Tag Archives: Sabbath

A LOOK BACK: Meet Antichrist

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

A LOOK BACK: The God of Jean Valjean

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

Another Form of Trifling

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE 
So I commend enjoyment because there’s nothing better for people to do under the sun but to eat, drink, and be glad. This is what will accompany them in their hard work, during the lifetime that God gives under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 CEB)

  America was founded on what I call the Puritan ethic. That ethic is deeply ingrained in the theology held by Puritans who were TULIP Calvinists. “What is TULIP, you might ask?” It stands for the following:

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election 
  • Limited Atonement 
  • Irresistable Grace 
  • Perserverance of the Saints 

In essence, this theological position states that humans are totally depraved and filled to the core with sin, that God elects those whom God elects due to God’s will and NOT due to any sort of condition, that Jesus only died for the elect (whoever they are) and not for anyone else, that those who are elect cannot resist God’s grace, and that once one is elect one is always elect. One cannot lose their election or their salvation.

Of course, no one can know whether they are elect or not. Not even the Puritans knew whether or not they were elect, though they believed certain things were signs of election. One of the biggest signs was how hard one worked. If one was a hard worker, and did not trifle time away, that was a sign that one was possibly elect. It wasn’t guaranteed, but it was a sign.

This may sound absolutely ludicrous to you. I mean, who in their right mind would even remotley point to a merit-based measure of Christian Salvation. Of course, the Puritans would say that hard work does not earn salvation, but just that a hard work ethic is a sign of one being saved. It is the fruit of salvation, so-to-speak. So, it would be a complete and total misunderstanding to say that TULIP Calvanists such as the Puritans ever thought one could earn their own salvation. With that said, their theology put hard work into the soul of America.

You might now be asking, what in the world is wrong with that? In and of itself, hard work is a good thing, right? It is what has propelled America and the world into progress. As a huge Disney fan I think of the Carousel of Progress, which shows how our society has amazingly progressed from the turn of the twentieth century to where we are in the twenty-first century. Yet, in that progression I can also see the downside of a world that continually moves and never stops to slow down or take a pause.

In my last devotion, I wrote how time is of the essence and how Rev. John Wesley (following the guidance of Scripture) had the rule of never trfiling away time and/or of never being trifingly employed. This is an important rule, for sure; yet, I will put forth the following proposition, which I feel is an important addendeum to John Wesley’s rule: resting, the observation of Sabbath and holy rest, is an important time to not be trifled with. Working without cessation is trifling with God’s time as much as is working mindlessly without purpose on unimportant tasks.

Today’s challenge is for us to start to work hard at resting, at observing Sabbath. We can do that by making sure we take regular time off. We can do that by ensuring that we do things that bring us fulfillment and enjoyment. While it is important to work hard for the glory of God, it is just important that we rest and that we play. Just as God works, finds enjoyment in creative playfulness and rests, so too it is important that we do not let the Puritan work ethic get the best of us and our souls.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” – Eugene H. Peterson

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see that rest and the enjoyment of play are equally as important as hard work. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #2: Working Too Hard

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 NRSV)

Shabbat ShalomWell, Christmas has come and gone and now we are fastly approaching the New Year. A couple of days ago Pope Francis I gave his “Festive” Christmas speech to the cardinals that serve as the administrators of the Holy See. I put festive in quotes because that is typically what these speeches are during the Christmas season. They are reiterations of the meaning of Christmas, the coming of the Christ-child, as well as exhortations of how the Church is to continue to represent the Christ-child in the world. By that understanding of the word “festive”, the speech the Pope gave was anything but festive. It was a scathing assessment of his Cardinals who he said lusted after power, among fourteen other hard line critiques of the “ailments” plaguing the church. I think it to be an important exercise for the universal Church, and us as individuals, to follow suit and examine ourselves as we, no doubt, have fallen ill with some (if not all) of these ailments.

Ailment # 2: Working too hard. How many of us truly take the time to rest from our labors and obligations? We are living in a world that demands every last bit of time we have. There is just so many things going on and not enough time to do it all. There’s work, work and more work. There’s family obligations, societal obligations, church obligations, and many other things that we find ourselves caught up in. That the Pope is addressing this issue with other clergy is no big surprise. Clergy are notorious for spending every last minutes working at the neglect of family time, neglect and self-care. In seminary, one of the classes I was required to take was a class called “Pastoral Formation.” One of the central points of that course was to encourage the seminarian to begin to lay down the foundation for self-awareness and self-care. This is not SELFISH…but a part of well-being. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of others.

