Category Archives: Sabbatical

Mark 2.23-3.6

Title: Stop Day

Text: Mark 2.23-3.6

Introduction:

56 Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my righteousness be revealed.

        Blessed is the man who does this,

and the son of man who holds it fast,

who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,

and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

 

When David Green built his first craft store in 1972, he wanted to keep it closed on Sundays. He wanted it that way so that his families, his employees and everyone involved with his store could have the day off. He wanted to, but he didn’t. His competitor had made threats about running him out of business. So, in order to keep up with the competition, he caved in and kept his store open on Sundays. But it always bothered him.

His business thrived and so he expanded. He donated his money to charities and supported ministries, but his conscience still got the best of him. It really was good for his customers. He worked by that motto: the customer always comes first. That was until two decades into this successful business, a voice told him, “I must come first” – not the customers.

He did some research and saw that Sunday was his most profitable day. He made $100 million alone on Sundays each year. So he prayed diligently about it. Well, you know what he did. You know the story. Hobby Lobby began closing its doors on Sundays. And that is when things really took off.

David Green’s story is pretty dramatic. A couple of years ago, Forbes listed David Green in the top 100 wealthiest Billionaires in America. Your story is probably much less dramatic and doesn’t seem to compare losing $100 million of business a year: Little league or soccer, a mid-term or final exam, a research paper that is due; A spelling test? But let me ask you: what would it be like to live life six days a week, and on the 7th to shut it down? That’s right – for 24 hours during the week, you decide to shut life down. It just might be harder than you think!

What does it mean to Observe the Sabbath day? More importantly, what does it mean to you?

Is this one commandment any less important than the other 9? Deu. 5.12:

12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

There are 10 commandments and this one begins a little different than the others. Do’s and don’ts, shall’s and shall not’s and this one starts with Observe.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he said it was good. When he created man, he said it was very good. Then, on the 7th day, he rested from his work. He stopped his work and he didn’t say it was good. He didn’t even say it was very good. No, he said it was holy. Gen. 2.3;

The early Hebrews didn’t have a name for each day of the week. They simply called it one day, two day, three day, four day, five day, six day, and stop day.

So, why? What was God’s reason for creating seven days to a week and then commanding that the 7th day be kept holy? Obviously, God gave the command – but why? What was his intention? What is the principle behind the command? It isn’t just about being legalistic…it’s about God’s character. God is revealing to us a part of his character. Think about this: God worked for 6 days. He created the earth, the seas, the skies. He created the things that go into all of them: he placed the lights where he wanted and the flying things where he wanted and the creepy crawly things where he wanted. He did all that he planned in 6 wonderful days. And then, on the 7th day – not because he was tired mind you – but because he is holy – he then rested. Have you ever thought of resting as holiness?

(Pause…)

The 1st 3 commandments – they’re all about God. The last six – they’re about our relationship. The 4th one in the middle – it really is the connection between the two. It seems to connect closely with both sides.

What I find funny about myself – maybe you do about yourself – is that I’m squarely focused upon the others. Pick any of the other 9 commandments and I with you. This one, for many years, didn’t feel to bad about breaking. But should I be as concerned about this one as I am about the others?

The Jews were! The Religious leaders were! Their problem is that they took it too far. My problem is I take it too lightly. Do you know both are just as wrong?

Deut. 4.2: “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Here’s where the Pharisees have failed: It may be against the law to reap a harvest on the Sabbath, but it is never wrong to feed the hungry. The laws against working were made for people – not the other way around. In other words: there is a spirit and intent in the law.

Time and again we see Jesus set people free from their burdens – that is, giving them rest from their burdens. That is the case in chapter 3.1-6; I love the drama here. Jesus enters into the synagogue and there is within, a man with a withered hand. Now, they’re watching Jesus, to see if he is going to break the Sabbath by working – that is healing. And their intention, is listed clearly in v. 2 – in order that they might accuse him. (Whistle to demonstrate the showdown). You can almost here the spurs of Jesus click as he walks across the floor. Come here he tells the man with the withered hand. In the drama I’m playing out in my mind, he sounds a little bit like Clint Eastwood. He asks them point blank: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” Let’s pause the story right there. For some reason Mark leaves the story as it is: Matthew and Luke expound on it further. In Mt …11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

That’s the spirit of the law.

