Categories
Christian Living

Do You Have Friends or Acquaintances?

Strive to Build Meaningful Connections with Those Around You

We know many more people on a casual level then we do in a deeper, more meaningful way. We can distinguish between them as acquaintances versus friends. Think of concentric circles, with yourself in the center. The innermost circle contains your friends, and the next circle out holds all your acquaintances.

We should seek to move people from the status of acquaintance to the position of friend. Here are some areas to consider.

Friends or Acquaintances on Social Media?

Depending on the platform, social media has various designations for those we associate with. This includes friends, followers, and connections. The label of friends, however, is a misnomer. At best our social media associations overflow with acquaintances, but many don’t even rise to that level.

We would be in error to look at our social media numbers and assume these people are all our friends. They are not. At best, only a handful qualify for the status of friendship. This is not to say that true friendship can’t occur online, but it’s rare and fleeting.

Friends or Acquaintances at Work?

Whether we labor with others or function remotely from home, we form connections with those we work with. Some of these relationships rise to the level of friendship, or so it seems. But the true test of these associations occurs when one person changes jobs. Those connections that prevail apart from work are true friendships.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have friends at work. It just means that those friendships are situational, and once the situation changes usually the bond does too.

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Community?

How many people do you know who live around you? Our neighbors should, at the very least, be acquaintances. Turning these acquaintances into friendships is a wise pursuit. We need friends within our community.

Friends or Acquaintances at Church?

For those who regularly attend church services, or are involved in their programs, this is an ideal place to connect with people, especially those with like-minded spiritual perspectives. Yet too often our interactions don’t rise above the acquaintance level to become friends. And I’ve talked with many people who have never even formed acquaintances at church. This may be on them, or it may be the church’s culture. Either way it’s not good.

We should strive to develop meaningful friendships in our spiritual communities. Then we can travel together on our faith journey. As Scripture says, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Family?

A final consideration is our own family. Do our familial relationships qualify as friends or acquaintances? The relatives we only see at rare family gatherings qualify as acquaintances. Yet as we invest in our family, we can turn our biological bonds into meaningful friendships.

What Does the Bible Say?

As you might expect, the word acquaintances doesn’t receive much coverage in Scripture. Only once does it occur, and this comes from Job when he laments that “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me” (Job 19:13, NIV).

The word friend occurs much more often, hundreds of times. Here are some key verses about friendship:

We should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

Many people mistake acquaintances for friends, but we should distinguish between the two. Though connection begins at the level of acquaintance, true community arises among friends. We should strive to move acquaintances into the level of friendships. And we should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible about friendships.

May our friendships be deep and meaningful, with Jesus in the center.

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Christian Living

Should You Be Part of a Spiritual Mastermind Group?

Aligning with Like-Minded Peers Can Propel You Forward on Your Christian Walk

A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring alliance where members work together to help one another solve problems, overcome roadblocks, and move forward. I’m part of two author mastermind groups. In them we encourage and support each other as writers, propelling us forward in our craft. It’s most beneficial.

I wonder if I should apply this concept to my Christian journey, too, and be part of a Christian mastermind group. Though I’ve experienced this a couple times on a basic level from a church small group or Bible study, they’ve fallen short of what a mastermind group can provide.

Though we might want to call it by something with a less business-sounding name, what can we hope to gain from a spiritual mastermind group?

Iron Sharpens Iron

In Proverbs, King Solomon says that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). As we surround ourselves with like-minded followers of Jesus, we will help each other become stronger in our faith. A spiritual mastermind group can do this for us, propelling us forward on our faith journey.

Two Is Better Than One

A parallel passage, also penned by King Solomon, reminds us that “two are better than one.” If either falls, there’s someone present to pick them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV). We need each other. God didn’t create us to be alone (Genesis 2:22).

A Cord of Three Strands

Later, Solomon writes that a three-stranded cord has great strength (Ecclesiastes 4:12). There is safety and strength in numbers. One way to realize this is through a spiritual mastermind group.

Party of Five

We also find support for this concept from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, who says “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” What better way to accomplish this by spending time with five like-minded disciples of Jesus in a spiritual mastermind group?

Align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward with a Spiritual Mastermind Group

What have you done informally to enjoy these benefits that walking through life with two, three, or five can accomplish? What more could you realize if you pursued this idea with greater intention?

We can receive much benefit by partnering with another or forming a group of three. How greater the outcome could be if we align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group?

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Can You Be a Spiritual Mother to Someone?

Some people don’t have biological offspring, but everyone can have spiritual descendants

Paul wraps up his letter to the church in Rome with a long list of people Most of these names stream past our eyes as unfamiliar. We’re tempted to skim. But slow down.

