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.