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Christian Living

Don’t Let Your Prayers Be Hindered

Understanding the Weaker Vessel

When Paul talks in the Bible about marriage, I struggle with his words because he was a bachelor. What does he know about the subject? Peter, on the other hand, was married so I give more credence to what he says on the subject. Even so I struggle a bit when he talks about women as the weaker vessel in 1 Peter 3:7.

This verse is specifically about husbands and wives. It’s part of a longer passage that talks about the marriage relationship. Let’s breakdown what Peter says.

The Weaker Vessel

In looking at multiple versions of this verse, most use the phrase weaker vessel. It offends my sensibilities because I strive to view men and women as equals. Some verses clarify that this weakness refers to physical characteristics, which I understand to be true, even if I don’t want to dwell on it.

The Message translation doesn’t use the phrase weaker vessel. Instead. it says, “as women they lack some of your advantages” (1 Peter 3:7, MSG).

The Expanded Bible clarifies this even further using the phrase as “the less empowered one” and explains that in the society of that time, women tended to have less power and authority (1 Peter 3:7, EXB).

Can we expand our understanding of this teaching beyond marriage to produce a general principle? Or is that taking the verse out of context?

If we choose to extend Peter’s instructions beyond marriage, we should all—men and women—take care in how we treat others who may be a weaker vessel to us: those who lack our advantages, who aren’t as empowered, and who possessed less authority.

As we do so we promote a God-honoring justice.

Joint Heirs with Jesus

Not only is this verse about husbands and wives, but it also refers to a Christ-centered marriage. Husbands and wives who follow Jesus are his heirs.

Some translations say co-heirs or joint heirs. The rendering I appreciate most, however, is that we are equal partners (1 Peter 3:7, NLT).

As heirs of Jesus, we receive an inheritance from him, both now and later. That is, we inherit eternal life.

So That Your Prayers May Not Be Hindered

The outcome of husbands treating their wives properly, as joint heirs with Jesus, is a more effective prayer life. In this way, Peter gives a command with a promise: treat your spouse well and your prayers won’t be hindered. Other renderings say “blocked” (1 Peter 3:7, CJB) and “ineffective” (1 Peter 3:7, AMP).

Peter gives a command with a promise: treat your spouse well and your prayers won’t be hindered. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

Putting this all together, when husbands treat their wives properly—when everyone treats everyone else with respect—our prayers will be more effective.

Don’t we all want a more vibrant, effective prayer life? Then we should take care how we treat others.

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

Why We Shouldn’t Take God’s Grace for Granted

We dishonor God by persisting in sin because we assume his grace will cover it

A highschool friend heard about the doctrine of eternal security—which some people shorten to the more accessible mantra of “once saved, always saved”—and latched onto it. She took God’s grace for granted.

She reasoned this creed allowed her to act any way she wanted, that she and God were in a good place in their relationship, and her behavior didn’t matter anymore.

In short she took this as a license to sin.

She thought she had her get-into-heaven card, and that was all she cared about. She disconnected her reality on earth from her future in eternity.

Though she rightly embraced God’s grace, she incorrectly assumed it came with endless abundance. This didn’t feel right to me. Surely she overreached and grabbed onto an unwise conclusion. I tried to talk her down from her extreme position, but she wouldn’t listen.

Instead she clung to her steadfast belief that nothing she did from that point forward would have any bearing on her spiritual future. After all, she had said the prayer, so she was in.

I wish I had read Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. I wish I had known about the sixth chapter.

The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. Click To Tweet

In it Paul addresses this topic of sin and grace. The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. This is true. Yet some go too far and claim our ongoing sin serves to elevate God’s grace.

Paul says, “No way!”

When we follow Jesus we turn our back on our wrong behaviors (Romans 6:1-2).

I wish I had known that to tell my friend.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 5-7 and today’s post is on Romans 6:1-2.]

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 Does It Mean to be Yoked With Unbelievers?

The Apostle Paul presents a series of contrasting situations for us to avoid

Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He warns them not to yoke themselves, that is, to pair themselves, with people who don’t believe. The image of a yoke applies to two animals paired together to pull a load. He tells them: ” be yoked with unbelievers.”

They need to be of equal strength, and they certainly need to move in the same direction if their efforts are to be effective.

This verse is often applied to marriage, for a person who follows Jesus to not marry someone who does not believe. While this may be a sound application, I don’t see it as absolute.

I’ve also seen this misapplied by asserting, for example, that a Baptist can’t marry a Lutheran or a person of one race can’t marry someone of another race.

A secondary application relates to business, for a Christian businessperson to avoid forming partnerships with non-Christians. Again, there is wisdom in this as well, yet it is not unconditional either.

