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Christian Living

The Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

We Can’t Witness for Jesus When We Sequester Ourselves on Sunday Mornings

Just before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witness, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

Witness and Make Disciples

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus: they care for their own to the peril of outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Meeting Together and Worship

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Go into the World as a Witness

Yes there is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling.

The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

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.

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Christian Living

Why is Pentecost Important?

Celebrating Holy Spirit Power

In another post we talked about the four main Christian holidays. In succession, they celebrate that Jesus came to earth (Christmas), died so we could live (Good Friday), overcame death to prove his mastery of it (Easter), and having completed his mission, he gave us a gift (Pentecost).

Pentecost is the conclusion of the Easter story.

Here’s the progression of events leading up to Pentecost:

Jesus Goes Home

Having completed his mission here on earth, Jesus returns to heaven (Mark 16:19).

Jesus Prepares a Place for Us

As followers of Jesus, we look forward to the time we will join him in heaven and spend the rest of forever with him. As we wait for that day, he is getting ready to welcome us (John 14:2-3).

Jesus Listens to Our Prayers and Intercedes for Us to God the Father

How wonderful to know Jesus is in heaven as our advocate, representing us to his Father, our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus Sends Us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

This is the climax; this is Pentecost. When Jesus returns to heaven, he does not abandon us; he sends the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us, an essential aspect of putting our faith into action (John 16:7).

Pentecost reminds me of these things, foundational to my faith: that we will one day join Jesus in heaven, that we can pray to him now, and that we can live in concert with the Holy Spirit every day.

Today is Pentecost. Even though I’ll go to church, I don’t expect they’ll celebrate what this day means; they may not even mention it. This is a travesty, which is why I’m remembering it now.

Today, whether privately or with friends, I hope you’ll celebrate Pentecost and all it means.

Happy Pentecost!

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

God’s Spirit to Be Poured Out on All People

The New Testament Cites the Old Testament

Many passages in the New Testament of the Bible quote parts of the Old Testament, which was written hundreds of years before. In some versions of the Bible, footnotes—added by the translators—refer us to the original text.

Holy Spirit

One verse, however, cites the source in the text, not a footnote. It’s in the book of Acts, where Peter directly references what the prophet Joel said. Here’s what happens:

Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to help and guide them. The Holy Spirit shows up and things get crazy. There’s the sound of a strong wind, the appearance of flames of fire, and the disciples preach in other languages (Acts 2:1-13).

The people can’t comprehend what’s happening. They freak out. They blame it on too much wine. This explanation is plausible for the crowd, who has never seen the Holy Spirit at work, empowering people to speak in other languages.

God’s Spirit

Peter sets them straight. He reminds them that Joel foretold about this infilling of the Holy Spirit, God’s spirit. The prophet wrote, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-30).

Joel says it will happen. Peter and his pals experience it. And spiritual power and reality changes forever. God gives the Holy Spirit to them. And from that day forward, all who follow Jesus will have God’s Spirit in them too. Yes, everyone—all. That means them, and it means us. You and me. All. 

As a result, crazy, Holy Spirit things can happen to us too. But many of Jesus’s followers today dismiss this indwelling Holy Spirit. In doing so, they dismiss the power of God’s Spirit in them and in directing their lives.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joel 1-3, and today’s post is on Joel 2:28-29.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

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.]

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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Christian Living

Who Teaches You?

Do Sermons Belong in Church?

We go to church to learn about God, right? So sermons belong in church, right?

Who told you that? It was likely the minister at your local church. That’s who I’ve heard it from, and church is always the place where I heard it.

Isn’t that self-serving?

Think about it. A church hires a preacher. The church pays the preacher. The preacher tells us we need to be in church every Sunday to learn about God and that he is the one to teach us. One of the things he teaches us is to give money to the local church, often 10 percent of our income.

Why does the local church need money so badly? In large part, it’s to pay the preacher. The greatest expense at almost all churches is payroll, usually over half of their total budget, sometimes much more.

We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Click To Tweet

So we hire someone who tells us we need him and then asks for money so he can stick around. If we didn’t revere our preachers so much and cling to our sacrosanct practices, I’d call this a racket.

As I read about the church in the New Testament, there is plenty of preaching. But I wonder if sermons belong in church. In the Bible, the preaching is always directed at those who are not following Jesus, the folks outside the church.

