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Bible Insights

Discover What the Bible Says about Drinking Blood

Don’t Drink Blood versus Drink My Blood

Among the many “laws” (that is, rules and regulations for right behavior), that God—through Moses—gave the nation of Israel was an unconditional prohibition against drinking blood.

Every Hebrew would have been taught this from early childhood. Breaking this law would have been unthinkable to them, a repulsive act to even consider. Drinking blood was strictly verboten.

Then Jesus came along with his radical teaching that shocked many. He told his followers that they needed to drink his blood. His followers—all Hebrews—were appalled. Viewing his statement as heresy, many turned their backs on him and left (John 6:54-55).

The idea was so repulsive to them that they were unable to get past the shock of a literal interpretation to consider that it might just have a figurative meaning. Instead many of his followers saw this statement as an act of heresy, and they left him in a huff.

In making this bold statement, Jesus foreshadowed his sacrificial death. Succinctly, his blood would be spilt as a redeeming, life-restoring sacrifice.

Jesus wasn’t contradicting the laws of Moses. Instead, he voiced his intention to fulfill it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 16-18, and today’s post is on Leviticus 17:10-12.]

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

Where Heresy Comes From and How to Avoid It

We Must be Careful to Uncover Heresy

Heresy is holding to an opinion or doctrine that’s at odds with established beliefs.

While the Christian church has arguably never been without heretical views throughout its history, some people worry that leaderless, self-governing, or laity-led groups are more open to false doctrine since they operate without the benefit of having trained clergy lead them.

Most major heresies in the past two thousand years, however, have originated from trained clergy and not untrained leaders or egalitarian groups.

The church at Berea avoided the risk of heresy by studying what the Bible said to make sure everything Paul told them was true. Verifying what ministers teach is the best way to avoid going astray.

The groups most prone to heresy are those with dominant or proud leaders who squash all dissension. They often state, or at least imply, that their degrees make them right and therefore immune to heresy. But by disallowing question and dialogue, they remove an important check on their teaching and risk leading their people astray.

Regardless of what ministers tell us, testing all teaching against what the Bible says is the best way to avoid heresy.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 16-17, and today’s post is on Acts 17:11.]

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church 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.

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Bible Insights

The Warning Signs of a Preacher Gone Bad

How to Identify a False Teacher

Peter writes to caution the early church about false teachers, leaders who misguide, doing more harm to the church of Jesus than good. We need to watch out for them. Here are some of the characteristics of a preacher gone bad.

False Teachers

  • Scoff at what they don’t understand
  • Act instinctively (like unreasoning animals)
  • Indulge in evil pleasures
  • Are a disgrace to the church
  • Commit adultery with their eyes
  • Lure others into their own insatiable desire for sin
  • Are greedy, cursed, useless
  • Brag or boast about themselves
  • Have twisted sexual desires
  • Promise freedom, while being enslaved to sin and corruption

I’ve known preachers like this. I’ve heard their sermons.

False teachers are not someone we disagree with. They have identifiable traits. Click To Tweet

Whenever I hear a preacher mock what he doesn’t understand, my ears perk up. I am on high alert. Is he a false teacher? Then I look for other common characteristics:

Does his close mindedness disgrace Jesus and his church?

Is he greedy? That is, are his pleas for money insatiable?

Does he promote himself and his ministry?

Does he promise his followers freedom and then enslave them in rules?

False teachers are not someone we disagree with. Differences in opinion are fine. False teachers have identifiable traits, and I fear our church today has many more false teachers than we realize. Watch out for them. Don’t follow them. Leave their influence at the first indication of these signs.

We’ve been warned.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 2 Peter 2:12-19.]

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 Important Is Seminary for Today’s Church Leaders?

Knowing Jesus and Hearing the Holy Spirit Is Better Than Formal Education

Most all churches expect their clergy to have undergone formal, academic education. Many insist on a seminary degree, especially for their ordained ministers. From a worldly standpoint this makes sense. But from God’s perspective I can imagine him laughing.

