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Bible Insights

How and Where Do We Devote Ourselves to the Work of the Lord?

When We Do God’s Work, Our Labor Is Not in Vain

As Paul winds down his first letter to the church in Corinth, he gives a simple command, followed by some encouragement.

He says for them—and us, by extension—to remain diligent doing God’s work. Though we may not see the results of what we do or at least not realize the full outcomes of our actions, we will not toil needlessly. Our labor will produce results.

While this command to give God 100 percent is simple in concept, the implementation presents a challenge.

What does it mean to give ourselves fully to God’s work?

Do we need to be in ministry or have a full time job at a Christian service company to do God’s work?

Can we do God’s work in a regular job? Can we do God’s work at school? At home? For our neighbors? With our family? I think the answer is “Yes.”

That brings up the next question.

Give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, (1 Corinthians 15:58). Click To Tweet

What is God’s work?

I’m not being flippant. It’s a serious question.

Is the Lord’s work being a pastor or missionary? Is God’s work volunteering at church? How about helping at the local service organization?

Can we do the work of the Lord by how we live our life?

While we can use words to tell others about him, we may be able to speak more effectively if we let our actions talk for us. Isn’t that God’s work, too?

Though we can debate what it is to do the Lord’s work and in what setting we should do it, don’t let these details get in the way of the command to “give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord” for when we do, our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14-16, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 15:58.]

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

To Be Served or to Serve Others

Consider Your Attitude toward Church and Your Motivation for Going

When I listen to people talk about church, I often hear what draws them in and what drives them away. They enthuse about programs for them and the youth group for their kids. They gush about the skill of the minister delivering inspiring sermons, the excellence of the worship team, and the size of the church. They never mention opportunities to serve others.

And when they leave a church or complain about the one they’re attending, two common phrases are “it’s not meeting my needs” and “I’m not being fed.” Never mind that it’s their job to feed themselves, and they shouldn’t expect church to do it for them. They attend church with a consumer mindset, but this is not what church is about.

To Be Served

In short, these folks desire for their church to serve them. That’s why they selected it, why they became members, and why they attend. And when the church falters in meeting their expectations, it’s also why they leave, often in a huff and complaining to anyone who will listen.

They expect something in return for their presence and for the money they give. They have a transactional perspective: “I show up and give you money so that you will give me something of greater value in return.” Seldom do they seek opportunities to serve others.

To Serve Others

Only once have I heard someone complain that their church provided no service opportunities for them. My friend quietly found a new church that provided options to serve others. The family quickly got involved and plugged in by serving others.

Jesus freely gave to serve others, and we should follow his example. Click To Tweet

Not only is this an admirable attitude, but it’s also something Jesus modeled. Jesus didn’t expect others to serve him (though some chose to do so); he looked for ways to serve them. He taught them, healed them, and pointed them to the kingdom of God, all without expecting anything in return (Mark 10:45).

In the end, he died for them—and for us—covering our many failures (sins) to make us right with Father God and reconcile us to him. He gave his life for us, so that we could live with him forever (Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus freely gave to serve others, and we should follow his example.

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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Christian Living

Work Out Your Salvation

Consider Your Response to Receiving the Greatest Gift Anyone Could Ever Get

Paul tells the church of Philippi to work out your salvation (Philippians 2:12). He doesn’t say to work for your salvation. They’ve already received eternal life as a free gift through God’s goodness (his grace), and there’s nothing they need to do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Tell God Thank You

Jesus died in our place and took on our punishment for all the things we’ve done wrong. In doing so, he made us right with Father God. It’s a gift he gives us with no strings attached. There’s nothing we need to do to earn it. We just need to receive it. It’s a gift of salvation, of eternal life.

What do we do when someone gives us a gift? We show our appreciation. This starts by saying thank you, and we might follow-up with a note or card. Depending on the gift, we may proudly wear it, use it, or display it for everyone to see. In doing so we honor the giver.

If we follow Jesus as his disciple, he’s given us the ultimate gift that anyone could ever give. It’s a gift of salvation and of eternal life with him and through him.

This deserves the best thank you we could ever offer. This isn’t a once-and-done show of appreciation. Receiving salvation deserves our regular and ongoing acknowledgment of having been given the best gift of all time.

Work Out Your Salvation Every Day

Receiving the greatest gift anyone ever could, warrants that we say thank you every day. We do this with our words, our thoughts, and our actions, making sure they align with God’s instructions in the Bible and his will for our life. This is how we work out our salvation. This is how we honor the giver.

