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Christian Living

Why I Write about the Bible in Present Tense

Embrace Scripture as Present, Available, and Relevant

In most of my books and a lot of my blog posts I write about the Bible in present tense. This is an intentional effort to remind us that the Bible is not only an ancient text but also one that’s present, available, and relevant to us today.

It takes more effort to write about the Bible in the present tense, but the results are worth it. Consider these reasons why I feel this is an appropriate action:

The Bible Is Alive and Active

The authors of the book of Hebrews write that the word of God is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12). They don’t write it was. They write it is. Present tense.

They go on to state that the word is sharper than any sword, dividing soul, spirit, and body. It judges—that is, it convicts—our thoughts and attitudes.

These are all present tense attributes about Scripture. This is a key reason why I prefer to write about the Bible in present tense.

Note that this verse can also carry a secondary meeting. Recall John writing that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1, 14).

In this way we see that Jesus—as the Word—is also alive and active, penetrating and judging. Again, we will do well to have a present-tense attitude toward our Savior.

The I Am

When God confronts Moses at the burning Bush, he identifies himself as I Am (Exodus 3:14). He’s not I was, but I am.

Less we think this present-tense identifier of Father God only applies to Moses, John also references this several times in his biography of Jesus.

In it, Jesus, likewise, identifies as I am. He does this several times (John 4:26, John 8:58, John 13:19, and John 18:5-8). Though the NIV presents this as I am, other versions of the Bible use I Am or even I AM.

This I am phrase continues throughout the New Testament, peaking in Revelation 2-3 and culminating with the end-time, future-focused conclusion of Revelation 21-22.

Throughout this, we see God—both Father and Son—as the great I Am of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the end of time. We should therefore think of him as the God who is, a present tense reality.

The Living God

More to the point, the I am is a living God. We see this throughout the Bible, starting when God reveals himself to Moses in Deuteronomy, all the way through to John’s end-time vision in Revelation.

As our living God—who we served today and will abide with throughout eternity—I want to continually remind myself of this reality by writing about him in the present tense.

God and Time

We perceive God who was, is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8). Yet he exists outside of the time-space reality he created for us. As such, we are bound by time. He is not.

To our Creator there is no past, present, or future. There is a singular reality of presence. As being bound by time, this is hard for our finite minds to comprehend.

We default to past, present, and future. But to God our three perspectives converge to one. In my limited view, I best understand this reality as an extant is.

I can best remind myself of this by speaking and writing about the Bible in present tense, of speaking and writing about God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in the present tense.

Though this still limits our appreciation for God’s reality in the spiritual realm, it may be as close as we can get while we remain on earth.

Write about the Bible in Present Tense

I write in present tense as a reminder that Scripture is alive and active. It teaches us of our living God who is I Am, existing outside of time’s constraints.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

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Peter DeHaan News

Read the Entire Bible Next Year

Daily Scripture Reading Guides Now Available

Every year I intentionally explore the Bible, reading a few chapters each day. Some years I focus on the New Testament and other years, the Old Testament, but usually I read the entire Bible in a year.

Will you join me? Will you commit to read the entire Bible next year?

To guide us, check out these Bible reading guides. They are available now. Get your Bible reading plan today.

Chronological Bible Reading Guide

Though a comprehensive chronological reading of the Bible requires a lot of details that won’t fit on a concise handout, it’s possible to make an approximate chronological reading guide by putting the books of the Bible in order.

Here is a chronological Bible reading plan that does just that. By following it, you can read the entire Bible next year.

Following this Bible reading plan will only take 12 to 15 minutes a day. And each Tuesday morning, I’ll blog about a passage from that day’s reading.

Download your own chronological Bible reading guide.

Other Reading Options

What if you’re not ready to commit to reading the entire Bible in a year?

If the goal to read the entire Bible next year seems too big of a task, scale back to a more manageable goal. I have a series of other Bible reading plans to guide you.

Pick the one that works for you:

  • Read the New Testament next year. This plan will take you just 3 to 4 minutes a day, Monday through Friday.
  • Read the Old Testament next year by investing 10 to 12 minutes a day.
  • Monthly Bible reading plans will help you ease into it. These plans take only 3 to 4 minutes a day.

