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Bible Insights

An Act of Omission is the Failure to Act

An Act of Commission is an Act We’ve Done

When I think of being punished, be it by God or people, I think in terms of things I do wrong. That is, doing things that I shouldn’t have done. Some people call this an “act of commission.” They are things I have committed.

However, there can also be consequences for not doing the things we should have done.  This is an “act of omission.” They are things I didn’t do, even though I should have.

Jesus talks about acts of omission in a parable about the sheep and the goats. The goats were guilty, not of doing wrong, but of not doing what was right. Their failure was a failure to act.

Jesus even gives specific examples:

  • a failure to feed the hungry,
  • a failure to provide water to the thirsty,
  • a failure to show hospitality to the stranger,
  • a failure to give clothes to those in need, and
  • a failure to look after the sick and imprisoned.
While one person can't solve all of these issues—or even one of them—each person can do something Click To Tweet

Each of these are huge issues—and overwhelming—but enormity is not an excuse for inaction. While one person can’t solve all of these issues—or even one of them—each person can do something to make a difference, be it simply to help one person who is hungry, thirsty, homeless, needy, or hurting.

Don’t be a goat; help someone today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 23-25, and today’s post is on Matthew 25:31-46.]

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 Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God?

Kingdom of Heaven versus Kingdom of God

The phrase “the Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Some writers in the Bible simply prefer one over the other; it is not meant to designate two different concepts or kingdoms.  (Mark and Luke used “Kingdom of God,” whereas Matthew used “Kingdom of heaven.”)

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables. Click To Tweet

These phrases can perhaps be best understood by considering that Jesus desires to brings heaven’s rule to earth. Under his rule, there are benefits and responsibilities to his subjects—the church.

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables:

Consider how do these parables can change our view of God and our relationship to him.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Even if Someone Rises From the Dead, Not Everyone Will be Convinced

A Parable about Lazarus

In the parable about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, Jesus shares an intriguing story. In it, both men die. Lazarus goes to heaven, but the rich man ends up in hell.

Desperate to spare his family from the torment he is suffering, the rich man makes a request of Father Abraham to send Lazarus back, warning those he loves. Abraham reminds him that they have already failed to heed the prior warnings that others have given.

The man persists, asserting that they would surely listen to someone who has returned from the dead. Abraham’s’ words are somber, saying “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

This was later proved to be correct. After Jesus’ resurrection, hundreds of dead people came back to life, went into the city, and appeared to many. Yet despite hundreds of formerly dead people walking around the city, only a 120 believed and were waiting in the upper room as Jesus commanded.

What happened to all the rest? They saw the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and hundreds of the undead, but they remained unchanged.

Jesus’s prophecy was correct, that “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Though not everyone will be convinced, some will be. I am; are you?

[Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 27:51-53, Acts 1:14-15]

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Jesus Focused on the Kingdom of God, Not Church

Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, but we made a church instead. What if he never intended us to form a church? After all, Jesus did tell his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).

Let’s look at where else the Bible talks about the kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven and where it talks about church. (Mark and Luke write the kingdom of God, whereas Matthew prefers kingdom of heaven. The phrases are synonymous.)

Kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven, and church are New Testament concepts. These terms don’t occur anywhere in the Old Testament. Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God/heaven and little about church: eighty-five times versus three (and then only in Matthew).

Clearly Jesus focuses his teaching on the kingdom of God. Since Jesus comes to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), the kingdom of God must be how he intends to do so. If the call to seek first the kingdom of God is so important to Jesus, it should be important to us too.

Jesus’s Parables about His Kingdom

Today’s church should push aside her traditions and practices to replace them with what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the Kingdom of God through parables:

We should use these parables to inform our view of God and grow our relationship with him and others.

The Kingdom Is Here

In addition, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he mentions how close it is, saying that it’s near (Luke 10:9 and others). It’s within his disciple’s lifetimes (Mark 9:1), even present (Luke 17:21).

How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God? Isn’t kingdom of God a euphemism for heaven? Doesn’t it mean eternal life? If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate in our future?

Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it. We must view the kingdom of God as both a present reality and a future promise.

The kingdom of God is about our hope for heaven when we die, but it’s also about our time on earth now. Click To Tweet

Yes, the kingdom of God is about our hope for heaven when we die, but it’s also about our time on earth now. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with the life we lead in response to his gift to us. The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today.

Heaven is just phase two. We’re living in phase one—at least we should be.

We’ll do well to embrace Jesus’s teaching about the Kingdom of God to how we should act today. We should seek first the kingdom of God.

