Sabbath - The Inspiration

For 3 years now I have pondered the idea of establishing a true sabbath in my life.  I mean - I rest.  Sometimes I wonder if I am slothful because I rest everyday.  But what about the sabbath?

Recently God has brought this notion back to the forefront of my thinking.  During the summer, while visiting our friends Tyler and Dusti in Bellingham, WA (A BEAUTIFUL PLACE very near the Canadian border), we attended church with them. The pastor was returning to the preaching ministry after a prolonged sabbatical and he shared his story.  In the sharing of his story he preached from the passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:11.
...and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you...
He mentioned the rhythm of life that God had prescribed for his people, the Jews: a weekly sabbath, annual feasts and fasts, and a 7 year cycle of taking an entire year off (if the ground was fallow, then the economy was fallow too).  And my 2 year long pondering of the idea was rekindled with fresh attention.  I wondered what the condition of the church might be like if God's people, the Christ-followers, actually had a day every week that was holy.

Then just this week my life group was talking about Galatians 3:1-14.  (We have been studying the book of Galatians recently.)  And in our core question of the night was, "How do we begin, in our own lives this week, to practice trust in the Spirit instead of trust in our human effort?"  And Rhonda mentioned that a photography mentor had recently said that good photographers 'pause' because clarity comes in the pause.  Rhonda said that she immediately knew this was a principle for Christian living.  In other words, we know and experience God, gaining His insight, power, and guidance when we slow down and get away to listen to Him.

And it was the same morning that I was sitting at Starbucks with my friend JB talking about a spiritual dream he had earlier in the week.  He said that he had been given a verse from Nehemiah in his dream, that it was spoken to him in his dream and he 'knew' that it was from Nehemiah.  He didn't remember the verse, but he woke up with a fresh desire and commitment to press into God's activity in His life.  So, right in Starbucks, we read the whole book of Nehemiah aloud together.  He remembered the verse(s).  They were a conglomerate of the passages that described the dedication of the rebuilt wall of Jerusalem, the confession of sins, the complete reading of the law of Moses for 7 days, and the worshiping of all the citizens along the tops of the walls.  BUT, in our reading at the end of the book, when Nehemiah had gone back to his service of Babylonian King Artxerxes and then returned to Jerusalem, we read that Nehemiah had found the restored citizens of Jerusalem, THE PEOPLE OF GOD REDEEMED FROM EXILE, he found them living life without sabbath.  And he chastised them, "wasn't it for this reason that God allowed you to be conquered to begin with."

Then, Rhonda brought the subject up for our household as we discussed our plans to rebuild our home's order after my return from the exile of depression.  Hmmmmmmm.

And the question rose up in my heart again.  What would the Kingdom of God look like today if God's people practiced a true sabbath.  Not some legalistic observance of a rule that was part of a system that could not save or redeem.  But, recognition that God is in the pause and to truly experience Him in His fullness, a rhythm of pause will benefit us.  O, sure, we can continue exercising God's grace by putting the concerns of this world system ahead of the concerns of God.  And God's grace will continue to be sufficient.  But what about the Kingdom of God?  What about the great commission?  What about glorious church?  What about offering our bodies as living sacrifices?  Can we reach those objectives without a sabbath.

More and more I think not!

What are your thoughts on the subject?
Do you practice a Christian sabbath?  If so, how do you do it and what have been the affects?

I'll be blogging more about this as I work it out in weeks and months ahead.  Help me work it out by posting your thoughts as we go.


Knowing by Heart

My new phone.  WHAT A WONDERFUL THING...  I must confess that I have avoided the new phone dilemma for quite some time, forcing myself to be satisfied with my functional phone of old.  Recently, however, my FPOO (functional phone of old) stopped working.  This is the second version of this phone that has stopped working in exactly the same way for me.  Boooooooo Samsung!  So it was time for a new phone.  And I got a great one with all the bells and whistles... 

My new phone.  It still calls.  It texts just as most phones now do.  And it is a smart phone.  REALLY SMART.  It is so smart that it makes me feel dumb sometimes. 

Now my FPOO was supposed to be smart, but when trying to load a mobile version of the Bible on it, I was always so dissatisfied that I never used that function.  But my new phone is really smart and I have my Bible out at the whip of a finger.  And I love it.

One of the things I have been doing with my new TSP (truly smart phone) is memorizing scripture.  One of my pastoral confessions is that I have been a big fat failure when it comes to scripture memorization.  Oh I can recite some pretty well.  I actually know where to find a few.  But for the most part, I don't have that much memorized.  Pastoral Failure #762.

I recently came across this quote and it has motivated me to use my smart phone to become a smarter Christain. 

"What a heart knows by heart is what a heart really know."

After coming through a prolonged season of discouragement and depression, I have to ask myself. "if my heart had been smarter abour scripture, whould I have believed the lies that plunged me into that darkness?"

So here it begins.  Instead of bejeweled or solitaire during those down times in line, I will be tuning my phone into my heart-smartening Bible app for memorization.  If you see me with my nose in my phone, ask me, "how's the memorization?"  Test me even.  I suppose a little accountability won't hurt me one little bit.


Hmmmmm! You Have to Wonder About That

"I used to phone my best friend.
Now my phone is my best friend."

Crazy thought.  Had to share it!


More about Luke 18:9-14

  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
   “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
   “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:9-14)

This is a great passage of scripture.  Not only does it teach a meaningful lesson on living in God's Kingdom, it also shows us the powerful way that Jesus used words.

The obvious lesson of the parable is summed up in v. 14.  Faith in the Kingdom of God is expressed in humility over sin, not in the pride of human piety.  This past Sunday morning we discussed the real danger of pride.  (We have been studying the Seven Deadly Sins for 6 weeks now.)  It was great to look at this passage and others that urge us to keep an honest estimation of ourselves in relationship to God, and to 'consider others better than ourselves.'

One very interesting part of this passage that I didn't have time to bring out on Sunday morning is found in verse 11 where it says, 'the Pharisee stood and prayed about himself...'  Notice that I emphasized the word 'about' in that sentence.  The grammar of this sentence in it's original language makes this word very poignant.  In fact the sentence has a double meaning.

You know how in Spanish, por que and porque mean why and because.  And when they are spoken they sound exactly the same.  When spoken, the Spanish words require context to distinguish between their meanings.  Well so it is with the 'about' in verse 11 of Luke 18.  The sentence does not give enough context clues to tell if it should most correctly read, 'the Pharisee stood and prayer about himself,' OR 'the Pharisee stood and prayed to himself.'

So to hear Jesus tell the story in His original context is to wrestle with the question, is Jesus condemning his pride in praying about himself or to himself?  And the answer seems to be BOTH.  For Jesus slyly equates the two.  An obsession with self in prayer is, in practice, the same as the idolatry of making one's self out to be god.

While we may not be as obvious as the Pharisee in Jesus' parable, in so many ways we can be obsessed with ourselves in our prayers.  I know that many times I get so caught up in what I need and want from God that my 'prayer' becomes as much centered on me as was the Pharisee's prayer centered on him.  And so I rob God of His rightful place in my worship life and put myself there instead.  And instead of being humbled by my sin and thankful for what I have already received from God (namely eternal life in His Kingdom), I pridefully ask for what I think I deserve from Him...

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner, and grant that I should learn to keep you in the center of my prayers and worship.  Have mercy on me Lord.

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