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“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

~ Isaiah 58:13-14 ~

 

I’ve written of Sabbath-keeping before, here and here.  For the orthodox Christian, this means keeping the Lord’s Day, the first day of each week (i.e. Sundays).  I was first challenged by a “theology of rest” by Joe Rigney, Professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary, in his message the God Who Loves Us by Giving Us Rest.  I heard this message about the same time that my daughter and son-in-law were beginning to adopt the Sabbath-keeping practices of their new church.  And not long after, I heard a couple sermons from one of my preaching heroes, Alistair Begg as he spoke compellingly of the joys of keeping the Sabbath in his Pathway to Freedom series.  Begg teaches both the principles and the practices of Sabbath-keeping.  As he recalls his childhood in the small Scottish community where he grew up, he reminisces of the wide-spread observance of the day and waxes almost melancholy over what has been lost by God’s people in forsaking its practice.

 

As I was growing up it was a given that Sunday morning we’d be in church.  Even though my dad went to his church a few blocks away from that which my mom and my sisters attended, we knew we’d all be getting up Sunday morning to head to our respective churches.  Different churches, but the value of church attendance was instilled by the modeling of both my parents.  Happily, I grew up in a state that kept its blue laws until 1991, so the rhythm of Sunday was always a bit different from the rest of the week, but once home from church we were not opposed to using the day as a sort of “second Saturday” to finish up all the things we did not get done during the week previous or those things we did not want to carry into the week to come.

 

Well, the Lord has been patient to allow me to study, observe, and grow in this area.  For the past year or so, Dana and I have been trying to adapt our Sundays and its activities to better reflect who we are becoming in Christ regarding this commandment.  We may not be as strict (that’s not the same as oppressive) as our daughter/son-in-law, but we are more mindful than ever of setting this day apart for rest and delight in the Lord.

 

Years and years ago when my kids were little, I remember reading Karen Mains’ Making Sunday Special.  I think I still have it somewhere and I suppose that I should dust it off and give it another look.  At that time, I don’t think I even associated it with the command to keep the Sabbath day holy; I just loved the Lord and wanted my family to find Sundays special.  More recently though, I just finished reading Celebrating the Sabbath by Bruce A. Ray.  Looking beyond the dated cover, I found a pretty measured and gracious handling of the topic, not at all formalistic as I might have expected.  Ray spends several chapters working through the biblical principles of God’s Sovereignty over our entire lives (i.e. time, work, rest) as well as the biblical roots and fruits of Sabbath-keeping.  His banner text is the one above from Isaiah 58, making the case for delighting in the Lord through Sabbath-keeping.  The fourth commandment is clearly a positive, not a negative, command for which we should thank God.

 

It is his last two chapters, though, which provide a nice practical evaluation of our hearts toward the Lord’s Day.  Ray is wisely unwilling to be the Holy Spirit in our lives; he does not give a list of dos and don’ts for the day.  He is not the least bit formulaic or legalistic, but offers grace throughout.  He offers alone these four principles: (1) keep it holily, (2) keep it happily, (3) keep it honestly, (4) keep it humbly.  What follows is primarily taken from Ray’s book.

 

  • Keep it Holily. “It is important to recognize that we cannot make the Sabbath holy.  God has already done that by his works of creation and redemption in the Old Testament, and by the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of his Holy Spirit in the New.”  We are only charged to keep it.  Surely, a major part of keeping this day holy is by meeting with other believers for corporate worship.   The author of Hebrews 10:19-25 pleads: Let us draw near to God; let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess; let us consider how to spur one another on; and let us encourage one another.  Then, almost as if to give answer to these pleas, he offers one let us not: Let us not give up meeting together.  “We need the friendship and the fellowship… we need the stimulation and the encouragement to love, obedience, and kindness that meeting together can provide.  When Sunday is swallowed up by the weekend and loses its uniqueness – its holiness, as the Lord’s Day – then you and I are the inevitable losers.” [pp. 94-97]

 

  • Keep it Happily. Although we must confess our sins and seek grace for further sanctification, the atmosphere of worship must not be dominated by heaviness and remorse (Walter Chantry).  To get there, Ray reminds us that our joy, happiness, and contentment are not to be found in our physical or financial circumstances, but in the joy of knowing Christ in the power of his resurrection.  “Rested and refreshed by the power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which we celebrate in the worship of the church, we are physically and spiritually ready to begin a new week.” [pp. 97-100]