Working out our salvation isn’t a requirement, but it is a warranted response. It’s a show of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and we should want to live a changed life as an ongoing display of appreciation.

And so that we don’t dismiss this as a trivial task, Paul tells us to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. This trepidation isn’t because God could take back his gift; it’s a reflection of his almighty power, which we should be in awe of and never presume.

Work Out Our Salvation Corporately

Implicit in Paul’s instruction to work out your salvation is to do so not only as a personal response, but also as a corporate response. As his church, we should work out our salvation together with other followers of Jesus as we gather on Sunday morning and throughout the week.

We do this in tangible terms by our worship of him and through our service to him and for him. In practical terms we do this by coexisting in harmony with one another, letting our words and our actions serve as a powerful witness to a world who doesn’t yet know Jesus.

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all others. Click To Tweet

Work It Out

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all 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

Do You Go to a Missional Church? Are You Missional?

Make Sure That What You Do Advances the Kingdom of God

Many people talk about being a missional church (and a missional follower of Jesus). This is an ideal goal, yet people have different understandings about what it means to be missional. Before giving a holistic definition of this often-misunderstood word, let’s first look what it is not.

Missional Is Not a Mission Statement

Too many churches think that having a mission statement automatically means they’re a missional church. But there’s seldom a connection between their formal declaration of intent and its effective outcome.

Even including the word missional in a mission statement doesn’t count. Claiming to be missional falls far short of producing true missional results.

Missional Is Not Merely an Attitude

Beyond mission statements, having an attitude of mission is a good start, but thinking falls far short from doing. Being mission minded is an essential foundation to launch from, but we must put our faith into action to help others.

Missional Is Not Providing Financial Support to Missionaries

Giving money to support missionaries to go throughout the world and proclaim Jesus is an ideal use of funds. It is not, however, missional. Instead, it’s paying someone else to be missional in your place.

Yes, missionaries need money so they can focus on telling others about Jesus and advance his kingdom. (Notice I didn’t say grow a church.) Both we and our churches will do well to support missionaries, but don’t for a minute think this gets us off the hook for being missional ourselves.

Remember, Scripture says that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). Don’t have an ineffective, unproductive faith.

Missional Is Not Internal Programs

Another common fallacy is thinking that having internal church programs qualifies as being a missional church. Yes, some churches have their doors open every day of the week for some program, initiative, or gathering. But with rare exception, each one of these programs has an internal focus, seeking to serve church members and attendees, while doing nothing to benefit the surrounding community.

These programs are inward focused, self-serving, and selfish.

Consider your church budget. After removing salaries and facility expenses, look at what’s left—if anything. How much of this remaining sliver of donations goes to internal needs versus how much goes to outward-facing, community initiatives? For most churches, the answer is zero.

God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church. Click To Tweet

Missional Church Is Outward Facing Action

True kingdom-growing mission is the opposite of internal programs geared toward the flock. God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church.

Do your part to advance the kingdom of God. Pursue this missional mindset individually and as a group. This is necessary because a missional church is comprised of missional people.

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

What Is a Christian Cohort?

Align with Other Believers to Build Ourselves Up and Serve Others

In my post about spiritual mastermind groups I talked about the benefit of aligning ourselves with other like-minded followers of Jesus to walk with on our spiritual journey. Now I’d like to look at the word cohort and apply that too. Let’s call this a Christian cohort.

What a Cohort Is

A cohort is a group or band of people. Though a secondary application refers to a single companion or associate, the more widely used understanding refers to many. Though we could intentionally form a Christian cohort, just as we might a spiritual mastermind group, I think of most cohorts as being informal.

If we view a Christian cohort as a naturally developing assemblage of people in our church or parachurch organization, then most of us have a cohort, possibly several of them, which vary with the setting.

We can also be more intentional about forming a Christian cohort. Though this could take many forms, with varying functions, it could also approach being a spiritual mastermind group.

For our Christian cohort to be effective and reach its highest potential, however, it shouldn’t have only an internal focus, but an outward one as well. Though there is a time to build each other up, there is also a time to go out into our community and help others. Forming a Christian cohort to serve is a great application of this concept.

