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Christian Living

Why Should We Go to Church on Sunday?

Discover What to Do on the Sabbath

Most Christians have a practice of going to church on Sunday. Some people even go twice. Why do we do that? Why do we go to church every Sunday?

The quick answer that most people would give is that’s what the Bible says to go. But I don’t see that in the Bible. Yes, it does say that we should not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but this says nothing about church or Sunday. It just says to pursue spiritual community.

Why Sunday?

It’s always perplexed me why we meet on Sunday and not Saturday. Granted, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on Sunday. And his followers happened to be together on that day, but they were hiding out of fear, least they too be captured and crucified (John 20:19).

And Paul did tell the people in Corinth to set money aside on the first day of each week for a special collection for the people in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:2). But this was a command to one church for a short-term initiative.

When it comes to Sunday, that’s about it. By the way, the word Sunday doesn’t appear in the Bible. So meeting on Sunday seems more of a tradition than anything else. I certainly don’t see this commanded in scripture.

What about the Sabbath?

The word Sabbath occurs 150 times in the Old Testament. God gives a lot of instructions about the Sabbath. Two themes reoccur.

Rest: First, the Sabbath is a day of rest (Deuteronomy 5:14 and about fifteen more places). God tells his people to do no work on the Sabbath. The other six days of the week are for work and the seventh, the Sabbath, our Saturday, is for rest.

This is what God did when he created us. Six days of work followed by a day of rest. There’s a nice rhythm to this. Work and then rest. Our rest on the seventh day gives us a break from our work. This prepares us to work more effectively for the next six days.

Holy: The second key element of the Sabbath is that it’s holy (Exodus 20:8 and about twenty more places). The Sabbath is set apart. The Bible also says to execute anyone desecrating the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14). That’s some serious stuff.

But what does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy? Though we can find some guidelines in the Bible, it’s up to us to determine what this means for us today and how to apply it.

Supporting Thoughts: Here are some secondary biblical versus about the Sabbath.

Yet to Isaiah, God also says, “I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.” This includes their Sabbaths (Isaiah 1:13). And in Hosea, God says he will stop the Sabbath celebrations (Hosea 2:11). This certainly gives us something to contemplate.

We must pursue intentional spiritual community. Click To Tweet

What Should We Do?

Interestingly, just as I’ve found no command in the Bible to meet every Sunday, I’ve yet to find a verse that tells us to meet every Sabbath.

Though some of the Old Testament’s celebrations did fall on the Sabbath, which required the people to have special observances on those days, this certainly wasn’t an every-week occurrence.

If we’re going to do things according to the Bible, the one essential command is that we must not give up meeting together. This doesn’t necessarily mean church, Sunday, or weekly.

It simply means pursuing intentional spiritual community, and though Sunday church may be one way to accomplish this, it’s not necessarily the best way.

Next, if we want to factor the Old Testament into our thinking, we should set aside one day for rest and keep it holy. That’s about it.

How we do this seems up to us to determine.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke 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

A Kingdom of Priests

God Is Still Waiting for Us to Obey Him and Minister to Others

It’s interesting to connect the Old Testament with the New Testament, to see what changes and what remains the same. Let’s look at what God says about his people being a kingdom of priests.

A Kingdom of Priests in The Old Testament

In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mount Sinai, hanging out with God. They’re having a spiritual confab of the highest order. God has some words—many words, in fact—for Moses to give to the people. In one instance God says they will serve as his kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

Really? I never caught that before. And I’ve never seen any evidence of them as a nation serving as priests. What happened?

It could be the people were afraid. Just one chapter later in the book of Exodus, the people see a display of God’s power. They pull back in terror. They keep their distance. They’re terrified of God and don’t want to hear what he has to say.

Instead they ask Moses to function as their intermediary between them and God. He essentially serves as their first priest (Exodus 20:18-21).

