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Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #54

I’ve read books about emergent churches, but I’ve never been to one. At this church, the church leaders want to serve this underserved neighborhood: the poorest and least safe, crime-laden and hopeless.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church 54.

They meet at 5:30 p.m. The plan is to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. How open are we to go to church Sunday evening instead of Sunday morning?

My wife, Candy, asks what food to bring. As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during 52 Churches we did our share of mooching. How open are we to include people in our potluck who have nothing to contribute?

Our leader says that sharing a meal is Communion. As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. How open are we to embrace Communion as a meal and a meal as Communion?

The sanctuary lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. It provides a peaceful, subdued setting. Some women dance in the back with graceful movement. What role can we let dance play in our worship experience?

May we remember Jesus in all that we do at church, at home, at work, with family, and throughout our lives.

[Read about Church 53, Church 55, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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 Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

Hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best we can to our life and culture today. Click To Tweet

Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

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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Visiting Churches

Church #54: Emergent Church, Maybe

Someone once quipped, “There are more books about emergent churches than there are emergent churches.” That seems like hyperbole, but my experience confirms it.

I’ve read several books about the emergent church, but I’ve never actually been to one. Tonight’s experience may change that, but I’m not sure.

My wife, Candy, and I have an opening in our normal Sunday evening plans. This is an opportunity to visit a site plant of our home church (Church #53, “Home for Easter Sunday”). They meet at 5:30 for a community meal and then have a service afterward—more or less. 

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed going. I’m in favor of it, but my bride is reluctant. It’s not that she fears adventure, but she fears the neighborhood. I offer the suggestion, but I don’t push it, hoping she’ll agree to go, without me having to talk her into it.

Talking with the Pastor

Sunday morning, I’m still waiting. The decision happens as Candy talks with one of the site plant leaders. He’s a friend and fellow writer. We hang out a couple times a month. 

His plans for tonight are to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and then go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. I’m sure his intent to wander the streets surrounding the church building will discourage Candy from going.

It’s one thing to drive to a semi-safe area and scurry inside a building, but it’s another to traipse around the neighborhood. (In all honesty, I’m apprehensive of the semi-safe prayer walk, too, but I’m willing to push through.)

His words don’t offer the assurance Candy seeks, but she asks what food to bring.

A Shared Meal

As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during our year of visiting fifty-two churches, we did our share of mooching, and I don’t want to do so again.

Vegetables, we learn, are typically lacking at their weekly potluck, so on our way home from the morning service, we stop by the store to pick up our contribution for the evening meal. 

The building is familiar to us. It’s the one our church first used until outgrowing the facility and moving. At first, a contingent of people remained, but our church leaders did poorly at managing multiple locations and eventually shut the site down.

Now—wiser, better equipped, and armed with a new plan—a cadre has returned, intent on serving this underserved neighborhood: the area’s poorest and least safe, crime-ridden and void of hope.

Arriving at Church

After a minor detour, because I made a wrong turn, we arrive right at 5:30. My all-too-familiar anxiety about confronting the unknown rumbles in my gut. My pulse quickens as we pull into the small, but mostly filled, parking lot.

I want to make a U-turn and race home, but the likelihood of my wife laughing at my panic steels my resolve enough to park our car. Another family exits their minivan, with kids in tow and food in hand.

Feeling a bit assured, we follow them through the back door that leads directly to the lower level.

With only a handful of people present, there’s even less food, mostly desserts. Round tables fill the basement. The one nearest us holds the food while one further away accommodates some people awaiting the meal.

Between the two is a room of empty spaces, except for a solitary woman sitting at her own table. Pleasant-looking and approachable, my instincts are to talk to her, while mindful that she could misunderstand my efforts or feel uncomfortable.

If I can get Candy’s attention, we can go together, but she’s at the food table, talking with someone who just emerged from the kitchen. To my relief, someone eventually joins the woman so she’s no longer alone.

Seeing Friends—and a Dog Named Beau

I scan the room, expecting to see friends who are part of this adventure, but I don’t see them. From upstairs come sounds of the worship team practicing. Surely, some of my friends are there.

Although I see a few familiar faces, I don’t recall any names. While I survey the situation, one of the familiar faces comes up to talk. We have a friendly, yet awkward, exchange that lasts too long. 

A small white dog meanders over to welcome me. I squat, offering my hand for him to smell. All he does is sniff and tremble. He doesn’t withdraw, yet he’s not advancing for me to pet him either. He’s apprehensive and has found a kindred soul in me.

I later learn his name is Beau, nicknamed Bobo. He serves as the church’s unofficial mascot, esteemed by all, and cared for by many. He belongs to our friends: the site pastor and his wife.

