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Worship 101 - Sabbath

Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

When my younger brother turned 30 I told him "Welcome to the tired decade". My life is filled with good things but I have never worked harder or slept less. I'm tired. And into this season of my life God gave me a gift. He opened my eyes to the 4th commandment. Remember the Sabbath.

It is interesting that out of all ten-commandments, keeping the Sabbath is the only one that starts with “Remember”. I guess God knew we would forget. I remembered to go to church but I forgot to rest. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that in my 30 years of walking with the Lord I have never taken this commandment seriously until recently. I don’t know why I am so late to arrive, but I am excited to begin Sabbath 101 because I could use some rest, couldn’t you?

Most of my new thoughts about Sabbath have come from the following three books:

24/6 by Matthew Sleeth,

The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan and

The Bible by God.

I highly recommend these books…especially the last one. So, let’s begin there…

Psalm 46:10 – Cease striving and know that I am God

As I have meditated on the above passage I am struck by how well “striving” describes my normal mode of operation. I am a first-born, type-A personality with a strong sense of responsibility and a huge to-do list. I am naturally in a hurry. I want to be one of those people who has no sense of time or mortality. You know the people who blink really slowly and seem ridiculously happy? I am not one of those people. No matter what time I wake up I have a mini panic attack that I am already behind. I’m basically a full-fledged striver.

"Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I'm not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying? Sabbath keeping requires two orientations. One is Godward. The other is timeward. To keep Sabbath well - as both a day and an attitude - we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both. Unless we trust God's sovereignty, we won't dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we'll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath. " - Mark Buchanan

As God continued to invite me into Sabbath rest I began to wonder, what would happen if I were to “cease striving” for one day a week? I am not vain enough to think that the world will stop turning or that the church will cease to exist but it seemed highly likely that my house might become unfit for residence if I took a weekly vacation. What does it look like to “rest” when you live with your work? What does it look like to honor the Sabbath when you work for a church? After seeking wisdom about this topic, God began to answer these questions by redefining my idea of rest.

First of all, a vacation is by very definition a vacating of one’s life. I cannot vacate my life once a week. I have babies to feed and care for and napping for hours on the couch is not an option for me currently. God is teaching me, however, that I don’t need to “vacate” my life in order to rest. I simply need to limit my work and adjust my mind-set. I have been experimenting with various boundaries/guidelines to help me honor the Sabbath and I look forward to sharing some of those details with you in a later post. For now, let me summarize a few of the main things I have learned:

  1. Sabbath isn’t a vacation, it is an invitation to be fully awake in your life. An invitation to slow down and really see your loved ones. An invitation to have good conversations with your spouse that include more than the week’s scheduling logistics.

  2. Sabbath is an opportunity to say thank you. We spend so much time “striving” to build a beautiful life and Sabbath gives us a chance to actually enjoy it. It is a day to say “what I already have is enough”. We can improve and build and accumulate the other six days of the week but Sabbath is for enjoying the fruits of our labors.

  3. Sabbath is a day that has margin. Our lives are increasingly busy and Sabbath is a built in time for reflection and quiet and unscheduled time. Time to read. Time to sleep. Time for worship. Time to pray. Time to sit on your porch and watch the sunset. Time. What a beautiful gift.

God made us and He remembers that we are dust. He knows what we need and He has instructed us to rest once a week. Of all the commands we could resist, why do we resist rest? It is not a burden, it is a gift. Would you consider asking the Lord to show you what Sabbath rest could look like for you and your family in your current season of life? His answer might require you to have some hard conversations and make some tough changes but, as with all obedience, I am confident it will be worth it.

“Genesis opens with the Lord speaking the universe into existence. After each day, the Lord said, “Good.” When you and I were formed, the Lord said, “Very good.” Yet when the Sabbath was created, the Lord whispered, “Holy.” – Matthew Sleeth, MD

Let’s honor the Sabbath and keep it holy and enjoy this gift that the Lord has given us.

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