The church talks the talk about observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy; however, when it comes to the walk, the church trips all over itself. In ancient Judaism, Sabbath was one of the key things that made the Jews different from outside cultures. Whereas the Gentile world did not reserve a day of rest and considered all days as fair game for work, Jews were extremely intentional about the importance of Sabbath. While Jesus resisted any sort of senseless rigidity to the law that prevented people from serving God and doing what’s right on the Sabbath, Jesus never, ever rejected the Sabbath but was a Sabbath observing Jew himself!

The challenge for the church is this, are encouraging people to rest, to take a break, to observe Sabbath? Or are we driving people to work, work, work and work until they burn out and are no longer capable of serving? Are we laying the burden on a few to do the work of the many, or are we raising up disciples to help spread the work out, make the load lighter and to give everyone an opportunity to rest? The challenge for individuals is this: Are you alotting for an appropriate amount of rest in your schedule? Or are you working tirelessly with little to no time to rest and celebrate life. Conversely, are you getting too much rest and allowing others to burn out as a result of your not being willing to help lighten the load?

Regardless of what side of this you come down on, regardless of how you answer, know that observing the Sabbath is crucial to your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well being. And know that just as it is a sin to not observe the Sabbath, it is also a sin to hoarde the Sabbath to yourself at the detriment of others. Working too hard is a sin, as is allowing others to work too hard. Pray for balance in your life, the lives of others and in the life of the church so that we may begin to heal from the ailment of working too hard.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” – Eugene Peterson

PRAYER
Lord, continually remind me of the importance of Sabbath rest so that I may become more attentive to it. Amen.

Sabbath Is Holy

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16)

JCS.ht266Just recently I went to Moravian College to watch their production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. That is one of my favorite musicals and one of my favorite portrayals of Jesus. What I love about it, in particular, is how human and relatable Jesus is in that film. It makes no presuppositions of who Jesus is in terms of his divinity; rather, it leaves that open for the interpretation of each individual in the audience. While this may make some faithful Christians uncomfortable, I believe it is powerful because it presents Jesus much in the same way his disciples would’ve come to see him and know him…each with their own expectations of who he is and what they hoped he would accomplish.

And Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s one scene where he’s dreaming of people who are in need. First it is just one poor beggar. Then another person, this time crippled. Then another person shows up needing healing from leprosy. Jesus reaches out to help these people but, before he knows it, he is surrounded by a crowd of needy people. Each one of them want Jesus to touch them, to heal them, to make them well. Each one of them wants a piece of Jesus and, as more and more crowd him, Jesus realizes there’s just not enough of him to go around. “Heal yourselves,” Jesus cries out into the darkness as he awakens from what became a nightmare.

Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s another scene in the film where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying out to God to spare him from the torture and humiliating death he’s about to face. In this heart-wrenching song, Jesus pleads with God and sings these words: “I only want to say, if there is a way, take this cup away from me for I don’t want to taste it’s poison and feel it burn me; I have changed, I am not as sure as when we started. Then I was inspired, now I am sad and tired. Listen, surely I’ve exceeded expectation, tried for three years…seems like thirty…could you ask as much from any other man?”

Every time I hear those words I begin to cry. The song forces me to reflect on Jesus’ ministry and all the things he tried to say and do, all the miracles and signs he performed, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God. I think of Jesus weeping on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, knowing that this city will reject him and condemn him to die. I also cannot help but reflect on my ministry and all of years that have led me to where I am now. While I am not, to my knowledge, going to be crucified any time soon (hopefully never), doing ministry can and is exhausting work. Caring for others is draining work. Anyone who has ever cared for their sick parent(s), for family or for friends knows just how draining that can be.

There’s no doubt Jesus got tired, even exhausted, throughout his three-year ministry. But Jesus also set the example that a part of doing ministry includes caring for yourself. Jesus would take time a part from his ministry, from the crowds and even from his disciples and he would go up on the hillside to pray. There are times when we just need to be alone, to have that precious down time where we can rest, reflect and even spend time in conversation with our God.

If you are feeling tired and exhausted, if you are feeling worn down, know that it is not only okay for you to rest, but it is absolutely healthy and important for you to. Jesus did it, I do it from time to time, and you should too. You cannot minister to others if you are unable to minister and take care of yourself. Today’s challenge is for you to set apart some down time for you and get recharged for the work God is calling you to do. Sabbath is HOLY.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” Dalai Lama

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to withdraw the busy-ness of my life so that I may find refuge and renewal in you. Amen.