Archive for October, 2010

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Psalms, Prophecies & a Final Gospel

I am more than ready for some Psalms, how about you? This month we’ll read what is often referred to as Book 2 of Psalms – Psalms 49 through 72. I’ve jumped ahead and have read the first half dozen – and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
I will praise you forever for what you have done;
in your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

Psalm 52:8b-9

We’ll also read the first third of Isaiah where we’ll find some good prophecies about the birth of the Messiah – great reading as we prepare for the Christmas season. And we’ll have a privileged look at the throneroom of God through the eyes of Isaiah. I love this passage:

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:103

The Gospel of Mark is the only gospel we haven’t read yet, so we’ll tackle it in November. Mark is the fast-paced gospel – only 16 chapters, but he moves quickly from one scene to another.

And on the last day of the month, we’ll begin the book of Revelation, preparing ourselves to end the year with John’s Revelation of Christ.

I hope you’re continuing to rest at the river’s edge with us. Don’t give up when you fall behind, and don’t restrict yourself to our readings if you want to move ahead. The purpose of the plan is to keep us reading, and to help us read systematically through the entire Bible.

Enjoy this month’s time with God!

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of November’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
1 Peter 1:1b-2 (NIV)

I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia. 2God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood.
1 Peter 1:1b-2 (NLT)

I love the intros to many of the letters. There’s so much packed in those two and a half verses. Let’s unpack it a bit. It’s hard for me to be succinct because each phrase could be a whole sermon. Peter is writing to…

1) “God’s elect” or “God’s chosen people” – Those of us who have accepted Christ, those of us who bear the name Christian, are God’s elect or chosen people. It does something wonderful in my heart to know that God has chosen me, from the beginning of time, to be His. Wow! What encouragement that is to me. I am a chosen one of God and that ought to be the most significant piece of information and driving factor in my life.

“Lord, help me to make it so when I get misdirected.”

2) “Who are living as foreigners (strangers) in the world” – Our home is not this world, no matter where we live. Our home is in heaven with the Lord for all of eternity. Christ is preparing a special place for us there that will be perfectly suited to us. We are just passing through this world – let’s not get over attached to it! As strangers, this world ought to feel a bit “foreign” to us – we ought to be a bit uncomfortable in it. If we are comfortable in this world, it means that we’ve adjusted our actions, thoughts and deeds to conform to the standards and practices of this world instead of God’s world.

“Lord, remind me of my true home when I begin to get too comfortable in this one.”

3) “God chose you” – It is important to remember that it was God who did the choosing. Declaring with Joshua “me and my household will serve the Lord” is a good thing – but it is important that God chose us first. Otherwise, we can become prideful knowing that we made the correct, the best, decision, while some others still wander in darkness.

“Lord, as for me and my household, we will serve You…with humility and eternal gratitude for Your magnificent grace. Thank You for choosing me.”

4) “the Spirit has made you holy” – It is not our good works that makes us holy, or our regular attendance at church, or the wonderful time we had in worship this morning. It is the “sanctifying work of the Spirit.” He is the only one who can make us holy enough to stand before a perfectly holy and righteous God. The Holy Spirit teaches and guides us into holy living. Even better than that (from a worldly perspective), the Spirit teaches and guides us into loving holy living. In the natural, we think that sin is fun and holiness is boring. We have bought into a horrible lie of satan. Sinful living is hurtful and carries many, many negative consequences. Conversely, holy living brings life in greater abundance and joy.

“Holy Spirit, thank You for your sanctifying work in my life. I give you full permission to change me and change my thinking to make me holy.”

5) “for obedience to Jesus Christ” – We were not chosen on a whim or for no reason – we were chosen for a specific purpose – for obedience to Jesus Christ. I like to forget that sometimes and prefer to act in obedience to my own wishes and desires. It is our obedience to Jesus Christ that sets us apart as foreigners in the world in which we live. The aim of the sanctifying work of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ who learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

“Lord, I submit to You. I submit to Your will for my life. Help me to become a better servant in Your kingdom.”

6) “for…sprinkling by His blood” – The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins (1 John 1:7-9). We have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! I am forgiven! No more shame, no more guilt. He has cleansed me.

“Lord, again – thank You! Thank You! Thank You for choosing me and for forgiving me of all my sins. I so need it because I am a sinner and cannot wash that sin away. But You can and You did. Thank You.”

