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Christian Living

What is Pentecost and Why is it Important?

Christmas and Easter Focus on Jesus, Preparing for Pentecost to Complete His Work and Reveal the Holy Spirit

Though it’s been co-opted by secular society, Christmas remains as the most popular Christian holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Next in notoriety stand the tandem of Good Friday, remembering the execution of Jesus, and Easter, celebrating his emergence from his burial vault.

While some faith practices focus on Good Friday and others emphasize Easter, the fact remains that we can’t have Easter without Good Friday and without Easter, Good Friday doesn’t matter.

What most churches gloss over, or even skip, are Ascension Day and Pentecost. Today is Pentecost (see if your church celebrates it) and a week and a half ago was Ascension Day (was that even mentioned?).

Ascension Day

Ascension Day occurs forty days after Easter. Jesus rises from the dead, spends forty days with his friends and followers, gives them final instructions, and then ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

As a matter of convenience many churches acknowledge this miracle on the following Sunday, which they call Ascension Sunday.

Pentecost

Pentecost comes fifty days after Jesus resurrected and ten days after he returned to heaven. Before he left he told his followers to wait around for a gift he would send them, something from his Father (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5). This gift is the Holy Spirit.

On Pentecost, many of Jesus’s followers have gathered together. There is a loud noise and something like flames of fire fill the room and land on the people.

The Holy Spirit fills them and they begin to supernaturally speak in other languages (Acts 2:1-12). The same Holy Spirit lives in us today.

Pentecost, by the way, didn’t start with Jesus. Its roots go back to the Old Testament in the Festival of Weeks (Exodus 34:22), now known as Shavuot.

While some followers of Jesus celebrate the Holy Spirit, other traditions diminish him or even dismiss him.

I choose to celebrate him and his power. After all, the Holy Spirit is an equal part of the godhead. Join me in celebrating Pentecost, the culmination of Jesus’s work.

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.

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

Is Ascension Day the Fifth Christian Holy Day?

Celebrate Jesus’s Return to Heaven, Which Prepares the Way for Pentecost

In my post The Four Main Christian Celebrations, I list for holy days (holidays) that smartly recognize Jesus and succinctly outline the key elements of his life and what he did for us. These Christian holidays are:

  1. Jesus’s Birthday (Christmas)
  2. Jesus’s Sacrificial Death (Good Friday)
  3. Resurrection Sunday (Easter)
  4. Pentecost

I wonder if I should add Ascension Day to the list. It is, after all, a critical element in the arc of Jesus’s life.

What is Ascension Day?

Ascension Day occurs forty days after Resurrection Sunday (better known as Easter). On Easter Jesus rises from the dead. He spends forty days with his friends and followers to prove he is alive.

Then he gives his disciples the directive to wait in Jerusalem for a special gift—the Holy Spirit—that Papa will send (Acts 1:4). After his parting words, he ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

Ascension Day falls on Thursday, so the date differs each year.

Out of convenience many churches acknowledge Jesus’s returned to heaven on the following Sunday, which they call Ascension Sunday—even though it didn’t happen on the first day of the week.

Ascension Day is critical, for Jesus had to return to heaven before his followers—and we—could receive the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus leaving, Pentecost couldn’t have occurred.

The Five Holidays That Commemorate Jesus’s Life

Putting these five days together reveals a sound theological understanding of the essential role Jesus plays in our faith journey. Here it is:

Jesus comes to earth (Christmas). After he spends three years to teach his disciples and talk about the kingdom of God, he dies as our once-and-for-all sacrifice to cover all the mistakes we—and everyone else throughout time—have ever made (Good Friday).

To prove he has the authority to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, he overcomes death by rising from the dead (Easter). After confirming he is alive, he returns to heaven (Ascension Day) so that we may receive the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).