Form a habit to read the Bible. Download your Bible reading plan today and be ready to start reading this January.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Christian Living

4 Tips to Hear from God

Everyone Can Hear from God

People sometimes ask me how I hear from God, and I share with them about when I learned to do this. Yet there were some basic steps I already had in place before I started down this path. I don’t do these perfectly, but I do lean into them and pursue them.

Here are the four steps of how to hear from God, with each one building on the prior one.

1. Read the Bible

Anyone—everyone—can find the written word of God in Scripture. It’s waiting for us, and all we need to do is read it.

Though you could open the Bible only when you have a question you want answered, the better approach is that it should be regular, whether you have a question or not. I recommend daily.

Pick a time each day and commit to reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible. The amount of time isn’t as important as it is to be intentional and regular. Make it a habit.

Start small and build upon it. Here are my 7 Tips to Form a Bible Reading Habit. And here are some Bible reading plans to guide you.

Reading the Bible is the simplest way to hear from God. Anyone who can read can do it. For those who can’t read, there are many options to have the Bible read to you, such as on Bible Gateway. And if you don’t have a Bible, you can read that online too.

2. Do What the Bible Says

Reading Scripture, however, isn’t enough. It’s also critical to put into practice what we read. If we don’t do what the Bible says, what’s the point of reading it in the first place?

Reading the Bible puts information into our head. Obeying the Bible puts that information into action.

As we do what the Bible says, we grow closer to God, and we serve as an effective witness for Jesus to a world who needs him.

Doing steps one and two prepares us to move to step three. Though not everyone is able to excel at the next step, everyone can and should try. And they should keep trying until it works.

3. Listen for the Holy Spirit

Once we’re reading the Bible and obeying what God’s word tells us to do, we’re ready to move to the next step. Now we need to open ourselves up to hear from God. We need to listen.

Before you dismiss the idea of listening for the Holy Spirit, remember that if you follow Jesus, you already have the Holy Spirit within you. He’s not distant. He’s present and ready.

Most people want to start with this step. But if they’re hearing from God as they read his word and aren’t putting it into practice, why do they think he’d be interested in talking to them through the Holy Spirit?

In this way, reading and obeying God’s written word stands as a prerequisite for hearing God’s spoken word.

To hear from the Holy Spirit, we must first put ourselves in a posture of listening. This means removing the noise from our lives, the things that distract us. When we’re in the posture of listening and ready to receive, that’s when God is most likely to speak.

People who hear from God experience his voice in diverse ways.

After years of practice, I hear from God throughout the day. This usually happens with ease and quite quickly. But it wasn’t always that way. I had to work up to it.

Read my experience when I first learned to hear from God. Perhaps it will work for you too. But this isn’t the only way. So if this doesn’t produce results, explore other options to hear from God.

I often initiate the times when I hear from God, yet this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the Holy Spirit talks to me when I’m not seeking his input. He’ll tell me to do something or to say something.

4. Do What the Holy Spirit Says

When we hear from God, it’s critical to obey. We must do what he tells us to do. If we don’t—or won’t—what reason does he have to keep speaking?

Though some of the times when I ask the Holy Spirit for insight, it’s to help me understand a portion of Scripture or to direct my words as I struggle to write a challenging passage.

Sometimes I ask the divine to help me remember something I forgot or find something I’ve lost. He guides me in those situations too.

Yet other times I’ll ask what to do in a situation. Sometimes I don’t like the answer. It seems embarrassing or doesn’t make sense. Though I wish I could say I obey right away regardless of what I think about it, the truth is that I sometimes delay.

Though in most cases, my delay is temporary and becomes obedience, but other times I talk myself out of doing what God tells me to do. My logic results in disobedience. This dismays me, and with his help I’ll do better in the future.

I’m also painfully aware that if I disregard what the Holy Spirit tells me, he may stop talking to me. May this never be.

Summary

Follow these four steps to hear from God: read the Bible, obey the Bible, listen for the Holy Spirit, and obey the Holy Spirit.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Christian Living

Understanding Paul’s Letters in the Bible

Discover How to Navigate and Rightly Understand What Paul Wrote

The apostle Paul is the most prolific writer in the New Testament. He wrote about half of the books, which comprise roughly one third of the content. These are all letters.

