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Bible Insights

Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ?

Celebrate Jesus as the Messiah and Savior

In our current usage today, many people talk (and think) that Christ is Jesus’s last name, as in Jesus Christ. Though the identifier of Jesus Christ does appear in most of the New Testament, it didn’t start out that way.

Christ

The label of Christ does not appear at all in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, arguably the three oldest books in the New Testament. In addition, the name Christ only appears four times in the book of John, the fourth biography of Jesus. (And of course, the word Christ doesn’t appear at all in the Old Testament.)

Yet Christ is mentioned in every other book in the New Testament, aside from 3 John. Some versions of the Bible include a footnote for Christ, explaining that it means Messiah.

And the dictionary definition of Christ uses Messiah to explain what Christ means.

Messiah

Instead of using the name Christ, the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke use Messiah exclusively. John also predominantly uses that label. Messiah also appears throughout the book of Acts (which Dr. Luke also wrote.) After that Messiah only appears in three other books in the New Testament (Romans, 1 Peter, and Revelation). In this we see a biblical shift from using the label of Messiah to Christ.

In this instance, the dictionary entry for Messiah defines it as Jesus. It also notes that Messiah is usually used with the, as in the Messiah. Another definition for Messiah is Savior.

Jesus the Messiah

In addition to using the label Messiah, Matthew and Mark also refer to him as “Jesus the Messiah” (Matthew 1:18 and Mark 1:1, NIV). Matthew also writes “Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16, Matthew 27:17, and Matthew 27:22, NIV).

The Christ

In two of the instances where the Christ appears in the Bible, it’s with the explanation that “Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22 and 1 John 5:1, NIV). John also parenthetically notes that the Messiah means the Christ (John 1:41).

Jesus Christ

After not being used at all in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and appearing only twice in the book of John, the label of Jesus Christ shows up often in the rest of the books of the New Testament, in Acts through to Revelation (except for 3 John).

Moving from Messiah to Christ

In looking at the New Testament text, we see a transition taking place, with earlier writers referring to Jesus as the Messiah and later writers referring to him as the Christ. Just as we might say “Jesus, the Messiah,” we could also rightly say “Jesus, the Christ.” But it seems Jesus, the Christ was conveniently shortened to Jesus Christ.

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Why It Matters

You may wonder why this trivial discussion about Jesus Christ versus Jesus the Christ matters. It’s simply to encourage us to not mindlessly say “Jesus Christ” as if it’s his full name.

Instead, we must remind ourselves that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. That he is our Messiah and our Savior.

May we always be mindful of this truth.

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 Branch of the Lord

Let God Prune Us So We Can Produce More Fruit

Isaiah looks forward to the day when the Branch of the Lord will appear. Branch, with a capital B, is a euphemism for Jesus, who will come to rescue God’s people.

Isaiah says this Branch will emerge as awesome and full of wonder, which is an understatement considering all that Jesus did, is doing, and will do. Jesus will produce fruit for the people. They will take pride in what the Branch produces and glory in it.

Jesus, the Branch of the Lord, will come for us, spiritually feeding us with his fruit: beautiful, wondrous fruit, the source of pride and glory.

Just as Jesus is the Branch, we are his branches, that’s branches with a lowercase b. We are branches connected to the Branch (which John calls the “true vine”).

But being a branch connected to the Branch isn’t enough. Having a mere connection with Jesus is insufficient. When we’re connected with the Branch of Jesus, we must bear fruit. And we must produce good fruit. That’s what Father God, our Papa, expects from us.

If we produce no fruit, God, our gardener, will cut off our branch. Yikes! He’ll lop us off. We’re not worthy of remaining connected to Jesus if we produce no fruit—if we do nothing for him. That’s a sobering truth.

We can’t pledge our allegiance to God and then coast through life unchanged. Click To Tweet

Having a connection with Jesus isn’t enough if it produces nothing. We can’t pledge our allegiance to him and then coast through life unchanged. He expects us to produce fruit because of our connection to him.

To further the analogy, every branch that produces fruit will eventually face pruning. This isn’t punishment. Instead, it’s a beneficial process that will allow us to produce even more fruit.

While an untrimmed tree will yield some fruit, a tree pruned properly will produce much more. God, our gardener, will prune us so that we can make even more fruit for him.

But to do this we must remain with God, connected to Jesus—the Branch of the Lord—and bearing fruit. Else we risk him cutting off our branch, throwing us into the fire, and having the flames consume us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 1-4 and today’s post is on Isaiah 4:2.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah 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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Christian Living

Be a Peacemaker

Do What You Can to Promote Peace

In Jesus’s best-known sermon, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaims that “Blessed are the peacemakers.” They’ll be known as God’s children (Matthew 5:9).

