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Bible Insights

Give Generously and Not Begrudgingly

We Must Take Care of the Poor Among Us

As we read through the law of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy, we come across a command that says that we are to “give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

We might have the inclination to dismiss this command as part of the old covenant, which Jesus came to fulfill, but remember that he modeled and taught generosity. For example, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to give to those who ask and don’t ignore those who want to borrow (Matthew 5:42).

This Old Testament command says to give generously to “them.” But who does them refer to? The context in Deuteronomy is other Israelites. We can extend this concept to us today and apply it by saying that it means those in our church or other followers of Jesus.

This is an ideal place to start, but Jesus’s command to give doesn’t limit us to our own congregation or spiritual community. The context of the passage in Matthew seems to include everyone.

Applying Moses is teaching in Deuteronomy to Jesus’s call to give, adds the stipulation to not do so begrudgingly, that is, without a grudging heart. To give generously with the wrong attitude is disobedience.

There’s one more item from Moses’s teaching. He promises a reward for those who give generously and not grudgingly. He promises God’s blessings to those who give. The blessings apply to their work and everything they do.

May we give generously to those in need. Click To Tweet

But Jesus doesn’t promise a blessing when we give. He just says to do it. This should be enough. If we receive a blessing for our generosity, that’s a bonus.

May we give generously to those in need without thought to a reward, because Jesus says to—and it’s the right thing to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 13-15 and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 15:7-10.]

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

Blessed to be a Blessing

God Blesses Us So That We Can Be a Blessing to Others

God wants to bless us. He loves us and wants to give us his best. This idea of blessing occurs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God often ties his blessings to the people’s obedience and to the attitudes of their hearts. Yet, the first time we encounter this word in the Bible, it’s God’s unconditional promise to bless Abraham. He does this prior to Abraham doing anything to demonstrate his obedience to God’s commands or his faith.

God blessed Abraham for Abraham’s sake, but there’s more. Through Abraham, God promised to bless all the people on the earth through him (Genesis 12:2-3). In short, God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others.

But this doesn’t just apply to Abraham. The word bless occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments. It’s a reoccurring theme. More specifically, the phrase bless you occurs fifty times. Furthermore, the idea of blessing other people shows up four dozen times, and blessing nations shows up another fifteen.

God expects us to be a blessing to others. We should view God’s provisions to us from this perspective. He blesses us—he prospers us—so that we can be a blessing to others. Here are some ways we can do this:

Donate Money

For many people, when they consider the idea of blessing others, they think of money. Providing financially for others is an ideal way to be a blessing to them. We can use the money God has blessed us with to give to organizations whose mission aligns with our passions. We can also give money directly to people in need.

In both cases, however, we must be good stewards of God’s financial blessings to us so that they will have the best kingdom impact.

Share Possessions

We can also be a blessing to others when we share our possessions. When we have things we don’t need, we shouldn’t throw them away. Instead, we should give them away.

We can give directly to individuals in need or to organizations, who will in turn give them away or sell them to raise money for their cause.

Yet let’s move our thinking beyond our castoffs. We can also give possessions that we still use, that still have value to us, to others. If someone has more need of it than we do, then maybe we need to give it to them.

In these ways, we can be a blessing to others.

Give Time

Aside from material items, consider our time. We can give our time to help others. This can occur by volunteering for various organizations focused on helping others. It can also occur directly by helping a neighbor who could use some assistance.

And lest anyone complains that “I don’t have enough time,” let me remind you that we all have 24 hours in each day. We choose how to use that time. Why not choose to give some of it away?

Mentor Others

A specific way to be a blessing to others with our time is to do one-on-one mentoring. In this way we invest ourselves in them, helping them to have a better life, be it physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Pray for Others

A final option—the most important one—is something that everyone can do. We can all pray for others. And we can start today, right now.

God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

In both large and small ways, God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others.

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 It’s Important that We Prosper

Prosperity Is Not a Bad Word, and We Must Start Embracing It as Good

A popular pastime today is to decry prosperity as an evil that plagues the world. These folks think that all people who prosper are greedy and selfish—though some are. They advocate taking from those who have and give to those who have not. In truth, these people aren’t interested in helping the poor as much as they are envious that others have more than they do.

They miss the point that God wants us to prosper.

The Bible has much to say about prosper and prosperity. We often think of prosper in terms of money, but it also applies to other areas of our life. Our family can prosper. We can prosper by enjoying good health. And we can prosper in intangible ways when we lead a God-honoring life.