The Sabbath day, in keeping its observance, was never a day intended to hurt people. It isn’t a day intended to make the hungry continue in their hunger. The hungry person doesn’t rest when they are hungry. To watch someone languish in pain isn’t holiness in action. The person in bondage doesn’t rest when they are still in bondage. Jesus is saying that you have more compassion for your animals than you do another human being. He isn’t saying don’t have compassion on your animals, but your compassion should be extended to humans, too. Let’s get back to our drama being played out like a western…

He asked them (in a Clint Eastwood voice): “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…

I wonder if Jesus has ever looked at me with anger, and grieved because my heart was hard toward the very things that are precious to him? I’m sure the answer to that is yes.

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” Man this is great cinema! He’s talking to the man with the withered hand, but he’s staring down these religious leaders with hard hearts. And, He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Instead of marveling – like this is something super cool – they get mad.

That is so like the legalist. The legalist doesn’t care about rest. He doesn’t care about restoration. He doesn’t really even care about the Sabbath. He only cares about the rules.

This brings me to another question: Just what does it mean to rest?

There is a feeling I have – a place I go in my mind – where I think: that’s what rest is. In Worland, Wyoming, in the summer months, the days are long. On one particular day, and there were many like it over the 8 years we lived there, I was laying in the grass staring up into the dark blue sky. As I lay on the ground looking up into the blue, it looked like it was snowing – big, heavy snowflakes. It wasn’t snow, though; it was cotton wood spores. I don’t know if you’ve ever laid out on a green lawn against a blue sky and just watched it snow cottonwood spores. You can YouTube it and watch. I remember just laying there with my kids. Dolly, the old lab that ran the farm was there with us. We just laid there and watched it snow cottonwood spores.

No care in the world. No hurry to get anywhere. No cellphone. No deadline. I’m sure I’ve rested. I know I did in Colorado while on Sabbatical. But that moment in my life, as a young father will stick with me – probably forever – as a moment of rest.

Can I pause for a moment and list a few points about the Sabbath made so far – maybe just a quick way of review?

  1. The 4th Commandment is in two parts:
    1. Observe the Sabbath day. You are conscientious of that day. Planning for it. That means, you set that day apart from the others. The Hebrew literally says, Be careful to observe
    2. To keep it holy. The idea of keeping is guarding, observing.
  2. The Sabbath day is holy. It is set apart. It is special, that is, compared to the others. It is a Holy day.
  3. The Sabbath day is a day of rest. Remember it is called Stop Day. Rest from your labor – a day of rest from making money, yes, but even more. It is a time also to rest your spirit, soul and mind. Free yourself from tasks undone. Don’t pick them up again until the Sabbath is over.
  4. In our text, it is a day of restoration – that is giving rest to the burdened from their burden. It is healing.
  5. In this context, then – The Sabbath is something that involves others. It can be eating together and enjoying each other’s company. It can be meeting someone else’s need – giving them rest, as it were.

So, how can someone observe the Sabbath and keep it holy in today’s context?

I say, first, to look for the reason behind the rule, the principle behind the precept. Why did God put that command before us? I’m not saying this is the only reason, but this sure makes sense: I think it helps us prioritize our lives.

