Tag Archives: sabbath

If You Are Too Busy for God…

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31

Do you remember the last time you heard a busy signal on the telephone? I had to think long and hard about that. It’s been a while. Phones don’t work the same as they did just a few years ago.

Nowadays, when someone calls me, and I’m on the other line, it goes straight to my voicemail. When you call a business, you rarely ever get a person when you call, but you never get a busy signal.  You’re forced to talk to an Automated System that sounds like a person, but turns out to be less helpful.  Many of our young people will go the rest of their lives and never hear that “busy signal” when the party they are trying to reach is unreachable.

I remember sitting beside our home’s phone for hours on end, dialing the same number over and over and over again, in protracted and earnest attempts at finding out what was showing at the Stephenville Cinemark Cinema 6. Only the kids who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s will know the frustration of trying to find out showtimes by calling the theatre’s published number, only to get the busy signal with each and every attempt. It makes me feel old just thinking about the hours I wasted in my teenage years trying to get to the recording of shows and showtimes!

When we call out to God in prayer, we NEVER get a busy signal, and our prayers NEVER go to voicemail. They go straight to the heart of God. He listens because He loves us! He doesn’t put us on hold because He’s too busy for us. He is infinitely and intimately present to us.

Wow…what a thought?

But is the same true when God seeks to get out attention?

Check out this portion of Sunday’s sermon on Sabbath HERE. Are we ever too busy for God?

 

We need to make sure we are giving God the attention in our lives that He deserves. Building and maintaining a Holy Attention Span requires work, but it’s worth it.

When we are too busy for God, then we are just too busy, period.

One of my favorite works on making room in life for God and for family is Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Dr. Richard Swenson writes from his own experience as a medical doctor about the epidemic of marginless living. He escaped the rat race that was killing him, and now shows others how to do the same.

Sabbath is about creating margin in our lives to be able to relate to God and to those who are most important to us.

Won’t you look at your schedule for the remainder of this week, and see if you have enough space on your calendar to hear from God? The time we give to God in holy attentiveness is time that benefits, and gives purpose to, everything else we do.



Margin…is having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.
Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

Sabbath, What Is That?

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27

Who gets to say what we can or can’t do on the Sabbath? That’s been a BIG question down throughout the years. The Jews have argued among themselves for centuries about what you can and cannot do. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday evening and runs through setset on Saturday evening. (Go back and read Genesis 1 for a little background as to why they would say a day starts when the sun sets. Really interesting that God would say during the days of creation, “And there was evening, and there was morning…).

Rather than holding a 7th day Sabbath, Christians quickly moved to celebrating a First Day of the week Sabbath. Our day set aside for resting and focusing on God centers around the Resurrection of Christ.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Matthew 28:1

As I studied Sabbath in seminary, I found it fascinating how many branches of Christians continue to hold to a 7th day Sabbath. There is even a group called 7th Day Baptists (there are only about 50,000 of them in the world and most live in India, though the interwebs say there are about 5,000 living in America).

Christians in the early centuries after Christ’s resurrection migrated to a First Day Lord’s Day. I’ll be the first to admit, there is no clear, monolithic, Biblical proof text that we can point to and say, “Ah Ha…this is why we worship on the 1st day of the week.” But the preponderance of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that God accepts our worship on the First Day of the week as much as He accepts it any time we offer it.

Sabbath goes back to the week of creation found in the book of Genesis. After God made the universe, the world and all that lives and breaths, and finally man and woman, He paused from his labors on the 7th day, and declared it a day of rest.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Genesis 2:2-3 28:1

God didn’t rest because He needed to. He rested because He was delighted with his creation.

Fast forward a LONG time.

As God delivered the 10 Commandments to Moses, He proclaimed the 7th day as a day of rest, or Sabbath, for all of the people.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:8-11

Sabbath gets more words from God than any other single commandment out of the 10 God gave to Moses on the mountain! It probably means that we really need to pay attention to practicing Sabbath in our lives, don’t you think?

So what are we supposed to do on the Sabbath?

Sabbath is a day of switching gears. It’s a day for putting aside our normal labors so that we can take up the work of tending to spiritual business. Sabbath is the day we carve out of our schedule each week to allow God to delight in us, as we delight in him.

