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Bible Insights

The Bible Offers Us Hope for the Future

Because of God we can anticipate a better tomorrow

There are many reasons why I love the Bible, in fact I list thirteen. One of those reasons is hope. The Bible is filled with hope. It’s mentioned 180 times in both the Old and New Testaments.

Hope in the Old Testament

The word hope appears ninety-seven times in the Old Testament, in sixteen of the thirty-nine books. Interestingly, the word hope isn’t found in the first seven books of the Bible. Psalms, however, is filled with hope, thirty-four times (such as Psalm 9:18).

Job comes in second place with eighteen mentions (Job 13:15, for example). Much of the hope that appears in the Old Testament occurs in the writings of the prophets, who look forward in hopeful expectation to a better future (consider Isaiah 40:31).

The book of Revelation ends looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth. Click To Tweet

Hope in the New Testament

Hope appears eighty-three times in the New Testament and pops up in twenty-four of the twenty-seven books (consider Romans 5:2). Interestingly, in the five books written by John—who writes extensively about love—hope only pops up once, in his gospel.

The final book of the Bible, Revelation, doesn’t mention hope directly. However, the book winds down looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). That’s something to hope for.

Hope in Our Present World

Some of the times hope is mentioned in the Bible, it anticipates a better tomorrow in our physical world: a hope for provision, a hope for deliverance, and a hope for protection, to name a few (check out Psalm 37:9).

When we place our trust in God, we can be filled with hope that he will take care of us throughout our life.

Hope in Our Future Reality

In other places when the Bible mentions hope, it’s a perspective that transcends our physical realm (such as Acts 23:6). It’s hope in a spiritual eternity with God. It’s the hope of heaven.

This anticipates an existence with no pain, sorrow, or disappointment. Some might call it paradise and others, Eden reborn. In this future reality, we will commune with God. We will worship him, serve him, and just hang out.

Some people follow God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in this world. And that may be enough. Other people pursue God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in the afterlife. And that is another reward.

The Bible is filled with hope, and it fills us with hope: hope in God for tomorrow and beyond.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 6-10, and today’s post is on Psalm 9:18.]

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 as our Father

A Word Picture of What a Good Dad Is Like

The sixth word picture is God as our father and we as his children.

Although not everyone had a good biological father—in fact all human fathers make mistakes in raising their children—our spiritual father, God, is without fault, raising us out of perfect love and without error.

With God as our spiritual father, that is our father in heaven, we see him as being wise, loving, disciplining, and patient. Also, as our father there is the hope of us one day receiving an inheritance from him.

For us as God’s children, we are loved, cared for, given generous gifts, and protected. We are also heirs, looking forward to an inheritance that we will one day receive from him—eternal life for all who follow him.

Lastly, just as adult children have the potential for friendship with their earthly parents, we too, are poised to become a friend with our heavenly parent, God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 7-9 and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 7:14.]

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

Take Every Thought Captive

Discover How to Control Your Thoughts

Our brain is our most powerful organ, which makes our mind a significant part of us. That’s how God created us. With our mind we can accomplish much, but through it is also the potential to lead us into wrong thinking, guide us into sin, and take us away from God. That’s why we must strive to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Yet most people struggle to control their thoughts. Here are three encouragements from Scripture to guide us in how we can take every thought captive.

1. Set Our Hearts and Minds on Things Above

Jesus warns that from our heart can come evil thoughts. He lists murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:19). But this doesn’t mean our hearts are always set on evil, we can establish our attention on what is good too.

Paul says to focus on what is above—on heavenly things where Jesus resides with Father God—and not on earthly concerns (Colossians 3:1).

After telling us to set our hearts on heavenly things, Paul adds a parallel element. He also says the set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).

Our hearts and our minds connect, with the priority of our heart directing the focus of our mind. What our heart yearns for, our thoughts take us there.

2. Think About Right Things

To the church in Philippi, Paul tells them to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). These are 8 things we should think about.

If we’re contemplating these positive ideas, we’re not thinking about the opposite ones that Jesus listed and we already covered: murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:19).

3. Fix Our Hearts on Jesus

We’re best to follow the advice we find in the book of Hebrews, to fix our thoughts on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). He is the ultimate of all heavenly things, of all things above. He exemplifies whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

We can watch our words and exercise care over what we say when we first take every thought captive. Click To Tweet

This Is How to Take Every Thought Captive

When we do these things—set our hearts and minds on things above, think about what is good, and fix our hearts on Jesus—we prepare ourselves to guard our tongue and control what we say.

In this way, we can watch our words and exercise caution over what we say. And it starts when we take every thought captive.

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

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Bible Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreigner or Citizen?

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

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

I wonder how well I do to live like that.

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

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

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Bible Insights

The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God?

Kingdom of Heaven versus Kingdom of God

The phrase “the Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Some writers in the Bible simply prefer one over the other; it is not meant to designate two different concepts or kingdoms.  (Mark and Luke used “Kingdom of God,” whereas Matthew used “Kingdom of heaven.”)

