The Lost Art of Rest

The Lost Art of Rest

You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. — Exodus 31:13b, 14a

Rest is medically, mentally, and spiritually vital for human health. But it is also rejected by an overbooked, overscheduled, and overconnected culture. In both the modern workforce and entertainment/sports pursuits there is seldom a quiet moment for reflection. When is the last time you were quiet and in a quiet room? To illustrate how completely we reject rest, just think about your first reaction when someone calls and wakes you up from sleep. The first thing out of our mouth is a denial that we were sleeping, as if that were some kind of drug addiction we were trying to hide from all our family and friend.

Moses, the great lawgiver, was instructed by God about Sabbaths. In some churches it is common to talk about Sabbaths. In Churches of Christ, not so much. It is often regarded as a component of the Old Law that Jesus never commanded for New Covenant believers. In addition, the Hebrew writer suggests that our Sabbath will be fulfilled when we enter into eternity. So, I grew up basically hearing about the Sabbath only as it related to the Jews and more often than not, the Pharisees.

In college, however, I preached for a small country church. I still have fond memories of the fine folks there, but in my young and sometimes arrogant perspective I scoffed at their Sabbath keeping. Now, granted, it was a kind of personalized Sabbath practice. Playing cards, going fishing, or working on your car were all frowned upon. Sitting back in a recliner after eating too much at a Southern country dinner table and watching wrestling on the television, however, was perfectly acceptable. Anyhow, I did encounter a kind of Sabbath keeping in my younger preaching years. I seldom see that any more.

Sabbath observance was a command of the Lord and one of great consequence. Before Moses was born, the Sabbath was established on the seventh day of creation when God rested. So it predates the Law and it is connected to the identity and reality of God.

The Sabbath was a sign. God tells Moses in our text that the Sabbath was a sign for the generations to come, so it was to last a long time. The Sabbath is a signal that we understand that God is the most important person in our lives and we dedicate time to growing closer to Him… not by working harder or studying deeper or praying better. Just by being with Him.

The Sabbath was so that the Israelites would know that God is God. He gets to make the rules about how we live our life. But more than just rule keeping…

The Sabbath was to remind us that God makes us holy. So it’s not Sabbath keeping that makes us holy, it is our identity with a God who rested. It is our trust that He will provide even if we do not exhaust ourselves in work and play on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was not to be ignored, at the penalty of death. Ok, we might just say at this point that God takes rejection of his word and will seriously. This might be a good place to revert to the idea that the LAW of Sabbath is an Old Covenant law, but the practice of Sabbath is an eternal principle. I know, that’s convenient. 

The Sabbath was to be regarded as holy. It’s all about holiness. More on that later.

The Sabbath command was written by the finger of God. It wasn’t Moses’ invention, but a Divine principle from our Creator. 

I think it is fair to say that if we fail to keep the Sabbath we do not expect to be stoned or for God to strike us down. In the Covenant of Grace in which we live we are not going to rely on precision obedience as a savior. But there is a deeper lesson beyond the law. God’s command to observe the Sabbath was not capricious. It had depth and significance… and I think we can see the result of the loss of Sabbath in our world.

It would be a sad rejection of grace to try to do what the Pharisees did – to establish what movements constitute ‘work’ and then try to do everything but those items. But to celebrate the Sabbath, there might be some ways…

*Reserve a day to rest or at least half a day once a week. I know, trying to schedule rest seems like an oxymoron but if we do not do it intentionally, then the cries of a thousand things that “have to be done” will drown out our purposeful Sabbath.

*Talk to God about your inability to sit still in His presence without making mental lists of the things you’re going to do once this forced Sabbath has come to an end.