Sabbath is a family and community day. The best Lord’s Day Sabbaths that I can remember have been ones that involved not only church but a long and delicious meal shared with friends and loved ones.

Sabbath is for naps. There is nothing more refreshing than dozing off on a Sunday afternoon! Sabbath recognizes that even when we fall asleep, God is still on duty and watching over us, and who we love. It’s amazing that He can keep the universe spinning and going without our help!

Sabbath is for reflection. Without Sabbath, we get swept up completely in WHAT we are doing. As we learn to Sabbath, we allow ourselves to consider WHY we are doing? Who are we truly working for? What is the goal of all of our labors? Where does our true value lie?

Sabbath is a day that give meaning to all the rest of our days. As we consecrate the Lord’s Day as our day of Sabbath of rest, worship and reflection, I trust that God will use the time we set aside to know Him, and to enjoy Him, to grow us and to bless us!

Let’s Stay Connected!



Decluttering our Day-Planner is as Important as Decluttering our Garages

Decluttering can be a deeply spiritual experience. We find plenty of clutter in our lives. Our closets our cluttered. Our garage is cluttered. Our desks are cluttered. Our kitchen is cluttered. Is there no end to the clutter?

Living produces clutter. The faster you live, and the more you try to do, the more clutter that piles up around you.

Each January I tackle the clutter in my garage. My garage is a storehouse for all of the good ideas I have, the things I hope to use someday, and the next-to-the-final resting spot for toys the kids have outgrown. I start by taking everything out. It all goes into the driveway. Everything is touched, and briefly reflected on.

There are a few questions that I ask about everything I touch. Have I used this in the past year? Will I use it this year? Will anyone notice if it is not here? Will I get in trouble if I get rid of it? Does this have special significance?

Most of the things I touch are in the garage because I’ve not needed them since they were placed in the garage. Some things are in the garage because there is no other place for them around the house, and they are used from time to time (ie. lawnmowers, seasonal kitchen gadgets, powertools, etc…) Many things get disposed of because I can’t rationally imagine using them again in the next 12 months.

It’s stressful for me to walk through my garage when it’s piled with clutter. I feel a twinge of guilt about not being the organized person, I feel like I should be. I feel particularly guilty about my piles of stuff when I drive past a neighbor’s garage that is immaculate, tidy, and empty (except for a car that has plenty of room to open doors on both sides). Each time I enter my garage I feel like something must be done, but I never have time to get started. I feel that there are things that need to be straightened out, but I only have enough motivation to put off the cleaning effort for another day.

Then comes the big day, the day set aside for decluttering. I usually start early in the morning, on a Saturday. As I mentioned before, I take everything out (that’s a bit of an exaggeration since there are some furnishings that remain, and the tools stay in their spaces). With everything that can be removed out in the open, I explore the meaning and purpose of every item.

Boxes of stuff, once used, now stored, are sorted through for anything valuable. Pictures of the kids when they were little, mementos and crafts from countless school and church activities, heirlooms of all shapes and sizes….these remain. A broken TV, pots and pans that show signs of abuse, Christmas and birthday gifts from years gone by that the kids opened, enjoyed and have now have outgrown and forgotten…these are the things that add nothing to our existence but stress. These are the things I get rid of.

I get ruthless in my decluttering. All I can see once the clutter is out of the garage is the space. I take back my space when I haul off my junk to the garbage. There is a moment of euphoria when the job is completed. There is a celebration when the car will fit back in the garage. It’s a joyful moment when you can walk through the garage without feeling the urge, the stressful urge, to tidy something. It makes me feel like I am truly the master over my stuff instead of being mastered by my stuff.

Decluttering can be a reminder of how little we actually need in order to be content in this world. Decluttering is about making room for things that matter most.

Our garages and closets and desks and kitchens are not the only spaces that need to be decluttered.

A few times a year I take stock of what is written in the spaces of my day-planner. Keeping a day-planner is good business. It breaks down the months and the weeks and the days into little blank spaces to fill with activities and meetings and errands. The more little spaces we fill up the more purposeful we feel.

