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Bible Insights

Blessed to be a Blessing

God Blesses Us So That We Can Be a Blessing to Others

God wants to bless us. He loves us and wants to give us his best. This idea of blessing occurs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God often ties his blessings to the people’s obedience and to the attitudes of their hearts. Yet, the first time we encounter this word in the Bible, it’s God’s unconditional promise to bless Abraham. He does this prior to Abraham doing anything to demonstrate his obedience to God’s commands or his faith.

God blessed Abraham for Abraham’s sake, but there’s more. Through Abraham, God promised to bless all the people on the earth through him (Genesis 12:2-3). In short, God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others.

But this doesn’t just apply to Abraham. The word bless occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments. It’s a reoccurring theme. More specifically, the phrase bless you occurs fifty times. Furthermore, the idea of blessing other people shows up four dozen times, and blessing nations shows up another fifteen.

God expects us to be a blessing to others. We should view God’s provisions to us from this perspective. He blesses us—he prospers us—so that we can be a blessing to others. Here are some ways we can do this:

Donate Money

For many people, when they consider the idea of blessing others, they think of money. Providing financially for others is an ideal way to be a blessing to them. We can use the money God has blessed us with to give to organizations whose mission aligns with our passions. We can also give money directly to people in need.

In both cases, however, we must be good stewards of God’s financial blessings to us so that they will have the best kingdom impact.

Share Possessions

We can also be a blessing to others when we share our possessions. When we have things we don’t need, we shouldn’t throw them away. Instead, we should give them away.

We can give directly to individuals in need or to organizations, who will in turn give them away or sell them to raise money for their cause.

Yet let’s move our thinking beyond our castoffs. We can also give possessions that we still use, that still have value to us, to others. If someone has more need of it than we do, then maybe we need to give it to them.

In these ways, we can be a blessing to others.

Give Time

Aside from material items, consider our time. We can give our time to help others. This can occur by volunteering for various organizations focused on helping others. It can also occur directly by helping a neighbor who could use some assistance.

And lest anyone complains that “I don’t have enough time,” let me remind you that we all have 24 hours in each day. We choose how to use that time. Why not choose to give some of it away?

Mentor Others

A specific way to be a blessing to others with our time is to do one-on-one mentoring. In this way we invest ourselves in them, helping them to have a better life, be it physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Pray for Others

A final option—the most important one—is something that everyone can do. We can all pray for others. And we can start today, right now.

God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

In both large and small ways, God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to 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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Christian Living

Pursue a God-Honoring Contentment

Discern When to Be Satisfied with What You Have and When to Yearn for More

Though some of our world live in an environment of true need, most people have their daily needs met. Yet they aren’t satisfied with having their basic requirements covered. They want more. And the more that most people have, the more they want.

These people live with a materialistic outlook. They’re never satisfied with what they have. They always crave for more. This is the reality today in developed countries around the world. Regardless of what these people have, they’re not satisfied. Whatever they have isn’t enough; they’re always yearning for more, grasping for what they don’t have.

Material Contentment

Instead of always seeking for more, we should strive to be content with what we have. God has blessed us with material provisions. We should thank him for his gifts and not seek more. We must learn to be content with what we have.

In fact, an unrestrained drive to accumulate more money and more possessions emerges as a disrespect for God. It’s a slap in his face, effectively saying that what he’s given isn’t enough.

We must stop this. We must learn to enjoy what we have and be thankful for it. All we need is to have the basics of life covered. Everything else is a bonus.

With God’s help, we can learn to be content with what we have: the size of our bank account, our home, our car, our clothes, our possessions, the money in our pocket, and on and on.

Most people today live beyond their means. They’re one paycheck away from disaster. And a few people live at their means. This is a better perspective. My goal, however, is to live beneath my means, which gives me more opportunity to bless others.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals to make our life better. But it does mean we need to keep our ambitions in check. In the Bible, James gives us some commonsense advice to do this, crouching our plans with a caveat “If it’s the Lord’s will . . . ” (James 4:15).

Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment

There’s another element of commitment however, that we must address. It’s not our physical comforts, but our spiritual situation. We must never be content with that.

Yet most people are satisfied with their spiritual condition and their standing with God. Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. And it’s sad for what they’re missing.

