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Bible Insights

Let’s Not Forget Who’s in Charge

Good and Evil are Not Equal and Opposite Forces

In Revelation we read about the dragon and the beast, a great battle, and the tribulation the whole world faces.

The Beast

Embedded in the middle of this epic tale, we see a curious revelation. John writes that the beast is given power to wage war against God’s people that he created. John says the beast is given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation (Revelation 13:7).

Who gave the beast his power and authority?

God.

If God can grant the beast power and authority over the world and all creation, then that means God is more powerful than the beast and the forces of evil.

Think about this.

Contrary to what many people think, God and Satan do not exist as equal players in the age-old war of good versus evil. God is superior to Satan. God created Satan, albeit for good. Satan, in his pride, rebelled against God and has fought him ever since.

You see, the battle isn’t fair. God has the upper hand. Satan functions within the limits God places on him.

In the final battle, the victory goes to God. Click To Tweet

The Final Battle: God Wins; Satan Loses

That means in the final battle, we already know the winner. The victory goes to God. Satan loses. Big time.

If we’re on God’s team, we’re on the winning side. And for those who follow the enemy, they’ll lose along with him.

God’s in charge. God is more powerful then evil. Let’s not forget that. When we go with God, we go with the winner.

To him be the honor, and the glory, and the power, forever and ever. Amen.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 13-16, and today’s post is on Revelation 13:7.]

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 Offer God a Sacrifice of Praise?

Embrace a Different Way to Worship God

The term “sacrifice of praise” is only found in one verse in the Bible. It’s a curious phrase. What does it mean?

Whatever it may refer to, the first thing we see is we are to do it continually. We are to offer a constant sacrifice of praise to God. To do this, we must adopt a wider understanding of praise as more than just singing.

It certainly includes the things we say, as well as the things we don’t say—praising God with words we use as well as the words we keep to ourselves. This offering of praise could also encompass our attitude as we go about life, even our demeanor.

A sacrifice of praise could include everything we give up for God as an act of praise. Click To Tweet

While sacrifice of praise could include everything we give up—that is, what we sacrifice—for God as an act of adoration, I don’t think that concept ties in with this verse because we can’t continually offer sacrifices.

We can indeed praise God through our sacrificial living and giving, but this isn’t what phrase means.

Let’s look at the Old Testament for insight. Prior to Jesus, animal sacrifices are common—and commanded according to the law of Moses. Those sacrifices must be repeated because their covering is only temporary.

When Jesus comes along to become our sacrifice it is permanent. It doesn’t need to be repeated. It’s once and for all. This means that in the New Testament, the sacrifice of animals is obsolete. Could it be that a sacrifice of praise replaces it?

May we continually offer our praise as a sweet sacrifice that to God the Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit for their glory.

How do you praise God? Should you add anything to your practice?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 11-13, and today’s post is on Hebrews 13:15.]

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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God’s Wall of Fire Will Protect

Zechariah’s Vision

One night the prophet Zechariah has a vision. It’s about a wall of fire. In this supernatural dream, he talks to an angel who is about to measure the city of Jerusalem to see just how big it has become. But before he leaves to do this, another angel arrives. He tells the first angel that it doesn’t matter. There are now so many people in Jerusalem that erecting walls around them to keep them safe isn’t an option. The city is too big, and building a wall isn’t feasible.

Protection

Living in an unwalled city would normally leave the residents vulnerable to attack and abuse from their enemies. But now there’s no need for concern. In this case, the Lord God will himself become the city’s wall. He will protect his people. He’ll do this by becoming a wall of fire around the city. And then his glory will shine from within.

What a powerful image.

There is now no need for a physical wall. In its place will be a spiritual barrier, an incredible wall of blazing fire. But God will not merely provide this fiery fume. Instead, he himself will be this supernatural wall of flames.

No enemy—physical or spiritual—can pass through God’s holy wall of fire. He will protect us. He will keep us secure. We’ll have nothing to fear—provided we stay inside. If we’re within the Lord’s city, his hedge of fire will surround us. God, through his blazing defensive shield, will envelop us with his protection.

Illumination

But there’s more to God’s fiery fortification.

Remember, God will become this wall of fire. Fire gives off light. God’s glory from his ring of fire will illuminate the city and fill it. His glory will surround all who live there.

Though Zechariah’s vision looks toward our future, we can be sure God will protect us today. Let us bask in the glory of his presence.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 1-4 and today’s post is on Zechariah 2:5.]

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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2 Key Truths About Leadership

The Bible Teaches Us Leadership Principles

The book of Proverbs overflows with wise advice and thought-provoking sayings. Often these one-liners produce the material for great soundbites or social media memes.

Yet some parts require a bit more work before we can find value in their words. Such is the case with Proverbs 14:28. It says, “A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined.”

