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Christian Living

Don’t Build in Vain

Let God Built and Protect All That We Do

There are fifteen songs of ascent in the Bible. Five of them are in today’s reading. Four of the fifteen are ascribed to David and one to Solomon; the rest are anonymous. Most of them are quite short.

We understand the people would sing these songs of ascent as they traveled to Jerusalem—that is, as they ascended to the temple—to worship God.

Psalm 127, written by Solomon—opens with the convicting reminder that unless God builds a house, the builders labor in vain. In a parallel thought, unless God watches over a city, the guards watch in vain (Psalms 127:1).

I wonder how much we build in vain, striving to accomplish work on our own and without God taking part. Do we try to pursue life our own way or live a life in tandem with our Lord? If God’s not part of what we do, it is in vain.

May we not work—or live—in vain.

The next verse continues the thought, stating that it’s vain to get up early and go to bed late toiling just to make a living and feed ourselves. Yet this isn’t a call to laziness or permission to be idle.

In the context of this Psalm, it’s a solemn reminder to include the Lord in our striving, our work, and all that we do. If we don’t, we build in vain.

The second half of this song talks about the blessing of children, of having a quiver full—the more the better. This fulfills God’s command to Adam and later to Moses to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9:7).

And where do these children live? In our homes!

Just as it is in vain if we attempt to build a house without God, it is in vain if we attempt to raise children without him.

We need the Almighty to help us build a house, just as we need him to build a family.

We must put him first in all we do and trust him with the outcome. Else we build in vain.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 125-129 and today’s post is on Psalms 127:1.]

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

When Will You Retire?

God Created Us to Work, So Don’t Stop

I’ve worked from home since 2000. That’s a long time, and I doubt I could ever return to a more typical workplace environment. Through most of this time, neighbors would ask if I had retired. (How old did they think I was, anyway?)

I’d smile and tell them I was too young to retire.

Then they’d often ask about my retirement plans. I’d shake my head. Even now I tell them I have no plans to retire. I want to work as long as I can. My prayer is I’ll be able to keep writing until the day I die.

Keep Working

Retirement is a more recent phenomena, ushered in with the industrial revolution. Before then—except for military service—people worked as long as they could. They had no choice. They had to. Their livelihood depended on it.

When they could no longer work, their family took care of them. Even then they’d do whatever they could to help and not be a burden.

Aside from that—and more importantly—God created us to work (Genesis 2:15). Work gives us purpose. We must avoid idleness (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Idle hands are the devil’s workshop (Proverbs 16:27).

Therefore, we should work for as long as we can. This honors God, gives us purpose, and keeps us productive.

Reinvent Your Work

But what if you dislike your job and can’t wait to retire? Then find a different job.

Look at what you like to do, and then go do it. You may not earn as much money, but that shouldn’t matter because you wanted to retire anyway.

I relish my work as a writer. Yet not all aspects of it are enjoyable. No job is perfect.

So I tweaked my work. I eliminated incidental tasks that dragged me down and outsourced what I didn’t enjoy or wasn’t good at. I streamlined and simplified.

The result is that most of the day overflows with work I savor, with activities I embrace.

Each morning I arise excited for the day ahead. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with so much anticipation for what I’ll write in the morning that I have trouble falling back to sleep.

So instead of retiring, find your dream job and dive in. It may mean reinventing what you do. Or it might mean tweaking what you already do.

Life is too short for a job that pulls you down, so find one that invigorates you.

Follow Your Call

What has God called you to do?

He’s called me to write, to write for my Lord. I obey his call on my life. To retire from his call prematurely would dishonor him. As long as I can write, I’ll write for him. I’ll do this as long as I can—or until he calls me to something else.

Work for Free

If you’re retirement age, use your retirement funds, pension, or social security to pay the bills and then work for free. That is, volunteer your time to causes that matter.

What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing to help others? What have you always wanted to do but didn’t because it didn’t pay enough?

Since earning money doesn’t matter if you’re retired, pursue your passions. Just make sure your pursuit is about others and not yourself. Seek to make the world a better place, and don’t look inward with a self-serving motivation.

Forget Leisure and Don’t Coast

There’s nothing wrong with leisure activities, and we all need to rest (Genesis 2:3).

Yet we must take care to make sure leisure activities don’t fill our day. We shouldn’t retire and then coast to the end. Instead we must make each day count.