Consider some of what the Bible says about the idea of prospering:

  • God plans to prosper his people and not harm them, plans to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God told Jacob to go back home and he would prosper (Genesis 32:9).
  • Obey God that we may live long and prosper (Deuteronomy 5:33).
  • Walk in obedience with God and do all he says so that you will prosper in everything you do and everywhere you go (1 Kings 2:3).
  • A person who gives generously will prosper (Proverbs 11:25).
  • Those who trust in God will prosper (Proverbs 28:25).
  • You will prosper more, and then you will know that I am your Lord (Ezekiel 36:11).
  • God made his people prosper while they were in Egypt (Acts 13:17).

Some of these verses apply to individuals, while other passages have a broader audience, but the point we can glean from all these verses—and many others in the Bible—is that God loves us. And he wants us to prosper.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

But many people desiring prosperity, miss the point of why. They think their prosperity is for their benefit and theirs alone. Taken to an extreme we end up with a prosperity gospel and a prosperity theology. Don’t go there.

These overreaches miss the basic biblical truth that God wants us to prosper. He wants to bless us. But why?

God doesn’t bless us with success and wealth so that we can live extravagant self-centered lives. He blesses us not for ourselves but for the sake of others.

God loves us and wants us to prosper. Click To Tweet

God told Abraham, “I will bless you and you will in turn bless others” (Genesis 12:2). This means that God’s blessings are not for us to consume or to squander in conspicuous living.

Our blessings are to share with others. As God is generous with us, may we be as generous toward others.

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

3 Lessons from the Early Church

Dr. Luke Describes 3 Characteristics of the Acts 4 Church

The book of Acts unfolds as an historical narrative of the early church, the activities of the first followers of Jesus and those who join them. For the most part, Acts simply describes what happens, with little commentary and few instructions for proper conduct.

While we can look to Acts as a possible model for Christian community, we would be in error to treat it as a requirement for right behavior. In this way Acts can inform us today, but it doesn’t command us.

For example, if I wrote, “My church went to a baseball game after the service,” no one (I hope) would think I was saying that attending baseball games is prescriptive of Christian life. No. It was merely descriptive of what one church did one time. We would never build our theology on a statement like that.

So it is with the book of Acts. Yet we can learn from it. Luke writes three things about that church:

Christian Unity

The Acts 4 church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with Jesus’s prayer. Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it; I hope unity describes every one and every congregation.

Community Minded

In the Acts 4 church, no one claims their possessions as their own. It isn’t my things and your things; it is our things. They have a group mentality and act in the community’s best interest. While we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, notice that this isn’t a command. They just do it out of love.

Willing to Share

Last, the Acts 4 church shares everything they have. Not some things, not half, but all. This would be a hard thing for many in our first-world churches to do today but not so much in third-world congregations.

Again, this isn’t a command (and later on Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional, Acts 5:4); it is just a practice that happens at this moment of time in the early church. 

These 3 characteristics of the early church should inspire us to think and behave differently. Click To Tweet

While these three characteristics should inspire us to think and behave differently, and can provide a model for our gatherings and interactions, we need to remember that the Bible gives us no commands to pursue a communal-type church.

We can, but it’s one option. Of the three only unity rises as an expectation because Jesus yearns for it to be so. That should give us plenty to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 1-4 , and today’s post is on Acts 4:32.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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

When You Give…Not If You Give

Jesus Expects Us to Help Those in Need, But Are We?

In Jesus’s engaging teaching that we call the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about giving to those in need. He says, “When you give . . . ” He doesn’t say, “If you give . . .” (Matthew 6:2–4). It’s clear that Jesus expects us to give to those in need. But how can we best help others?

The Need Is Huge

The vast need all around me overwhelmed me; it paralyzed me to inaction. I thought that if I helped anyone, I would have to help everyone. This is impossible. To deal with this insurmountable task, I took the simple path. I decided I would give money to the church—letting them use it where it was most needed—and not give to anyone else.

It was a cowardly decision that I regret.

Doing this allowed me to smugly say no to every request because I was already giving to God’s church instead. What convicted me, however, was a look at the church’s budget. About 95 percent of all the money they received went to pay salaries and building expenses. That left 5 percent for everything else.

This church did little, if anything, to help those in need. The budget at every church I’ve looked at has a similar ratio. In fact, too many churches focus all their budget on internal issues and have nothing left for those in need.

Though my decision to give only to the church eased my struggle to know what to give to, it wasn’t the best way to help those with needs. I was ignoring Jesus’s instruction about when you give.

Be Good Stewards

I then began looking for service and para-church organizations that focused on helping those in need. By giving to them, I indirectly help those who struggle. To fine tune my search and not let the plethora of worthy options overwhelm me, I looked for areas that aligned with my passions. I identified four categories.