*Holiness is the theme of Sabbath. God’s holiness is to become our holiness. What are we doing to become a more holy people? Trusting in our Abba is important. Do you think that He would ‘rest’ on the seventh day, declare that day holy, require all of Israel to stop working on that day, if it were not beneficial? Do you think if we just worked harder at it we could be a holier people … or is it that by putting down our tasks we can focus instead on renewal and faith? Charles Swindoll wrote, “To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”

*Talk about Sabbath. It’s a weird message. No one is talking about taking a weekly respite from the flurry of the world’s call. It will bless others to know there is a practice that can bring them peace and holiness, even just for a short time.

*Be kind to others. If you will embark upon the Sabbath practice, you can be assured that others will not. Even devoted Christians will often fail to heed the call to purposeful rest. It’s not our job to look down upon them or to judge them. No one obeys any command or practice perfectly.

*Don’t say “I can’t”. I know there are some reading this who are saying to themselves that the commitments and obligations of life make Sabbath keeping impossible. I can relate. Again, no one does it perfectly. But let’s be honest. Many of the things that are filling up our frantic days are put there by ourselves.

*A word to parents and families. Our inability to say ‘no’ to our children and the many activities available to them, and the fear that we/they might miss out on something great if we withdraw for a bit, is killing our families. How many of us are teaching our children to forget Sabbath because we allow them to fill up almost impossible to keep schedules? Has family time disappeared? What are the greatest values of our lives? If we value holiness, closeness to God, mental clarity, and bodily strength then we should value Sabbath.

*Be kind to yourself. That might mean not beating yourself up on not being a very good Sabbath observer. Remember, we’re not trying to perfectly keep a law, we are trying to live in rhythm with a principle. It might take some practice. Your Sabbath practice might start with an hour and grow from there. It might not be on the ‘seventh day’ but might be another time when you can devote yourself to quiet and peace. I know I continue to struggle with this.

Sabbath is out of fashion, a relic of a time and pace of life that can’t compete with our connected and conflicted world. Our calling is not to live up to the call of the world, but the call of God. Rest, friend. Unashamedly and in connection with God, seek Sabbath.

“Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. Tears shed there bring cleansing. God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.” ― Thomas à Kempis

Thanks for reading. JD

Photo Credit:
Aaron Burden

The Picture of Humility

humility1342815489_1_image1At a recent Sunday Evening Devotional we did a study of humility and in the course of it ran across some passages that serve as portraits of humility. Interspersed in these passages I included some quotes from Andrew Murray’s awesome book called Humility: The Beauty of Holiness. (Interestingly, it is available FREE today for your kindle HERE.) We begin with a description of humility from Murray:

“Humility is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.”  -Murray

The first portrait of humility has to do with something we associate with everyday living.

Humility as Clothing

1 Peter 5:5-6 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.” – Murray

Humility as a Yoke

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“The highest glory of the creature is in being a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be everything.” Murray

Humility as a Prayer

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” Murray

Humility as a Roadmap

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy  and to walk humbly with your God.

“Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.” –Murray

Of course the greatest picture of Humility is Jesus. He noticed the ones no one else did. He touched the ones no one else would. He blessed the ones others wanted to send away. 

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” -Murray

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.” –Murray

Thanks for reading, JD.

The Gift of Renewal

The Gift of Renewal

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

Renewal means to begin again or to replenish, to revive, to recover. I know I’m not alone in seeking renewal from the Lord. We can find ourselves spiritual depleted by worry, grief, anxiety, anger, or a host of other things. Where do we find the strength to revitalize our spiritual life so that everything else falls into place?

Our struggles with sin, finances, others can leave us tired and weak.

Our addictions and habits can rob us of happiness and freedom.

Our enemy can convince us that we are not making any progress.

Our sin can become more important to us than our Savior.

Life can wear down our faith. 

Renewal in our hearts is vital for our ongoing relationship with God. The Scriptures point us to some truths that can bring a new and renewed energy to our service to God. 

Renewal Comes From Repentance. There’s no escaping the truth that our own sin, left unattended and growing in our hearts, can rob us of our spiritual vitality. Once David confessed and turned away from his sin, he could feel free to ask God to renew a steadfast spirit with him.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10 

Renewal Comes From Hope.  When we are spiritually drained it’s hard to see hope on the road ahead. Sometimes even our best efforts to lift the spirits of a dragging faith are of no effect. We can give up. But don’t give up! There is help and hope from God! Keep your focus on God who will come through with the strength you need.

