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Bible Insights

The Sabbath Day

Sunday Should Not Be a Day of Restriction but a Day of Freedom and Celebration

In the book of Exodus, God and Moses have a face-to-face meeting. That is significant. How cool would it be to have a direct conversation with the Almighty? Certainly, we’d remember what he told us and be careful to follow it completely.

One of the things God tells Moses is to only work for six days and then take a break. Many people today view this as an outdated command. They think God is trying to restrict what they do, limit their freedom, and force them to be bored for twenty-four hours.

That isn’t God’s intent at all. In fact, God wants to give them—and us—a break from our routine. Remember, these people are coming out of enslavement. They never had a day off. Every day was the same: work, work, work. From sunup to sundown and probably even more.

One day would blur in to the other, doing the same old same old thing day after day.

The Gift of the Sabbath Day

By telling them to rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath day, God was giving them a mini vacation from their labors. And what better thing to do on that day of rest then to focus on God and thank him for this amazing gift of a break.

If this idea of resting on the seventh day seems a bit familiar, go back to the creation account. God takes six days to form the reality in which we live and then he takes a break from his labors to consider the results.

He did something amazing and then takes time to rest from his work and marvel at what he has done (Genesis 2:2–3). In this he gives us an example to follow, and later, through Moses, insists we do so.

In case we miss this idea of the seventh day being a gift from God, Jesus reminds us. He says, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is a gift from God to us and that should change everything. Click To Tweet

In this he confirms we aren’t beholden to the Sabbath Day, held captive by it, or restricted in any way. Instead, the Sabbath is for us to enjoy.

This means we must shove aside legalistic ideas of what we may and may not do on Sunday, which we adopted to be our Sabbath day. Instead we must embrace our seventh day for the freedom it gives us. How we do so is left for us to determine.

Viewing the Sabbath as a gift from God to us should change everything.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 32-34, and today’s post is on Exodus 34:21.]

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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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Christian Living

The Fruit of the Spirit

Consider the Fruit You Bear as a Follower of Jesus

Paul tells the church in Galatia that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit resides in us, this should result in changed behavior, a better behavior that’s more aligned with the example that Jesus set for us.

Let’s break down these key outcomes of having the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we study these words, we often see the fruit of the Spirit interconnected in various passages:

Love

Love is not a feeling or emotion. True love is an attitude expressed through action. Paul best explains this in his letter to the church in Corinth. There he defines the elements of true, God-honoring love.

He writes that love is patient and kind, not envious, boastful, or proud. Love honors others and isn’t self-serving or given to anger. Love doesn’t keep track when others cause us harm. It celebrates truth and laments what is evil. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Joy

Joy is more than being happy. It transcends happiness. The Bible doesn’t give us a definition of joy, but looking at the more than sixty verses in the New Testament that talk about joy, we get a sense that joy is ecstatic spiritual pleasure that comes from God and through serving him.

Peace

When we look at peace, there are two forms to consider.

First there is peace with others, living in harmony with those around us and in unity with those in our spiritual family.

Second, there is peace within. It’s an inner contentment that can only come from God.

The fruit of the Spirit exhibits both types of peace.

Patience

Patience is a calmness that exists within us and flows from us. From this as a foundation, we see a patience that endures, tolerates, and exercises restraint. Interestingly, Paul uses patience (along with kindness) in his definition of love.

Kindness

Another godly trait that is part of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Kindness is how we treat others, being friendly, generous, and warmhearted in our interactions with them.

Goodness

The idea of being good is living rightly with others. This goes beyond getting along with them. Think of being righteous, upright, and benevolent in how we live our lives and how we treat others. This is goodness.

Faithfulness

To persist in faithfulness, we exhibit devotion and loyalty to God and his ideals. It also includes being faithful in our relationships with others.

Gentleness

Gentleness isn’t meekness, but it’s controlled strength. Jesus personifies gentleness. We should follow his example.

Self-Control

The final characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This means keeping our emotions, attitudes, and actions in check. It’s restraining our negative expressions to allow godly responses to occur.