As for me, this is one area where I want more. When it comes to my relationship with God, what I have is not enough. I crave a deeper connection, greater supernatural insight, and a spiritual reality that I’ve so far just read about.

Conclusion

Each time I asked God for contentment with his tangible blessings—to protect me from a materialistic mindset—I’m quick to add a clarification. I also request from the Almighty that I’ll always desire more on a spiritual level. And that he will provide it.

May we be materially content and spiritually hungry.

Take a moment now, and thank God for what he’s given you.

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

How to Respond to Pain

The Birth of Jabez

The obscure Old Testament character Jabez is only mentioned in two verses in the Bible. A reoccurring theme (if two verses can have a reoccurring theme) is pain.

The birth of Jabez is marked by pain and his mom gives him a name to let everyone know that. What a terrible legacy to give a boy, a name that serves as a constant reminder—to him and everyone else —that he caused extreme discomfort to his mom and is likely destined to continue to cause pain.

Jabez could have opted to live up to those expectations, allowing his name to be a self-fulfilling prophecy or he could attempt to overcome it. He chose the latter, asking God to keep him from causing pain.

And God answered his prayer!

Regardless of our past or the hand that life has dealt us, we don’t need to let that define us. We can overcome it and become something else, something better.

God helped Jabez do just that and he can help us to; we only need to ask.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.]

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

Is Our Relationship With God More Important Than Obedience?

The Old Testament Law talks a lot about offering sacrifices to God, but what if he really wants something more?

King Solomon writes in the book of Ecclesiastes that we need to be careful when approaching God. “Guard your steps,” he says. This is wise advice.

Then he adds something more: “Go near to listen.” He even places listening over offering God the prescribed sacrifices. Though the Old Testament Law gives many commands about offering God our sacrifices, I don’t recall one that tells us to listen.

Yet Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, places listening to God over offering sacrifices to him.

Listening is about connecting. Solomon realizes God wants a relationship with us. He talks to us, and when we listen, we hear his voice, his words.

A deeper relationship with God starts when we listen to him. Click To Tweet

Communication with God isn’t a one-way street, with us just asking him (praying) for things. God can communicate to us, too, through the Bible and through his Holy Spirit, “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, NIV) or his “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV).

In Psalms we read we need to “be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). That is the best way to listen to God. That’s what he wants from us: our ears, our attention, a relationship.

Our relationship with God starts when we listen to him.

Ask yourself: How do you listen to God? How does God speak to you?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ecclesiastes 4-6, today’s post is on Ecclesiastes 5:1.]

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

Deliver Us from Evil

Pray That God Will Protect Us from Harm

Do you ever ask God to protect you from evil? You can. It’s biblical. It’s part of my morning routine, and based on what I’m about to share, I want to be more intentional about making this request each day. There are two key prayers in the Bible that offer scriptural support for asking God to deliver us from evil.

The Lord’s Prayer

What we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer—because it came from Jesus, our Lord—we should more appropriately call the disciple’s prayer—because it’s for his disciples, and for us. This stands as the most significant prayer in the Bible. First, because Jesus taught it. Second, because he gave it to us as a model to follow.

Consider the line in Matthew 6:13 from this prayer. In most translations, it says “deliver us from the evil one,” or simply “deliver us from evil.” Some versions use the word rescue, save, or free, but deliver is the most common translation.

Jesus gave us this prayer is a model to use, so we should follow it and pray that he will deliver us from evil.

The Prayer of Jabez

Another biblical prayer that I find significant is the lesser-known prayer of Jabez. (There’s even a book written about it.) Aside from the Lord’s Prayer, I call Jabez’s prayer my favorite prayer in the Bible. Why is this? Because after Jabez prays, Scripture records God’s response. It says that God granted his request.

This means that God accepted Jabez’s petition and answered his prayer. Oh, how this encourages me when I pray.

One line in Jabez’s prayer is that God would “keep me from evil1 Chronicles 4:10). Though some translations use the word harm or pain instead of evil, most say evil.

Two Prayers to Deliver Us from Evil

It should be enough that Jesus tells us to ask God to deliver us from evil. But the Bible gives us a second example through Jabez, along with God’s confirmation that he answered Jabez’s prayer when he asked for the same thing.

When we ask God to deliver us from evil, he will do just that. Click To Tweet

This should encourage us that when we ask God to keep and deliver us from evil, he will do just that.