Check out the next post in this series addressing seminary.

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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52 Churches

How Does the Story End? (Visiting Church #48)

Today’s destination is next door to last week’s; they even share a common drive. We enter, sign the guest book, and head towards the music. Standing just outside the sanctuary, Candy sees an acquaintance, who invites us to sit with her and her husband.

This is the third time on our journey we’ve experienced this visitor-friendly gesture.

A self-supporting cross stands in the aisle. I wonder if it’s a regular fixture or something added for Lent. I appreciate the symbolism of a cross being at the center of the space and the focal point for all who enter.

Their pastor is out of town and the laity conducts the entire service, just as with our time at Church #29. I applaud their ability to fully lead a service on their own. The result is a low-key, comfortable feel, lacking any hint of pretense or performance.

A man gives some announcements and then asks for more. Several people stand in turn to share news. Candy’s friend use this time to introduce us to the crowd. It’s a nice gesture, and many murmur their welcome.

Today’s scripture reading, from Luke 13:1-9, follows the Revised Common Lectionary for the third Sunday in Lent. We sing another song in preparation for the sermon, which the bulletin calls “reflections.”

Our speaker reads her message, delivering her words in an effortless manner that is easy to hear. Referring to the fig tree in Jesus’ parable, she notes that “Christianity is a religion of second chances.” We don’t know what happened to the fig tree.

Did it eventually produce fruit or did the gardener uproot it? “The outcome is ours to choose”—both for this story and for ours.

[Read about Church #47 and Church #49, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #48.]

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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Bible Insights

The Lost Son: Our Heavenly Father Watches and Waits for Us

The Parable of the Lost Son Shows God’s Unconditional Love

Jesus teaches us of his Father’s unconditional love in a parable. Some people call this story “The Prodigal Son,” but calling it “The Lost Son” is more accurate (Luke 15:11-32). In this allegory we have a man and his two boys.

The older son is compliant, while the younger son is rebellious. The younger boy, the prodigal, has the audacity to ask his father for his share of the inheritance while Dad is still alive.

The father agrees, and the son takes off. He turns his back on his dad. The young man squanders his inheritance on an unrestrained life. Soon his money is gone. He’s left with nothing, taking on a despicable job to stay alive.

In his despair, he thinks back to his father and of how well he treats his hired hands. They have it much better than this wayward son—the lost son—who is penniless and starving. He decides to return home in humility.

He plans to beg the father he disrespected to take him on as a hired servant. At least then he’ll have enough to eat.

Meanwhile the father is on the lookout for his boy.

As the son journeys home, his father spots him in the distance. He runs out to embrace his boy. The son is returning to the father, and the father accepts him without hesitation, without asking questions.

Dad will have none of his boy’s plea to work for his food as a laborer. Instead the father reinstates the boy’s status as a son, an heir to all he has. With much joy Dad takes his boy in, reunited again.

To celebrate, the father throws a lavish party for his boy. He explains his rationale to the older brother. “My boy was as good as dead but is alive again. My lost son is now found.”

All we need to do is embrace God and accept his love. Click To Tweet

The Lost Son and Us

Like the lost son, the same applies to us if we disrespect God and turn our back on him. He’s waiting, looking for us to return. And when we come back, he’ll throw a lavish party. He will reinstate us as his heir. We were dead but are now alive. We were once lost but are now found.

Whether lost or found, God offers us unconditional love that we don’t deserve. All we need to do is embrace him and accept his love.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 15:11-32.]

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

A Traditional Yet Modern Service (Visiting Church #31)

It’s Saturday, and we head to church, a Seventh Day Adventist gathering. The focal point of the sanctuary is a large stained glass array. Modern and abstract it portrays an arm reaching up, with a dove upon an open hand.

I’m not sure if the dove is being held, given to us, or presented to God. I ponder the spiritual implications. Isn’t that the point of art?

To its right are pipes for the organ, prominent, but not ostentatious. Next to them, on an angled wall, resides a large flat-panel monitor. Announcements sequence as the display counts down the time to the scheduled start.

The service is the most technologically integrated one we’ve seen so far in our journey and certainly the most professional with its application.

The comforting modern feel contrasts with several traditional elements of the service: singing hymns, the pipe organ, and a male chorus. In addition to the organ and hymns, we also hear the piano a couple of times as well as two contemporary tunes.

It’s World Kindness Week, and today’s service reflects that theme. Two girls read about the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:33-37. The first reads in Spanish. (The only time we hear a second language.) The second girl reads from the KJV, even though the pew Bibles are the NKJV.