After this, God seems to switch to plan B. Instead of his people being a kingdom of priests, he sets aside some of them—descendants of Aaron—to service priests, functioning as the intermediary between God and his people.

This is something far different than what he originally wanted with everyone being a priest.

We’ve delegated the holy responsibility of serving as priests to a select few who have gone to seminary and received their ordination. Click To Tweet

A Holy Priesthood in The New Testament

Though we do see priests throughout the Old Testament, we never see the nation of Israel or Judah emerge as a country filled with priests. Will this change in the New Testament?

According to Peter, in his first letter, it will—or at least it should. As followers of Jesus and through Jesus, we’re his chosen people, priests of a royal order, and a holy nation. We are God’s special envoys to tell others about him (1 Peter 2:9).

Individually we are parts of a building—living stones—used to construct a spiritual home, which we can collectively think of as his church, the church. As such we are a holy priesthood. We offer spiritual sacrifices to God through our right standing with Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

A Kingdom of Priests Now

This is a grand vision: as followers of Jesus we are his priests, a holy priesthood, a nation of priests. Are we doing this? No.

We hire clergy to work as our modern-day priests, serving as our intermediary between God and us. We’re not functioning as we should, as priests. We delegated this holy responsibility to a select few who have gone to seminary and received their ordination.

Even today, God expects us to obey his call to serve as his holy nation of priests. What are we waiting for?

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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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #23: A Church Business Meeting Overshadows the Service

Don’t Hold a Church Business Meeting After the Service

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #23.

It’s challenging to get members to attend a church business meeting during the week, as it requires an extra trip to church that’s squeezed into an already busy schedule. So it’s understandable when churches hold business meetings at the end of their service.

However, conducting church business as part of a Sunday service often provides an uncomfortable experience for visitors. This church business meeting is no exception.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

One member questions the makeup of the pastoral selection committee. Other members, either aroused or emboldened by this first comment, join in to voice their dissent. As emotions rise, so does the tension in the sanctuary.

Just as civility threatens to escalate out of control, a conciliatory remark ends the discussion. Then they approve the committee slate with only minor murmuring.

They forgot the purpose of church. Click To Tweet

The leader dismisses us, and my final memory of the church service is the rancor of their business meeting, not their worship of God. In the spirit of expediency, they forgot the purpose of church.

Church Business Meetings on Sunday

It’s a common practice at many churches to conduct church business on Sunday at the conclusion of the church service. We do this to our shame.

We forget the Old Testament commands to keep the Sabbath holy (which today’s church now views as Sunday) and not do any work. By my account, holding a church business meeting on Sunday violates both of these commands.

Jesus, however, came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and prophecies. That means these two Old Testament commands may no longer apply.

In this way, some may now feel the freedom to work on Sunday and not regard it as holy. In doing so they freely conduct church business after a church service.

Even so, tacking a business meeting onto a church service removes us from a worshipful connection with God and replaces it with an often-contentious connection to worldly concerns.

We must save our church meetings for during the week and not detract from our Sunday experience.

[See my reflections about Church #22 and Church #24 or start with Church #1.]

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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Bible Insights

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty

Celebrate the Holiness of God

The prophet Isaiah has a dream, a vision. He sees into heaven. God sits on his throne over the temple. Six-winged angels, seraphim, hover above him. They sing out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. Earth fills with his glory.”

As their voices ring out, the temple shakes and fills with smoke.

What’s Isaiah do? He shakes in fear. “Woe is me.” He trembles before God because he knows he is unworthy. So unworthy. The sight of the Lord God Almighty overwhelms him. He becomes undone.

If Isaiah would cower before God with a feeling of complete unworthiness, how much more will we?

Yet God offers Isaiah grace and takes away the guilt of his sin. Then God sends Isaiah on a mission.

Does the words of the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy,” sound familiar?

