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Christian Living

Do We Live Close to the World or Keep a Safe Distance?

We Must Pick Up Our Cross and Follow Jesus

Many people profess Jesus but follow the world instead of following him. We shouldn’t live close to the world. We should keep a safe distance.

Though we don’t need to change our behavior to earn God’s favor, we should want to change in response for what he did for us. We’ll be better off when we do.

Live as Close to the World as You Can

Many people who claimed to be a Christian don’t act like it. Someone watching what these folks say and do would see them as no different from people of no faith.

The thought-provoking question is, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

The sad reality for too many is no. The case would be thrown out for lack of evidence.

Or if some convicting evidence could be found, it would be more than offset by a large amount of counter evidence. The preponderance of proof would support acquittal.

These people live close to the world and have no credible witness in it. They are a Christian in name only, but their faith is dead (James 2:18).

Keep as Safe of a Distance as We Are Able

The alternative is to remove ourselves from the world. But this isn’t a call to isolation. Instead, it’s a plea to distance ourselves from worldly influences.

In short, we must keep a safe distance from sin.

If we don’t, we will eventually be pulled into it. This isn’t a salvation issue. It’s a commitment issue.

Yet too many people who carry the Christian label strive to live as close to the world—as close to sin—as possible. They live a life that’s little different from anyone else. They don’t stand out. They blend in.

Others wrongly conclude that since they’re saved by grace, they can live whatever life they want. This includes a life of sin. But they’re wrong (Romans 6:1-2).

A Buffer for Our Benefit

Pursuing righteousness—that is, striving to live right for Jesus—isn’t to remove all the fun from our life. It’s to give us freedom.

As followers of Jesus, we have the freedom to really live, to live for him and not be shackled by the consequences and guilt produced from worldly pleasures.

When we live like the world lives, we run the very real risk of being sucked into it—and away from God.

There’s no buffer to keep us safe. We’ve eliminated it.

There’s no guardrail to keep us from plummeting over the edge.

When we obey God’s commands, we establish a buffer between us and the world’s negative influences. This keeps us safer from evil and the temptation to sin. This starts with how we think, which influences what we do.

Then we can keep a safe distance from the forces that threaten to harm us.

Follow Jesus—and Only Him

But we shouldn’t do this with legalistic fervor or erect judgmental attitudes towards others. This lifestyle of right living should follow as a natural progression that results when we fully follow Jesus, when we become his disciple (Luke 9:23).

The result of following Jesus as his disciple is that we no longer live close to the world. Instead, we keep a safe distance from it and the sin that threatens to pull us away and distract us from our Lord.

We must not look back (Luke 9:62). We must press on (Philippians 3:10-14).

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

God Is Sovereign

Discover the Truth About Our Creator’s Sovereignty

Most people recognize God as sovereign. Yet they may not have a good understanding of what that word means. And because of their misperception, God often gets blamed for things he didn’t do.

Sovereign in the Bible

The word sovereign shows up 295 times in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, with over 200 times in Ezekiel alone. In all but a handful of cases it’s an adjective along with the word Lord, as in sovereign Lord. God is our sovereign lord.

Only in the book of Daniel does the word sovereign appear as a noun.

Four times we see that “the Lord Most High is sovereign,” three times from Daniel and once from the unlikely source of King Nebuchadnezzar.

And later we read the forward-looking prophecy of Daniel that Jesus is coming and will receive authority, glory, and sovereign power.

Sovereign in the Dictionary

Yet none of these places in the Bible define what sovereign is. But the dictionary is most helpful.

As an adjective—which is how the Bible mostly uses it—sovereign means supreme power. So as our sovereign Lord, we confirm that God has supreme power. No one surpasses his dominion. It is paramount.

As a noun we learn that sovereign refers to someone who exercises supreme, permanent authority, as in a king or queen. God is our king, the king of kings. We ascribe to him ultimate authority without end.

This is how we rightly understand God’s sovereignty.

Sovereign As Most Perceive It

Yet this is not how many Christians—as well as secular society—understands God’s sovereignty.

The common perception is that in God’s sovereign power, he controls everything. Therefore, nothing happens without his approval. But this eliminates us having free will, the ability to make our own decisions—be it right or wrong—about what we do.

More importantly, this incorrect view of sovereignty also means that people can then blame God for everything bad that happens.

How often have we heard someone lament, “Why did God let this happen”?

Yet these things that God gets blamed for stem from four other sources.

  • Other People: One source is people who make bad decisions.
  • Creation: Another cause is the natural order of how God created the world to function.
  • Sin: A third reason is the sinful nature within every one of us.
  • Satan: Last, our spiritual enemy, the devil, wants to mess up our lives and pull us from God. As such, Satan is often the cause of the bad things we encounter in our lives. So blame him.

God can use these things to accomplish his will and ultimately bring about good (Romans 8:28). But it’s an overstretch to say he always causes them to happen.

