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.”

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

Categories
Bible Insights

What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?

In one of the Bible’s more horrific stories, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is taken by force and raped by the outsider, Shechem. When Jacob hears of this he does nothing.

Perhaps he fears for his life should he complain or maybe it’s because all his boys are in the fields tending their livestock and he is alone.

Then, despite his barbaric act, Shechem decides he loves Dinah and wants to marry her. He demands his father bring this about. The two dads talk about a wedding.

Dinah’s brothers are furious when they hear what Shechem did to their sister. They pretend to go along with the marriage talks but insist the men in Shechem’s village all be circumcised first.

As the men recover from this painful procedure, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s brothers, massacre the city, killing every man there to avenge their sister’s mistreatment.

Though they are right in responding to Dinah’s defilement, they overreact. While the rape of one girl is terrible, wiping out an entire town is a disproportionate punishment. It is excessive.

Moses Tells Us to Take an Eye for an Eye

This is the type of thing Moses seeks to stop when he says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Leviticus 24:19-20). In this Moses does not give permission to seek unrestringed revenge.

Instead he seeks to curtail excessive retaliation, taking a response unequal to the crime. An eye for an eye is a command of moderation not the authorization to pursue vengeance.

Jesus later takes this principle one step further. He says “do not resist an evil person” and then “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:38-42). This is even more countercultural than Moses’s original eye-for-eye command to make the punishment fit the crime.

May we learn from Moses’s words and follow Jesus’s.

What do you think of Moses’s eye-for-an-eye command? What about Jesus’s instruction to go the extra mile? 

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 33-35, and today’s post is on Genesis 34.]

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

Do You Love Jesus More Than Anything Else?

Make God Your Number One Priority

When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus said we’re to love God with all our heart, our soul, and our strength (Mark 12:29-31, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5). We’re to love him more than anything else, to make him our number one priority.

And when we understand God as referring to the three-in-one Trinity, we realize we’re to love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. In this way, we are to love Jesus more than anything else.

It’s easy to claim that we love God more than anything else, that we put following Jesus first in our lives. But let’s consider what this entails.

Love Jesus More Than People

We must put loving God as more important than loving family. Jesus said that to be his disciple we must hate our parents, our spouse, our children, and our siblings (Luke 14:26). In short, we must hate our family.

But Jesus exaggerates to make his point—something his audience would readily understand. Hyperbole aside, the inescapable truth is that we must put Jesus before all others. This includes our family, as well as our friends and those we hold in high esteem.

When some people decide to put their trust in Jesus, they do so at great cost. Their family may disown them. Friends may shun them. They may lose their job or their standing within their community.

But compared to Jesus, none of these people matter. Jesus must come first.

Love Jesus More Than Our Possessions

Though we may readily say we love Jesus more than what we own, does our behavior confirm it? Consider our most prized possession. Are we willing to give it up for Jesus? If it competes with Jesus as first place in our life, we may need to sell it or give it away to remove its distraction. Or the Holy Spirit may convict us to let someone borrow it. For the sake of Jesus, we must hold what we own loosely.

Yet we must be ready to give up all that we have for the sake of Jesus. (Consider Matthew 19:29 and Luke 9:62.)

When fleeing for her life, Lot’s wife look back at what she was leaving behind and it cost her (Genesis 19:21-26).

Love Jesus More Than Our Position

Some people elevate their job above everything else in their life. It comes first and everything else—including God—comes in second. We may pursue it for the satisfaction we derive from our labors, the money we earn through our work, or the prestige of the position we hold. Yet if it gets in the way of us fully following Jesus, our job must go.

Love Jesus More Than Our Pleasures

A final consideration is our comfort. Putting God first and following Jesus as his disciple may result and giving up worldly contentment. We may face ridicule, we may suffer embarrassment, or we may be attacked, either verbally or physically. This could include death. We could—we will—suffer when we put Jesus first.

This may be in small ways or big ways, but we will suffer (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Love Jesus More Than Anything

To put Jesus first, to love God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—more than anything, we must set aside anything that might hold us back (Hebrews 12:1-3). We must make Jesus our number one priority, loving him more than family, property, work, and comfort. Those things all pale when we consider who he is and what he has called us to.