Find Your Purpose

Regardless of where you are in life—working for a living, nearing retirement age, or retired—seek an outward-looking purpose. Think about what you can do to give to others. Then do it.

Retire When You Can’t Work

When you’re no longer able to work, it is time to retire. To retire wisely, focus on three areas. Pursue them with diligence.

1. Do What Gives You Life: Many people toil in jobs that suck the life from them. I feel for them. I’ve been there. Now I’m not. My work as a writer gives me life. It provides a reason to get up each morning.

2. Do What Honors God: Our lives should serve as an act of worship. This includes all that we do, and it extends into retirement. Find retirement activities that honor God.

3. Do What Helps Others: A self-absorbed life is a selfish one. Instead of focusing on what we want for ourselves, we should redirect our attention on how we can serve and help others, to make our world a little bit better.

Final Thoughts about Retirement

As I consider these three retirement actions, they are exactly what I’m doing now in my work as a writer.

My work gives me life. My work honors God. And my work helps others.

As a bonus the books I write now will help others in the future, even when I’m no longer around. This is my legacy. And it’s work that matters to the world and advances the kingdom of God.

So it should be.

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 Love Jesus More Than Anything Else?

Make God Your Number One Priority

When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus said we’re to love God with all our heart, our soul, and our strength (Mark 12:29-31, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5). We’re to love him more than anything else, to make him our number one priority.

And when we understand God as referring to the three-in-one Trinity, we realize we’re to love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. In this way, we are to love Jesus more than anything else.

It’s easy to claim that we love God more than anything else, that we put following Jesus first in our lives. But let’s consider what this entails.

Love Jesus More Than People

We must put loving God as more important than loving family. Jesus said that to be his disciple we must hate our parents, our spouse, our children, and our siblings (Luke 14:26). In short, we must hate our family.

But Jesus exaggerates to make his point—something his audience would readily understand. Hyperbole aside, the inescapable truth is that we must put Jesus before all others. This includes our family, as well as our friends and those we hold in high esteem.

When some people decide to put their trust in Jesus, they do so at great cost. Their family may disown them. Friends may shun them. They may lose their job or their standing within their community.

But compared to Jesus, none of these people matter. Jesus must come first.

Love Jesus More Than Our Possessions

Though we may readily say we love Jesus more than what we own, does our behavior confirm it? Consider our most prized possession. Are we willing to give it up for Jesus? If it competes with Jesus as first place in our life, we may need to sell it or give it away to remove its distraction. Or the Holy Spirit may convict us to let someone borrow it. For the sake of Jesus, we must hold what we own loosely.

Yet we must be ready to give up all that we have for the sake of Jesus. (Consider Matthew 19:29 and Luke 9:62.)

When fleeing for her life, Lot’s wife look back at what she was leaving behind and it cost her (Genesis 19:21-26).

Love Jesus More Than Our Position

Some people elevate their job above everything else in their life. It comes first and everything else—including God—comes in second. We may pursue it for the satisfaction we derive from our labors, the money we earn through our work, or the prestige of the position we hold. Yet if it gets in the way of us fully following Jesus, our job must go.

Love Jesus More Than Our Pleasures

A final consideration is our comfort. Putting God first and following Jesus as his disciple may result and giving up worldly contentment. We may face ridicule, we may suffer embarrassment, or we may be attacked, either verbally or physically. This could include death. We could—we will—suffer when we put Jesus first.

This may be in small ways or big ways, but we will suffer (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Love Jesus More Than Anything

To put Jesus first, to love God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—more than anything, we must set aside anything that might hold us back (Hebrews 12:1-3). We must make Jesus our number one priority, loving him more than family, property, work, and comfort. Those things all pale when we consider who he is and what he has called us to.

In doing so we’ll realize a heavenly reward of spending eternity with him. Nothing else matters, so put Jesus first,

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 Do You Think about Retirement?

Working for God Is What Matters Most

I’ve worked from home since 2000. Over the years curious neighbors, seeing me at home during the day, have asked if I’m retired. I smile and shake my head. More recently the question has shifted to “When are you going to retire?” Again, I shake my head. Retirement isn’t on my radar.

In truth I’m not planning on retiring—ever. My hope is that I’ll be able to write until the day I die. Toward that end, I pray that my writing will continue to improve throughout the rest of my career. God is not calling me to retire but to write. My purpose is to advance his kingdom through my words.

