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Visiting Churches

Does Your Church Use Nametags?

Discussing Church 25

The website of this church shows captivating photos of their worship team, implying high energy and an edgy sound.

Consider these four discussion questions for Church #25

1. Everyone wears an adhesive nametag, and we make our own nametags. At some churches members wear permanent nametags and guests use temporary ones, which single them out. 

If your church uses nametags, how can you best embrace others? If you don’t use name tags, why not?

2. Friends invite us to sit with them. Though we don’t need this comforting gesture to feel welcome, a typical newcomer might appreciate it. 

In what ways can you help a person feel more comfortable?

3. The worship team is far different than their website portrays. Instead of a high-energy, edgy worship band, there’s a laid-back team of two. I’m disappointed. 

Is your website an accurate reflection of your services? If not, what do you need to change?

4. However, this discrepancy between website and reality may be because in a few months this church will cease their Sunday meetings. They’ll relaunch with another church to form a new group, with a new name, and a renewed focus. Change is hard, but these people anticipate it. 

How can your church better deal with change? How can you help?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

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

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

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Bible Insights

God Speaks to the Prophet Amos through a Vision

Regardless of How God Speaks to Us, We Should Listen to What He Says

The words of the Old Testament prophet Amos appear in the book of the Bible that bears his name. The words the God speaks come to Amos in a vision. But the Bible doesn’t tell us the circumstances surrounding the vision or how it occurred.

The vision may have come to Amos at night in a dream or in that early-morning time between the unconsciousness of sleep and the consciousness of being awake. Or perhaps the vision came to Amos as he was praying or fasting or meditating. Regardless of the details, God speaks to Amos in a vision.

Some of the other prophets also have visions but not all. For other prophets, such as Jeremiah, the Bible simply says that the word came to them. And God spoke directly to Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Job, and Isaiah. Other times, angels serve as messengers to carry God’s word to his emissaries.

Regardless of the process, however, God speaks to his people. It may be through a vision, words, or thoughts. It may be through an angel, a person, or another means. The method doesn’t matter but the message does.

Are we ready to listen to what God says to us? Click To Tweet

Be Faithful to What God Says

When Amos receives his vision, he proclaims it to the people. A scribe records it for us to read in the Bible. In this way, Amos is faithful to his vision. God speaks to him, and he shares it with others.

I wonder if God spoke to other people who weren’t faithful with his message. They didn’t proclaim it to others and therefore those words didn’t make it into the Bible. We’ll never know, but it’s worth considering.

God speaks to us, too. Are we ready to listen to what he says? And when we hear, are we faithful to say or do what he says?

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

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 Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Prophesies to Dry Bones and Breathes Life into Them

One of the most evocative images in the book of Ezekiel is him speaking to dry bones scattered before him. It’s a valley of dry bones. The bones animate and reassemble. Tendons connect them. Flesh covers the skeletons. Breath enters these reconstituted bodies, mere corpses, and they live again.

It’s powerful imagery, the dead becoming alive. But what does it mean?

Fortunately, God explains it to Ezekiel

The bones represent the people of Israel. They are dried up. Their hope is gone. Cut off. Effectively, they are dead.

God will open their graves, resurrecting them to bring them home.

In addition to restoring their physical life, he will give them a spiritual life too. He will put his spirit in them. Then they will live. Truly live.

As with most prophecies, this one contains multiple applications.

Israel

The first is for his audience of that day, Israel. The people overflow with discouragement and are without hope. God reminds them that they can place their hope in him. He will restore them as a nation and bring them back from captivity and return them to the land he promised for them.

Jesus

We can also see this passage looking forward prophetically to Jesus. Consider two items: the prophecy of graves opening and God putting his spirit in his people so they can truly live.

When Jesus dies the curtain in the temple rips in half from top to bottom, symbolically allowing us to directly approach God. There is an earthquake and tombs break open. Bodies of many holy people come to life. We don’t know who they are or have a count, just that there are many, and they lived holy lives (Matthew 27:51-53).

Next, consider Pentecost. Jesus’s squad waits in Jerusalem for the special gift that Papa will send them. A violent wind sounds. Something like tongues of fire hover over each person. And the Holy Spirit fills them with supernatural power (Acts 2:1-4).

When Jesus dies the curtain in the temple is torn open from top to bottom, symbolically allowing us to directly approach God. Click To Tweet

End Times

In John’s epic vision as recorded in the book of Revelation, we also see dead bodies become alive (Revelation 11:7-11 and Revelation 20:11-13), just like Ezekiel said.

To wrap things up, the Holy Spirit and Jesus invites them—and us—to come and receive the gift of life (Revelation 22:17).

These are some of the key things we can learn from Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 37-39, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 37:13-14.]

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

Do You See Visions from God?