Some of Paul’s letters are to groups of people and others are to individuals.

Paul wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. He addresses them to groups of people, usually churches.

Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon to individuals. In these various letters, he sometimes had cowriters, but even then, he took the lead.

These letters total thirteen of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books. Though we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, it’s possible Paul was one of the unidentified co-authors.

If so, this would bump the total to fourteen books he was involved in writing.

In most cases, however, we don’t know the circumstances behind why Paul wrote these letters, so we need to take care that we don’t take what he intended for one person or one church from long ago and wrongly apply it to us today.

Though we clearly know the circumstances for Paul writing to Philemon (a petition to restore the runaway slave, Onesimus, to his master), in most cases we don’t know the situations behind Paul’s letters.

As we read them, it’s as if we’re listening to half of a conversation and don’t know the context.

He may have been answering a question they asked or addressing a specific problem that’s come to his attention (such as 1 Corinthians 1:11). But we usually don’t know.

Just as listening to one side of a phone call could cause us to form wrong conclusions, we run the same risk if we don’t read Paul’s letters with care.

As a result, we should be wary of Paul’s writings so that we don’t misunderstand them. Yet we would be equally wrong to dismiss his letters as not applicable.

To better navigate this tricky dilemma, we’ll do well to divide the content of Paul’s letters into three categories.

Paul’s Story

In Paul’s letters, he often talks about his personal situation. He writes about the things he did in the past, what he’s doing in the present, and his plans for the future. He also tells us about other people or situations.

We can treat these passages just like any other historical section of the Bible.

When we read Paul’s letters, we may be surprised at how often he talks about himself or situations he’s aware of. We can learn much through Paul’s example and his life, as revealed in his letters.

Paul’s Teaching

Another portion of Paul’s writings teach the recipients about the truths of God and how to best navigate their journey of faith.

Though Paul certainly selects what he teaches based on the specific needs of the recipients, we don’t need to know why he’s doing so.

Regardless of the circumstances, we can trust Paul’s teaching to contain godly truths that universally apply to all people regardless of the situation or the era. Paul’s teachings in his letters are clearly applicable to us today.

Paul’s Commands

The third type of content in Paul’s letters is where things get tricky. It’s when he tells his audience what to do. Though the applicability of some situations are clear, most are not.

Consider when Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine for medicinal purposes. This instruction is obviously directed to Timothy and him alone.

It would be foolish for us to think Paul is commanding us to drink wine. This would be especially detrimental for a recovering alcoholic.

Another example is when Paul tells Philemon to prepare a guest room for him. Paul’s certainly not telling us to prepare a guest room for him today. That wouldn’t make sense.

An alternate example is Paul’s frequent command to love one another. He gives this instruction in six of his letters. Peter and John also include this command in three of their letters. Most importantly, Jesus teaches we are to love one another (John 13:34).

Therefore, Paul’s command to love one another is something we should all follow. We know this because Paul repeats it to several audiences, Peter and John concur, and most importantly, it comes from Jesus himself.

Yet most of the rest of Paul’s instructions fall in the murky area between these two extreme examples.

We’re left with a dilemma of wondering whether these commands from Paul are generic instructions we should all follow today or specific direction tailored to one audience: the letters recipients.

In this latter case, we may be incorrect to assume these commands of Paul apply to us today.

To guide us in navigating this dilemma we can consider three principles.

  1. First, if Paul wrote the same command to multiple audiences, it more likely applies to us too.
  2. Second, if other New Testament writers give the same instruction, we can give it even more credence.
  3. Last, and most significantly, is if Jesus commanded it. Then we must follow and obey what he said.

And we can turn to the Holy Spirit to guide us in how to rightly navigate Paul’s commands that we find written in his letters.

Conclusion about Paul’s Letters

We must treat the commands we find in Paul’s letters with care.