Conclusion

Yes, God’s sovereignty does allow him to supernaturally intervene in situations. And he can divinely determine to bring about hardship to accomplish his purposes. And he disciplines us to make us stronger.

Though these are both biblical concepts, they emerge as exceptions and not the norm.

To assert that God’s sovereignty makes him responsible for all the horrible events that happen in our life and in our world misrepresents who he is.

We must stop blaming God for our disappointments.

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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Bible Insights

Satan Entices King David to Sin

The King Confesses His Mistake and Asks God to Take Away the Guilt

In 1 Chronicles 21 we read the account of David telling Joab to take a census of the people to determine how many fighting men are in the nation. This was Satan’s doing who tempted David into numbering his military. This could cause him to put his trust in the size of his armies and not God to give him victory, as he had always done.

Joab completed the momentous task and reported the numbers back to David. The king was immediately grieved for what he had done and confessed his sin to God. He implored the Lord to take away the guilt for his foolish act.

Today we know that Jesus has died to take away our guilt and absolve us from our sins. But this had not yet taken place in David’s time, and he had no such assurance. His guilt weighed him down. He confessed his sin and asked God to take away the guilt.

God gave him three sentence options and allowed David to select his punishment. David made his decision, opting for the one that was the shortest in duration and that came from God’s hand and not from human hands. It was a three-day-long plague over the nation.

It was David—and David alone—who sinned, but the whole nation received the penalty for David’s mistake. This doesn’t seem fair, and during the plague, David realized this.

He rightly confessed he was the one who sinned, and it was wrong for the people to suffer for his shortcoming. Yet instead of asking God to punish only him, David asks the Lord to punish him and his family.

Why didn’t David ask God to punish him alone?

Yet another question is why didn’t David—the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22)—ask for mercy instead of judgment?

There are three lessons we can learn from this story:

  1. A leader’s shortcomings affect those who follow.
  2. Though we deserve punishment for the wrong things we do, we can ask God for mercy to take away the guilt.
  3. Through Jesus, Father God forgives and forgets our sins.

May we hold onto this.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 21-23 and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 21:8. We can also read this account in 2 Samuel 24.]

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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Bible Insights

The Tale of Two Sisters

An Old Testament Parable Warning about the Perils of Prostitution and Idolatry

Ezekiel shares a story about two sisters. It’s an Old Testament parable. And it comes directly from God. The older sister is Oholah, and the younger sister is Oholibah.

Oholah is Samaria, the capital of Israel and represents the ten northern tribes. The younger sister Oholibah is Jerusalem, the capital of Judah and represents that entire tribe.

The Older Sister and Assyria

Oholah gives herself over to prostitution. Her husband—who represents God—gives her over to her lovers, the Assyrians. Metaphorically, they take her and abuse her. In the end Assyria captures Israel and deports its people.

The Younger Sister and Babylonia

The younger sister, Oholibah, sees this happen but doesn’t learn from her older sister’s mistake. She follows her sister’s example, only she is more depraved. She has her eyes for the Chaldeans, also known as the Babylonians.

God warns her that if she doesn’t change her ways—doesn’t repent of her wrongdoing—he will turn her over to her lovers as well. “Since you’ve turned from me,” God says, “you must bear the consequences of your lewd behavior and prostitution.”

The Message

On the surface, this story is about immorality, chasing other lovers, and prostitution. It’s a wise warning against adultery and promiscuity, to remain true to your spouse.

Yet the underlying message is about spiritual adultery and spiritual prostitution. It’s about idolatry, about chasing after other gods and turning our backs on the one true God as revealed in Scripture.

The story ends with the Old Testament truth that these two sisters will need to pay for their sins. There’s a penalty for their lewdness and consequences for their idolatry. God will punish them, and then they will know he is the Sovereign Lord.

Jesus’s Solution

Yet this is an Old Testament parable. Though we should heed its lesson about maintaining sexual purity and spiritual purity, we know from the New Testament that Jesus forgives our sins—all of them—when we follow him.

Through Jesus we receive mercy instead of judgment.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 23-24 and today’s post is on Ezekiel 23:49.]

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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Bible Insights

Who Are We to Judge? We May Have It Backwards

Though the Bible Tells Us to Judge, Who We’re Supposed to Judge May Shock You

When Paul writes to his friends in Corinth, he has much to say because they struggle with many things, including judging others. He spends a whole chapter in his first letter addressing sin within their assembly: sexual sin, specifically incest.

In reading between the lines, it seems the people involved think God’s grace gives them the freedom to pursue this lifestyle, to live as they wish, while the rest of the church remains quiet on the issue.

Judge Ourselves

Paul is concerned one bad example will infect others and embolden them to go wild as well.

As the saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” though Paul’s first-century version says a little bit of yeast affects the whole batch of dough.

He tells them how to deal with this issue and the perpetrators. Though he expects them to assess the situation and take action, he places limits on the scope of their role of judging others.

