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Bible Insights

What Does Perfect Love Do?

Love versus Fear

As we struggle with the paradox of fearing God and loving God, there’s another thought on the subject.

John writes that “perfect love drives out fear.”

Perfect love never fails. Perfect love is love that’s without fault, consistent and always present. God embodies perfect love.

Paul gives us a list of what love is and isn’t. Love is:

  • patient
  • kind
  • not envious
  • not boastful
  • not proud
  • not rude
  • not self-seeking
  • not easily angered
  • forgetting the mistakes of others
  • not delighting in evil
  • rejoicing over truth
  • offering protection
  • trusting
  • hopeful
  • persevering
  • never failing

This is love, perfect love, and it drives away fear.

[1 John 4:18, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8]

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

God’s Guardrails Are to Benefit Us and Not Limit Us

Running Barefoot in the Snow

In my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide, I tell the story of our children running barefoot in the snow. Here’s what happened.

One day I painfully realized that whenever our children asked for anything, the default answer of my wife and me was no. It mattered not how legitimate their request was; we dismissed it.

Though we would sometimes relent and grant permission, the negotiation that occurred between their question and a positive response was time-consuming and unneeded.

I gathered our two children and apologized for my error. I pledged that going forward I would tell them yes every time I could. I would only say no to keep them safe, keep them healthy, and teach them what was right.

I doubt they believed me. A couple days later they tested my promise. “Dad, can we go outside and run around barefoot in the snow?”

“Yes!”

Incredulous, they kicked off their shoes and socks. They donned their winter coats, hats, and gloves. With unbridled enthusiasm, they dashed outside.

Seconds later they returned exhilarated, overflowing with glee, and with cold feet. It was a memorable experience for all three of us. Going forward, our children heard me say yes much more often.

How Our Heavenly Father Treats Us

I suspect God is a lot like this. He tells us yes whenever he can. The only time he says no is to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right. He tells us no for our own good. It’s how he shows his love for us. And I try to appreciate that, even if it’s not what I want to hear.

But many people have the opposite perspective. They perceive God as mean, restrictive, and grumpy, saying no to all the things they want to do. They think he limits their life and keeps them from having any fun. They push against his restrictions, even though these are for their own good.

God gives us instructions through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We’ll do well to obey what he says. If we don’t, we risk pursuing what is unsafe, unhealthy, and wrong. And for that, we’ll suffer with the consequences.

Guardrails for Our Life

I view this as his loving attempt to put guardrails on our life, which keep us from plunging over the cliff to our doom. Guardrails keep us on the road and direct us forward.

Yes, we can do whatever we want, and he won’t love us any less. Regardless of our actions—or inactions—our eternal standing with him remains secure.

But, oh, what heartache we endure when we ignore the loving guardrails he has erected for us on our journey through life and elect to do things our own way.

God’s instructions to us are like guardrails, which are to benefit us and not limit us. Click To Tweet

We don’t need to follow the rules he gives us to get his attention or earn our salvation. We can go through life however we please. But we’re so much better off when we do things his way and not our own.

God intends for his rules to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right—not to limit us or be mean.

God sometimes says no because he loves us. May we embrace his directives, follow them, and thank him for them.

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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Bible Insights

If God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

God Cares for the Lesser Things of His Creation and We Are So Much More

In one of Asaph’s Psalms he exalts God for his power, beauty, and perfection. In doing so Asaph envisions what God might say to his people, talking about what is important and what isn’t. God has no need for our animals (possessions), for every creature (everything) is his.

In fact God says that he knows every bird, and that even the insects are his.

God Cares for Birds

Does this idea that God knows every bird sound familiar? Consider what Jesus says in his teaching in what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:25-27). He tells us not to worry, that God will take care of us.

Then he reminds us of the birds. Even though birds don’t prepare for the future by planting crops, gathering the harvest, or storing for the future, God feeds them. He takes care of them.

In the non-winter months in Michigan, anytime I look out my window I see all kinds of birds, often more than I can count. Though I know some species, I can’t identify most of them.

While I have trouble identifying various types of birds, God not only knows each species, he also knows each bird within each specie.

Aside from my enjoyment of watching birds, in the overall scope of life, I give little thought to birds. Yet God cares for them.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us. Click To Tweet

God Cares for Us

Jesus goes on to say that if his Father will feed the birds how much more will he care for us. As people, we’re the highpoint of his creation. We matter much more to him than birds. God cares for us even more than he cares for the birds.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 46-50, and today’s post is on Psalms 50:11.]

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

His Love Endures Forever

We Should Praise God for the Many Ways He Loves Us

Love is a recurring theme in Scripture (686 verses). It shows up in most every book of the Bible (60 out of 66). The word is most common in Psalms (157 verses). Psalm 136 leads the way with 26 mentions of love, all in the repeating refrain “His love endures forever.”