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

There is Power in Prayer

God Is Always Just a Prayer Away

Prayer is part of my daily spiritual journey—at least most of the time. Each day. before I climb out of bed, I seek God’s blessings for my day. I ask that I will write well, he will grant me favor, and he will provide what I need. Some days these requests seem more imperative than others, that I don’t dare start my day until I’ve invited him—sometimes implored him—to join me in it. There is power in prayer, and I so need it.

I also strive to end each day with prayer, but I’m not as consistent here. I ask that I will fall asleep quickly and awake refreshed. I pray for peaceful, God-honoring dreams. I also intend to thank him for his blessings throughout the day, but too often I fall asleep before I get that far.

Prayer also occurs throughout my day. I ask for wisdom when making important decisions and insight for dealing with problems (James 1:5). I also ask for the supernatural ability to find things I’ve lost or recall things I can’t remember. God always comes through when I seek him in these things. Yes, there is power in prayer.

Yet this isn’t to say that my day overflows with prayer and walking closely with my Creator. Sometimes I forget to seek the Almighty, even when I need him the most. A recent ordeal illustrates this point all too well.

The Power of Prayer

On Friday I uploaded my long-awaited audiobook for Women of the Bible to an audiobook distributor. A professional narrator had optimized the files, so I anticipated I’d soon see my audiobook for sale around the world.

On Saturday, however, I received a notice from the distributor that they had rejected my files for technical issues. They listed multiple problems with every single chapter. I was dismayed, and my narrator was shocked.

On Monday I received another email repeating their determination. They reminded me that until we fixed every file to their satisfaction, my book would not be available for sale. Perplexed, my narrator reworked his schedule to block out time later in the week to tackle the lengthy list of problems.

On Wednesday I mentioned the ordeal in my weekly newsletter. After sharing my disappointment, I wrote:

“God’s perspective is different, though I can’t yet see it. What I do sense is that God is not disappointed, which fills me with hope. I’ll cling to that.”

I concluded by saying:

“When we’re disappointed, it’s God’s perspective that matters.”

I sent the email and prayed it would encourage others who were dealing with their own disappointments.

I wasn’t expecting readers to reply, but they did. One response was from a friend providing encouragement and offering blessings and prayers for a quick resolution.

At that moment I realized I had not prayed for a quick resolution. I had not prayed at all. In fact, over the eight months since I first started working on the audiobook version, I had not prayed for it one bit. And this was despite encountering delays and frustrations along the way.

I confessed my lack of prayerfulness and added my prayers for a quick resolution to my friend’s, along with others who were also praying.

May we remember that there is power in prayer and pray throughout our day, rejoicing and thanking God. Click To Tweet

Having not yet made any changes to the files, three hours later the distributor emailed me with a correction, saying that they had now approved the recordings, and I could move forward.

That is the power of prayer.

May we remember that there is power in prayer and pray throughout our day, rejoicing and thanking God (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Thank you, Jesus, for hearing our prayers and answering them.

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

Pray to the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Praying to the Godhead

Last week we looked at God as Trinity and used the image of a tripod to illustrate how one God can exist in three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now we’ll build upon that understanding and use it to inform us so that we can better pray to the Trinity.

When you pray, who do you pray to? Many people address their prayers to God. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s a bit impersonal and keeps him at a distance. God doesn’t want that, and we shouldn’t either. God desires that we have an intimate relationship with him. This should be our intent as well. One way to do this is to stop addressing our prayers to God and start talking to him using his Trinitarian parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is, our Creator, our Savior, and our Advocate.

To inform us as we move forward, consider the characteristics of each part of the godhead.

Pray to the Trinity When We Offer Thanks and Praise

God deserves our adoration and are thankful hearts. Out of gratitude for what he’s done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us we should praise and thank him. To help make this come alive we can address our appreciation, as appropriate, to the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit.

For example, we can praise the Father for creating us (knowing that his Son took part as well, John 1:1-3). We can thank Jesus for saving us. We can thank the Holy Spirit for living in us and guiding us.

Likewise, we can praise Father God for his blessings and provisions. We can praise Savior God for his example, words, and sacrifice to save us. We can praise Holy Spirit God for living in us and guiding us.