Yes, there is teaching inside the church, but I’ve not yet found any passage that says it happens every Sunday or is given by paid staff. In the examples I see, missionaries do the teaching when they come to visit or the congregation instructs one another as they share with each other.

John writes to the church and tells them plainly: “You do not need anyone to teach you.” Then he clarifies: “His anointing teaches you about all things.”

So it is God’s anointing, the Holy Spirit, who reveals truth to us. Therefore, we don’t need anyone to teach us, especially a paid preacher. John says so.

I suppose, then, if we go to church to learn, what the preacher should be telling us is how to listen to the Holy Spirit. Once we’ve learned that, the preacher’s job is done; we don’t need him to teach us anymore.

God’s anointed one will teach us and reveal truth to us. Then we can spend Sunday mornings sharing with each other what we’ve learned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

But that will never happen. Preachers need to be needed, and they need us to pay them. They would never say anything to work themselves out of a job.

They want their paychecks too badly to tell us plainly what John said and what his words truly mean for the church of Jesus: We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

[1 John 2:27]

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

The Two Most Influential Books I’ve Ever Read

Study Scripture and Then Use Other Resources as Needed

My book Jesus’s Broken Church was about a decade in the making, perhaps longer—maybe even a lifetime. When I sensed something wasn’t right with how today’s church functioned, I begin praying and searching for answers. Over time, piece by piece, God’s Holy Spirit revealed the answers to me. And they all came from the Bible.

This took years, but eventually a full picture emerged. That’s when I began writing, first in various blog posts and eventually a book.

Two Most Influential Books

Along the way, two additional sources opened my eyes to prepare me to hear what God would tell me. These came in the form of two books. Aside from the Bible, they are the two most influential books I’ve read in my entire life.

They provided insight and a firm foundation for me to stand on as I considered building on these works to determine what would happen next, of what should happen next.

Pagan Christianity?

The first book was Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. (Check out my review of Pagan Christianity?)

Pagan Christianity? looks at the past. It delves into what was to uncover the influences of our church practices today. Much of what we do today at church is a result of our predecessors’ taking practices from secular society and adapting them to church. In short, many of our Christian traditions don’t have a spiritual origin but one that is more so pagan in nature.

The result of realizing these many shocking revelations was that I begin to ask why, a lot. I looked at every faith practice to examine its relevance and see how scripturally germane it was.

The result was a nagging feeling that our church practices today are far off base from what Jesus intended.

That’s why Pagan Christianity? is one of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

The Great Emergence

The second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read is Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. (Check out my review of The Great Emergence.)

Whereas Pagan Christianity? looks at the past, The Great Emergence explores the future. Building on a history of semi-millennia religious shifts, Tickle posits that we are on the precipice of another grand transformation.

She envisions what this reformation will look like and its impact on today’s church. Spoiler alert: today’s church will be much less relevant in the future, with other forms of spiritual community and connection supplanting it.

That’s why The Great Emergence is the second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

Today’s church — for all the good it does — isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Broken Church

Standing on the firm foundation of the two most influential books I’ve ever read emerged a biblical prescription and how to move forward. I dared to suggest that today’s church—for all the good it does—isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended it to.

Building on Scripture, Jesus’s Broken Church advances a new vision of what church could be and should be. But claiming that it’s new is incorrect. In truth, this isn’t a new understanding, but the reclaiming of an old one, one that’s nearly two thousand years old.

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

The Fruit of the Spirit

Consider the Fruit You Bear as a Follower of Jesus

Paul tells the church in Galatia that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit resides in us, this should result in changed behavior, a better behavior that’s more aligned with the example that Jesus set for us.

Let’s break down these key outcomes of having the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we study these words, we often see the fruit of the Spirit interconnected in various passages:

Love

Love is not a feeling or emotion. True love is an attitude expressed through action. Paul best explains this in his letter to the church in Corinth. There he defines the elements of true, God-honoring love.

He writes that love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, or proud. Love honors others and isn’t self-serving or given to anger. Love doesn’t keep track when others cause us harm. It celebrates truth and laments what is evil. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Joy

Joy is more than being happy. It transcends happiness. The Bible doesn’t give us a definition of joy, but looking at the more than sixty verses in the New Testament that talk about joy, we get a sense that joy is ecstatic spiritual pleasure that comes from God and through serving him.

