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Christian Living

Jesus Is Our Rabbi

We Must Exercise Care with the Labels We Use for Our Spiritual Leaders

Rabbi is a title I expected to find scattered throughout the Old Testament. It seems like a very Old Testament word. It’s not. It’s a New Testament word. Rabbi only appears in the Gospels and then just three of them: Matthew, Mark, and John.

Most of these sixteen occurrences are a title of respect used to address Jesus.

John notes that Rabbi means teacher (John 1:38). But that’s about all we can learn about this word from the biblical text.

In one of the passages that mentions Rabbi (twice), Jesus teaches the people. He talks about hypocrisy, specifically the inappropriate actions of the Pharisees and religious teachers.

As Jesus talks about their errors, he condemns them for loving the way people fawn over them with greetings of respect and addressing them as Rabbi.

Then he tells them plainly, “You shouldn’t be called Rabbi. You are all brothers and have one teacher” (Matthew 23:1-8). From this we learn to use care in addressing our spiritual teachers, especially when they expect us to demonstrate respect.

How about just using their name instead and not feed into their pride?

A third verse that uses the word Rabbi, doesn’t address Jesus but John the Baptist (John 3:26). The other thirteen times Rabbi appears in the Bible are to address Jesus. The Bible records Peter, Judas, Nathaniel, Nicodemus, a blind man, two of John’s disciples, and Jesus’s disciples addressing him as Rabbi.

Jesus is worthy of our respect and we can call him Rabbi. He alone is our true Rabbi. Click To Tweet

Jesus Is Our Worthy Rabbi

Even though Jesus criticizes the religious elite for wanting people to address them as Rabbi and telling them not to allow it, Jesus doesn’t correct anyone who calls him Rabbi. He accepts the respect they give him—or in Judas’s case, the respect he pretends to give—and responds to their question or request.

Jesus, of course, is worthy of our respect if we call him Rabbi or teacher. He alone is our Rabbi. We can also use other labels such as Savior, Redeemer, and Healer. We can even call him friend, because that’s how he views us (John 15:15).

Jesus is our Rabbi—and our friend.

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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Visiting Churches

Reflecting on Church #46: Good Preaching Isn’t Enough

Good Preaching is a Start, but it’s Not the End

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #46.

Although the minister won me over with his teaching, his good preaching, the first half of the service remains my primary memory of my time there. Everything they did was tired, mired in decades old practices. It might have been contemporary, even progressive in 1980, but now it smacks of days gone by.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

The world has changed, but they forgot to keep pace. Worship trends come and go, but they latched onto one and persist in it even though it’s no longer trending and is now just a tired relic of the past.

Perhaps this is why I saw very few young people or children there, which is a sign of a declining church. If they fail to raise up the next generation, this one will be it’s last.

Good preaching alone isn’t enough to carry the day. Click To Tweet

It wasn’t that they started poorly or lacked focus. It was simply a matter of me not connecting with them, and more importantly, they didn’t help me connect with God. They failed to provide community.

I left feeling empty and lonely.

[See my reflections about Church #45 and Church #47 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, 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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Visiting Churches

Reflecting on Church #21: A Unique Church Service

Sounding the Shofar at Church

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #21.

Of all the 52 churches we visited, this one deviated the most from current church practices. It was a unique church service and a memorable one too.

They used a shofar to start the service. It was loud, awe-inspiring, and a worshipful opening to our time together.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

The teaching included interaction, so that true dialogue could take place between the minister and those of us gathered. This allowed for discussion, as well as being able to ask questions.

At the conclusion of the message, we spent time truly worshiping in God’s presence. And afterward we enjoyed extended community.

We had a most memorable time there. God was present. We worshiped him in Spirit and in truth. And we connected with each other after the service.

I suspect this version of church is more in line with what the early church practiced when they met together, spurring each other on and encouraging one another (see Hebrews 10:24-25).

This faith community had a unique church service, which is sad, because it should be the norm at every church, every Sunday.

[See my reflections about Church #20 and Church #22 or start with Church #1.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, 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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Visiting Churches

A Fresh Experience At Church (Visiting Church #21)

If you view church in a tradition manner, then we didn’t go this Sunday. However, if church is two or more people gathering in God’s presence, then we had a most significant time.

