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Christian Living

It’s Not My Fault: Playing the Blame Game

Blaming Others for Our Mistakes Comes from Our Sin Nature

Jeremiah prophesies judgment against the people in Jerusalem for their idolatry. God has had enough, and he will punish them for turning from him and pursuing other gods. Specifically, many women are burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out their drink offerings to her.

Interestingly, the Queen of Heaven only shows up five times in the Bible, all in the book of Jeremiah, with four occurrences in this chapter alone. From Scripture we know nothing about the Queen of Heaven, except that some people worship her instead of God.

When confronted over their spiritual adultery, the people aren’t convicted of their sin. Instead, they double down and pledge to continue worshipping the Queen of Heaven.

As far as the women taking an active part in this idolatrous worship, they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. It’s not their fault, they insist. They blame their spouses. Since their husbands knew what they were doing and didn’t stop them, it’s the guys’ fault.

Adam and Eve

Does this blaming of others sound familiar?

It first happened back in the Garden of Eden, with the very first sin in the world. Adam and Eve do precisely what God told them not to do. They eat fruit from the one forbidden tree.

When God points out their mistake, Adam blames his wife. “She gave me the fruit,” he says.

Eve follows his example. She blames the serpent. (See Genesis 3:1-19.)

Their example continues throughout history. When caught in wrongdoing, people seek to shift responsibility to someone—or something—else. Though we might attribute this to human nature, it’s more correct to call it sin nature. When our sin is uncovered, we add to it by sinning again when we try to deflect our fault elsewhere.

Even Moses did this.

Variations of the Blame Game

Adam blames his wife for his sin because she gave him the forbidden fruit.

The women in Jeremiah’s time blame their husbands because they knew what their wives were doing.

Today we see more ways to play this blame game.

One version is, “but everyone else is doing it.”

A second form is, “it’s my parent’s fault,” also known as “it’s the way I was raised.”

A final one is “I was born this way.”

We also point an accusatory finger at our environment, circumstances, or socioeconomic conditions.

But when we sin, the only true responsibility falls to us and us alone. We did it, and we are at fault.

When we sin, the only true responsibility falls to us and us alone. We did it, and we are at fault. Click To Tweet

Fortunately, we don’t need to let the weight of our sins break us. Jesus died as the permanent payment for our mistakes. When we follow him and become his disciple, he takes away the penalty of our sin and makes us right with Father God.

Thank you, Jesus, for taking away our sins.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 41-45 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 44:19.]

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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Bible Insights

We Need to Listen to God and Obey Him

Our Actions and Our Lack of Actions Have Consequences

As the Israelites prepare to enter the territory God promises to give them. Moses, relaying God’s words to the people, gives them a stern warning. Though God plans to give the land to his people, they must do their part to fully receive it. They must obey God.

He expects them to drive out the inhabitants, destroy their detestable religious practices, and take the land. Then they can settle down. Of course God will help his people do this, directing their actions and offering supernatural assistance. Yet they must do their part.

If the Israelites fail to do so, it will come back on them. The people they were supposed to chase away will eventually become the source of their downfall.

These foreigners will cause problems and distract God’s people so that they don’t obey him and don’t put him first as they should. They will be a snare.

But They Didn’t Obey God

If this happens, the punishment intended for these foreign nations will boomerang on the Israelites.

We know the rest of the story. They do not fully chase away the other nations; they do not fully take the land. They coexist with their enemies, intermarry, and adopt their foreign religious practices, something that is an anathema to God.

When God speaks we better listen–and obey. Click To Tweet

God gives them chance after chance. And though there are times of revival, they are short-lived. After several centuries of mostly disobedience, God does exactly what he warns them he will do.

Because of their failure to drive out the other nations, they are themselves driven out—first the nation of Israel and later the nation of Judah.

The people hear God’s instructions, but they only partially obey, which is the same as disobedience. There are consequences.

How is partial obedience the same as disobedience? Is partial obedience ever enough? 

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 31-33, and today’s post is on Numbers 33:55-56.]

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

Moses and the Art of Delegation

Wise Leaders Delegate

After Moses led the people out of Egypt, God gave him some specific instructions for constructing a place of worship. Moses was not supposed to do the actual work, but was charged with making sure it was done correctly. It required delegation.