Some middle school students perform a skit, presenting modern-day scenarios about helping others. In the message, “Giving at a Cost,” the minister shares a story from Native American lore, again illustrating the theme.

The service is an ideal melding of the traditional and modern. With professional execution, engaging speakers, and compelling content that draws me to their worship.

[Read about Church #30 and Church #32, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #31.]

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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Bible Insights

Are You a Good Samaritan?

Helping Our Neighbors Should Be More Important Than Following Religious Rules

A man comes up to Jesus. The guy’s an expert in Jewish law. Today we might call him a theologian. He asks Jesus a question, “What should I do to earn eternal life?”

The answer is simple. There are two steps. Love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. It’s that easy. Love God and love others. Then you’ll have eternal life.

Who Is Our Neighbor?

This must make the theologian squirm, because he asks Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus gives him a parable, that many people call the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is how it goes.

Robbers beat up a man and leave him for dead.

A religious leader (a priest) walks by and ignores the man. Later another religious person (a Levite) does the same.

It could be they’re in a hurry or that helping this hurting stranger will somehow cause them to break one of their religious rules. Or it may be that they just don’t care. Regardless they fail to help their neighbor in need.

Then a religious outcast (a Samaritan) comes upon the wounded man. The Samaritan attends to the man’s injuries, takes him to a safe place, and pays someone to look after him.

“Which of these three men,” Jesus asks, “was a good neighbor to the hurting man?”

The answer is the Samaritan, but the religious theologian can’t bring himself to say that word out loud. Instead he merely says, “the one who showed mercy.”

Jesus then tells the theologian to go and do the same thing.

Be a Good Samaritan

Though the religious people of the day dismissed and even despised Samaritans, it is the Samaritan—the good Samaritan—who does the right thing and earns Jesus’s approval.

Though I want to be like the Good Samaritan, I fear that too often religion gets in my way. Click To Tweet

Who are we in the story? Are we religious insiders who fail to help our neighbors in need, or are we someone who pushes religious rules and people’s expectations aside to do what is right? Or may it be we’re like the theologian who would rather focus on words then action.

Though I want to be like the Good Samaritan, I fear that too often religion gets in my way.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 10-12, and Today’s post is on Luke 10:25-37.]

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

We Should Live Our Lives to Influence Others

Like yeast in a lump of dough, a little bit makes a big difference

In the thirteenth chapter of the book of Matthew, we read many parables of Jesus. This includes the parable of the sower, the parable of the weeds, the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the pearl, the parable of the net, the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of yeast.

The parable of the yeast is the shortest of them all, only one verse long. In comparison it seems insignificant and the point, easy to miss.

Part of the problem is that few people today know much about making bread. To make bread we mix several ingredients together. A key component in the recipe is yeast, sometimes called leaven.

Without yeast, the dough wouldn’t rise, the result would be more like a crunchy cracker then a fluffy piece of bread. A little bit of yeast makes all the difference.

When we follow Jesus, he lives in us and Holy Spirit power is available to us. Click To Tweet

Jesus wants us to remember this. We may see ourselves as yeast, perhaps small and seemingly insignificant, yet powerful in how we influence the world around us.

When we have Jesus in us, a little bit goes a long way.

Yet does it?

When we follow Jesus, he lives in us and Holy Spirit power is available to us. But do we use that to help others and impact our world? That’s what happens when the yeast of our lives is worked through the dough that surrounds us.

May we remember that we are yeast and our purpose is to affect the world for Jesus.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 11-13, and today’s post is on Matthew 13:33.]

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

The Thirty-Seven Parables of Jesus

Jesus uses narrative to inform us about his father’s kingdom

Jesus uses parables—“an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” as I learned in Sunday school—to teach us about the kingdom of God. We are part of the kingdom of God, and we need to do a better job of acting like it.

Since Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God and next to nothing about church, perhaps we need to more seriously consider the kingdom of God as the basis for our behaviors, attitudes, and priorities.

Some of Jesus’s parables appear in two or three of the biographies of Jesus, and others, in just one. Interestingly, John does not include any parables in his biography of Jesus. Here are the parables the Bible records for us, along with a brief summary for each one:

The Sower: The farmer plants seeds. Some grow and produce a yield, but some don’t (Luke 8:5–8, Matthew 13:3–9, Mark 4:3–9).

The Lamp under a Bushel: People don’t turn on a light only to cover it (Luke 8:16–18, Matthew 5:14–15, Mark 4:21–25).

New Wine and Old Wineskins: Putting fresh wine in old wineskins will break the skins and spill the wine (Luke 5:37–39, Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:21–22).

