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Christian Living

Start Each Day with God

Make Spending Time with the Almighty a Priority

God deserves our best, not whatever’s left over at the end of the day—if anything. This may be why he told the Israelites to give to him their first fruits, the first of their harvest (Exodus 23:16). That’s why we should start each day with God, with a focus on our Lord.

Here are some ideas to start each day with God.

Seek Him Before You Get Up

Before I leave my bed each morning, I turn my focus to God. I thank him for what happened yesterday, for the sleep that rejuvenated me, and the potential of the day ahead. I begin my day with a focus on him, which sets the foundation for what happens next.

Give Him Your Day and Invite Him into It

Before I arise, I thrust my arms into the air in a physical display of worship, giving the Almighty my day and inviting him into it. And the days when this feels the most difficult to do are the days when I need it the most.

Thoughts of trying to navigate the day without my Lord’s help are foolish.

Morning Prayers

At this point I’ve thanked God and prayed for my day. I’m up and have used the mindless task of shaving to shake the slumber from my soul. I’ve done some basic exercises and am (mostly) alert.

I now ask for God’s blessings on my family, for future generations of my family, and those closest to me. This prepares me for what follows.

Read and Study His Word

Next, I spent time reading and studying his Word. Sometimes this is part of a regular reading plan. I often make notes about key insights the Holy Spirit reveals to me from that passage. Though most people do this in a journal, I do it on my computer, organizing my observations by book, chapter, and verse. This way I can merge my thoughts for the day with observations from prior readings.

Other times my Bible reading and studying is in preparation for the book I’ll be working on that day. If I intend to write about a certain passage, I want to first fix my thoughts on it and meditate on it.

I’ve been doing morning Bible reading the longest and it’s ingrained into my day. It’s a lifelong habit that I formed. Only rarely do events distract me from it. I invest about fifteen minutes—though sometimes more—each morning focusing on Scripture.

This action is essential for me to best start my day with God.

Then Take Him Throughout Your Day

With these prerequisites complete, I feel ready to move into my plans for the day. But when I skimp on them, it’s not the best way to start each day with God.

End Your Day with Reflection and Thanksgiving

Though the focus of this post is about how we start each day with God, in some respects this effort begins the night before on how we end each day.

As I snuggle into bed my goal is to thank God for the day and what he enabled me to do. I pray for his blessing on my sleep and that even in my dreams I will hold every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is what I struggle with the most. This isn’t because of a lack of will, but because some nights I fall asleep before I can take this step, or I slip into slumber halfway through.

In case I missed doing this or fell short, that’s why I try to begin the next day by thanking God for the prior one.

We should start each day with God and give him our best. He deserves nothing less and there’s nothing we need more. Click To Tweet

Start Each Day with God

We should start each day with God and give him our best. He deserves nothing less and there’s nothing we need more. Though I don’t always do this as fully as I’d like to, this is how I try to start each day with God.

I pray that you have a regular rhythm for your day that begins with and focuses on our Lord. And if not, use these ideas to encourage you to move forward and place your focus on the Almighty as you begin each 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.

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Bible Insights

Do Our Meetings Do More Harm Than Good?

We Must Examine Our Church Meetings to Make Sure They Are Truly Beneficial

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he talks about worshiping God and then he talks about celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In between these two topics he slips in a condemning one-liner. He says that their meetings are more likely to cause harm than to do good.

Some Bibles attach a subheading just before this verse that references the Lord’s Supper. However, someone later inserted this information, and it wasn’t part of Paul’s original letter.

Disregarding this added text, leaves us to wonder if this condemning warning is a reference to worship or to the Lord’s Supper. It might apply to both.

Therefore, we should consider both our worship services and our communion practices. Do they do harm or do good?

Do Our Worship Services Cause Harm or Do Good?

Have you ever left a church service feeling empty, spiritually drained, or emotionally beat up? This could be the result of the Holy Spirit at work in your life, but it may be more likely that the church service itself caused you harm.

I’ve been to services like this.

Sometimes they are void of spiritual significance. They may have provided an entertaining concert or a saccharine lecture full of humorous one-liners or tweetable sound bites, but was God at work? Do we leave feeling rested and refreshed or bruised and broken?

Some church services mistake loud worship music for Holy Spirit power. I’m not against loud music. I grew up on rock and roll. Some music needs to be listened to loudly to appreciate it. But when the volume level detracts from our worship experience, something is wrong.

Despite having been to church services with music that was too loud, and painfully so, it’s never produced a headache in me. However, the volume level of some pulpit-pounding preachers has given me a headache, their content notwithstanding.

Other services come across as self-congratulatory, not celebrating what God has done but boasting about the accomplishments of the church and its leaders. And still other services have agendas that have little to do with God and much to do about some human objective.

And don’t get me started on pleas for money, with an offering or two; an altar call that drags on, even though no one responds, and everyone is bored; or announcements that take up time but offer no meaning.

What about long prayers that aren’t talking with God as much as trying to impress the congregation?

Some church services have sucked the life out of me. They have done more harm than good. My soul would have been better off had I stayed home.