Yeah, I get it. A king swells with pride over having a large kingdom with many subjects. Conversely, without people there is no need for a ruler.

So how does this apply to us today?

Let’s move from the concept of kings and subjects—which most of us have no experience in—and move to the idea of leaders and followers. This helps a lot. This verse teaches us about leadership.

Leaders Require Followers

Leaders have followers. Without followers, they have no one to lead. Some leaders have many followers, and others, just a few. Yet all leaders must have followers. It’s a requirement for leadership. You can’t have one without the other.

Whether it’s in business, nonprofits, or churches, the leaders of these institutions must have followers. Otherwise the organization cannot continue, as its survival requires both leaders and followers.

When followers don’t respect a leader, they soon cease following. While some leaders inspire loyal followers, the leadership of others has the opposite effect. They push people away.

If you’re leader, look at your followers. If your number of followers is growing, their actions demonstrate loyalty, and you have a stable base, this implies you’re an effective leader.

However, if your number of followers is shrinking (or nonexistent), you struggle to get them to do what you want, and your team keeps leaving, this implies you’re an ineffective leader. Though you can develop leadership skills, it may already be too late if your followers are scattering.

Followers Makes Leaders

What if you don’t view yourself as a leader or aren’t in a leadership position, but always have people around you, asking your opinion or wondering what they should do next? Maybe you’re a leader. Or at least it proves people view you as a leader, as someone they want to follow.

In fact, these people are already following you. They see leadership qualities in you. It’s just that you don’t realize it. While you could send them away to follow someone else, accept the respect they place in you and work to become a better leader for them.

While this may not be a recognized position, the fact that you have followers confirms the reality that you’re a leader.

God intends some people to lead and others to follow. Click To Tweet

God intends some people to lead and others to follow. Make sure you function in the role he created for you. Trying to be a leader when you’re not or ignoring your leadership when other people see it in you, causes you to fall short of what God wants for you.

While the world values leaders and applauds them, God has a different perspective. He affirms those who do what he calls them to do, both leaders and followers.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 12-14, and today’s post is on Proverbs 14:28.]

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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What Does God Do On Sunday?

Our Worship verses God’s Work

After God finishes with his amazing creation he takes time on the seventh day to rest. He declares the day holy. Later in the Old Testament, God reminds his people to keep the Sabbath holy and to not work. How should this inform our worship of our creator?

Yea, a day off. In the early church the first day of the week becomes their special day, and many Christians today apply the Old Testament commands for Sabbath rest and holiness to Sunday.

As we rest on God’s holy day and worship him, what’s God doing?

Our Worship

I always assumed God was resting along with us, sitting back and receiving our worship. I imagined him being recharged by our adoration of him, even to the point that the more engaging our worship, the more energized he would become.

That just as we needed to take a break, I thought he did, too. He, along with us, would take one day out of seven for a mini re-creation. Then we would both be ready for Monday.

Although that is an imaginative idea, none of it is supported by the Bible.

How does God receive our worship on Sunday? Click To Tweet

Jesus, after he heals a man on the Sabbath, is confronted by his detractors. Jesus tells them plainly that just as his Father God is always at work, so too he is always working.

God’s Work

There’s no mention of Jesus and his Father resting on Sunday, basking in the glory that results from our worship. No, as we rest and worship, God is working. And I’m okay with that.

If God were to rest, just for a day, what would become of us? I need him every day, so I’m glad he doesn’t take a break, even though that is exactly what he tell us to do.

[See Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and John 5:1-17.]

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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Does Silence Scare You?

Does Silence Scare You?

We need to learn to worship God in silence, doing nothing but standing in awe of him

The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. However, I fear that many people miss the point of it. The intent of Revelation isn’t to give us a detailed map of the future. Instead, Revelation provides us with a grand overview of God’s ultimate power and amazing plan for the future, our future.

The goal in reading Revelation isn’t to formulate a timeline, detail the future, or argue about the end times. The grand revelation of Revelation is to comprehend the power, the grandeur, and the glory of God.

So it is with today’s text. John writes that when the angel opens the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

Silence.

Total quiet.

Nothing.

How do you deal with silence? How much silence can you withstand before you go crazy? If you’re like most people, your answer is only a few seconds.

Imagine being in the presence of God. The setting overwhelms. God sits on his throne surrounded by his people and spiritual beings. An angel brakes a seal to open a sacred scroll. Silence fills the space in awe over God’s presence, power, and plan.

The only response is to do nothing, to stand quietly, and to not say a thing. To bask in God’s essence.

Nothing happens for thirty minutes. That’s 1,800 seconds.

Tick, tick, tick. That’s three seconds. Can you stand the silence? Do you feel the pressure to say something or for someone else to break the quiet?

