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Bible Insights

Our Present and Future Hope

God Will Answer When We Pray

After Zechariah’s discouraging implication that God is weary of his people and will no longer be their Shepherd, Zechariah has some good news. He concludes his prophetic writings with an optimistic prophecy of a better tomorrow, a future hope.

This is a hope that the people of his day can anticipate. But it’s also a hope we can claim today.

What is this grand, future expectation?

For the people of Zechariah’s day, when they pray to God, he will again answer. They can count on him to be there for them. He will again call them his people, and they will again call him their Lord. They will turn to each other. Reunited.

This union with God reminds us of how Adam and Eve walked in the garden of Eden with their Creator. In the cool of the evening, they hung out and enjoyed one another’s company. They lived in community with God in his creation, spending time with one another.

We can also anticipate community with our Creator today. Though we don’t physically walk with him in a garden each evening, when we call out to him, he answers. He is our Lord, and we are his people.

Where do we place our hope? Do we live lives that reflect both our present hope and our future hope? Click To Tweet

Our Future Hope

But Zechariah has more. This message for the people’s future is for our future too (Zechariah 14:9). We await it in eager expectation . . . but for what?

Centuries after Zechariah, the disciple John has a compelling vision of the future, a look into our future. In his forward-looking revelation, John writes of a time when all nations and all kings will come together in the holy temple of the Lord and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22–26).

What a day that will be, a day we hope for and long to see. We can look forward to this time with great anticipation, the day when God will reign as King over the whole earth.

He will become the Lord of everyone. His name will stand as the only name for people to call on for their rescue, for their salvation.

This will restore our community with God, just as he intended from the beginning.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 12-14, and today’s post is on Zechariah 13:9.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

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

Live for Today

Celebrate the Past, Anticipate the Future, and Embrace the Present

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Yet most people only celebrate what he has done or anticipate what he will do. They fail to see what he is doing now. That’s why we must live for today.

Yesterday

The Bible records what God has done in the past. We read these accounts and celebrate what he has done, of him saving his people from danger and rescuing them from their enemies. We take comfort knowing that our all-powerful (omniscient) God loves us and cares for us.

In the same way we celebrate what he has done for us in our past, of his provision and protection. Through our dark moments he was there. When we didn’t think we could go on, he walked with us. And for those times when the situations of life weighed us down, he lifted us up.

We praise God for what he has done as revealed in Scripture and as experienced in our own lives.

Tomorrow

The Bible also records what God promises to do in the future. We look forward to eternity with him in heaven. Yet we also anticipate his provisions for what he will do for us while we’re still here on earth.

Just as people in the Bible placed their hope in their Lord, we do as well. In the same way that he has cared for and protected us in the past, he’ll do so in the future.

Today

A friend once lamented about an elder in our church, “He’s so heavenly minded, that he’s no earthly good.” [Though this hails from Johnny Cash’s 1977 song “No Earthly Good,” it goes back much further to Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr about a century earlier.]

In being so future focused, like this church elder, we can forget the wonder of the present and fail to live in the moment of today.

Just as we can celebrate what God has done for us in the past, we can also wallow in sorrow over our mistakes and missed opportunities. While we want to learn from the past, we shouldn’t let it hold us captive to any shame we might have over what we once did.

Scripture Tells Us to Not Dwell on the Past

Paul writes to the church in Philippi to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). Paul also tells the church in Corinth, reminding them that in Jesus we are a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Much earlier in the Bible, God tells Isaiah and his people to forget what was and don’t dwell in the past. This is because he’s doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Embrace Today

We need to embrace each new day for the potential it provides. An inspiring quote attributed to Charles E. Dederich, a reformed alcoholic, is “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I understand that Alcoholics Anonymous follows this sentiment. Though I don’t drink and never have, I often begin each day with the perspective that fresh potential awaits me.

Some mornings, before I even open my eyes, I encourage myself for the day ahead with the reminder that, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” It sets in motion what happens next.

What we did yesterday—be it good or bad—is in the past. Today presents a new opportunity for us to embrace. Click To Tweet

What I did yesterday—be it good or bad—is in the past. Today presents a new opportunity for me to embrace. I shouldn’t coast on my accomplishments of yesterday anymore then I should be held captive by my disappointments.

Though God’s greatest gift is eternal life through Jesus, another amazing gift is the gift of today. With God’s help, may we strive to seize the day and make the most of it.

Live for today.

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

Do You Think Like an Exile? Do You Act Like a Foreigner?

If You Are a Citizen of the Kingdom of God, Then You Live Here as an Alien

Peter writes his first letter to Christians scattered about in pagan cities. He first calls them exiles (1 Peter 1:1). He also refers to them as foreigners (1 Peter 2:11). Though foreigner is accurate, I prefer the label of alien. It has an otherworldly connotation.

The point is that they don’t fit in where they are. They are outsiders subsisting in a society that doesn’t understand their thinking and their way of life. They live in a culture that is opposed to Jesus.