Look at the credentials of Jesus’s twelve disciples. They were ordinary people, having received no higher education beyond that which all Hebrew children underwent. They had a relationship with Jesus. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Don’t miss that. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Though today’s leaders can’t spend physical time with Jesus, they can in the spiritual sense. They should. They must. Walking with Jesus in an intimate way and having his Holy Spirit lead them—just like in the Bible—is what we most need from our church leaders today.

If they don’t have a close relationship with Jesus, nothing else matters. Their credentials accomplish nothing.

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Instead of emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus, today’s seminaries focus on an academic deep dive into the Bible. This in-depth training ensures that graduates overflow with a substantial theological foundation, of which most church members care little about.

One common argument made in favor of seminary is that it’s a necessary protection against heresy. Yet, most all major heresies in the past two thousand years have come from trained clergy.

In truth, seminary best prepares graduates to teach other seminary students. But it falls short in equipping its students to provide the type of ministry functions that people at churches want.

Even worse, I fear formal religious education downplays having a relationship with Jesus and following the Holy Spirit, making these traits secondary in importance.

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. Click To Tweet

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. We must reorder our priorities away from man-made credentials and toward godly character.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Sunday school.

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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Christian Living

Pursue Community Bible Study

Personal Bible Study is Essential; Group Bible Study is Even Better

When I study the Bible, it’s usually by myself. Though I seek the Holy Spirit to guide me, I seldom have the input of other people. Though there’s value in personal Bible study—which everyone should pursue—greater value comes when we explore Scripture in community.

Here’s why:

Community Bible Study Allows for Equal Participation

A true group Bible study has no leader. Anyone can share their perspective, and no one guides the process. It is egalitarian, with everyone an equal participant. The words fairness, balance, and equality come to mind.

This is far different from a typical church service where one person speaks and everyone else listens. One person’s opinion, often presented as a singular truth, becomes the perspective that the faithful must adopt.

Anyone who dares to disagree risks being labeled a heretic or effectively run out of the church.

Community Bible Study Provides Multiple Perspectives

Having everyone participate in an equal manner results in differing points of view, or at least it should. (If you’re in a group where everyone agrees, then there’s no need for the group. Find another one.)

We should acknowledge that there is no one right response to any given passage in the Bible. Instead there are many responses. It’s like studying a piece of art.

Look at it from different angles, at different distances, and even at different times. Each experience can emerge as a new one, providing fresh insight.

So, it is when we study the Bible. A quick way to get multiple perspectives comes from seeking the opinions of others in a group setting.

Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. Click To Tweet

Community Bible Study Promotes Dialogue

In a group Bible study, discussion can take place. One person shares their perspective and another one responds. They may agree, disagree, or—even better—build on each other’s comments.

This dialogue seldom takes place in a typical church service. How richer, fuller, and deeper it is to immerse ourselves in a group Bible study.

Community Bible Study Prevents Heresy

Some people think only trained clergy can teach them about the Bible. This is in error. Through Jesus we are all priests, and through the Holy Spirit we each have a guide to direct our study of the Bible.

People who think all their spiritual instruction should come from ministers, in a church setting, worry that heresy results when those outside established religious organizations take on the task of understanding the Bible.

However, in the last 2,000 years, every major heresy has come from within the established church, perpetuated by trained clergy.

Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. This is because in a group setting, the people in the group can quickly squelch a heretical idea.

But in a church, especially with a charismatic leader, dissension is much less likely to occur. Then, before long, the dynamic leader has the congregation metaphorically drinking the Kool-Aid.

Join a Community Bible Study

Personal Bible study is essential; group Bible study is even better. If you’re not already in one, join a Bible study.

