Biblical Messages

Sin and Sabbath

There are varying opinions among followers of Jesus as to what one should do with the concept of Sabbath.  In John 5.1-15, we see the Sabbath Police at work, and Jesus connection sin and sickness.  What on earth can we do with these concepts?  Watch below and find out how the Holy Spirit invited me to draw them together.  (Sorry, no audio-only file this week.)

 

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Don’t let your clock wind down

We live in a world that never sleeps, don’t we?

It used to be that we’d refer to New York as “the city that never sleeps,” but it seems like the whole world is that way now.  And it’s rubbing off on us: we’re working long hours, wasting our time getting worked up over pointless things, and not getting enough rest.

Someone once likened the human body to a seven-day wind-up clock.  (Last week I wrote about a watch that ticked; today, it’s about a clock that needs winding!  Watch for next week’s instalment, where we talk about sundials!)  Yes, back in the day, clocks needed to be wound or they would not keep time. If the winding ritual were to be neglected, the clock would run down and stop completely.

Taking a day of rest – a Sabbath of some sort – is like winding the clock of your body, mind and spirit.  We can’t work constantly and expect to keep our health at any level.  And by “work”, I’m referring not only to your ‘day job’, but also to anything that saps joy from you.

Unless you’re a pastor, it’s hoped that you can take Sunday as your Sabbath rest day. For a long time, it was assumed that you couldn’t do anything fun on the Sabbath; if we adhere ourselves to the ceremonial laws of Leviticus, that’s true.  (Of course, if we adhere to those laws, we should be taking Saturday off, not Sunday – but we are an Easter people, and we celebrate the Lord’s Day!)

Take time on your Sabbath for worship, for rest, and for doing that which gives you life. But above all, take time for Sabbath. Don’t let your clock wind down.

This Sunday, I’m going to be talking about the importance of Sabbath (and its connection to sin).  You can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, watch the message on Facebook Live, or catch it later on my blog or on YouTube.

It may be summer, but it doesn’t always feel like a time of rest.  Honour God and yourself by taking time for Sabbath.  Don’t let your clock wind down.

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 5.12, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

I heard the watch ticking

Donald Grey Barnhouse once told the story of a man who operated an ice house and lost his watch in the sawdust.  (You know it’s an old story when it’s talking about keeping ice cool with sawdust!)  He wanted his watch back badly, and offered a reward to anyone who could find it.  Many people went through the sawdust, by hand and with rakes, but to no avail.

A young boy went into the ice house after all the searching was done, and he came back out with the watch.

How did he find it?

“I just lay down in the sawdust and listened, and finally I heard the watch ticking.”

You may not have lost your watch, but in the busyness of life, you may be missing something else:  your body and soul may be out of sync.  Your relationship with God may be off the rails.  Your spiritual disciplines may be not all you wish they were.

With kids out of school and summer finally here, perhaps this is your opportunity to lay down in the sawdust and hear the watch ticking.  Maybe now is the time to let your body and soul catch up with each other, to re-rail your relationship with God, to beef up your spiritual disciplines.  You have the chance to gain some rest…in the Lord.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

That’s the question the Lord asked Elijah in 1 Kings 19 – twice:  in verses 9 and 13.

The prophet had just defeated the prophets of Baal and brought rain to a land of drought, and for his trouble, the king’s wife, Jezebel, wanted his head on a platter. He was sick of the race.  So he ran away, and this was God’s response:  “What are you doing here?”

It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves – perhaps not about the room we’re sitting in at this very moment, but about our stage in life.  And there are different ways we can ask it.

We can ask ourselves, “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

Notice the different emphasis each time the question is asked.  There is an ancient Christian practice called the examen, where typically at the end of the day, we review the day in God’s presence and examine our conscience and consciousness.  Perhaps God’s question to Elijah, with these different emphases, might be one way to frame a review of the day.

Besides asking important questions about life, this practice also forces us to pause, which is not easy for all of us.  Give it a try today.