This Psalm is a song of praise to God. It affirms who he is and what he’s done. In response to each phrase of thanks and appreciation, the singers repeatedly chant, “His love endures forever.”

What are these characteristics of God? Read Psalm 136 to find out all the details. Here’s a summary:

  • God is good.
  • He is God of all gods and Lord of all lords.
  • He does amazing feats.
  • He created everything.
  • He guided his people, protected them, and brought them to his promised land.
  • He remembers us when we’re down, frees us from our enemies, and feeds us when we’re hungry.

And for each one of these, our response is to praise him, for “his love endures forever.” Forever is a long time. It’s eternal. Just as God is eternal—living forever with no beginning or end—so too is his love for us.

Paul says that three things will last forever. These are faith, hope, and love. Of this amazing trio, love stands in first place. Love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Jesus died so that we may live. You, me, everyone. That’s true love. Click To Tweet

John writes that the highest, most excellent, expression of love is to die so another may live (John 15:13). John is quoting Jesus. In this passage, Jesus obliquely references God’s plan to save us.

To do so, Jesus will offer himself as the once-and-for-all, ultimate sacrifice to make payment for the sins (mistakes) of all humanity, for all time. This will reconcile us with Papa.

Jesus died so that we may live. You, me, everyone. That’s true love. His love endures forever.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 135-139, and today’s post is on Psalms 136:2.]

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

Love God and Love Others: A Call to Christian Unity

Shun Division, Disunity, and Denominations in the Name of Jesus

Just as church member status divides the church body into two groups, so does our doctrine. Instead of obeying Jesus’s instruction to love God and love others, we make a lengthy list of what we should do and shouldn’t do, judging others according to our opinions of what’s proper and what’s not.

This legalistic approach follows what the Old Testament set in motion with its 613 instructions in the Law of Moses, of things to do and not do.

Compounding the problem, God’s children in the Old Testament added tens of thousands of manmade rules, which evolved over the centuries, to help interpret the original 613 expectations he gave to Moses.

Jesus Says to Love God and Love Others

Jesus says that his yoke is easy in his burden is light. This means his doctrine is simple to follow and effortless to bear (Matthew 11:30). To confirm this, Jesus simplifies all these Old Testament commands and man-made traditions when he says we are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27).

Yes, Jesus’s essential expectation is love.

To accomplish these two instructions to love God and love others, we can best do so through Jesus. We should follow him (Matthew 4:19 and Luke 14:27), believe in him (John 6:35), and be his disciple (John 8:31 and John 15:8).

These are all ways of saying we need to go all in for Jesus. That’s it.

That’s our essential doctrine. Everything else is secondary. Beyond Jesus and love, we shouldn’t argue about the rest. We are to be one church, just as Jesus prayed we would (John 17:20–21).

Denominational Division

Yet in the last 500 years we’ve argued about doctrine, we’ve judged others by our religious perspectives, and we’ve killed people for their beliefs. We deemed that our view was right and everyone else was wrong. We used this to divide ourselves.

We formed groups of like-minded thinkers, which became denominations.

Today we have 42,000 Protestant denominations, dividing Jesus’s church so much that we’ve lost our witness to the world. Jesus wanted his followers to live in unity. Yet we persist in division. Our denominations that we made are the antithesis of God’s unity that Jesus wants (Ephesians 4:3–6).

Yes, division occurred in the prior 1,500 years—the first millennia and a half of Jesus’s church—but that was nothing like what’s happened in the last five centuries during the modern era.

We are to unite ourselves under Jesus, to be like-minded, of one Spirit and one mind. Click To Tweet

Paul says that we are to unite ourselves under Jesus, to be like-minded, of one Spirit and one mind. In our relationships we should have Jesus’s mindset (Philippians 2:1–5).

To Titus, Paul writes to warn a divisive person one time, and give a second notice if they disregard the first. Then the only recourse is to ignore them (Titus 3:10–11).

Jude also warns against division. Instead of taking sides, he tells us to rise above it by focusing on growing our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and abiding in God’s love (Jude 1:18–23).

As followers of Jesus, we must pursue unity in him and oppose every instance of division—regardless of the source.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about making disciples.

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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Bible Insights

The Lost Son: Our Heavenly Father Watches and Waits for Us

The Parable of the Lost Son Shows God’s Unconditional Love

Jesus teaches us of his Father’s unconditional love in a parable. Some people call this story “The Prodigal Son,” but calling it “The Lost Son” is more accurate (Luke 15:11-32). In this allegory we have a man and his two boys.

The older son is compliant, while the younger son is rebellious. The younger boy, the prodigal, has the audacity to ask his father for his share of the inheritance while Dad is still alive.

