I’ve read the familiar words in the Decalogue many times (Exodus 20:8-11) and I’ve heard, maybe, a couple of sermons on it, maybe a couple of radio teachers speak on it. I’ve developed a comfortable picture of what it looks like in my own life which causes me to look a little different from the unbelieving world… a little.
To be sure, I usually delight to gather with the church on Sunday mornings, particularly having found a fellowship of saints who seek a worshipful submission to the Word of God in whatever form that might take – missions and outreach, prayer, hospitality,worship, study, service, self-sacrifice. All are sinners, it is true, but I have much to learn from these dear saints and look forward each Sunday to sharpening my iron on the iron of their lives.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God… I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:1,2,10).
As blessed as I am by this weekly gathering, this has really been the extent of my Sabbath-keeping – gathering with the church in the morning; that, and trying to maintain the long-gone blue laws of my childhood of no shopping on Sundays. That is, unless there’s a really important reason or major convenience to be gained by disregarding them. Eating out is not a part of that code, of course, nor is antiquing or using the library or a number of other activities which cause others to work through the Sabbath even if they wanted to keep it.
When I consider amping up my Sabbath-keeping, I fear the legalist in me may rise and I might get so carried away someday that I, too, would balk if a lame man were to be healed on the Lord’s Day. Of course, when I’m objective about myself, I realize that I am in no real danger of overemphasizing the day and I wonder why my foolish heart wants always to run to rules and law-keeping in these days of grace.
Years ago I read Karen Mains’ book Making Sunday Special which sparked high hopes in me for my burgeoning family. If I would have ears to hear, I sense that the Lord would teach me anew about God-given rest as I begin my first week of summer vacation.
Because of an internship for my son-in-law, he and my daughter and our grandson have recently moved and now attend a fellowship that strives to keep the Lord’s day (which I use interchangeably, here, as a New Testament form of Sabbath-keeping), not so much as a list of can’t do’s, but an embracing of get’s and get-to-do’s. I look forward to hearing how this plays out in the lives of the church there. Along these lines, the Lord, faithful God that He is, has brought a couple messages my way on the subject which challenge me to a more mature, less child-like, keeping of the Sabbath.
The first was a sort of theology of rest. It comes from a Bethlehem College and Seminary (BCS) chapel message that instructor Joe Rigney gave a while back called, “The God Who Loves Us by Giving Us Rest.” I have revived his message which is dealt with in Part II. The other message came from a High Calling blog, part of a series of invitational posts on Sabbath-keeping. To add to my growing convictions on the subject, on the second day of my summer vacation, our dear Pastor Greg brought us to and through Psalm 130, emphasizing the eager anticipation expressed in the word wait: I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his Word I hope: my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning (vv. 5-6). I’m beginning to see that a sustainable, joy-filled Sabbath-keeping has more to do with an eager anticipation of discovering the LORD than in a careful tithing of my mint, dill, and cumin (Mttw. 23:23).
Dana and I, long ago (before we were married), threw our trust onto the Lord to sustain us and meet our needs even if we were to give away 10% or more of our money. He has proven himself a faithful Father and provider in this. Why, then, does it seem so difficult to trust the Lord to meet our productivity needs if we would give away 14% of our week in exchange for delight in the Lord? When I was praying about this last night, I realized my fear is the horrors of cramming seven days of work into six. I already put in long days; what would it mean for me to add those activities I usually leave for Sundays, like bookkeeping (and what if I sort of like a few hours of this anyway?), laundry (does it matter that this doesn’t take a lot of extra time?), and school prep (well, I admit, I’m not usually energized by this one) to the other, already full, six days? I guess embracing the unseen based on God’s say-so alone, is the very definition of faith (Heb. 11:1), isn’t it? Perhaps he would have me test him in this.
What follows is Katie Kump’s short May 23rd post on Sabbath-keeping. In it, she identifies three profound lessons she has learned as one who once embraced, then forsook, then re-claimed Sabbath keeping in her life (for her, Saturdays).
“Sabbath-Keeping” by Katie Kump
In the middle of my college career I first found Sabbath rest to be a relief rather than a rule. The message of God’s power and sovereignty pressed deeply as I navigated the over-achieving culture at Georgia Tech. We were doing, having, and achieving it all. As a first-born, perfectionist, people-pleaser, my soul needed to know who God really was.
For the first time in my life I considered how Sabbath rest was meant to rightly swell my view of God, giving life, relieving stress, and demolishing worry. I found how expanding my heart with the glory of God was key to expanding my lungs with the very breath of grace. God of the heavens breathed life into my lungs and said, Trust Me. I gave Him my Saturdays, and Sabbath became the exhale of dependence. I could rest because He never needs to.
Keeping Sabbath means all my abilities and success are found in Christ.
When I graduated from college without a full-time job, I began babysitting to support myself while I figured out what in the world I would do with my life. I needed to make $400 each week in order to pay for my rent, insurance, gas, and meals. When each hour of childcare represented one portion of my sustenance, turning down jobs seemed out of the question. My boundaries evaporated, and before I knew it, Sabbath rest had vanished.
It wasn’t until I was exhausted, exasperated, and frustrated that I realized I was working seven days most weeks of the month. As soon as my time represented a dollar amount my bank account seemed to sorely need, God’s sovereignty over all my time was forgotten. It took all thoughtfulness and self-control, but I began to decline jobs so as to keep one day each week for resting. Sabbath was soul care. My generous God poured into me all the love and affection I was paid to pour out into little hearts the other six days. I never went without.
Keeping Sabbath means He loves to provide for my every need.
In this current season of life, where full-time work and marriage and ministry vie for all my time and energy, Sabbath takes deeper meaning still. Sabbath reminds me I am in no way able to be all things to all people. My life is limited. But the limitations birth sweet reliance on my Maker; He is able to do exceedingly more than all I can ask or imagine.
My identity is freed by Sabbath rest from all its striving to be the perfect wife, very best friend, and brilliant homemaker. Sabbath reminds me my life is hidden with Christ in God. Sabbath, both the hard work and the harder rest, are the outworking of my trust in His promises: He who calls me is faithful; He will surely do it.
Keeping Sabbath means I am defined not by my performance, but by the sufficient, saving work of Jesus on my behalf.
In all these seasons Sabbath has been an idol-slayer. Where success, material needs, and performance could consume my heart with anxiety, Jesus, whose blood frees me from slavery to sin, has invited me to rest. Keeping Sabbath is not an added demand on my time or conscience.
Keeping Sabbath renders to God His own glory as I rest in the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. And keeping Sabbath is a means of grace, an invitation to live in the freedom and love Jesus died to provide, humble King washing my feet and calling me His own, week in and week out.
Bible Reading, original oil by Becky Porter, ©
(used by permission)