Pursuing the Fruit of the Spirit

We may have exhibited some of these traits before we followed Jesus. And other of these nine characteristics may automatically emerge from our life through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Yet other areas may require intentional effort to achieve. But we don’t pursue these outcomes to earn our salvation, garner Jesus’s attention, or merit God’s love. This perspective is key.

God has loved us from the very beginning, irrespective of what we’ve said or done.

And we already have Jesus’s attention. We know this because he died for us before we did anything to receive it.

Last, if we follow Jesus, we already have eternal life through him and don’t need to earn it. It’s his unconditional gift to us.

We should want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in response to what Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have already done for us. Click To Tweet

Then why should we consider pursuing the fruit of the Spirit, exhibiting these nine key character traits, if there’s nothing to gain from our effort?

We should want to produce the fruit of the Spirit in response to what Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have already done for us. We don’t do this to gain anything but to offer it as a thank you for what God has already done for us.

And if we fall short in any one of these areas, don’t despair. Seek God’s guidance to move forward day-by-day, step-by-step to exhibit a little bit more of these traits in our existence, moving closer to realize the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

And we do so not out of obligation or guilt, but from a spirit of gratitude.

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 Content Are You with God’s Blessings?

The Bible Tells Us to Live a Life of Contentment

Though some people in our world struggle to have the basic requirements for life, many others enjoy an existence that meets all their needs and beyond. This is a given for many people in most developed nations. They don’t need to seek God for their daily bread; they already have plenty to eat. Instead, they seek more. These materialistic people never have enough; they are not content. They continually strive to expand what they have. Metaphorically, they’re building bigger barns (see Luke 12:16-21).

Thankful or Dissatisfied?

Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation in life, we must make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons—God-honoring reasons. If God has supplied our needs and we still aren’t content, isn’t this an insult to God and his generosity?

If we aren’t satisfied with God’s provisions, doesn’t this suggest that we don’t appreciate his blessings? Though most of us would be quick to say we’re thankful for God’s gifts, our actions and attitudes often suggest the opposite.

Scripture Calls Us to Be Content

In the Bible, Paul shares about his life. He says he’s learned to be content in every situation. Not only is this during times of plenty but also when he’s hungry or living in want. He does this through God’s strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Not only does Paul provide this example of contentment, but he also encourages Timothy and others (including us) to be content with what they have. He even goes as far as to connect contentment with godliness. (1 Timothy 6:6-9).

A final passage to consider comes from the writer of Hebrews who tells his audience to avoid materialism (the love of money) and be content—that is, satisfied—with what we have. This is because God is with us always and will never forget us (Hebrews 13:15).

We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment?

These verses about contentment address our physical situation, our material needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But what about our spiritual situation? Should we be content with that too?

When it comes to God and living a life that honors him, we should never be content. We should always desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. God doesn’t want us to coast our way into heaven. When we say yes to following Jesus, he wants us to go all in and live every day for him. We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little.

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

If God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

God Cares for the Lesser Things of His Creation and We Are So Much More

In one of Asaph’s Psalms he exalts God for his power, beauty, and perfection. In doing so Asaph envisions what God might say to his people, talking about what is important and what isn’t. God has no need for our animals (possessions), for every creature (everything) is his.

In fact God says that he knows every bird, and that even the insects are his.

God Cares for Birds

Does this idea that God knows every bird sound familiar? Consider what Jesus says in his teaching in what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:25-27). He tells us not to worry, that God will take care of us.

Then he reminds us of the birds. Even though birds don’t prepare for the future by planting crops, gathering the harvest, or storing for the future, God feeds them. He takes care of them.

In the non-winter months in Michigan, anytime I look out my window I see all kinds of birds, often more than I can count. Though I know some species, I can’t identify most of them.

While I have trouble identifying various types of birds, God not only knows each species, he also knows each bird within each specie.

Aside from my enjoyment of watching birds, in the overall scope of life, I give little thought to birds. Yet God cares for them.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us. Click To Tweet

God Cares for Us

Jesus goes on to say that if his Father will feed the birds how much more will he care for us. As people, we’re the highpoint of his creation. We matter much more to him than birds. God cares for us even more than he cares for the birds.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 46-50, and today’s post is on Psalms 50:11.]