Peter doesn’t tell them they need to adapt and settle down. Instead he tells them to live careful lives, hold onto their awe of God, and refrain from immorality. They are to persist as foreigners, as if they are just passing through—because they are.

If you are a citizen of the kingdom of God, then you live here as a foreigner. Click To Tweet

Foreigner or Citizen?

They are citizens of the Kingdom of God, children of the King of kings. Their allegiance is to God. Their real domicile, their eternal home, is in heaven. Holding onto this perspective, they realize they are here for the short-term.

With eyes fixed on Jesus, they maintain their earthly status as foreigners, as exiles, and as aliens—both in an actual physical sense and with a faith-filled, future-focused, spiritual expectation.

I wonder how well I do to live like that.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 1:17.]

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

What is the Kingdom of God?

Eternal Life Begins Today (Not When We Die)

Jesus often talks about the kingdom of God (the kingdom of heaven). He talks about how close the kingdom of God is, saying that it’s near and even that it’s here. How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God in our life today? Is this just a euphemism for heaven? Does it mean eternal life?

If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate for our future?

The Kingdom of God is More Than Heaven

Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who follow Jesus, we must view eternal life as both a present and a future reality. But this is just the beginning.

The Kingdom of God is Jesus

When Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom of God is nearby and even that it has arrived, he could have been talking about himself. After all, if Jesus personifies the kingdom of God, then he is in fact close by and present.

We will do well to consider Jesus as the kingdom of God, but we limit our understanding if we don’t expand our comprehension of it.

The Kingdom of God is Salvation

Jesus’s arrival on earth is good news. It’s still good news today. If we follow Jesus as his disciples, this good news is ours. It’s our salvation, both present and future. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and the salvation he provides, but there’s more.

The Kingdom of God is a Lifestyle

The kingdom of God is also about us. Just as Jesus and the salvation he offers is part of the kingdom of God, so too are we. However, this isn’t an intellectual standing for us to enjoy, it’s a lifestyle. To be part of the kingdom of God means living a life for Jesus, to honor him, glorify him, and point people to him.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Click To Tweet

Embracing Eternal Life

Yes, the kingdom of God is about our eternity in heaven, but it’s also about our present reality on earth. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with a life we lead in response to his free gift to us.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Heaven is just phase two of eternal life.

We’re living in phase one today—at least we should be. Are you?

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.

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Christian Living

Praying for My Children

Pray for Family and Friends

Ever since our daughter was born, I knew I should pray for her, as well as for her brother, when he came along. I did pray for them—when I thought of it—which wasn’t very often. I felt guilty for not doing what I knew I should do. And when I did pray, my prayers were always the same. My words repeated. They felt stale. When it came to praying for our children, I was stuck in a rut.

Praying for Our Children

When the oldest was in middle school, her youth group leader gave us a handout. Titled “Things I Pray for My Children,” it listed twenty-three items to guide our prayers. I began praying one item each day. At the end of twenty-three days (or a little bit longer if I missed a day) I started the list over and prayed through it again, making one request each day.

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

After a few years, however, the list had grown stale. Though I continued to pray, I began to struggle. About that time, I came across another list, a prayer card: “31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids.” This one had thirty-one suggestions, one for each day of a thirty-one-day month. Though both lists had similarities, no items were an exact duplicate. I now had thirty-one new ideas to guide my prayers.

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

Praying for Their Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Praying for Grandchildren

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

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

Praying for Great Grandchildren and Great, Great Grandchildren

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

Praying for Future Generations

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

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

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

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

And for me, twelve generations.

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

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

And I’ll never stop.

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

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

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

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Christian Living

What Is God’s Will for Our Life?

Many people struggle to ascertain God’s will for them, but the Bible already provides the answers

In our post about discovering the will of God, we noted three things he wants us to do: rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all situations. But that’s not all. The Bible also gives us other passages about God’s will for us.

It’s God’s Will For Us to Be Pure

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church, he tells them to be sanctified, that is set apart and pure. He specifically tells them to avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

It’s God’s Will For Us to Do Good

Peter also clues us in to God’s will. In his first letter, he tells his audience that it’s God’s will for them that by doing good they will silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. That is, through their actions, people will have no grounds to criticize them (1 Peter 2:15). This, too, is the will of God.

It’s God’s Will For Us That If We Suffer, It’s For Doing Good Instead of Evil

Though no one wants to suffer, it’s better to suffer for doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing. It’s not God’s will for us to suffer. But if we do, it should be for doing something good, not something bad (1 Peter 3:17).

It’s God’s Will For Us to Rejoice Always, Pray Continuously, and Give Thanks Regardless

As we’ve already covered, God wants us to be filled with joy. He wants us to be in a continual attitude of prayer. And he wants us to be ever thankful, even when we don’t feel like it. We find this in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Paul trusts that God will work things out for what is best. Click To Tweet

It’s God’s Will for Us to Trust Him with Our Future

In the book of Acts we don’t see a command about God’s will but an example that demonstrates it. When Paul visits the city of Ephesus, they ask him to stay, but he turns them down. However, he does say that he’ll come back, “if it is God’s will” (Acts 18:21, NIV).