Recognizing these five days as Christian holy days and celebrating these holidays reminds us each year of the essential elements of the gospel story, God’s good news to save humanity.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

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

Exploring the Church Calendar

Embrace Annual Cycles of Worship to Provide a Regular Rhythm to Our Faith Journey

Some churches follow a church calendar throughout the year to guide them into seasons of worship. This provides an annual rhythm to their embrace of God.

Other churches are less structured in their approach, focusing on two major biblical holidays: Christmas and Easter. Even so, it’s good to be aware of the traditional church calendar.

There is no single agreed upon calendar that all churches follow, with each applying their own unique approach.

Yet there are some general concepts that most church calendars follow. Note that church calendars don’t start on the first of the year but instead begin with Jesus’s birth.

Here’s a generic overview of the church calendar.

Advent

We call the time leading up to Christmas Advent. It begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas, which yields differing starting dates each year.

Some churches, however, are flexible with the start of Advent. They begin on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving (in the United States) or the first Sunday in December.

Often—but not always—this coincides with the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to earth to save us. This date is one of tradition more so than the Savior’s actual birth. No one knows for sure, but spring is a more likely time.

Epiphany (the day)

Epiphany occurs twelve days after Christmas, traditionally marking the Magi’s arrival to visit baby Jesus.

Christmastide

Some churches call the time between Christmas Day and Epiphany Christmastide. Other practices end Christmastide on New Years Day.

Epiphany (the season)

Confusing our understanding of the church calendar, some churches celebrate the season of Epiphany, instead of just one day. It starts on the day of Epiphany and ends with the beginning of Lent.

Other churches, however, have a break in their church calendar celebrations, calling the time between the day of Epiphany and Lent as “Ordinary Time.”

Lent

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is six weeks prior to Good Friday. Though we commonly think of Lent as lasting forty days, the reality is that they don’t count Sundays to make the numbers work.

The ending of Lent varies greatly. It can be on Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, the day before Easter, or the beginning of Holy Week.

What matters in all this, however, is that Lent moves us toward Jesus’s death for our sins and his resurrection from the grave.

Good Friday and Easter

Good Friday and Easter—more appropriately called Resurrection Sunday—celebrate Jesus and his all-important mission of coming to earth to save us.

On Good Friday Jesus died for us and the wrong things we did. He was buried in a tomb. On Resurrection Sunday he rose from the grave, proving his mastery over death.

Eastertide

The season after Jesus rose from the grave on Resurrection Sunday is called Eastertide.

For some church calendars, Eastertide lasts forty days and ends on Ascension Day, which occurs on Thursday, even though many churches celebrate it the following Sunday.

For other churches Eastertide lasts fifty days and ends on Pentecost.

Ascension Day

Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven. We call this Ascension Day. This occurs on Thursday each year, but many churches celebrate it the following Sunday.

Pentecost

Fifty days after Resurrection Sunday (Easter), and ten days after Ascension Day, God sent the Holy Spirit to Jesus’s church to fill them and guide them, just as he promised.

Ordinary Time

Church calendars label the days between Pentecost and Advent as Ordinary Time. It is, in fact, an ordinary time. It’s the space on church calendars without any religious holidays or celebrations.

Some churches also observe a short season of Ordinary Time between the day of Epiphany and Lent.

Celebrate Jesus Throughout the Year

Whether your church calendar celebrates all these seasons and dates or focuses on Christmas and Easter, we should all celebrate Jesus throughout the year.

The first four devotional books in the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series guide us in doing just that:

  1. The Advent of Jesus covers the season of Advent, Christmas Day, and ends on Epiphany.
  2. The Ministry of Jesus focuses on what Jesus did leading up to his death and resurrection, that is, his earthly ministry. It’s an ideal devotional for Ordinary Time, be it between Epiphany and Lent or between Pentecost and Advent.
  3. The Passion of Jesus covers the season of Lent and concludes on Good Friday (Eastertide).
  4. The Victory of Jesus begins on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) and goes through to Pentecost.