They welcomed Beau into their home and later adopted him. This is poetic preparation, for they will soon welcome a foster child into their home with the intent to adopt him too.

Eventually, the site pastor descends the stairs. Dismayed with the low turnout, he concedes we should not wait any longer for more to arrive. We gather in a circle and hold hands while he prays. He reminds us that sharing a meal is communion.

As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. With the Amen said, people surge toward the food table. 

We’ve now grown in number to about thirty, yet the food hasn’t kept pace, and it’s still half desserts. Some people bought prepared food at the store, others share leftovers, and one person made some stew.

It smells tasty but is gone before I get to it. I hold back, as do a few others. Some people may depend on this for their evening meal. If I don’t have enough to eat, there’s more awaiting me at home. Others may not have that luxury.

Fellowship

Candy and I sit at a nearby table with our food, and others join us. We get to know them, making connections as we eat. As a bonus, today is the birthday of one of our leaders. We sing to her and share cake.

My focus is more on the fellowship than the food. But I reckon they cut both short when they urge us upstairs. As we do, more friends show up.

With four young children, it’s too much work to get their brood’s tiny mouths all fed before the worship time starts, so they eat at home and show up a bit later.

The Worship Space

The sanctuary is different from the last time we were here some five years ago. The antiquated pews are gone, replaced with comfortable, padded chairs. The ambiance of the coffee house next to the sanctuary is gone with its accessories stripped away to provide only the most basic options.

In the back, areas are set up for kids to play, with plenty of open floor space for physical worship. The overhead lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. The result is a peaceful, subdued setting.

There’s a short teaching, though our leader misses his goal of keeping it under ten minutes. He references Exodus 14:19–22, speaking about slavery, drawing present-day parallels for us to contemplate.

He wraps up about fifteen minutes later. With the planned prayer walk canceled due to a light rain, a time of worship starts, now an hour into the evening.

A few of the people from the meal are missing, but several more have arrived, swelling our group to over forty. Candy and I are at the upper end of the age spectrum. Most are in their mid-twenties and thirties, with a good number of children present.

The other site leader—the birthday girl—sits at the keyboard and leads us in song. A skillful and spirit-filled leader, she moves us forward with music. For some people the songs are the focus, while for others the sounds become reverent background music.

Candy soon wearies of the repetition, repetition, repetition of the choruses. For me it’s not the words that matter but the atmosphere: a worship space where we encounter God in multiple ways, according to each person’s preference.

Some people stand as they feel led, raising their arms, swaying, and reverently dancing. Others sit, bow, or kneel. 

Some kids wave worship flags, praising God through solemn movement. A few adults join them. Other kids play quiet games, build with foam blocks, or create art on a wall-sized chalkboard. A couple of women dance in the back with graceful movement.

I want to watch, worshiping God through the beauty of their motions, but I fear that in doing so I may intrude on a private moment between them and the Almighty. 

The teaching pastor stands again, signaling his wife to pause her playing. He offers a bit of encouragement and instruction. We sing a final song, and he dismisses us with a traditional benediction.

More Fellowship

The planned service is over, but no one leaves. Everyone tarries. We chat with several friends, offering prayers and blessings as needed. We say our goodbyes to the new friends we’ve made, thanking them for the opportunity to get to know them and wishing them well.

Many people attempt to leave, but they’re unsuccessful. There are simply too many conversations to have. Among the first to exit, we leave at 8:00 p.m., two and a half hours after we arrived.

The time passed quickly for me, as it does when I’m in the company of winsome Jesus followers. I relish the experience, suspecting this group is approaching a truer meaning of church than I’ve ever experienced on a Sunday morning. 

Candy has a different assessment, saying that had she not already gone to church today, this would have left her wanting. This must be one reason why there are so many types of churches.

Regardless of our differing perspectives, I think we just had our first emergent church experience.

[See the discussion questions for Church 54, read about Church 53, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #53

As a reference, I share attending our home church on Easter Sunday. This marks the end of 52 Churches and the start of More Than 52 Churches. Though I strive to remain objective in visiting churches, our home church forms the lens I look through.

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church #53.

I see value in worshiping God with family, and for Easter we go with our children and their spouses. What can we do to attend church and celebrate Jesus with our family?

The 150-year-old building, even with many improvements, still feels dated. What can we do to make our church facility as conducive to worship and community as possible? 

Though the shortcomings of a worship space shouldn’t block us from God, they can. How can we minimize the cumbersome facility elements we can’t change so they don’t get in the way of us encountering God?

There’s no plan for the service, only a general intent. The Holy Spirit will guide the leaders in what to do and for how long. How much of a role do we let the Holy Spirit play in our church services?