We should neither outrightly dismiss them as irrelevant nor naively embrace them without considering if they’re meant for us.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

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Christian Living

Reconcile the Old and New Testaments

Discover How to Embrace the Sections of the Bible

Most Christians know more about the New Testament of the Bible than the Old Testament. With this focus on the New Testament, where does the Old Testament fit in? How can we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible?

New Testament Only

Most people who read and study God’s word tend to focus on the New Testament. They have some go-to passages that they read often, and they’re usually in the New Testament.

Some go as far as to dismiss the Old Testament. They say it no longer matters, since Jesus fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).

Once when leading a small group Bible study, I asked everyone to turn to an Old Testament passage. This request appalled one of our younger members.

“We’re Christians,” she said. “The Old Testament no longer applies to us, so we shouldn’t be reading it.”

I don’t recall how I responded, but the Holy Spirit gave me the right words to say. She accepted my reasoning and looked up the passage. At the end of our study, she thanked me for the insight she learned from our Old Testament reading.

Most every book in the Bible’s New Testament quotes or references Old Testament passages. By knowing what the Old Testament contains, we’re better able to comprehend the nuances of the New Testament.

For example, without knowing Old Testament Scripture, the book of Hebrews is a most challenging read.

Though this young woman’s view was extreme, many people share a similar mindset. They focus on the stories about Jesus and his church, while they ignore everything that happened prior to that time. What they need to do is learn how to reconcile the Old and New Testaments.

Equal Weight

The opposite perspective is applying the same importance to both sections of the Bible. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us.

This happens in the Old Testament that reveals Father God and points us to the coming Savior, his Son. The New Testament opens with a focus on Jesus and then talks about his followers and early church.

They don’t need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments because to them both carry equal importance. Yet this isn’t without its own dangers. We need to take care not to build a theology based on Old Testament principles that Jesus fulfilled.

For example, the Old Testament overflows with rules for people to follow and the warning of judgment and punishment when they fall short.

This is to point us to the need for a better way. In doing so, it foreshadows salvation through Jesus by his ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins, a sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we’re no longer under the law of the Old Testament and the threat of its punishment. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith. We don’t need to work to earn it. We just need to receive it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Yet too many practitioners of the Christian faith today still try to earn their salvation as the Old Testament proclaims, while not adhering to Jesus’s better way.

Instead of applying equal weight to both testaments of Scripture, they need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

All Scripture

Yet some people push back against this, citing Paul’s words to his protege Timothy that all scripture comes from God and is useful to us (2 Timothy 3:16). Saying “all scripture” confirms that both the Old and New Testaments are important, right?

Not so fast.

At the time Paul wrote this, we did not have the New Testament of the Bible. Yes, some of the books and letters did exist at that time, but it would be a couple of centuries before they were codified into the cannon that we now call the New Testament.

So when Paul said “all scripture” he referred to the Scripture that existed at that time. This would be what we now call the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.

The Septuagint Bible—the Greek translation of Scripture in use during Jesus’s time and which he quoted from—included the text that we now call the Apocrypha, along with the rest of the Old Testament.

Though these books have remained in some Bibles, Protestants removed them from theirs a couple of centuries ago. Yet the Old Testament and the Apocrypha are what Paul referred to when he said, “all scripture.”

Therefore, to properly reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must also include the Apocrypha in our consideration.

Conclusion

When we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must balance the truth that Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets with Paul’s teaching that all Scripture applies. This includes the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament.

All three of them point us to Jesus. And that’s the goal.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

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Christian Living

We Must Rethink Sunday School

Reform Sunday School as an Education Service to Your Community

It may be strange to see Sunday school on this list of things we must change for our churches, but we should carefully reexamine it. Do you know the original mission of this Sunday program?

It was to teach poor children how to read. And the church used the most accessible book to them, the Bible. It was a pleasant side effect that in teaching children to read, this Sunday educational program also taught them about God through the Bible.

By the time public schools came into existence and took over this job of teaching children how to read, Sunday school had become entrenched in churches.

Instead of realizing they had accomplished their objective and shutting it down, they shifted its focus to teach the church’s children about God.

It didn’t matter that this was the parent’s responsibility (Proverbs 22:6, as well as Deuteronomy 6:6–7 and Ephesians 6:4). Though parents can supplement their efforts with other resources, let’s not depend on Sunday school to be one of them.