Once Reserved for Prophets, Now All People Can Have Visions from God

A friend asked me about hearing from God and of visions from God. I often think about hearing from the Holy Spirit, but I infrequently consider visions, even though visions are one way that God communicates with us.

Visions in the Bible

Mentions of visions occur thirty-six times in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament. The first time is when God tells his people that he will reveal himself to his prophets through visions, that he will speak to them in dreams (Numbers 12:6).

The book of Ezekiel records the most visions, followed by Daniel. And the bulk of Revelation is one epic vision.

I suspect the most well-known verse about visions is when God says he will pour out his Spirit on all people. Then there will be prophecies, dreams, and “young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). Notice that Joel says all people will receive God’s Spirit.

The fulfillment of this happens at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Hearing from God in the Bible

Interestingly, the phrase “the Lord said” and variations thereof occur over 400 times in the Bible, ten times more often than visions. This suggests it’s more likely we’ll hear words from God than we’ll see visions.

Receiving Visions from God

I hear from God often, usually whenever I ask and sometimes when I don’t. My requests to hear him often start out like young Samuel, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Then God puts his words into my mind.

It’s up to me to discern which of those words came from God and which emerged from my own imagination. With practice, it becomes easier to separate the two.

Though I have had visions from God, they aren’t often. As far as I recall, I’ve never asked for a vision. They just show up. Usually they occur when I’m asleep and sometimes as I enter or leave sleep: a semi-conscious state, a trance.

The book of Acts notes that both Peter (Acts 10:10) and Paul (Acts 22:17) fell into a trance and God spoke to them through a vision.

For me a vision from God seems much like a dream. It’s up to me to discern which came from God and which came from myself. Again, with practice it becomes easier to know the difference.

To hear from God: fast, pray, and listen. Click To Tweet

Hearing from God and especially seeing visions from God happen more frequently when I fast and even more so as I pray and listen to God during a fast. That’s when he speaks to me, mostly through words and occasionally through visions.

Of course, I don’t need to fast to hear from God, I merely need to listen.

And where did my thoughts for this post come from? They came during a fast. I was praying and listening to God. I asked him if he had anything to tell me about visions that I could share with my friend. Then I heard from the Holy Spirit. This post is the result.

Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

Jesus Will Return Unexpectedly: Are We Ready for His Return?

The End Will Come Unexpectedly Like a Thief in the Night

John’s epic vision that he records in the book of Revelation includes many perplexing allusions. One is a warning that Jesus will return unexpectedly, like a thief (Revelation 16:15).

Note that this doesn’t say Jesus is a thief, merely that most people won’t be expecting his arrival, as is the case of a robber coming in the middle of the night.

We should give this reference serious consideration because it also occurs elsewhere in the Bible, not just in John’s Revelation where so much of the content is figurative and not literal.

First, Jesus implies this about himself, which Matthew records in his biography of Jesus. Here Jesus says that if a homeowner knew when his house would be broken into, he would have been on the lookout and taken steps to prevent a robbery (Matthew 24:43).

The lesson is that even though we don’t know when the end will take place, we should be alert and ready.

Next, Paul, in writing to his friends in the church in Thessalonica, reminds them that no one knows when Jesus will come back, not the season or the date. It’s going to be a surprise, much like a thief breaking in under the cover of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).

Jesus Will Return Unexpectedly

Again, we must remember that Jesus isn’t coming as a thief to steal—the enemy does that (John 10:10). The point is that Jesus will return unexpectedly. In Revelation, John advises us that we should be alert and ready for whenever this surprise return occurs.

And what’s the outcome if we aren’t ready? It isn’t condemnation, and it isn’t being left behind; it’s being embarrassed.

I don’t want to face embarrassment over not being ready when Jesus returns. It may be in my lifetime, or it may not, but that doesn’t mean I’m not on the lookout for the possibility of it occurring.

Are We Ready?

If we follow Jesus, we must be ready for him when he comes again. We don’t know when it will occur, but we do know it will happen.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 13-16, and today’s post is on Revelation 16:15.]

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

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Bible Insights

God Speaks Through Visions

God not only speaks to us through audible words and inaudible words, but he communicates to us through images and scenes. These may happen in our waking hours or when asleep.

God used a dream to show Joseph (son of Jacob) the future, with his parents and brothers bowing down to him. God also communicated to Joseph (Jesus’ father) through dreams, first to go ahead and marry Mary and later to escape to Egypt.

Daniel saw images sent from God.

Peter had a vision telling him to let non-Jews know about Jesus.

Of course, most of Revelation, the last half of Daniel, and much of Ezekiel contain visions portending the future that God gave to his prophets.

In the Bible, God spoke to his people through visions, dreams, and images. His power isn’t diminished now. What he did then, he still does today.

God speaks to us. How he accomplishes it doesn’t matter.

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.