In doing so we’ll realize a heavenly reward of spending eternity with him. Nothing else matters, so put Jesus first,

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

Our New Church Home

For 52 Churches, we took a year off and visited a different Christian church every Sunday. When the year wrapped up, we returned to our home church.

More Than 52 Churches: The Journey Continues

This time it’s different. Throughout More Than 52 Churches, we interspersed our church visits with regular attendance at our home church. This provided a balance, a stability to keep us anchored in church community, as we visited others.

Attending our home church required a fifteen-minute trip to get there, going past many other options that were more accessible and more inviting.

For much of my life, I couldn’t figure out why we drove past other churches to go to our church of choice. Yet we never went to the closest one.

Since each Christian church worships the same God, follows the same Savior, and reads the same Bible, it shouldn’t really matter which one we go to. Yes, this is theoretical. I do understand why most people don’t go to the closest church.

For years, I’ve longed to go to church in my community, worshiping and serving with my neighbors and family.

Now we do.

It’s Church #67, the “Satellite Church.”

After our initial visit, we returned the following week, and came back the week after that, staying for their after-church meeting to learn more about their community.

Soon going there turned into a habit, and we got involved. This may explain in part why the allure of visiting other churches grew dim.

This church is within walking distance of our house, three-quarters of a mile away. (For full disclosure, this is the second-closest church. There’s one a tad nearer. We visited it, but one of us didn’t care for it.)

We now know that several of our neighbors attend our church, as well as two of our children and grandchildren. Weather permitting, I walk to church each Sunday. Candy drives. This way we can leave church together and head for lunch with family.

It’s all good.

It’s our new church home.

Read the prior post in this series, the next post on How to Be an Engaging Church, or start at the beginning of our journey.

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches today, available in e-book, 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

Women in the Bible: Tamar

A Women Takes Extreme Action to Get What Is Due Her

Tamar is a victim who takes extreme action to vindicate herself. She’s the daughter-in-law of Judah. She suffers at his hand, responds with guile, and has twins with him. Later she is one of four women mentioned in Jesus’s family tree. Talk about a messed-up situation. Here’s her story:

Tamar marries Judah’s oldest son. He’s evil and dies. She’s passed on to his brother to produce offspring in his stead. The brother doesn’t cooperate, and God kills him. Judah promises Tamar his third son when he’s old enough and sends her back to live with her parents to wait.

He has no intention of following through. He lies to her.

Once she realizes this, she dresses like a hooker, and waits where she knows Judah will be. Not knowing who she is, he sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant. He uses her.

When Judah finds out his daughter-in-law is pregnant, he condemns her to die.

Then she reveals who the father is. Judah confesses his role, and he professes his daughter-in-law as righteous. They, along with their son Perez, are part of Jesus’ genealogy.

Tamar’s drastic steps ensure she will have a family and be cared for; God ensures she has a legacy.

The story of Tamar concludes in Matthew 1:3. She’s also celebrated when the elders bless Ruth in Ruth 4:12.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 36-38 and today’s post is on Genesis 38:24-26.]


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.

Categories
Christian Living

Do You Have Friends or Acquaintances?

Strive to Build Meaningful Connections with Those Around You

We know many more people on a casual level then we do in a deeper, more meaningful way. We can distinguish between them as acquaintances versus friends. Think of concentric circles, with yourself in the center. The innermost circle contains your friends, and the next circle out holds all your acquaintances.

We should seek to move people from the status of acquaintance to the position of friend. Here are some areas to consider.

Friends or Acquaintances on Social Media?

Depending on the platform, social media has various designations for those we associate with. This includes friends, followers, and connections. The label of friends, however, is a misnomer. At best our social media associations overflow with acquaintances, but many don’t even rise to that level.

We would be in error to look at our social media numbers and assume these people are all our friends. They are not. At best, only a handful qualify for the status of friendship. This is not to say that true friendship can’t occur online, but it’s rare and fleeting.

Friends or Acquaintances at Work?

Whether we labor with others or function remotely from home, we form connections with those we work with. Some of these relationships rise to the level of friendship, or so it seems. But the true test of these associations occurs when one person changes jobs. Those connections that prevail apart from work are true friendships.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have friends at work. It just means that those friendships are situational, and once the situation changes usually the bond does too.