  1. God takes precedent on that day. Really, he does everyday. But on this day in particular, you’re not saying it, you showing it. You show it by when you go to bed. You show it by when you get up. You demonstrate it by picking out your clothes, and shinning your shoes. You teach it to your kids by doing those things with them. Sunday dinner gets planned earlier. You put on the roast, the crock-pot, whatever. Everything you do shows that God is taking precedent on that day. You plan the day out, so that on that day – you don’t have to work through it. You plan the day out, so that God takes precedent.
  2. You get your work done, because you know you’re not going to do that work on the Sabbath. You organize and structure your workweek with the full intention of resting on the Sabbath. It helps prioritize.
  3. All week long, work has taken precedent. Your schedule, your priorities, your duties focus on work. You’ve not had time for family like you wish. But that ends. On this day, you spend more time with your family: kids, grand kids, your wife, your husband. They take priority over what has pushed them to the back. The Sabbath helps us prioritize our lives.
  4. All week long your family has taken a back seat to your job. Maybe your wife has been burdened with a task she can’t finish because something she needs is broken or it isn’t working right. So, you fix it and set her free from that burden. Your kids haven’t been able to ride their bikes. You make that right. You make the repair or you take them somewhere. You set them free, so to speak.

 

Application using the commandment:

  1. Be Careful. Don’t add to or take away. You can add things to the Sabbath like the Pharisees that will detract for what God intended. You can also become so lax about it, that before you know it, it ain’t holy anymore.
  2. Observe and keep it holy. Plan your week around the Sabbath. Get stuff done, so that you can rest. Make plans for those repairs or for teaching your little girl how to fish or shot a rifle. That might mean stopping by the store before hand and getting some tackle or bait or ammo. It might mean ordering the part. It might mean making plans to go to bed a little earlier. Do what needs to be done, so that you can observe the Sabbath more simply.
  3. Unburden others. Not only are you supposed to rest and be unburdened, but so also are others. Don’t burden someone else. If you go out, don’t be a burden to others. Tip in such a way that those who have to work will feel like it was nothing. Try 100%. Matter of fact – don’t be a burden to them. Some people won’t go out on Sunday for that very reason – not to be a burden to others. If you see someone in need – do what you can to meet that need. Pay for their meal. Leave their server a tip.

 

I’d like to read a story: Matthew Sleeth, 24/6, p. 131.

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Sabbatical Report: The Transforming Power of God’s Word

Title: Sabbatical Report

Text: Isaiah 55.1-13

Introduction:

Let me begin by saying hello! Long time no see! Thank you for the privilege of taking time to rest with my wife. I know many of you carried a heavier load because of my absence. KK, Wendy, Lyle for teaching my class, elders. Thank you all for blessing me. All the cards of encouragement; there were a couple of texts – nothing involving the church or church matters, but just a “hey, miss you, praying for you.”

It was a great time to get away. We lived up North before we moved here and it was nice experiencing some of the seasonal changes. Did you know it cools off at night in the mountains?

Let me tell share with you the purpose I had set before the elders back in July. Prospectus was presented to the elders:

Purpose: The intended purpose of this sabbatical is rest and renewal toward sustained excellence in ministry. This will involve a break from regular ministry activities and studies toward vision and purpose in ministry.

I set an agenda to concentrate my life around five separate areas:

Rest – I did. I took walks; I planned to take naps, but I think I only took two. I normally take a nap after every Sunday service. I found that not necessary anymore! I read a book entitled 24/6 – Did you know God says more about the Sabbath than any other of the 10 commandments? The Sabbath is for healing, restoration, to help other people. Christians, however, have profaned the Sabbath rest. Did you know that service industry people don’t like working on Sunday afternoons because Christians are the worst customers? They’re the most demanding, the rudest and the worst tippers. Now I’ve only known a handful of service industry people. But that’s what I’ve heard from them. What if we were to change that? What if we believers started presenting a better witness to the community? What we became not so demanding and what if we tipped better than the Friday and Saturday night crowds? What if we tipped 100% of our bill for that single mother waitress working her 2nd job? What if the service industry desired to work Sunday afternoon the most? What if we just decided not to go out to lunch after church if we couldn’t tip 100% of the bill? What about 50%? If we did that, we’d be more in line with what the Sabbath was intended for… Just a thought? We’ll come back to that in the coming weeks. I’ve got an idea: Sunday School teachers – make this a question to ponder amongst your students.