Though Jesus doesn’t explicitly command us to advocate for peace, he proclaims blessings on those who do. And the blessings are most significant. Peacemakers will be “called children of God.” The inference is that those who do not promote peace are not his children, or at least not known by others as his children.

In similar fashion, James writes that peacemakers will plant peace and then reap righteousness (James 3:18). Again, James doesn’t command that we be peacemakers. He merely says that a significant reward awaits those who are: righteousness; a great harvest of righteousness.

Here are some ideas of what we can do to be a peacemaker.

Guard What We Say

The first step to be a peacemaker is to avoid saying things that stir up dissension. James writes that if we can’t control what we say, our religion is worthless (James 1:26). Paul says that our speech should be gracious (Colossians 4:6) and to block unwholesome speech from our mouths (Ephesians 4:29).

There are many more verses, too, such as asking God to guard our mouth (Psalm 141:3), a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and letting our speech be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14), along with scores more.

Focus on Silence Not Speech

Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. We often celebrate a right to speak, that is, freedom of speech. We live in a world where much of it abuses their speech.

Social media overflows with people who proclaim opinions as fact and vilify those who disagree with them. The more outrageous they are, the better. The more adamant their pronouncements, the more that like-minded people celebrate them—and the more that they hurt others.

News sources do the same thing.

Next consider reality TV. It seeks those with outrageous behavior. The more shocking they are, the more airtime they receive. The rest of the entertainment industry follows, pushing the envelope with what many view as offensive behavior, treating outlier perspectives as normal.

The result is a polarization of society.

As followers of Jesus, we should avoid promoting division whenever possible. The easiest way to do this is to not add to the fray, but to keep our mouth shut. We should listen first and then speak (James 1:19)

Jesus modeled silence, even when it seemed in his best interest to defend himself (Matthew 26:63).

We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of freedom of speech, and speak the truth in love. Click To Tweet

Speak the Truth in Love

If we feel we must speak out about a subject, we should cover our speech in love (Ephesians 4:15) but only after first praying and seeking insight from the Holy Spirit. Too often—especially in the church and religious circles—people decry evil, but they do so in the most unloving way.

We judge, we condemn, and we withhold forgiveness. Instead, Jesus tells us to do the opposite (Luke 6:37). The world is watching, and they rightly dismiss us as a result.

Peacemaker Tips

Following these three ideas can move us closer to becoming a peacemaker. We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of pursuing freedom of speech, and when we must talk to speak the truth in love.

If we all did this, our world would be a much better place. And our witness for Jesus would have much greater impact.

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 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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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: Ben-Hur

A Timeless Classic with Eternal Implications

Ben-Hur (2016) is a story of Jewish Prince Judah Ben-Hur who seeks to avoid scrutiny in the first century Jerusalem as he navigates the tricky ground between Jewish zealots and the Roman occupiers, all while doing what is right.

When an act of generosity brings about his ultimate betrayal, Judah ends up a slave. He survives and works his way back to Jerusalem, using his knowledge of horses to do so. He searches for his family and lost love, while seeking reconciliation with his estranged stepbrother.

There is, of course, an epic chariot race at the pinnacle of this action-adventure movie. The story also provides intrigue, interesting personal dynamics, and romantic elements, offering something for everyone.

We see Jesus in a minor recurring role throughout the movie’s overall arc, but his climatic crucifixion toward the end and what happens afterward is the major point of the movie and a most rewarding conclusion.

If you’ve not seen this 2016 version of Ben-Hur, check it out. Or watch it again.

Ben-Hur Background and Other Versions

A big reason why I put off watching the 2016 version, was that I had been underwhelmed by the 1959 version, despite it starring Charlton Heston. Though critically acclaimed and award-winning—amazing eleven Oscars—the long-run time of 3:32 minutes was enough to deter my appreciation or discourage additional contemplation. That was a mistake.

In addition to the well-known 2016 and 1959 versions of the movie, IMDb notes additional productions of Ben-Hur. Major ones include the original 1907 silent short, lasting fifteen minutes; the longer 1925 silent movie, lasting 2:23 and which was later dubbed with music and sound effects for re-release in 1931, and a Ben Hur miniseries in 2010, which interestingly was only three hours long.

The story originates from an 1880 book Ben-Hur: The Tale of Christ written by Louis Wallace. The best-selling book was called the most influential Christian book of nineteenth century.

