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Bible Insights

The Medium of Endor

Not Everything That’s Spiritual is Good

Here’s the situation. The prophet Samuel is dead. God has abandoned King Saul, and the once-promising ruler is losing his grip on power. Saul prays, but God doesn’t respond. None of the ways Saul has heard from God in the past are working now. In desperation, he seeks a medium.

In his better days as God’s king, Saul expelled all the mediums and spiritualists from the country. Now he wants one. It’s his last option for supernatural guidance. His aids tell him there is a medium in Endor. Some versions of the Bible call her a witch.

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In disguise, Saul seeks her out. She is cautious, fearing execution if her skills become known. He persists, promising her safety. After some persuasion, she relents. Saul asks her to conjure up the spirit of Samuel. She does.

Then she realizes who Saul is—the king who outlawed and ousted everyone in her line of work. She screams at Saul because of his deception, but he urges her to proceed and serve as a link to connect him with Samuel.

For Samuel’s part, he’s not pleased at having his existence in the afterlife disturbed. He’s likely happy there and wants to remain there, not be sucked back toward the physical realm.

Samuel confirms it’s too late for Saul. God has left him for good. Furthermore, Samuel says the next day Saul and his sons will die in battle. The nation will be lost.

Saul is distraught, losing what little hope he has left. The medium of Endor urges him to eat, and she prepares a meal for him.

Saul eats and then leaves. The next day, Saul and his three sons die—his boys in battle and Saul by suicide.

Not all that’s spiritual is good. The medium of Endor is one such example. When our prayers seem to go nowhere, do we keep our focus on God or seek unwise alternatives?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 26-28, and today’s post is on 1 Samuel 28:3–25.]

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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

Spiritual Boldness (Visiting Church #26)

We know nothing about this minority church besides their name, location, and service time. When the service begins, words are displayed overhead while we sing along with recorded music. Many people raise their arms in praise to God.

The worship occurs organically, so naturally that I don’t realize there isn’t a song leader.

As we sing, people shake tambourines with vigor, underscoring key words and phrases in the songs. This accentuates our worship. Involving the crowd transitions them from audience to participants.

We witness a baby dedication. The pastor’s prayer is passionate as he proclaims protection and favor over the child. He doesn’t say this as a request, but as a declaration. I appreciate his spiritual boldness.

Throughout the service, the minister continues to pronounce blessings. We see it next in celebrating October birthdays, with each celebrant receiving his or her own blessing. We extend our hands, nodding and voicing affirmation, as the minister places his hand on the head of each one and prays.

After the message, the service ends with another blessing, powerfully proclaimed on us and our schools, work, city, and county. As we leave, the minister thanks us for visiting, invites us back, and asks where we live.

He’s dismayed to learn we live across the county line, an area his blessings didn’t cover. I assure him we’re not offended, but he takes our hands, proclaiming abundance and prosperity for where we live.

His message has given me much to think about; his bold prayers, an example to follow; and their worship of God, an inspiration.

[Read about Church #25 and Church #27, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #26.]

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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Personal Posts

The Exciting Millennial Generation

It seems that I’ve recently heard a lot of complaints about this “younger generation,” known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (those born after 1984—or between 1980 and 2000—depending who’s doing the explaining).

Employers moan that Millennials don’t want to work: they arrive late, lack motivation, and do not make good employees. Customers complain than Generation Y doesn’t seem to care and looks strange.

True, each successive generation causes angst and head scratching from their elders. However, with Gen-Y there is an additional factor at play—the emergence of a postmodern mindset. (See What Does Postmodern Mean?)

Generally, Gen-Y, and to a lesser extent Gen-X that preceded them, have postmodern perspectives on life, whereas prior generations are more likely modern thinkers. Herein is the rub that causes the above frustrations.

One element of the postmodern outlook is that they want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world.Career, wealth, and possessions tend to have little draw to postmodern people. And this excites me.

I recently asked a 21-year woman if she would soon be graduating from college. (This was a bad assumption on my part.) She hemmed a bit and then admitted that she had just dropped out of cosmetology school—her second post-high educational effort.

She realized that a career in cosmetology would be a shallow and meaningless pursuit. She wants to make a difference in the world by helping those in a third-world country—she leaves in two months.