Friends, have you been cleansed from your sins? Are you one of God’s chosen people?

If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are, and all of this applies to you.

If you have never before recognized your need for a Savior, or don’t even understand what that phrase means, read more about it here. If you are feeling a tug at your heart or curiosity at what you’re reading, that is God motivating you to begin or continue your journey toward Him. He is calling you – He doesn’t want anyone to die without knowing Him – you need simply to respond. Pray simply –

“Lord, I want to know more about you. Come into my life, forgive me of my sins and send Your Holy Spirit to teach me how to live for You.”

If that’s the prayer of your heart, you are called and chosen by God. E-mail me (Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com) or send me a message through Facebook so that I can celebrate with you and help you get started on the right foot. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

In this three-part series, we first briefly looked at God’s fourth commandment – seeing that it was not only a commandment but a gift – a day set apart to rest from the curse that would later come through Adam and Eve’s sin and to enjoy and be refreshed by God. In the second blog I gave seven reasons that compel me to observe a weekly Sabbath. But I live in the real world with all the schedule struggles that each of you experience. Today’s blog is more practical in nature.

A significant key is to honor God by not being legalistic about the Sabbath while still being disciplined to abstain from working and spending time honoring God. Balancing freedom and discipline is the challenge of the Christian walk in many areas.

Sabbath Saturday, Sunday or ???
The Jewish Sabbath (or Shabbat) is from sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening. There is actually a short ritual and prayer that bookend the day, setting it apart as different from all other days. I have never observed a Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, but it’s on my bucket list! It seems to me that the traditions would enhance a Sabbath observance.

Some Christian denominations observe a Saturday Sabbath, but most recognize Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Whether Saturday or Sunday, I find that observing a Sabbath on one of those days, is easiest. However, I am by no means dogmatic about what day is honored Stepping out of legalism and into freedom, I honor the spirit of the law in lieu of the letter of the law. I am somewhat legalistic about it being one day a week (because if I’m not I too easily allow many weeks go by without a Sabbath), but exercise complete freedom about which day of the week.

My husband works two jobs – part time at our business and part time at a local hospital. His hospital schedule varies and he is required to work most Sundays. Each week we look at our schedules and set aside one day for him to honor as a Sabbath to the Lord. It’s sometimes very difficult for me to not violate his Sabbath when he’s been out of our office for several days and I need his assistance on a project. But Sabbath observing is as much about disciplining ourselves not to meet the demands of this world as it is about resting and enjoying the Lord. So I try not to be one of those demanders.

Observing the Sabbath on the same day every week is ideal, and clearly what God intended, but your schedule may not make that possible. In Phil’s case, for example, sometimes ten days may go by between Sabbaths and the next week it may be only five days. It’s not ideal, but it still honors God and enables Phil to experience the blessing of observing the Sabbath.

Do’s & Don’ts
People often think of a long list of restrictions when they think of observing a Sabbath day. The only true restriction is “don’t work.” Anything else I write is simply a guideline designed to help you enter into the spirit of the day. As I wrote in my first blog in this series, as a child I was not allowed to sew on Sunday. To me sewing was a joy and I never understood the rule. I understand now that the rule was developed when sewing was just another chore required to make a household run smoothly. My great-grandmother couldn’t stop by WalMart to buy a new dress for my grandmother when she outgrew the one she’d been wearing. Great-granny had to sew a new one. Hence, sewing was something that was prohibited on a day of rest. That rule was passed down to my grandmother and my mother and eventually me. I bucked the tradition.

Space does not allow for a lengthy discussion about how Christians might observe the Sabbath, but a few suggestions might be helpful. Again, they are not meant as rules, simply suggestions to get one started on a path of honoring the Sabbath and the One who created it. One suggestion, however, as you begin to enjoy Sabbaths as days set apart for the Lord – they take a little preparation sometimes. Don’t wait until your Sabbath day each week to enjoy it. Plan ahead to take a nature walk or gather with friends. Not every week, but frequently enough to keep your Sabbaths from disintegrating into days of sitting around doing nothing!