Here is what he did:

Moses Selected Capable People with Good Character

Successful delegation requires finding the right people; not everyone is ready or able to receive delegation. Although it was ultimately God who made the selections, it was Moses who carried it out (Exodus 35:30-33).

Moses Provided the Resources Needed to Do Their job

Moses gave all of the gifts that had been received to the people he selected. Because of their character, there was no need to be concerned about them misusing these resources (Exodus 36:3).

Moses Inspected Their Work

Since Moses was ultimately responsible for the results, he wisely inspected their work.Because the right people had been chosen for this task, this was an easy step and their work met expectations (Exodus 39:42).

Moses Took Responsibility For the Results

The people were first esteemed for their fine work, but later Moses also received accommodation for the results. Similarly, had the work not been completed or done appropriately, Moses would have received the blame.  Such is the responsibility of management (Exodus 40:33).

Moses and Delegation

This was not the first time that Moses delegated work. At his father-in-law’s advice, he set-up and trained a network of judges to help guide the people. Prior to this, Moses spent each day with people lined up to see him (Exodus 18:17-26).

When we’re overwhelmed by the work before us, can we apply Moses’s example of delegation to get the job done?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 35-37, and today’s post is on Exodus 35:30-33.]

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’s a Thousand Years to God?

Time Is Different in the Spiritual Realm Than What We’re Used to in the Physical

Though King David wrote many psalms, the book of Psalms also includes the work of others. One of these writers is Moses. Yes, Moses wrote a psalm, Psalm 90.

It may be the oldest of them all, the first Psalm ever written in the Bible. Also consider Moses’s song in Deuteronomy 32:1-43 and his blessing in Deuteronomy 33:2-29.

What Moses Says about Time

One of Moses’s themes is time. He tells us to number our days so that we might gain wisdom. He also says that people tend to live seventy years, perhaps eighty.

This is interesting since Moses lived 120. He lived forty years in Egypt, forty years in preparation, and forty years leading God’s people. I wonder how old he was when he wrote this Psalm.

However, Moses also writes that to God a thousand years flashes by like a day would seem to us. So it is with our God who is eternal, who lives forever.

Think about it. Time takes on a different meaning to someone who has a never-ending supply of it. But to us time places limits on our physical existence and on our future.

That’s probably why Moses wants us to count our days to remind us of our typical lifespan. We need to use that time wisely and make it count. We only have so much of it., so we don’t want to squander it.

This doesn’t mean to pack every moment with busy activity, but to use our time wisely, investing in pursuits that matter, on what will have the greatest impact.

May we spend our time on what truly matters. Click To Tweet

Peter Writes about a Thousand Years

The disciple Peter has this passage in mind when he pens his second letter. He builds upon Moses’s thought and says that to God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. This is a perplexing contrast.

It reminds us that God doesn’t reckon time as we do. In fact, God exists outside of time because he created time when he made space and the world we live in.

May we spend our time on what truly matters.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 86-90, and today’s post is on Psalm 90:4.]

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

Today’s Church Follows an Old Testament Model

Moses Explained the Three Key Elements of Worship and We Still Follow Them

Our churches today function in much the same way as outlined in the Old Testament. We follow the Old Testament model for church. We pursue these same three key elements. We meet in a building, hire paid staff to represent God to us, and have an ongoing need for money to keep the institution afloat and moving forward.

Building

We often hear the question, “Where do you go to church?” This is an inquiry about location. In standard usage, the word church refers to a place not a people. It’s a structure more so than the community that meets there.

This mindset is pervasive within the church, but it’s universal outside it. In short, people go to a church building to experience God. The implication is that we can’t connect with him at other locations or through different situations. We want a Sunday morning service in a church building.

We go to church. We connect with God. Then we go home. Once we leave the parking lot, we revert to non-church mode and resume our everyday life.

Most people, both those with a religious background and those without it, view a church without their own facility as suspicious, as second rate, or even as somehow less than. People assume—both those inside the church community and those outside it—that this church without a building will one day mature to a point where she can have her own place to meet. Then she will be a real church.

In addition, for many churchgoers, the thought of attending in a non-typical space is an anathema to having a true worship experience. They feel that to truly connect with God they must travel to a dedicated church building.

This is part one of an Old Testament model for church.

Staff

The second element of today’s church is the staff. In most all cases they are paid employees. Yes, sometimes volunteers help, donating many hours of their time each week, but despite their generosity most churches rely on paid personnel to function.

