Encouragement From The Word

The gift of Sabbath

That our current social situation has occurred in the season of Lent is no small irony to me.  For many, though not all, Christians, Lent is a season for sacrifice and penitence, often symbolized by “giving something up” for these forty days.

And globally, we’ve been forced to give up quite a lot!

While many are still working, either from home or as those engaged in what are deemed essential services, one thing that has been taken from us is ordinary social engagement.

We who are introverts may be saying, “I was made for this!”, but with perhaps a few exceptions, even we who gain energy by being alone are finding this time particularly trying.  It’s as if being told we can’t do something makes us want to do it anyway.

I haven’t left town for a week now, but as I look at photos online, the streets and highways are nearly empty.  Malls are closed.  Restaurants, save for take-out and delivery, are abandoned.  Sports and concert venues are now echo chambers.  It’s kind of eerie.

Amid all this, though, we are hearing reports that air quality in many densely populated cities is improving.  Water quality is changing for the better.  The world appears to be healing in ways it never would have without the spread of Coronavirus.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that Coronavirus is a good thing; not at all!  But if there can be any good seen coming from it, the environment may be it.  But there’s more.

When God made the world, the Genesis account says that he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh.  Even in creation, there was Sabbath.

But our society, especially over the past 75 years, has been on a steep trajectory away from Sabbath.  Businesses flourished, stores opened on Sunday, and busyness was considered a badge of honour.

Now, we’ve been placed in a position where, for the most part, Sabbath is not optional.  We can’t go out with others.  We can’t go to concerts.  We can’t take our kids to their hockey practices.  We’re stuck…with the people with whom we live, be it family or friends or even strangers.

It’s like we’re being forced to stop and breathe.  And that’s a good thing.

We don’t know how long this season of restraint will continue, but perhaps a good question for us to consider is this:  will we learn something from it?

Certainly, this time is a gift to our immediate families (however they may be defined economically – that is, by household) as we are given the gift of time to reconnect with them.  It’s also a gift of time wherein we may reconnect with God.

In times like this, people who might otherwise have not given any thought to the Divine are turning the thoughts and hearts toward God – the God who made the world and rested.

This is a time of Sabbath.  Embrace it.  Rest with your family, rest in the Lord.

And carry that into your future, whatever it may hold, when we are free to resume whatever may be called ‘normal’.  Let it be a new normal – if not for others, at least for you.

…enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day” (Isaiah 58.13b, NLT).

By the way, if you don’t have an online church home in these days, you are welcome to join the online community with St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live, or for replay anytime on our YouTube channel.

 

Encouragement From The Word

Rest

Rest:  it’s important.

We all know it’s important.

Yet too few of us take time for real, significant rest.

We live in a time when the culture values busyness, almost as a badge of pride.  “How are you?” someone will ask.  “Oh, I’m great.  Really busy,” we reply.

A while back, I saw a meme online that showed the image of a cellphone battery in the ‘red zone’ – less than 10% power remaining.  It said, “You’d never let this happen to your phone.  Why do you let it happen to yourself?”

We are a society of the dangerously tired.  We so tightly schedule our own lives – and those of our children – that we leave little margin for God to work in our lives, or for us to notice God’s work in our lives.  We need rest.

The Bible follows an “order of creation” model for teaching us about the value of rest by suggesting that because God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we, too, should take one day a week for rest and re-creation.  Every week.  Yes, every week.

Many of us think that would be impossible to do, but it wouldn’t be impossible.  We just have to undertake the hard work of prioritizing what matters in our lives.

As I’ve said before, in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus.  Work does not prepare us for eternity.  Sports do not prepare us for eternity.  But worship and rest do prepare us for eternity.

Eternity is a long time.  Don’t you think that which prepares us for eternity deserves top priority?

Christians traditionally take Sunday as their day of rest, because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.  And it is from that day of rest and worship that we are able to have the energy to undertake all that the coming week holds.

I know that not everyone is able to take Sunday as a rest day in our secular culture.  But if you can’t take Sunday every week, at least take a day somewhere in there.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20.8, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word is taking an eight-week hiatus while I take a long-planned and much-needed Sabbatical.  This weekly email will return on Friday, November 29, 2019.

Encouragement From The Word

Rest on your long weekend

Where I live, this weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer:  the Victoria Day long weekend.  The major north-south highway that is just a few kilometres from here will be plugged with vehicular traffic making its way to and from the cottages that populate the many lakes of what Ontario calls “Cottage Country”. People will be breaking out the shorts and the sandals, irrespective of the weather.  But opening up the cottage can be a fair bit of work.  There’s cleaning and raking and so many other little tasks that need to be done in order for enjoyment to take place.

Many people, though, will stay home, preferring to mark the long weekend with yard improvements and maintenance.  This is the time when nurseries and home renovation stores do a booming business.

Here’s a question to ponder:  how often does a long weekend, for you, include rest?  The idea behind statutory holidays is to give workers time off from their paid labour, to be sure; but whether or not we include time off from our unpaid labour is our own responsibility.

As human beings, we were created not for constant work, but for a cycle of work and rest.  When God made the world, he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh.  This is not so much a scientific statement as it is a theological statement:  the God of the universe, who is all-powerful, so believes in the value of rest that he himself took a day off.

So why wouldn’t you?

We live in a culture that values busyness.  But the church, we are reminded, is called to be counter-cultural.

By all means, enjoy your cottage, enjoy your back yard, enjoy whatever this weekend holds for you…but take one day off from things that mustbe done.   I recommend that day be Sunday, so you can worship God in community and share fellowship with others.  See you in church!

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62.1, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

Looking at all four legs?

Leadership expert John Maxwell tells the story of why animal trainers go into a cage of lions carrying whips, pistols and stools.  Why stools?

Apparently, the trainer holds the stool by the back, and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal.  It tries to focus on all four legs at once, and in that attempt, a sort of paralysis overwhelms the animal.

It becomes tame, weak and disabled, because its attention has been fragmented.

Does that sound just a wee bit familiar?  It does to me, that’s for sure.

I keep myself busy, without a doubt, as I’m sure you do.  And at times, I consider whether I should stop doing something, but when I do, I realize that if I did stop something, I would likely just pick up something else in its place.

We have accustomed ourselves to doing something all the time.  There can be value in that, but only up to a certain point. Each of us needs margin in our lives.

If you’ve been looking at all four legs on that stool, and you feel paralyzed, it’s time to stop and re-evaluate.  What could you give up to build more margin into your life?  Sometimes, we need to give up something good, something very good, in order to have time for that which will make usbetter, not least of which is time with the Lord.

Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46.10, NLT).

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.)

 

 

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).