In general, most Millennial's want meaningful work and to make a difference in the world. Click To Tweet

Another acquaintance abandoned her career path as a paralegal and is cranking through grad school—so she can join the Peace Crops—and then aid governments in developing countries. Another 20-something friend is wrapping up a yearlong stint in Russia.

Even though he’s not yet back to the States, he is already planning on a return trip as soon as possible. A fourth friend simply desires to travel the world—to help the people she meets.

I could go on and on about this “younger generation” who are set on making a difference, have forsaken materialism, and seek meaningful work—and it excites me greatly—Gen-Y has the potential to make this world a better place.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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

Can We Have a Superhuman Spirituality?

Don’t Be Merely Human

Paul reprimands the church in Corinth for many things. One time he points out that they envy one another and argue a lot. There is jealousy and quarreling in their church. It happened then and it’s still happening now.

We want what others have. Although this often relates to money, possessions, or prestige, we can also envy the faith of others, their spiritual journey, and even their intimacy with God. Though it seems spiritual, it is just as wrong. Jealousy is jealousy, regardless of what we long for.

Next is their quarrels. We disagree and fight with words. It seems no church is immune to arguing, yet Paul decries this as wrong. Don’t do it.

Jealousy and quarreling are worldly traits. They are not godly, but worldly. By allowing these conditions to persist, we are mere humans.

By saying mere humans, Paul implies there is another way, a higher ground we can take. We don’t need to be merely human; we shouldn’t be merely human.

Through Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit we can rise above being mere humans; we can become more than human, superhuman, if you will: not superhuman in strength but superhuman in spirituality.

As followers of Jesus, being merely human is who we were, but our future is a superhuman spirituality.

Are we willing to pursue it?

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

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

Do You See Good or Evil?

I recently read a series of movie reviews in a conservative magazine. With three pages of critiques to consider, all but two movies earned advisory warnings. With no R-rated movies covered, several cautions were for PG and even G-rated movies.

Their items of concern struck me as overly critical.

One obscure line from an animated feature earned it an advisory warning. This was a vague quip that kids would miss and require adults to make an assumption.

With multiple possible inferences, only someone looking for sexual innuendo would find it. (I missed it when I saw the movie.) Are these reviewers able to spot evil most anywhere they look?

I wonder if these cautious caretakers of morality have read the Bible. What might they write in their review of it? After all, the Bible contains a myriad of problematic content: rape, murder, incest, cannibalism, violence, and sexual misconduct. Would they slap an advisory warning on the Bible?

These self-appointed guardians of goodness irritate me. Though they may have worthy motives, the result is they fixate on what is wrong, and when they find it, they highlight it to make sure everyone else is aware of it, too.

Just as there is evil in most things around us, there is also good. Do we seek the objectionable or notice the laudable? What we choose to consider reflects our focus in life and forms our perception of the world.

The Bible encourages us to think about things that are right, pure, and admirable. That is, to fill our minds with good, not evil.

While this may warrant not seeing some movies, it also means to look for good in the ones we do watch.

[Philippians 4:8]

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

How Should We Understand Jihad?

In further contemplating last week’s post about being spiritually militant—of fighting evil in the spiritual realm—the word jihad comes to mind. Jihad, originating from Islam, has some specific meanings and one that is more general:

  • A Muslim holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels in defense of the Islamic faith.
  • In Islam, the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution.
  • In Islam, an individual’s striving for spiritual self-perfection.
  • A crusade in support of a cause; any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.

In a literal sense, the idea of a holy war repels me. The various inquisitions and crusades, primarily during the Middle Ages, provide sufficient evidence to convince us that a physical battle to root out heresy or forcibly promote a certain religious perspective is never a good idea.

However, in a supernatural sense, a holy war should be pursued. As Paul says in the Bible, this isn’t a fight against people but “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” for which we need spiritual armor.

From this stems my idea of being spiritually militant. This is one way to understand and embrace jihad in a broader sense.

Also intriguing is the third definition of “striving for spiritual self-perfection,” but we must proceed carefully. Though we should desire to more fully be like Jesus, we can’t achieve this on our own; we cannot earn our right standing with God through our own efforts.