What a Christian Cohort Isn’t

A secondary definition of the word cohort is with the military. This first started in the Roman Empire, where it identified a group of 300 to 600 soldiers. But a cohort can more generically refer to any group of combatants.

However, let us not apply this military understanding of cohort to our theology. We are not Christian soldiers marching off to war. God forbid! May we never have a repeat of the Crusades.

Though the idea of a battle applies to our journey with Jesus, this is a spiritual one—warring against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12)—not a physical one fighting other people we may disagree with.

What a Cohort Shouldn’t Be

Though the idea of a Christian cohort is appealing, it also carries a huge risk. This is that our cohort could easily become a click, a Christian click. These clicks have existed in every church I’ve been part of. I suspect all churches suffer from Christian clicks.

These clicks are groups of friends, cronies if you will, who informally, yet effectively, form an inner circle within the Christian fellowship that excludes all others, essentially relegating them to a second-class status in the church.

Though I’m not aware of it, I suspect I’ve been part of these a time or two. But what I do realize—most painfully—is the many times I’ve been on the outside looking in. It’s a lonely place to be. May our Christian cohort never become a click.

A Christian cohort can produce an encouraging peer group to move us into a closer, more effective relationship with God and each other. Click To Tweet

Cohort Conclusion

When done rightly, a Christian cohort can produce an encouraging peer group to move us into a closer, more effective relationship with God—and each other. When done wrongly, our cohort becomes a click that serves as a barrier to Christian community.

May we embrace the positive side of Christian cohort and guard against its wrong use.

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

God Gives Us Options

In the book of Hosea, God calls the young man, Hosea, to be his prophet—telling him to marry a prostitute, (see “Hosea Shows Us God’s Unconditional Love”). This is one of God’s most scandalous directives.

What is intriguing is that God does not indicate which prostitute. God gives options. The choice is left to Hosea! While he could have opted for the first one he saw, picked one at random, or altruistically selected the one who was most needy or deserving of being rescued, I suspect he did none of those.

Remember, Hosea is a guy. He most likely chose the most attractive, most alluring prostitute! If that is correct, the story becomes even more shocking.

God does give us choices. Click To Tweet

But God does give us choices. When God tells us to do something, either through the Bible or the Holy Spirit, it is usually in bold strokes. He gives the big picture, such as feed the poor, cares for the sick, or take care of orphans and widows.

The details are left to us. God gives us options. We determine how we comply. We can factor in our personality, our resources, and our preferences, and, yes, even our passions in determining how we do what God tells us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hosea 1-4, and today’s post is on Hosea 1:2-3.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

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

Why I’m Against Seminary Training

The first time someone said this to me, I was both excited and dismayed: “God’s calling me to full-time ministry—so I’m going to seminary.” Though I’ve now heard it many times since, my reaction is the same to the thought of seminary training.

I’m thrilled whenever anyone desires to work full time to support God’s causes. I’m equally distraught when they assume more education is a prerequisite. In fact, there’s often a requirement to first spend three years of intense theoretical study prior to action. That’s quite a detour!

Seek Relevant Preparation Instead of Seminary Training

I’m not against preparation. In fact, I insist on it, but unless the goal is to teach at the graduate level, I don’t see seminary as the best means to prepare. I say this, knowing that many friends have been to seminary and more are presently attending. I do my best to support them, but my insides scream, “You’re wasting your time!”

Most people don’t need more esoteric education, they need an application in action. One minister said, “Our level of knowledge is about two years ahead of our obedience.” Others are direct: “Stop learning more about the Bible and start applying what you already know.”

Consider How Jesus Taught His Disciples

Look at the disciples. How many of them had anything resembling today’s seminary training? None. Their preparation was following Jesus around, of seeing him in action, learning by doing, and applying faith to life.

The closest they came to a theology class was the Sermon on the Mount, but that was practical, life-changing, perception-altering teaching, not abstruse rhetoric. Then, after three years of on-the-job training, they went out and changed the world—with God’s help, of course, but that’s the point.

Consider Paul

Paul was likely the most educated of Jesus’ followers, but let’s be honest. How often do the things Paul wrote perplex us? I know it’s not just me. In Acts 26:24, Festus became so bewildered with Paul’s discourse that he shouted, “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

I’ve heard that ministers who don’t go to seminary are happier with their work and enjoy greater success. That’s telling. Knowing that, why would anyone want to attend seminary?

Most of us don’t need more education to serve God. We just need to do what he’s telling us to do. Now go do it!