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

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Bible Verses That Give Us Comfort When the World Gives Fear

Consider These Passages about God’s Provisions for Us

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared verses with my friends through my email newsletter. These passages can encourage us during challenging times. And readers have responded by sending me their verses that they find especially helpful in the world today.

Here’s the list of these verses.

God Overcomes

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV, from Gabe).

God Renews Our Strength

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31-32, KJV, from Jebesa).

God Gives Wisdom

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, NIV, from Brett)

God Provides Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NIV, from Shara).

God Offers Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV, from Robyn).

God Is with Us

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2, NIV, from Rachel).

God Has a Plan

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16, NIV, from Brett).

God Bestows Joy

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:19, NIV, from Jeri).

God Removes Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). This is the first verse I shared. Then I encouraged others to share their verses.

We must focus on what God offers instead of what the world fears. This starts when we read the Bible. Click To Tweet

God Is the Answer to Fear from the World

We must focus on what God offers instead of what the world fears. This starts with studying his Word and continues by listening to his Spirit.

May it be so.

This list of comforting verses is far from complete. Please add your favorite passages in the comments section below.

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 Are You Thankful For?

Take time to tell God what you are thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving, but every other day, too

The church I attended several years ago had a Thanksgiving practice of having members stand to share what they were thankful for. From my perspective this never went well, with too much silence or too much forced sharing and sometimes both.

One year a man kicked things off by saying how thankful he was for his wife, spending too much time listing her many attributes, which I perceived as overly generous exaggerations. Though I’m sure he earned points from his beloved, his gushing made me squirm.

With the precedence set, the second man to speak did the same thing for his wife. Now we a had a pattern. Going forward, each person—both male and female—who spoke, opened with a spousal tribute. Anyone who did not do so would surely look like a clod and risk spending the night on the couch.

This all came to mind a few days ago when church asked us to write a note of what we were thankful for. As a writer, you’d think I’d be all over this, but I write in solitude and can’t come up with a single cogent thought when trying to write in public.

Besides, my wife was sitting next to me eyeing my blank paper. I had to list her first, right? (By the way, I am thankful for her.) After her, I’d need to follow with all members of my immediate family. (I’m thankful for them, too.) But how far should I go?

At whatever point I stopped, the implication would be that I wasn’t thankful for the next person in my family tree. It’s a slippery slope.

Next I thought about friends: best friends, close friends, valued associates, casual acquaintances, the neighbor I wave to but haven’t yet met, the clerk at the post office, my best friend from high school who I haven’t seen in years, and that one guy I met one time who God keeps reminding me to pray for.

Where do I draw the line?

Then I thought about things. Yes, I’m thankful for them, too, but to make a list of valued possessions would paint me as materialistic. Can’t have that.

What about less tangible things: good health, a job, the ability to work, the chance to help others, having family nearby and all living in the same state, a comfortable life, and so on?

Listing these things might seem like boasting of God’s blessings on my life, thereby causing pain for others who weren’t so fortunate. I would never want that.

I’m most thankful for the love of God. Click To Tweet

I was running out of time to make my list. Some people had finished theirs, but my paper was still blank. Then I came up with a great idea. What if I wrote down the one thing I am most thankful for? That might be doable.

The answer came quickly: God. But he’s the answer to most everything. I needed to be more specific. Then I found clarity: I’m thankful for the love of God.

If we have God’s love, which we do, everything else is secondary. Yes, I’m thankful for family and friends and possessions and blessings, but mostly I’m thankful that God loves me—and that God loves you, too.

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

How Often Do You Give Thanks to God?

When Paul writes to the church in the city of Colossi, he says he always gives God thanks when he prays for them. He doesn’t just give God thanks for them occasionally but always.

This is because of their faith in Jesus and their love for all God’s people—not some of them or the ones they agree with, but all of God’s people. Their faith and love stems from the hope they have in heaven because of Jesus (Colossians 1:3-5).