Peace

When we look at peace, there are two forms to consider.

First there is peace with others, living in harmony with those around us and in unity with those in our spiritual family.

Second, there is peace within. It’s an inner contentment that can only come from God.

The fruit of the Spirit exhibits both types of peace.

Patience

Patience is a calmness that exists within us and flows from us. From this as a foundation, we see a patience that endures, tolerates, and exercises restraint. Interestingly, Paul uses patience (along with kindness) in his definition of love.

Kindness

Another godly trait that is part of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Kindness is how we treat others, being friendly, generous, and warmhearted in our interactions with them.

Goodness

The idea of being good is living rightly with others. This goes beyond getting along with them. Think of being righteous, upright, and benevolent in how we live our lives and how we treat others. This is goodness.

Faithfulness

To persist in faithfulness, we exhibit devotion and loyalty to God and his ideals. It also includes being faithful in our relationships with others.

Gentleness

Gentleness isn’t meekness, but it’s controlled strength. Jesus personifies gentleness. We should follow his example.

Self-Control

The final characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This means keeping our emotions, attitudes, and actions in check. It’s restraining our negative expressions to allow godly responses to occur.

Pursuing the Fruit of the Spirit

We may have exhibited some of these traits before we followed Jesus. And other of these nine characteristics may automatically emerge from our life through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Yet other areas may require intentional effort to achieve. But we don’t pursue these outcomes to earn our salvation, garner Jesus’s attention, or merit God’s love. This perspective is key.

God has loved us from the very beginning, irrespective of what we’ve said or done.

And we already have Jesus’s attention. We know this because he died for us before we did anything to receive it.

Last, if we follow Jesus, we already have eternal life through him and don’t need to earn it. It’s his unconditional gift to us.

We should want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in response to what Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have already done for us. Click To Tweet

Then why should we consider pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, exhibiting these nine key character traits, if there’s nothing to gain from our effort?

We should want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in response to what Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have already done for us. We don’t do this to gain anything but to offer it as a thank you for what God has already done for us.

And if we fall short in any one of these areas, don’t despair. Seek God’s guidance to move forward day-by-day, step-by-step to exhibit a little bit more of these traits in our existence, moving closer to realize the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

And we do so not out of obligation or guilt, but from a spirit of gratitude.

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 If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?

For Forty Years the Israelites Had Two Signs from God to Guide Them

After spending four-hundred years in Egypt, the repressed children of God finally get a chance to leave. This comes under the leadership of Moses.

We know of Moses’s meetings with Pharaoh to negotiate the Israelites’ release, of ten plagues, and the people’s escape through the Dead Sea—as if walking on dry land. Their Egyptian captors, in hot pursuit, don’t fare so well.

Now God’s people are free!

What should they do? Where should they go? They know their destination resides in the Promised Land, the area Jacob left four centuries before when he sought food in Egypt. But instead of heading there on their own, they seek God’s direction.

Pillar of Fire

God sends them a pillar of smoke to guide them by day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. When the pillars move, the people follow. When the pillars stay put, so do they. They do this for forty years.

I must give them credit. They were content to follow God’s direction for four decades, when they could have reached their destination, the Promised Land, in less than a week.

For all the times his people messed up when they were in the desert, I admire them for being patient and willing to follow God’s leading, even though it didn’t make sense and was taking way too long.

Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go? Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go today? If only he would give us a cloud to follow during the day and a fire to blaze our path at night. Then it would be easy to follow him, right?

Yet, God does lead us today. In the Bible he promises to give us his Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit fire (Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11). And when the Holy Spirit arrives, what is the visual sign? Fire. Yep, tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).

Yes, God still leads us today. He gives his Holy Spirit fire to blaze our path. All we need to do is listen—and obey.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 11-13, and today’s post is on Exodus 13:21-22.]

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

Bear Fruit

We Must Consider What Our Life Produces

The word fruit appears nearly two hundred times throughout Scripture. Coupling the word fruit with the word bear, as in bear fruit, bears fruit, and bearing fruit occurs twenty-nine times, split between the Old and New Testaments. Jesus often talks about the fruit that people bear, with the third of the Bible’s teaching on the subject coming from him.

Bear Fruit

Though people can’t produce physical, edible fruit, like a tree would, we do produce fruit in a figurative sense. It’s the output of our life, the results of what we do and don’t do.