Now wait 1,797 seconds more. That’s a lot of quiet. That’s a quiet that honors God. It’s a quiet that God deserves. It’s one way we can worship God. 

By sitting in silence, in the presence of his glory, we can worship God. Click To Tweet

No music, no song, and no singing. Just silence. By doing nothing we can worship God. By sitting in silence in the presence of his glory, we honor him.

Does silence scare you? It shouldn’t. When done right, it shows God our adoration.

Maybe we should worship God in our silence more often. We can start right now.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 4-8, and today’s post is on Revelation 8:1.]

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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God Brings Low the Pride of the Arrogant

God Wants Us to Celebrate Him and What He’s Done for Us

As Isaiah moves forward in his sweeping prophecy, he devotes a section to the city of Tyre. Tyre is a city of prominence, a center of trade and commerce. God doesn’t like their self-sufficiency and that they take pride in what they have become. Isaiah warns them of their coming destruction.

He emphatically ends his prophecy for them, saying that God has planned this because he wants to bring down the pride of their splendor. In fact, he desires to humble all who are renowned (Isaiah 23:9). This describes the arrogance of the city of Tyre. They’re going down.

Pride Sets Us Up for Failure

In Proverbs Solomon writes that pride brings about destruction and haughtiness leads to a great fall (Proverbs 16:18). King Solomon is right. We unwisely elevate ourselves when we take pride in our skills, status, or inherent characteristics without acknowledging God who is behind it. We glory in ourselves and not our creator who made us. He created us to be who we are and granted us his favor. Misplacing our confidence in ourselves sets us up for a fall. Pride prepares us for failure.

God wants us to celebrate him and what he’s done for us. Click To Tweet

Instead Boast in the Lord

To the church in Corinth, Paul reminds his friends that if they’re to boast in anything it should be in God (1 Corinthians 1:31). We should boast in God’s character, in his love, and in his power. God is worthy of our boasting. In sharing this reminder, Paul paraphrases Jeremiah 9:24. So, Jeremiah said it first and Paul reminds us that we should boast only in God. That is, we are to glory in the Lord.

Our egocentric society celebrates self-accomplishment and elevates the individual. This is far from what God has in mind. God wants us to celebrate him and what he’s done for us. He wants us to elevate him and not ourselves.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 21-24, and today’s post is on Isaiah 23:9.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Christian Living

How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?

The Holy Spirit Gives Jesus’s Followers Special Abilities

In the Bible, Paul talks about spiritual gifts, special abilities given to us by the Holy Spirit. These aren’t for our personal use but for the common good of Jesus’s followers, that is, his church. Some of these supernatural abilities enhance our existing capabilities, while others are new skills we didn’t have before.

Here are the main spiritual gifts we find in the Bible.

First Corinthians Lists Nine Spiritual Gifts

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul talks about spiritual gifts. He says they’re given through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). They are:

1. Wisdom: ability to apply spiritual truth to meet specific needs or situations.

2. Knowledge: provide truth by revealing critical information, biblical understanding, or supernatural insight.

3. Faith: confidence in God that he will provide, protect, and answer prayers.

4. Healing: ability to pray, touch, or speak words that produce spiritual, physical, or emotional healing. (See “3 Unusual Examples of God’s Healing Power.”)

5. Miracles: show God’s power through supernatural action.

6. Prophecy: guide others by speaking truth to cause correction or repentance.

7. Discernment: able to distinguish between truth and error, fact and fiction.

8. Tongues: talk in a language unknown to the speaker for the purpose of prayer, worship, or for others.

9. Interpretation: tell others what someone said in tongues.

Paul Adds Four More Gifts

A bit later in his letter Paul adds four additional items to the list (1 Corinthians 12:28). Though he doesn’t specifically call them gifts, God does assign them. In this list, Paul repeats miracles, healing, and speaking in tongues. But he also includes four more items:

10. Apostleship: oversee and lead a ministry or missionary effort.

11. Teaching: understand and explain biblical truth to help others apply it to their lives and grow in faith.

12. Helps/Service: assist a ministry or person to meet needs and accomplish objectives.

13. Administration: organize and execute ministry goals.

Romans Lists Four More Spiritual Gifts

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he talks about God giving us different abilities, that is, spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8). God does this by his grace, granting us what we don’t deserve. Again we see some repetition with prophecy, faith, serving (helps), and teaching.

