quickly as he can. He perks up his ears to listen if danger lurks. He looks right and then turns left. Confident he is for the moment safe, with no predators nearby, only then does the deer dip his head down to drink from the cool, energizing water he so longs for.

Our Souls Pant for God

Just as the deer pants for water, do we have a similar longing for God? Does our soul—our mind, will, and emotions—pant for God? Does our soul thirst for him? Do we need the living God as much as the deer needs living water to survive?

As the deer traveled in the hot sun to find life-giving water, we, too, travel through the difficulties of life to find God’s living water. But for me my search doesn’t feel as imperative. Yes, I know I should have a longing for God. But in actual terms, my search for him, and to be with him, doesn’t carry the urgency it should.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart. Click To Tweet

Seek God with All Your Heart

For our soul to pant for God the way a deer pants for water, we can start by seeking God with our whole heart. Three of David’s other songs mention this: Psalm 22:26, Psalm 27:8, and Psalm 69:32.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 41-45 and today’s post is on Psalm 42:1-2.]

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Christian Living

Be Careful What You Say

Control Your Tongue and Watch Your Words

There’s a saying of disputed authorship, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” As such, we need to be careful what we say. The Bible has much to share about our words and our tongue.

Tame the Tongue

James tells us that we verify our religion—our faith—by what we say, good or bad. We must keep a tight rein on our tongue, or our beliefs mean nothing (James 1:26).

Later, he writes that we are to tame our tongue. Just as we can control a horse by putting a bit in its mouth or steer a ship with a rudder, our tongue—though small—can do much. With our mouth we can praise God. But from the same mouth can flow forth curses.

Our words can do good. They can also cause much damage. In this way, what we say can corrupt our entire body. But with God’s help we can control what we say. In doing so we can keep our whole body in check (James 3:1-12).

Keep Your Tongue from Speaking Evil

Peter adds to the discussion, saying that if we love life and want to experience good, we must keep our tongue from speaking evil and uttering deceitful lies (1 Peter 3:10). In writing this, he quotes the words of King David as found in Psalm 34:12-13.

God wants us to be careful in what we say and control our words. Click To Tweet

Be Careful What You Say

The Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples aren’t following their tradition of ceremonial handwashing before a meal. He launches into a teaching to remind them what matters more.

He concludes by saying that what we put into our mouth—that is what we eat—doesn’t matter to God nearly as much as what comes out of it. Our words matter. And when wrong words come out, it defiles us more than the foods we eat.

Our words come from our heart and reveal evil thoughts, thoughts of murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:11-20).

Yet when we speak positive words, we reveal our good heart. Proverbs reminds us that the wise person chooses words carefully and is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

Keep Our Words in Check

God wants us to be careful of what we say and keep our words in check. When we do so, we honor him and provide a positive example to others, building them up and pointing them to Jesus.

[Discover some practical, biblical steps to do so.]

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

How to Confront Someone: Lead with a Story

Nathan takes a wise approach when confronting David about his sins

King David, a man after God’s own heart, is far from perfect. After the Bathsheba affair and the subsequent murder of her husband at the hand of scheming David, God wants to deal with David and restore him to right relationship. This story provides an example of how to confront someone.

The Prophet Nathan Confronts David

God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David. This is not an assignment I would want: to go tell the king, who as the power to summarily kill me, that he’s a filthy sinner.

Nathan could have marched up to David’s throne, pointed an accusatory finger, and yelled, “You’re a sinner, and you’re going to hell.” I don’t think this would have gone over well.

Instead Nathan takes an indirect approach. He tells David a story. If this tactic sounds familiar, Jesus does the same thing, teaching the people through parables, which give folks an identifiable tale with an underlying spiritual truth.

Nathan’s story begins with “There were two men…” One is rich and one is poor. One is greedy and one is righteous. The greedy one steels from the poor one and…

King David Responds

King David can’t contain himself. He pronounces judgement, void of mercy, on the wealthy, greedy man.

Then Nathan drives his point to the heart of David. “You are that man.”

David feels conviction. He simply says, “I have sinned.”

His road to restoration begins. But David’s repentance doesn’t absolve him of the consequences. He will still face punishment. Though God is merciful, he is also just. The two go together. 

Though God is merciful, he is also just. Ask King David. Click To Tweet

Though the child of his adultery dies, David and Bathsheba later have another son. His name is Solomon and he succeeds David as king.

I wonder how events might have unfolded had Nathan not began his meeting with David by sharing a story.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 10-12, and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 12:1-8, 11-12.]

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

Biblical Murderers and How They Relate to Us

Biblical Murderers and How They Relate to Us

Consider some of the best-known biblical murderers.