I began giving to these causes, and they soon received all my charitable giving. I follow this plan fully—except for when the Holy Spirit prompts me to make an exception.

Giving to worthy organizations is great, and it makes an impact in our world, be it locally or globally. Yet in most cases the organization stood between me and the recipients. To best follow Jesus’s instructions about when you give, I needed to address the needs that confronted me day-to-day.

Personal Charity

I once worked in a downtown office, where people asking for a handout often confronted me in the parking lot. Regardless of the need they presented, money was the solution they sought. At first, I would tell them, “Sorry, I have no money.” Sometimes this was true, for my wallet would be empty. But most of the time, it was a convenient lie.

Now, determined to stop my dishonest response to these panhandlers, I sought ways to address their underlying need, without directly handing them cash—which most times I suspect would have gone for alcohol or drugs.

I’d buy people meals, purchase bus passes, take them to the grocery store, fill up their car with gas, or give them a ride. Once I even offered to put a man in a hotel room for the night. He declined. Despite his carefully constructed tale of woe, what he really wanted was my money, not my help.

At the Holy Spirit’s direction, I did my best to follow Jesus’s instructions about when you give. In doing this, however, I often ended up making unwise decisions in my attempts to truly help these people. Thankfully, God, in his grace, protected me from my recklessness.

Seek ways to address people’s underlying need, without directly handing them cash. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward When You Give

I continue to support worthy organizations, strive to be a good steward of God’s blessings, and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in directly helping others. I desire to make a sincere effort to help these people in their plight without enabling questionable behavior or allowing them to take advantage of my charity.

Yes, I sometimes make mistakes, supporting people or causes that take advantage of my generosity to follow Jesus’s command about when you give. Yet I know the one way to make sure this never happens is to never give. And that’s a mistake I won’t make.

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

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Christian Living

The Truth about Tithing

Discover What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say

We’re supposed to tithe to the local church, to give 10 percent of our income, right? Hold on. Not so fast. What does the Bible say about tithing?

The Bible talks a lot about tithing, of giving one tenth of what we have to God. However, there are multiple tithes mandated in the Old Testament.

Bible scholars say that when these are added up, they average out to 23 percent a year (one tithe is given every three years). That’s close to one quarter, far more than one tenth.

These Old Testament tithes were commanded by God to support the religious institution of the day: the temple, the Levites, and the priests. To equate the Old Testament temple and its priests with the modern day church and its ministers is a misapplication.

When Jesus fulfilled the law, he replaced both, turning us – you and me – into priests and making us into his temple.

Instead, Jesus talked about helping those in need and being good stewards. The early church in Acts shared all they had with each other; that’s 100 percent. And being a good steward of all God has blessed us with also implies 100 percent. We are to use every penny in the best way possible.

Whenever the New Testament mentions tithing, it always refers to the Old Testament practice. Nowhere do New Testament writers tell us to give 10 percent to the local church, yet that is precisely what many ministers preach.

Rather, we see commands and examples to use the money God blesses us with to cover our needs (not our wants), help others, and advance God’s kingdom.

If you feel being a good steward of God’s money is to support your local church, then by all means, do so. However, if you thinks it’s better used somewhere else, then donate it to that cause, but don’t be misled by preachers who claim something the Bible doesn’t say.

[Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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

We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine Our Motives When We Give

Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What Should We Avoid?

Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way.

When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2).

God says that that when we bless others, he will bless us even more. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle

In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 7-9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

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Bible Insights

The Bible Says to Put Others First

Do Not Seek Your Own Good, But What’s Best for Others

We live in a narcissistic, self-centered world. We put ourselves first and care only about what’s in our best interest. Too many people live their life with the attitude that “it’s all about me.” In doing so, they miss so much.

Let me share a secret: It’s not all about us. It should be about everyone else. When we put others before us, we help them and enrich ourselves in the process.

Paul reminds the church in Corinth about this. He tells them directly, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24, NIV).

While this can go to extremes, most people have no worry about that.

On an airplane, for example, the instructions say that if the oxygen masks drop to put yours on first, then help your neighbor. If you don’t, you might pass out before you can help others in need. Then everyone suffers.

I also read of a family so intent on feeding their starving neighbors that some of them starved themselves to death in the process.

No, self-preservation is crucial, but beyond that, put others first. The Bible says to. What’s this look like? It’s up for each of us to decide.