For small churches, the paid staff is the pastor alone, while for larger congregations it’s a pastoral team, made up of full-time and part-time paid personnel.

A church-growth expert once advocated that a single pastor could sufficiently shepherd a congregation of up to 150 people. Beyond that level, the sole pastor requires help to address the needs of the congregation and deal with the details brought on by this expanded scope. The expert had a formula for that too: each additional one hundred people in the church required one more staff person. This formula seems to track at the various churches I’ve been part of over the years.

In the same way that most people expect to go to a dedicated worship space on Sunday, they carry expectations of the paid staff who work there, especially the minister. Just as the people in the Old Testament lined up each day to see Moses, overburdening him and keeping him busy from sunup to sunset (Exodus 18:13), we tend to do the same for our clergy today.

This is part two of an Old Testament model for church.

Collectively we insist that our ministers be available for us whenever we need them. This includes a crisis, such as a death, health scare, financial need, lost job, or wayward child. We also want them there for our celebrations. This means our family births (baptisms, christenings, or dedications) and our weddings (officiating), even milestone birthdays and anniversaries. We also presume their support for our own God-honoring initiatives. And we freely dump our burdens on them in the form of prayer requests. When we call, email, or text, we expect a quick response.

They’re here to serve us. That’s what we pay them for.

Then when they wisely refer us to another person who can help us, just as Moses’s father-in-law recommended him to do (Exodus 18:14), we react with indignation. We withdraw our support for this leader who we feel slighted us (2 Corinthians 6:12). And we seldom do this silently, often resorting to gossip and even slander (3 John 1:9-11). Sometimes we launch a campaign to replace our once-esteemed leader. To add weight to our hurt, we may threaten to withhold our support of the church. And to our shame, we sometimes follow through (Malachi 3:6-12).

Money

The third key element of today’s church is financial support. She needs money to function, lots of it. We often refer to this need for money as tithes and offerings. Some churches call for pledges and then urge people to meet their financial commitments each Sunday.

Over the years I’ve heard many ministers plead for money from their congregations, insisting that we must give 10 percent of our income to the local church. I’m not sure if they’re merely parroting what they heard others say, don’t know their Scripture, or don’t care, but the Bible never says to give 10 percent to the local church. Remember, the Old Testament tithe went to fuel the national religion.

In a typical church most of their budget goes to cover facility costs and staffing. This often approaches 90 percent of the total budget and sometimes requires all of it, only to still fall short. This doesn’t leave too much money—if any—for ministry and outreach.

But lest we complain about the size of our church’s budget and our leader’s calls for financial generosity, remember that this is our own doing. We’ve brought this upon ourselves. We expect to meet in our own dedicated worship space. And we hire staff to serve as our liaison between us and God. These things carry a price tag, and our church budget reflects it.

This is part three of an Old Testament model for church.

The kingdom of God will advance more powerfully when we move from an inward focus to an outward emphasis. Click To Tweet

A Kingdom Focus

Though it’s true that some churches are exceptions to this—and take exception to what I’ve just written—they are the minority. To need less financial support usually stems from one of two things. The first is having a non-typical meeting space. And the second is enjoying a lot of volunteers to do the work that normally falls to paid staff. In some cases, both elements are present, which allows for much more of the congregants’ giving to go to ministry and outreach, instead of buildings and payroll.

This allows them to move from an inward focus to an outward emphasis. Every church should strive to move toward this outcome. The kingdom of God will advance more powerfully when we do.

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

Avoiding the Rebellion of Korah

While the story of Cain killing his brother may be commonly known, the rebellion of Korah is quite obscure.

Korah was from the tribe of Levi; he and the other Levites were assigned God-given tasks to serve in the temple; they were set apart for this. However, they were not to serve as priests; that fell only to Aaron and his descendants.

Korah didn’t like these distinctions. He advocated that all people were holy, had God (the Holy Spirit) in them, and should be elevated to the level of priests. 

(Interestingly, these were something that Jesus would later proclaim and that his followers would embrace, but in Korah’s time this was not the case. There were distinctions and that’s how God wanted it at that time.)

Korah stirred up some followers, insisting on equal status for all. Then he and Moses had the equivalent of a modern-day smackdown. Moses won and was affirmed by God. Korah lost—big time. The ground beneath him opened up and he and his family fell in and died. God squashed the rebellion of Korah.