Look at some of the contrasts that follow the allusion of a mismatched yoke:

  • Right living versus wrong living
  • Light versus darkness
  • Jesus versus those opposed to him
  • A believer versus an unbeliever
  • God versus idols

Instead of applying this passage to marriage or business, let’s focus on the final contrast of God versus idols. What if the primary intent of Paul’s writing is a warning to not yoke the God of the Bible with other religions?

Do not pair God with other religions. Click To Tweet

This mixing of diverse spiritual practices is a popular trend these days. People take what they like about Christianity, stir in some Eastern religions or add a bit of Judaism or Islam, and season with some ideas of their own.

The result is a manmade religion, an idol of their own making. It’s being yoked with unbelievers. God is not pleased.

The Bible warns us not to place God and idols under the same yoke. Don’t mix God with anything else.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

Freedom through Jesus

Stop Asking If You Can Do Something and Start Asking If You Should

We have freedom through Jesus. Do we believe this is true? How does this idea inform our day-to-day actions? We’ll do well to consider this thought to determine the best way to apply it to our lives.

As children, our parents taught us what was right and what was wrong. Our churches built upon this. The result is that we’ve formed a list of what we can do and another list of what we can’t. These lists become rules that guide our behavior and inform our life.

Freedom through Jesus

Rules can be good, and rules can be bad. It all depends on how we apply them. When rules become law—spiritual laws—those who follow the law become legalistic. This is not good. How do we balance the rules we’re supposed to follow with our freedom through Jesus?

It’s our nature to try to push against rules, against the law. We want the liberty to do as much as we can, making our list of what’s permissible as long as possible and the list of what’s prohibited as short as we can. We want freedom.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes to them that everything is lawful for him to do, but not everything is profitable; not everything builds up (1 Corinthians 10:23). Stated another way, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Based on this verse, I’m working to reorient my thinking from “Is this something I can do” to “Is this something I should do?”

Let’s consider what Scripture has to say about this topic.

The Old Testament Law

Once we read past Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible, we move into the law of Moses. It’s an exhausting, mind-numbing list of what to do and not do. Bible scholars have catalogued 613 rules from the law of Moses that prescribe right behavior and wrong behavior. To be right with God, people needed to follow every one of these rules.

And for situations not covered by these 613 items, religious leaders began to interpret Moses’s original instructions to apply them to every area of life. Over time this resulted in more than 20,000 additional rules to guide the most diligent in proper living.

The Pharisees pursued all these rules with great diligence. Though we criticize them for their hypocrisy, we often miss their righteousness. They were more righteous—more God honoring through their right living—then perhaps any other.

Modern-Day Pharisees

Pharisees still exist in our world today. These modern-day Pharisees, however, don’t follow the Old Testament law. Instead, they’ve made their own list of things that they can’t do. Yes, their focus is on what they can’t do. It’s legalistic, and it’s bad. They forget that they have freedom through Jesus.

Instead, they become slaves to a list of man-made laws that they feel-duty bound to follow if they are to be a true disciple of Jesus. This is restrictive, and it’s wrong. They’re following the philosophy of the Old Testament law and the example of the New Testament Pharisees. They forget they’re saved by grace through faith—not actions (Acts 15:11 and Ephesians 2:8-9).

Freedom in Christ

In another of his letters, Paul writes to the Galatians that we have liberty because Jesus set us free. Paul contrasts this freedom through Jesus to being entangled by a yoke of bondage, that is, slaves—not slaves to sin—but slaves to the law (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus’s Expectations

Jesus, on the other hand, teaches that his yoke is easy—that is, his expectations for us when we follow him is minimal. This results in a light burden for us to bear (Matthew 11:30). We have the freedom through Jesus to push the law aside and not struggle under the burden of a heavy yoke.

Does that mean we can do anything, especially since our salvation comes through God’s grace? Paul writes about this in his letter to the church in Rome. He asks the rhetorical question, “Shall we continue in our sin so that we may showcase God’s grace?” Of course not. Paul makes it perfectly clear. “No way,” he says (Romans 6:1-2).

Responding to Our Freedom through Jesus

We need to keep this in balance.

We must avoid the two extremes—absolute law and complete grace. Neither are what Jesus has in mind. We need to land somewhere in the middle. Only following rules leads to failure and results in guilt. And only relying on God’s grace means that we fall short of who we can be through Jesus and diminishes the witness of our actions to a world who needs him.

In still another letter, this one to the church in Philippi, Paul encourages them to pursue what is noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. We should think of these things. And let these thoughts turn into actions (Philippians 4:8).

