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Christian Living

The Third Heaven

Paul Spent Time with God in the Spiritual Realm and So Can We

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he makes a cryptic statement about going to the third heaven. He doesn’t know if it’s an out of body experience or not (2 Corinthians 12:2).

This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase third heaven. What does it mean? By looking at other uses of heaven in the Bible, we find three applications.

  1. Sometimes heaven refers to the sky. This is the first use of heaven.
  2. Other times heaven refers to the sun, moon, and stars. This is the second use of heaven.
  3. Another instance refers to God’s dwelling place. This is the third use of heaven.

This means that Paul went to heaven for a time—whether in body or in spirit, he’s not sure—and then returned to earth. It seems too fantastic to be true.

I’ve not told this to too many people, but I believe I’ve also been to the third heaven. Several times. Like Paul I’m not sure if this was in my body or out of it. Though a few times I did have a physical form when I was there.

At first, I only had a fleeting awareness of my presence in heaven before returning to earth. Sometimes I’d bow at the foot of Father God’s throne, stretching out my hand to touch his foot in reverence. Occasionally I’d succeed, but usually my straining to reach the Almighty fell just a bit short.

Heaven will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend. Click To Tweet

After that I had a couple of longer experiences in the third heaven. I can’t describe them other than to say they were glorious and euphoric. I didn’t want to leave. These occurred when I was fasting and praying.

Then one day—again while fasting and praying—I desired to visit heaven, but God said no. He explained that if he allowed me to return, I’d want to spend too much time there, which would detract from what he wants me to do here on earth. I get that. He was right, of course.

One day—when my work here is done—I will return to heaven and stay there forever. It will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend.

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

8 Tips on Fasting

Jesus Expects Us to Fast, but Do We?

Jesus fasted (Luke 4:1-2). Should we follow his example? Though his disciples didn’t fast (Matthew 9:14), he said when he returned to heaven, the time for fasting would resume (Luke 5:34-35).

In his well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about fasting. He says, “when you fast (Matthew 6:16-18).” He doesn’t say “if you fast.” It seems clear that Jesus expects us to fast. How’s that going for you?

Here are eight tips about fasting, that I’ve learned the hard way through experience:

1. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Get God’s Attention

If our intended outcome of fasting is to get our Lord to notice us, we’re missing the point. We don’t need to do anything special to garner his attention. He loves us regardless of what we do or don’t do. We don’t need to earn his consideration. Fasting so that he will grant us favor may irritate him more so than win his appreciation.

2. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Abase Ourselves

When we fast, we do not deprive our self of food as an act of mortification. We do not seek to degrade ourselves. Fasting to produce pain accomplishes nothing of merit.

3. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Suffer

Fasting isn’t about us suffering as an act of devotion. Though it’s correct that as we stay true to our faith we may suffer as a result, this suffering is what others impose on us. It’s not self-inflicted.

4. The Purpose of Fasting Is Not to Gain Respect

Some people who don’t fast are in awe of those who do. But the intent of fasting is not to win the approval of others or garner their admiration. If the opinion of others is why we fast, their esteem becomes the only outcome.

5. Don’t Fast to Achieve Side Benefits

Fasting often has positive physical outcomes. Aside from possible health benefits, fasting can produce weight loss and boost productivity. But if these become the motivations for fasting, forget about realizing any spiritual outcomes.

6. The Goal of Fasting Is to Connect with God

When we fast, we push aside the physical to focus on the spiritual. As we do, we draw closer to God and experience him in a more intimate way that might not have otherwise been possible.

7. The Goal of Fasting Is to Pray and Listen

When we fast, we can take the time we’d normally spend in meal preparation and in eating and use it to pray and listen to God. By denying our physical desires, we heighten our spiritual awareness.

8. The Goal of Fasting Is to Better Align Our Perspective with God’s

When we fast and connect with God, pray, and listen, we can better comprehend reality through his eyes. Instead of trying to get God to see things our way, we can better see things his way. Fasting helps us to relate with the viewpoint of our Creator more effectively.

Fasting helps us connect with God through prayer and listening. As we fast, we better align our perspective with his. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

When done the right way for the right reasons, fasting helps us connect with God through prayer and listening to him. As we do so, we better align our perspective with his.