It also appears in Revelation 4:8. Again, six-winged creatures hover around God. They worship him 24/7, saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Three Times for Emphasis

These are the only two passages in the Bible that repeat the word holy three times. Saying that God is holy isn’t enough. Saying that he’s holy, very holy still falls short. Instead the Bible records that God is “Holy, holy, holy.”

Bible scholars tell us that the repetition of three gives emphasis. Today, it would be like bold, italic, and underlined all at the same time. God’s holiness is that significant.

We may gloss over the first holy and even miss it twice, but it’s hard to overlook it when we hear it three times.

The Lord God Almighty is holy, holy, holy. He was, and is, and is to come.

Let’s join the heavenly beings who worship God as holy, holy, holy.

God deserves our praise, and we will do well to offer it, always and forever. Click To Tweet

God deserves our praise, and we will do well to offer it, always and forever.

Our Lord God is holy, holy, holy.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 5-7, and today’s post is on Isaiah 6:3.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in Dear Theophilus, Isaiah: 40 Prophetic Insights about Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles 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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Bible Insights

How Should We Observe the Sabbath?

God Intended for Us to Take a Day of Rest Each Week

The Old Testament talks a lot about the Sabbath. God wants his children to work six days and then rest on the seventh. In fact, he commands that they observe the Sabbath. But lest we think this is an Old Testament thing, God says it’s a lasting covenant for generations to come.

That makes it sound like it applies to us today, that he expects us to observe the Sabbath too.

Let’s unpack what this entails.

The Sabbath Is Holy

First, God says that we are to observe the Sabbath because it is holy. He doesn’t state why it’s holy. He merely decrees that it is. He’s sovereign, so he can do that.

Because the day is holy, it’s sacred, belonging to him. We are to regard it with reverence, a day deserving our respect. Many of us have lost sight of this fact. It’s time to reclaim the Sabbath as holy.

The Sabbath Is a Day with No Work

At the time when God says to observe the Sabbath, the Hebrew people have just ended a time of enslavement, working continuously, toiling every day without a breather.

Taking a break would emerge as a welcome respite, giving them a chance to recover from the week that was and recharge for the week that will be.

The Sabbath Is a Day of Rest

Though slavery still exist today, most of us aren’t under its evil grasp. Yet many in the modern world still act like we’re enslaved. We’re a slave to busyness. We need a break from our jumble of continuous activity. We need a Sabbath rest, a day set apart from the other six.

Those Who Don’t Observe the Sabbath Deserve Death

So that we know how serious God is about this, he says that everyone who doesn’t observe the Sabbath deserves to die. Yikes! We can debate if this is an immediate physical death or an eventual spiritual death or something else, but that discussion misses the point.

God wants us to know he takes observing the Sabbath very seriously.

What the Sabbath Doesn’t Entail

Though I’m still looking for it, I haven’t found a verse where God commands his people to go to the temple (church) on the Sabbath (Sunday).

Yes, he does prescribe certain religious observances where the people go to the temple, and some of those days fall on the Sabbath. But I haven’t found a verse where he tells them to go to the temple every Sabbath—only special ones.

How Can We Observe the Sabbath Today?

How can we apply God’s command to observe the Sabbath to our life today? This is up for each person to determine. We have three biblical principles we can use to guide us.

1. Holy

First, it’s a holy day, set apart from all others. What should we do to treat the day as holy and not like the other six days of the week?

2. No work

Second, we are to do no labor on the Sabbath. What constitutes work is up for us to determine. A task that gives us joy is not work and may be an opportunity to worship God on this holy day.

3. A Day of Rest

Third, the Sabbath is a day of rest. What constitutes rest? Taking a nap? Spending time with family and friends? Going to church? Any activity that recharges us may apply as rest.

We need to reclaim the Sabbath as a holy day of rest without work. The details of how we do this are up for us to decide.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 29-31, and today’s post is on Exodus 31:14-16.]