The Fig Tree: A budding fig tree signals the approach of spring (Luke 21:29–33, Matthew 24:32–35, Mark 13:28–31).

The Wicked Tenants: Farmers rent a vineyard but refuse to pay their landlord and are punished in the end (Luke 20:9–16, Matthew 21:33–41, Mark 12:1–9).

The Mustard Seed: A mustard seed is small but produces a large tree (Luke 13:18–19, Matthew 13:31–32, Mark 4:30–32).

The Faithful Servant: A good servant is always ready and will be rewarded (Luke 12:35–48, Matthew 24:42–51, Mark 13:34–37).

The Strong Man: A strong man can protect his house, but a stronger man can overpower him (Matthew 12:29-32, Mark 3:27-29, Luke 11:21–23).

The Wise and Foolish Builders: Wise people build their house on a stable foundation (Luke 6:46–49, Matthew 7:24–27).

The Minas: Some servants invest their master’s money and earn a profit for him, but not all of them do (Luke 19:12–27, Matthew 25:14–30).

The Lost Sheep / the Good Shepherd: A shepherd leaves his flock to search for one sheep that wanders off (Luke 15:4–6, Matthew 18:10–14).

The Great Banquet: Some people miss a great feast because they’re too busy, and others take their place (Luke 14:15–24, Matthew 22:1–14).

The Leaven: A little bit of yeast makes dough rise (Luke 13:20–21, Matthew 13:33).

The Two Debtors: The person forgiven of the greater debt is more appreciative (Luke 7:41–43).

The Pharisee and the Publican: One man exalts himself before others, while another humbles himself before God (Luke 18:9–14).

The Evil Judge: A judge eventually gives a poor woman justice to stop her from bugging him (Luke 18:1–8).

The Master and Servant: Servants work and do their jobs without receiving thanks or honor (Luke 17:7–10).

The Unjust Steward: A man about to lose his job abuses his authority to gain favor from others (Luke 16:1–13).

The Rich Man and Lazarus: The poor Lazarus dies and goes to heaven; a rich man dies and goes to hell (Luke 16:19–31).

The Lost Coin: A woman loses one coin and diligently searches until she finds it (Luke 15:8–9).

The Prodigal Son / the Lost Son: One son is dutiful; the other son leaves home, wastes his money, and returns home in defeat, but receives a party from his dad (Luke 15:11–32). Read more about the Prodigal Son.

The parables of Jesus should guide us into living the life he wishes us to live. Click To Tweet

The Wedding Feast: People assume a place of honor at a party and are embarrassed; others don’t and are elevated (Luke 14:7–14).

Counting the Cost: Don’t build a building if you’re not sure you can pay for it; don’t go to war unless you think you can win (Luke 14:28–33).

The Barren Fig Tree: A fig tree that produces no fruit receives a second chance, but not endless chances (Luke 13:6–9).

The Rich Fool: A rich man built bigger barns to store his wealth so he could take it easy, but he died the next day (Luke 12:16–21).

The Friend at Night: A man pounds on his neighbor’s door for help in the middle of the night (Luke 11:5–8).

The Good Samaritan: A man goes to great risk to help another in need (Luke 10:25–37).

The Tares: Weeds grow in the field and will be separated from the grain and then burned after the harvest (Matthew 13:24–30).

The Pearl: A man sells everything to buy a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45–46).

Drawing in the Net: All fish are caught in a fishnet. The good ones are kept and the bad ones discarded (Matthew 13:47–50).

The Hidden Treasure: A man discovers buried treasure and then buys the property so he can have it (Matthew 13:44).

The Unforgiving Servant: A man is punished after he is forgiven of a large debt but then refuses to forgive a small debt owed to him (Matthew 18:23–35).

The Workers in the Vineyard: All men receive a full day’s wage regardless of how many hours they work (Matthew 20:1–16).

The Two Sons: One son tells his father he won’t work and then does; the other son promises to work and then doesn’t (Matthew 21:28–32).

The Ten Virgins: Ten girls anticipate a party. Some are prepared to wait and they get in; the ones who aren’t prepared miss out. (Matthew 25:1–13).

The Sheep and the Goats: A shepherd separates his sheep from his goats (Matthew 25:31–46).

The Growing Seed: A man plants seeds, but he can’t control what happens to them (Mark 4:26–29).

A synopsis of each parable is given, but their meanings are for you to consider. May each one guide us into living the life Jesus wishes us to live.

[Discover more about the Bible at ABibleADay.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

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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