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

A Lifetime of Reading the Bible

Plan to Read Scripture to Feed Your Soul and Inform Your Life

I’ve read the Bible most of my life. It’s been a huge part of my faith journey. To be clear, this started out with my parents reading to me: one Bible story each night before I went to bed. This helped me know God’s Word at an early age and prepared me to read it on my own.

To be sure, during my days in elementary school, I read Scripture infrequently. This was because my preteen mind found the language of the King James Bible largely inaccessible and mostly confusing. What little Bible reading I did in my preteen years was more drudgery than anything else. I learned little from it.

Read the New Testament

By the time I hit middle school, however, more accessible translations became available, at least for the New Testament. Mirroring my experience as a preschooler, I set a goal to read the Bible each night before I went to bed. Eventually I worked my way through the New Testament. It took me a couple years because some nights I was too tired to read and other nights I forgot. But eventually I finished.

In case you’re interested, reading a chapter each weekday will get you through the New Testament in a year. It only takes two or three minutes to read one chapter. Surely this is a doable task.

Read the Entire Bible

By the time I reached high school, the Old and New Testaments were available to me in more language-friendly versions. The summer of my fifteenth year, I set the goal to read the entire Bible before school resumed. This was before I got my driver’s license. I was stuck home all day, scrambling to find something worthwhile to consume my time.

Reading an hour most every day, I reached the end of Revelation in mid-August, a couple weeks before it was time to go back to school. Mission accomplished.

I later learned that the average adult reader can read the entire Bible in about 80 hours. I proved that claim to be correct.

Making Time to Read the Bible

If you think an hour a day is unreasonable for anyone except a bored teenager on a mission, let me ask three questions.

  1. How much time do you spend each day watching television?
  2. How much time do you spend each day gaming?
  3. How much time do you spend each day on social media? I suspect one or more of these areas consumes more than an hour of your time each day. Perhaps several.

The solution is simple. Cut back on entertainment and scale up to read the Bible. That doesn’t mean eliminate all television, gaming, and social media. It’s just a nudge to scale back and not let it consume so much time.

In my first reading of the whole Bible, I covered many familiar passages, albeit in more detail than my children’s Bible story book provided. I also discovered the less kid-appropriate passages too.

I assumed reading the entire Bible was a once-and-done effort. Even so, when I finished, I reverted to my nighttime Bible reading effort, albeit at a much slower pace: one chapter a day.

Though I met with better success then when I was in middle school, I still struggled. I found it hard to concentrate on the words in front of me as I fought off sleep. For some reason I could read fiction at bedtime but not the Bible.

Deciding When to Read the Bible

As an adult and a morning person, I switched my Bible reading to the start of each day. This fit me better—much better. I was more consistent in this practice and less fatigued by it. I learned more and better connected with God.

In my mid-twenties I felt the call from God to again read the entire Bible. This time my goal was to do it in a year. It took me twelve to fifteen minutes every day, but I did finish. Relieved to have met my goal, I was also delighted to no longer need to cover so much Scripture every day. I needed a break. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t long, however, before I felt God’s nudge to resume intentional Bible reading each day. That year I read through the New Testament. The following year I read through the Old Testament (ten to twelve minutes a day). The third year I again read the Old and New Testaments.

Pick a Version

Though I grew up hearing the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, I never used it when reading through Scripture. Today I mostly read from and study the New International Version (NIV).

Yet in my annual explorations of the Bible, I’ve used other versions or translations and benefited greatly. Each one gave me a fresh perspective on the text.

In addition to the NIV, I’ve also used the New Living Translation (NLV), The Message, Amplified Bible, and The Living Bible (which I wore out as a teenager). I think there have been a few others that I can’t recall.

The point is, don’t feel you must restrict yourself to one version. Mix it up. Variety is good.

Adjust as Needed

Since that time, I’ve had a Bible reading plan every year—except for a season when I didn’t. Here’s what happened: After a couple decades of regular, daily Bible reading, I became stuck. I would read the words but failed to comprehend them.

I persisted Bible reading as a discipline, assuming I would one day emerge from my rut of routine to reclaim the joy of reading the Bible each day. When it didn’t happen, I switched to reading other inspirational books for a time until I felt I could successfully resume my exploration of Scripture.

