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Visiting 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

Why is Pentecost Important?

Celebrating Holy Spirit Power

In another post we talked about the four main Christian holidays. In succession, they celebrate that Jesus came to earth (Christmas), died so we could live (Good Friday), overcame death to prove his mastery of it (Easter), and having completed his mission, he gave us a gift (Pentecost).

Pentecost is the conclusion of the Easter story.

Here’s the progression of events leading up to Pentecost:

Jesus Goes Home

Having completed his mission here on earth, Jesus returns to heaven (Mark 16:19).

Jesus Prepares a Place for Us

As followers of Jesus, we look forward to the time we will join him in heaven and spend the rest of forever with him. As we wait for that day, he is getting ready to welcome us (John 14:2-3).

Jesus Listens to Our Prayers and Intercedes for Us to God the Father

How wonderful to know Jesus is in heaven as our advocate, representing us to his Father, our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus Sends Us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

This is the climax; this is Pentecost. When Jesus returns to heaven, he does not abandon us; he sends the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us, an essential aspect of putting our faith into action (John 16:7).

Pentecost reminds me of these things, foundational to my faith: that we will one day join Jesus in heaven, that we can pray to him now, and that we can live in concert with the Holy Spirit every day.

Today is Pentecost. Even though I’ll go to church, I don’t expect they’ll celebrate what this day means; they may not even mention it. This is a travesty, which is why I’m remembering it now.

Today, whether privately or with friends, I hope you’ll celebrate Pentecost and all it means.

Happy Pentecost!

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day

Be Sure to Celebrate Your Mom Today and Every Day

In my book Women of the Bible, I explore the lives of biblical women, celebrating their lives and their contribution to the world. Their example can inform our faith journey.

I conclude the book with the chapter “Everyone Has a Mom.” Here is what I wrote:

Though the men in the Bible far outnumber the women, this isn’t a reflection of God’s priorities but of man’s perversion of God’s created order. Without these women, the biblical narrative would be much shorter and far less significant. Because of their lives and their actions, we are inspired, encouraged, motivated, and in a few cases, warned.

Beyond them and their example, we know that everyone in the Bible, both male and female, has a mom. These moms give birth to their children, nurture them, and usher them into adulthood. They mostly do this in obscurity. Nevertheless, without these moms giving life to their kids, we would not have their children to read about and learn from. Without these moms our understanding of God would be much different.

Last, you and I have a mom too. Along with our dad, we have her to thank for giving us life. She played a huge role in who we are today.

Have you thanked your mom for the gift of life? If she’s no longer alive, perhaps you can write her a love letter of appreciation.

Thank you, Mom!

[Discover more about moms in Ephesians 6:2–3 and 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8.]

May we celebrate our moms today—and every day. Click To Tweet

May we celebrate our moms today—and every day.

We wouldn’t be here without you, and we wouldn’t be who we are without your influence in our lives.

To my mom and all mothers everywhere, I salute you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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

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 Celebrate Resurrection Sunday

Instead of the confusing messages about Easter, focus on Jesus rising from the dead

On Resurrection Sunday, let’s place our emphasis completely on Jesus. After he died as the ultimate sin sacrifice for all humanity, he proved his power over death by rising from the dead. He is alive! Though dead for three days, he didn’t stay in the grave.

Resurrected Jesus

Thank you, Jesus, for who you are and what you did. Though we should rightly celebrate you every day, may we do so with even greater abandon on Resurrection Sunday. And by abandon, I mean wild, impertinent, and uninhibited celebration. The absence of restraint.

Yet restraint, albeit with a smile, is what most Resurrection Sunday celebrations look like—at least the ones I’ve been to throughout my life. Only one church turned the day into an unabashed celebration of Jesus.

Not Easter

Sadly, too many churches don’t even call it Resurrection Sunday. They use the more familiar label of Easter. Easter, of course, stands as an appropriate term for this religious holiday. Secular society, however, has co-opted this special day, removing its spiritual significance, and replacing it with a consumerism mentality. We’ve seen this happen with Christmas, and the same inappropriate transformation is occurring with Easter.

Many churches unwittingly buy into this by incorporating secular vestiges of Easter into their services, passing out Easter eggs, chocolate candies, and colorful stuffed animals often in the shape of bunnies. And don’t try to bridge the spiritual and secular with a hunk of chocolate molded into Jesus’s image.

Instead, let’s stop calling the day Easter and start calling it Resurrection Sunday. This is the surest way to refocus our attention to where it needs to be and away from distractions of secular society.

Over the years, I’ve published five posts about Easter. I looked at what the Bible says about Easter and it’s true meaning so we can have a happy Easter and celebrate it as a spiritual holiday, before it loses all meaning.

Thank You Jesus

Jesus should be the reason we celebrate Easter. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Resurrection Sunday. He died for our sins and proved his authority to do so by rising from the dead. He is alive! Yes, Jesus is alive!

May we celebrate Jesus’s victory over death with full, unashamed abandon on Resurrection Sunday. Click To Tweet

Celebrate Resurrection Sunday

May we celebrate Jesus’s victory over death with full, unashamed abandon on Resurrection Sunday and every other day too.