English as a Second Language

We could use this as justification for shutting down our Sunday schools, but a better approach might be to reform this practice from the internal program that it has become back into a service effort to help those in our community, just as was the original intent.

One example that would apply in many areas in the United States is to look at teaching English as a second language (ESL). Though many ESL programs already exist, they don’t reach everyone.

Beyond ESL classes, meeting any unmet community educational need would fit nicely.

Regardless, the church should reform their Sunday school practice to address needs in their community.

Parents should resume their biblical role to tell their children about Jesus. They are the primary spiritual educators of their children. This removes the need for Sunday school, which we can re-envision as a program to help those in our community.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Christian unity and loving others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 22-24 and today’s post is on Proverbs 22:6.]

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking 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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Christian Living

Have We Lost the Bible?

The High Priest Found the Book of the Law When They Cleaned the Temple

As the priest worked on restoring the temple, he stumbled on the Book of the Law. They had misplaced it. They had lost the Bible. Though their religious practices as prescribed in the Book of the Law continued in some manner, they didn’t have the original document it was based on.

King Josiah

This happened when Josiah was king. He began his reign when he was eight years old and ruled for 31 years. The Bible says he did right in God’s eyes. It was during the eighteenth year of his reign that the priest found the Bible.

Josiah’s father was Amon. He, however, did evil in God’s eyes and only reigned two years. His officials conspired against him and assassinated him.

Josiah’s grandfather was Manasseh. He had a long reign of 55 years. He also did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Josiah’s great grandfather was Hezekiah. He reigned for 29 years. He did what was right in God’s eyes, just like his ancestor, King David.

When did things go wrong? When did they lose the Bible?

Though they could have lost the Bible during the neglectful reigns of Kings Amon and Manasseh, it could have gone back much further. How long had the nation’s religious practices relied on the memory of what the Book of the Law contained, without the written document to guide them?

Having lost the Bible, these people became untethered from the foundation of their faith. It’s no wonder that Josiah’s father and grandfather strayed so far from God’s intention and did evil.

Have We Lost the Bible Today?

Though copies of the Bible abound today, I wonder how well we do in using it as the foundation to guide our faith. If we want a relationship with the God who is revealed in the Bible, we need to follow what the Bible says.

Many followers of Jesus continue to use the Bible as their source to anchor their faith, to keep them tethered to the Almighty who we find disclosed in Scripture.

Yet other adherents have decoupled their religious practices from the Word of God. They reject what it says—either fully or in part—judging it to be out of touch and irrelevant today.

At best they read the Bible as if holding a pair of scissors in their hand, cutting out the parts they don’t like or disagree with. They have lost the Bible.

Reclaim the Bible as the Word of God

If we want to live a life that truly matters, one that brings us into right relationship with the God of the Bible and guides us to better connect with others in our world, we need to acknowledge the Bible as the written word of God. We need to find the Bible.

To reclaim the Bible means to read it, study it, and meditate on what it says. It means to believe it. This includes all of it—whether we agree with it or not. Doing anything less means drifting away from God and pursuing a faith that’s untethered from any firm foundation.

For those who have lost the Bible, it’s time to take it back.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 20-22 and today’s post is on 2 Kings 22:8-11.]

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Christian Living

Are You Christ Curious?

Learn More about Jesus and What His Life Means

Some people view Jesus as a great historical figure, an insightful teacher, or a guru who taught and exemplified the importance of loving others. They’re intrigued by him and want to learn more. They are Christ curious.

Other people go all in for Jesus. They follow him with zeal. They revere him as their savior and esteem him as their friend.

But making such a grand commitment it’s too big a stretch for the Christ curious. They’re intrigued by Jesus and want to learn more. Maybe they’ll take a cautious step toward him, or maybe they won’t. First they want information. What should they do to learn more about Jesus?

Ask Others

One way the Christ curious person can learn more about Jesus is to ask people who know him—or at least know about him. Once you’ve identified the person to talk to, simply ask, “What can you tell me about Jesus?” or “What does it mean to follow Jesus?”