Does How We Take the Lord’s Supper Cause Harm or Do Good?

Often, taking communion is part of a church service. The frequency may vary anywhere from weekly, to monthly, to quarterly. These are usually solemn affairs, steeped with reverence and ritual. There’s nothing wrong with this, but shouldn’t the Lord’s Supper be a celebration?

What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? It’s something we do out of obedience to remember what Jesus did for us. Yes, he died. But more importantly, he overcame death by rising from the grave. His victory can be our victory, and it’s worthy of a party.

Each Sunday when I go to church, may my involvement do good and not cause harm. Click To Tweet

When I take communion at church I try to focus on the why, but I often struggle. The process distracts me, especially if I’m visiting a church.

I become so focused on how that church practices communion and not embarrassing myself should I deviate from their tradition, that I often forget that Jesus is the reason we’re doing it in the first place.

Though I have expectations that celebrating the Lord’s Supper will produce a highly spiritual experience for me, I’m often disappointed. At most churches, most of the time, communion causes me more harm than good.

It’s not until I go home, that I can shake the negativity from my soul and rightly reorient my focus on God.

Make Our Meetings Do Good

Despite these many concerns, I still go to one of today’s church services every Sunday. I still partake in communion every chance I get. Some meetings are good, and I appreciate them.

Though I’m not currently in a leadership position at church and can’t influence the overall structure of the service, I can do my part to help make them be good and not cause harm.

This is through each interaction I have with people before the service, after the service, and to a lesser extent even during the service. I can offer encouragement. I can pray for them. I can listen to them. Sometimes merely acknowledging someone’s presence, produces a smile that the service failed to do.

Each Sunday when I go to church, may my involvement do good and not cause harm.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 11-13, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 11:17.]

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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Bible Insights

Following a Father’s Example

Walking in our Parents’ Footsteps

The books of 1 and 2 Kings are filled with the accounts of many rulers who reigned over the nations of Israel and Judah. Most of them were bad kings, with varying degrees of disobedience to God’s laws and exhibiting evil.

A few, however, were good rulers, mostly following God and doing what he commanded.

Amaziah was a good king.

A Father’s Example

The son of Joash, another good king, Amaziah followed his father’s example (2 Kings 14:3). He was not, however, as good as King David. The chief criticism of King Amaziah is that he did not remove the high places and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

This was contrary to God’s expectations of right worship, and Amaziah took no steps to correct their inappropriate action.

Nevertheless, the Bible characterizes Amaziah as a good king. He followed his father’s example of seeking God and obeying (most of) his commands.

Amaziah’s son, Azariah, did the same thing. He, too, followed his father’s example and did what was right in the eyes of God. But he also failed to remove the high places, allowing the people to continue to worship there (2 Kings 15:1-4).

In this respect he followed his father’s example, both the positive ones and the negative. This repeats what Amaziah did when he made the same mistake.

This pattern goes back another generation to Joash, when Amaziah followed his father’s example in both good and bad ways. Joash, too, failed to remove the high places (2 Kings 12:1-3).

Here we have a string of three overall good Kings, with the similar fault of not removing the high places where inappropriate worship took place.

As parents we are to train our children in God’s ways, teaching them to do what is right, to obey him, and to worship him. Click To Tweet

As parents we are to train our children in God’s ways, teaching them to do what is right, to obey him, and to worship him. We also need to model godly behavior to them. This is because they will mimic us in both positive and negative ways.

With God’s help, may we be good examples for our children to follow.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 14-16 and today’s post is on 2 Kings 14:3.]

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 Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

We Can’t Witness for Jesus When We Sequester Ourselves on Sunday Mornings

Just before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witness, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

Witness and Make Disciples

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus: they care for their own to the peril of outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Meeting Together and Worship

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Go into the World as a Witness

Yes there is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling.

The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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

Playing it Safe

Our destination is not a church to visit but a revisit, returning to the congregation we were part of a decade ago.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #52

1. This church would be bigger, except they keep sending members away to plant new churches. 

How could your church do better at sending people into the world to advance God’s kingdom?

2. After the service the pastor invites people to come forward for prayer with the prayer teams. I appreciate them serving people through prayer, but few churches do. Don’t they see prayer as important? 

How can you elevate prayer at your church?

3. Today we heard an insightful message from a gifted communicator. We enjoyed worship led by talented musicians. Yet something felt off. They have a traditional soul. “Safe” best describes their vibe; they are playing is safe. 

How can you help move your church from playing it safe to being bold for Jesus?

4. I had meaningful conversations today, but they were all with people I knew. If I had shown up as a stranger, I would have departed as a stranger, feeling more alone than when I had arrived. 

What can you do to make sure no one leaves your church feeling like a stranger?

[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

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, 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

Great Is Our God

We Must Remove Anything That Threatens to Push God Aside

Asaph writes that God’s ways are holy, and that no other god is as great as he. Great is our God. In the context of that day, other gods refers to idols or made-up deities aside from the God revealed in Scripture.

Today bowing down to idols and making up gods to worship doesn’t often happen in a literal sense. But in a figurative manner we do this all the time.