Cain Kills Abel

We’re only four chapters into the Bible when the first murder occurs. Cain kills his brother Abel. The account in the Bible suggests that Cain premeditated his actions. First degree murder.

But let’s not view Cain as all evil. Like his brother, Cain worships God and brings an offering to him. (We do this too.) Yet God finds Cain’s offering lacking. As a result, Cain is angry with God. (Are we ever angry at God?) Out of jealousy (another common human trait), Cain kills his brother (Genesis 4).

Although we haven’t likely killed someone, we have more in common with Cain then we want to admit.

Moses Kills an Egyptian

Another well-known and esteemed person in the Bible is Moses. Yet Moses is another one of our biblical murderers. Moses witnesses an Egyptian overlord beating a Hebrew man, one of Moses his own kind. Seeing no one else watching, Moses kills the Egyptian and hides the evidence (Exodus 2:11-14).

Again, we see another instance of premeditated murder. Though we might sympathize with Moses’s actions or even say it was a just killing, the reality is that it’s still murder. But despite Moses killing another man, God still uses Moses to free his people. God later has an intimate relationship with Moses, one that we’d all like to have.

David Kills Uriah

The third of biblical murderers is David. David spends many years of his life leading an army and slaying his enemies. But we don’t call him a murderer for his military exploits. We call him a murderer for planning and ordering the death of his lover’s husband.

Not only is David a murderer, he’s also an adulterer (2 Samuel 11).

Yet the Bible later calls David a man after God’s own heart. Yes, David suffers for what he did, but God restores David into a right relationship with him.

Paul Kills Stephen

Paul, a key figure in the early church and the New Testament’s most prolific writer, is another of our biblical murderers. Paul, a righteous and devout Jew, a godly person, is zealous in his opposition to the followers of Jesus. Paul does this for God and in the name of religion.

History is full of people who kill for their faith, but that doesn’t justify their actions.

Though Paul kills many for his religion, the Bible only gives us details of one: Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:1). Yet despite Paul’s violent opposition to team Jesus, Jesus later calls Paul to follow him and grows him into a most effective missionary.

Judas Kills Jesus

Let’s not forget that Judas is another on the list of biblical murderers. Though he doesn’t physically kill another person as did Cain and Moses, and he doesn’t orchestrate a death like David, Judas is the catalyst for another death, Jesus.

Jesus—the most significant death to occur in the Bible, for humanity, and throughout all time. Though Jesus’s death is necessary to save us, that doesn’t forgive Judas for his part in making it happen.

Like Cain, we must realize that Judas isn’t all bad. He is a follower of Jesus, after all, a disciple. Yet he is also greedy, and in his greed he sells out Jesus (Luke 22:47-53).

Though Judas might have received forgiveness from Jesus—just as Jesus forgave and restored Peter into a right relationship with him—we’ll never know. Judas commits suicide out of remorse over what he did to Jesus.

Who Do We Kill?

Jesus teaches us what the Old Testament commands: killing is wrong. Yet he goes beyond the physical act of murder to tell us that even being angry at another person is a sin. Implicitly it’s murder. As a result of anger, we are no less innocent than someone who murders another.

But there’s more. Much more. Though we blame Judas for Jesus’s death, we are part of it too. Because of our sins, Jesus had to die to reconcile us with Father God. Our sins made it necessary for Jesus to die. As painful as it is to say, we helped murder Jesus.

Are we willing to put the past behind us—such as murder—and move forward to serve Jesus and advance the kingdom of God? Click To Tweet

Biblical Murderers

All five of these biblical murderers had a relationship with God. And at the time of the murders they committed, orchestrated, or approved, they weren’t in a good place with God on their faith journey. But it’s what happens afterward that counts.

Are we willing to put the past behind us—regardless of how horrific or benign it might be—and move forward to serve Jesus and advance the kingdom of God? We can do much like Moses, David, and Paul. Or we can falter like Cain and Judas. The choice is ours.

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

The Wise Woman From Tekoa Influences a King

Joab seeks an object lesson for King David to encourage him to reconcile with his estranged son, Absalom. Joab sends for a wise woman from Tekoa and coaches her what to say to the king.

The story she skillfully shares with the king—of how one son killed the other and is now on the run—is a ruse. With her surviving son being sought for murder, she seeks the king’s protection. Her pretend story parallels David’s real story, of Absalom killing Amon and then fleeing to another country.

With increasing urgency, she three times asks for David’s support. Three times he promises his protection, each time with increased fervency.

Then, with boldness, she connects her story to King David’s, asking him to follow his own advice and apply it to his son Absalom. David suspects Joab’s hand in this and then tells Joab to arrange for Absalom’s return.