Consider Rufus (Romans 16:13). That name only appears in one other place in the Bible, and that likely refers to a different guy. So we know little about this Rufus except that Paul greets him by name. Paul shares no reason, offers no encouragement, and gives no backstory—other than to say Rufus is chosen by God.

Oh, and there’s Rufus’s mother. Paul doesn’t even give her name, just her role as Rufus’s mom—who has also been like a mom to Paul. This is huge.

Rufus’s mom has a biological son, Rufus. She also has a spiritual son, Paul.

When you think of mothers, what traits come to mind? I think first of loving. Following that comes nurturing, encouraging, and supportive. Mothers also hope for the best from their children and always believe in them. And most mothers like to feed their kids, too.

I suspect Rufus’s mom is all these things to Paul.

We can all be spiritual mothers to those who need love, nurturing, encouragement, and support. Click To Tweet

Some women have biological children and others do not, either by choice or by circumstance. The ladies in this last category long to have kids but do not. The Bible is replete with longsuffering women who pray earnestly and ache to have children. After decades of waiting, God gives them what their heart desires.

Yet whether a biological mom or not, we can all be spiritual mothers. And this includes guys, too.

Who needs love, nurturing, encouragement, and support? Although the answer is everyone, I’m sure some specific individuals come to mind.

Be a spiritual mother to them. You never know the impact they might grow up to have on others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 14-16, and today’s post is on Romans 16:13.]

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.

Categories
Christian Living

Make a Difference by Having a Meaningful Spiritual Conversation

We Can Impact Others by Being Intentional with Our Words

Are we someone who others want to talk to about spiritual matters? Are we open to pursue a meaningful spiritual conversation?

A Timely Phone Call

As I made lunch, my phone rang. Few people have my number—only family and close friends—so I expected another scam call. I prepared to reject the call and block the number. To my utter glee, the caller ID revealed that a valued friend was waiting to talk to me.

My heart leapt for joy. I know this sounds over the top, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Truly, my heart leapt with joy.

I was having an okay day, which was following a really bad day . . . or two, but hearing my friend’s voice changed everything. My day instantly turned from okay to great. Regardless of what we would say, I knew it would be good for my soul. I knew my spirit would rise and soar.

I forgot about lunch. It no longer mattered. My physical hunger disappeared. A spiritual delight would soon replace it. I knew it. That’s what a timely call from a good friend can do.

After we covered the initial reason for the call, we updated each other on our lives, what was going on, and where God was at work. We ended by praying for each other. It was a meaningful spiritual conversation. God was present. We had a holy moment. It was good. So good.

An Intentional Interaction

A few days later, my bride and I were at an open house. We saw a lot of people we knew, waving at or saying “hi” to many of them. We talked with a few others, polite social conversation, talk that’s a challenge for me to maintain for any length of time.

Though it was nice to see them and chat with them, what we said did nothing for my soul and, I suspect, nothing for theirs.

Then another good friend waved hi, surprised to see me. I expected another polite, short, and inconsequential exchange. But he approached me with both a smile and intention. After a few moments of small talk, we dove into conversation that matters.

He shared his spiritual journey with me. And my spirit lifted as we celebrated God’s work in his life, his family’s, and his church’s. He asked about me and my writing and my spiritual journey.

Although small talk challenges me, having a meaningful spiritual conversation flows with much greater ease. Go figure. Though I’d approached this social gathering with equal parts expectation and trepidation, I left having told my friend that our time together was, “good for my soul.” And it was.

My Heart Burned Within Me

My reaction to my friends’ interaction reminds me of the Emmaus-bound disciples after encountering the risen Jesus. They said to each other, “weren’t our hearts burning within us when he talked?” (Luke 24:32). That’s how I felt with my friends.

In both instances my friends took the initiative. But I was a willing participant, embracing their move past superficial exchange and into a meaningful spiritual conversation.

Other times I take the initiative and pursue meaningful interaction with others. Sometimes they squirm against this and in other instances they acquiesce with caution, but many times they gladly go in the direction where I lead. We dive into deep, meaningful spiritual conversation.

How to Pursue Significant Spiritual Conversations

I desire to have these deep, meaningful spiritual conversations all the time, but I don’t. I’m not sure why this happens sometimes while other times it doesn’t. I wish I could naturally move into meaningful spiritual discussions all the time, with ease and without giving it much forethought.

But I’m not there—yet. Until I am, there are steps I can take to recognize the potential for significance and move forward to make the best of it.

Pray for Opportunities: It starts with asking God to provide occasions where I can have a meaningful spiritual conversation with others. Without him playing a part in opening my eyes to see the opportunities around me and preparing the hearts of others to engage in significant discussions, there’s not much I can do on my own.

