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Christian Living

The Two Most Influential Books I’ve Ever Read

Study Scripture and Then Use Other Resources as Needed

My book Jesus’s Broken Church was about a decade in the making, perhaps longer—maybe even a lifetime. When I sensed something wasn’t right with how today’s church functioned, I begin praying and searching for answers. Over time, piece by piece, God’s Holy Spirit revealed the answers to me. And they all came from the Bible.

This took years, but eventually a full picture emerged. That’s when I began writing, first in various blog posts and eventually a book.

Two Most Influential Books

Along the way, two additional sources opened my eyes to prepare me to hear what God would tell me. These came in the form of two books. Aside from the Bible, they are the two most influential books I’ve read in my entire life.

They provided insight and a firm foundation for me to stand on as I considered building on these works to determine what would happen next, of what should happen next.

Pagan Christianity?

The first book was Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. (Check out my review of Pagan Christianity?)

Pagan Christianity? looks at the past. It delves into what was to uncover the influences of our church practices today. Much of what we do today at church is a result of our predecessors’ taking practices from secular society and adapting them to church. In short, many of our Christian traditions don’t have a spiritual origin but one that is more so pagan in nature.

The result of realizing these many shocking revelations was that I begin to ask why, a lot. I looked at every faith practice to examine its relevance and see how scripturally germane it was.

The result was a nagging feeling that our church practices today are far off base from what Jesus intended.

That’s why Pagan Christianity? is one of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

The Great Emergence

The second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read is Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. (Check out my review of The Great Emergence.)

Whereas Pagan Christianity? looks at the past, The Great Emergence explores the future. Building on a history of semi-millennia religious shifts, Tickle posits that we are on the precipice of another grand transformation.

She envisions what this reformation will look like and its impact on today’s church. Spoiler alert: today’s church will be much less relevant in the future, with other forms of spiritual community and connection supplanting it.

That’s why The Great Emergence is the second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

Today’s church — for all the good it does — isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Broken Church

Standing on the firm foundation of the two most influential books I’ve ever read emerged a biblical prescription and how to move forward. I dared to suggest that today’s church—for all the good it does—isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended it to.

Building on Scripture, Jesus’s Broken Church advances a new vision of what church could be and should be. But claiming that it’s new is incorrect. In truth, this isn’t a new understanding, but the reclaiming of an old one, one that’s nearly two thousand years old.

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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Christian Living

How Can a Man Write about Women in the Bible?

We are One Through Jesus, Neither Male nor Female

When God prompted me to write about the women in the Bible, I was excited and began work on it immediately. Much of my life, it seems, had brought me to the place to explore the amazing women found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In short, God has given me a heart for women.

I want to celebrate who they are, encourage them, and make sure that no one ever treats them as less than simply because of their gender. Remember, God created us in his image, male and female (Genesis 1:27).

In a traditional sense, I am a feminist, wanting men and women to embrace—and treat—each other as equals. In this respect, I see Jesus as the first feminist. I’m also reminded that Paul said we are one in Christ, neither male or female (Galatians 3:28).

Yet I also knew some would question the suitability of a man writing a book about women in the Bible. I briefly considered asking my wife to take on some small aspect of the project so that I could list her as a co-author, and thereby defuse any gender bias. I’m sure others have used this strategy in the past, but I didn’t feel right about it and didn’t want to do so for the sake of expediency.

I moved ahead with the project God called me to do, all while wondering how to respond to people who question me—as a guy—for having the audacity to do so.

With much joy in the process and aided by Holy Spirit inspiration I authored the book and published Women of the Bible in 2018. It covers 135 women in the Bible, with a list of seventy-four more for additional study.

Readers received the book well, and it remains my most popular one. It continues to sell better than any of my other books, which currently number over two dozen.

A Heart for Women

Even so, people will sometimes ask, “How can a man write about women in the Bible?” Though I could launch into a lengthy justification or attempt to discuss it from a theological perspective, I’ve chosen not to do so. I simply tell my well-intentioned questioners, “I believe that God has given me a heart for women.”

