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Bible Insights

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

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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Bible Insights

Don’t Be a Baby Christian

Learn How to Eat Spiritual Food and Feed Yourself

The author of Hebrews (who I suspect was Paul) warns the young church, the followers of Jesus, that they need to grow up. Though many of them should be mature enough to teach others, they still haven’t grasped the basics themselves.

They persist in drinking spiritual milk when they should have graduated to solid food.

A Baby Christian

When most people hear about this passage, they assume the baby Christians, those subsisting on milk, are other people. They reason that this verse couldn’t be a reflection on their own spiritual status—or lack thereof.

The truth is that I fear the church of Jesus is comprised of too many spiritual infants.

If you don’t believe me, let’s unpack this analogy. In the physical sense, babies drink milk and are wholly dependent on others to feed them. As babies grow they graduate to solid food and begin to feed themselves, first with help and then alone.

This is how things function with our physical bodies and how things should function with our spiritual selves.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday. Click To Tweet

The Sunday Sermon

So when people go to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, they expect their pastor to feed them. They subsist on spiritual milk. They are a baby Christian. Instead they should feed themselves and don’t need to hear a sermon every week in order to obtain their spiritual sustenance.

When pastors feed their congregation each Sunday, they keep their people in an immature state (albeit with more head knowledge) and help justify their continued employment. Instead pastors should teach their church attendees how to feed themselves, to not need a pastor to teach them.

If ministers do this, they could work themselves out of a job. But that’s okay, because there are plenty of other churches in need of this same teaching.

Some might infer this means that the mature Christians, those who can feed themselves, don’t need to go to church. This is only half correct.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday, but they do need to meet together and be in community with other believers.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12-14.]

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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Bible Insights

The Sabbath Day

Sunday Should Not Be a Day of Restriction but a Day of Freedom and Celebration

In the book of Exodus, God and Moses have a face-to-face meeting. That is significant. How cool would it be to have a direct conversation with the Almighty? Certainly, we’d remember what he told us and be careful to follow it completely.

One of the things God tells Moses is to only work for six days and then take a break. Many people today view this as an outdated command. They think God is trying to restrict what they do, limit their freedom, and force them to be bored for twenty-four hours.

That isn’t God’s intent at all. In fact, God wants to give them—and us—a break from our routine. Remember, these people are coming out of enslavement. They never had a day off. Every day was the same: work, work, work. From sunup to sundown and probably even more.

One day would blur in to the other, doing the same old same old thing day after day.

The Gift of the Sabbath Day

By telling them to rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath day, God was giving them a mini vacation from their labors. And what better thing to do on that day of rest then to focus on God and thank him for this amazing gift of a break.

If this idea of resting on the seventh day seems a bit familiar, go back to the creation account. God takes six days to form the reality in which we live and then he takes a break from his labors to consider the results.

He did something amazing and then takes time to rest from his work and marvel at what he has done (Genesis 2:2–3). In this he gives us an example to follow, and later, through Moses, insists we do so.

In case we miss this idea of the seventh day being a gift from God, Jesus reminds us. He says, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is a gift from God to us and that should change everything. Click To Tweet

In this he confirms we aren’t beholden to the Sabbath Day, held captive by it, or restricted in any way. Instead, the Sabbath is for us to enjoy.

This means we must shove aside legalistic ideas of what we may and may not do on Sunday, which we adopted to be our Sabbath day. Instead we must embrace our seventh day for the freedom it gives us. How we do so is left for us to determine.

Viewing the Sabbath as a gift from God to us should change everything.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 32-34, and today’s post is on Exodus 34:21.]

Learn more:

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 God Do On Sunday?

Our Worship verses God’s Work

After God finishes with his amazing creation he takes time on the seventh day to rest. He declares the day holy. Later in the Old Testament, God reminds his people to keep the Sabbath holy and to not work. How should this inform our worship of our creator?

Yea, a day off. In the early church the first day of the week becomes their special day, and many Christians today apply the Old Testament commands for Sabbath rest and holiness to Sunday.

As we rest on God’s holy day and worship him, what’s God doing?

Our Worship

I always assumed God was resting along with us, sitting back and receiving our worship. I imagined him being recharged by our adoration of him, even to the point that the more engaging our worship, the more energized he would become.