In addition, Paul lists another four spiritual gifts:

14. Exhortation/Encouragement: encourage people through words of comfort, inspiration, and reassurance.

15. Giving: generously provide money and resources for ministry.

16. Leadership: cast vision, motivate, and build teams to advance God’s kingdom.

17. Mercy: provide compassion to the poor and hurting.

Other Considerations

18. Evangelism: build relationships and engage in spiritual conversations to tell people about Jesus (Ephesians 4:11).

19. Shepherd: nurture, care for, and guide people in their spiritual journey (Ephesians 4:11).

20. Celibacy to not marry and abstain from sex (Matthew 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7).

21. Hospitality: offer food, housing, or relationship to provide a comfortable environment (1 Peter 4:9-10).

22. Craftsmanship: creativity to design or build items for ministry (Exodus 31:3).

23. Intercession: pray for others in response to Holy Spirit prompting (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

In listing how many spiritual gifts there are, some people add counseling, exorcism, martyrdom, and voluntary poverty to the list.

When we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us special abilities, called spiritual gifts, to help advance the kingdom of God. Click To Tweet

Scholars like to debate how many spiritual gifts there are, but since Paul doesn’t provide the same list each time he talks about them, this suggests there isn’t a finite list of these special God-given abilities. Instead there are some common gifts that recur among a much wider array of possibilities.

Regardless of how many spiritual gifts are on the list, the key point is that when we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us special abilities for us to use to advance the kingdom of God. We must learn what spiritual gifts he gave us and then use them for his glory.

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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Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty

Celebrate the Holiness of God

The prophet Isaiah has a dream, a vision. He sees into heaven. God sits on his throne over the temple. Six-winged angels, seraphim, hover above him. They sing out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. Earth fills with his glory.”

As their voices ring out, the temple shakes and fills with smoke.

What’s Isaiah do? He shakes in fear. “Woe is me.” He trembles before God because he knows he is unworthy. So unworthy. The sight of the Lord God Almighty overwhelms him. He becomes undone.

If Isaiah would cower before God with a feeling of complete unworthiness, how much more will we?

Yet God offers Isaiah grace and takes away the guilt of his sin. Then God sends Isaiah on a mission.

Does the words of the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy,” sound familiar?

It also appears in Revelation 4:8. Again, six-winged creatures hover around God. They worship him 24/7, saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Three Times for Emphasis

These are the only two passages in the Bible that repeat the word holy three times. Saying that God is holy isn’t enough. Saying that he’s holy, very holy still falls short. Instead the Bible records that God is “Holy, holy, holy.”

Bible scholars tell us that the repetition of three gives emphasis. Today, it would be like bold, italic, and underlined all at the same time. God’s holiness is that significant.

We may gloss over the first holy and even miss it twice, but it’s hard to overlook it when we hear it three times.

The Lord God Almighty is holy, holy, holy. He was, and is, and is to come.

Let’s join the heavenly beings who worship God as holy, holy, holy.

God deserves our praise, and we will do well to offer it, always and forever. Click To Tweet

God deserves our praise, and we will do well to offer it, always and forever.

Our Lord God is holy, holy, holy.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 5-7, and today’s post is on Isaiah 6:3.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Christian Living

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

God Equips Us to Grow His Kingdom

The Bible talks about “gifts of the Spirit,” which we commonly call spiritual gifts (not to be confused with spiritual disciplines). Paul teaches about spiritual gifts extensively in his first letter to the church in Corinth. But what are spiritual gifts? Here’s what we can learn from him.

They Come from the Holy Spirit

God’s Holy Spirit supernaturally endows us with special abilities. This includes different types of service and work, but they’re all the result of God at work in us and through us (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

They Are for the Common Good of Jesus’s Followers

The gifts of the Spirit that God gives us are intended to benefit others, not ourselves. They help the church community, or they serve others outside the church. Sometimes they do both. When used properly, our spiritual gifts advance the kingdom of God, for his glory (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Sovereign Allocation

God doesn’t equip us with the same supernatural abilities. He gives each of us the spiritual gift or gifts needed to accomplish his divine purpose. Though we may wish to be gifted like someone else, we would be wrong to desire that person’s gift or begrudge them.

God gave them the gift he did and us with our gift because he is sovereign (a good sovereign), able to do whatever he wishes (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

One Body with Different Parts

Paul gives the Corinthians—and us—an example to help us understand how and why God allocates spiritual gifts the way he does. Think of a person with different body parts: a head, ears, eyes, hands, feet, and so forth.

Each part has a key purpose, and without one or more of our body parts, we would struggle to fully function.

The same is true with the church—that is, the body of Christ. For the church body to function as it should, all parts must be present and work together, each doing what it is designed to do. Just as the human body has diversity in its components, so does the church.

Through a diversity of people with various spiritual gifts, our church can become a unified whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

A Pursuit Higher than Spiritual Gifts

Now that we know what are spiritual gifts, it’s exciting that God gives us special abilities (spiritual gifts) to equip us to serve and to work. Yet we should not overemphasize or become proud of the gifts he gave us.

Something is more important than any type of spiritual gift. And this is something for all of us. It’s something we can all do. Paul calls this the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).

What is it? Love (1 Corinthians 13).

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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