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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

We Need an Emergent Mindset

Seek Ways to Make Our Faith Communities Relevant to a Postmodern World

In the early 2000s there was much talk about the emergent church. The idea was to address shrinking church attendance by taking steps to be more pertinent to a younger audience, many who dismissed the religious practices of prior generations. These people weren’t turning their backs on Jesus, however, just the institutional church. Therefore, churches need an emergent mindset.

Though this need is even more pronounced now than ever, we don’t hear much about the emergent church movement anymore. But this wasn’t a fad that died out. It’s more likely that the people doing this aren’t talking or writing about it. My post, “What Happened to the Emergent Church?” addresses this.

Even so, for churches to remain pertinent to changing demographics, they need to embrace an emergent mindset. First, we need some background. In my post I wrote:

“The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.”

What does this emergent mindset mean for today’s churches?

Avoid the Status Quo

If churches do the same things they’ve always done, they’ll get the same results. This means that for churches that want to reverse their decline in attendance will need to reverse their practices. This doesn’t mean they must change, or even should change, what they believe and teach—providing that it’s biblical. Instead, they need to reevaluate everything else they do that surrounds it.

Many churches today struggle with declining attendance and an aging congregation. For most of them, the only time they grow is when another declining church closes and those members seek another place to attend.

Advocate Change

To move away from status-quo church practices means to embrace change. Most people, however, don’t like change. This is especially true with long-time church members who have fixed expectations. They may oppose needed changes by threatening to withhold donations. They may even follow through.

In short, they use money to selfishly manipulate the church into doing what they want her to do.

To avoid this unproductive response as much as possible requires teaching about the need to adapt to meet changing societal expectations. Becoming what future generations need and will be drawn to requires an emergent mindset. This can help churches grow numerically and not shrink.

Launch New Initiatives

After about ten years of existence, churches move toward becoming institutions. As they do so, self-preservation becomes key and most other activities become secondary.

If you think your church is the exception to this truth, look at your numeric growth. If it’s stagnant, you are an institution. If you’re seeing healthy, Jesus-focused growth, you may have overcome this generalization. It’s also likely that you have an emergent mindset.

For everyone else, know that doing what’s required to attract the next generation is most difficult from inside an institution. Instead of attempting to do this from within, an alternative is to launch a new initiative that comes from your established church but is not a part of it.

Just make sure that this initiative your launching is truly something fresh and not merely repackaging what already isn’t working.

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Click To Tweet

Embrace the Emergent Mindset

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Doing so will require you to stop doing what you’re currently doing, embrace change, and start a fresh way for people to experience God.

It won’t be easy, but it is essential.

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Bible Insights

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

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

Don’t Compartmentalize Your Faith

If Our Beliefs Are Important to Us, We’ll Make Them Part of Every Aspect of Our Life

Have you ever met someone out of your normal context and were surprised at what you saw or heard? This is a person who compartmentalizes their faith. They have a work persona, a leisure-time persona, and a family persona. For each aspect they put a different face to fit in with their environment.

And if they go to church, they have a faith persona too.

They compartmentalize their beliefs, perhaps even more so than the other aspects of their life. What they don’t realize is that all parts of our lives have a spiritual component. Yet they shove that reality aside and segregate the various aspects of their reality, treating them as isolated and unrelated.

Yet it’s a bad idea to compartmentalize our faith and keep it separate from other aspects of our life. If what we believe is important to us, it should show itself in every part of our life: at home, at work, and during leisure activities, as well as at church.

Consistent

We should look to make every aspect of our life coherent with the other parts. How we act at church and around our Christian friends must be consistent with how we act in different environments and with other people.

This doesn’t mean to use religious words or assume a church persona in other spheres of our life, but it’s critical to not hide our faith, to not be silent when we should speak, and to always act in a way that pleases Jesus.

Striving to live a life that’s consistent around the clock, regardless of where we are or who we’re with is the first step to avoid compartmentalizing our faith.

Integrated

Another consideration is to incorporate what we believe with how we talk and act regardless of where we are. Would our coworkers be shocked to know that we attend church or have a relationship with Jesus?

If the answer is yes, then we’re compartmentalizing our faith. We must take steps to integrate what we believe, how we speak, and the way we behave regardless of where we are or what we’re doing. In this way, we fully ingrate our faith into all aspects of our life

Aligned

As we move forward with consistent attitudes and actions and integrate what we believe into all aspects of our life, we move toward a harmony of word and deed. We can start by treating everyone the way Jesus would, regardless of the situation. This includes at home and at work and as we move through life.

Conduct all facets of your being to fully align. Don’t compartmentalize your faith.

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. Click To Tweet

Decompartmentalize Your Faith

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. We do this when our conduct is consistent in all parts of our lives, when we integrate our faith into all that we do, and when we align everything with Jesus.

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.