That just as we needed to take a break, I thought he did, too. He, along with us, would take one day out of seven for a mini re-creation. Then we would both be ready for Monday.

Although that is an imaginative idea, none of it is supported by the Bible.

How does God receive our worship on Sunday? Click To Tweet

Jesus, after he heals a man on the Sabbath, is confronted by his detractors. Jesus tells them plainly that just as his Father God is always at work, so too he is always working.

God’s Work

There’s no mention of Jesus and his Father resting on Sunday, basking in the glory that results from our worship. No, as we rest and worship, God is working. And I’m okay with that.

If God were to rest, just for a day, what would become of us? I need him every day, so I’m glad he doesn’t take a break, even though that is exactly what he tell us to do.

[See Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and John 5:1-17.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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 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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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

Why Getting a Sunday Sabbath Rest Is Essential

Something Is Wrong If I Wake Up Monday Morning Unprepared to Embrace My Week

The Old Testament talks a lot about the Sabbath, the final day of the week. God—through the Old Testament writers, especially Moses—tells us to keep the Sabbath holy and to rest. But this is an Old Testament thing, and Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament, right?

It’s true that we no longer set aside the seventh day of the week for our faith practices. Instead we’ve made the first day of the week our special day. This may be because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, on what we now call Sunday.

In this sense, Sunday is now our Sabbath, our Sunday Sabbath. Should we treat this Sunday Sabbath as holy and set it aside as our day of rest?

Some would say “yes,” and others would say “no.” The first group claims that it’s biblical, while the second asserts that it no longer applies, that it’s archaic.

However, I don’t align with either group.

A Sunday Sabbath

I see no point in pursuing my Sunday Sabbath with legalistic fervor over what I can and cannot do. This feels like a punishment and not a reward. Let’s make Sunday a gift from God. Remember that Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

Yet I don’t dismiss Sunday as just another day of the week, albeit with a church service squeezed in. Sunday must be different. It must be set apart.

I want Sunday to retain a spiritual holiness, just like the Sabbath in the Old Testament. And I need Sunday to serve as a day of rest, just like the Sabbath in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament a day of rest was practical. The people needed to set aside one day a week from their labors. To survive, they work from sunrise to sunset, six days a week. Their bodies required rest on the seventh day to prepare them for the six days of toil that followed.

Most of us no longer work six days a week from sunrise to sunset. We now work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday—or a bit more, but seldom close to the eighty, ninety, or more hours a week that ancient man toiled to survive.

Even so, we still need to take a break, not so much from our work, but from our busyness.

We must treat our Sunday Sabbath as different from the other six days of the week. Click To Tweet

We Need a Sunday Sabbath Rest

In today’s culture, we work hard (usually), and we play even harder. We pack every minute of every waking hour with activity, often multitasked, mind-numbing busyness.

Without a moment to catch our breath, our busyness—often under the guise of recreation—leaves us worn out and exhausted. That’s why we need to embrace rest as our Sunday Sabbath practice.

By taking a much-needed break from our perpetual busyness, we rest on the first day of the week to prepare us for the six days that follow. Our bodies require it, our souls depend on it, and our spirits demand it.

What does the Sabbath Sunday rest look like?

I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. But I know that we must treat our Sunday Sabbath as different from the other six days of the week. I also know that if I wake up Monday morning unprepared to embrace the coming week that something is wrong.

I know that I missed my Sabbath rest.

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 I Don’t Dress Up for Church Anymore

May My Clothes Never Keep a Visitor from Encountering God

My parents, especially my mom, taught me to dress up for church. That’s what people did when I was a kid, and I didn’t question it—even though I’m still looking for a biblical command to do so. Never mind that I’m sure my parents spent money they couldn’t afford to spend so I could look my best.

Dress Up for Church

Into adulthood, I faithfully followed this practice, even more so when I ushered. One Sunday, wearing my best suit and a fashionable silk tie, I stood at my station with bulletins in hand and my most inviting smile beaming from my face.

In walked a visitor. This was good news. We didn’t have many of them. College-aged, his casual attire consisted of torn jeans, wrinkled t-shirt, and tennis shoes. He carried a wide smile. I instantly liked him. We made eye contact.