 

  • Keep it Honestly. Christianity Today’s former editor, Ben Patterson, noted that Christians “always seem to be looking for loopholes: ways to get credit for keeping the Sabbath without actually having to keep the Sabbath” [Sept. 19, 1986].  For the definition of what is work, Ray appeals to common sense.  Our jobs or occupations are obvious (although I recognize that some in mercy or protection jobs may need to carve out a Sabbath Day around their job schedule).  Also obvious are activities we outright identify as work: housework, yard work, office work, homework, etc.  But we are relieved to find that “rest does not require idleness and can be very active.”  The challenge, though, for the Church is how to do these and all things for the glory of God – how to keep our recreation from interfering with our fellowship with God.  “We must labor to bring our wills into submission to [God’s].  The Sabbath calls us to make God’s will our own.”  Consider the caution of John Winthrop (1588-1649), the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He admitted some moderate recreation may be admissible on the Sabbath, but cautioned against Christian liberty – that it not, by degrees, ensnare our hearts so far in worldly delights and cool the graces of the Spirit by them.  Our hearts must be kept free, for God is jealous of our love and will not endure any pretenses in it.  [pp. 106-112]

 

  • Keep it Humbly. It is Ray’s belief that the Sabbath is a problem for many Christians, but it is not of intellect or even of practicality.  For many, it is primarily spiritual in nature.  “We are the heirs of centuries of self-exultation and our minds are not yet submitted to the Word of God and we resist God’s right to rule over us.  We come into our King’s presence and our spiritual family reunion tired, late, and unprepared to worship him – if we make it at all.  This is not right.”  Thinking ourselves wise, we are actually robbing our own souls as we lose this beautiful means of grace.  But we must guard against self-righteousness, legalism, and externalism – all pitfalls in which our enemy would be too pleased to lead us in our newfound commitment to Sabbath-keeping.  Ray guides us in this: The way to gain a name and a blessing is not by building it yourself, but by humbly choosing what pleases God, resting in his works, and keeping his covenant and his Sabbath holy.  Sabbath wars, he says, must all come to an end in Christ, the Prince of Peace.  [pp.112-116]

 

Then… the cream of the book, especially for someone like me who was not raised with the kind of Sabbath-keeping Alistair Begg remembers (see above) – Ray offers a very practical checklist (but not the kind you might expect). It’s actually a series of questions to ask concerning any proposed activity.

 

  • Will it in fact refresh me or will I be worn out by it?
  • Is a competitive spirit, as in league sports, compatible with the purpose of refreshment and of the Sabbath?  What if I lose? [ky-I couldn’t help but think of Eric Liddell with this one.]
  • Will a planned recreational activity interfere with my previous commitment to corporate worship and fellowship?  If I do this, will it cause me to miss or be late to the morning or evening services of my church?
  • Is my will subordinated to the will of God or am I “doing my own thing” and thus doing as I please on God holy day? Is what please me what pleases God?
  • Can I do what I am thinking of doing to the glory of God?

 

I end with Bruce Ray’s translation of Governor John Winthrop:

Be careful you don’t by degrees turn liberty into license and make God’s holy day your play day.  But, at the same time, don’t be so afraid to experience pleasure that you turn dancing into mourning.  The Sabbath really is a day of rejoicing and relaxing with both your natural and spiritual families.

 

 

[Image: Van Gogh’s Noon: Rest from Work]

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Bible Reading by Becky Porter

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)

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“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!

“Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”

(Samuel Trevor Francis, 1875)

A theology of rest…

I’d never heard such a thing. While growing up, the practice that was considered most virtuous was definitely not rest, but work. My parents seemed always engaged in some productive task or labor. Our Sabbath-keeping always included church on Sunday mornings, but the rest of the day belonged to tasks that did not get done earlier in the week. While I am grateful to this day that I learned the value of work and productivity, I am beginning to see that God’s Word would have me reevaluate the idea of rest and to embrace it in its proper boundaries as a gracious gift from my Creator.