A 2nd area covered on my agenda was:

Renewal

– I met with a counselor from Focus on the Family.

– I met with some pastors and interviewed them.

– I read through the Bible with Lisa each evening. I had a separate time of reading each morning and was able to read through the NT and much of the OT a 2nd time. Angela asked me to describe what it was like in one word. I said: refreshing. I asked Lisa the same question and she said: clarifying.

– I wanted to find some good books to help me do this. I did. I read some part or all of 23 books.

– I also did some physical therapy for my mind and my shoulder. I swam laps, which is good non-weight bearing therapy, as well as helps with the range of motion. The hikes up into the mountains were my delight. I love hiking in the wilderness. I found old, abandon mines; equipment; abandon cabins

Reflection – It was amazing that God took me back over time and brought back to remembrance some things I haven’t thought about in years. Moments, I guess, that were crossroads for me. I found pivotal moments for me where I made decisions that affected my life. And so I asked the LORD why? Why did I have to relive those? And, I think God was leading me to a place where I asked Him to help me not make foolish decisions or choose 2nd best. Instead, I want to be wise and follow God, trust God to take me down the best road. I want to look back over the next 25 years and not have a single regret!

Retool – I’ve thought of this part of the sabbatical as not necessarily making huge changes – getting new tools, but rather to sharpen and hone the tools God has given me. Ecclesiastes 10.10 states: If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. (NASB)

  • I attended the T4G conference on Evangelism via the internet. That was cool. It inspired me to read,
  • Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by JI Packer. That was one book that helped me.
  • Another was the inspiration classic The Call of the Committed by Elton Trueblood. Wow! Timeless. Lisa and I read that together.
  • Preaching and Preachers by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones was another classic that inspired me.
  • Probably the most beneficial book for me was The Vine and the Trellis, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. This book probably fits better under the 5th area: refocus.

Refocus – There are some principles in this book that convicted me from Scripture about what discipleship really is and what it isn’t! I have an idea of the direction I’d like to move in the area of discipleship – namely, more relationship interaction in a one on one environment. I have some ideas I’ve outlined that I’ll present to the elders for their interaction and probably begin implementation of this idea after the New Year. Again, I’ll visit with the elders about the logistics. You probably already have questions. This isn’t the forum to answer those questions. Like I said, I’ll iron out the details with the elders and present all of the information when it’s appropriate. Let me just say, Discipleship is an area of focus for me.

Besides a focus shift on Discipleship, God moved my heart in the area of Prayer. I think my prayer life has suffered over the past 9 years. I’ve always felt it was important, and yet, I allowed less and less time for it. That has changed. I spend about an hour in prayer each morning, with my prayer book and journal. I wonder if my theology has hurt my prayer life? I think so… Sometimes I grow weary in my prayers. My collarbone has been broken for 5 months. I’ve been praying for healing for 5 months. God is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants. I can’t make him. God just did a number on my prayer life. Added to this, I’d like to place a greater emphasis on prayer in our church: as individuals, but in groups also. I’ve a couple of ideas I’d like to work out with the elders and sometime after the New Year, you should see and hear more about prayer.

Discipleship, Prayer & Finally, the Word of God…

Open your copy of God’s Word to the 55th chapter of Isaiah. There were two passages that God kept taking me back to over and over again. This is one of them. The other was Psalm 65. This passage is very popular – you’ve probably heard it preached or taught or even quoted from time to time. That is, the 1st part is: follow with me:

It begins with an Invitation and there are 4 commands to emphasize the invitation: Come, Listen, Behold, Seek! Within these 4 commands are three attributes of God. The 1st attribute is seen in v 1-5 where we see…

  1. The Call to Come and Experience the Wealth of God:

Exp.: The Cost is Free – The price for participation has been paid in full! Why waste your money on things that don’t satisfy? What you can buy with your money will never be enough! It will never satisfy! Your money is your good works. They’re nice, but they won’t get you anything from God! But God invites you in to his supermarket and offers you to buy without money, to purchase his goods at no price.