Most every person, however, has their own ideas about Jesus. And they may not align with others. In fact, ask ten people about Jesus, and you’re get ten answers.

This may be an intellectually stimulating exercise, but it might not yield much clarity about Jesus.

Go to Church

If you are Christ curious, you could also try going to church. This is where you can learn more about Jesus—at least in theory. Although many churches focus on Jesus in their services, others have wandered so far away from him as the source of their beliefs that they rarely mention him.

For this reason, you may need to visit many churches before you find one that clicks with your mission to learn more about Jesus.

Read Jesus’s Biographies

If you are Christ curious, you could also read books about Jesus, but why not go to the original source? The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus. Each one is named after its author: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

These biographies of Jesus are also called gospels. They cover his life: what he did and what he said. John was a disciple of Jesus and an eyewitness to what he did.

Matthew and Mark may have been eyewitnesses, too, although not as close as John. Luke was not an eyewitness, but he did thoroughly research everything before writing his biography about Jesus.

Recommended Gospels for the Christ Curious

Which one should you read first? Though I suggest every Christ curious person read all four of the biographies of Jesus, here are some ideas to get you started.

John; The book of John is unique among the four biographies of Jesus. It is beloved by many. As we’ve mentioned, John was both a disciple and an eyewitness to what he wrote about.

John, however, was likely the last to write his biography of Jesus, so there’s a time lag between when the events occurred and when he recorded them for us to read. John’s writing is lyrical, at times poetic.

If you want to reach slowly and marinate in the text as you contemplate multiple levels of meaning, John’s biography of Jesus is the place to start.

Luke: In contrast, the book of Luke is an easy read and contains some delightful details not covered in the other biographies of Jesus. It’s my go-to gospel.

Mark: The book of Mark is the shortest of the four biographies of Jesus. For the Christ curious person who wants a quick read to cover the essential facts, Mark is the book for you.

Matthew: This isn’t to discount the book of Matthew, which many people know best, perhaps because it appears first in the New Testament of the Bible. But it may not be the place to start.

Move Forward

If you’re Christ curious—and even if you’re not—don’t rely on secondhand information. Go to the original sources and read the four biographies of Jesus in the Bible.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Christian Living

Do You Have a Crisis of Faith?

Discover 3 Tips of What to Do If Question Your Faith

I hear people who have a crisis of faith, who question what they believe. It pains me to see the struggle they’re going through. Yet I’ve never been sure how to help them, except to encourage them to press forward and not give up. This is because I never questioned my faith.

I have, however, questioned church practices. I’ve done this often for most of my life. And I see a connection between the two.

I Question the Church

I was a young teenager when I got my hands on a New Testament copy of the Living Bible. I poured through it. I read the entire thing. Then I read it again.

When I was fourteen, I devoted my summer vacation to reading the Old and New Testament of the Living Bible. It only took an hour a day, and I had plenty of time.

What I saw in this easy-to-understand version of the Bible bore little similarity to what I saw practiced at church each Sunday morning. Yes, there were common elements, but that was it. Mostly what I saw was a significant disconnect.

That’s when I began to question the church. I became so disillusioned with it, I nearly gave up—at least with the organized, institutional church. To this day, decades later, I’m still disillusioned and remain critical.

Yet I still attend—in hope to one day experience church as it was practiced in the Bible—and as Jesus modeled for his followers.

This lifetime of questioning church occurs throughout my blog posts and in many of my books. And it’s the focus of my book Jesus’s Broken Church.

But what’s the connection with me questioning the church and other people questioning their faith?

Do You Question Your Faith?

A common trait I’ve seen in people who question their beliefs—who face a crisis of faith—is that they’re mad at God because of what they’ve been taught about him, not because of who he is.

Their perception of God is skewed because of preachers and teachers who have misrepresented our Heavenly Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit to them.

These folks teach with passion and conviction, but too often they’re spouting a manmade doctrine that runs counter to biblical truth. If you’re questioning your faith, first take a step back and question what you’ve been taught about God before you get angry at him.

Here are three tips if you find yourself having a crisis of faith:

1. Question What You’ve Been Taught

The first step is to examine your perception of God. Perhaps it’s wrong. For most people it is. Though many hold minor misconceptions, others make assumptions about God that are seriously flawed.