Rejuvenated, I jumped back in and persisted for a decade or so. But again, the day-to-day Bible-reading discipline eventually threatened to push me back into a rut. Refusing to allow that to happen, I decided to take one day off each week.

Instead of reading seven days a week, I now read six. In essence, I took a Sabbath rest from reading the Bible. Lest you think this day off happens on Sunday, Saturday works as a better day for me to pause my study of Scripture.

Taking a break one day each week prepares me to better embrace God’s word, study it, and learn from it on the other six.

I can hear someone complaining already: just as you feed your body each day, you must feed your soul each day too. Since you would never skip a meal, you can’t skip the Bible either. Hold on. On most weeks I do take a daily break from food. I do a 24-hour fast. (In case you’re interested, my fast currently falls on Fridays.)

Reading my Bible each day, Sunday through Friday provides a great rhythm for me. I take a break on Saturday, which prepares me to dive back in the next week. The timing is ideal for me. I’ve now done it for years.

What does vary from year to year, however, is how much I read each day. Though usually I’m on a plan to read the entire Bible in the year, other times I slow my pace to cover the New Testament or even to focus intently on just a few books of the Bible.

May God speak to you and bless you as you study Scripture. Click To Tweet

Form a Habit of Reading the Bible

Doing this, I’ve read the New Testament about thirty times, the Old Testament twice, and the entire Bible more than ten times. It’s taken me a lifetime to reach these numbers. I plan to continue this habit for the rest of my life.

But don’t look at my lifetime of Bible reading and let it overwhelm you. Instead start small.

Read the Bible one day. Then read it a second day. Aim for a third. Keep the streak going. Form a habit. Soon daily Bible reading will become a way of life that you can’t do without.

Read through the Bible with me this year. Download the chronological Bible reading plan I will follow. (In case you’re wondering, to make this work for my schedule, I need to do seven days of reading every six, so that I can take Saturday off.)

If reading the entire Bible looms as too big of a task, consider a New Testament plan, Old Testament plan, or monthly Bible reading plans.

Regardless of which option you choose, the goal is to have a plan to read the Bible this year. Then 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

10 More New Testament Practices, Part 1

Consider the Example of the Early Church and Then Follow It

We’ve already talked about the three main ways Jesus changed our perspectives for following him when he fulfilled the Old Testament prophets. The early church applied this by meeting in homes, serving as priests, and helping those in need. As Jesus’s priests they minister to those in the church, tell others about Jesus, and worship him.

That’s a great foundation for how our church today should function, but there’s more. Consider these New Testament practices that we will do well to follow today.

1. Holy Spirit Power and Direction

The Old Testament focuses on God the Father and looks forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus shows up as a central figure in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Then the Holy Spirit takes over for the rest of the New Testament, amplifying what Jesus set in motion.

Even so, Jesus is the central figure of the Bible—with God the Father pointing to him and God the Holy Spirit building on what he accomplished. Aside from being the key figure in the Bible, many say Jesus is the most important person in all of history. I agree.

Jesus does all his work on earth in about three years. He spends that time teaching his disciples and preparing them to take over when he returns to heaven.

Despite this, however, they aren’t fully ready to assume their critical role when he is ready to leave Earth. Instead, Jesus tells them to wait, wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit power is the missing element they need before they move forward and advance the kingdom of God. In this, the Holy Spirit plays a leading role. He’s prominent in the book of Acts, guiding the early church and empowering its members.

The book of Acts mentions the Holy Spirit fifty-five times, with close to a hundred references. It’s clear that the Holy Spirit acts in Jesus’s place to lead his church.

In one instance, Jesus’s followers debate a theological issue about circumcision for new converts. After they reach a consensus, they write that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

Listing the Holy Spirit first suggests he took a lead role and the people aligned with his perspective. I wonder how often we do just the opposite, where we decide and then try to manufacture Holy Spirit support.

Another time, as the church worships and fasts, the Holy Spirit tells them to send out Barnabas and Saul on a missionary journey (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit also speaks to Philip (Acts 8:29), Peter (Acts 10:19), Agabus (Acts 11:28), and Paul (Acts 20:22).