When he saw a friendly face, his smile brightened, and he walked toward me with intention.

Then he glanced down, scanning what I was wearing. Taking in my three-piece suit and freshly polished black leather shoes, his pace slowed. He looked left and then right. Seeing no one else dressed like him, he made an abrupt U-turn and left.

I should have followed him and assured him that he didn’t have to dress up for church, that clothes didn’t matter. Instead, I took no action, feeling duty-bound to remain at my post.

May my clothes never be an obstacle for a church visitor feeling comfortable or faith seeker from encountering God. Click To Tweet

Indeed, had I abandoned my assignment to talk to him, surely someone would have complained that I was shirking my duty. In that instance, continuing to do my job as usher seemed the right thing to do. But it wasn’t.

Though it may have been the right thing for the people of the church who expected someone to greet them, hand them a bulletin, and seat them, it was the wrong thing to do for a visitor who panicked and left. I still regret my decision. It haunts me to this day.

Don’t Dress Up for Church

That was the last Sunday I dressed up for church.

If my clothes challenge conventions, I prefer offending those inside my community, not those outside it. May my clothes never be an obstacle for a church visitor feeling comfortable or faith seeker from encountering God. I never again wore a suit to church—ever.

Though for a while I condescended to wear a tie for special occasions, I soon dismissed neckwear as well. This helped better ensure that my appearance would never be a barrier to visitors and unchurched folk.

Now, when I dress up for church, it’s pulling on a new pair of jeans. Usually I don’t even bother to do that.

I worship God by what I wear on Sunday morning. He doesn’t want me to dress up for church. He wants me to worship him. And one way to do that is being approachable for visitors.

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

When Is the Best Time to Do Good?

Helping Others Is One of Many Ways to Worship God

I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion.

Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as by helping a person in dire need.

We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it. What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps the one that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from 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

Why Do We Listen to a Sunday Sermon at Church Each Week?

The Bible offers little support for a minister to preach a sermon to us at church

Many changes occurred in church practices because of the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. One of those changes adjusted the emphasis of the Sunday service.

The reformers had concern over the focus of Sunday gatherings being on the altar and the celebration of the Eucharist. They intentionally shifted the focus away from that and to the sermon. I understand why they did it, but I think they were wrong.

When Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, NIV), he provided the basis for us to celebrate communion. This gives biblical support for us to periodically observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our gatherings, be it on Sundays or at other times.

However, I don’t see any biblical command to have a paid minister preach a sermon to a local congregation each Sunday. In fact, I see little biblical support for this. Here’s what I do see in the Bible:

Preach to Those Outside the Church

Jesus told his followers to go around and tell others about him. He said to “preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15, NIV). Here’s a direct command from Jesus to preach, but the setting isn’t inside the church walls, it’s outside the confines of the church, in the real world.

Although this gives a command to preach, we miss the point. The teaching Jesus talks about isn’t to those who are already on his team, it’s to those who aren’t.

Teach New Converts

In Acts we see the apostles holding regular classes to teach about what it means to follow Jesus (Acts 2:42). Since back then almost everyone was new to the faith, think of this as a new members class. Note that this is an example of what the church did, not a command to do it.

This teaching is optional, but if we do it the focus is likely on new converts.

Give Updates

Another example in the New Testament of people speaking to local congregations is when traveling missionaries or church delegations visited local churches. They spoke to the people to update them on what was happening elsewhere and to share stories of God at work.

The purpose of these talks seems to be to offer status reports and provide encouragement. Again we see this as an example of what the early church did, but there’s no command for us to do likewise.

In these three scenarios we see people speaking either in the church or outside it. But nowhere do we see a command for clergy to preach to a local congregation in church each Sunday. So why, then, do we have a weekly sermon?

The people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. Click To Tweet

What should we do differently?

Paul answers this in his letter to the church in Corinth. He says when we gather together each person should be ready to share a song, teaching, revelation, tongue, or interpretation. The purpose of this is to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Paul’s instruction, his command, is that the people in the church should minister to one another, not have paid clergy preach them a sermon. With such little biblical support to have a professional minister deliver a sermon on Sunday mornings, maybe it’s time for us to abandon the practice.

Instead let us begin ministering to one another as the Bible instructs.

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.