Pick one thing you can do for others and then do it. Click To Tweet
  • It could be as simple as standing aside to let someone get in line ahead of us.
  • It might be giving someone a ride even though it will make us late. (What if we’re on our way to church?)
  • How about giving up a seat on the bus and standing?
  • Perhaps this means mowing our neighbor’s lawn even though ours needs attention.
  • Should we take the last piece of pizza or let someone else have it?
  • What about walking so someone else can use our car?
  • Even more bold, how about giving someone our car because he or she needs it more.

We can do many things to seek the good of others, so many that it might overwhelm. But instead of letting the magnitude of options paralyze us into inaction, pick one thing to do for others and then do it.

Doing good for others is the right thing to do.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8-10, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 10:24.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

3 Ways to Worship God

Worship means different things to different people, but what’s important is that we do it

Some churches call their Sunday meeting a worship service. This has always troubled me. Yes, I knew that singing to God was a form of worship, or at least it should be.

I understood the part about “worshiping God with our tithes and offerings,” even though I didn’t see God getting too much of what we dropped into the offering plate. But the sermon?

How could listening to a lecture, often a boring one, be a form of worshiping God? In truth, aside from a few songs and the collection, the bulk of most church services are either education or entertainment. Is that worship? I don’t think so. I hope not.

Here are three ways we can worship God. (And like a good three-point sermon, they all begin with the same letter.)

Singing

As I said, singing to God is a way to worship him. More broadly, music is a path to worship. That means we can sing or listen to music. Music can also involve movement, rather it be clapping our hands, raising our arms in praise, or dance (from rhythmic swaying to getting down like David, 2 Samuel 6:14).

Yes, singing can have a physical component. It can also involve senses.

Sight: seeing others sing and dance (or watching a light show).

Hearing: listening to those around us sing and hearing the instruments.

Smell: incense or a smoke machine.

Touch: holding hands with fellow worshipers as we sing.

Taste: singing while we take communion.

For the record, I’ve experienced each of these sensory elements in worship at various church services, though not often.

Unfortunately, I’m musically and rhythmically challenged, so I struggle to worship God through music and movement. But give me a strong beat with catchy lyrics behind it, and I can engage in song as a means of worship.

Serving

Helping others, both with our time and through our money, is a tangible form of worship. I enjoy the action of doing something for others, offering it as an act of service to them and as a form of worship to God.

Similarly I like being able to give money to causes I’m passionate about or to people in need as the Holy Spirit directs me. Both are ways to serve and both offer a path for worship. I relish the opportunity to worship God through these forms of service. 

Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” This is a form of worship. Click To Tweet

Silence

In our multitasking, always-on society, the hush of stillness is an anachronism to most, one that causes many people to squirm. Few people can tolerate silence for more than a few seconds.

Yet in our silence—along with its partner, solitude—we can quiet our racing minds and still our thumping hearts in order to connect with God. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.”

Yet, setting time aside to be still presents challenges. For most of us, meeting with God in silence doesn’t just happen; we must be intentional.

In my times of silence I connect more fully with God in worship, get deeper glimpses into his heart, and am best able to hear his gentle words of encouragement, correction, and mostly love. So good!

Just as I make it my practice to attend church, I have a parallel practice of giving to my community each week. I also (usually) block out one day out of seven to fast, and part of that time includes worshiping God through silence.

All three are forms of worship, though for me, helping others is more practical and resting in God’s presence is more meaningful.

God has uniquely made us and gives us different ways to worship him. When it comes to worship, one size does not fit all. Find the one that fits you.

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

God Deserves Our First, Our Best, and Our Most

How much time we spend on our activities reveals our priorities

King David longs to build a temple for God, but God says this is not to be. Another, a descendant of David, will attend to its construction. Instead David must content himself with the temple’s planning and in accumulating its building materials.

Then he dies, having never seen the temple he desired to build.

Solomon succeeds his father, David, as king of Israel. Solomon oversees the construction of the temple. A grand edifice, it takes seven years to build, a fitting effort for God’s earthly dwelling and the center of Jewish worship and life.

However, in a telling aside, the Bible indicates that Solomon spends almost twice as much time building his own residence. This seems out of balance: seven years for the house of God and thirteen years for a house for Solomon. What does that say about Solomon’s priorities?

The temple is for all the people, as well as for God; the palace is for Solomon. Yes, the palace must be a structure worthy of a king, but spending over a decade on its building may be a bit much, especially given that it consumes almost one third of Solomon’s forty-year reign.

We must truly make God our priority. Click To Tweet

Yet I wonder how often we effectively do the same thing, placing greater emphasis on the things we do for ourselves than the things we do for God, the time we spend with him, and the offerings we give. We need to not only put him first, but he also deserves our best and our most.

I fear we too often fall short in those areas.

We must truly make God our priority.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Kings 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Kings 6:38-7:1.]

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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