But the Holy Spirit isn’t just in the book of Acts. He appears in nearly every book of the New Testament, including Revelation.

For Jesus’s church, the Holy Spirit is in charge. He leads their meetings and directs all that they do. This is the first of our New Testament practices to follow.

2. Worship

We’ve already talked a lot about worship. The appropriate worship of God is a central tenet of our faith. The Old Testament mentions worship in 179 verses. The New Testament continues this theme with seventy-five more.

Many come from the Gospels as well as Acts. The book of Revelation mentions worship more than any New Testament book and comes in second overall, just behind Deuteronomy.

This makes it clear that worshiping God is in our history, our present, and our eternal future. Worship is the second of our New Testament practices,

In the most profound verse about worship, John reminds us that God is spirit. Therefore, those who worship him must worship him in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

But what exactly is this verse telling us? There are two elements: Spirit and truth.

First, we have the Spirit, with a capital S. This means Holy Spirit. To fully worship, we must worship through the Holy Spirit. He will direct our worship and guide us. We must follow his lead and do what he says.

Though we often think of our worship as a physical act, there must also be a spiritual element to it. And the spiritual aspect is the more important one.

Second, we must worship God in truth. This means our worship must be honest, pure. To worship God in truth suggests integrity.

This means that we don’t make a show of our worship to impress others or gain their attention. That makes for disingenuous worship and doesn’t honor God. It doesn’t matter what others think of our worship, it only matters what God thinks.

The opposite of not making our worship a display for other people is holding back our worship for fear of what others may think or say. We must feel free to worship God as the Holy Spirit leads us.

This is how we worship God in Spirit and truth.

3. Prayer

In addition to worship occurring throughout the Bible, we also have prayer. Half of the books in the Old Testament talk about prayer, and most of the books in the New Testament address the subject. Prayer is the third of our New Testament practices.

James writes that the prayers from a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Paul tells us to pray in all situations (Ephesians 6:18) and confirms that everyone should pray (1 Timothy 2:1).

The book of Revelation gives us some insight into our prayers. Three times John connects prayers with incense, which God receives from his people. First, we see golden bowls of incense which represent our prayers (Revelation 5:8).

Then we have an angel who offers the incense and our prayers before God’s throne (Revelation 8:3). And last, we see the smoke of the incense mingling with our prayers, rising to God (Revelation 8:4). Whether we use incense or not in our spiritual practices, these passages in Revelation gives us a powerful image of how God receives the prayers of his people.

When it comes to praying, however, many people think of the Lord’s Prayer. Though a better label might be the Disciple’s Prayer. This is because Jesus gives the prayer to his disciples as an example of how the pray. It is their prayer, not his.

The Lord’s Prayer—sometimes called the Our Father, after its opening line—occurs twice in the Bible. People are familiar with Matthew’s version, with many having memorized it and with some churches reciting it as part of their worship practices (Matthew 6:19-13).

The version in Luke is far less familiar. It’s shorter and more concise (Luke 11:1-4).

Neither of these prayers are for us to memorize or recite as much as a model to follow. Here’s an interpretation of how we can apply it to inform our prayers.

  • We open the prayer by reverencing God.
  • Then we ask that his kingdom will come—implicitly with us helping to advance it—and that we will accomplish God’s will here on earth.
  • In the one personal, tangible request, we ask for our daily bread. That is, we ask God to provide for us each day what we need to live. It may be food or something else that’s essential.
  • Then we pray that God will forgive us, just as we forgive others. And if we withhold our forgiveness this implicitly allows God to withhold it from us. Hopefully neither will happen.
  • We end with a request that God will steer us away from temptation and give us victory over Satan’s attacks.
  • And some versions of the Bible tack on one more phrase. In this we celebrate his kingdom, his power, and his eternal glory.

But this is just one example of how the pray. The key is that prayer is an essential part of our faith journey.

Jesus said “When you fast…” not “If you fast…" Click To Tweet

4. Fasting

Another concept that occurs throughout the Bible is fasting. To fast is to go without food for a time. This isn’t an act of mortification to abase ourselves before God or try to gain his attention.

Instead it’s to focus our thoughts on God, seeking to better connect with him and align our thinking with his. When fasting, one recommendation is to take the time normally spent eating and use it to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.