Jesus set us free, not to satisfy our own desires, but to do that which is spiritually profitable and builds up others. Click To Tweet

We have the freedom through Jesus, but not the obligation, to do these things. Jesus set us free, not to satisfy our own desires, but to do that which is spiritually profitable and builds up others.

May we use this principle to guide our daily living. This is what it means to have freedom through Jesus.

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

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 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

We Need a Balanced Bible Perspective

How We Read Scripture Influences Our View of God and Our Relationship with Him

In a prior post I said that not all Scripture is the same. I placed the books of the Bible into eight groups. This formed a hierarchy of importance, starting with the Gospels. Though this is a most helpful guide in studying God’s Word, a more basic view is considering how to regard the Old and New Testaments. We do this to provide a balanced bible perspective of Scripture.

Focus on the New Testament

Some people place their sole attention on the New Testament of the Bible, while ignoring the Old. They correctly state that Jesus came to fulfill the laws and writings of the prophets (Matthew 5:17). They reason, therefore, that Jesus’s fulfillment renders Old Testament Scripture as irrelevant.

Because of this, they only read and study the 26 books of the New Testament, while snubbing their nose at the Old Testament’s 39. In doing so they miss out on so much that could deepen their understanding of God and their relationship to him.

It’s like watching a sequel to a movie, while ignoring the first one. Though the sequel might be good as a standalone production, we can appreciate it so much more if we watch the first movie.

Esteeming the Old Testament

The opposite view of dismissing Old Testament Scripture is to treat it as equal to the New Testament text, sometimes even errantly elevating the Old over the New. For their justification, these people cite Paul’s letter to Timothy that affirms the usefulness of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). This, of course, ignores the fact that the New Testament didn’t exist when Paul wrote to Timothy. This means that Paul’s use of all Scripture refers to the Old Testament.

The error of treating both sections of the Bible as equal results in people forming a theology that’s colored with an Old Testament perspective—approaching God from a legalistic, rule-following outlook. In doing so they diminish Jesus’s way of salvation by grace through faith.

Concentrate on the New Testament text and let the Old Testament inform and illuminate what we read. Click To Tweet

A Balanced Bible Perspective

These are both extreme viewpoints.

Just as we shouldn’t ignore the Old Testament and its rich, faith-forming writing, we also shouldn’t put it on an equal standing with the New Testament. The solution is to concentrate on the New Testament text and let the Old Testament inform and illuminate what we read.

The result is a balanced perspective of Scripture.

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

3 Unusual Examples of God’s Healing Power

God Uses His People to Heal the Hurting

Elisha dies, but his influence lives on. Yes, Elisha continues to teach us today, thousands of years after his death, through the words recorded about him in the Bible. However, he also has a practical effect on someone postmortem. It’s one example of God’s amazing healing power through his people.

1. The Healing Power of Elisha’s Bones

A man dies, and his friends are burying him when a gang of bandits come into view. Not wanting to end up like their buddy, the pallbearers dump the body in the nearest tomb.

It happens to be Elisha’s final resting place. When the body touches the bones of Elisha, the dead man becomes undead and jumps to his feet (2 Kings 13:21).

This is an amazing example of God’s power to heal. It’s the ultimate healing: resurrection. But that’s not all. Here are two more stories.

2. The Healing Power of Peter’s Shadow

The Bible also tells about people bringing their infirmed friends and placing them on the street where they expect Peter to travel. They hope Peter’s shadow might fall on the sick as he passes by.

Though the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that people received healing this way, why would they go to this trouble if Peter’s shadow hadn’t healed others in the past? (Acts 5:15).

3. The Healing Power of Paul’s Handkerchief

Later in the book of Acts, we read about God doing astonishing miracles through Paul. This supernatural power is so extraordinary that even handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul touches have the power to heal people.

They bring these garments to people who need healing. The people who receive them are cured and evil spirits are cast out, even though Paul isn’t physically present (Acts 19:11-12).

Is God still in the business of healing people? Click To Tweet

God’s Power to Heal Is in Us

God’s healing power occurs through a dead man’s bones, a shadow, and articles of clothing. Is God still in the business of healing people? How can these examples inform our view of miracles and how we act today?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 11-13, and today’s post is on 2 Kings 13:21.]

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

How Content Are You with God’s Blessings?

The Bible Tells Us to Live a Life of Contentment

Though some people in our world struggle to have the basic requirements for life, many others enjoy an existence that meets all their needs and beyond. This is a given for many people in most developed nations. They don’t need to seek God for their daily bread; they already have plenty to eat. Instead, they seek more. These materialistic people never have enough; they are not content. They continually strive to expand what they have. Metaphorically, they’re building bigger barns (see Luke 12:16-21).