In a spiritual sense we bear fruit when we tell others about Jesus, and they decide to follow him too.

In Jesus’s Parable of the Sower, he talks about a farmer scattering seed. The results vary depending on the conditions of where the seed falls, but the good seed produces a substantial yield of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what the farmer planted (Matthew 13:23). But this isn’t a story about farm output. It’s how we bear fruit. It’s a metaphor about growing God’s kingdom through saved lives—or not.

In this way, the fruit we produce through our daily actions and words reflect who we are as a person and the priorities of our lives. As we do this, we also impact those around us. This can be for good, or it can be for bad.

Bear Good Fruit

Though there may be rare exceptions, people want to produce good fruit. We desire to benefit others by the things we do and through the things we say. When we live a life that produces what is good, we draw people to ourselves and can point them to Jesus. They want to be around us because of the positive ripples our life produces. This is how we bear fruit, desirable fruit.

We do this by treating the people we meet with respect and kindness. These traits are lacking in today’s polarized, adversarial world. Society has lost sight of civility.

We can change this by being intentional in our interactions with others. This includes family, friends, and those we meet throughout our daily life.

We can also make a positive difference by the things we do. This includes helping others, especially when we don’t have to. It means going out of our way to demonstrate kindness, offer compassion, and assist those in need.

Bear Bad Fruit

Just as we can produce good through our lives, we can also produce bad. Jesus talks about this too. He urges us to produce good fruit and not bad. He adds that we’re known by the fruit we produce, that people don’t gather figs from thorns or grapes from briers (Luke 6:24).

May we bear good fruit and have the fruit of the Spirit overflow from our lives. Click To Tweet

Bear Holy Spirit Fruit

As followers of Jesus, we want to produce good fruit, spiritual fruit. Paul talks about the fruit we bear in our lives through the Holy Spirit. With God’s Spirit indwelling in us we will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This may be the best way for us to bear fruit.

May we bear good fruit and have the fruit of the Spirit overflow from our lives. In doing so we will worship God and serve as a powerful witness to the world.

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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52 Churches

The Surprise

We walk inside to an empty lobby and head toward an amplified sound. We slink into a back row. Sunday school must be running late, but we find out that they cancelled church.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #36

1. The speaker acknowledges the presence of visitors. He apologizes that there will be no service today. Their minister had an emergency, and they cancelled church. 

If you cancel your service, how can you accommodate the people who show up?

2. Sunday school ends, and the people leave. A woman apologizes for their cancelled service. She shares her faith journey. Her pilgrimage encourages me. 

How ready are you to share your spiritual journey? What can you do to be better prepared?

3. This is an apostolic church, with Spirit-filled members. I wonder why they didn’t rely on the Holy Spirit to help them hold their service. 

What would you need to do to have church without your minister? 

4. Though a typical church service didn’t occur, fellowship did. We proclaimed Jesus, worshiped the Father, and celebrated the Holy Spirit—all without music or message. Today may be one of our best Sundays yet even though they cancelled church. 

What elements must exist for church to happen? How can you provide them when the unexpected occurs?

[See the prior set of questions, the next post, or start at the beginning.]

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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52 Churches

Acts 2 Church

Today’s destination is a charismatic church. We’ve not been to many so I’m excited for the experience.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #34

1. We arrive ten minutes early. With only two cars in the lot, my anticipation sags. We walk in, surprising six people who aren’t expecting visitors—or anyone else. Yet Jesus says he will be there when two or more gather. 

How can we better embrace this teaching of Jesus?

2. “We’re in a rebuilding phase,” says one man. This seems like a positive spin on a dire situation. I don’t know what to say. 

How do we know when to push on and when to give up? What role does God play in this?

3. Though not dynamic in delivery, our speaker’s words resonate with me as he teaches about the Acts 2 church. 

How can we turn our attention from wanting to hear an eloquent speaker to remaining open to God’s leading, regardless of his messenger’s skill?

4. From a human standpoint, the future of this church is bleak, but with the Holy Spirit anything can happen, just as it did in Acts 2. 

How must we shift our focus from what we can do to what God can do?

Though this isn’t an Acts 2 church, I appreciate their teaching about the Holy Spirit and acknowledging his power to supernaturally make things happen and grow the church.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

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.