Not Judging Others

Specifically, he says not to worry about those on the outside, that God will deal with them. Instead, they need to worry about the people within their group, that self-policing is in order.

Paul reminds them that they should judge folks within the church but they have no business judging others, the people in the world.

Much of today’s church has this backward. We delight in pointing a condemning finger at the actions of the world, all the while ignoring the behavior within our own community.

It’s no wonder the world thinks the church is comprised of close-minded, judgmental, hypocrites—because it is.

It’s no wonder the world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Instead, they show judgment, mean, hateful judgment.

Though we need to judge ourselves, we have no business judging others in the world in which we live. So stop it.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.]

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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Bible Insights

Three Things to Remember About Temptation

In Three Things About Sin, the prescription for sin is to deal with the temptation before it gives way to sin. It’s like getting a vaccine; preparing now to avoid a bigger problem later.

The Bible teaches us three things about temptation; they’re in the form of promises that we can claim and rely on.

1. Our Temptations Are Not Unique to Us

Others have struggled with the same issues in the past.

2. God Will Limit Temptation to What We Can Handle

God doesn’t tempt us and he does limit the enemy’s power to do so.

3. God Will Provide a Way Out

We can ask God to enable us to see the way out, give us the will to take it, and the strength to persevere.

And then we can withstand the temptation—just as he promised.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8-10, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 10:13.]

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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Bible Insights

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

We Dishonor God by Persisting in Sin Because We Assume His Grace Will Cover It

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

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

In short she took this as a license to sin.

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

Though she rightly embraced God’s grace, she incorrectly assumed it came with endless abundance. This didn’t feel right to me. Surely she overreached and grabbed onto an unwise conclusion.

I tried to talk her down from her extreme position, but she wouldn’t listen.

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

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

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

Paul says, “No way!”

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

I wish I had known that to tell my friend.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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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Bible Insights

An Act of Omission is the Failure to Act

An Act of Commission is an Act We’ve Done

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

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

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

Jesus even gives specific examples:

  • a failure to feed the hungry,
  • a failure to provide water to the thirsty,
  • a failure to show hospitality to the stranger,
  • a failure to give clothes to those in need, and
  • a failure to look after the sick and imprisoned.

Each of these are huge issues—and overwhelming—but enormity is not an excuse for inaction.

While one person can’t solve all of these issues—or even one of them—each person can do something to make a difference, be it simply to help one person who is hungry, thirsty, homeless, needy, or hurting.

Don’t be a goat; help someone today.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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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Bible Insights

When God Says Enough

Despite God’s Longstanding Patience Giving Us Time to Shape Up, Judgement Will Eventually Come

The book of Ezekiel is an interesting one, packed with evocative prophetic imagery that portrays God’s power, patience, and eventual judgement. As follows through much of the Old Testament the people disobey God.

He warns them to turn things around and is patient, hoping they will avoid the consequences of their wayward actions. He wishes for the best, and the people let him down.

But Ezekiel is confronted with a peculiar response to his messages of impending punishment. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” the people dismiss Ezekiel’s warnings (actually God’s warnings).

They say, “Time passes on but these threats never happen.”

They stop taking Ezekiel (and God) seriously, which they never fully did to begin with. They feel quite justified in ignoring the word of God because they think there is no downside for disobedience.

There are Consequences

To this God says “enough.” He will withhold their punishment no longer and will fulfill all that he said. There will be no more delays.

I wonder how much we today are like these people of old, viewing God’s warnings as meaningless threats that will never happen.

Since our wrong behavior receives no immediate punishment, perhaps we’re not so bad after all. Maybe God doesn’t really mean it when he says our wrong actions are sin.

To this I hear God again saying “Enough.”

There are consequences for disobeying God, and I fear our time is up.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 9-12, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 12:21-28.]

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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Bible Insights

The Wicked Acts of Sodom and Gomorrah

Discover Why We Need to Help the Poor and Needy

Even if you’ve not read the Bible, you have likely heard about Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities God destroyed for their extreme wickedness.

The account of this is found in Genesis, chapters 18 and 19. In this text, the sexual depravity of the men of Sodom is portrayed.

Despite that, it does not explicitly say that their sexual predilections were the reason for the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even so, most readers make that assumption.

However, the prophet Ezekiel does explain the reason that the people of Sodom were punished so severely. It’s not what you think.  Are you ready for the real reason? Sodom was destroyed because they “they did not help the poor and needy.”

That puts the idea of “wickedness” in a completely different perspective—God’s.

While sexual sin is a temptation we must avoid, it may be even more important that we don’t turn our back on the poor and needy.

Many verses in both the Old and New Testaments command us to assist the poor and those in need. But it’s easy to breeze past those verses and focus on others.

Yet God’s heart is that we help those in need. Consider what we may do to assist them and in doing so, obey God’s commands in the process.

Though Jesus said there will always be poor people, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to help them (Mark 14:7). We do. The Bible says so.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 16-17, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 16:49.]

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.