I need to have a reason to get up each morning—and for me that is to write. If I didn’t have work to look forward to, I fear I would squander my day, filling it with secondary activities and useless pursuits. Retirement could do that for me.

Retirement From Work

For some, labor emerges as a draining drudgery that they can’t wait to escape. They work to earn a living and as soon as they retire, they’ll let their retirement benefits and investments pay their bills without the need to toil to receive a paycheck.

Others retire out of necessity. The physical demands of their labors have taken a toll on their bodies, making work an increasingly difficult or painful task. Or it could be that the mental acuity needed to perform at peak levels has slipped enough to make continued work inadvisable. These cases all call for retirement.

Then there is mandatory retirement, usually age related.

I hear of people retiring at fifty-five or in their forties, even as young as thirty-eight. What will they do with the rest of their life? Given our increasing life expectancies, they could end up with more years retired than worked.

Never Retire from God

Though we may opt to or need to retire from work, we shouldn’t adopt a similar attitude toward God. What he calls us to do for him doesn’t have a retirement age. We should continue our labors for him for as long as he gives us breath.

Each new day is a gift, and we shouldn’t waste it. We should wake with anticipation on our minds: “God, what are we going to do today?”

Yes, the details of our work for God may change as we age, but the privilege to live a life of service to him never ends.

Don’t Wait

I often hear people talk about their retirement plans, of what they’ll do when they retire. Of all the extra time they’ll have to serve God. Though they may be too busy now, they’ll have plenty of time once they retire. Except that they usually don’t have more time.

Many a retiree has told me, “I’m way busier now than when I was working.” I suspect that if they’re not serving God when they’re working, they’ll not find the time to do so when they retire.

Therefore, don’t wait to serve God when it’s more convenient or you expect to have more time. Do it now. By developing the practice of serving God now, you’ll be in a better position to continue that—or even expand on it—when retirement rolls around.

Do It Now

What is God calling you to do? What are you passionate about or interested in? Seek ways to pursue these things now. Don’t put them off until later, because later may never come.

If you’re already retired from work, how can you use your retirement years to better serve God. And if you’re looking forward to retirement, there’s no need to change course. Just make an adjustment to what you do now, so that retirement can move you into a more God-honoring season in your life.

Though you can retire from work, don’t retire from God.

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 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:

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.

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10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Visiting Churches

Reflecting on Church #23: A Church Business Meeting Overshadows the Service

Don’t Hold a Church Business Meeting After the Service

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #23.

It’s challenging to get members to attend a church business meeting during the week, as it requires an extra trip to church that’s squeezed into an already busy schedule.

So it’s understandable when churches hold business meetings at the end of their service.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

However, conducting church business as part of a Sunday service often provides an uncomfortable experience for visitors. This church business meeting is no exception.

One member questions the makeup of the pastoral selection committee. Other members, either aroused or emboldened by this first comment, join in to voice their dissent. As emotions rise, so does the tension in the sanctuary.

Just as civility threatens to escalate out of control, a conciliatory remark ends the discussion. Then they approve the committee slate with only minor murmuring.

The leader dismisses us, and my final memory of the church service is the rancor of their business meeting, not their worship of God. In the spirit of expediency, they forgot the purpose of church.

Church Business Meetings on Sunday

It’s a common practice at many churches to conduct church business on Sunday at the conclusion of the church service. We do this to our shame.

We forget the Old Testament commands to keep the Sabbath holy (which today’s church now views as Sunday) and not do any work. By my account, holding a church business meeting on Sunday violates both of these commands.

Jesus, however, came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and prophecies. That means these two Old Testament commands may no longer apply.

In this way, some may now feel the freedom to work on Sunday and not regard it as holy. In doing so they freely conduct church business after a church service.

Even so, tacking a business meeting onto a church service removes us from a worshipful connection with God and replaces it with an often-contentious connection to worldly concerns.

We must save our church meetings for during the week and not detract from our Sunday experience.

[See my reflections about Church #22 and Church #24 or start with Church #1.]

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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 Long and Short of It

I remember before, there are times after a day at work, my bride comes home and remarks, “It’s been a long day!” Being the supportive and understanding spouse that I am, I quickly concur with appropriate empathy. 

