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52 Churches

Home for Holy Week

It’s Easter and we’re returning home to our church, the people we love and miss. This marks our first Sunday here since last Easter. It’s great to be back for Holy Week.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #53:

1. There’s nothing special about the building, except that it’s 150 years old. Even with many enhancements, a dated look pervades. 

What updates does your church need so that it doesn’t feel dated?

2. The pastor welcomes everyone, telling visitors what the regulars already know: there’s no plan for the service, only a general intent. Its length is unknown. It will end when it ends. 

How should you better depend on the Holy Spirit to guide your church service?

3. The worship team launches into song, with worship at its passionate finest, full of joy and abounding in celebration. People on stage jump and dance, with more movement in the congregation than I’ve seen in a long time. 

What does God think about your worship? How can you worship him better?

4. They baptize several people. For many churches, baptism is a somber affair, conducted with reserved formality. Not so here. It’s a celebration of unabashed enthusiasm, with the congregation cheering each baptism. 

How can you move baptism from a religious rite to the spiritual rebirth that it represents?

[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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Christian Living

Let’s Reclaim Easter Before It Loses All Meaning

According to those who track public thought and opinion, the majority of people don’t realize that Easter is a religious holiday—or at least a holiday with a religious origin. Given this, we must reclaim Easter for what it means.

The commercialization of Easter is strange. To start, we have Easter bunnies and Easter eggs, with the implication that the rabbits produced the eggs. How illogical is that?

Then there are colored eggs (both the real and plastic varieties), Easter baskets with a requisite bed of faux grass, pastel colored candies, and my favorite, the marshmallow peeps.

We send our children on Easter egg hunts and pile them with sugary candy. We do all this with nary a mention of Jesus.

Jesus is our savior who died in our place for all our sins (the mistakes we make throughout our lives). Then he proved his mastery over death by rising from the grave.

Celebrate Easter

If there is any connection between all this and Jesus’s history-changing victory over death, it certainly escapes me.

Where is the empty cross, the open tomb, and the risen savior? (Though it would seem a bit sacrilegious to chomp into a chocolate Jesus.)

In light of this disconnect between the origin and present reality of this day, my goal is that with each dip into commercialized Easter, I will have a conscious reconnection to historical Easter.

As I nibble on my peeps, I will meditate on Jesus and all that he did for us through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Let’s all strive to reclaim Easter.

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

Which is More Important, Good Friday or Easter?

Should Christians focus on worshiping Jesus who suffered or Jesus who rose from the dead?

As we moved through Lent to approach Holy Week we anticipate four significant days: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (which some call Resurrection Sunday). The last two, Good Friday and Easter, stand as momentous occasions for all those who follow Jesus.

Though Christians worldwide acknowledge both as significant days that are essential to their faith, they tend to place more emphasis on one over the other. Indeed some choose to worship the suffering Savior, while others focus their attention on the risen Savior.

Good Friday or Easter?

For the first group, Good Friday is their solemn day of remembrance, with Easter as secondary. The other group breezes past Good Friday to arrive at Easter, the pinnacle day for their faith.

In reality, we need both Good Friday and Easter. Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter.

Jesus needed to die in order to cover all our mistakes and reconcile us with God. He also needed to rise from the dead, to resurrect, proving his mastery over death. We need both death and resurrection.

Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter. Click To Tweet

Jesus Had to Die

Jesus needed to die as our ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices and he needed to live again to show that his death wasn’t the end but a new beginning, both for him and for us.

Jesus Had to Rise

Let’s balance our faith practices by placing equal emphasis on Jesus as our Savior who died and who rose from the dead. We need both Good Friday and Easter. May our observances this year show that reality.

Thank you Jesus for dying for us so we don’t have to pay for our mistakes, and thank you Jesus for overcoming death for us so we can, too.

Whether you prefer Good Friday observances or Easter celebrations, this year, seek to embrace both with equal reverence and excitement

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 celebrates Jesus’s return to heaven, preparing for the Holy Spirit to arrive. Click To Tweet

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.