The Covenant is Universal – it’s not just for Israel. Rd v 4-5; The diehard Israelite would have none of it –

Ill.: Read Luke 4.16-29; But Isaiah is here saying that God’s Covenant is for Everyone (v1) including us Gentiles!

Transition: you’ve probably heard the 2nd part taught, too. I call this section…

  1. The Urgency to Respond to the Ways of God

Exp.: rd v 6; Time is of the essence, it is Urgent – Seek – while there is still time! While He may be found by you! And Isaiah doesn’t leave the hearers hanging, he tells them just what to do:

– How? – repent! Rd v 7; forsake and return, that you may find his compassion and find his forgiveness. A pardon is needed that you might miss the punishment.

– Why? – rd v 8-9;

                        8         For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

        For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Ill.: in the home we stayed in there was a magnet on the fridge that said: shoot for the moon, that way if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Ah… Well, truth is, you can’t touch the moon. It’s impossible. In reality, that is. But that’s the difference between your ways and thoughts, as compared to His. Yours just doesn’t compare. Mine either.

Transition: your wealth can’t compete with his, you’re ways can’t even compare to his and finally, in this final section we see

  1. The Effective Power of the Word of God.

Exp.: Rd v 10-12; Now, that’s a celebration! When you come at his invitation, when you drink from the living water, when you taste and see that the Lord is good, when you buy, free of charge what He’s selling, When You take Him at his Word – then, you’ll be satisfied, you’ll go out in joy and be led forth in peace. Finally, Rd v 13;

13         Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Remember the context: snow and rain water the earth and bring forth plants. You’d expect a thorn bush in your back yard to be watered by the snow and the rain and produce a larger thorn bush. But not with the purpose of God’s Word – uh-uh, the water here, as expressed in the snow and the rain, as described back in v 1 in the invitation to come and drink of, it transforms a thorny bush into a Cypress Tree! Instead of the brier patch, the Word of God transforms it into a Myrtle Tree. It doesn’t just nourish the plant – it changes the plant!

That’s the transforming power of the Word of God. Mean people become nice. Filthy conversation becomes clean. Hard hearts get softened. Closed minds are opened. Haters become lovers. Those once who couldn’t care less become concerned for the needs of others. The lustful become loving and pure. The selfish become servants. The Angry lose their anger. The bitter become sweet. The captive are released and set free – free from anxiety and other chains that used to hold them down.

The Blind really do see and the deaf really do hear because what was veiled off to them is revealed and what was a clanging, aggravating noise has become music to their heart’s ears!

That’s the transforming power of God’s Word. And that’s my vision for our future. The power of God at work in your heart, in my heart and the hearts of people we come in contact with:

Through Evangelism

Through Discipleship

Through Prayer

In Worship

Let’s pray… that invitation is for you.

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We’re off!

As you read this, Lisa and I will be on our way or just arriving at our home away from home for the next few weeks. We’d both like to express our overwhelming gratitude for this wonderful blessing in our lives. We recognize the sacrifices being made for us to be able to take this much needed time away. We want you all to know how much we appreciate this opportunity and we commit to use this timely wisely. We both have been working hard these last few weeks to consider our goals and objectives for this sabbatical, carefully and prayerfully considering books to study, mentors and pastors to meet with and projects to complete, in addition to making time to relax and reflect. It is our hearts’ desire to return home to you all refocused and with a renewed passion for all God has planned for Calvary for years to come. Thank you for your encouraging words and commitments to pray for us. We are so looking forward to our time “away from it all” to grow closer to each other and to The Lord, as well as our return to our Calvary church family. We will keep you updated on how things are going for us in the coming weeks.
Until then, know we love you and are praying for you as well.

In Him,
Pastor Fred

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