And, as a bonus, by praying for the chance to talk with people about spiritual matters, my attention focuses on others and allows me to seize the openings God provides.

Look for People Willing to Engage in Spiritual Discussions: Sometimes people who know me and my heart will approach me, asking for prayer, seeking encouragement, or wanting to share their concerns. However, usually I must be proactive.

This means looking for people to talk to, people who may be hurting, lonely, or in need.

Listen to The Holy Spirit: Most important is to listen to the gentle prompting of God’s Spirit. If I bother to pay attention, the Holy Spirit will direct me to people I should talk to. And often, he will tell me what to say or ask.

I attempt to represent Jesus to them, and I hope their hearts warm when I do. Click To Tweet

The Outcome of Having a Meaningful Spiritual Conversation

When I do this, what happens next is astonishing. We enter into a holy moment. I attempt to represent Jesus to them, and I hope their hearts warm when I do, just as my heart burned within me after talking with my two friends.

This is what can happen when we have a meaningful spiritual conversation.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

How Often Do You Have Meaningful Spiritual Conversations?

We Must Be Intentional about Discussing Our Faith and Avoid Superficial Chatter

After Jesus’s death and him overcoming death, he appears on the street headed to the city of Emmaus, traveling with two of his followers. But they don’t recognize him. He talks to them about God, the Scriptures, and faith. When they eventually realize who he is, he disappears.

Then they recall how their hearts burned when he talked to them (Luke 24:13-32).

They had a meaningful spiritual conversation.

Yes, any exchange we might have with God would be a meaningful spiritual conversation, but we can have meaningful spiritual conversations with each other too.

What is a Meaningful Spiritual Conversation?

It’s hard to define what makes a conversation both spiritual and meaningful. Yet when we encounter one, we know it. This is a result of intentional action to make our words count, celebrating Jesus and inspiring one another.

It’s bypassing those easy comments about family, work, sports, and weather. It’s skipping trivial exchanges to embrace a dialogue of purpose. It takes work to accomplish, but it’s worth the effort. Here are some of the results that occur when we have meaningful spiritual conversations.

Meaningful Spiritual Conversations Connect Us with Each Other

Talking with one another connects us. Having insignificant discussions results in insignificant connections. Having deep conversations results in deep connections. May we always be intentional with our words.

Meaningful Spiritual Conversations Encourage Us in Our Faith

Paul writes that we are to encourage one another (2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, and 1 Thessalonians 5:11, as well as Hebrews 3:13). We encourage each other through our words. For our encouragement to have the deepest impact, it must be both meaningful and spiritual.

These conversations build us up in our faith and inspire us as we walk with Jesus.

Meaningful Spiritual Conversations Point Us to God

When we have these meaningful and spiritual exchanges, we point people to God. This may be directly or indirectly, but it is intentional. When we’re with people who share our faith and our passion, we want our conversation to match that.

As our meaningful, spiritual dialogue connects us with each other and encourages one another, it automatically directs our focus to God.

May we seek meaningful spiritual conversations with others every day. Click To Tweet

Meaningful Spiritual Conversations Are a Form of Worship

Last, these intentional conversations allow us to worship God. In the Bible, John tells us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

I’ll likely spend the rest of my life trying to unpack all that this entails, but I’m quite sure that one aspect of worshiping God in spirit and truth occurs when we have conversations with others of a meaningful, spiritual nature. May we never lose sight of this.

May we seek meaningful spiritual conversations with others every day.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

For Many Christians, It’s Time To Grow Up

One of the reasons we learn about God is so we can teach others

In the letter written to the Hebrew people who follow Jesus, there’s a short phrase that’s easy to skip over. The author, who I suspect is Paul, criticizes the people he’s writing to. He says they should be at a point in their faith journey where they can teach others.

Instead they are content to be taught. They’re drinking milk, but they should have moved on to solid food.

Notice that the writer doesn’t call out specific people. He makes a general statement to all who receive his letter. That’s everyone. In our Christian society today, most people remain content to have someone teach them.

They seldom take time to teach others about God, their faith, and their faith Journey.

Our churches today are filled with people who crave milk. Even though they are mature enough to eat solid food, they haven’t grown enough to take that step. Instead they’re content to suck milk from a bottle.

This is to their shame and to our shame. We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves.

We expect others to teach us, when we should be doing the teaching ourselves. Click To Tweet

Teaching can take several forms. It might be standing before a group and giving a lesson. It might be sitting in a circle and sharing what God is doing in our life. Or maybe it’s one-on-one interaction when we encourage a friend to move forward in their faith and to make Godly decisions.

Some people delude themselves by claiming they’re not ready to teach. But I think most simply find it’s the most comfortable thing to do. They prefer to go to church and sit passively in their pews so that someone else can give them milk to drink.