Elijah was sick of the race, but he knew he needed more of God.  So the Lord revealed himself to Elijah – not in the windstorm, not in the earthquake, not in the fire – but with the sound of a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19.12).

Pause long enough to hear that gentle whisper, be renewed, and know what you are doing here!

Encouragement From The Word returns on September 2.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

From Judgment to Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary…and I will give you rest.”  Many are familiar with these words of Jesus, but do we realize what their context is?  The section right before Jesus utters these words unique to the Gospel of Matthew finds him condemning entire communities where he and his miracles were well known, but the response was underwhelming.  The key question in this message is, “How will you witness for Jesus?”

Based on Matthew 11.20-30 in The Message, you can listen to the message here:

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: 5. God Is Gone Up

On this Ascension Sunday, we looked at 2 Samuel 6.1-15 and Psalm 47.  The Samuel passage gives the original-context background for the Psalm, and the Psalm is also one commonly associated with Jesus’ ascension.  (I’ve had this anthem by Gerald Finzi running through my head all week.)

Have a listen to the message (and my muted rant on political correctness therein!):

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

The older you get…

I used to hear people say this years ago when I was a child, and I never quite understood it.  Now, I think I do.

The older you get, the faster time seems to move.

I am astounded that tomorrow is the last day of April, 2016.  That will bring to completion the first third of the year.  Last Christmas seems like yesterday – but it wasn’t!  Perhaps it comes with busyness, perhaps with age, but either way, the clock seems to tick faster these days.

So I’m led to ask myself, and you:  What are you doing with this time?

We all know each day is a gift; this is especially true for those who have lost loved ones.  The value of keeping short accounts is magnified when we come to realize that the time we have with others may be limited.

Likewise, we do well to be good stewards of our time.  Often, when we think about stewardship as followers of Jesus, it’s in the context of the wise use of the material wealth with which the Lord has blessed us, or maybe the care and conservation of the environment, the world God made.

But time?  That’s a gift to be stewarded as well.  Think about the number of hours we have in each week:  168.  If we spend 56 of them sleeping, 10 of them eating, 7 of them in the Necessary Room, 45 of them working, and 10 of them driving to and from work, that leaves us with 40 waking hours to do other things.  How can we be good stewards of those 40 hours?  Here are a few ideas.

Build your spiritual life.  As has been famously said, in 100 years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus, so prioritize those 40 hours (and maybe some of the others, while you’re at it) building your spiritual life.  Make worship with the church and personal or family worship a priority.  Take time each Sunday to worship in community and spend time in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.  Be part of a small group of some sort that deepens that fellowship and involves some less formal study time.  Read Scripture, pray, and engage in other spiritual disciplines daily.  Use the time you’ve been given to enrich your relationship with the Giver of time.

Build your family life.  If you’re married and/or have children, prioritizing your spiritual life is the biggest favour you can do for your family, but the next thing you should do is deepen the relationships you share with those closest to you.  If you’re single, that can involve spending time with close friends.  Do things together.  Talk together, without competition from technology or television.

Rest.  In a world where the addiction to work (or even play) is not yet seen as a problem, rest is often frowned upon, but we all need it.  God set the example in creation where he looked at all he had made in 6 days, pronounced it good, and set aside the other day for rest.  Rest isn’t something we do just when we’re sleeping.  Remember, the word ‘recreation’ can be hyphenated to ‘re-creation’.  When we rest, we are re-created, rejuvenated, made ready for the week that is ahead of us; that’s why having a day of rest at the beginning of the week is so wise.  (Ever wonder why Sunday is on the left side of most calendars?)  Work from your rest, not toward it.

Of course, there can be overlap in all of these, can’t there?  We can build our spiritual lives and our family lives as part of our rest – but we should set aside some of that rest for personal renewal.  There’s no single formula for all this, so I encourage you pray about how the Lord would have you be a good steward of the time he has given you.  Hold your calendar before God as an offering.  Let the Lord speak to you as you seek to make priorities in your life.  After all, we think our time is our own, but in reality, time is in his hands.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3.1, NLT).