There are two key teachings in the Bible about fasting.

When Jesus instructs the people in his epic message that we call the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about this practice. He says “When you fast . . .” Not “If you fast . . . ” (Matthew 6:16-17).

From Jesus’s perspective, fasting is not an optional activity but an expectation.

Second, Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2). He serves as an example to us all. Since he fasted, is there any reason why we shouldn’t?

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t require that his disciples fast, but this is a short-term reprieve because he is with them. He adds that once he leaves, it’s time to resume fasting (Luke 5:33-35). Since he has returned to heaven and is no longer here on earth, it’s again a time for us to fast.

Fasting is the fourth of our New Testament practices. Jesus wants us to fast, and so we should.

5. Community

The early church also spends a lot of time with each other. This isn’t a once-a-week meeting for an hour or two. It may be an everyday occurrence (Acts 2:46, Acts 6:1, and Hebrews 3:13).

They don’t live their faith in isolation. They need each other. They thrive on community. Just as the godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit function as one, so too do Jesus’s followers (John 17:20-21, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and 1 John 1:3). Through mutual support they edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

This is how they grow in faith, with iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). It’s two—or more—people traveling down the road together, keeping each other on the right path and headed in the right direction. It’s picking up another when they stumble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Living in community is the fifth of our New Testament practices. It is central to who they are and what they do. Without the encouragement and support of each other, they’ll certainly falter in their faith. Together they are better.

Together they can remain focused on Jesus and all he calls them to become. Community is key in making this happen. Think of this as true biblical fellowship (Acts 2:42 and 1 John 1:3-7).

What do they do when they hang out? They spend time in prayer (Acts 1:14, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, and James 5:16). They worship (Acts 13:2 and Romans 12:1). They also sing (Ephesians 5:18-20, Colossians 3:16, and James 5:13).

The more established disciples of Jesus teach the newer followers about the basics of faith. Think of this as a new members class (Acts 2:42). And we’ve already covered how they share their material blessings with each other and listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Come back next week to learn five more things the early church did, five more New Testament practices.

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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Christian Living

Do You See Visions from God?

Once Reserved for Prophets, Now All People Can Have Visions from God

A friend asked me about hearing from God and of visions from God. I often think about hearing from the Holy Spirit, but I infrequently consider visions, even though visions are one way that God communicates with us.

Visions in the Bible

Mentions of visions occur thirty-six times in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament. The first time is when God tells his people that he will reveal himself to his prophets through visions, that he will speak to them in dreams (Numbers 12:6).

The book of Ezekiel records the most visions, followed by Daniel. And the bulk of Revelation is one epic vision.

I suspect the most well-known verse about visions is when God says he will pour out his Spirit on all people. Then there will be prophecies, dreams, and “young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). Notice that Joel says all people will receive God’s Spirit.

The fulfillment of this happens at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Hearing from God in the Bible

Interestingly, the phrase “the Lord said” and variations thereof occur over 400 times in the Bible, ten times more often than visions. This suggests it’s more likely we’ll hear words from God than we’ll see visions.

Receiving Visions from God

I hear from God often, usually whenever I ask and sometimes when I don’t. My requests to hear him often start out like young Samuel, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Then God puts his words into my mind.

It’s up to me to discern which of those words came from God and which emerged from my own imagination. With practice, it becomes easier to separate the two.

Though I have had visions from God, they aren’t often. As far as I recall, I’ve never asked for a vision. They just show up. Usually they occur when I’m asleep and sometimes as I enter or leave sleep: a semi-conscious state, a trance.

The book of Acts notes that both Peter (Acts 10:10) and Paul (Acts 22:17) fell into a trance and God spoke to them through a vision.

For me a vision from God seems much like a dream. It’s up to me to discern which came from God and which came from myself. Again, with practice it becomes easier to know the difference.

To hear from God: fast, pray, and listen. Click To Tweet

Hearing from God and especially seeing visions from God happen more frequently when I fast and even more so as I pray and listen to God during a fast. That’s when he speaks to me, mostly through words and occasionally through visions.

Of course, I don’t need to fast to hear from God, I merely need to listen.

