In Nehemiah 13, we read that the people were once again not keeping the Sabbath. Today, people do not understand the importance of the Sabbath. Many people consider that since most places are open on Sundays, that we need not celebrate the Sabbath. Some people may consider the Sabbath something people celebrated during “the time of the Bible,” but not something that we need continue nowadays.
I love the Sabbath and thank God for this great gift. The Sabbath was instituted since Creation. It is something that is part of Creation. Consider the rhythms of the world that God has created. Part of the Creation was active, but then there was rest. This is how we were created, as we are part of Creation. We need to have a rhythm of life, where there is an active working part, and then a time of rest. I typically celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, but there are moments when I preach or teach, that I celebrate another day. Understand the Sabbath is about having that day of rest with God.
God gave us the Sabbath as a gift. We should show gratitude for this gift, and we should also want to celebrate the gift. This is a time we can get ourselves realigned with the Father. This is a time we can get ourselves refueled for the next week. This is a time we can grow closer to God. This is a time when we can fellowship with the Lord without distractions. This is a time of rest, reconnection, and renewal. Be sure that you take a day this week, and celebrate the Sabbath! Continue this rhythm in your life each week. You will come to realize the importance of this special, holy day.
“They must realize that the Sabbath is the LORD’s gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place. Do not go out to pick up food on the seventh day” – Exodus 16:29 [NLT]
Gift of Sleep
For many years of my life I had a problem sleeping. I had very bad insomnia. Then I worked night shift for many years because if I couldn’t sleep at night, at least I could be productive. This crazy schedule changed my mind’s understanding of sleep. It was almost like I forgot how to sleep. On some days I was lucky to get an hour or two of sleep. It was horrible. I tried different methods in hopes of getting sleep. I took pills. I drank herbal tea. I listened to music. The list goes on and on.
God made us as beings who need rest. We cannot keep pushing ourselves along without sleep and still function properly. We need to rest. We need sleep. It’s a fact. Yet in society, we see more products introduced to help keep us awake longer. Rather than rest, people speak of taking the energy drinks—the Monsters and the 5 Hour Energy Drinks are very popular. People want to stay up for long periods of time. They have work to do—overtime to complete, projects to finish, etc. Rather than sleep, people believe enough caffeine will be satisfactory.
The Psalmist reminds us that God wants us to sleep—“He gives to His beloved sleep.” That’s YOU! He gives you sleep. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest.” There should be no reason to get up real early and then go to bed in the wee hours of the night. Rest is important. It refuels us. It strengthens us. It revitalizes us. And it’s a gift—a gift from God. So tonight, accept this gift of sleep. If you’re having problems getting settled in, put it in God’s hands and in time may you find the joy of rest that I found after I gave my insomnia to God. My many sleepless nights are a distant memory—each night I am able to close my eyes and thank God for His great gift.
“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.” – Psalm 127:2 [ESV]
The Psalmist noted that “it’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.” Does that sound like someone you know? I remember a time when I was that person. I was all work work work. What happens then? You don’t enjoy life. You don’t have time to get done what God truly wants you to do in life. You busy yourself up so much with useless work. You end up not giving each area of your life the attention it requires because you keep piling on the work.
Even if what you do is important, it can be a problem if you are working your fingers to the bone. I was working in nursing. I was taking care of people. Hard work is important. Hard workers should be something we all strive to be; however, there is a difference between hard workers and over-workers. There is a difference between giving everything a hundred percent and shortchanging some areas of your life because you are pushing yourself too hard in another area.
God enjoys giving us rest. He loves us. He does not want us to be burdened to the bone. If you are in ministry and you are working too much, you are pushing too hard in an area where the Holy Spirit does the greatest work. At your job if you are overburdened, you need to consider where the problem lies. Are you not delegating tasks? Are you taking on too much? Do you understand your job requirements? Are you working too much for the overtime pay? Remember, whatever it may be, God wants you to work hard at everything you do, but He always wants you to rest.
“If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?”
-Psalm 127:1-2 [MSG]
There is a lot of noise in the world. I love Sundays because I can enjoy quietness. I don’t hear the bells and whistles of the world. I get to experience quiet. I get to experience peace. I get to sit on the sofa and read God’s Word and simply listen. I do the same thing on lunch break during the week. I lock myself in my car, locking out the rest of the world, and spend time with God and His Word in the quietness. There is such unexplainable peace with our time together.
In Isaiah, we read of this “quietness and confidence.” This comes from righteousness. The righteousness comes from Christ. The confidence is assurance, assurance that comes from Christ and what He has done for us to be justified by faith. We only need believe.