Thankful or Dissatisfied?

Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation in life, we must make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons—God-honoring reasons. If God has supplied our needs and we still aren’t content, isn’t this an insult to God and his generosity?

If we aren’t satisfied with God’s provisions, doesn’t this suggest that we don’t appreciate his blessings? Though most of us would be quick to say we’re thankful for God’s gifts, our actions and attitudes often suggest the opposite.

Scripture Calls Us to Be Content

In the Bible, Paul shares about his life. He says he’s learned to be content in every situation. Not only is this during times of plenty but also when he’s hungry or living in want. He does this through God’s strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Not only does Paul provide this example of contentment, but he also encourages Timothy and others (including us) to be content with what they have. He even goes as far as to connect contentment with godliness. (1 Timothy 6:6-9).

A final passage to consider comes from the writer of Hebrews who tells his audience to avoid materialism (the love of money) and be content—that is, satisfied—with what we have. This is because God is with us always and will never forget us (Hebrews 13:15).

We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment?

These verses about contentment address our physical situation, our material needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But what about our spiritual situation? Should we be content with that too?

When it comes to God and living a life that honors him, we should never be content. We should always desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. God doesn’t want us to coast our way into heaven. When we say yes to following Jesus, he wants us to go all in and live every day for him. We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little.

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

Tame the Tongue

Be Careful What You Say

Many people today—too many—feel they have a right to say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it. What they forget is that this privilege also comes with a responsibility to not say some things, to at times keep quiet. Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes silence should prevail over our speaking. We must tame the tongue.

Though this unfiltered spew of unrestrained rhetoric is most pronounced online, especially social media, it carries over from cyberspace into our physical space, tainting our in-person interactions.

This must stop.

Though the world may not know any better, Christians should.

In the Bible, we see that James agrees. He has a whole passage warning about the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue, one that both praises God and harms others with its words (James 3:1-12).

James uses the analogy of people taming animals, but no one can tame the tongue. He says it’s full of “restless evil” and “deadly poison” (James 3:7-8, NIV).

Does this mean that we have no chance of controlling our words? Of course not.

Though people may not be able to tame the tongue of others, we can—through God’s help—tame our own tongue. We can restrain what we say with Holy Spirit help.

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus telling them that when they speak truth in love it will help them grow into maturity (Ephesians 4:15). This is an ideal place to start. We say what is true, but we do so in love.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul lists the characteristics of love. Love is patient and kind. It’s not envious, boastful, or proud. It doesn’t dishonor other people, isn’t selfish, and doesn’t yield to anger. It doesn’t remember the wrongs of others. It mourns evil and celebrates truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Tame the Tongue

May these traits of love guide our speech, knowing that in some cases the best thing to say is nothing. In this way, we can tame the tongue.

The tongue is a dangerous tool that must be tamed. Click To Tweet

The tongue is a dangerous tool that we must control.

We have a responsibility to God and to others to be careful what we say. Sometimes saying nothing is the best solution.

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 Third Heaven

Paul Spent Time with God in the Spiritual Realm and So Can We

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he makes a cryptic statement about going to the third heaven. He doesn’t know if it’s an out of body experience or not (2 Corinthians 12:2).

This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase third heaven. What does it mean? By looking at other uses of heaven in the Bible, we find three applications.

  1. Sometimes heaven refers to the sky. This is the first use of heaven.
  2. Other times heaven refers to the sun, moon, and stars. This is the second use of heaven.
  3. Another instance refers to God’s dwelling place. This is the third use of heaven.

This means that Paul went to heaven for a time—whether in body or in spirit, he’s not sure—and then returned to earth. It seems too fantastic to be true.

I’ve not told this to too many people, but I believe I’ve also been to the third heaven. Several times. Like Paul I’m not sure if this was in my body or out of it. Though a few times I did have a physical form when I was there.

At first, I only had a fleeting awareness of my presence in heaven before returning to earth. Sometimes I’d bow at the foot of Father God’s throne, stretching out my hand to touch his foot in reverence. Occasionally I’d succeed, but usually my straining to reach the Almighty fell just a bit short.

Heaven will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend. Click To Tweet

After that I had a couple of longer experiences in the third heaven. I can’t describe them other than to say they were glorious and euphoric. I didn’t want to leave. These occurred when I was fasting and praying.

Then one day—again while fasting and praying—I desired to visit heaven, but God said no. He explained that if he allowed me to return, I’d want to spend too much time there, which would detract from what he wants me to do here on earth. I get that. He was right, of course.

One day—when my work here is done—I will return to heaven and stay there forever. It will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend.

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.