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

God’s Sends Us a Gift on Pentecost

On Pentecost God Gives Us the Holy Spirit as Our Guide to Replace the Law

Pentecost occurs fifty days after Resurrection Sunday (Easter). It’s a significant event in the early church. That’s when the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus’s followers in an extraordinary way.

The Holy Spirit empowers team Jesus to share his good news with others with amazing power. This is the gift Jesus promised to give them, which he told them to wait for in Jerusalem.

Pentecost

Interestingly, Pentecost only pops up three times in the Bible (Acts 2:1, Acts 20:16, and 1 Corinthians 16:8). This New Testament word doesn’t appear at all in the Old Testament. Where did it come from?

Pentecost is a Greek word. It means fifty days. Pentecost first occurred fifty days after Jesus’s death (Good Friday)—and after Jesus instituted the first Communion, which occurred on Passover.

Festival of Weeks (Shavuot)

Let’s go back to the Old Testament and look at the Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). This occurs fifty days after Passover. Interestingly, the Festival of Weeks is an Old Testament term and doesn’t show up in the New Testament.

Though I prefer to use the Bible to study the Bible, in this case I needed to consult nonbiblical sources. Here’s what I learned: The Festival of Weeks in the Bible is now known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Fifty Days.

This may be better known as Shavuot, the day cited as when Moses descended from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, the Torah.

God gives his people the Holy Spirit through Jesus on Pentecost. Click To Tweet

Connecting the Old and New Testaments

Think about it. In the Old Testament, fifty days after the first Passover, God gives his people the Law—the rules he expects them to follow.

In the New Testament, fifty days after the first Communion (which occurred on Passover), God gives his people the Holy Spirit—his indwelling presence to guide them in following him.

In the Old Testament, God gives his people the Law through Moses. In the New Testament, God gives his people the Holy Spirit through Jesus. So amazing! Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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

Top Easter Posts

Meditate on the true meaning of Easter as a Christian Holy day of Ultimate Importance

Every Sunday morning for several years I have shared my thoughts about God, the Bible, and the church on this blog. Because Easter always falls on a Sunday, one post a year is usually about Jesus’s resurrection. This year’s reflection follows this same theme, yet it is also different.

This is not a new post but a nod to past Easter posts, my top entries. Together they say everything I want to say. I am most pleased with last year’s thoughts, so I lead with it:

  1. What’s the True Meaning of Easter?
  2. Celebrate Easter as a Spiritual Holiday
  3. Let’s Celebrate Resurrection Sunday
  4. Let’s Reclaim Easter Before It Loses All Meaning
  5. What Does the Bible Say About Easter?
  6. Which is More Important, Good Friday or Easter?

The first entries are all past Easter posts. The last item was from last week, but its theme rightly belongs in this compilation.

Keep Jesus in Easter: who he is, what he did, why he did it, and who he did it for. Click To Tweet

When I think of Easter, I think of Jesus. Of who he is, what he did, why he did it, and who he did it for. His ultimate act of sacrificial love drives me to my knees in homage and brings tears to my eyes out of undeserved gratitude.

I love you Jesus, and I long to be with you, today and every day. May it be so.

How do you keep Jesus in Easter? What will you do to celebrate Jesus 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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Christian Living

What’s the True Meaning of Easter?

Happy Easter!

Easter is a celebration, not of chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies, but of the greatest event in history. Christians everywhere know what this is, and we use big words and confusing terms to explain it. Most people outside our circles don’t have a clue what we’re saying. Sometimes we don’t either.

On Good Friday, Jesus dies. On Easter, he is alive. But why? What does it mean?

Stripping away all the Christian jargon and inaccessible theology, here is how I see it:

We’ve all do things we shouldn’t; we’ve all make mistakes.

We deserve to be punished.

Our punishment isn’t a slap on the wrist or a timeout. Regardless of what we have done or will do, there’s only one thing on the books: death. It’s mandatory sentencing.