Pray to the Trinity When We Make Our Requests

We can also use this idea of praying to the Trinity to inform our petitions. For example, James writes that if anyone lacks wisdom, they should ask God (James 1:5). This is correct. But which part of the godhead can best grant this request? The Holy Spirit. So ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom.

If we seek a blessing, who might we ask? Go to God the Father. Ask the Father for his provisions, and he will provide.

If we desire to live a more holy life—not to earn God’s attention but as an act of worship—we might ask this of Jesus, since his life serves as an example for us to follow.

In Whose Name Should We Pray?

Jesus tells us we are to set our requests before him, asking in his name (John 14:13-14). Some Christian traditions follow this by adding a phrase to the end of their prayers: “in Jesus’s name we pray, amen.” Of course, Jesus also tells us to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:6). Which is it? Both.

In addition, the Holy Spirit can help us when we pray. He will intercede for us (Romans 8:26-27). Should we then pray in his name? How about all three? This may be why other Christian traditions pray “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Enjoy Freedom as We Pray

This idea that we can pray to the Trinity is to free us so that we can move into a closer and more meaningful relationship with God. In doing so we should hold loosely our desire to identify the correct part of God to pray to. If we ask Jesus for something that more appropriately should go to the Father, it’s not a problem. They are one (John 17:22).

Praying to one is praying to all three. If we get the name wrong, it’s not a big deal.

When we pray to the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we draw ourselves to God in greater intimacy. Click To Tweet

This idea that we can pray to the Trinity is not a command to follow but one option to enhance our prayers. As we pray to the Trinity, we can breathe life into our prayers if our words mired stuck in a rut. In the same way, this can also draw us into a closer relationship with God if he seems distant. Remember, it’s not him who’s far away from us but we who are far away from him.

When we pray to the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we draw ourselves to God in greater intimacy. Isn’t this the purpose of prayer?

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

Opposition to Nehemiah

Learn More about Nehemiah

Under the wise leadership of Nehemiah, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were rebuild in only 52 days. That’s less than two months.

That seems quick and it sounds like it would have been easy, but it wasn’t. Nehemiah faced severe opposition, in multiple ways, that threatened progress and could have easily derailed the project. Yet he stood firm, with his vision firmly fixed on his objective. At each step he deftly dismissed each interruption that could have distracted him from his mission.

This opposition took various forms, from ridicule to political, bad advice to prophetic subterfuge, and well-sounding distractions to a strategy of physical attack.

In response to the plan to attack and kill the workers, Nehemiah prayed first and then took tangible action to protect themselves.

Too often, when faced with adversity, we take action first and then pray as an afterthought, if at all. It’s not until we’ve exhausted all our own ideas that we seek God for him to rescue us.

This is not what wise leadership does—and its not what we should do. We need to seek God first—and then take reasonable precautions.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Nehemiah 1-4, and today’s post is on Nehemiah 4:9.]

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

Will You Pray for Us?

The People of Israel Ask Samuel To Intercede for Them

Throughout the Old Testament, the Philistines show up as a recurring nemesis for God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel. The Bible mentions the Philistines 191 times in seventeen of the Old Testament’s books. In most of these cases the Philistines are doing something to harass the Jewish people.

Today’s passage is one of many such examples.

Pray for Us

The Philistine army advances to attack Israel, and the people fear what will happen. They go to the prophet Samuel and ask him to “pray for us,” to intercede and seek God’s provision for deliverance from their enemy.

“Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God,” they beg, “so that he will rescue us from the Philistines.”

Though the Bible doesn’t specifically say that Samuel prays, we can assume he does. Then Samuel offers a burnt offering to God.

When the enemy army draws near, God produces a mighty thunder and the Philistine army goes into a full-scale panic. In complete disarray, the Israelite army easily routes them, killing many and winning a significant victory.

Then Samuel sets up a stone as a monument to commemorate the event. He calls it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” This serves as a reminder to the people of how God worked through nature to bring about a victory for the Israelite army.

Pray for Yourselves

This passage is a tribute to God’s power and of Samuel’s intercession for the people. Yet why did the people need Samuel to pray for them? Why did they need him to be there liaison to God?

They could have sought God directly and personally asked him for deliverance. But they didn’t. It could be that their faith was weak, and they didn’t feel they could approach God. Another explanation is that their theology was in error, and they didn’t realize they could pray directly to God.