Unfortunately, I am seldom content to merely agree, so I sarcastically add, “Yes, I heard on the news that today was 35 minutes longer than yesterday. Today, was, truly a long day.”

That rarely wins me any points but does garner an irritated glare.

What she may mean is that work lasted—or seemed to last—for a long time. Alternately, it could convey that work was very frustrating. I know what she means, but she doesn’t say what she means.

Instead, she insists that the day was somehow longer than normal.

It like fashion, some people quip that yesterday was the longest day of the year. But that is not correct either. 

It was the same length as all the others; it merely contained more daylight minutes—and correspondingly less nighttime minutes—than any other day of the year. That is, for those of us north of the equator.

For those in the southern hemisphere, theirs was the shortest day of the year. Not really. It just had the least amount of daylight and the maximum amount of darkness.

What about those on the equator? I understand that they enjoyed an even 12 to 12 split of light and dark, just like every other day.

So whether your day was long—or short—or the same length as all others, I hope that it was a good one.

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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Personal Posts

No Power Means No Heat

I remember years ago, I was wrapping things up and ready to start a blog entry when the power went out. This was peculiar as there were no storms and it was not windy—the two prime reasons for us to lose power.

Our power outages were usually a few seconds to a couple of minutes, so I kept working for a while (I had a small UPS for my computer). When power wasn’t restored quickly, I began an orderly shutdown.

Once I turned the monitors off, I was in the dark. By the time I felt my way to the main floor, my bride had found and turned on a battery powered-lantern. 

We used it as a reading lamp for a couple of hours, hoping for the quick return of electricity. Alas, it did not happen.

Although we had gas heat, electricity is required for the thermostat to function, to ignite the pilot, and to power the blower fan. No power means no heat. 

The weather forecast was for a low of zero (it actually hit 5 below), so I knew that a prolonged outage, would mean a cold house.

I piled more blankets on the bed, put on extra clothes, including a hoody, and climbed in bed. Snuggled up in my cocoon, I pulled the hood over my head, with only my face exposed. It reminded me of camping out as a kid.

My thoughts returned to those good times and I happily drifted off to sleep.

My sleep was short-lived as the power was restored a half-hour later. I got up and did a cursory check to make sure things were okay—and to turn off the couple of lights whose switches we had mistakenly left on when we lost power.

I also checked the temperature. In the two and a half hours without power, the temperature had dropped 5 degrees. At that rate, had power remained off, it would have been quite cold by morning.

Thankfully, the power did come back, saving us from that experience.

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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Personal Posts

There Has to be a Better Way

I don’t know if I wasn’t listening or am slow to catch on, but it wasn’t until later in life that I realized how to land a job:

  • The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview,
  • the purpose of an interview is to sell yourself well enough to receive an offer, and
  • the purpose of an offer is to negotiate a compensation package for your new job.

Silly me. I thought that people should just hire me because I could do the work—and would do it well. (I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t believe that.)

I viewed the application/resume and interview steps as unnecessary irritations in the process.

As far as compensation negotiations, just skip that part and pay me what I am worth.

The sad reality is that—except for a few positions, such as sales or marketing—being able to pen a compelling resume or conduct a convincing interview is no measure of one’s ability to actually do a job, merely their ability to obtain a job.

The result is that unsuited people are hired and—I fear—good people are overlooked. There has to be a better way.

The same is true in politics. You need to be able to raise money to campaign and you need to be able to debate well to raise your poll numbers and you need to speak with conviction to create interest among the electorate.

But these skills have little bearing on your ability to lead well. Whether it is obtaining a job or being elected, the conventional processes do not allow the best person to prevail.

There has to be a better way.

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.

Categories
Personal Posts

Have a Happy Normal Day

With Christmas and New Years Behind Us, It Is Time to Get Things Back to Normal

It’s great to have time off from work for the holidays, wonderful to spend time with family, and enjoyable to feast upon holiday foods and delectable deserts. However, it is also good to return to a regular routine—for things to get back to normal.

For as wonderful as the holidays are, I like normal, too. Normal is how I keep disciplined and remain focused; it allows me to get important things done.

But the transition from holiday mode to normal mode takes time for me. I think it does for others as well. The days after the holidays did not seem normal and I think many people shared my struggle to return to normal.

However, I think today was nearly normal and I suspect tomorrow will be completely normal. At least I hope so because I have work to do!

Have a Happy Normal Day!

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.