Do You Sabbath?

Do you take the time to enjoy a Sabbath? I am going to guess that you don’t. Even among those who follow Christ, taking the time to rest, be still, and be quiet is approached with a stigma. Those who do not keep busy are seen as: Lazy Wasting time Letting the world get ahead Not being productive Old fashioned Legalistic If I truly believe that my identity is not tied to the things I accomplish, then I’d be willing to stop accomplishing for Sabbath. When identity is confused with productivity, it is difficult to trust that God is pleased with you when you rest. Through this lens, Sabbath is seen as an inconvenience. Here are Jesus’ words on intentionally pausing: Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 In order to justify our busy lifestyles, the tendency in looking at these verses is to focus on “not man for the Sabbath.” These are Jesus’ words to the religious leaders about finding one’s worth in legalistically following rules rather than the good things of God. Let’s not overlook the beginning of that statement – “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our ability to intentionally stop is a gift. It is necessary for us to function as we were designed. Slaves don’t get a chance to rest. Sabbath is an expression of our freedom. Sabbath is not a time of nothingness, but a time of connection. It is a time for us to be reminded that God’s love is not based on the world’s...

Being Hated

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. – 1 John 3:13 How does the thought of begin hated for following Jesus make you feel? John says not to be surprised if the world hates us. Reflecting the image of God will elicit a response from a world that does not understand and must confront their own sense of shame. It was this sort of shame that incited Cain to hate and kill his brother Abel. Looking around at the church in our culture, we do seem genuinely surprised when the world pushes back against our beliefs. One response we offer is to compromise. There are attempts to make the truth that we are immersed in more palatable. This effort to be liked and win affirmation voids the power of freedom and transformation that Christ Himself promises. There are many tough truths in the gospel, whitewashing them or saying that they don’t apply to modern culture takes away the cross that some must carry to be conformed into the image of Christ. People are being held back in captivity by compromise. Another response is to intentionally drum up hatred. As if Jesus and John saying to expect resistance means that we need to produce it ourselves. So we see a version of “in your face” Christianity that seems very far from the example that Christ demonstrated. This warning about being hated is not to be used as a way to build identity. Every effort is to be made to live in peace with everyone. Yet this goes hand in hand with holiness (Hebrews 12:14), because that...

An Idea About Evangelism Training

I went to a Friday night race in Daytona with my dad a couple weeks ago. We had a great time together experiencing the atmosphere and the sounds, smells, and power of the trucks on the track. As we entered the speedway grounds, there were three men at the entrance gate. One had a bullhorn and was reading a Bible passages about the judgment of God. The two others had signs with similar messages about perishing and hell and stood with their free arms outstretched holding tracts. While I am giving them credit for being well-meaning, there efforts were ignored by the large crowd walking past them. These men were doing evangelism. In our Christian terminology, evangelism is what you are trained for; having gone through a program, and been trained in the right steps in presenting the gospel to others. This type of training takes a variety of forms, but the commonality is that evangelism is seen as a separate discipline for the follower of Christ. Think of the fear response that is so common when people are told we are going to talk about or teach ‘evangelism’. Evangelism is presented as a discipleship elective and in practice comes off feeling forced and unnatural. What if we simply taught people to love others? That the people around them and that come into our churches are more than a statistic or a project. They are people who are struggling with their place in the world. What if we simply taught people to listen to others? Rather than giving enough attention to throw in the appropriate Bible verse, this would take compassion...

Remember to Make Room

You have probably noticed that Christmas is hurtling towards us. I’m probably safe in assuming that you feel it coming in the level of your busyness and the feeling that there is “so much left to do.” Shopping needs to be finished. Parties need to be attended. Cooking needs to be done. All the while, you still have to do you normal work. If you are one of the church leaders who read this, your stress is augmented by the preparation for the loads of extra people you expect at church. (Or maybe you are depressed because the crowds no longer come.) In all of this remember on thing. It is THE one thing. Remember to make room for Jesus. Maybe you need to – right now – close your eyes and take five minutes of quiet to listen for God’s voice in your chaos. (Don’t worry, you CAN afford five minutes.) Maybe you need to read a passage of the Bible independent of preparations for a message or study. Maybe you need to gather your family or friends together to read the Christmas story and express thanks. Make space for Him. Don’t stumble over the trappings of the holiday. Think about the Christmas story in Luke. Jesus was born into a world that struggled to make space for Him. Those who had eyes to see dropped everything. My prayer for you in the next week is that you will be one of those. How much space are you making for Christ in the midst of your holiday preparations? What one change will you commit to making right now?...

Creating a Mindset of Gratitude

It is December. It is the Christmas season. As the song says, it is the most wonderful time of the year! But, it is also the busiest. It can be the most stressful. The most expensive. And the most disappointing. If this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, should we be feeling more gratitude? At Christmas we celebrate the Gift that God gave to the world. Out of His love, God gave everything He had. That seems to be cause for thankfulness. Busyness, debt,  disappointment, and much of our stress comes from trying to gain a sense of worth from things apart from God: Saying yes to all the commitments. Buying impressive presents. Portraying the happy image. (For the church leader, having more people at this year’s church service than last year’s.) Gratitude takes discipline. One of the ways our brains have be designed to function is the more you look for something, the more you will find it. For example, if you believe people will ultimately disappoint you, then you will process everything though that lens. Another example, if you perceive that people disrespect you, then you will see your interactions through that lens. Thus, the more your mind is set on being grateful, the more things to be grateful for you will see. Growing in your identity in Christ enables more gratitude. When you are not dependent upon roles, relationships, or results for a sense of self, you can be grateful for what God has placed in your life – not what you feel is missing. When your lens is no longer clouded by...

Why Big Things?

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 All of us have a desire for significance. It has been implanted within us by the God who created us. In our lives, problems result when we seek that significance apart from our Creator. One of the ways that we attempt to prove our worth is by doing big things; having a big impact. The larger the impact, the thinking goes, the better our work for God. We want results to prove our closeness to God. But the verse above from Matthew says that our faithfulness is actually demonstrated in the little things. If we can stay rooted in Christ and believe the truth of who we are in the circumstances that seem insignificant to us, then we can be trusted with much. There is a temptation in the big things: we will look to them for our significance instead of God. So the pastor only feels effective if church attendance it big. An author only feels successful if they sell a lot of books. A parent determines their effectiveness by the career path of their child. A business owner gains significance from making more money. The list can go on and on. The false self seeks big things for a sense of value. God gives big things when we are secure and rooted in Him. Today at the Igniting Souls Conference that I am attending, I was reminded that impact is magnified when someone I...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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