At times, my day-planner is a crowded as my garage. It becomes cluttered with activities and meetings and errands. If my schedule were a garage, there are weeks when it would be filled from wall to wall, and from floor to ceiling.

You declutter a day-planner just like you would declutter a garage: you clear the space. Instead of writing something in each little blank, you keep what is most important, you maintain what you have to maintain, and then you throw out anything that doesn’t belong.

Why is space, open space, in a day-planner important? How will creating more space, and decluttering my schedule, benefit me? What dangers are there in taking on less stuff in order to have more time to give myself to what is most important?

Creating space in your schedule allows you to engage in the important things you cannot schedule. You cannot know when God will send something significant into your path. Rather than rushing past, moving on, or missing out on God’s divine appointments, we need to have the time to savor and enjoy the gifts of God.

What about being helpful? When we are too busy to be helpful, we are just too busy. It’s difficult to structure into our schedule moments where you intend to be helpful. Neighbors and friends and strangers we meet along the way rarely coordinate their catastrophes with anyone else’s day-planner. Things happen, and if there is no margin in the spaces of our day-planners, there is little hope of our having time to be useful to another person along life’s way.

I often think about Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan in this context. The Scribe and the Priest were not bad, they were busy. Because they were bound to their busyness, they were useless. Their busyness made them un-neighborly. Being a good neighbor requires some uncluttered space on our day-planner.

It takes time to form relationships. Relating is about listening. Listening cannot be hurried. Unstructured time is required for enjoying the company of another person, or a group of people, you love. Unstructured time makes you present to who you are present with.

Sabbath, and the space to reflect that it offers, helps us declutter our day-planner, and purposefully live meaningful lives.

 



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The Anti-Sabbath Parable

I was looking at one of Jesus’ parables this morning. It was about a man who experienced a bumper crop and decided to store away all of his surplus grain in bigger barns and live the remainder of his days in ease and comfort.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like anything is so wrong and that God’s judgment is severe.  After all, the man is just planning his rest and relaxation after a profitable harvest.

I’ve spent the better part of this past week pondering the subject of REST.  Last Sunday morning I preached on Sabbath.  Sabbath is the kind of REST God enjoyed at the end of the week of Creation.  God commands us to REST from our labors in order to know Him and enjoy a relationship with Him.

The REST that God commands is not a purposeless, endless, meaningless retreat from the world.  The REST that God commands us to enter is purposeful, constructive, and packed with eternal significance.

Consider these words the man speaks in the story Jesus tells:

Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'”
NIV Luke 12:18-19

The point of the story is not that the man gains wealth. The point of the story is that he has NO regard for God.

In the first place, the man is SELF-SATISFIED.  The man refers to himself 7 times in the span of 3 verses!  He sees all of his gain as a product of his ingenuity and industry.  He doesn’t thank God, or consider God, as he counts the bushels of grains that are going into the storehouses.

Second, the man is SELF-FOCUSSED.  He doesn’t see his good fortune as being connected to anything other than what he can provide for himself.  The only expense he worries with is the cost of the new barns he has to build, the price of the wine he is going to buy, and financing his life of leisure.  It’s all about himself.

And third, he is ultimately SELF-DESTROYED.  God calls him a fool and demands his life from him.  Jesus says:

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
NIV Luke 12:21

We facilitate our own demise when we focus only on ourselves and seek satisfaction in only what we can do.

The REST this man desired wasn’t not the kind of Sabbath REST that designed.  In fact, the kind of REST the man was planning for himself was antithetical to the purposeful life God created us for.

Whereas the man was focussed on being SELF-SATISFIED, to be rich toward God requires us to be GOD-CONFIDENT.  You can be GOD-CONFIDENT whether or not you have big barns, small barns, or NO barns.  Being confident in God, and fully trusting in the Lord, is not a function of what you have, or don’t have in the bank.  A life that is rich toward God is a life that trust God completely.

A life that is rich toward God is a life that is GOD-CENTERED.  The man in Jesus’ story would have enjoyed a much different outcome if he had expressed thanksgiving to God for the harvest, looked beyond himself for what to do with the harvest, or even considered God’s reason for sending him such a bountiful harvest.