Do’s

  • Worship
  • Rest
  • Family activities that promote positive interaction
  • Fellowship with friends
  • Rest (repeated here because our natural inclination is to do something instead of do nothing)
  • Explore nature
  • Discuss God’s Word, nature, ways, etc. and what He is teaching – “discuss” means you’re gathering with family and/or friends for enjoyable times centered on God
  • Be creative – draw, sew, play an instrument, garden, write (so long as you’re not working at it!)
  • Practice peace

Don’ts

  • Work or discuss work
  • Discuss bothersome issues like finances and “to do” lists
  • Get lost for Sabbaths on end doing things alone – playing computer games, watching television, even reading
  • Rush – for anything or anywhere
  • Quarrel – set differences aside for a day
  • Adhere to a strict schedule

A key is to recognize the commandment, need and blessing of observing Sabbaths and making a commitment to do so. God will be honored and pleased by your efforts and you will be blessed more than you can imagine. I like what Abraham Heschel wrote in his book The Sabbath, It’s Meaning for Modern Man.

“The art of keeping the seventh day is the art of painting on the canvas of time the mysterious grandeur of the climax of creation: as He sanctified the seventh day, so shall we. The love of the Sabbath is the love of man for what he and God have in common. Our keeping the Sabbath is a paraphrase of His sanctification of the seventh day. (page 16) (bolding mine)

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Yesterday’s blog introduced the Biblical injunction for Israelites to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” While many believe it is not a requirement for Christians to observe a weekly Sabbath, I believe there is great blessing when we live as God designed us to live. Today, I give my six most compelling reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath. Tomorrow’s blog will address some practical issues surrounding observing a Sabbath without falling into legalism.

1. It is the Fourth Commandment
I have difficulty moving away from the fact that honoring the Sabbath is a part of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given as a covenant between the Lord and His people, the Israelites. As Christians, we have become a part of that covenant community, grafted in, as it says in Romans 11. Yet, we are also not a part of it. The covenant we have with the same Lord is no longer based upon the Law as providing a means for our righteousness, but upon our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death – His blood (once for all) instead of the blood of an annual animal sacrifice makes atonement for our sin and enables us to be righteous in God’s eyes. Hence, we are not under the same covenant. We are no longer under the Law, but the spirit of the law is still relevant. (In fact, it is the supremacy of the spirit of the law that Jesus repeatedly stressed in His teachings.) The spirit of the fourth commandment is a day in which we end our work (our striving), and enjoy God and His good gifts.

God’s covenant with the Israelites offers both a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. A review of Israel’s history illustrates not only that God was true to His word in both cases, blessing and punishing Israel for her obedience and disobedience, but also that He was long-suffering – He didn’t bring immediate punishment. So while we might not see an immediate affect from not honoring the Sabbath, we can be sure that it is building, that the long-suffering God we serve will reach a point when He removes His hand of protection and we experience the results of our non-stop lifestyle. (Is it not arrogance and pride on our part that disagrees with our Creator that we need a Sabbath?)

2. The Purposes for the Sabbath Still Exist
A study of Old Testament Scriptures shows that God had three purposes for the Sabbath: (1) serving as a day of remembrance, (2) establishing a testimony that we are God’s people, and (3) to provide a day of rest from our labors. Can anyone argue that there is still need for each of these things today? Each purpose continues to have validity in today’s world. With the many sounds and voices clamoring for our attention 24/7, setting aside a day each week when we intentionally remember the goodness of the One who set us free is more needed than ever. In a world that sees little difference between the people of God and everyone else, choosing a lifestyle change that focuses on God one day out of seven might begin to be a change that people notice. While research shows that the average American gets less sleep than they require, few of us need research to convince us of the truth. We need a day set aside each week for the specific purpose of “resting the body…replenishing the spirit…[and] restoring the soul.”[1]

3. Observing the Sabbath Demonstrates My Trust in God
Further, I find that observing the Sabbath (specifically, committing to setting aside one day each week in which we will not work) to be very similar to tithing in that it demonstrates my trust in God to provide for my needs rather than in my own efforts. When observing the Sabbath, the primary activity that we are to abstain from is work, whether paid or unpaid labor. To honor God, then, I must choose a lifestyle that can be lived within the limits of the six available days I have for working. When life gets crazy and I need the seventh day to “catch up” on work, I face a choice much like the choice I face when there are more bills than my 90% will cover. I can trust God and keep our covenant or I can choose to accomplish all that needs to be done in my own strength. I am reminded of Psalm 20 in which David says “some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Note that trusting God does not mean that I continue to accept deadlines at work and schedule too many activities in my life, trusting that God will allow me to accomplish in six days the same things I’ve been doing in seven days. Trusting God means that I change my work habits, working less hours if necessary, trusting that God will meet my needs. Trusting God in this situation means saying “no” to some activities, believing that God will find others to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

4. Observing the Sabbath Enables Me to Focus on What’s Most Important
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) In Matthew 22:40, he expands this teaching by adding, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, if we do only these two things, we will have met all the demands of the law and the prophets. Observing a weekly Sabbath enables me to do these two things better by giving my heart, soul, mind and strength a respite from toil and an opportunity to be refreshed and restored.

