Categories
Bible Insights

How to Deal with Religious Opposition

Paul and Barnabas Respond to Hostile Nonbelievers with Boldness and Perseverance

In the Old Testament, the Israelites, God’s chosen people, are a set apart nation. They are to keep separate from the other nations around them and if they will, God promises to bless them. They also look forward to a promised king who will change everything.

Jesus—a Jew, by the way—comes as foretold. Most of those who accept him, assume he is there only for the Jewish people, that he is their savior and only theirs, that they must continue to keep the Gentiles at a safe distance and isolate themselves from unholy contamination.

A careful reading of the Old Testament, as well as Jesus’s words, however, gives us an expanded view: that Jesus comes for everyone, both Jew and Gentile.

With this in mind, let’s look at Paul and Barnabas when they arrive at Iconium. As is their practice, they head to the synagogue, the place where Jews hang out. Clearly their initial focus is the Jewish people. Their message connects with many of the Jews, as well as many Greeks (Gentiles).

The Bible says, “that a great number believe.” So far, so good.

But some Jews don’t believe. Perhaps they don’t like change. (Sound familiar?) Maybe they see Paul and Barnabas (who are also Jews) as a challenge to their longstanding traditions.

Or it could be they don’t appreciate that Paul and Barnabas are letting the Greeks in on the good news of Jesus.

Whatever the reason, they don’t disagree quietly. They stir up trouble. How this must vex Paul and Barnabas. They come there to tell their fellow Jews some good news, but some of them object and respond by forming an opposition movement: religious opposition.

In the face of religious opposition, Paul and Barnabas stick around and speak more boldly. Click To Tweet

How do Paul and Barnabas react? They get out of town as soon as possible, right? No! In the face of opposition, perhaps because of opposition, they stick around, for a good long while, speaking boldly the whole time.

As we follow Jesus, we should expect conflict and not be surprised if it comes from within our own tribe instead of from the outside. And when that resistance shows up we can opt to follow Paul and Barnabas’s example by doubling down and increasing our boldness in the face of religious opposition.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 13-15, and today’s post is on Acts 14:1-3.]

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Origin of Purim

Early each spring our Jewish friends celebrate Purim. The origin of Purim is found in the book of Esther, which is a beautiful and moving story.

In a rags to riches manner, Esther was whisked from obscurity to become queen.  From her new position of access and influence, she was able to stop a plot to kill her people, the Jews.

This was done at great personal risk as she could have been summarily executed.  Esther’s bravery shows how one person can make a difference

To commemorate this event, an annual celebration was commanded by Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. He wrote:

“Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.

“He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

This is the origin of Purim. The holiday started by Mordecai way back then is still celebrated today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Esther 8-10 , and today’s post is on Esther 9:20-22.]

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Do You Know What Your Mission Is?

How Closely Do You Do the Things God Tells You to Do?

Paul travels to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus. This is his mission, a mission for God. As a Jew it seems logical that he would go to his own people first to share this good news. He does. He goes to the local synagogue, where he spends three months boldly telling them about Jesus.

However, some of the Jews don’t like what they hear, so Paul leaves the synagogue, but he doesn’t leave Ephesus. Instead he goes to the local lecture hall, presumably a Greek hangout. There he speaks daily about Jesus. It apparently goes well, because he sticks around for two years.

In the end, everyone in the area—both Jews and Greeks—hear about Jesus (Acts 19:8-10).

I’m glad Paul goes to his own people first. And I’m glad he has a backup plan when his first one doesn’t work out. He seems to do this often when he enters a new city. He starts in the Synagogue, with his own people, and then expands his target audience when some of them oppose him.

In each city Paul goes to the Jews first, to give them a chance. Click To Tweet

Yet, why does he do this?

Paul’s assignment is the Gentiles, not the Jews. Ananias knows this at Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9:15), and Paul confirms this when he shares his conversion experience while on trial (Acts 22:21).

Yet to the Romans, Paul shares his deep love for his people. He writes that he is willing to be damned forever if his people could be saved (Romans 9:3-4).

Does this mean that Paul puts his own personal agenda before God’s command? While it might seem so, consider Peter when he quotes Psalm 118:22 to say that (most of) the Jews reject Jesus and then he becomes the cornerstone, presumably for everyone (Acts 4:11).

Perhaps Paul goes to the Jews first in each city to give them a chance. And when they reject his teaching about Jesus, he can freely go to the Gentiles, with scripture to back him up.

What may at first seem like disobedience may actually be a sound strategy.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 18-19, and today’s post is on Acts 19:8-10.]

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.

Save

Categories
Christian Living

The Bible Isn’t a Christian Book

The Bible is a Book About Jews and Their Relationship to God

The Bible isn’t really a Christian book. It’s more so a Jewish book.

Without question the Old Testament of the Bible is Jewish. It’s about Jews, and it’s for Jews. It looks at their faith journey as a people, records their history, and provides the foundation for their beliefs. However, the Old Testament also looks forward to a savior. That savior is Jesus.