This is one of many of Paul’s references to prayers of thanksgiving he makes for other servants and followers of Jesus. See Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, and Philemon 1:4.

This gives me pause. Is my life one that would cause someone to give thanks to God? I fear not. Furthermore, when have I given thanks to God for the example of someone else’s life? Implicitly, perhaps, but I doubt if I’ve ever done so explicitly.

I’m not sure which bothers me more: my failure in producing God-honoring actions or my forgetfulness in praying God-honoring thanks.

Have you ever given thanks to God for the example of someone else’s life? Click To Tweet

In even more general terms, how often do I thank God overall? Sometimes I remember to thank him for his blessings and provisions. Sometimes I remember to thank him for answered prayer. But it is much easier to persist in making requests, than to persist in giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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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Remember God in the Good Times

As Moses prepares the Israelites to enter into the land God promised them, he reminds them of God’s instructions. Moses looks forward to the time when the people will live in cities they didn’t build, drink from wells they didn’t dig, and eat from fields they didn’t plant.

They will be satisfied and he warns them to be careful and not forget God.

For many people, the hard times turn their focus to God. They seek answers, relief, and solace from someone greater then they, from God who can help them out of their predicament, whatever it may be.

However, during good times, many people tend to forget God. They become satisfied and think they’re self-sufficient. They forget it’s actually because of God that they’re living a good life.

Just as we seek God when life is bad, asking for his help, we need to remember God when life is good, thanking him for it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 1-3, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 6:10-12.]

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.

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Christian Living

What To Do When We Don’t Feel Like Praising God

I like to praise God for who he is and thank him for what he does—most of the time. Sometimes, though, I just don’t feel like it. Intellectually, nothing’s changed; spiritually, he’s the same, but emotionally, I don’t want to.

What do I do in those cases?

Praise God for who he is and thank him for what he does. Click To Tweet

I praise and thank him anyway. As some people say, “fake it til you make it.”

Does this seem foolish? Will the Almighty strike me down for being disingenuous, for putting on a false front?

If I’m being phony to impress others, I’m on shaky ground, but if I push through because it’s the right thing, I suspect he approves—and delights in me.

Throughout our lives, we do all manner of things we don’t feel like doing:

  • Eating right
  • Exercising
  • Working
  • Getting enough rest
  • Helping others
  • Doing housework and yard work
  • Finishing homework
  • Keeping our promises

For each, we realize the benefits of the activity regardless if we felt like doing them or not:

  • We grow healthier
  • Our body becomes more toned and we lose weight
  • We earn money needed to live (and keep our job)
  • We aren’t tired
  • We make the world a bit better
  • Our living area becomes a more pleasant place
  • We learn and earn good grades
  • We become respected as a person of integrity (and avoid guilt in the process)

In each instance, the results are the same regardless if we felt like doing the right thing or not. The same is true for our relationship with God.

We need to push through, praising and thanking God, when we feel like it—and when we don’t. Either way, the result is the same.

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

Celebrating the Highs and Lows of Last Year

It’s not good to dwell in the past or fixate on what was, but it is wise to periodically review it.

As we recently transitioned from one year to the next, my wife and I spent time with close friends. We recalled our personal highs and lows from the year that was ending.

It’s not good to dwell in the past or fixate on what was, but it is wise to periodically review it. Click To Tweet

For those without God in their lives, the results of such an exercise could be ill-advised. For the good that happened, they might take pride in their accomplishments or celebrate the rewards of their hard work. For the negative that occurred, they might curse bad luck or blame others.

For them it could be an empty exercise of elevating self and criticizing circumstances.

However, for us—who hold God central to our being—the results were quite different. For our joys, we praised God’s generosity, his provision in our lives. For our sorrows, we celebrated God’s comfort, his carrying us through dark times.

In both the good and the not so good, we thanked God. It was a spiritual experience. God was present. We basked in his love.

I recommend periodically taking time to reflect on the high points and the low times of our lives. Annually is a good start, though some do so more often: monthly, weekly, or even each night.

Then we can praise God for his work in our lives.

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.