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Community?

How many people do you know who live around you? Our neighbors should, at the very least, be acquaintances. Turning these acquaintances into friendships is a wise pursuit. We need friends within our community.

Friends or Acquaintances at Church?

For those who regularly attend church services, or are involved in their programs, this is an ideal place to connect with people, especially those with like-minded spiritual perspectives. Yet too often our interactions don’t rise above the acquaintance level to become friends. And I’ve talked with many people who have never even formed acquaintances at church. This may be on them, or it may be the church’s culture. Either way it’s not good.

We should strive to develop meaningful friendships in our spiritual communities. Then we can travel together on our faith journey. As Scripture says, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Family?

A final consideration is our own family. Do our familial relationships qualify as friends or acquaintances? The relatives we only see at rare family gatherings qualify as acquaintances. Yet as we invest in our family, we can turn our biological bonds into meaningful friendships.

What Does the Bible Say?

As you might expect, the word acquaintances doesn’t receive much coverage in Scripture. Only once does it occur, and this comes from Job when he laments that “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me” (Job 19:13, NIV).

The word friend occurs much more often, hundreds of times. Here are some key verses about friendship:

Moving Forward

Many people mistake acquaintances for friends, but we should distinguish between the two. Though connection begins at the level of acquaintance, true community arises among friends. We should strive to move acquaintances into the level of friendships. And we should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible about friendships.

May our friendships be deep and meaningful, with Jesus in the center.

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
Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Rahab

Learn about Rahab

Rahab is a prostitute who two spies stay with when they scope out Jericho. We don’t know if they seek her for her services, or if they merely want to get out of public view.

When the king of Jericho commands Rahab to turn the men over to him, she commits treason. She hides the men and lies to the king. she tells him that they already left, but she doesn’t know where they went.

Rahab knows God favors Israel and will give the city to them. So in exchange for her protecting the spies, she asks for the safety of her family when they raze the city.

In her list of who’s included as family, she mentions parents and siblings, but not a husband or any children. After securing their promise of protection, she helps the spies escape.

Later, Joshua confirms Rahab and her family will be spared when they take the city, while the rest of the city will be destroyed. She then lives with the Israelites.

Rahab in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Matthew reveals Rahab is one of Jesus’ direct ancestors and the great-great grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5). She is honored as only one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree.

Further, the book of Hebrews affirms her as a person of faith, one of only two women included in its impressive list (Hebrews 11:31).

Finally, James confirms she is righteous because of her actions in hiding and protecting the two spies (James 2:25).

While our reaction may be to judge this woman for her profession, God sees her differently, as a righteous woman of faith, rewarding her accordingly.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 4-6 and today’s post is on Joshua 6:17.]

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Personal Posts

How Observant Are You?

I remember years ago after I prepared my house to be painted. One of the tasks was to remove the street numbers from the house, allowing for both home and numbers to be easily painted.

The street numbers were above the garage door and easily viewable from the street. They weren’t always there, however. Initially, they were above the front door, but as the trees in the yard grew, the numbers became increasingly obscured. So one day I moved them from the front door to the garage door.

When our daughter came home, she inquired, “Didn’t the numbers used to be over the front door?”

When our son came home, he plainly asked, “When do you move the numbers?”

My bride made no such query and when the topic arose, she seriously asked, “We have numbers on our house?”

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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Reflecting on Church #3: Pain is Real; Handle it Honestly

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #3.

This church set a fine example in how they confronted tragedy in an honest way. I’m encouraged to see the church function as a church should, grieving together and supporting each other. In the days after our visit, I prayed for this congregation, their pastor, and the family in the midst of heartbreak.

On a personal level, I wanted to return to experience a normal service, but after a while, I realized this wasn’t necessary. I’d already seen them for who they are, not from a typical Sunday but from a remarkable one.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Their character emerged out of calamity, shining as a bright beacon of hope, pointing us to God.

My memories of this church are bittersweet and the lesson they modeled is profound. More churches need to deal with pain in a forthright manner, not glossing over it, ignoring it, or wallowing in it, but by being real.

[See my reflections about Church #1, Church #2, or Church #4.]

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, 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.