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Bible Insights

We Must Avoid the Love of Money

How We View and Handle Money Matters to God—and to Us

Paul writes to his protégé Timothy, warning him that the love of money is the source of all manner of evil. An unhealthy preoccupation with wealth is especially risky for followers of Jesus, for their pursuit of money can distract them from their faith and pile on all kinds of grief (1 Timothy 6:10).

Keep in mind that Paul is not condemning money. Paul warns against the love of money.

For anyone who has money, this serves as a solemn warning to make sure we have a God-honoring understanding of money and what its purpose is. Accumulating wealth as if it’s a scorecard of success is a fruitless pursuit with an insatiable appetite.

Money is not the end but the means to the end. Money shouldn’t be our aim. Instead we should focus on how we use the money we have, the money God blesses us with.

When it comes to the pursuit of money—our love of money—we risk having it pull us away from God. Consider these proper uses of money.

Use Money to Take Care of Our Needs

First, we need money to take care of ourselves. (Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:10.) We must focus on what we need, not what we want. While our wants may never be satisfied, we can meet our true needs. We need food, shelter, and clothing.

These are the essentials. Everything else is extra. In the strictest sense all else is a want. We must be careful to curb what we want and instead focus on using money to cover what we need.

Use Money to Help Others

Once we take care of our needs, we should consider the needs of others. What do they need? How can we help them? Again, as with our own balancing of needs versus wants, we must guard against supplying someone with what they want, instead of focusing on what they truly need.

Yes, when we try to help others, sometimes they’ll take advantage of us. Then we aren’t being good stewards of the money God blesses us with. How do we guard against this?

We ask for God’s wisdom, and we follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That’s the best we can do.

However, the only way to make sure our generosity is never exploited is to never give money to anyone, but that would dishonor God who wants us to help others, especially widows and orphans (James 1:27), as well as foreigners and the poor (Zechariah 7:10).

We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for money. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God. Click To Tweet

Use Money to Serve and Honor God

In addition to taking care of our needs and helping others who are in need, we should use money to help fund the things that matter to God. With the wise use of our money, we can serve God and honor him.

We must remember that we can’t serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24). Our love of money will distract us from the love of God. May it never be.

However, just because I list God third, doesn’t mean it’s third in priority. It’s first. We should give to God first (Exodus 23:19) and then concern ourselves with our needs and helping others with theirs. God wants our best, not what’s left over. This applies to our money and our actions.

Does this mean we need to give our money to the local church? Maybe, but it’s much more than that. (Consider the posts: Who Says We Should Give 10% to the Local Church?, The Truth about Tithing, and Be Careful If You Tithe.)

Takeaway about the Love of Money

We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for money. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 4-6, and today’s post is on Timothy 6:10.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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52 Churches

A Husband and Wife Team (Visiting Church #13)

The church has no website and its Facebook page is nothing more than a placeholder. Given this lack of presence on contemporary channels, our experience suggests they are a smaller, aging congregation with a traditional service. My assumption proves true.

The pastor is the first person we meet. He’s perhaps in his thirties and not a contemporary of his parishioners. As we talk, his wife arrives and we exchange introductions. She’s also the pianist and will later sing the special music.

Accomplished at what she does, she plays with passion and joy. The pastor leads the singing, both vocally and visually as his hands keep time. He has a beautiful voice, which he projects with polished confidence. They make a great team.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

The message is an expository teaching from the opening verses of Revelation 21, part of an ongoing series. After verse seven he checks the time and ends the service.

Afterwards he seeks us out. I enjoy our conversation, but we’re blocking people in the aisle. So when there’s a lull in conversation, I thank him for his time and wish him a good afternoon.

We turn to exit. I see his wife standing by the door, apparently in her husband’s stead, shaking hands and chatting with people as they leave. We also have an extended conversation with her.

Had it not been for a previously planned family get-together, they would have invited us over for lunch. Perhaps some other time. Their suggestion honors me. Sharing a meal is a great way to make a connection and form community.

We say our goodbyes. This young couple stirs my soul, faithfully serving God as they pour themselves into this tiny church. God, bless them and their ministry.

[Read about Church #12 and Church #14, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #13.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Bible Insights

When Is the Best Time to Do Good?

Helping Others Is One of Many Ways to Worship God

I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion.

Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as by helping a person in dire need.

We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it. What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps the one that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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