“…Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Renewal Comes From Our Thoughts. How many are struggling to experience renewal while still trying to live life according to the ways of the world? The world and all of its promises of joy and peace is under the control of the Enemy, and therefore can only bring us heartache and pain. We need to revisit the way we think about things. How does God view this world? How does Jesus want us to see things? What would happen if we focused on His will rather than our own?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Renewal Comes From Perspective. We can lose heart when focused on the material world in front of us at this moment. Our bodies, our world, our lives will ultimately come to an end. It’s the inward person we are that not only exists but also grows daily. The Bible acknowledges that there will be troubles; suffering is a distinct reality. What will we spend our time contemplating … the troubles and hurts or the promises and joys that Christ brings? Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

Renewal Comes from Rebirth. There is a spiritual renewal that doesn’t come because we’ve worked hard enough or done enough to deserve it. In an act of grace God saves us and sends a renewal by the Holy Spirit. If you have not been baptized, this washing and renewal awaits you. If you have been baptized, then the Holy Spirit lives within you … is poured out into you … and we need to ask Him to supply the renewal we need.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…” Titus 3:4-6

Renewal is needed and available.

Here are some action points:

*Seek Gods’ help in prayer for renewal of your commitment.

*Make a specific list of sins that need to be focused upon so that you can repent of specific sins.

*Seek out someone to pray with you for specific areas of life. Look for someone who can hold a confidence and someone who is a person with a committed prayer life.

*Baptism is an important acknowledgment of your submission to God and trusting Him to do what only He can do … remove your sins. If you haven’t been baptized yet, seek out someone you trust to help you with that process.

Thanks for reading,

JD

Reaping The Whirlwind

johndobbs.com

The prophet Hosea’s story cuts to the heart. God asked him to marry the prostitute Gomer and endure the humiliation of being married to someone who gives themselves to any who are willing to pay. When his unfaithful wife chases her desires and disappears for a time, one might think Hosea is glad to be rid of her. If you think that, you misunderstand the depth of Hosea’s commitment to  God and Gomer. The heartbreaking scene of Hosea buying Gomer back is in the chapter of Hosea 3:

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.'”

This is God’s great love for you … for me. We’d rather think of ourselves as better than Gomer, but in our hearts we know it’s not true. How many times we’ve run away from God, whether anyone else knew it or not. He loves, bestows grace, supplies inexhaustible hope and promise. All of this only to be met with us in our rejection of him, running away to give ourselves to the slop of the world. We think God would not want to have anything else to do with us.

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…

But He’s there. Watching, heartbroken, but ready to redeem whenever we’re ready to come home. The Prodigal’s Father watched the far horizon. The message of God’s grace and redemption is too good to believe but it’s not too good to be true. Remember, though, that the Prodigal’s Father only ran to meet him as he came home in repentance. He never ran into the world to try to force him to come home. Hosea never ran after Gomer, begging her to come back.

If you refuse to belong to Him, He won’t force you. But be aware that in rejecting our Heavenly Father we are setting some things in motion. By the time we get to Hosea chapter eight Israel faces a strong warning….

Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him. … They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. …. Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like something no one wants.

What did Gomer set in motion when she set out away from Hosea? What did Israel set in motion as they rejected the God that loved her? What have you set in motion in rejecting God? The life away from God is filled with lies, subterfuge, facades of beauty.

We can sow the wind. Sometimes people talk about sowing wild oats – living reckless lives without considering God’s desires for our everyday life. It all sounds adventurous and worldly and exciting. God spoke through the prophet, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Are we prepared for what is set in motion in our own lives by our rebellion and abandonment of God’s ways? How lonely is the world when it’s all said and done? When you’ve surrounded yourself with people who’s greatest value is to make themselves happy, who will be there when you’re no longer in the formula for their happiness?