This shows us that although Paul makes plans, he holds them loosely. He trusts God will work things out for what is best.

This idea of trusting God with our future is huge. Too often we struggle to ascertain God’s leading in certain key decisions, such as who to marry, career choices, where to live, business decisions, and so forth.

While it’s not inappropriate to seek God’s opinion in these things, we can see from Paul’s example that it’s perfectly acceptable to give our future over to God and trust him with it. This is also his will for us, and it frees us from much indecision and paralyzing inaction.

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

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: What If…

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Each day we make hundreds of decisions, such as getting on a bus or getting off a bus. Some of those choices have lifelong consequences.

Such is the case with Ben Walker (Kevin Sorbo) in the movie What If…. His bus ride sent him on a path in the wrong direction, away from his love Wendy Walker (Kristy Swanson) and the life they planned together.

Fifteen years later, Ben is given a look at the life and love he gave up because of that one bus trip. What if…he had never gotten on that bus? Things would be completely different. He likes his life now, not the one he turned his back on and the family they could have had.

What if…he could do it over again? Would he? Should he? Can he?

What if… is a delightful tale of contrasting options between what seems attractive and what could be more satisfying. But is it too late to choose? You’ll need to watch What if… to find out.

[Read more reviews by Peter DeHaan of other faith-friendly videos and movies.]

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

Pray it Forward: Praying for Future Generations

For my first ten years as a parent, I struggled to pray for my children. Oh, I did pray for them but not regularly, not every day.

This changed when someone gave me a list of twenty-three traits to pray for my children. The items included that they would fall in love with God’s word, have a heart for missions, love others, for their future spouse, and so forth.

Each morning I’d ask God to instill in them one of the characteristics on the list. After twenty-three days, I’d start over.

Just when the list started becoming routine, I bought a prayer card that provided thirty-one items, mostly different from the first list. For the past twenty years I’ve switched between these two resources, each day asking God to instill in my children one of the traits on the list.

But I didn’t just pray for my kids.

The first additions to the list were their friends. Not only did I desire God-honoring children, but I also wanted them in the company of godly friends. In later years, I likewise prayed for those they dated, and then college roommates, and finally their spouses.

With my kids’ marriages came the prospect of grandchildren, so I added my future grandkids to my daily prayers. It wasn’t that I urged God to rush them. Instead, I prayed that when they did arrive, they, too, would possess these same godly characteristics.

It’s one thing to pray in faith for future grandchildren, but soon God prompted me to expand my vision, to include my future great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren: the next four generations.

While it’s feasible I may one day see my great grandchildren, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever see my great, great grandkids – at least not in the physical realm.

After my first grandson arrived, God prompted me for even more. Now my prayers are paving the way for the next ten generations. It’s hard to comprehend, but I pray by faith, expectant for amazing results.

Even more, I suspect that before my life is over, God will tell me to pray beyond the next ten generations.

In addition to praying for my offspring, I’ve also included my niece and nephews, my closest friends, people I mentor, and missionaries I support.

I share my prayer practices with much trepidation. I don’t want to call attention to myself, but I do want to encourage everyone to pray for their children, both those seen and those unseen.

May you pray it forward. Start today.

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

Who Says, “The End Is Near?”

Jesus says nobody knows when the world will end. Later on Paul confirms no one knows when Jesus will return (therefore signaling the start of the end). It will happen unexpectedly, like a “thief in the night.”

So if the Bible says no one knows, why do some preachers make their audacious predictions anyway? Adding to their error, they often tap the Bible for clues as to when, even though the Bible says no one knows. Yet they try anyway.

I’m not sure if this is out of arrogance of who they are or ignorance over what the Bible says.

Be it far away or near, the end will happen when it happens. Click To Tweet

Yes, we need to be ready, but we don’t know when the end will occur. So let’s forget about trying to figure out what we can’t know and instead focus on doing what we already do know, the things Jesus told us to do.

After all, be it far away or near, the end will happen when it happens.

[1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Matthew 24:35-36, Mark 13:31-32]

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

Was, and Is, and Is to Come

In the apocalyptic account in the book of Revelation, it talks about the “beast,” saying that from the point of the end times, he “once was and now is not.”

Compare that to the characterization of God, which states that he “was, and is, and is to come.”

That is a marked difference—and comforting one, too.

For God, that means his existence is in the past, the present, and the future. Whereas the beast has no future. The beast’s existence, therefore, is limited and finite, while God’s existence is unlimited and infinite. God will prevail; the beast will be defeated.

[Revelation 17:8, 11, Revelation 4:8, and Revelation 19:20]

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.