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

The Significance of Synagogues

Discover the Origin of Having a Local Place of Worship

Another interesting word that occurs only in the New Testament is synagogues. Appearing sixty-six times, it’s in all four gospels, a lot in the book of Acts, and twice in Revelation. That’s it. Notably the word synagogue does not appear in the Old Testament.

Where did it come from? Why did something nonexistent in the Old Testament become a place of prominence in the New?

The Old Way

In the Old Testament God establishes the tabernacle and later the temple as the only place to worship him. It’s a center of their national religion: one place for the whole nation. To encounter God, the people go to the temple, which they believe is his earthly residence.

The New Way

In the New Testament, the temple still exists as the national destination for religious celebration, but local synagogues also exist. It seems there’s one in every city that has a Jewish population. The people meet at their local synagogue on the Sabbath.

On Paul’s missionary journeys, he often first goes to the synagogue to talk to the Jews in that area. If they don’t accept his message, then he goes to secular locations to talk to the Gentiles.

The Transition to Synagogues

The Bible doesn’t explain why they’re synagogues in the New Testament. Nor does it explain the shift of emphasis, which makes each synagogue a local gathering place for Jewish worship.

However, history does provide an explanation. Babylon conquers Judah and forcibly relocates the people. They can’t go to their temple anymore. It’s too far away. In its stead they establish a local meeting place in each city they find themselves in.

This becomes the focal point of the Jewish community: a synagogue in each city.

When they receive permission to return to Judah seventy years later, they take this idea of having a local meeting place with them. When they get back, they go about building synagogues in each city. And they meet there each week on the Sabbath.

God’s Commands

God never commanded his people to build a local place of worship in each city. Of course, he never prohibited it either. What he did command is a central place of worship for the nation, the temple.

Though I’m still looking for it, I’ve not found any place in the Bible where God commands his people to worship him on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath. What he does say about the Sabbath is that we are to keep it holy and not do any work (Exodus 20:8-9).

I don’t see anywhere where he says we need to go to church. Instead, this practice seems to have emerged as a manmade tradition.

God says to keep the Sabbath holy and not do any work. He doesn’t mention going to church. Click To Tweet

Though the temple was a place of worship, it was for various festivals and celebrations that God established. Indeed, going to the temple each Sabbath would pose a hardship on most people who would have to travel long distances to get there.

Though God’s people built synagogues and went there each Sabbath, it wasn’t his idea. He gave no command for them to do so.

Today this tradition persists. We build local houses of worship and go there each week to worship God. I wonder if we should instead focus on God’s command to honor him by keeping the Sabbath holy and not doing any work.

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

Be Holy Because God is Holy

The Bible Gives Us a Framework for Why We Should Be Holy

Reading through the book of Leviticus challenges most people. Its words fail to engage our imagination as they drone on with seemingly repetitious commands. But there are gems buried within its verses—if our minds aren’t too glossed over to see them.

In today’s verse, God tells us to be holy, but then he tells us why.

The idea to be holy—to live with God-honoring words and actions—both compels and confounds me. I like this ideal, but I fall short on the implementation. Holiness is easier said than done.

Sometimes I wonder why I should even bother to try to be holy—as if I can accomplish it on my own, anyway. Fortunately, Leviticus gives us some insight into this holiness thing.

Following another string of things to do and not to do, God inserts this overarching thought. He says, “Therefore be holy, because” . . . wait for it . . . “because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45, NIV).

Be Holy Because . . .

Notice that God doesn’t say, “Be holy because I said so,” even though he has every right to. Instead he gives an explanation. Knowing the why behind the command helps me a lot. I’ll take an explained instruction over a blanket edict any day.

In this explanation we have a reminder that God is holy. As we pursue a relationship with him, we’ll become more like him. A bit of God will rub off on us. We will, in fact, become more holy.

As we seek to be in relationship with God, we will become more like him. We will become more holy. Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean we must be perfect before we approach him, but it does remind us that he appreciates a little bit of holiness. Our motivation to be holy doesn’t come because God says so. It comes from a desire to be more like him and be in a closer relationship with him.