Joe Rigney offers up a balanced theology of rest in a message he gave at the weekly chapel for Bethlehem College and Seminary. Rigney does not spend time arguing if Sabbath-keeping is still a mandate to be observed under the New Covenant. Instead he approaches the subject looking for wisdom… “Is there wisdom to be gained on the subject from Scripture (both the Old and New Testaments) about how God has made us to need rest?” His premise in promoting a one day-in-seven rest comes from the conviction that because God loves us, He gives us rest. I have taken the liberty, below, to put to print as much of his 33-minute message as needed to present his biblical case and to encourage us (reader and writer, alike) to glory in this good, Fatherly gift of rest.

“The God Who Loves Us by Giving Us Rest” by Joe Rigney

To begin, Rigney points out that the reality of time being regulated is a given. Our time does get regulated, whether by a school calendar or by our jobs and obligations or by merchants promoting Christmas in October. It’s not a matter of will our time be regulated, but a matter of who will regulate it and by what standard. A self-proclaimed work-aholic, Joe finds himself under the growing conviction that the way we regulate our time is “a big deal.”

The God Who Loves Us in Creation and So Gives Us Rest

It is Rigney’s argument that one way God’s love manifests itself is in the establishment of rest for mankind both in creation as well as in redemption. Rest is an expression of God’s creational love, given by design for the benefit of his creatures. It is God who determined the pattern of work and rest which culminates in the “blessing” of the seventh day, making it holy (Gen. 2:3). Since Jesus tells us that God is always at work (John 5:17), it is helpful to note that God is the first person in the Bible who is said to rest. Indeed, in Hebrews we are told that on the seventh day, God entered his rest and remains there, still awaiting man to join him (Hebrews 4). This guards us against the notion that rest is the ceasing of all activity; it’s not.  It’s about stopping one kind of activity in order to more fully participate in another kind of activity.  It is more about the consummation and enjoyment of completed labor.

Jesus made an unexpected statement in Mark 2:27. He told the indignant but law-abiding Pharisees a truth of deeper magic from [the very dawn] of time as C.S. Lewis might put it, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Jesus doesn’t say that the Sabbath was made for the Jews only, for the covenant people of God, but for “man.” God created the pattern of work and rest to suit our frame, he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103), he knows our cares, our inclinations and therefore makes the Sabbath for us. The whole creation narrative springs from his Fatherly love in making a habitat for his people, setting up a temple in which his image-bearers can dwell.

So when God finally codifies a day of rest in Exodus 20:8, He effectively declares: I love you! I love your sons, your daughters, your servants, your livestock, the sojourner among you… I love you! Stop working, one day in seven. I love you!

Yes, we are to labor, yes, we’re to have dominion, yes, we are to subdue the earth, work the garden and keep it; but we must never forget that the whole target is that we, like Yahweh, might enjoy the fruit of our labors. Work exists for the sake of something else, it has a direction a trajectory which is Sabbath rest.

The God Who Loves Us in Redemption and So Gives Us Rest

We also observe God’s redemptive love in Deuteronomy 5. When the law is restated 40 years after its first giving, the Sabbath is rooted, not in creation, but in the Exodus. After years of slavery and sojourning and wandering, the Lord was finally going to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey, a land with cities they did not build, good things they did not fill, cisterns they did not dig, vineyards and olive trees they did not plant (Deuteronomy 6), a land of rest. They were leaving off their slavery… for rest. In this rest, God would make for himself an everlasting name (Is.63:14).

To be sure, there is an inward rest obtained by the redeemed, those who mix the gospel with faith (Hebrews 4:2), who rest from their futile works and strivings (v.10). Hebrews expounds on this… that because of Christ’s redemptive work of which he now rests (Mk. 16:19), there remains an eternal Sabbath “rest” for the people of God (Heb. 4:8-9). Our Sabbath-keeping is an external reminder of the rest that the redeemed will enjoy throughout eternity.

Sabbath is not meant to be dull or a burden; it is meant to relieve burden. Leviticus 23 includes the Sabbath observances with the feast days (v.3), a festival to Yahweh, a day of celebration, of joy, of delight. More profoundly, Isaiah says if we will make the Sabbath a delight, then we shall take delight in the Lord and ride on the high places of the land (Is. 58:13-14).