Usually this allays their concerns, and they accept it. But if I suspect they need further explanation, I add one more line. I say, “I want to encourage both women and men to celebrate the women in the Bible.”

Yes, I want men to read Women of the Bible too. Sadly, I fear they’re more apt to do so with a male name on the front cover than a female. That’s on them. It’s not right, but it happens.

For my part, I’ll do whatever I can to change those misogynistic perspectives. After all, when it comes to God, gender doesn’t matter.

When it comes to God, gender doesn’t matter. Click To Tweet

Men in the Bible

Interestingly, there’s another question that catches me off guard. I’ve heard it nearly as often as “How can a man write about women in the Bible?”

What is this inquiry? I’ve had multiple people ask me when I was going to write about the men in the Bible. I don’t think we need such a book, but if people keep asking me about it, I may just write it.

Besides, I’ve already written about many men—along with women—in my book The Friends and Foes of Jesus. And I’ll cover many more in my upcoming book Old Testament Saints and Sinners.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Read about more biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now 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

Should You Be Part of a Spiritual Mastermind Group?

Aligning with Like-Minded Peers Can Propel You Forward on Your Christian Walk

A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring alliance where members work together to help one another solve problems, overcome roadblocks, and move forward. I’m part of two author mastermind groups. In them we encourage and support each other as writers, propelling us forward in our craft. It’s most beneficial.

I wonder if I should apply this concept to my Christian journey, too, and be part of a Christian mastermind group. Though I’ve experienced this a couple times on a basic level from a church small group or Bible study, they’ve fallen short of what a mastermind group can provide.

Though we might want to call it by something with a less business-sounding name, what can we hope to gain from a spiritual mastermind group?

Iron Sharpens Iron

In Proverbs, King Solomon says that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). As we surround ourselves with like-minded followers of Jesus, we will help each other become stronger in our faith. A spiritual mastermind group can do this for us, propelling us forward on our faith journey.

Two Is Better Than One

A parallel passage, also penned by King Solomon, reminds us that “two are better than one.” If either falls, there’s someone present to pick them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV). We need each other. God didn’t create us to be alone (Genesis 2:22).

A Cord of Three Strands

Later, Solomon writes that a three-stranded cord has great strength (Ecclesiastes 4:12). There is safety and strength in numbers. One way to realize this is through a spiritual mastermind group.

Party of Five

We also find support for this concept from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, who says “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” What better way to accomplish this by spending time with five like-minded disciples of Jesus in a spiritual mastermind group?

Align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward with a Spiritual Mastermind Group

What have you done informally to enjoy these benefits that walking through life with two, three, or five can accomplish? What more could you realize if you pursued this idea with greater intention?

We can receive much benefit by partnering with another or forming a group of three. How greater the outcome could be if we align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group?

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
Christian Living

My Haiku

Why I Write

Linking letters and
wielding words to create art
for God, my patron

My haiku first appeared in Imagine This! An ArtPrize Anthology.

After having one of my longest posts last week, The Seven Transformations of Peter DeHaan, today I’ll treat you to my shortest. It’s succinct, yet poignant.

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Personal Posts

Cross Words

I have had a lifelong affection with words. An avid reader of fiction as a child and teenager gave way to becoming a student of nonfiction as an adult. Along with that goes forty years of random writing experience and two decades as a magazine publisher.

It should come as little surprise then, that I also enjoy crossword puzzles.

When I work a puzzle, I rely solely on the mind: mine and sometimes my family’s.  (I used to tap all available non-human resources, but upon enduring merciless harassment after buying a crossword dictionary, I swore off artificial assistance.) 

Unfortunately, I am, quite ironically, a poor speller. (My “flexible” pronunciation of most words doesn’t facilitate spelling accuracy either.)

My wife often endures the brunt of my spelling deficiencies. It might go something like this:

“How do you spell Cat?”

“C-A-T”

“It’s not with a “K?”

“No”

“Could it be four letters?  Like K-A-T-T or K-A-I-T?”

“Ah, no!”

I ponder a bit more.  “I can make kitty work if it only has one T.”

“No, there are definitely two Ts in kitty.”