The pastors begin by sounding the shofar (a trumpet made from an animal horn, as mentioned in the Old Testament) and we sing one song a cappella. The pastor then begins her teaching, interspersed with dialogue.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

We turn to Hebrews 6, but as she establishes the foundation for her planned message, the Holy Spirit guides her in a different direction. I think the Holy Spirit should lead all our meetings, and I’m dismayed to realize this is the first time it’s happened in 21 Sundays.

She jumps to Ephesians 4. We go through most of the chapter, focusing on verse 11; we never make it back to Hebrews. I’m not sure what the teaching from Hebrews was, but I know Ephesians was what God wanted us to hear today.

We discuss how the passage applies to us. Although church services generally consist of a one person giving information and the rest receiving it, I see mutual interaction as being not only appropriate but preferred.

We then segue into a time of praise, moving to a different room. We part curtains as we enter. Inside is a recreation of the Ark of the Covenant. I feel as though we’re entering the Holy of Holies.

We only sing two songs, but the first one lasts for an extended time. I’m drawn into it. We conclude with a typical benediction, but instead of leaving, we end up talking even more. We pray again and finally leave; we were there almost three hours.

Today was not a typical church experience, but it was a fresh—and refreshing—one.

[Read about Church #20 and Church #22, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #21.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, 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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Bible Insights

The Good Shepherd and the Bad Shepherd

Shepherds Have a Responsibility to Their Sheep and Sheep Have a Responsibility to Their Shepherd

We know Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The Bible also addresses bad shepherds. The book of Jeremiah talks about this, but it’s easy to miss it if we read too fast.

The Bad Shepherd

Quoting God, Jeremiah writes, “My people are lost sheep. Their shepherds led them astray.” As a result, they’re lost, wandering around and not having a safe place to rest.

The shepherds aren’t doing their job. If they lead their sheep anywhere, these bad shepherds head in the wrong direction. But mostly they just let their sheep flounder, roaming wherever they wish. Their sheep wander around and can’t find their way home. These are bad shepherds.

However, before we place too much blame on bad shepherds, we must remember that we’re often bad sheep. Isaiah says that we go our own way (Isaiah 53:6).

We need someone to rescue us. Just as our shepherds have a responsibility to us to be good shepherds, we have a responsibility to them to be good sheep.

Like shepherds, another leadership role is teachers. James cautions us against becoming teachers, warning that teachers will be judged more strictly, held to a higher standard (James 3:1). I suspect the same applies to shepherds.

The Good Shepherd

Contrast these bad shepherds to Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. He says so himself. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is willing to die for his sheep. He cares for them and knows them. When danger comes, the Good Shepherd won’t run away like a hired man.

He’ll stick around and protect his sheep, even if it means dying so that they can live (John 10:11-18). Even if it means dying so that we can live.

That’s exactly what Jesus did.

The Good Shepherd protects his sheep, even if it means dying so that they can live. Click To Tweet

Human Shepherds and the Good Shepherd

Our human leaders—shepherds—sometimes disappoint us and let us down. Though most of them have good intentions, they’re flawed human beings just like us all. They make mistakes.

Though they may not go to the extent of Jeremiah’s bad shepherds, they certainly aren’t on the same level as Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

Thank you, Jesus, for being our Good Shepherd. You know us, you love us, and you die for us.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 49-50, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 50:6.]

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

Is Being Good, Good Enough?

When a man asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life,” he is showing proper respect for Jesus by calling him good.

Jesus, however, is quick to assert that only God is truly good.

If ever anyone deserved the label of “good,” it was Jesus. But instead he offers this accolade up to God his Father as an affirmation of God’s character.

Then Jesus reminds the man of the Ten Commandments.

The man asserts he has kept them all since he was a boy; he is effectively saying, “I’ve been good.” He seems to miss Jesus’ teaching that only God is good.

Being good is not good enough; being generous is what’s required. Click To Tweet

But merely being good is not enough. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give away the proceeds. This is easy when we have little, but harder when we have a lot; the man has much. The idea of giving it all away distresses him and he leaves.

Though it might be unwise to turn this story into a rule, for this man, at least, being good is not good enough; being generous is what’s required.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 16-18, and today’s post is on Luke 18:18-23.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now 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.