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables. Click To Tweet

These phrases can perhaps be best understood by considering that Jesus desires to brings heaven’s rule to earth. Under his rule, there are benefits and responsibilities to his subjects—the church.

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables:

Consider how do these parables can change our view of God and our relationship to him.

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

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

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Christian Living

What is the Kingdom of God?

Eternal Life Begins Today (Not When We Die)

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

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

The Kingdom of God is More Than Heaven

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

The Kingdom of God is Jesus

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

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

The Kingdom of God is Salvation

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

The Kingdom of God is a Lifestyle

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

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

Embracing Eternal Life

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

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

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

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

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

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Bible Insights

What is Eternal Life?

When Does Eternal Life Begin

The phrase eternal life occurs forty-two times in the Bible. But what exactly does this mean? Do you know that eternal life begins now?

Some think that it is a synonym for heaven. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven when we die. That is what eternal life means. That’s a good start to our understanding of the phrase, but that’s not all there is to it. There’s more, much more.

As we read the Bible, we get a sense of our life eternal beginning now, here in this world. We learn this from the apostle John, whose references to eternal life are often present tense. This means that it begins now.

Eternal life begins here on earth through Jesus. Click To Tweet

When we follow Jesus, our life eternal with him, and through him, begins immediately. Right now. Today. It begins here on earth through Jesus and continues into heaven when our physical bodies die.

If you follow Jesus, you can begin enjoying his eternal life today.

[See verses about eternal life in the NIV Bible, John 5:24, John 3:14-21, John 5:39-40, John 3:34-36.]

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

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

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Christian Living

The Third Heaven

Paul Spent Time with God in the Spiritual Realm and So Can We

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he makes a cryptic statement about going to the third heaven. He doesn’t know if it’s an out of body experience or not (2 Corinthians 12:2).

This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase third heaven. What does it mean? By looking at other uses of heaven in the Bible, we find three applications.

  1. Sometimes heaven refers to the sky. This is the first use of heaven.
  2. Other times heaven refers to the sun, moon, and stars. This is the second use of heaven.
  3. Another instance refers to God’s dwelling place. This is the third use of heaven.

This means that Paul went to heaven for a time—whether in body or in spirit, he’s not sure—and then returned to earth. It seems too fantastic to be true.

I’ve not told this to too many people, but I believe I’ve also been to the third heaven. Several times. Like Paul I’m not sure if this was in my body or out of it. Though a few times I did have a physical form when I was there.

At first, I only had a fleeting awareness of my presence in heaven before returning to earth. Sometimes I’d bow at the foot of Father God’s throne, stretching out my hand to touch his foot in reverence. Occasionally I’d succeed, but usually my straining to reach the Almighty fell just a bit short.

Heaven will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend. Click To Tweet

After that I had a couple of longer experiences in the third heaven. I can’t describe them other than to say they were glorious and euphoric. I didn’t want to leave. These occurred when I was fasting and praying.

Then one day—again while fasting and praying—I desired to visit heaven, but God said no. He explained that if he allowed me to return, I’d want to spend too much time there, which would detract from what he wants me to do here on earth. I get that. He was right, of course.

One day—when my work here is done—I will return to heaven and stay there forever. It will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend.

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

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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Is Jesus Waiting for You?

The Son of Man Stands to Welcome Stephen Into Heaven

Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin. His testimony becomes a sermon, which smartly recaps the story arc of the Old Testament, starting with father Abraham and spilling over into the New Testament, ending with a sacrificial death of Jesus.

Though I would never suggest someone skip reading the Old Testament, if you want a quick understanding of its essential elements, study this passage.

Though Stephen’s historical recitation is accurate, it offends the Jewish leaders. They plug their ears, scream loudly, and rush toward Stephen. They drag him outside the city and begin throwing rocks at him. Stephen’s getting stoned.

As he dies, he prays. First he asks Jesus to get ready for him. Then he prays for the people pelting him with rocks, that they’ll receive forgiveness for their murderous act. Then Stephen dies.

But there’s one part of the story I left out—an important part. Between Stephen ending his overview of the Old Testament and his hearers becoming so incensed with his words, he looks up into heaven and tells the people what he sees.

He sees God in all his glory, with Jesus at his side. But Jesus isn’t sitting next to Father God, as the Bible usually describes. This time Jesus stands. It’s as though he has stood up, ready to welcome Stephen into heaven.

Even before Stephen prays for Jesus to get ready to receive his spirit when his body dies, Jesus is prepared. He rises, ready to welcome his faithful servant into eternal glory.

When our time comes to join Jesus in heaven, may we receive the same welcome as Stephen did. Click To Tweet

Though the Bible doesn’t mention it, I imagine Jesus with outstretched arms, a broad smile, and mouthing the words, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.” When our time comes to join Jesus in heaven, may we receive the same welcome.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 5-7, and today’s post is on Acts 7:56.]

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.