I contemplate the situation some more, but I’m no longer thinking of a 4 letter word for feline. Instead, I’m marveling that a person with orthography issues, such as mine, could so immensely enjoy crossword puzzles—and generally complete them quite effectively.

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

4 Reasons to Set Goals

It’s important to set goals, both for our work and for our self.

Goals Move Us Forward

Without goals, it’s easy to drift from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year—and nothing really changes. One of my goals is to attend two writing conferences each year. This helps grow me as a writer and meet others in the industry.

Goals Give Us Clarity

Goals reveal what’s important to us. Activities that aren’t relevant to our goals need to be given lower priority or even eliminated. One of my goals is to write every day.

Goals Reflect Our Focus

Without goals we can easily go in four directions at once, never accomplishing anything. Another of my goals is to watch less TV. This gives more time to read, write reviews, and do other things to advance my career as a writer.

Without goals, it’s easy to drift from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year—and nothing really change Click To Tweet

Goals Facilitate Success

I want to publish my books, but that won’t happen just because I wish it. I need to work at it. One critical step is to present my writing to agents and publishers, often in the form of a query.  Submitting a query will not guarantee success, but failing to do so will ensure failure.

What are your goals?

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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Peter DeHaan News

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

The Book 52 Churches is Now Available

Visit fifty-two churches in a year?

Am I crazy? Maybe.

My wife and I spent a year visiting churches, a different Christian church every Sunday. This book is our story.

I’m sure we visited a church just like yours.

And wow, did we learn a lot. Things that will surprise you and make you cringe. And more than a few things that will inspire you.

In 52 Churches, you’ll:

  • Discover the shocking approaches that some churches use.
  • Learn the essential dos and don’ts when you have a visitor.
  • Make sure your church avoids the really creepy things I saw.
  • Uncover traditional church practices that no longer make sense.
  • See what’s not working, and what to replace it with.

You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry, You’ll Wince.

But 52 Churches isn’t a rip at the modern church or a mean-spirited journalistic exposé. Instead it’s a gift that offers encouragement, hope, and ideas on how your church can thrive and be relevant in today’s culture.

52 Churches is ideal for church leaders, church members, and church outsiders. And if you’re still reading this, it’s perfect for you too.

Get your copy of 52 Churches today!

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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Peter DeHaan News

A Year in Review: Top Ten Posts for 2016

Check Out Our Readers’ Favorite Posts for the Past Year

Another year has come and gone, and with it another year of blogging at “Pursuing Biblical God,” with over 100 new posts about God, the Bible, his church, and us.

Here are the ten most popular posts in 2016:

  1. The Truth about Seminary
  2. The Bible Uses a Third Person Omniscient Point of View
  3. 13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible
  4. Are You Spiritually Selfish?
  5. Do We Need to Listen to a Lecture Each Sunday at Church?
  6. Should We Confess the Sins of Our Nation?
  7. 5 Things God Asks of Us
  8. What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?
  9. Can I Pray For You?
  10. Church Is For Girls

Some posts are “evergreen” content, meaning they continue to resonate with people for many years. Here are the ten most read posts of all time:

  1. What Does it Mean to Pray Hard?
  2. Beware of Spiritual Incest
  3. Four Angels in the Bible With Names
  4. Which Gospel Should I Read?
  5. Does God Receive Our Actions as a Memorial Offering?
  6. The Car That Cried Wolf
  7. When Was the Book of Job Written?
  8. Job’s Conclusion
  9. Are We Just Doing Our Job or Getting God’s Attention?
  10. Job’s Daughters

Thank you for stopping by this past year. You helped show that these posts are your favorites.

May you have an amazing 2017. Happy New Year and God bless!

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

The Bible Uses a Third Person Omniscient Point of View

Knowing the writing style of the Bible will help us avoid confusion when we read it

Since my days as a teenager, I’ve spent time most every day to read and study the Bible. I’m also a writer who writes every day. I like to share what I’ve learned about both subjects. Here goes:

I don’t want to trigger unwelcome flashbacks to junior high and high school, but here’s a brief reminder about point of view in writing: When we tell stories of what we did, we use first person (as in “I drove…”). When we tell stories about others, we use third person (as in “she drove…”).