Today, we would hail Korah as a martyred reformer who pursued justice and equality, advocating that anyone can approach God.

Although Jesus would later usher in these changes, those were not the expectations God had put in place in Korah’s day. God had a different plan then, and, no matter how well intended, Korah opposed it. He will forever be associated with a failed uprising against God: the rebellion of Korah.

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

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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Joel and the Locust

The book of Joel is classified as one of the Bible’s prophetic books, as it contains a foretelling of the future. After multiple reads, however, this short, 3-chapter book begins to emerge more as poetry than prophecy, revealing multiple levels of meaning awaiting the patient reader to unveil and discover.

The name of the book is the same as the prophet who received God’s oracle—Joel. The nemesis of Joel’s story is a swarm of locust.

Joel’s message is one of unprecedented destruction via this army of locust, which eats everything in sight, devastating all plants—and the sustenance they produce. Both men and animals suffer as a result. However, there is also a grand and glorious redemption that follows, with God promising to restore the years that the locust ate.

Perhaps the most notable mention of locusts in the Bible is as one of the plagues that befall Egypt during Moses’ day. Another is that of locust—along with honey—comprising the unique dietary stylings of John the Baptist.

Aside from the life-nourishment that the locust provides to John, all the other Biblical references of locust relate to plague and destruction—and death—be it literal or figurative.

Regardless, I wouldn’t what them to eat my food or to eat them as food — I’m happy to take my locust as a metaphor.

[See Joel 1:2, Joel 1:4, Joel 2:1, Joel 2:25, Exodus 10:1-20, Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s new book, Dear Theophilus, Minor Prophets: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope

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

Biblical Murderers and How They Relate to Us

Biblical Murderers and How They Relate to Us

Consider some of the best-known biblical murderers.

Cain Kills Abel

We’re only four chapters into the Bible when the first murder occurs. Cain kills his brother Abel. The account in the Bible suggests that Cain premeditated his actions. First degree murder.

But let’s not view Cain as all evil. Like his brother, Cain worships God and brings an offering to him. (We do this too.) Yet God finds Cain’s offering lacking. As a result, Cain is angry with God. (Are we ever angry at God?) Out of jealousy (another common human trait), Cain kills his brother (Genesis 4).

Although we haven’t likely killed someone, we have more in common with Cain then we want to admit.

Moses Kills an Egyptian

Another well-known and esteemed person in the Bible is Moses. Yet Moses is another one of our biblical murderers. Moses witnesses an Egyptian overlord beating a Hebrew man, one of Moses his own kind. Seeing no one else watching, Moses kills the Egyptian and hides the evidence (Exodus 2:11-14).

Again, we see another instance of premeditated murder. Though we might sympathize with Moses’s actions or even say it was a just killing, the reality is that it’s still murder. But despite Moses killing another man, God still uses Moses to free his people. God later has an intimate relationship with Moses, one that we’d all like to have.

David Kills Uriah

The third of biblical murderers is David. David spends many years of his life leading an army and slaying his enemies. But we don’t call him a murderer for his military exploits. We call him a murderer for planning and ordering the death of his lover’s husband.

Not only is David a murderer, he’s also an adulterer (2 Samuel 11).

Yet the Bible later calls David a man after God’s own heart. Yes, David suffers for what he did, but God restores David into a right relationship with him.

Paul Kills Stephen

Paul, a key figure in the early church and the New Testament’s most prolific writer, is another of our biblical murderers. Paul, a righteous and devout Jew, a godly person, is zealous in his opposition to the followers of Jesus. Paul does this for God and in the name of religion.

History is full of people who kill for their faith, but that doesn’t justify their actions.

Though Paul kills many for his religion, the Bible only gives us details of one: Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:1). Yet despite Paul’s violent opposition to team Jesus, Jesus later calls Paul to follow him and grows him into a most effective missionary.

Judas Kills Jesus

Let’s not forget that Judas is another on the list of biblical murderers. Though he doesn’t physically kill another person as did Cain and Moses, and he doesn’t orchestrate a death like David, Judas is the catalyst for another death, Jesus.

Jesus—the most significant death to occur in the Bible, for humanity, and throughout all time. Though Jesus’s death is necessary to save us, that doesn’t forgive Judas for his part in making it happen.