Sabbath keeping requires that we stop everything that might be considered work, pulling ourselves away from the toil and burden of it physically and emotionally. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish rules for keeping the Sabbath included not even being allowed to talk about work. The wisdom in this is that to talk about work brings it into one’s reality, even if one isn’t actually doing the work. Much of the work that is done in modern businesses is conducted in meetings. Talking about work is essentially just another business meeting. Accommodating these discussions on the Sabbath opens the door for any other kind of work as well.

I find that such discussions almost immediately change the atmosphere in the room and the focus of the day. By definition, it is no longer a day of rest. It is some hours of rest. My experience shows that there is a very large difference between a day and some hours. The interruption of even a short conversation about work is far greater than the time spent talking about it. For most people, their minds and bodies shift slowly into Sabbath and quickly back to the rest of the week. In other words, that short conversation can very easily trigger our minds and bodies back into “work mode.” The conversation may have been ten minutes, but the mind and body don’t return to their “Sabbath” state for another hour.

My husband and I learned many years ago that there were some subjects we should not discuss on the way to church. It’s not that these subjects would cause arguments, but that they would put us in too “earthly” of a mindset. It becomes too easy for those thoughts to encroach on our worship if we’ve discussed them on the way to church. It might seem like an innocent question that pops into our mind on the way to church but if it has any potential of carrying additional baggage, it is best left for another time. (Any question beginning with “did you remember to…” almost always falls in this category.) Sabbath keeping honors those kinds of rules for the entire day

5. My Heart and Soul are Transformed by the Sabbath
Entering into regular rest allows one to appreciate the “little” things of God – a beautiful sky, the wonder of nature, the nuances of His Word, or even His goodness in providing the life He’s given us. When in “work” mode, these things often go unnoticed and unappreciated. They are often an interruption or even an annoyance. But on a day when all we are supposed to do is enjoy God, we have time for these things and they refresh our souls. Mark Buchanan writes:

“When we get too busy everything becomes either a trudge or a scramble, the doldrums or sheer mayhem. We get bored with the familiar, threatened by the unfamiliar. Our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrivels…Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about.”[2]

Those things include God, family and the world around us.

Slowing down calms my heart and enables me to love God with my whole (healthier) heart, and to love my neighbor because neither is an “inconvenience” in my otherwise busy life. Instead, slowing down, loving God, and being kind to my neighbor are exactly the things I’m supposed to be doing on the Sabbath.

Ruth Haley Barton describes the “sabbath transformation” as follows:

“I know what it is like to rest for hours until I have energy to delight in something – good food, a good book, a leisurely walk, a long awaited conversation with someone I love. I know what it’s like to feel joy and hope and peace flow back into my body and soul though I had thought it might never come again. I know what it’s like to see my home and my children through the sabbath eyes of enjoyment.”[3]

How vital these things are for the Christian! How dramatically they impact our ability to show Christ to those around us. Sometimes it seems that few people truly enjoy their children today. Perhaps it is because they never experience a Sabbath that allows them the rest needed to care about the things that are most important to them.

6. My Mind and Strength are Transformed by the Sabbath
Only the most hardened against rest would argue that being over-tired weakens both our mind and our physical bodies. Nevertheless, let me cite a recent German study that provides:

“hard evidence…that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep… Scientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep…the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process.”[4]

Dr. Nilesh Davé, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center was quoted in the Dallas News explaining that being awake “longer than you should be for a few days” causes stress to your body. This stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, which “leads to higher blood pressure, more sugar in your blood…and an increased appetite.”[5] Notice that he says “for a few days.” Sleep deprivation does not mean living on four hours of sleep for days or weeks on end. It can mean getting only six or seven hours of sleep a few days in a row. God has provided a “backstop” to counteract the stress on our bodies. It’s called a Sabbath, a day in which we rest physically and emotionally and in which we allow God to restore and revive us spiritually.