Thank you, Jesus, for who you are and what you did. We owe you everything. May we never forget that and never stopped celebrating you, our resurrected Savior.

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

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas Too

Segregating the Two Sides of Christmas

Is Christmas an important holiday to you? I suspect you’ll say, “yes.” And if you follow Jesus, you may say Christmas is the most important holiday because it celebrates his birth some 2,000 years ago. That’s when Jesus came to earth to live among us and die in our place so that we can live forever with him. Happy birthday Jesus.

As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Though Jesus is the basis behind Christmas, how much of our celebration focuses on him? I’m talking about Christmas trees, ornaments, lights, Santa Claus, reindeers, sleighs, eggnog, parties at work, and gatherings with family and friends.

Then there’s gift giving. Though it’s gotten out of hand, the idea of giving to others at Christmas does—or should—remind us that Jesus gave us the greatest gift of all: his life. But how many of us remember that?

Instead, we tune in to Christmas specials, watch Christmas movies, and sing Christmas songs. A few of them are even about Jesus.

When we strip away all the commercialization of Christmas and the man-made traditions we’ve grown to cherish, what do we have left? A nativity. A baby laying in a manger with Mary and Joseph gathered around and an array of barnyard animals looking on. Amazed shepherds—and their sheep—stand nearby. Magi approach on their camels (never mind that they didn’t arrive until much later).

Happy Birthday Jesus

We may go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. There we hope to celebrate Jesus and sing some Christmas songs that are actually about him.

I wonder what Jesus thinks of our Christmas traditions, the day once intended for our focus to shift exclusively to him, but which has gotten eerily misappropriated.

Whenever I wish someone “Merry Christmas,” it carries a God-honoring implication, but I doubt many people receive it in the way I intend.

Don’t let the secular celebration of Christmas overshadow the reason behind it. Click To Tweet

Let’s remember the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10, NIV). Then check out “Linus Reminds Us What Christmas Is All About.”

We may never be able to reclaim Christmas as the spiritual celebration it once was. But we can reframe it to recapture its intent. Yes, we can continue to celebrate Christmas. But don’t let a secular celebration overshadow the reason behind it.

Let’s celebrate Jesus’s birthday with equal—or even better—fervor. We can even make him a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to him.

Happy birthday Jesus (and Merry Christmas too)!

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

Preparing the Peeps

Like other holidays with historical religious meaning, Easter has been significantly skewed by both custom and commercialization. Over time, the risen savior has been superseded by bunnies and eggs (reportedly symbols of fertility).

Notwithstanding, Easter egg hunts and chocolate candies of all variations are delightful traditions—as long as the true focus of Easter is retained.

One such staple of Easter tradition in our household is peeps—those mouth-watering creations of colored marshmallows and sugar. There is often debate as to the optimum timing in the consumption of these delectable treats: fresh or aged. I prefer my peeps to be aged in order to maximize my noshing enjoyment.

As most peep connoisseurs know, there are two methods of aging peeps. The preferred, yet painfully slow method is to leave them packaged in a dark place. Using this approach, aging takes between 6 to 12 months. The other technique is to remove them from their package so that they may “air age.” Though this takes only days, great caution must be exercised to protect them from environmental elements.

Regardless of your holiday focus or traditions, I hope that you had a wonderful Easter! Click To Tweet

Either way, care must be taken to keep them from becoming stale. There is, after all, a fine line between properly aged peeps and stale peeps.

Seeking instant gratification, some of our peeps were consumed “fresh” while others are being air aged; I seriously doubt if any will make it beyond a few days.

Regardless of your holiday focus or traditions, I hope that you had a wonderful 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.

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Personal Posts

“I Heart You” Day

My wife and I aren’t romantic types. I’m not sure if I’m just bad at the planning and execution or if it’s not all that important to her.  Nevertheless, I do put forth a futile effort from time to time.

Years ago, it all started a couple of weeks before that, she asked for a new printer. Teasingly, I suggested it could be a Valentines’ Day present. She readily agreed—seriously, she did—with the stipulation that it includes spare ink cartridges. So, a plan begins to emerge—a good plan!

Step 1: I ordered the printer and hooked it up the last week; it was an arduous task, but that’s a story for a different time.

Step 2: Then I presented her with a box of her favorite chocolates-Trinidads from Fannie May. Unfortunately, she still had some left from her birthday; maybe she didn’t like them all that well after all.

Step 3: And then, I made a special dinner—chicken stir-fry with sweet and sour sauce. (I wonder, if I always make dinner on Thursdays, do I get bonus points for Valentines Day if I was going to make it anyway?)

My plan was for a candlelight dinner, but it wasn’t really dark enough for candles and she opted for the more convenient invention, called electric lights. The meal was topped off with Valentine’s cupcakes that she made that morning.

Step 4: Waiting at her plate was her ink cartridges. She was pleased—at least I think so. Or perhaps she was just amused.

Step 5: To conclude the evening we went and saw the romantic comedy, “PS I Love You.”  I’m okay with chick flicks, but I’ll only give it three stars (out of five). I think my wife was less impressed.

It's the effort that counts. Happy Valentines! Click To Tweet

So, wrapping up. I think it was a good Valentine’s Day—I think.

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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