Like Cain, we must realize that Judas isn’t all bad. He is a follower of Jesus, after all, a disciple. Yet he is also greedy, and in his greed he sells out Jesus (Luke 22:47-53).

Though Judas might have received forgiveness from Jesus—just as Jesus forgave and restored Peter into a right relationship with him—we’ll never know. Judas commits suicide out of remorse over what he did to Jesus.

Who Do We Kill?

Jesus teaches us what the Old Testament commands: killing is wrong. Yet he goes beyond the physical act of murder to tell us that even being angry at another person is a sin. Implicitly it’s murder. As a result of anger, we are no less innocent than someone who murders another.

But there’s more. Much more. Though we blame Judas for Jesus’s death, we are part of it too. Because of our sins, Jesus had to die to reconcile us with Father God. Our sins made it necessary for Jesus to die. As painful as it is to say, we helped murder Jesus.

Are we willing to put the past behind us—such as murder—and move forward to serve Jesus and advance the kingdom of God? Click To Tweet

Biblical Murderers

All five of these biblical murderers had a relationship with God. And at the time of the murders they committed, orchestrated, or approved, they weren’t in a good place with God on their faith journey. But it’s what happens afterward that counts.

Are we willing to put the past behind us—regardless of how horrific or benign it might be—and move forward to serve Jesus and advance the kingdom of God? We can do much like Moses, David, and Paul. Or we can falter like Cain and Judas. The choice is ours.

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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Women in the Bible: Zipporah

With the Pharaoh out to get him, Moses flees for his life. He marries the shepherdess Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:21-22). They have two sons: Gershom and Eliezer.

Years later when Moses and his family travel to Egypt, God afflicts Moses. This is apparently because Moses had not circumcised his son Gershom, as God commanded the Israelites to do through Abraham.

Just as God is about to kill Moses, Zipporah takes decisive action, circumcises Gershom, and touches Moses with the removed skin. This appeases God and Moses is spared.

Zipporah does what her husband did not do, she obeys God’s command, and saves her husband’s life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 4-7, and today’s post is on Exodus 4:24-26.]

Get your copy of 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.

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What Will We Promise God When We’re in a Crisis?

Will We Follow Through When the Pressure’s Off?

God’s chosen people toil as slaves in Egypt. He tasks Moses with getting them out. So far things aren’t going so well. God has sent seven plagues to get the Pharaoh’s attention, without achieving the people’s release. Plague number eight is on its way. Locusts.

An army of locusts. They strip the foliage and fruit off everything in sight.

Panicked, Pharaoh summons Moses. He confesses his sin for having reneged on his last promise to let the people go. He begs for forgiveness and asks Moses to pray that God will take away the plague of locusts.

Moses prays. God answers. He whips up a wind that carries the locusts out to sea. Not one remains in Egypt. Problem solved for Pharaoh, at least for now.

Guess what happens next? With the threat of locusts over, and the pressure for relief gone, Pharaoh changes his mind—again. He refuses to let the Israelites leave.

It will take two more plagues, with the tenth being the deadliest of them all, before Pharaoh lets the people go. If only he had followed through on his promise to let them leave sooner, he would have avoided countless needless deaths—including that of his firstborn son.

What Promises Do We Make to God When We’re in a Jam?

It’s easy to criticize Pharaoh for making a promise during a crisis and going back on his word when life returns to normal. But we do the same thing. It’s human nature.

How many times, when in a moment of crisis, have we made a rash promise to God? It goes something like this, “Get me out of this mess, and I’ll never do it again.”

Or we pledge to do something that we should have been doing all along. Or we vow to stop doing something that we shouldn’t be doing anyway.

Then God hears our plea and often rescues us. But do we follow through on what we promised to God? Not likely. Or if we do follow through, our pledge lasts only a short time, and we soon return to living life as we’ve always lived.

Making a bargain with God is never a good idea, because if we don’t follow through, we may find ourselves in an even worse situation. Click To Tweet

Making a bargain with God is never a good idea, because if we don’t follow through, we may find ourselves in an even worse situation. We may be better off to confess our shortcomings and ask for his grace and mercy.

Else we could end up like Pharaoh who paid a huge price for his broken promises.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 8-10, and today’s post is on Exodus 10:12-20.]

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.