And where did my thoughts for this post come from? They came during a fast. I was praying and listening to God. I asked him if he had anything to tell me about visions that I could share with my friend. Then I heard from the Holy Spirit. This post is the result.

Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Why Do You Fast?

Some things are more important than religious practices, and we need to focus on what matters most

I plan to fast one day a week. While I’m not as consistent as I would like, I follow through more often than I miss. Fasting is a spiritual act of worship for me. It better connects me with God and sharpens my prayers. I (mostly) anticipate my fasts.

Fasting provides me with spiritual focus—providing I fast for the right reasons. As such, I must fight against fasting for lessor, secondary benefits: saving time in meal preparation and eating, increased productivity throughout the day, and a means to keep my weight in check.

Those may be good, but they miss the main point of fasting.

Sometimes I fast with the right perspective, and other times I don’t do so well. It seems Zechariah has my struggle in mind when he cites God asking, “Was it really for me that you fasted?” Yes, we can fast for God or we can fast for ourselves.

The first brings glory to God and the second, detracts from God. If we’re going to fast—or engage in any spiritual discipline, for that matter—we need to do so for the right reasons. If we fast, may we do so appropriately.

If we’re going to fast we need to do so for the right reasons. Click To Tweet

Yet a few verses later Zechariah seems to offer a better alternative to fasting. Again quoting God, he says to “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”

When done right fasting honors God. However acting with justice, mercy, and compassion honors God and benefits others. While the first is good, I suspect the second is better.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 5-7, and today’s post is on Zechariah 7:5-9.]

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

Can Technology Hurt Our Relationship with God?

God doesn’t want part of our attention; he deserves 100 percent

As the main speaker talked at a business conference, I looked around our table of eight. Seven people had their smartphones out, pushing buttons with intention and staring at those tiny screens as if they showed the most essential of images.

Why were they doing this? They paid a lot of money to be there, yet they weren’t fully there. A few, no doubt, had checked out, either bored by the speaker’s message, or they presumed their smartphones’ news was more important.

The others, I’m quite sure, thought they were multitasking. (Even though many experts say that true multitasking is a myth.)

They were attempting to listen to the speaker with their ears and read email with their eyes, while their minds compartmentalized both. I suspect neither activity received the attention it deserved.

Yet, how often do we treat God this way? Does our desire to stay connected with the world impair our ability to connect with the Almighty?

The Bible says to “be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10).

This doesn’t mean we need to just keep our bodies at rest; we need to keep our thoughts still as well. We must occasionally stop all we are doing, to still our motions and our minds, so we can be fully present in his presence. Then we can best know him; then we can best hear him.

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How often do we ask God for answers and then allow distractions to keep us from listening? Yes, people can distract, busyness can distract, and life can distract, yet I suspect today’s technology might be the biggest distraction of all.

I’m not against technology. I rely on technological tools every day to work. I tap social media and email to connect with friends and followers of Jesus, and I use online resources to study and write about God.

Yet I wonder if sometimes I need to disconnect. Should we occasionally fast from our technologies so we can fully focus on God?

How long could you go without technology? A few minutes? An hour? A day? What might you learn about yourself and God if you did?

Turn off the smartphone and tune into 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

Should We Confess the Sins of Our Nation?

Daniel reads the scriptures, fasts, and prays, confessing the sins of his people

When I think of praying, confessing my faults to God is not the first thing that comes to mind. And when I am convicted of the need to admit to an errant act or a missed opportunity, I don’t linger there.

I make it quick and then move on to more pleasant communication with my Maker, Savior, and Guide.

Basking in the spiritual reality of the almighty God is where I want to be. Acknowledging my faults to him is not nearly so much fun.

Personal confession is hard enough; corporate confession—admitting the faults of our community—is barely comprehensible to me. Yet that is exactly what Daniel does.

Daniel studies the prophecies in scripture. He sees that his people are receiving punishment for turning away from God. He reads the foretelling that their exile will last seventy years. That time is almost up.

Yet instead of thanking God that the allotted season of deportation is about over, Daniel is driven to contrition and fasting. He confesses the sins of his forefathers and countrymen. It’s as if he takes the sins of the nation upon his shoulders and confesses them to God:

  • “We have sinned.”
  • “We have been wicked.”
  • “We have turned away.”
  • “We have not listened.”
  • “We have not obeyed.”
  • “We have rebelled.”
  • …and on he goes.