Playing her part brilliantly, the wise woman from Tekoa, sets in motion the homecoming of Absalom. Thanks to her, Joab’s plan worked.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 13-15, and today’s post is in 2 Samuel 14:1-20.]

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

Pouring Out a Drink Offering to God

During a time of war, there is a curious story of King David. He mentions that he is thirsty for water from a specific well. Three of his mighty warriors break through enemy lines, draw water from that well, and return to David with it.

However, instead of drinking it with gratitude, David pours it out on the ground as a drink offering to God (1 Chronicles 11:17-19 and also in 2 Samuel 23:13-17).

Apparently, he felt that the risk the men took was so great that he was not worthy to taste the water, offering it to God instead.

This action may have parallels to the Old Testament instruction to give a “drink offering” to God. The drink offering was a libation of wine that was poured over the alter or used with meat offerings as part of the Jewish worship rituals.

Instructions for its use occur over 45 times in the Jewish law, with 19 other references in the Old Testament.

Paul—being freed from the law by Jesus—willing and gladly presented his own life as a drink-offering to God.  Click To Tweet

Since Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament worship practices, it is not surprising for there to only be two mentions of drink offerings in the New Testament. Both were made by Paul, referring to his willingly pouring out his life as a drink-offering to God (Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6).

It is important to understand that while the Old Testament believers presented their drink offerings ritualistically out of obligation and compulsion, Paul—being freed from the law by Jesus—willing and gladly presented his own life as a drink-offering to God. 

It was his intentional act of sacrifice and service.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 8-11, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 11:17-19 .]

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

Build Up a Wall and Stand in the Gap

Discover How One Person Can Make a Difference

In the book of Ezekiel, God said he looked for one person who could make a difference. One person who could build up the wall and stand in the gap for his people. But God could find no one. What if he had found someone? Instead of destruction, the outcome would have been different.

Look at these four biblical characters who stood in the gap and made a difference.

Abraham

When God revealed to Abraham his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded, pleading for God to not destroy the cities and therefore protect the few righteous people who lived there.

Though God did not relent and spare the cities, he did spare three of its residents: Lot and his two daughters. Abraham stood in the gap (Genesis 18:16-32).

Moses

Twice Moses stood in the gap for God’s people. Two times the Israelites so exasperated God that he wanted to wipe them out and start over, making Moses’s descendants into a great nation. Most leaders would’ve accepted this as God’s will, but not Moses.

He pleaded for God to relent and not destroy the people. Moses stood in the gap and God relented (Exodus 32:10-14 and Numbers 14:12-20).

David

When the Philistines and their champion fighter Goliath confronted the Israelite army, everyone trembled at his size and bravado. No one dared to fight him. But David did. David stood in the gap, and God granted him victory over Goliath and the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17:32-52).

Daniel

Daniel took responsibility for the sins of his people. He confessed the nation’s sins to God and asked for deliverance. Daniel stood in the gap (Daniel 9:4-23).

What can you do to stand in the gap and make a difference? Click To Tweet

Can You Stand in the Gap?

What can you do to stand in the gap and make a difference?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 21-22, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 22:30.]

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

Take a Census and Make a List

God Tells Moses to Count the Number of Men for the Army

The book of Numbers opens with God telling Moses to take a census of the people. Numbers also ends with a census. These two numberings of the people serve as bookends for this section of Scripture, which is why we call it Numbers. It begins and ends with numbers.

Count the Army

This numbering of the people is not a complete census, however. It’s only of men twenty years or older who can fight. It’s like registering for the draft. Moses lists each man. The tally is over 600,000 eligible men.

If you add in boys and elderly men, the number of males surely tops one million. Double this to account for females, and we have a conservative number of two million people. That’s a lot.

But the focus of this effort in the book of Numbers is to assess the size of their potential army. It’s over 600,000, a formable number.

David Does This Too

It seems wise for a leader to know the size of his army. God has Moses do this, but when David does this it doesn’t work out so well. In case you’re interested he had 1.3 million men to fight in his army. However, David felt guilty for counting the number of men (2 Samuel 24:10).

This signals him putting his trust in the size of his army and not in God. God punishes him for this.

This reminds us that what God says in the Bible may be situational. For Moses it was right to number his troops, while for David it was wrong.

None of These Men Make It to the Promised Land

The book of Numbers tells us what happens next. Twelve men spy out the land. Ten of the spies are scared and tell the people there is no way the army will prevail. (Only Caleb and Joshua have faith that God will give them victory.) The people believe the negative report and cower in fear.

They rebel against God.

But then they change their mind and go forward into battle under their own power. They’re soundly defeated.