The father agrees, and the son takes off. He turns his back on his dad. The young man squanders his inheritance on an unrestrained life. Soon his money is gone. He’s left with nothing, taking on a despicable job to stay alive.

In his despair, he thinks back to his father and of how well he treats his hired hands. They have it much better than this wayward son—the lost son—who is penniless and starving. He decides to return home in humility.

He plans to beg the father he disrespected to take him on as a hired servant. At least then he’ll have enough to eat.

Meanwhile the father is on the lookout for his boy.

As the son journeys home, his father spots him in the distance. He runs out to embrace his boy. The son is returning to the father, and the father accepts him without hesitation, without asking questions.

Dad will have none of his boy’s plea to work for his food as a laborer. Instead the father reinstates the boy’s status as a son, an heir to all he has. With much joy Dad takes his boy in, reunited again.

To celebrate, the father throws a lavish party for his boy. He explains his rationale to the older brother. “My boy was as good as dead but is alive again. My lost son is now found.”

All we need to do is embrace God and accept his love. Click To Tweet

The Lost Son and Us

Like the lost son, the same applies to us if we disrespect God and turn our back on him. He’s waiting, looking for us to return. And when we come back, he’ll throw a lavish party. He will reinstate us as his heir. We were dead but are now alive. We were once lost but are now found.

Whether lost or found, God offers us unconditional love that we don’t deserve. All we need to do is embrace him and accept his love.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 15:11-32.]

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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Christian Living

Form a Habit of Regular Bible Reading

Hide God’s Word in Your Heart

God gave us the Bible so that we might learn about him and draw closer to him. While some people think of the Bible as God’s instruction manual for right living and proper performance, I think of it more as a love letter.

Because God loves us (Romans 5:8) and wants us to be in relationship with him, he adoringly provides the Bible to us to guide us and draw us to him. The Bible, along with Holy Spirit guidance, stands as God’s greatest resource for us to live a life worth living for our Lord’s honor and glory.

All we need to do is read its words.

How’s that going for you? This isn’t a question to make you feel guilty. It’s a gentle prod to encourage you to embrace regular Bible reading. Just as we need food to sustain us physically, we need a regular helping of God’s Word to sustain us spiritually.

Read and Study Scripture

How you go about immersing yourself in God’s Word is up to you, as guided by the Holy Spirit. But don’t leave this to chance, because if you do, life’s issues will push Bible reading aside and you’ll never find time to do it. Instead be intentional.

Form a habit of daily Bible reading, study, and meditation.

Schedule time each day to read God’s Word. Commit to doing this daily until it becomes a habit, as natural as eating and sleeping.

You may want to use a daily devotional or Bible study to lead you in immersing yourself in Scripture. Or you may opt to follow a daily reading plan that will intentionally and methodically guide you into reading and ingesting large sections of Scripture over time.

This will produce a holistic understanding of its contents. The main thing is to have a plan for reading the Bible, and follow that plan.

Though I’ve used daily devotionals and Bible studies to direct my reading of God’s Word, I prefer a daily reading plan. There are several Bible reading plans to choose from, and I have four options for you to consider.

An Annual Bible Reading Plan

I like to read the entire Bible each year. This includes reading the sections I like and the sections I struggle with. This is so that in one year I’ll complete a comprehensive survey of the entire Bible.

It only takes twelve to fifteen minutes a day. But this is a small commitment to help us grow in our faith and pursue a healthy spiritual life.

A New Testament Bible Reading Plan

If reading the entire Bible in a year, carving out a quarter of an hour each day, seems like too much of a commitment, I get it. I’ve been there. How about three to four minutes each weekday? That’s how much time it will take to read the New Testament in one year.

An Old Testament Bible Reading Plan

If you’ve read the New Testament and want to expand your Bible reading, but aren’t ready to embark on reading the entire Bible, consider a thorough look at the Old Testament. By reading ten to twelve minutes a day, you can read the Old Testament in one year.

Monthly Bible Reading Plans

If none of these options feel like the right fit for you and you want to start out small—or start midyear—consider a monthly Bible reading plan. This is a great way to get started in regularly reading the Bible.

Any Bible reading is better than no Bible reading. Click To Tweet

Pick a Plan and Commit

There are a lot of options to reading the Bible. Pick one and commit to it. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Any Bible reading is better than no Bible reading. Remember, God gave us the Bible so we can learn more about him and be in relationship with him.

This is the most important relationship we’ll ever have. Don’t squander 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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Bible Insights

5 Biblical Truths about God

Discover Who God Is from Scripture

We can learn a lot about God from the Bible. After all, we do sometimes call it the Word of God. Every book in the Bible, even every chapter reveals truth about God. This includes Psalm 33. It’s a psalm of praise. It reveals five biblical truths about God.