Mixed in with his confession for his people is praise and affirmation to God.

In the Bible Daniel confesses the sins of his countrymen. Should we do the same today? Click To Tweet

In this Daniel, for whom the Bible records no sin, takes on the collective “we” to confess his nation’s faults. He doesn’t need to do this, but he does. Maybe we should do the same for our country.

Maybe it’s time to confess the wrongs of our nation.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Daniel 7-9, and today’s post is on Daniel 9:4-19.]

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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Christian Living

Is Jesus Our Model For Masculinity?

Should we emulate the man who drove merchants from the temple and denounced hypocrisy?

When I blogged about the need for a male role model, I wondered if the life of Jesus might stand as an example for men to follow. Is he the perfect blend of godly power and God-intended masculinity?

Indeed the character and actions of Jesus is compelling, more gripping than any other. Here are the lessons we can learn from Jesus:

A Man of Action

Incensed over sacrilegious commerce being conducted in the temple, degrading worship and exploiting people, Jesus makes a whip and drives the merchants away. He scatters their money and overturns their tables; animals flee. He makes a real mess.

Jesus takes bold action to confront wrong behavior (Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:15-17).

A Man of Strength

Jesus is physically strong, able to endure the barbaric tortures of crucifixion. Being flogged (Mark 15:15) was enough to kill some people; Jesus survives. He withstands the soldiers as they beat him (Luke 22:63-64) and carries his own cross (John 19:17).

In this Jesus stands as our modern view of manly power.

A Man of Faith

Jesus prays (Luke 11:1) and fasts (Matthew 4:1-2). He places priority on his relationship with God.

A Man of Boldness

Not afraid to condemn misguided spiritual practices, Jesus speaks against hypocrisy (Matthew 12:34). His concern is righting spiritual wrongs, and he has no worries over offending religious leaders in error.

A Man of Spiritual Power

With supernatural insight Jesus knows what others are thinking (Luke 5:22), has command over nature (Mark 4:39), heals people (Matthew 4:23), and raises the dead (Luke 8:54-55).

Jesus is the ultimate paragon, our model of excellence and perfection, a peerless example. Click To Tweet

A Man of Love and Compassion

Jesus blesses children (Matthew 19:13-14). He longs to love and protect them (Luke 13:34). He cares about the masses, offering compassion (Matthew 9:36) and loving them (Mark 10:21).

This is an impressive list, one truly worthy of emulation, yet Jesus is not our model for masculinity. Instead Jesus stands as a model for humanity, both men and women. Jesus is the ultimate paragon, our model of excellence and perfection, a peerless example.

Jesus is an Example For All to Follow, Not Just the Guys

Which of Jesus’s characteristics do you most identify with? Which ones seem aligned with one gender more than the other?

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

A Weekly 24-Hour Fast

Confessions About Fasting

Last Sunday’s post about sharing our spiritual struggles was really the introduction for this week’s post, my groaning to reach what I strive for: a 24-hour fast. My confession is that my normal joy of fasting has been mired in a season of misery.

For most of the past ten years, I’ve pursued a 24-hour fast from food once a week. I often talk about this, not to call attention to myself, but to encourage others to pursue it: if I can do it, so can you.

Fasting has not been a burden, but a pleasure that draws me closer to God, heightens my prayers to God, and focuses my thoughts. Most weeks, I look forward to it, and most of those weeks, I find what I seek. While not every fast goes as anticipated, most do—until last winter.

I fast on Thursdays, so when Thanksgiving rolls around, I skip that week. Last Thanksgiving was no exception, but afterwards I struggled mightily to resume my routine of fasting. More times than not, I fell short.

It took six months of effort, agony, and despair to reverse my fasting failures, but once again, I have mostly resumed my weekly fast.

Though my fasts do again draw me to God, sharpen my prayers, and focus my attention, they have not been easy. I must strive to start my fast, strive to maintain it, and strive to end it well.

I don’t know if this is the new normal or if, with persistence, things will one day return to the old normal.

What I do know is that for those who struggle with fasting, you are not alone.

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.