Instead we should adopt a new attitude. We should realize we have insights, knowledge, and experiences that can help others. Everyone knows something that will benefit the people we talk to. We need to share what we know.

Likewise everyone we encounter knows something that we don’t. We must be ready to hear what they have to say and learn from them.

Our job is to grow in our faith, and then to teach others. It’s time to start doing that.

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

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.

Save

Categories
Christian Living

Are You Spiritually Militant?

We Are on the Winning Side and Can Tell the Devil Where to Go

This is my second and likely last post about music from my past. First, I blogged about “I Scream Sunday” and today my topic is Stryper’s “To Hell with the Devil.”

This heavy metal tune stirs up a passion inside of me, a desire to oppose and push back the onslaught of evil. I’m not talking about evil within this world; my focus is on evil in the spiritual realm. In short, I want to be spiritually militant.

Some people diminish or dismiss the concept of an evil spiritual force, that is, the devil, a.k.a., Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, the father of lies. In a modern world, he doesn’t make sense.

After all, we can’t tangibly observe or measure him, so he must not exist. Modern-thinking people laugh him off as myth. I do not.

Other people cower in fear over his power to inflict suffering. They see him as an equal and opposing force to the goodness of God. Instead of living in freedom, they shrink back in terror, worrying about what evil he might throw their way next. I do not.

Spiritually Militant

Yes, our spiritual enemy is real, and he is powerful. But God is more powerful. I’m on the winning side. Through his power and by his authority, I can tell spiritual evil where to go; I can say with confidence, “To hell with the devil”—and I do, in both a figurative and literal sense. This makes me spiritually militant.

As I read the Bible, especially the book of Acts, I get a sense that God wants spiritually militant followers. He desires we walk in his power and do battle in the spiritual realm. But too many people are content to play it safe, protected in the comfortable cocoon of complacency.

Fight the Christian status quo. Become spiritually militant. Check out the lyrics or listen/watch the song, “To Hell with the Devil”; join me in belting out the chorus.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

What is Meant by Good Karma and Namaste?

I used to do business with an India-based company whose employees ended every phone call by saying “Good Karma.” This perplexed me. How should I respond?

Was their ritual sendoff a theological reflection or merely their culture’s accepted way to say goodbye? I considered replying with “God bless” or some such response, but I usually just said “Goodbye,” if I said anything at all.

While karma is a common aspect of many Eastern religions, it’s not absent from my biblically-based perspective, either. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given” and “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Later Paul wrote, “A man reaps what he sows.” Don’t these passages imply karma, albeit within a biblical worldview?

I’d forgotten about this until recently, as I listened to a series of lectures online. The speaker ended each one, saying “Namaste,” a common Hindu valediction with diverse meanings. The bigger question is what did she mean?

Was she implying she was Hindu? Or was she offering a cosmopolitan flare to a possibly diverse audience? Perhaps it was an effort to be cute or countercultural or unexpected. Each time, I envisioned her making a slight bow as she pressed her palms together with elbows extended.

Had we met in person, how should I react? I could respond in kind, repeating her word and duplicating her gesture. Or perhaps, I would nod and say “Goodbye,” giving her my cultural response.

In both of these situations, I desire to communicate respect without implying theological agreement.

What would you do?

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.

Categories
52 Churches

52 Churches: Wrap-up and Reboot

Between last Easter and this Easter, my wife and I visited fifty-two churches. Today marks the end of that adventure but also the beginning of a new one.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

52 Churches Wrap-up

Our journey is over. I’m sad and excited at the same time. Our spiritual sojourn of fifty-two churches has ended; reunion with our community looms large. We rejoin them for Holy Week, first for Good Friday and then for the Easter celebration.

On purpose, I leave my journal at home. There will be no more note taking. Documenting my observations isn’t the point: experience is, community is, family is, and especially God.

We sing in jubilant celebration, enjoying community before and after each event. Hugs abound as I reconnect with friends.

Both services surpass my expectations, as I enjoy an amazing reunion, encounter a grand celebration, and experience a fitting conclusion to our yearlong pilgrimage.

We learned much on our journey and expanded our understanding of worshiping God, but it’s good to be back, home where we belong.

52 Churches Reboot

Though our trek is complete, writing about it isn’t. Beginning next Monday, I will repost our journey, one church per week, adding new information and providing updates.

For those who followed us on our journey, this will be a great recap. While for those who joined us midway through, this will be a chance to follow along from start to finish.

The Book 52 Churches

As I update and repost, I will also finalize the book that chronicles this awesome adventure. Currently standing at 70,000 words, my posts are only a fraction of what’s in the book. In a couple of months, I’ll be ready to seek an agent and publisher.

As they say, stay tuned for more information.

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.