Though we were gone for a year, I listened to the messages online. In what ways can we extend the church worship experience and teaching to those who can’t attend in person?

Baptism at churches varies from a reserved rite, to a public declaration of faith, to an enthusiastic celebration. What can we do to better embrace baptism as the early church did in the Bible?

As we leave the building ninety minutes later, some are already arriving for the second service. Not looking at efficiency, but focusing on the human aspect, how can we foster a better transition between services?

Overall, it was a great Easter Sunday, worshiping God with family

[Read about Church 53, Church 54, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Christian Living

How Do We Worship God?

Discover How to Reframe Worship from a Biblical Perspective

What do you think of when you hear the word worship? How do we worship God? What does worshiping our Lord mean?

Worship Service

Many churches refer to their Sunday morning meeting time as “worship” or “worship service.” This is how they list it on their church calendar, online, and in their printed materials, such as a bulletin or newsletter.

This suggests that we go to church to worship God. We do it one hour each week. This implies the other 167 hours a week are non-worship time. We do other things the rest of the week, which implicitly emerges as the time when we’re not worshiping God.

Worship Set

Despite calling the entire service “worship,” most people dismiss the sermon as actual worship and focus on the other half of the service as worship. This is the time we hear music and sing to God. However, many of these songs aren’t in anthem to God, but for our benefit.

Since the worship set at most church services is a half-hour (or less), we effectively reduce our worship of God to a mere thirty minutes a week.

Worship Music

Some songs carry the title of worship music. Some radio stations focus on playing this format. And if we lack access to a station that plays worship songs, we can create our own worship music playlist. This means we can listen to worship music throughout the week.

But consider the lyrics of each song that we call worship music. Does it bring adoration to the Almighty? Or does it merely make us feel better? There’s nothing wrong with music that points us to God, but we need to guard against calling this worship music, because it doesn’t worship him.

Worship God by Giving Tithes and Offerings

Something I grew up hearing as a teenager in church, and which I still hear from time to time, is in the Sunday morning service when the minister says, “Now let us worship God by giving our tithes and offerings.”

Then they pass the offering plates to accept our donations. To me this had little to do with worship and much about paying the church’s bills.

Though I don’t see in the Bible any place that directly ties donating money with worship, we can embrace our financial support of the Lord’s work with worship, providing we do so with the right attitude (2 Corinthians 9:7).

These practices are good, but they fall short of answering the question, how do we worship God?

Biblical Answers to the Question of How Should We Worship God?

We’ve talked about the worship service, worship music, and giving as a form of worship. Is that all there is to worshiping God? No.

When it comes to the question “How do we worship God?” the Bible gives us much to consider:

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Jesus says that “true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.” This is the kind of worship that God desires. Since he is a spirit, our best worship is in the Spirit—as in the Holy Spirit—and in truth (John 4:23-24, NIV).

I’m still working on unpacking this passage, but what I do know is that few church services promote true worship today.

Worship through Stillness

In the Bible, our Lord says to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). He wants us to push away all else and to be still. He doesn’t want us to do anything.

Quiet. No music. No activity. No physical display of worship. Just the silent stillness of connecting with him in the spiritual sense.

This is a tangible way to worship God in Spirit and truth. In practice our stillness can focus on worshiping God by meditating on Scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Worship through Obedience

In contrast to stillness, doing what God says is also a form of worship, but in this case it’s physical. We obey what Jesus says in the Bible, and we obey what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. We don’t obey God to get his attention. Instead, our obedience is a response to what he’s already done for us.

We worship him through our obedience (consider Daniel 7:27).

Worship by Doing Good

Paul writes that women should worship God through their good deeds (1 Timothy 2:8-10). I see no reason why this just applies to ladies. We should all worship God by doing good and helping others in need.

Worship By Being a Living Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, Scripture connects offering animal sacrifices with worship. Since Jesus fulfills the Old Testament law with his once-and-forever sacrifice when he dies for us on the cross, the New Testament doesn’t connect sacrifice with worship going forward. Or does it?

Paul urges the church in Rome to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. He calls this true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). This living sacrifice isn’t, however, to earn their salvation; they already have that. It’s more to confirm their right standing with God who saved them.

This idea of true worship, however, doesn’t start with Paul. Recall that Jesus mentions it first when he says that true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

How Do We Worship God?

Worship goes beyond the Sunday service, the music we sing, and the offering.

As we consider what the Bible says about worship, we see it as an all-encompassing mindset that could carry us throughout the week and that is not just an hour or so on Sunday mornings.

So then, how do we worship God?