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

4 Things Christians Need to Avoid

Paul warns Titus to stay away from unprofitable and useless things

Paul, the superstar missionary, writes to his protégé Titus, who Paul left on the island of Crete to wrap up the work he started. As Paul’s letters go, it’s a short one. But he packs it with practical information that any pastor could use.

Since we all should effectively function as pastors to one another, these words apply to us all. We will do well to heed them.

In one short verse, Paul warns Titus to avoid four things, and they’re not what you might expect. Paul tells Titus to stay away from:

1. Foolish Controversies

This might include which translation of the Bible to use. Then there are churches still neck deep in the issue of women in leadership. Seriously, folks? At one time, the issue of the day was slavery. Yes, churches do fight about such things.

But let me dive into the heart of controversy. Another one is . . . wait for it . . . baptism: when to do it, how to do it, and what it means. If these details were all that important to God, you’d think he’d have provided more clarity on the matter.

Yet his followers have killed each other over this controversy. Jesus didn’t say that people would know we are his followers by our great doctrine, but by our love (John 13:35).

2. Genealogies

Though I don’t see too many people tracing their lineage for generations in order to claim some special appointment or consideration, I do see people throwing around their heritage, as in “My grandparents started this church,” to “My daddy’s on the church board,” to “My family has been a member of this church for seven generations.”

3. Arguments

This might include the pews versus chairs debate, what color to paint the sanctuary, if drums are allowed in worship, a dress code, what to pay the pastor, and so forth. Use your imagination. At some time, someone has likely argued about it. Shame on them.

We like people who agree with us and call everyone else a heretic. We need to stop that. Click To Tweet

4. Quarrels About the Law

Sorry to say, but I see this a lot. It’s fighting about what the Bible says and how we apply it. We like people who agree with us and call everyone else a heretic. According to Paul, we need to stop it.

As I see it, these four things cover about every source of conflict that churches and church members face today. Paul labels these four tendencies as unprofitable and useless. I agree and will do my part to avoid them. I hope you will, too.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Titus 1-3, and today’s post is on Titus 3:9.]

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 Wife of Jesus

The Wife of Jesus

Did Jesus have a wife?

The answer is “Yes!” Most assuredly, Jesus had a wife.

However, before you accuse me of heresy, let me admit this is a misleading question, a twist of semantics

Yes, Jesus did have a wife and does have a wife—not a physical, literal wife, but a figurative, spiritual one. All those who follow him (his church) are his bride; he is our bridegroom. Effectively that makes us Jesus’ wife.

While being the wife of Jesus is an awkward—even uncomfortable—metaphor, being the bride of Christ is more familiar. It’s in the Bible.

Consider the implications.

According to ancient practice, a man seeking to marry would provide a dowry for his bride. What dowry did Jesus give?

Our best response is to love him back and be a faithful wife. Click To Tweet

Jesus offered the ultimate dowry: his life. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He gave his life as a dowry so we could live—live with him forever.

John said the greatest expression of love is to die for someone else. This ultimate dowry of Jesus shows his vast love for us.

The dowry Jesus offered is too great for me to comprehend. It’s the greatest expression of love.

Given the immensity of his dowry and his love, our best response is to love him back and be a faithful wife.

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

Why Do We Do What We Do in Our Faith Practices?

Why Do We Do What We Do in Our Faith Practices?

I have a compulsion that irritates people, especially in religious circles. I ask, “Why?” I need to know why we do the things we do. What reason is behind them? Is there a biblical justification? Or is it a manmade tradition that has become meaningless ritual?

For example, in 52 Churches, I witnessed many services that began by lighting two candles. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Why do they light candles in the first place? Is there biblical support for it? And why two?

Three would represent the Trinity, but two? If there’s a symbolic reason for two – or even lighting candles for that matter—then we need to know what it is so we can celebrate it. Else we should eliminate it as a practice without purpose.

Candles and the number two, however, are minor considerations. Whether or not we light two candles is of little consequence—as long as we don’t attach spiritual significance to it. However, there are bigger issues, much bigger issues, that have permeated our faith practices.