And that’s a holiness I want to strive for.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 10-12, and today’s post is on Leviticus 11:45.]

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

Worship God as Holy, Holy, Holy

Give God Our Adoration

The Bible says God is holy, holy, holy, repeating it three times for emphasis to make sure we get the point. God is not merely holy—that is, virtuous—nor is he holy times two, but he is holy times three. He is holy, holy, holy.

When referring to God as holy, holy, holy it is to worship him. This occurs two times in the Bible, appropriately enough once in the Old Testament (Isaiah 6:2-3) and once in the New Testament (Revelations 4:8).

Therefore, both the old covenant and the new covenant view God as holy, holy, holy; it’s not just an Old Testament thing or just a New Testament thing. Furthermore, in Revelation, they say this over and over, never stopping.

The interesting thing is who is worshiping God by calling him “holy, holy, holy.” It is not people but spiritual beings. They are six winged creatures, which Isaiah calls seraphim.

Emerging from the spiritual realm, these beings, who surely know God better than we do, revere him as holy, holy, holy. They acknowledge him as holy, holy, holy. They praise him as holy, holy, holy.

May we do the same.

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 Does it Mean to Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss?

What Does it Mean to Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss?

Many churches have a time of greeting at some point in their service. This can range from awkward to inviting.

At some of these churches people merely shake hands and mumble a rote greeting. Folks at other congregations actually make eye contact and smile as they greet one another. And at a few places, a meaningful connection begins.

One of the 52 churches we visited carried this to an extreme. The minister told us to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” It was a bit creepy, marking one of my more uncomfortable moments that year. Fortunately, few people attended that Sunday, so the number of holy kisses we received was minimal.

I know this is biblical, with Paul mentioning it four times. But I don’t really know what it means. Even after experiencing it, I can’t describe it, except for creepy. And Paul doesn’t explain it or offer instructions; he just says to do it. But we can infer a few things.

Church

Each time Paul mentions holy kiss, it’s in a letter to a church, so it must be just for the church community. I take this to imply that outsiders (or in our case, visitors) are not included.

Intimate

A kiss is an intimate sign of affection. Since the context is church, we might want to dismiss a holy kiss as being an act of physical intimacy, instead understanding it as spiritual intimacy.

Holy

Something sacred or hallowed.

This implies a holy kiss is a sacred act of spiritual intimacy for a church community, but I still don’t know how to do it.

[Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26]

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 Says You Are Holy

God Says You Are Holy

Last week, I blogged that God is “holy, holy, holy”—or “all holy,” which I called “omniholy.” In researching that post, I came across a phrase that caught me off guard: “You are holy.” Really? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel holy. However, it is apparently true that we are holy—or at least that we can be holy.

Of the five Bible translations I checked, the phrase “you are holy” appeared in four: The Amplified Bible, the New Living Translation, The Message, and the Contemporary English Version. However, the New International Version, instead uses the word “consecrated.”

The definition of holy that best applies is “Living according to a strict or highly moral religious or spiritual system; saintly.” Whereas, consecrate means “set apart.” When I think about these two words in a practical sense, I am struck with contrasting images.

One is a negative image of someone who wears special clothes, talks in a monotone drone, and moves at a painfully plodding pace. To me these people are putting on airs, they are posers—not holy, only pretending.

Have the presence of God inside us to such an overflowing extent, that his essence exudes from us. Click To Tweet

The positive image is a person whose actions are different, in an unpretentious and comforting way; they carry a calm assurance of who they are and what they do, not calling attention to themselves, but making a quiet difference everywhere they go.

While some people can pursue this through an act of will, the real solution is having the presence of God inside us to such an overflowing extent, that his essence exudes from us.

Yes, though God, we can be holy and consecrated—just as the Bible says.

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.