And there are two variations of third person perspective

  • limited (restricted to what only one character can see or know) and
  • omniscient (knowing everything, like God).

In days of old, writers used third-person omniscient. Nowadays, third-person limited is all the rage, with the industry turning up its snobbish nose at third person omniscient writing.

The books I read in third person are always third person limited. In this I’m restricted to one person’s perspective per scene, just like a movie camera.

Reading, “he thought the idea was silly, but she was thinking the opposite,” is jarring because we hop from one person’s head to another in the same sentence. This is verboten in today’s writing style, third person limited.

Yet the Bible does this all the time.

For example, how was Jonah aware that the seas calmed down after the sailors tossed him into the water (Jonah 1:15)? Or when Philip left the Ethiopian eunuch, how did he know the eunuch went on his way (Acts 8:39)?

With today’s writing style, they can’t. We see things from Jonah and Philip‘s point of view and, according to the rules of third person limited writing, we can’t be privy to what happens when they aren’t present.

Omniscient God inspired the Bible; it’s logical the Bible uses an omniscient point of view. Click To Tweet

Yet most of the Bible uses the third person omniscient point of view, not third person limited. Therefore, consistent with this writing style, we can know these things.

Given that God is omniscient and inspired the words of the Bible, it’s completely logical that the Bible would align with his omniscient point of view.

It took me way too long to figure this out.

Over the years I’ve heard people criticize the Bible’s accuracy because of these passages about Jonah and Philip, as well as scores of others. They assumed the Bible should obey the rules of today’s in vogue writing style of third person limited.

Yet third person omniscient is the style of older literature, including the Bible.

God is omniscient, so it follows that his book would be mostly omniscient too.

Does knowing that the Bible uses third person omniscient point of view affect how you read it? What parts of the Bible use first person point of view?

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
Christian Living

Read the Bible as Literature

Studying scripture teaches us about classic literature and writing to inform our literary perspective

My post “13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible” started out as a top ten list, but I couldn’t stop at a round number. I kept going and couldn’t pare my list down to just ten reasons. And if I had kept thinking about it, I would likely have come up with more.

A related topic is considering the Bible as literature, the classic of classics. So much of what we read today has allusions, though sometimes subtle, to scripture. We see biblical themes repeated in TV and movies.

Knowing the Bible helps us to more fully understand God but also to better appreciate literature and entertainment. Consider what the Bible has to offer:

Variety of Genres

The Bible contains different styles of writing. Much of it is history, with some biography and even autobiography. There are several poetry portions (albeit without rhyming and meter), which reveal ancient poetic styles and can inform modern day poets. The books of prophecy reveal the future, some of which has already come to pass and other portions, not. Books of wisdom give as wise advice. Other sections reveal God, serving as the first theology text. The Bible also contains letters from teachers to their students. There are epic dreams documented for us to ponder. And two books, Job and Song of Songs, read much like the modern-day screenplay.

The Bible contains: history, bios, poetry, prophecy, theology, letters, dreams, & screenplay. Click To Tweet

Multiple Viewpoints

The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus (gospels). The four respective authors reveal different aspects of Jesus based on their personal perception and target audience. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s writing contain the most similarities; John is the most different. Similarly, 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a counterpoint to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Last, some of the prophets provide additional historical accounts to round out what we learn from the prior six books of history (1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings)

Different Perspectives

Much of the Bible is written in the third person point of view, while some passages are in first person. I especially enjoy these first person accounts as it places me in the middle of the action, as if I am there, living it with the speaker.

Multiple Levels

Reading the Bible is analogous to peeling an onion. Each time we unwrap one layer, we find another that gives us additional insight and added meaning. There are many tiers, virtually unlimited. We will never know all of what the Bible says, but we do strive to learn more of what it reveals. With each successive read we are able to connect different passages together and glean deeper insight into its stories, lessons, and writers – as well as the God who inspired it.

The Bible has much to offer, not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a literary one. Reading the Bible as literature will increase our appreciation of other things we read, what we write, and the world in which we live.

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.