‘now she is among the nations like something no one wants.’

But never give up, friend. When the world has used you up, look around. If you think that it’s over and no one cares, you’re wrong.

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…”

 A Voice speaks up. A Father runs down the road to meet you. A Shepherd seeks to guide you home. It’s time to return.

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! I will heal their waywardness and love them freely … Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hosea 14)

If you’ve been sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind and you’re ready to come home to the Father, the door is open. Father gave you the freedom to explore and find out that He was telling you the truth. It’s time to walk in His ways once again. Aren’t you tired of the whirlwind?

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver…”

He awaits.

Thanks for reading, JD.

Storm Warning

We are forecast to have some pretty damaging winds and hail this afternoon/evening according to this graphic from KNOE8’s Facebook Page. Does that set you on edge a 12891051_1163521886991832_7769359563446250612_olittle bit or is it just me? Ever since the inception of The Weather Channel I think many people have become weather ‘experts’ in our own minds! Of course forecasters miss the mark often but they also hit the mark many times. The recent floods in our area have us all looking to the sky a bit because there’s so much damage to repair and so many still not in their homes. I don’t know what it was like in the old days when you did a weather forecast by looking up in the sky or reading the Old Farmer’s Almanac!

I admit to being a quick reactor to weather news. When I hear that there might be severe weather (like tonight) on a Wednesday (like tonight) I start thinking about our members traveling in that and my first thought is to cancel services so we do not endanger any of our people. I’m balanced out by a couple of elders who have a much greater resolve to meet no matter what (well almost – even they have their limits!). So we balance out pretty well.

Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians give us a hair-raising Storm Warning to keep in mind about the second coming of Jesus Christ!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you… ~2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

There are also encouragements in the Storm Warnings:

Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians 4:18

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you…~1 Thessalonians 5:4

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…. ~1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

Just as severe storm warnings catch our attention and call us to action, Believers are operating in this world with an eye to the sky. The realization of that that storm warning means to us directs our steps and provokes us to stay true to the path of discipleship.

The storm warnings of Scripture ought to cause those who have yet to give their lives to Jesus to consider the risk of ignoring these ‘red flags’. Don’t be caught in the storm without protection!

At the ascencion of Jesus the disciples were looking up into the sky where Jesus had arisen and disappeared from view. Angels came and said to them:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” ~Acts 1:11

We’re wise to pay attention to the weather on a daily basis… we live in this eco system that sometimes produces violent collisions of fronts that result in damaging conditions. If we think that is important, we should be all the more concerned with the storm warnings of Scripture. They have far more crucial consequences … and they offer much more hope for believers.

Thanks for reading, JD. Below are some links to three free Andrew Murray books for your Kindle as well as some that aren’t free but at a good price! If you haven’t read Andrew Murray, just do it. Prices change without notice.

Waiting on God by Andrew Murray  Free

The School of Obedience by Andrew Murray Free

The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray  Free

The Battle Plan For Prayer by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick   7.99

The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning   1.99

Be a People Person by John Maxwell   2.99

Holy Bible NRSV   1.99

It’s a God Thing, Volume 2: When Miracles Happen to Everyday People .99

Baptism

water baptism

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

I want to share some thoughts about baptism in some upcoming posts. I realize that each denomination has some differing perspectives about the purpose and method of baptism. I also realize that every denomination baptizes people. It is an important teaching of the Bible.

As I share these thoughts I am not looking for a debate on this Bible doctrine (teaching), but I do hope to offer some clarity, reminders, and encouragement on the subject. I hope you’ll check back in and think along with me about the Scriptures.

In the Scripture above I see that Jesus was baptized, and so I immediately am drawn to this subject as a disciple of Christ. I notice that the Holy Spirit was involved. And I read that the Heavenly Father was pleased with this. That is enough for me to be interested!

Looking forward to exploring this Bible teaching with you in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading!

HarvestTime-John