We can go directly to God in prayer. Do we do this or ask someone else to pray for us? Click To Tweet

Today, we can go right to God in prayer. Do we do this or ask someone else to pray for us? What does this say about our faith and our theology?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Samuel 7:8.]

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Christian Living

10 More New Testament Practices, Part 1

Consider the Example of the Early Church and Then Follow It

We’ve already talked about the three main ways Jesus changed our perspectives for following him when he fulfilled the Old Testament prophets. The early church applied this by meeting in homes, serving as priests, and helping those in need. As Jesus’s priests they minister to those in the church, tell others about Jesus, and worship him.

That’s a great foundation for how our church today should function, but there’s more. Consider these New Testament practices that we will do well to follow today.

1. Holy Spirit Power and Direction

The Old Testament focuses on God the Father and looks forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus shows up as a central figure in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Then the Holy Spirit takes over for the rest of the New Testament, amplifying what Jesus set in motion.

Even so, Jesus is the central figure of the Bible—with God the Father pointing to him and God the Holy Spirit building on what he accomplished. Aside from being the key figure in the Bible, many say Jesus is the most important person in all of history. I agree.

Jesus does all his work on earth in about three years. He spends that time teaching his disciples and preparing them to take over when he returns to heaven.

Despite this, however, they aren’t fully ready to assume their critical role when he is ready to leave Earth. Instead, Jesus tells them to wait, wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit power is the missing element they need before they move forward and advance the kingdom of God. In this, the Holy Spirit plays a leading role. He’s prominent in the book of Acts, guiding the early church and empowering its members.

The book of Acts mentions the Holy Spirit fifty-five times, with close to a hundred references. It’s clear that the Holy Spirit acts in Jesus’s place to lead his church.

In one instance, Jesus’s followers debate a theological issue about circumcision for new converts. After they reach a consensus, they write that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

Listing the Holy Spirit first suggests he took a lead role and the people aligned with his perspective. I wonder how often we do just the opposite, where we decide and then try to manufacture Holy Spirit support.

Another time, as the church worships and fasts, the Holy Spirit tells them to send out Barnabas and Saul on a missionary journey (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit also speaks to Philip (Acts 8:29), Peter (Acts 10:19), Agabus (Acts 11:28), and Paul (Acts 20:22).

But the Holy Spirit isn’t just in the book of Acts. He appears in nearly every book of the New Testament, including Revelation.

For Jesus’s church, the Holy Spirit is in charge. He leads their meetings and directs all that they do. This is the first of our New Testament practices to follow.

2. Worship

We’ve already talked a lot about worship. The appropriate worship of God is a central tenet of our faith. The Old Testament mentions worship in 179 verses. The New Testament continues this theme with seventy-five more.

Many come from the Gospels as well as Acts. The book of Revelation mentions worship more than any New Testament book and comes in second overall, just behind Deuteronomy.

This makes it clear that worshiping God is in our history, our present, and our eternal future. Worship is the second of our New Testament practices,

In the most profound verse about worship, John reminds us that God is spirit. Therefore, those who worship him must worship him in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

But what exactly is this verse telling us? There are two elements: Spirit and truth.

First, we have the Spirit, with a capital S. This means Holy Spirit. To fully worship, we must worship through the Holy Spirit. He will direct our worship and guide us. We must follow his lead and do what he says.

Though we often think of our worship as a physical act, there must also be a spiritual element to it. And the spiritual aspect is the more important one.

Second, we must worship God in truth. This means our worship must be honest, pure. To worship God in truth suggests integrity.

This means that we don’t make a show of our worship to impress others or gain their attention. That makes for disingenuous worship and doesn’t honor God. It doesn’t matter what others think of our worship, it only matters what God thinks.

The opposite of not making our worship a display for other people is holding back our worship for fear of what others may think or say. We must feel free to worship God as the Holy Spirit leads us.

This is how we worship God in Spirit and truth.

3. Prayer

In addition to worship occurring throughout the Bible, we also have prayer. Half of the books in the Old Testament talk about prayer, and most of the books in the New Testament address the subject. Prayer is the third of our New Testament practices.

James writes that the prayers from a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Paul tells us to pray in all situations (Ephesians 6:18) and confirms that everyone should pray (1 Timothy 2:1).