Let me be bold and assert we’ve messed up most of what we do, elevating tradition over biblical command.

Consider the process of becoming a Christian. This is rife with manmade ideas that aren’t in the Bible. Yet many have elevated these processes as nonnegotiable faith requirements, superseding what Jesus taught.

I think that makes them heresy. Yes, I said many churches practice heresy. I talk about this in How Big Is Your Tent?

So you know I’m not making this up, the origins of our religious ways are researched in the mind-blowing book, Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna. So many of our practices are not rooted in scripture and several emanate from secular culture; that is, their origin is pagan.

I encourage you to boldly examine your faith practices. Eliminate all that lack biblical support. What remains will be a purer, more God-honoring spirituality.

Join me in asking, “Why?”

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 Should We Understand Jihad?

How Should We Understand Jihad?

In further contemplating last week’s post about being spiritually militant—of fighting evil in the spiritual realm—the word jihad comes to mind. Jihad, originating from Islam, has some specific meanings and one that is more general:

  • A Muslim holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels in defense of the Islamic faith.
  • In Islam, the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution.
  • In Islam, an individual’s striving for spiritual self-perfection.
  • A crusade in support of a cause; any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.

In a literal sense, the idea of a holy war repels me. The various inquisitions and crusades, primarily during the Middle Ages, provide sufficient evidence to convince us that a physical battle to root out heresy or forcibly promote a certain religious perspective is never a good idea.

However, in a supernatural sense, a holy war should be pursued. As Paul says in the Bible, this isn’t a fight against people but “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” for which we need spiritual armor.

From this stems my idea of being spiritually militant. This is one way to understand and embrace jihad in a broader sense.

Also intriguing is the third definition of “striving for spiritual self-perfection,” but we must proceed carefully. Though we should desire to more fully be like Jesus, we can’t achieve this on our own; we cannot earn our right standing with God through our own efforts.

Instead, we work with him, through his Holy Spirit, to move towards what he would have us to become. This is also an understanding of jihad that I can embrace.

Because of the likelihood of being misunderstood, we must be careful in using the word jihad. However, these are two ways we can embrace jihad as a follower of Jesus.

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

Beware of Spiritual Incest

Beware of Spiritual Incest

When at a business convention, I once spouted off a grand sounding idea, but it was really a bad suggestion that warranted immediate rejection. Yet I proclaimed it with passion and the air of authority (I had just finished speaking on the subject, and this new added thought added to the discussion).

I presented my spontaneous brainchild with logic. The person I said this to, nodded his comprehension.

Intellectual Incest

However, before the convention was over, several people approached me to discuss this same thing. I doubt we all had the same notion at the same time. I’m quite sure it was my one bad idea, merely recirculated within a tight group, with no one questioning its wisdom.

I later labeled this phenomenon as intellectual incest: reproducing a bad idea within a close group of like-minded thinkers, who blindly accept it as true.

Spiritual Incest

The same can occur in a close group of like-minded spiritual thinkers. I’ll call this spiritual incest. I see it happen often. One person shares an insight or experience with their inner circle.

Everyone accepts it as reliable, without scrutinizing its validity or testing its wisdom. When this happens, people are misled and unhealthy conclusions result.

I recently blogged about theological silos: the natural tendency of people to surround themselves with others who hold to the same spiritual perspectives. An unhealthy progression of this is spiritual incest. It’s easy to spot by listening to the words and phrases used.

A localized dialect of Christianese emerges.

Theological Incest

A bit harder to notice is when this creeps into our theology. It occurs easily enough when a respected leader makes a passionate statement, sounding wise and maybe even backed up with a sound bite from the Bible.

This moves into heresy, but most don’t realize it. The close-knit faith community reproduces this one bad idea, blindly accepting it as fact, but it’s really spiritual incest.

We need to beware of spiritual incest.

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.