This truth converts the keeping of the Lord’s Day (which I use interchangeably, here, with Sabbath-keeping) from a list of off-limit activities to a day of delight. We are finally free to do all the things that the hustle and bustle of our daily work keeps us from doing. It is a day we get to do something which most of the time we are prevented from doing because we have to work. What a delight. A one day-in-seven rest is God’s love, his care, his kindness, his provision both in creation and in redemption.

The Benefits of Sabbath-Keeping

On the practical side, what are the benefits of Sabbath-keeping? Rigney offers four to consider.

1) Keeping the Lord’s Day is a protection against vain anxiety (Psalm 127:1-2).

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Your labor can be vain, your watching can be vain, your rising early and staying up late can be vain if it’s done with an anxious heart, “in anxious toil.” Because God knows this about us, in love, he gives us sleep, making us unconscious for roughly eight hours a day. There is this constant hum of low-grade anxiety in our lives (papers to be written, books to be read, activities to go to, bills to be paid, a house to care for, laundry to do, and on and on). God gives us nightly rest from that, but also provides a day of rest in the midst of six days of toil. It is a reminder that the fruit of our labors is ultimately not in our hands; we’re not God.

2) Keeping the Lord’s Day re-orients our understanding of fruitfulness.

Many of us worship at the altar of efficiency; sacrificing our families, our relationships to the god of productivity. We know our lives don’t consist of the abundance of our possessions, but how many of us live as if our lives consist of the length of our to-do list or better, the number of things we’ve checked off today. We define ourselves by our achievements and accomplishments, by our productivity.

Sabbath rest reminds us that fruitfulness is not only a quantitative term, but a qualitative term. It orients us to consider the quality of our lives, not merely the quantity of our completed tasks. Rest does not exist that you might enjoy pause before getting back to work; work exists so you might rest, so you might enjoy what you have done. The whole trajectory of history is moving toward an eternal Sabbath rest. Yes, we work, but it has a goal. It’s not that rest exists for the sake of work, but work exists for the sake of rest. Sabbath rest reminds us of that weekly; a weekly reminder of what’s coming. Like God, we labor in order that we might enjoy its fruit.

3) Keeping the Lord’s Day teaches us the difference between escaping from our work and resting from our labor.

There is a difference. When we look forward to escaping, we are desperate to stop doing something. It is “a running from.” Rest, however, is “a running to.” We look forward to rest, we are desperate for it.

Escape hates work and tries to mute it for a moment, to drown it out, but it is still going on in the background. Rest turns it off that we might listen to a different tune entirely.

Escape is death. It’s lifeless, it’s mindless, and it’s dull. Rest is life. It’s vibrant, it’s refreshing, it’s fruitful. Escape numbs us, rest awakens us.

Escape makes the burden of work heavier. We feel burdened by our work, so we take breaks to email or Facebook or etc., but when we return we feel more burdened. In contrast, rest makes the burden lighter (Matthew 11). Escape dreads Monday, Rest laughs at Monday, like the woman in Proverbs 31, rest laughs at the time to come (v. 25).

4) Keeping the Lord’s Day helps to avoid a creeping Gnosticism (a belief that the physical world is bad and that only the spiritual world is worthy). Such thinking corrupts the glorious reality of resting in Jesus which can become an empty slogan if it justifies a never-ending work week – “I don’t really need to physically rest, instead I seek only the spiritual rest I have found in Jesus.”

“Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is a tendency to neglect rest because our striving have ceased in a sense and we are resting in Jesus all the time, but this is a dangerous attitude, hazardous to our physical and spiritual health. However, when we intentionally and gladly weave into our lives this amazing reality of the inward rest, that Jesus bought for us by his blood, with a regular rhythm of work and physical rest, we gain an amazing opportunity to experience the fullness of God. Take a spiritual lesson from Elijah – sometimes the most spiritual things you can do is take a nap (1 Kings 19).

Practical Suggestions for Keeping the Lord’s Day

Rigney identifies himself as a toddler just learning to walk in the practice of Sabbath-keeping, but he wants to get better at it. He offers a starter’s list, in no apparent order, of tangible ways to begin living this all out.