7. Observing the Sabbath is the Only Way I Can Enjoy God’s Gift of the Sabbath
Both in yesterday’s blog and in today’s, I have used the word “gift” when referring to the Sabbath – it is God’s gift to His people, as are all the Commandments. The Sabbath can only be received and enjoyed as God’s gift when it is observed. This might seem so basic as to have no need of being included in this list, but were it so, we would be spending more time Sabbathing and less time rushing from church to work or meetings or even leisure commitments. One can only enjoy a Sabbath by placing oneself under the Sabbath’s authority – by saying the Sabbath has priority today, nothing else. The root of the Hebrew word for “sanctify” means “to betroth.” “When we betrothed – pledged to be married – it is a pledge that we honor whether it is convenient or not. Just as in a marriage, it is the honoring of that pledge in times when it is not convenient that strengthens the relationship and love between spouses. Honoring the Sabbath, the day God sanctified at the creation of the world, when it is not convenient makes its observance all the more special (and all the more needed).

That is quite a compelling list to me. How about you? Let me know what your thoughts are, and  join me again tomorrow for a discussion about observing a weekly Sabbath without becoming legalistic.


[1] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 142-143.

[2] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 47, 48.

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 137.

[4] _____ (AP article), “Study Confirms Sleep Essential for Creativity,” posted on CNN.com on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 (http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/01/21/sleep.creativity.ap/index.html).

[5] Leslie Garcia, “How Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Helps During the Day,” posted on DallasNews.com on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/DN-nh_sleep_0722liv.ART.State.Edition1.2ca4973.html).

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Preface: I’ve struggled about whether to make this a part of the “Let’s Be PC (Practicing Christians)” series, because there are many who believe that we have been released from any requirement to observe the Sabbath. In this series of three blogs you won’t find me citing (or refuting) the Scriptures that support their case. Rather, I look at the intent of the original commandment (part 1) and, having become convinced that it represents the heart of God, I address the tremendously positive reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath (part 2), and finally, some practical guidelines to keep us from legalism (part 3). So if you disagree that keeping a Sabbath is part of being a Practicing Christian, that’s OK. Don’t abandon the series – hang in there reading all three blogs and then let me know what you think. (Of course, feel free to leave comments on each blog. I love comments.)

“Ten Words”
The Lord spoke to the Israelites, giving them what is called the “ten words” or Decalogue. They are the only words He spoke to them directly. All other words He spoke through Moses. The content of those words is what we call the Ten Commandments. They provide instructions about the Israelites’ responsibilities toward God and toward one another. Their importance is not only underscored by being spoken directly by God, but also by their repetition, in whole or part, throughout the Old Testament.

I find it utterly amazing that in choosing to define the ten most important things that the Israelites should know and do, God chose to include a commandment to rest. Intermingled with commandments to not worship other gods, make false idols, steal, kill or commit adultery, is the commandment to rest one day each week. To our modern work ethic and independent western mindset, this makes little or no sense. To begin with, how can resting be as important as not killing or stealing? Secondly, in what way does resting honor God? We tend to think of our service to Him and others as honoring Him. Yet the fourth commandment reveals to us that resting somehow also honors God.

What a gift God gave to His people! Think about it – in the Garden of Eden, man sinned against God. His punishment was “in toil you shall eat of [the earth] all the days of your life” and “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:17b, 19a). Man’s punishment, in part, was that subduing the earth would now be accomplished by hard work. Yet God, in His great foreknowledge and mercy, had already established the seventh day as a day of rest and had blessed the day (Genesis 2:2-3). Before the fall of man, God laid the groundwork for the gift He would give His people – the gift that would provide a respite from the punishment they would soon bring upon themselves. What a gracious and kind God He is!

A Commandment to Remember and Rest!
The Ten Commandments were spoken by God to the Israelites and are recorded in Exodus 20:1-21. The Sabbath commandment is as follows:

8Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
Exodus 20:8-11

Moses repeats the Ten Commandments in their entirety and with few modifications in Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

Within the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath commandment is given more attention than any of the others. With the exception of the commandment to not make and worship idols all other commandments are a single sentence and verse. The Sabbath is given 4 verses, both in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

God tells us to “remember the Sabbath.” The word “remember” doesn’t simply mean to remember what day of the week it is. It means to set it aside or mark it as different. I can’t help but be convinced that when we honor the commandment, we also mark ourselves as different – because we live in a culture that defines spending our time in the constant pursuit of gaining more and having more as the very pinnacle of success. Our very practice of observing a weekly Sabbath says “there are things that are more important in life than just getting more things.”

