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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.”

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Categories
Christian Living

God 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.

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.

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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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.

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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.

Categories
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 thought-provoking 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

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.

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Bible Insights

Peter Speaks at Pentecost

Pete’s Powerful Sermon

The first sermon in the book of Acts: Acts 2:1-41 (specifically Acts 2:14-36).

Setting: Jerusalem on Pentecost

Speaker: Peter

Audience: Jews from many nations

Preceding Events: The Holy Spirit arrives and empowers the disciples to speak in other languages. Unable to comprehend what is happening, some in the crowd conclude that the disciples are drunk. (This may be the original source for the phrase “drunk on the Holy Spirit.”)

Overall Theme: Jesus died but is alive again—and he is Lord

Scripture Quoted: Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11, Psalm 110:1

Central Teaching: Repent (change your ways) and be baptized

Subsequent Events: 3,000 respond

Key Lesson: Through the Holy Spirit, amazing things can happen that go far beyond man’s capabilities to accomplish on his own.

This post is from the series “Sermons in the book of Acts.” Read about sermon #2.

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

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.

Categories
Christian Living

The Four Main Christian Celebrations

Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost

Quick, what are the four main Christian holidays?

Well, there’s Christmas and Easter, for sure. Good Friday would make three. But what’s the fourth one? How about Pentecost?

In my experience, Pentecost doesn’t receive much attention compared to the other three, but it should. Consider the progression:

Christmas

Christmas is when the story starts. Jesus comes to earth in physical form, a baby who will grow up and one day deliver us.

Our forefathers in the Old Testament looked forward to that day, anticipating Jesus and what he would do, even though many assumed something other than what God intended.

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh way with The Advent of Jesus. It’s a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging read. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of wonder for the season.

Good Friday

Good Friday is the first phase in that deliverance. Jesus stepped in as our substitute to take the hit for us, to do the time for our crime, to pay our fine—all so that we could be reconciled with God the Father.

Jesus did this by dying, the highest penalty, the ultimate price. After dying, what more could he give? What more could be required?

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his passion to save us in Peter’s new book, The Passion of Jesus. It is part of the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Easter

Easter is the second phase of Jesus’ one-two knockout punch. When Jesus resurrected from death, he proved his mastery over it. Since he overcame death, we have reason to believe he can do the same for us. How amazing; how glorious!

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.

Pentecost

Pentecost is the conclusion to this story—and the beginning of a new one. Join me in spending this week contemplating the significance of Pentecost. Then, next Sunday, let’s do a better job of celebrating it, not as a footnote to Easter but as its climax.

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.