1) Define the boundaries of time. Joe and his wife, practice their Sabbath-keeping from Saturday evening to Sunday evening. As a college instructor, Joe needs some time Sunday evening to prepare for his students the next morning. In this way, he is given the freedom of mind to attend to those things even while keeping the Lord’s Day. He wanted a 24-hour period which provided a good night’s sleep where he was not thinking about all the things he has to do the next day; this solution works for him.  Define your boundaries.

2) Avoid LIKE THE PLAGUE, blogs, FB, Twitter, texts, etc. One step further? Put computers away completely to avoid mindlessly spending time on the internet or watching movies instead of resting.

3) Eat a really good meal, eat a really good long meal, eat a really good long meal with friends and lots of laughter – make it a delight. It is, after all, a feast day, so feast.

4) Go for a walk; go for a walk with some friends or your spouse or by yourself.

5) Play a board game or a game outside (Frisbee, football, play catch, shoot hoops, go for a jog, etc.)

6) Sleep in or take a nap; do both! Rigney spells out a system he and his wife have designed that allows each to get an extended period of sleep in during the day even with little ones who haven’t learned that the Lord’s Day is a day of rest (@ 29:15” for all of you tired parents).

7) Refuse, absolutely refuse, to prepare for next week, whatever it is. Even as a college instructor speaking to students, Rigney says, “If you’ve got school work, put it up.” Enjoy the fruit of your labor.

[Of all points, this causes me the most fear, not in the setting aside of work on that day, but in the frenzy of the week past or to come as I must now cram my usual seven days of work into six. What will that mean for those six days? I’m thinking that this is an area I would need to take by faith, to watch and see how God takes care of the labors of my other six days. ~ky]

8) Read the Scriptures, a biography, a fiction book (put the study books up); fall asleep doing it ( :

9) Worship with God’s people; look forward to it, anticipate it, linger over it, arrive early and stay late.

10) Invest in family; make it a goal for your children to grow up with Sunday the highlight of the week (looking forward to it on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – looking back, thankful for it).

11) Cultivate gratitude. You’ve been saved by grace, you live in it, you’re swimming in it, so by all means be grateful… specifically. General gratitude dies; specific gratitude grows. Spend time enjoying and thanking God for all of his gifts to you.

12) Use this one day in seven to cultivate a longing for the heavenly Sabbath; awaken it. Infuse it with the anticipation of that great and glorious day when all shall be well and we will sit down to the marriage feast of the Lamb, to feast with Jesus and truly find our rest in Him.

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Mom and Dad

Well, here we are… the bridge between July and August has come.  While growing up, this always meant a celebration. You see, July 31st is my mom’s birthday (1942-2004) and the 1st of August is my dad’s birthday (1940).

In their honor, I share a message I recently listened to from Chip Ingram on his radio program, Living on the Edge. The series on the Ten Commandments was entitled God’s Boundaries for Abundant Living.   Part II of his message, “A Word to Families in an Age of Chaos,” dealt with the fifth commandment:  Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long (Exodus 20:12).

“To honor” – to respect, to speak well of, wanting to please – I do.

Here’s Ingram’s outline:

I.       What does it meant to “honor” your parents?
II.      Why did God give this command?
III.     What does it look like to “honor” our parents?
IV.     Are there times when we can’t honor our parents?
V.      Application questions

I.  What does it mean to “honor” your parents?

A.  Definition: “Honor” literally means “to be heavy, glorify, to ascribe value and worth, to respect, to hold in high regard.”

B.  How is this word used in the Old Testament; the exact same Hebrew word and same form?

1. Leviticus 10:3 awe, respect, fear as in given to God

2. Deuteronomy 23:19 – praise, enhancing the reputation of, speaking well of

3. 1 Samuel 2:29-30 – wanting to please, wanting to obey someone in a relationship

II.  Why did God give this command? 

A.  The family is the foundation for human relationships.

1.  The family is the glue of humanity; as the family goes so goes the nation

2.  Biblical definition of family?  A man and a woman in a monogamous, covenant (vs. contractual)* relationship for life and their offspring, both natural and adopted

B.  The family is the foundation for respect of authority

1.  Latin word for “parent” means “in loco Deo,” “in the place of God.”

2.  Learning to obey a parent (in loco Deo) whom they can see, helps them to obey a God they cannot. 

C.  The family is the foundation of human development. 

1.  Sociologists agree that the most socializing agent in the whole world is the family (for better or worse).

2.  The family gives us our views of self, of life, our sense of being loved, of self-esteem, sexual intimacy, and moral values.