The book of Revelation gives us some insight into our prayers. Three times John connects prayers with incense, which God receives from his people. First, we see golden bowls of incense which represent our prayers (Revelation 5:8).

Then we have an angel who offers the incense and our prayers before God’s throne (Revelation 8:3). And last, we see the smoke of the incense mingling with our prayers, rising to God (Revelation 8:4). Whether we use incense or not in our spiritual practices, these passages in Revelation gives us a powerful image of how God receives the prayers of his people.

When it comes to praying, however, many people think of the Lord’s Prayer. Though a better label might be the Disciple’s Prayer. This is because Jesus gives the prayer to his disciples as an example of how the pray. It is their prayer, not his.

The Lord’s Prayer—sometimes called the Our Father, after its opening line—occurs twice in the Bible. People are familiar with Matthew’s version, with many having memorized it and with some churches reciting it as part of their worship practices (Matthew 6:19-13).

The version in Luke is far less familiar. It’s shorter and more concise (Luke 11:1-4).

Neither of these prayers are for us to memorize or recite as much as a model to follow. Here’s an interpretation of how we can apply it to inform our prayers.

  • We open the prayer by reverencing God.
  • Then we ask that his kingdom will come—implicitly with us helping to advance it—and that we will accomplish God’s will here on earth.
  • In the one personal, tangible request, we ask for our daily bread. That is, we ask God to provide for us each day what we need to live. It may be food or something else that’s essential.
  • Then we pray that God will forgive us, just as we forgive others. And if we withhold our forgiveness this implicitly allows God to withhold it from us. Hopefully neither will happen.
  • We end with a request that God will steer us away from temptation and give us victory over Satan’s attacks.
  • And some versions of the Bible tack on one more phrase. In this we celebrate his kingdom, his power, and his eternal glory.

But this is just one example of how the pray. The key is that prayer is an essential part of our faith journey.

Jesus said “When you fast…” not “If you fast…" Click To Tweet

4. Fasting

Another concept that occurs throughout the Bible is fasting. To fast is to go without food for a time. This isn’t an act of mortification to abase ourselves before God or try to gain his attention.

Instead it’s to focus our thoughts on God, seeking to better connect with him and align our thinking with his. When fasting, one recommendation is to take the time normally spent eating and use it to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.

There are two key teachings in the Bible about fasting.

When Jesus instructs the people in his epic message that we call the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about this practice. He says “When you fast . . .” Not “If you fast . . . ” (Matthew 6:16-17).

From Jesus’s perspective, fasting is not an optional activity but an expectation.

Second, Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2). He serves as an example to us all. Since he fasted, is there any reason why we shouldn’t?

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t require that his disciples fast, but this is a short-term reprieve because he is with them. He adds that once he leaves, it’s time to resume fasting (Luke 5:33-35). Since he has returned to heaven and is no longer here on earth, it’s again a time for us to fast.

Fasting is the fourth of our New Testament practices. Jesus wants us to fast, and so we should.

5. Community

The early church also spends a lot of time with each other. This isn’t a once-a-week meeting for an hour or two. It may be an everyday occurrence (Acts 2:46, Acts 6:1, and Hebrews 3:13).

They don’t live their faith in isolation. They need each other. They thrive on community. Just as the godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit function as one, so too do Jesus’s followers (John 17:20-21, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and 1 John 1:3). Through mutual support they edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

This is how they grow in faith, with iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). It’s two—or more—people traveling down the road together, keeping each other on the right path and headed in the right direction. It’s picking up another when they stumble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Living in community is the fifth of our New Testament practices. It is central to who they are and what they do. Without the encouragement and support of each other, they’ll certainly falter in their faith. Together they are better.

Together they can remain focused on Jesus and all he calls them to become. Community is key in making this happen. Think of this as true biblical fellowship (Acts 2:42 and 1 John 1:3-7).

What do they do when they hang out? They spend time in prayer (Acts 1:14, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, and James 5:16). They worship (Acts 13:2 and Romans 12:1). They also sing (Ephesians 5:18-20, Colossians 3:16, and James 5:13).

The more established disciples of Jesus teach the newer followers about the basics of faith. Think of this as a new members class (Acts 2:42). And we’ve already covered how they share their material blessings with each other and listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Come back next week to learn five more things the early church did, five more New Testament practices.

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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