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A “Big Ten” Gift

I want to give you a gift today. It isn’t mine to give, but I want to provide a roadmap for you to pursue the gift, should you so desire. This gift is so important that God included it in His list of the “Big Ten.” This gift can change your life. But this gift has been all but eradicated from our lives and culture.

And what is this gift, pray tell? The gift of Sabbath. I’m just now learning how to receive this gift myself. Sabbath means to stop, cease, take a break, cool it. The word itself has no connection to something holy or devout. It’s a word about the non-use of time, what we would call wasting time.

The biblical understanding of Sabbath comes from the week of creation where on the seventh and final day, “God rested [shabath] from all his work which he had done” (Genesis 2:3). This follows six days of sequence, rhythm marked by the refrain, “And there was evening and there was morning,” day one…day two…day three and so on.

The Hebrew understanding of day is not like ours. Our days begin with an alarm clock or the rising of the sun, and close with the setting of the sun or until we turn off the lights and hit the hay. But the Hebrew phrase of “evening and morning” is more than idiomatic speech; there is a sense of rhythm. To the Hebrews, evening begins the day of God’s creative work, while to us, evening is the time we quit our work and go to sleep. Even for those whose work schedules reverse this order, the concept remains—there is a rhythm between God’s work and our rest.

What transpires on a daily basis—God’s creative work and our rest—extends to a weekly basis, we cease working, while God’s creative energy continues. And what does this cause us to see? That God is on the throne, not us. This pattern teaches us the rhythms of grace. We sleep, God works. We wake and are called into God’s creative action. We respond in faith to God’s activity in the world.

Grace. As Eugene Peterson writes, “Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated” (Working the Angles, 68).

And now back to the gift. On a daily basis, you are already receiving the gift of the rhythm of grace through the Hebrew description of “And there was evening and there was morning, day one.” You go deeper into that gift when you extend the rhythm of grace to a seven-day pattern. Sabbath-keeping is built upon the daily rhythm, evening/morning.

Setting aside one day a week, whatever the day (Romans 14:4; Colossians 2:16-17), to quit doing and simply be, is divine. Sabbath-keeping is commanded by God so we can celebrate being that matures out of doing. We receive the gift of “uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God has been and is doing” (ibid., 73).

You may argue that you have no time to sit around for a day and do nothing. But Sabbath-keeping is not about doing nothing; it is about doing the something in the rhythm of grace to pray and play, to rest and refuel, to contemplate and celebrate.

If you’re not familiar with Sabbath-keeping, I highly recommend you study it, don’t legalize it, and celebrate it. Remember, it’s a gift.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

The easy way, in the long run, is the hard way

We’re not even a month into the New Year, and already the vast majority of goals, determinations and New Year’s resolutions are falling to the wayside. Almost 80% of those indicating they’re going to lose weight, quit smoking, start exercising, read the Bible through in a year, have a daily devotional time, etc. have indicated they have thrown in the towel. If you’re about to join them, keep reading.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

The easy way, in the long run, is the hard way. The hard way, though beset with effort, pain, and difficulty, leads to long-term ease of a life well lived. Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14, ESV).

I wish there was another way. I wish there was a quick fix, an easy solution, or perpetual smooth sailing. But you and I know that’s not the case. And so we set our goals and make our determinations with full intention that this year will be different, and then we hit the proverbial wall and quit. If that’s not the case for you, then congratulations. But don’t stop now or you’re going to wind up joining the rest of us.

I know of no other way to fight the fight, finish the race and keep the faith than by developing a plan, praying fervently, seeking perpetual accountability and persevering.

Develop a plan. Don’t just set a goal, put together a plan on how you’re going to achieve it. You’ve heard it said so many times before that it’s easy to dismiss—“If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.” I have a goal to memorize 1 John this year, but if I don’t put together a plan, I’ll be sitting here in January 2020 with the same goal, same lack of discipline, and same feeling of defeat. How many verses will I memorize every month, week, and day? Develop your plan. Write it down. And then . . .

Pray fervently. I’ve been reading a lot recently about prayer, and one of the things I’m discovering is that after 27 years in full-time pastoral ministry I’m still not very good at it. Similar to the development of plans to accomplish goals, I need to develop a plan for prayer. Am I putting this discipline in my daily calendar? Am I developing a prayer list? And then I must . . .

Seek perpetual accountability. I have a friend who is a fitness trainer. People pay him money to set up a fitness plan and hold them accountable to stick with it. Of course, people can cheat, and they can drop out, but fewer people do when they invest time and money into an accountable program. Likewise, when you develop your plan to achieve your goals, finding someone to provide ongoing accountability is a must to help you . . .

Persevere. It’s hard to keep going, and some days all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. At times you want to give up and give in. There are days and weeks when progress seems vexingly slow. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.” If the snail accomplished its God-given goal, you can, too. “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in” (Galatians 6:9, AMP).

Now, in the words of Nike, “Just do it,” and be grateful for the joy of the journey.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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