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.


Shame & Gospel

I am a pastor and I struggle with sharing my faith!  There, I said it.  I have struggled with sharing my faith for a good part of my Christian faith, and I imagine that many of you can identify with me given the studies done around this topic.  The good and bad news is that you are not alone.  To be honest, too much of my Christian life has been waiting for that Pentecost moment.  Perhaps you remember in Acts 2 where they heard this sound from heaven and tongues as fire rested on them.  The people started to boldly declare the truth of God’s greatness.  I think I too often wait for a magical moment like this to share my faith. However, this moment has yet to happen for me.  Through the years there have certainly been times where I felt God’s presence and Him working through me.  It was a turning point when I chose to stop waiting on the magic moment and trust that the Gospel is the moment.  I have come to realize that sharing my faith is less about a magic moment and more about a surrendered moment.  It is doing what I know to be right, especially in times it does not feel right.

The power of the Gospel demonstrates that God’s Word is truly enough.  In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul addresses a very gifted but carnal church.  After he has explained to them the potent message of the cross, he begins to remind them of the difference between his time with them, versus others.  Paul explains in those first two verses how he came to them not in superiority of speech or even wisdom, but actually the opposite: simplicity. Paul shares that he “determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  For those unfamiliar, Paul was a brilliant man. Some suggest that his educational prowess would be similar to one accumulating four to five PH.D’s today.  Paul was so brilliant that the brightest of minds today are still trying to unravel the mysteries God gave him.  Paul teaches us something profound through his letter to the Corinthians.  Jesus’ words are both simple and deep enough that we could spend all our lives on earth unraveling them.  That is the beauty of the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a one time event, but a never depleting reminder of God’s power to save.  Paul teaches that it is not our eloquence nor persuasiveness that transforms the lives of men and women.  It is the simple and powerful Gospel.

Now back to my struggle.  I am learning to rest in the reality that I may never feel completely comfortable with sharing my faith.  Yet, there is solace in knowing that my acts of obedience bring my Father delight.  Maybe one day I will experience unimaginable joy and passion in persuading those far from the Lord.  However, even if that day never comes, I am committing to keep showing up, to keep opening my mouth, and to keep strengthening my apologetic. Regardless of the internal conflict, I trust that the Lord will reward my faithfulness how He deems appropriate.  I also know that the only shame that I will feel will be when I give into my fear to keep silent.  Even then, I know my shame is not from the Lord, but the spiritual darkness that wants to convince me that I am anything less than God’s beloved.  What will I do in those moments?  I will remind myself again of the Gospel, which is good for me, and the person I dread sharing with.