A Sanctified Day
I grew up being told many things that I could not do because it was Sunday. One that always irked me as a young teenager was the rule that you can’t sew on Sundays because sewing was considered work. I tried in vain to explain that sewing was enjoyment to me, not work, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was not allowed to sew on Sundays. This in a household that was not very religious.

The Jews and many Christians (although many less today than in generations gone by) spent a lot of time defining what was NOT allowed because those things violated the commandment to “not work.” For many, this negative approach caused the day to lose it’s “remembering” aspect. Perhaps we focus so much on the “not doing” simply because it’s so much easier than defining what we should be doing to honor the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath is really about setting aside time to rest and enjoy the wonder of God and His creation as it is about.

In his book The Sabbath, Its Meaning for Modern Man, Abraham Heschel, does a masterful job of communicating this. Referring to the physical world and things in it as “space,” he explains the difference between the Sabbath and other days:

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space [i.e., the physical world]; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” (page 10)

Comedian Sam Levenson remembers understanding as a child that “through their [Sabbath] traditions [his parents] had the power to separate mundane time from sacred time, to declare one day out of seven above and beyond the slavish struggle for survival.”[1] Clearly, through traditions that might seem to outsiders to be nonsensical or annoying, the Sabbath was a day “set apart” as different from other days. Not different because we run errands or play instead of work, but different because it has spiritual significance. It is “holy” as God defined it.

As New Testament believers, we serve the same God who considered the Sabbath as important as those other commandments – thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt have no other Gods before Me. Honoring the Sabbath helps with that last one. Through these blogs, I’d like to encourage all of us to enter into that holiness in time. I am convinced that honoring God sets us apart as different from our culture (which is a good thing) and puts us in a better position to know Him and receive His blessing.

Tomorrow I’ll give you my six most compelling reasons to observe a Sabbath. Stay tuned…


[1] Sam Levenson, 1966 autobiography Everything but Money, p. 88, as quoted in the article “Fourth and Long: Presenting (and Resenting) the Sabbath” by Elliott Horowitz ; in The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol.97, No.3 (Summer 2007) published by the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, p. 453

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“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”
James 5:16b (NLT)

Several things have happened recently that have me thinking about those who have no one praying for them. I think they’re all around us and we just don’t see them. We are often so caught up in our own lives and our own challenges that we don’t look into the faces of those around us, and we notice their actions only when those actions interrupt the peaceful flow of our lives. The person walking or driving haphazardly in front of us, the rude store cashier and the angry customer grab our attention, but unless we’ve allowed God to transform our natural reaction, we probably become frustrated, annoyed and/or angry ourselves.

I’ve known for quite awhile that God allows (even sends) these people to cross my path to help transform me into the likeness of His Son – to help sand off my many rough edges. What rough edges you ask? Well, in these examples, it might be my pride (in my own abilities or my superior kindness), my impatience and my lack of love. Ouch! That’s not a pretty list. (Can kindness really be superior when my attitude is  “I’m kinder than that person?”) But God is working on transforming them and we’re seeing some improvement. 🙂

It occurs to me lately, however, that these same people may be the way they are, in part, because they have no one praying for them. The angry customer may be experiencing exceedingly difficult circumstances in his or her life, and he may be facing them totally alone. The person operating haphazardly may be in a mind trap of confusion with no one praying for clarity and wisdom.

How often do you pray for those around you? I don’t mean praying for your spouse and your children, your pastor and brothers and sisters in Christ, your family and others. I don’t even mean praying for the lost in general or specific people who need Christ. I mean praying for people you don’t know and know nothing about other than they seem to lack a joy of the Lord. It is these people – those that no one else has asked you to pray for – who may have no one praying for them. I’m guessing the answer is “not very often.” I know I don’t pray for those around me nearly as often as I should.

The truth that has gripped my heart is that perhaps NO ONE is praying for some of these people. If they grew up in a non-Christian or prayerless home, quite possibly – perhaps even probably – they aren’t on anyone’s prayer list. Or maybe they grew up in a Christian, praying home, but they have gone so far afield that their family has grown weary of praying for them. They have fallen off the prayer lists of those who once had hoped for their salvation.

I have an assignment and a challenge for us.