  • We worship God in the Spirit and in truth.
  • We worship God through stillness.
  • We worship God through obedience.
  • We worship God by doing good.
  • We worship God by being a living sacrifice.
We can worship God in all things and at all times. Click To Tweet

In short, we can—and we should—worship God in all things and at all times.

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

What God Desires

Consider How We Honor and Worship God

The first five books of the Bible talk a lot about God’s expectations of his people, about what God desires. He gives Moses his laws to guide them in right behavior, both what they’re supposed to do and what they’re to avoid.

The Bible also discusses—sometimes in excruciating detail—the complex array of sacrifices and burnt offerings God expects his people to regularly give him. Many of these occur according to the calendar, while others relate to life events.

It seems the people are never far away from an occasion to worship God through offering a sacrifice.

Because of the repeated emphasis on sacrifices in the Old Testament, it’s easy to conclude they’re the focal point of worshiping God. Or are they?

Hosea casts into doubt this assumption regarding the importance of animal sacrifices. He does this when he shares God’s perspective on this involved practice—which, incidentally, seems both wasteful and barbaric to most people today.

What God desires, according to the prophet Hosea, is that his people offer mercy and not sacrifices. He wants them to acknowledge him rather than present him with slaughtered animals.

Though it may be an overstretch to say that God wants them to stop offering animal sacrifices, he certainly is calling for a change in perspective. Could it be that the people’s hearts are not in the right place when they offer their sacrifices?

They might be going through the motions of a ritualistic religious practice while having lost all connection to the reason behind the rite—and the God who instituted it.

So it is when we blindly follow traditions that evolved over time without a thought or care to the original goal of the practice.

When we offer mercy to others, we honor God by reaching out to other people. When we acknowledge God as Lord, we honor him by reaching up to him. Click To Tweet

If God doesn’t want dead animals anymore, consider what he wants instead. He asks that his people be merciful to others. Giving mercy—and not insisting on judgment—emerges as a form of worship, one which God desires.

Think about it. We honor God by how we treat others and not some religious ritual that has ceased to hold meaning for us.

Next, God says that he wants his followers to acknowledge him. The original intent of the burnt offerings was to point to him, acknowledging him as Lord. But if the burnt offerings now fail to do that, it makes sense to eliminate them and encourage the people to focus directly on him.

When we offer mercy to others, we honor God by reaching out to other people. When we acknowledge God as Lord, we honor him by reaching up to him.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hosea 5-7 and today’s post is on Hosea 6:6.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

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

In Jesus We Are the Same

It’s Time We Start Embracing One Another

Paul writes that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Jewish or Greek, slave or free, male or female, circumcised, uncircumcised, barbarian, or uncivilized (Colossians 3:11). He’s advocating Christian unity.

Stop to think about this, to really contemplate the ramifications. He tells us to break down all divisions over ethnicity, social status, gender, and religious practices.

Paul wants us to function as one and live in unity. In the same way Jesus wants us to live as one, just as he and his Father exist as one (John 17:21).

Today we need to apply this vision for unity to the church Jesus started. We need to add that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant; Mainline, Evangelical, or Charismatic.

Division

But to our shame we divide Jesus’s church. We live in disharmony. We fight with each other over our traditions and our practices and how we comprehend God.

We spar over worship style, song selection, and a myriad of other things that relate to church practices and right living. Or to avoid these errors we simply ignore one another, and that’s almost as bad.

But the world is watching, and they judge Jesus through our actions. They test what we say by the things we do. And we fail their test.

With our words we talk about how Jesus loves everyone and with our deeds we diminish our brothers and sisters in Jesus with a holier-than-thou discord. If we can’t love those in the church, how can we love those outside the church?

Disunity

It’s no wonder the world no longer respects the church of Jesus and is quick to dismiss his followers. We bring it upon ourselves with our church splits and 42,000 Protestant denominations, with our petty arguments over practices and theology and everything in between.

But with a couple billion Christians, mostly living life contrary to God’s will by not getting along with each other, what can you and I do to truly make a difference?

Be the Change

We can change this one person at a time. Find another Christian who goes to a church radically different than yours (or who has dropped out of church) and embrace them as one in Christ.

Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your practice of following Jesus. Click To Tweet

If you are a mainline Christian, find a charismatic follower of Jesus and get to know him or her. If all your friends are evangelicals, go to Mass and make some new friends.

If all the Christians you know look just like you, find some who look differently. Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your understanding of what following Jesus truly looks like.

Unity in Jesus

It’s time we embrace one another. The whole world is watching.

How can we live out Paul’s command to break down our divisions? What is the biggest obstacle to us living in the unity Jesus prayed for?

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

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Christian Living

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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