Sabbath...Part 2

One of the things that I have found in my journey with Christ is that reading scripture and what others have to say on it ultimately brings me to a deeper understanding of God and my relationship with Him. It is with that in mind that I write these words, while borrowing some ideas from a devotion I completed as we prepare to talk about rest as a church family.

Often I think we struggle with the tensions God has placed in our lives, mostly because it pushes us to discomfort. Ideas such as God’s sovereignty versus free will, grace and works, Jesus being fully human and fully divine, and God being all-powerful and all-loving are all concepts that are seemingly at odds. Yet, they are necessary to fully understand the character of God.  Much like the strings of an instrument, it is the tension that creates the sound. One of these uncomfortable tensions centers around trust, hustle, and rest.

God knew that our own successes would make us readily praise ourselves, so He reminds us over and over again in the Bible that He produces the results, not us.  He is solely responsible for the outcomes, which demands our trust in Him.

  • 1 Chronicles 29:12 “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.”

  • Deuteronomy 8:17-18 “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

  • Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”

That verse in Proverbs is so important because it sets the tone for our work: we need to TRUST FIRST. Then we hustle while trusting the results to Him. We don’t trust in Him and then “wait on the Lord” as an excuse for laziness or procrastination. Once we have a calling and have trusted that work to the Lord, He wants us to hustle.  It is often through our hustle that He chooses to produce results.

 

Growing up, I played (or tried to play) every sport that I was exposed to.  One of the things I learned early on was that hustle was rewarded. In the context of sports, it means giving your all and trying hard regardless of the outcome. You might run hard for a loose ball, and although you may not have gotten to it first, you hear the coach say, “great hustle out there!” Now, I hear hustle in different ways, especially with work.  It is almost like everyone I know has their hustle and their side-hustle. And there is nothing wrong with working hard. In fact, we see in scripture that we are to “work with all our hearts as working for the Lord” (Col 3:23). But without the tension of trusting the Lord for the results, hustle alone becomes nothing more than a worthless idol. Proverbs 16:9 highlights that tension: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  We recognize that it is the Lord forming our steps, but it is also good and right for us to plan our course, to work in our gifting and calling. We have to remember that work existed before sin entered the world and is inherently good and designed by God to reveal His character. Our drive and ambition for work can be a good thing, but needs to be accompanied by trust.

Finally, in addition to balancing trust with hard work, we also need rest. It is pretty easy to see in our lives that we are a restless people. We all talk about craving rest, working for the “weekend”, but even once we are home, we never can truly physically or mentally disconnect from our constant demands. We check emails, social media, calendars and more.  We are constantly doing. And even in those moments when we finally relax, it is for physical sleep. St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Without God the Father, we won’t find the rest we so desire. It is with this balance of working hard and completely trusting in the Lord for the results that we can rest. This rest begins with our submission to the God-designed practice of the Sabbath.  Tim Keller wrote, “We are to think of the Sabbath as an act of trust. God appointed the Sabbath to remind us that He is working and resting. To practice the Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” When we practice Sabbath rest, it serves as a powerful reminder of who God is, and a tangible example of trusting in Him.  

 

Sabbath... Part 1

We are about to hit the month of July. The neighborhood pools are open, the kids are out of school, and vacation plans are in full swing. Summer is typically considered a time to recharge, to take a break (however brief) from our normal rhythms and simply enjoy life. It is a time for our bodies and minds to recover from all the strain and stress we face on a daily basis.

It’s easy for us to think of rest in terms of physical relaxation. It is often difficult for us, however, to think of rest as a form of spiritual discipline. God models the concept of Sabbath rest in Genesis 2, when He rests from His creative labors on the seventh day, and He calls on His people to honor the Sabbath day in Exodus 20. Jesus honors the Sabbath as well, while challenging religious leaders to examine their motivation and their hearts, as He so often does.

For me, the concept of honoring the Sabbath has always been a difficult one to grasp, or at least to implement. When I was in school, Sunday was a day for cramming for tests or finishing up homework. As an adult, Sunday is one the few days to “get stuff done” - chores, yard work, or the dozens of errands that never seem to get completed during the week. The weekend is also filled with parties, events, meetings, sporting events for the kids, and a seemingly endless supply of calendar obligations. So for many of us, Sunday (the Sabbath) simply becomes an opportunity to catch up - there is no rest for the weary!

But Scripture, both Old and New Testament, calls us to honor the Sabbath. Without going down the dangerous road of legalism, and without the unrealistic option of simply dropping all of our earthly commitments, how can we possibly honor the Sabbath within a modern context? Here are a few suggestions that I believe are both biblical and practical.

  1. Plan ahead. This may sound overly simplistic, but the Lord calls His people in Exodus to remember the Sabbath. We are quick to defend certain parts of our calendars: sporting events, PTA meetings, doctor’s appointments. If we hold the Sabbath in the reverence God intends, we would do a better job of fencing off that part of our week as well. Christians may not like it, but they’re used to hearing sermons about being good stewards of our finances; the same principles can and should be applied to the Sabbath. Will we always be perfect in this attempt? Of course not. But we should want to make our best effort at the things that please God.

  2. Learn what the Bible means by “rest.”  Is the Sabbath a call to laziness? Is rest merely the exhausted pauses we use to catch our breath before diving back into our chaotic schedules? The Bible views rest differently. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge God’s provision and sufficiency (Isaiah 26:3). When we give God a place of prominence in our lives, the Sabbath becomes not so much a “break in the action,” but rather a celebration of God’s providential hand in our lives. Our work, while important, is nothing compared to the joy of following and serving Jesus. If we can live our lives with this mentality, then we begin to adopt a Sabbath mentality that carries beyond Sunday and into the rest of the week.

  3. Don’t do the Sabbath alone. When God gives the Ten Commandments, he calls on not only the Israelites to observe the Sabbath, but their families, servants and even foreign visitors as well. As we observe the Sabbath in a practical and Biblical way, let’s not forget to join in fellowship with our families and our local church. Engage in corporate worship, have family and friends over for a meal, or participate in a family Bible study.

Intentions vs. Intentional

 

Matthew 5:37

"But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil."

Everyone knows people with good intentions who do not follow through. You have heard them mask these good intentions with statements like "charge it to my head and not my heart or “I really wanted to be there but....” Now, before you take this challenge too hard, I want to confess that I am all too familiar with using those statements.  However, to be honest and transparent, that is a good excuse at best.  If you really wanted to be there, then you would have made it happen.  (I understand that there are exceptions and times where circumstances really did work against you).  However, more often than we care to admit, that is not the case.  I want to free you to reclaim your integrity.  Perhaps you are known as a person of good intentions. People know you so well that your “yes” is treated as a maybe, or even worse, a “yeah right.”

One of the most effective ways to reclaim our integrity when it comes to following through with our commitments is by learning how to say no.  One way you can do this is to start saying no before you say yes. (There is another post coming for those who always say no). A couple of ways you can do that is by saying, “No, but I will get back with you if I am able.”  An even more pleasant response is to say, “Can I give you an answer later today?”  When we say yes too often, it leaves us in the predicament of being known as one with good intentions, instead of one that is intentional.  When we are intentional, we are able to be fully present in the moment.  We are able to give the people in front of us our best, instead of the part of us that has already left the building.  We are able to capitalize on the present opportunities instead of longing for the missed ones.  Living intentionally positions us to be men and women of integrity.

Take time to consider what things you probably should say ”no” to, so that your “yes” will carry more weight.  Let us be men and women where our yes mean yes and our no means no.