Instead, we work with him, through his Holy Spirit, to move towards what he would have us to become. This is also an understanding of jihad that I can embrace.

Because of the likelihood of being misunderstood, we must be careful in using the word jihad. However, these are two ways we can embrace jihad as a follower of Jesus.

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

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.

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Christian Living

All Things Are Spiritual

One of the disservices of the modern era was dividing life into secular and spiritual, of splitting our existence, behavior, and reality into separate realms of activity. Premodern man had no such illusions; neither did ancient man before that. To them, everything was spiritual.

If you don’t believe me, consider all the spiritual lessons and stories in the Bible. How many of them happened during a church service? Not too many.

Indeed, the Bible shows God at work throughout the week, not just on the Sabbath or Sunday and not just at the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue, but anywhere, anytime.

In the Bible, God seldom waited for people to show up at the temple before speaking to them. Nor did he often require exuberant worship as a prerequisite for revealing his presence or power. Yes, those things did sometimes happen, but not usually.

When we view all of life as spiritual, the concept of secular disappears. Then we no longer need to wait for Sunday morning to encounter God; that can happen throughout the week—if we’re open to it.

On Sundays, we often arrive at church expectant of a spiritual experience: waiting for God to speak and open to experience his presence. But if all aspects of life are spiritual, as the Bible shows us, then we should be expectant of a spiritual experience at any moment.

This should inform all we do, including when we drive our car, how we interact with the clerk at the store, what we watch on TV, and how we talk to our family.

Yes, all things are spiritual. It’s time we act like it.

May God speak to you and reveal his presence the next time you are in church—and even more so when you leave.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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

More on the Spirituality of Margery Kempe

In addition to enjoying a dalliance with God, Margery Kempe’s intimate prayer time with the almighty God sometimes resulted in imagining herself participating in Biblical events.

I do not know if this was a Holy Spirit inspired meditation or more akin to a vision. As one blessed with a vivid imagination, I can certainly understand the former, but having an occasional vision, I see great power in the later.

Either way, be it through our mind or through our spirit, having a personal and present connection with past events can provide fresh perspectives and new insights that cannot be gleaned merely from a passive reading of scripture.

Although sometimes movies (I’m thinking of “The Ten Commandments” or “The Passion of the Christ”) can aptly aid us in “experiencing” the past, they can also serve to misinform or under represent. Even so, movie watching is a passive activity.

Margery didn’t watch Biblical events unfold, she participated in them.

Can you imagine helping to distribute the food when Jesus fed the 5,000?  Or been a servant waiting on Joseph when he was reunited with his brothers? Or been in the army of Israel when young David slung a stone into Goliath’s forehead?

Or been the person who felt strangely compelled to prepare a room for the Passover meal for no particular reason, only to have Jesus’ disciples later request to use it?

Rather we go there in our minds or in our spirits, our spiritual heritage is a great place to visit—drawing us closer to God in the process.

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

A Desert Experience Results in a Spiritual Smack Down

I enjoy reading the spiritual exploits of those from an earlier era, a time when the spiritual journey was more gritty, vibrant, and real. It was dangerous—often with life or death ramifications.

These experiences are far different from most modern-day followers, whose journeys usually pale in comparison, where risk is small and reward, minimal.

One such enlightening book is The New Mystics by John Crowder. Another is Patron Saints for Postmoderns by Chris R. Armstrong. Sharing the story of ten who have gone before us, Armstrong first tells of Antony of Egypt.

Antony removed himself to the hot and barren desert in order to hone his spiritual disciplines.

Notably, Jesus did the same thing before he began his ministry. Both encountered trials and testing in their desert experience, emerging stronger as a result.

Antony chose a place reputed to be inhabited only by demons. Of his experience there, Armstrong writes:

“There he indeed encountered demons, who took on the forms of wild beasts, sent by the devil into his cell to intimidate him. But Antony mocked them, reminding them that Christ had robbed them of any authority and cast them down.

“Not being able to withstand his scornful ridicule, they disappeared.”

It was a spiritual smackdown if ever there was one.

Antony’s life is far different from mine, and that gives me much to ponder.

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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