Reading these four devotionals in this order provide a comprehensive understanding of Jesus’s life and mission as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Learn more about the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series, by Peter DeHaan

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Bible Insights

Celebrate Ascension Day

Jesus Must Return to Heaven before the Holy Spirit Can Come

Ascension Day occurs forty days after Resurrection Sunday (more commonly called Easter). Here is some background.

Jesus comes to earth as a man to save us. He dies on the cross as a sacrificial sin offering, dying in our place. On Easter Jesus rises from the dead. He spends forty days with his friends and followers to prove he is alive.

During this time, he tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for a special gift—the Holy Spirit—that Papa will send (Acts 1:4). Jesus must leave before the Holy Spirit can come.

Jesus gives his parting instructions to his disciples and commissions them to be his witnesses throughout the entire world. He has completed all he came to earth to do (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s time for him to leave. It’s time for him to return to his Father in heaven.

After his parting words, he ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). We celebrate this on Ascension Day.

Ascension Day falls on Thursday every year. It is forty days after Easter. Since Easter is on a different day each year, so is Ascension Day.

Out of convenience many churches acknowledge Jesus’s returned to heaven on the following Sunday. They call this Ascension Sunday, even though Jesus didn’t ascend into heaven on the first day of the week. It actually occurred three days earlier.

Ascension Day is critical.

This is because Jesus had to return to heaven before his followers—and we—could receive the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus leaving, the Holy Spirit couldn’t have come, and Pentecost couldn’t have occurred.

Though the disciples will no longer have Jesus live with them, they will have the Holy Spirit live in them.

May we worship Jesus for what he did when he died in our place for the wrong things we have done.

May we embrace the Holy Spirit for what he is doing in our lives today.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

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

The Victory of Jesus Audiobook

New Format Now Available

The The Victory of Jesus audiobook is now available. In addition to audiobook, it is also available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover formats. The audiobook is auto-narrated by Maxwell.

The Victory of Jesus is a devotional to celebrate the victory of Jesus in this 50-day devotional that spans Easter to Pentecost.

In this, Jesus overcomes death by rising from the dead, appears to his followers and teaches them, and ascends into heaven. Ten days later the promised Holy Spirit arrives to guide Jesus’s disciples in telling the world about him.

Get The Victory of Jesus today.

Audiobook Sample

The Victory of Jesus is the third book in the popular “Holiday Celebration Series.”

The Victory of Jesus audiobook is now available from GooglePlay, Apple Books, and Kobo, with more outlets being added.

Get your copy of The Victory of Jesus today.

Book Trailer

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
Peter DeHaan News

New Book: The Victory of Jesus

A Devotional Celebrating Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost

Jesus’s death wasn’t the end. In fact, it was just the beginning.

THE VICTORY OF JESUS is a 50-day Bible study for Christians looking to skip the fluff of a typical devotional without getting bogged down by a lot of academic pomp.

If you’re looking for a devotional that will help you draw closer to God, nourishing your soul as well as your mind, THE VICTORY OF JESUS is for you.

With insightful wisdom and heart-felt teachings that offer lasting spiritual encouragement, devoted Christian author Peter DeHaan takes you on a spiritual journey to explore the biblical events immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus.

Join the disciples as they sit down with the Messiah for a meal of fresh fish after his miraculous triumph over death. Witness the awe-struck reactions of the two disciples who meet a risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Walk with the apostle Peter as the Savior he denied offers him love, forgiveness, and a powerful new mission.

From the founder of the A Bible a Day website, THE VICTORY OF JESUS inspires Christians from all backgrounds. This easy-to-read, accessible Bible study is perfect for families, individuals, and small groups who want to keep the miracle of Easter (and the events that followed) fresh in your minds and in your hearts throughout the entire year.

If you’re looking for a relevant perspective on biblical events instead of the same old stories rehashed and served up the same old way, buy THE VICTORY OF JESUS and celebrate the Resurrection like never before.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

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.