Here are some modern-day gods that many people effectively worship and serve as their lord:

Money

In many cultures, people pursue money as if it’s the only thing that matters. They don’t just want money to live, but they live for money and love money. They treat their investment portfolio and their bank balance as a scorecard for success.

Their priorities are wrong. What the world values is seldom what God values. Instead of trusting in money, they should trust in God.

We cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).

Possessions

In developed countries, people are materialistic. Having more than enough money to supply their daily needs, many use their excess wealth to accumulate possessions. They buy stuff with the expectation that it will make them happier and more fulfilled. It never does.

My dad often said, “You don’t own things. They own you.” He was so wise. Remember, God blesses us so that we can bless others.

Instead of seeking solace through possessions, we should first seek connection with the Almighty (Matthew 6:33).

Influence

Another thing some people elevate too highly in their lives is the ability to influence others. Influence isn’t necessarily bad. We can influence others to follow Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). And we should.

Yet for some, the unbridled quest of influence has surpassed their quest for God.

Respect

Others pursue the god of respect. I see this happen too often among church leaders who insist their followers addressed them using their credentials, such as Reverend, Doctor, or Father. This was prevalent in Jesus’s day, too, and he warned against it (Matthew 23:9 and Mark 12:38-39).

Though descriptive titles can aid in understanding, they can also become a sense of pride. Examples I often hear include senior pastor, lead pastor, and teaching pastor.

Approval

Another consideration is seeking the approval of others. We may have a psychological need to earn someone’s approval. But this isn’t God’s intention. Paul warns against this and writes that we should only seek God’s approval (Galatians 1:10).

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary. Click To Tweet

Great is our God

None of these pursuits—money, possessions, influence, respect, or approval—are necessarily bad. But when we chase after them like gods, we run the risk of them becoming more important to us then God.

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary, if even that.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 76-80 and today’s post is on Psalm 77:13.]

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52 Churches

Church Discipline

The sprawling facility provides an impressive view from a distance. Their larger, new building suggests a thriving, dynamic community. But our experience there does not align this this, but the teaching about church discipline really connects with me.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #46

1. Yet no one responds to Candy’s phone messages or emails, so she can’t confirm the service time listed on their website. As we pull up, doubt forms. Only a few cars sit in their large parking lot. Are we here at the wrong time? 

How can you better respond to those who contact your church?

2. During worship, heavily orchestrated background tracks reverberate through the sanctuary. I can’t push past the overproduced, resounding boom. It distracts me from the words and blocks my worship

How can you best help people worship God?

3. The pastor tells the congregation to open their Bibles and follow along as he reads. The verses don’t appear on the screens. With our version not matching his, it’s disconcerting. I feel marginalized and excluded. 

What changes do you need to make to help guests feel included?

4. The minister is a gifted communicator. I appreciate his teaching about church discipline. He makes some great points. and he soon wins me over. He says that we cannot judge the lost, but we do need to judge ourselves. 

Are you wrongly judgmental? What needs to change?

[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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52 Churches

A Familiar Place

We attended this church years ago. This won’t be a visit as much as a reunion. It’s a familiar place.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #44

1. The building is twenty-five years old and well-maintained. Too many church buildings show neglect, repelling people instead of inviting them. 

What are some low-cost ways you can upgrade the appearance of your church facility?

2. The worship team has a full sound, upbeat and energetic, yet most of the congregation stands stoic. They’re spectators. 

How can you be an example to encourage others to participate more fully in worship?

3. Without a pulpit, the pastor moves to a tall table with two chairs, giving a coffee shop vibe. He introduces today’s topic, and then takes a dramatic pause while taking a sip of tea. He’s not preaching a sermon, as much as having a conversation. 

How can your church service better connect with today’s audience? What will you say to those who don’t like the change?

4. The sermon is about our creed. The minister concludes by asking two questions: “What do you believe?” and “How are you living it out?” 

How do you live out your faith?

This church is a familiar place that provided positive outcomes.

[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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52 Churches

A Refreshing Church Service

The church meets in a middle school’s all-purpose room. Large portable signs direct us to the entrance. We enjoy a refreshing church service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #38: 

1. People mill about: talking, sipping coffee, or munching snacks. They represent all age groups, with many kids. 

Younger people are the future of our church. What can you do to attract and connect with them?

2. A team of four leads worship, with optimally adjusted audio. The ideal sound tech is the one you’re unaware of. It’s only because of mistakes that anyone usually notices. This one is good. 

What should you do to make sure your audiovisual team supports your service and doesn’t distract?

3. As a special treat, three ladies from a local ballet company worship with us in dance. Ballet and guitars are an odd pairing, but the result is worshiping God through sound and movement. 

What fresh worship experiences can you add to your service?

4. Our leader gives us the freedom to dance—or not. I don’t have a danceable bone in my body, so I appreciate the permission to stay still, yet I’m disappointed because only a few join in. 

Worshipful dance occurs in the Bible. How can you incorporate dance into your church service?

Overall, we enjoyed a most refreshing church service, connecting with others who pointed us to God. We left in awe of God and his community.

[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.