III.  What does it look like to “honor” our parents?

A. As a child… I honor my parent by obeying them. 

1.  Upon hearing their word, I do what they say. 

2.  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).

3.  The only commandment given specifically to children in the Bible – obedience. 

4.  Three elements:

a.  Immediate (“Delayed obedience is disobedience” Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo)

b.  Complete (Matthew 21:30-32)

c.  With a good attitude

B.  As a young person… I honor my parents by respecting and cooperating with them.

1.  Honoring looks different as we grow.  There is a maturity and growth toward independence, but I am still in my parent’s home or care (ex: away at college)

2.  Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old (Proverbs 23:22).

     If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness
(Proverbs 20:20).

C.  As an adult… I honor my parents by affirmation and provision.

1.  How do I affirm my parents?

a.  By your godly character and life

     The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son
will be glad in him (Proverbs 23:24).

b.  By your actions, how you communicate thoughtfulness (ex: cards, letters, and calls)

     Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your
power to do it
(Proverbs 3:27).  

c.  By making requests (ex: asking for prayer, asking their advice).  You don’t have to necessarily always take their advice, but ask what they think.  One can be in a wheel chair and still give counsel.    

2.  Provision? 

a.  Non-nogotiable.  Along with all other plans one makes, make financial and
mental plans to provide for the welfare of one’s parents in their latter years.

 

      But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God (1 Timothy 5:4).

 

       But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)

 

b.  Note to parents:  Since our children will be morally responsible for our care, we should consider how we can prepare for those years so we don’t wipe our children out, asking how can I set my life up in such a way that I’m not too much of a burden?

IV.  Are there times when we can’t honor our parents?  Four things that take priority:

A.  The priority of salvation – in putting our faith in Christ, we may need to go against the desires and wishes of our parents (Matthew 10:34-35).  

B.  The priority of service.  Not in a hypocritical or overly-spiritualized manner (ex: Matthew 15:1-9), but there are times when we are called to serve God and leave house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for the Lord’s sake and for the gospel (Mark 10:29-30).  

C.  The priority of marriage.  When a parent would seek to put a wedge between their child and their spouse.  Ingram:  “If you want to pit me against my wife, hear me, you lose.  If you want a relationship with me, it’s me, my wife, and our family; if you want it with me alone, you lose it all”  (Ephesians 5:31-33).

D.  The priority of wisdom (Proverbs 9:7-9).

1.  At times we may need to honor the office of the parent, but we must protect our family (ex: if the parent is a mocker, is hostile, has an affecting alcohol or drug addiction, will swear or drink in front of grandchildren, does not filter media content, manipulates, etc.) 

2. It may be necessary to in effect say, “Look; the door is always open,  but until this is resolved, we won’t be back.”  Then pray.

V.  Application questions, adapted

A.  Reflect on why God makes the family such a high priority?

B.  What are the temptations to interpret the fifth commandment in light of our culture’s view of both authority and aging?

C.  Consider about which aspects of “honoring” your parents do you feel good.  Which aspects need some attention?  How will you address these?

D.  Where do you find it difficult to know exactly what honoring your parents look like?  Of what might Scripture or the body of Christ inform you?

* Thank you to Pastor Dave Monreal for distinguishing between a contractual (legal) agreement and a covenantal relationship in his 06.23.13 sermon “The True Design for Marriage” (10:00). Biblical marriage is meant to be a covenantal relationship, but many in our day treat it only as a contractual agreement.

A contractual agreement is a legal understanding.  Winston Smith in his book Marriage Matters  identifies a contract as a formal agreement “to give to get.”  It is often put into place to manipulate others or to assure fair play.  It conveys, “If you do your part, I’ll do mine.”

In contrast, a covenant marriage is entered as two people make vows to each other before the Lord; they willingly invite the Lord into their public agreement. Their vows, then, are a pledge to self and a vow before God, regardless of how one’s spouse responds in that circumstance. It is a pledge of sacrificial love.

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