The Assignment
Over the next couple of days ask God to point someone out who needs your prayers. Then commit to pray for that person regularly. What a privilege to be the only person praying for someone – you may well be the key component that causes that person to turn toward the Lord.!

The Challenge
Commit to pray for each person you see tomorrow. As you sit in your car at a stop light, look at the person in the car opposite you and pray for them. As you walk through a store, pray for each person you pass and each person who serves you. Actively look for opportunities to pray for people. You will find yourself quite tired from the mental alertness that is required for such diligent praying. The first time I did this, I was shocked to realize how often I allow my mind to zone out or focus on things that were not profitable.

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Here’s a get-right-to-the-point blog from someone I read regularly.

You know if I had written it, I’d have done so with many more words! 🙂 Not necessarily more impact. Check it out.

Let’s choose together to linger in good places today!

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Being a Doctor Must be Strange!
I think being a doctor must be quite strange – in order to bring healing, the MD almost always has to damage perfectly healthy body parts. I’ve had healthy skin and muscles cut through to reach areas that require healing. I’ve had perfectly good bones drilled through so they could be connected to broken ones. (Do aspiring doctors really dream about using power tools?) In all cases, my body has developed scar tissue as a part of the healing process. I also have my share of scars from much more minor injuries sustained throughout my life.

There’s one scar on my hand that makes me smile every time I see it because it’s a reminder of a wonderful vacation I had in Cozumel. On the first day, though, I brushed my hand across the back of a wicker chair and scratched it. Why I still have a scar from what I really don’t remember as much of an injury, I don’t know, but it helps me remember the vacation wonderful fondly.

My Elbow Story
I also have a scar on my arm that represents a thoroughly unpleasant experience – I shattered my elbow about fifteen years ago. That was one of those times the doctor had to cut through perfectly healthy skin and muscle and drill holes in healthy bone to secure pieces of bone together. It’s a pretty big and obvious scar. Yet in the midst of the very painful recover, I experienced God more strongly than I ever have in my life. The scar is a reminder of that time, and also of the miracle He did in healing the elbow well beyond what several doctors said it would heal.

To me, these two scars are like the stones that the Israelites would pile up as a remembrance of something the Lord has done.

When my elbow was healing, I had to massage the incision area several times a day to keep scar tissue from forming inside. The scar tissue was hard and would restrict my future movement if I didn’t break it up as it was forming. It hurt to massage the sensitive skin and muscles. It wasn’t pleasant feeling the hard scar tissue under my skin as I rubbed it. The injury was too fresh in my mind, and the whole process made me want to cringe. After a couple of months, I had healed a great deal, but there seemed to be some scar tissue that no amount of massaging would soften. I went to a revival and healing meeting at a local church one night. After being prayed for, I felt the muscles in my arm relax and the scar tissue under the incision noticeably and significantly lessened. God had supernaturally massaged my arm and disintegrated most of the remaining scar tissue. What a gracious God He is!

Emotional and Spiritual Scars
Scars don’t just develop from our physical injuries. Emotional and spiritual pain and injury also causes scars, and these can be just as unsightly as our physical scars. More seriously, just like physical scars, they can restrict our future movement, ministry and freedom in Christ. And just like our physical scars, they don’t soften and break up on their own. They require the gentle massaging that comes through reading God’s Word, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and allowing the Lord Himself to step into our pain.

I am confident that God would like to work miracles in all the scarred areas of our life, if we’ll only let Him massage them a bit. When those areas are too fresh, we cringe from His touch, but He is patient. If we stay close to Him and open to His leading, He brings the subject up again and again until we’re ready to let Him do the deeper massage to break up hard tissue that obstructs our movement. It is for freedom that He has set us free (Galatians 5:1) – part of that freedom comes from willingly submitting to His gentle hand to work out the scar tissue in our lives.

Our emotional and spiritual scars also become like the stones the Israelites piled up as remembrances of what the Lord has done – both for us and for the Lord. We remember His graciousness and His healing power. He remembers our willingness to step into the line of fire, our perseverance through difficult times and circumstances, and our submission to His gentle hand of healing. I believe our healed scars are part of what makes us beautiful to the Lord. It is the battle-weary saint who captures the eye of her beloved.

Will you take a few moments today to ask God what scar tissue He would like to massage and heal? Wholeness is a wonderful thing and worth the pain that brings healing.

I pray peace and gentle massages in your healing journey today.

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