As punishment, God says that none of the men included in the count, the men registered on Moses’s list, will enter the promised land. They will die in the desert, never seeing what God wants to give them. Only Caleb and Joshua will make it in.

This list referenced in the book of Numbers is one list to avoid.

At the end of time, what’s important is that our names are in the Lamb’s book of life. That’s what counts. Click To Tweet

Are Our Names Written on God’s List?

However, in the book of Revelation, John writes about the book of life. In this case those whose names written in this book will make it in (Revelation 21:27). The people whose names aren’t on the list are hosed (Revelation 20:15).

There’s a time to count, and a time not to count. There’s a list we want to be on, and a list we don’t. But at the end of time, what matters is that our names are in the Lamb’s book of life. That’s what counts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 1-3, and today’s post is on Numbers 1:2.]

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

Is It Okay to Question God?

God Won’t Strike Us Dead If We Question Him; He May Even Like It

Many people in the Bible question God. These aren’t fringe malcontents. They’re some of our favorite Bible characters and, I suspect, some of God’s favorite people too. They include Job, Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, and even Jesus.

I can’t recall a single verse where God strikes someone dead or punishes them because they question him.

Yes, Lots wife turns into a pillar of salt because she wants to return to her old way of living (Genesis 19:26). And Ananias and Sapphira are struck down dead because they lie to God (Acts 5:1-10).

But asking God questions seems to be okay.

Job Questions God

In the book of Job, God permits Satan to torment Job. In rapid succession, Satan strips everything from Job: his possessions, his children, and his health. Job wants to give up. Throughout the book, he asks God a string of accusatory questions. “Why?” he repeatedly asks (Job 3:11-23 and many more).

But God is patient with Job and then lovingly blesses him for his righteousness (Job 42:12-17).

Abraham Questions God

When God decides to destroy the city of Sodom, he lets Abraham know about his plans. Abraham questions God’s decision, wondering if God isn’t overreacting. The dialogue between Abraham’s questions and God’s answers ping-pong back and forth in excruciating detail.

I lose my patience just reading the passage, yet God is patient with Abraham and seems to honor his ongoing inquiries (Genesis 18:23-33)

Moses Questions God

Moses is also comfortable asking God questions. One time, God is fed up with his chosen people. He wants to wipe them out. Then he’ll start over with Moses. He offers to make Moses into a great nation. Instead of accepting God’s generous offer, Moses pushes back.

He challenges God’s decision. He asks God an impertinent question. Amazingly, God listens, and he relents. He doesn’t destroy the people, all because Moses intervenes and questions God (Exodus 32:11-14).

David Questions God

David, a man after God’s own heart, asks God a lot of questions. Just read through David’s writings in the book of Psalms. In many respects these serve as his prayer journal.

In his writing, it seems David alternates between unabashed praise of God and asking unrestrained questions of despair (Psalm 2:1, Psalm 10:1, Psalm 10:13, and many more). One more is most significant. David asks, “God, why have you ditched me?” (Psalm 22:1).

Mary Questions God

God sends an angel with incredible news to young Mary. He says she’ll give birth to the Messiah who the people are waiting for. Her first response is a question. “How can this happen since I’m a virgin?” Though she directs her question to the angel, it’s really meant for God.

When the angel explains that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally impregnate her, Mary accepts this. “May it be so” (Luke 1:34-38).

Jesus Questions God

Even Jesus questions his heavenly Father. It’s hard to believe, but that’s what happens. Just before his detractors execute him, Jesus prays. In his prayer, his question is formed as an imperative: “Don’t make me die, but if you insist, I will” (Mark 14:36).

What? This is why Jesus came: to die for us so we could be made right with Papa. So why would he request a last-minute reprieve? I don’t know, but he did.

Then as he’s dying in excruciating pain on the cross, he asks the most horrific question of all. Just as David asked centuries earlier, prophetically foreshadowing the life of Jesus, he asks, “God, why have you ditched me?” (Mark 15:34).

Yes, after this painful question, Jesus does die. But death doesn’t have the last word. Jesus overcomes death and lives anew, just as he and Papa planned from the beginning.

When God’s children question him, he’s patient and doesn’t punish them. If we’re in relationship with him, I don’t think he’ll punish us to question him either. Click To Tweet

To Question God is Okay

Just like Lot’s wife, turning from God and returning to our old way of life deserves punishment. So does lying to God’s Holy Spirit as Ananias and Sapphira did.

But based on the above examples from the Bible, we see that when God’s children question him, he’s patient and doesn’t punish them. And if we’re in relationship with him, I don’t think he’ll punish us to question him either. In fact, I think he rather enjoys 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.