A GOD-CENTERED life sees beyond itself and connects to the people God places around us.  It is concerned about the work of God. It believes that we are here to serve God with all that we have with all the time he gives us.

A GOD-CONFIDENT life that is GOD-CENTERED is a GOD-BLESSED existence.  Our time on earth is filled with meaning as we continually look to our creator.  Even our resting, relaxing, vacationing and leisure are GOD-BLESSED as they are connected to a life that is oriented toward the God who loves us.

When a person is GOD-CONFIDENT they can REST from their labors, trust God for his provision, and enjoy time that is set aside for tending to the things of the Spirit.

When a person is GOD-CENTERED their REST recharges them for service, ministry, missions and acts of love.

Ultimately, the one who learns to relate to God wholeheartedly hears the words all of God’s wise servant long to experience…

 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.'”
NAS Matthew 25:21

 

Be sure to sing up for our 5 Week Spiritual Discipline Challenge.  Follow this LINK to get the text messages that go out each morning at 7 AM.



7 Little Gifts for Mom


Mother’s Day is upon us!

You did get the flowers ordered, didn’t you?

You picked up the card on the way home from work, didn’t you?

You went to the jewelry store and bought the just-right piece of bling that says “You Are The Most Awesome Mom In The Universe,” right?

It may be too late for those kinds of gifts, if they are not already in hand.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on impressing Mom on Mother’s Day. Moms love their kids more than the stuff their kids get them. Stuff isn’t important.

Did you know that it’s in the Bible that you have to take your Mom to church on Mother’s Day? I didn’t know that either.

As I was studying for the Mother’s Day message, I came across this verse from the book of Leviticus.

Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God.
NIV Leviticus 19:3

…Respect Mom (and Dad, too)…and Observe my Sabbaths…

…Mother’s and Sabbath Day…

…Take Mom to Church on Mother’s Day…Mother’s Day just so happens to be the Lord’s Day when Christians practice Sabbath.

It’s a No Brainer. You have to take Mom to church on Mother’s Day, if you can.

Whether or not you’ve bought that special gift for Mom yet, or whether you are taking her to church or not, here are some ideas for Little Gifts for Mom. If you adhere to this list, you’re going to score some major Mother’s Day points!

Here’s what All Mom’s want on Mother’s Day:

A Little Respect

Go ahead and plan for extravagant respect. It is Mother’s Day after all. If you will up your respect game just a little, the rewards will be tremendous.

A Little Gratitude

This should come easily. I bet you can make a list a page long in the next 5 minutes of things that mom does that don’t often elicit thanksgiving. Moms are professionals at doing the little things that make our lives easier.

 Her children arise and call her blessed…NIV Proverbs 31:28 

A Little Consideration

Sometimes it’s not just the stuff mom does that is overlooked. Sometimes Mom is overlooked. That doesn’t go over well on Mother’s Day. Mom deserves to be front and center in our thinking on Mother’s Day. Don’t do anything that doesn’t involve her in some way.

A Little Time

Did you know that more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year? Would mom prefer you be there in person? Sure. But if you can’t be there with her, at least give her some of your time with a phone call, Skype, or Facetime chat.

Big warning:::Text Don’t Count on Mother’s Day (Unless you have lost your voice and you lives a thousand miles away from your special Mom ladies).

A Little Grace

Moms make mistakes, too. Moms aren’t perfect. Give Mom a little Grace on Mother’s Day of all days!

A Little Prayer

Take a moment to honor Mom through prayer. Ask God to bless her in a special way. Thank God for the blessings that have come to you through your Mom. You don’t even have to tell Mom you prayed for her. Just do it. And keep on doing it regularly. You’ll find many benefits from praying for Mom and all the other important people in your life.

A Little Encouragement

Moms need a pat on the back just like the rest of us. Brag on her. Show her your support. Ramp up the kindness. Go all out. It’s Mother’s Day for crying out loud!

 

Everyone gets a carnation on Mother’s Day at FBC Nederland. Come by and celebrate the blessings of God that come through mothers as we gather for worship this Sunday.