In this Psalm, the writer praises God by telling him who he is. If this seems a bit corny, know that we do this with the people we care about all the time. Why not do it to God too?

While this shortlist is far from inclusive, it’s a great start and a smart summary about who God is.

1. God is Right and True

God’s word is right and true. What he says reflects his character. So, if his words are right and true, so, too, is his character. While we always want to be right, no person can be right all the time. But God is. He’s always right. And what he says is always true. We can count on it. God is right and true.

2. God is Faithful

God is faithful in all he does, every action. He’s loyal to us and devoted. This isn’t just part of the time. It’s all the time. God’s faithfulness to us is consistent. He’ll never let us down.

3. God is Righteous

God is righteous. He loves righteousness. This isn’t a word we use too much nowadays. This means he does the right thing. It denotes virtuous, moral behavior, without a hint of guilt or any stain of sin.

Though some people are more righteous than others, we all fall short of God’s perfect standard. Only God, exemplified by Jesus, is fully righteous.

4. God is Just

God is also just. He does what’s right. He’s honorable, and he’s fair. He loves justice. We should too.

5. God is Loving

God is love. His love fills the earth. His love is unfailing, never faltering, and without end. Despite our best intentions, we can never truly love unconditionally. But God can. Our love is limited, while God’s love is limitless.

Who is God?

God is right and true. He is faithful. He is righteous. He is just. And he is loving. These are five characteristics of God that we can count on.

What can we do to show these traits to others? Doing so will glorify God and point others to him.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 31-35, and today’s post is on Psalm 33:4-5.]

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

Our Relationship with God is Not Transactional

Regardless of our behavior, God’s love for us is unconditional

When we do something nice for someone, we often expect something nice in return. And when they do something kind for us, we desire to reciprocate. It’s human nature. And if someone is mean to us, our first impulse is to respond to them likewise.

We can think of this as “equivalent retaliation,” more commonly known as tit-for-tat. In legal terms this concept of reciprocity goes by quid pro quo or “a favor for a favor.”

We apply this notion to our interactions with others and to our interactions with God. When we do good, we expect him to return the favor and do good things for us. We may even think he owes us for the way we worship him, study his word, or help others.

Surely our acts of righteousness will garner his attention and produce a positive response from him.

However, when we mess up—which I too often do—our expectations of God go away. We don’t think he owes us anything. In fact, we know we deserve punishment.

Yet both these perspectives reveal that we think our relationship with God is transactional. That when we do good for him, we deserve good from him. And when we do bad things, he will ignore us or punish us. This, however, is a human mindset, not God’s character.

Our relationship with God is not transactional; his love is unconditional. Click To Tweet

The truth is that there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any more. And there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any less. God’s deep love for us is unshakable. He loves us regardless of what we do, be it good or bad.

We call this undeserved love from God grace (getting good things we don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve). God is not a tit-for-tat supernatural being. He’s not a quid pro quo type of god.

The God of the Bible is perfect, and he loves us perfectly. Our relationship with him is not transactional; his love is unconditional. Praise 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

How Do We Respond to Jesus?

We should show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us

The Bible records many things Jesus did when he was here on earth. A reoccurring action is Jesus healing people from their physical and spiritual maladies. Matthew 8 records several of these instances, and we will focus on one of them: Peter’s mother-in-law.

Jesus goes to Peter’s house; his mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. (Note the reference to Peter’s mother-in-law. This tells us Peter was married.) Though we may not think too much about a fever today, this illness was bad enough to keep this woman in bed.

She wasn’t merely resting, waiting to get better. She was incapacitated and not able to do anything. The situation was serious.

Jesus walks up to the bed and touches her hand. When he does her fever leaves her body. The next phrase is curious. It says she gets up to wait on him.

The cynic might say that Jesus healed her with selfish intentions, that he made her well only so she could take care of him, likely preparing some food for him to eat.

Though this is a humorous thought and one many women likely nod their head in agreement with and might make men snicker, this misses the point.

Peter’s Mother-in-Law Responds to Jesus

Instead, I see Peter’s mother-in-law taking care of Jesus as a response to show her gratitude to him for what he did to make her better. Her example is one for us to follow.

Jesus has done so much for us. What do we do to show our gratitude to him?

It’s too easy for us to move from day-to-day and take Jesus’s work in our lives for granted, to not bother to show him our appreciation.

Jesus saved us, forgave us, and restored us to right relationship with his father. Plus, Jesus loves us, teaches us about God, and shows us how to live.

What do we do to show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us? Click To Tweet

For all Jesus has done, what should our response be? What can we do to show Jesus how much we appreciate him?

Perhaps we should live for him.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 8-10, and today’s post is on Matthew 8:14-15.]

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.