Many people call his followers Christians. And many use the label Christianity to describe the faith practice that these believers developed.

The New Testament talks about Jesus and the movement his followers started, but it’s still more of a Jewish book then a Christian book. It’s about Jews, and it’s for Jews. Fortunately for us non-Jews, it’s also for Gentiles. Except for Luke, all the writers of the New Testament are Jewish.

Remember, Jesus is Jewish. Let that sink in. The New Testament has a Jewish basis, even though it shows how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies to create something new.

A Christian Book Too

Yes, Christians—followers of Jesus—do revere the Bible, as we should. And for most of us that makes it a Christian book, the ultimate Christian book of all time. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that, at its core, the Bible’s foundation is Jewish.

Because of this I have a great affinity for devout Jews. In the spiritual sense, their history is my history. And their hope is my hope. It’s only that I see my hope manifested in the reality of Jesus. I love the Bible for it is the foundation of my faith. Click To Tweet

I love the Bible for it is the foundation of my faith. I love the people in the Bible—who are mostly Jewish—for they are the predecessors of my spiritual practices. The Bible is my faith foundation, even though it’s essentially a Jewish book.

Read and study the Bible for what it is, not for what you want it to be.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Women of the Bible: Esther Was Not Like Cinderella

I’ve always liked the story of Esther. She was a peasant girl who won a national beauty pageant and became queen. In my imagination, I’ve given this tale a Cinderella-like grandness, with Esther and the king, falling in love and living happily ever after.

Alas, the story doesn’t mention love and fails to include any hints  of happiness. Let’s review the facts:

  • Esther and her people were forcibly relocated to a foreign land. She was a spoil of war.
  • Esther did not opt to take part in the beauty contest. All attractive virgins were compelled to participate.
  • Esther’s heritage prohibited her from marrying outside her faith. To do so would be a shameful and disobedient act.

Add to this these reasonable conclusions about Esther’s “relationship” with the king:

  • Even after she became queen, he continued to enjoy the company of other women in his harem.
  • She and the king didn’t have regular interaction. He had not “summoned” her for thirty days.
  • She had reason to fear him. She faced execution by merely approaching him without permission.
Esther: a peasant girl who won a national beauty pageant and became queen. Does that make her a historical Cinderella? Click To Tweet

Esther’s Prayer

In the New Jerusalem Bible (learn more), we are treated to the prayer that she offered in the middle of this. She says, in part:

  • “I loathe the bed of the uncircumcised,” that would be the king.
  • “I am under constraint” to wear the crown, that is, to be queen.
  • “Nor has your servant found pleasure from the day of her promotion until now.”
  • “Free me from my fear.”

Sadly, there is no love, happiness, or satisfaction in her role as queen. Even so she did use her unwanted position to save her people, the Jews, from a certain annihilation. So this account of Esther isn’t a love story, at least not in the traditional sense. It is, however, a tale of valor and bravery—and a reminder that one person can make a difference.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

There’s More to Discover in the Bible

Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:

Tobit

Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit). Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.

Judith

Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.

1 Maccabees

1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.

2 Maccabees

2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.

Wisdom

Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.

Sirach

Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.

Baruch

Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

The Error of the Sadducees and Pharisees

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish religious scene was comprised of two major factions, the Sadducees and Pharisees. Although their respective theologies about God were quite different, these two camps did coexist—albeit not harmoniously—within the same religion.

The reason for their different perspectives of the same God, likely comes from how they treated the Bible.

The short version is that the Sadducees took away from the Bible, considering only the Law of Moses (the first five book of the Bible) as their holy canon. This gave them a partial and incomplete view of God.

The Pharisees did the opposite. They greatly added to the Bible, introducing thousands of their own laws and rules. Although their intension in doing so was to aid them in holy living, their legalistic additions where elevated in importance to the point of surpassing the Bible as their guide.

The error of the Sadducees was to take away from the Bible, while the error of the Pharisees was to add to it. Both are errors that we need to carefully avoid.

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.

Categories
Reviews of Books & Movies

Video Review: The Devil’s Arithmetic

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

The Devil’s Arithmetic, based on a book by the same name, focuses on narcissist American teenager, Hanna Stern (Kirsten Dunst). Although Hanna dismisses her Jewish heritage, she is compelled to attend her family’s Seder celebration.

In the midst of her reluctant participation, she is translated to Nazi occupied Poland, circa 1941. Wishing she paid more attention in history class, Hanna finds herself enmeshed in the unfamiliar Jewish culture of that day and is soon rounded up for “relocation.”

Hanna experiences firsthand the horrors of the brutal, heartless, and inhuman treatment by her captors, all the while developing a deep compassion and sacrificial love for her fellow prisoners.

As Hanna changes, viewers cannot help but be affected as they vicariously experience the atrocities committed by one people group against another. The result is a powerful and poignant rendering of a history too painful to remember and too important to ignore.

Dunst gives a compelling standout performance, ably aided by Brittany Murphy, with support from Louise Fletcher and Mimi Rogers.

[Read more reviews by Peter DeHaan of other faith-friendly videos and movies.]

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.