Though in some cases this may be due to their own faulty logic of making God into who they want him to be, usually it’s because others—both trained clergy in untrained peers—have led them astray.

God loves us. This is true.

But this doesn’t mean we won’t have struggles in life. In fact, we will. Jesus says so (John 16:33). The evil one will assault us (John 17:15). We will face persecution (Matthew 5:10-12).

And because God loves us, we will receive his discipline, just as parents lovingly discipline their children so they can grow and mature. So it is with Father God and us, his children (Hebrews 12:5-7).

2. Seek Biblical Truth

Just as I’ve cited these four passages that teach us the truth about God, faith, and living for him, the Bible is packed full of more of these truths.

To learn about God, we need to read the book that teaches us about him.

Don’t rely on what our culture says about God because they don’t know him. They are dangerous guides, just like the many ministers who misrepresent God’s true nature.

The true source for reliable information about God is the Bible. We will do well to read it, study it, and meditate on it. As we do our understanding of who God is and our relationship with him will change—for the better.

3. Ask for Holy Spirit Insight

It’s hard, however, to read and study the Bible in isolation. We can do this with others, with iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). As King Solomon wrote, two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Yet the Holy Spirit is an even better resource to help us understand Scripture. The Holy Spirit is a reliable guide who will teach us (John 14:26). This begins with prayer (James 1:5).

Move Forward

If you find yourself questioning your faith, first question what you’ve been taught about God. Then seek the Bible for real answers, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you and reveal truth to you.

As you reform your understanding of God, you’ll grow closer to him. And you will see your crisis of faith dim. This will take time, but it will be worth the effort.

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

Should We Meditate on God’s Word?

As We Read the Bible May We Imagine All God Has in Store for Us

I’ve always been wary of meditating. It seems so mystical, so ungodly. This is because I encountered the idea of meditation from Eastern religions, not biblical Christianity.

Though there are many types of meditation, I’ve heard most about transcendental meditation. As I understand it, the goal is to push aside all thought, to empty our minds.

Two Concerns about Meditation

Emptying my mind of all thought alarms me for two reasons, so I won’t meditate in this manner. First, the Bible says to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). It doesn’t say to empty our minds of all thoughts, but to control them.

Second is when Jesus teaches about impure spirits. He warns against an impure spirit that finds a house (a mind) unoccupied and clean. It goes out and rounds up it’s even more wicked friends to go there to live, making the person even worse off than before (Matthew 12:43-45).

These are the two biblical reasons why I won’t empty my mind of thought.

What the Bible Says about Meditation

Just because we best know this concept of meditation from Eastern religions doesn’t mean it’s not in Scripture.

The word meditate occurs eighteen times in the Bible, with meditation showing up three more, in the NIV. A recurring theme in these verses is to meditate on God’s Word and on God’s goodness.

Meditate on God’s Word or Imagine?

In Psalm 1:2, the writer proclaims blessings on those who delight in God’s law, who meditate on it day and night. Though most translations use the word meditate, other versions say ponder, study, recite, think about, and focus.

When I read the Bible, I ponder it, study it, recite it, think about it, and focus on it. Given these alternate understandings, I’m happy to meditate on God’s Word.

Now let’s turn to the next chapter in Psalms. It talks about people with evil intent. Various translations of Psalm 2:1 describe this action as devise, plot, and make. Some versions, however, use the word meditate, with others saying imagine.

Do the words imagine and meditate mean the same thing? I understand that the Hebrew word translated meditate in Psalm 1:2 is the same word that’s translated imagine in Psalm 2:1.

This suggests that as we meditate on God’s Word, we can imagine what it means, how we can understand it, and the ways it can inform our lives.

The word imagine also occurs elsewhere in the Bible. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he talks about God being able to do even more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Meditate on that.

I have a good imagination. I can imagine additional details for the various stories we read in the Bible. I can also imagine myself in those ancient situations and doing today what God tells us to do.

May our meditations on God’s Word use our imagination to amplify its impact.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 1-5 and today’s post is on Psalm 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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.