At our trial, Jesus stands up for us. “Oh, no, you don’t!” Murmurs go through the courtroom. “I won’t let you hurt them. Take me instead.” It is a shocking move. “Kill me; just let them go.” Wow, that’s real love.

And that’s just what happens. Jesus is executed instead of us. We get off scot-free.

This is his gift to us, the ultimate act of love, dying in place of another. As with any gift, all we need to do is reach out and take it.

But the story isn’t over. Death is not the end for Jesus. Jesus’ body doesn’t rot away in his tomb. To show the world how great he is, he comes back to life in an awesome display of power.

Now we can be together; now we can hang out.

How cool is that? Thank you Jesus!

That’s why I follow Jesus.

That’s what Easter means to me.

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

Celebrate Easter as a Spiritual Holiday

We’ve Mostly Lost Christmas as a Spiritual Celebration. Let’s Not Lose Easter Too

This spring some groups have banned Easter egg hunts—not the activity but the name. Concerned pundits decry this as political correctness gone awry or the timid majority kowtowing to the vocal minority.

Although “spring egg hunt” sounds lame, this new label doesn’t dismay me. What do eggs have to do with the resurrection? Let’s remove the myth of Easter so we can focus on the meaning.

With the significance of Christmas lost to commercialization and consumerism, the reason for the Easter season could suffer the same fate. May it never be.

I’m not sure which bothers me more, chomping off the ears of a chocolate bunny or biting off the head of a chocolate Jesus. Let’s forever sever all connections between the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, and Easter candy with our Easter savior.

Have a great Easter! Click To Tweet

This week, I’ve sent many an email signing off with “…and have a great Easter.” Saying “Happy Easter” seems cliché, being too easy to voice without thinking.

It’s not that I’m a non-conformist (well, perhaps I am a bit), but I do want to point people to the true meaning of Easter: a risen savior who overcame death to give us life.

Today, may we celebrate Easter with a God-honoring, Jesus-focused passion.

Have a great Easter!

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

Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Fasting

This week, many in the Christian community will observe Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season known as Lent, a solemn journey towards Easter.

For some followers of Jesus, Ash Wednesday is little more than a notation on their calendar, whereas, for others, it is a meaningful spiritual holiday. For them, it signals the beginning of a time of giving up something for Lent. This has always puzzled me.

If what is being given up is a bad trait, practice, or characteristic, then why wait for Ash Wednesday to alter our behavior? (See my post on making New Year’s Resolutions.)

And if what is being given up is a beneficial or enjoyable practice, why suffer without it? Though I do acknowledge that this can be for the same reason that we fast; fasting is a mystery to me, albeit a beautiful one. Giving up something for Lent can have a parallel significance.

However, what bothers me about Ash Wednesday is actually what precedes it. This goes by different names, such as Fat Tuesday, Carnival, or Mardi Gras, and is often characterized by gluttonous eating or revelry and debauchery.

It’s as if a time of holy reverence can rightly be preceded by unholy depravity. That seems akin to an alcoholic intentionally embarking on one last binge just before entering rehab.

Ash Wednesday is a beautiful kick-off to a season of deep reflection, ushering in a journey to Good Friday and then Easter. But that’s not an excuse to cut loose in the days prior to it.

What does Ash Wednesday and Lent mean to you?

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

Happy Easter

We’ve had a beautiful week here in southwest Michigan, with record highs in the low 80s for the past two days. As a consequence, I’ve been hit hard with a case of spring fever.

The last remaining pile of snow has melted—it was a huge pile, which only succumbed a couple of days ago—and spring flowers are displaying their colors. The grass is greening up and soon it will be time to mow lawn.

The high temps, however, will wane a bit today, as a cool front is arriving.  That should drive the temperatures down about 20 degrees to where they should be for this time of year.

Although it would be great to enjoy 80-degree sunshine tomorrow on Easter, I can accept the prediction of partly cloudy and 60. At least there won’t be any snow, which does happen for some Easters in our clime.

Where ever you may be, and whatever weather might be sent your way, have a Happy Easter!

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.