One day justice will rule and righteousness will bring a peace beyond our understanding. This is not something we can do on our own—only through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is this quietness and confidence possible, only through Him can we have this forever.
“Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.” – Isaiah 32:16-17 [NLT]
Many times we see the commands of the Bible as obligations, as rules that keep us from something that might be enjoyable. But when you actually look at the commands, you can see a loving Father who is trying to do what is best for His children. The Sabbath day was given to us as a gift of rest, not as an obligation. Yet some people find reasons not to accept this gift because something else is more appealing.
God gave us the Sabbath as a day to rest. God gave us the Sabbath day to remind us that He is the Lord. God gave us the Sabbath day as a beautiful gift. It is just that.
Many years ago I was working so much that I didn’t have a day of rest. It made for a bad life. Not only was I not living healthy, but I also was not able to spend the time I need to with God. Slowly I got back this gift from God. Today I can say I no longer work on the Sabbath. It is a day to rest for my family. We have family time. We read. We worship. We watch football or a movie. We enjoy what God has given us and we thank Him for this gift. Life is very different because of this gift of rest.
“And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the LORD, who had set them apart to be holy.” – Ezekiel 20:12 [NLT]
We all have moments when we are not at our best—moments we would like to erase from our memory. The other day I had one of those moments. I could make excuses and say I was run down, tired, in pain and all of them are true; however, there was a way around the mess that arose. Sadly we so often make that mental note after the fact.
The problems that arose involved three big factors—two that I already mentioned. Firstly, I was in pain. Secondly, I was tired. Pain and exhaustion cause us to react differently than we usually act. You are more sensitive, less patient, more irritable. Thirdly, I had things bottled up. A few weeks prior, things had occurred that I did not get to yet discuss so they were still sitting there in the pot. Oh what a pot that boiled over that evening.
Yes, we all have the moments. Thankfully I have a lot less of them. Today, remember to address things right away. Don’t bottle things up so they can boil over later. Be sure to get the rest your body needs. If you are in pain or distress, address that as well. Don’t leave any room for the devil to stir up a boiling pot so it boils over.
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” – Psalm 127:2 [NLT]
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32 [NLT]
“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” – Lamentations 3:23 [NLT]
When I take my morning walk I usually catch the same neighbor in the middle of washing or drying his car, depending on when I pass his home. I’m sure anyone would agree that right after you get your car washed and shined up, something happens to get it dirty. In our area we have a local company that continues to spread dust as the big work trucks drive past. The pollen and the birds add to the many reasons that a washed car doesn’t stay clean.
So each morning this man gets out and washes his car, taking special care to ensure it is dry and looking like it just was pulled off the car dealership lot. It reminds me how each new morning is a blessing for us, another opportunity to start over. His mercies are new every morning. No matter how dirty, how defeated, how drained we may have felt the day prior, in the morning, we are given another day full of His mercy, His grace, His faithfulness.
These past few months have been a challenge for so many people. There are days when the struggles bring a feeling of defeat. But remember that God is not finished and He is faithful. Every morning His mercies are new. We may be down, but we won’t be down forever. We may feel defeated, but we won’t always be defeated. We may be tired, but with Christ, we have rest.
This weekend I had the opportunity to teach two classes, one on trusting God and another on the power of God. These two topics are so vital to each of our lives, and yet we all have some difficulties in these areas. Recently, the husband of a friend of mine was in dire need of a liver transplant. With a congenital liver disease weakening his body, many people would have considered that hope was lost. Family and friends joined together in prayer. The Bible says that we must ask and believe, and then we will receive (Mark 11:24, James 1:6). The family organized a group, continued to stand firm in their faith, and clung to God during the storm. As family and friends trusted God, uniting together in prayer, they were able to see the power of God at work. He received a new liver and doctors were amazed at the miraculous transition they witnessed, something that couldn’t be explained except as the power of God.
These people trusted God to provide, but we all have moments when we have a problem with trusting God. To trust God, it means that we abide and rest in His goodness—that we trust that He protects, embraces, and surrounds us with His compassion and His favor. It is important to understand that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). It is important to remember the many promises of God—promises we can only know about if we read His Word. Psalm 34:10 says that those who seek God will “lack no good thing.” Yet, why are we so tempted to seek elsewhere, to try our own methods, to think that we could have something better doing things another way?
In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted three times. Each of these temptations represents temptations that we each face, temptations of: power, prestige, and possessions. Each time, He responded to the devil by saying, “It is written.” It is so clear to see the power of God’s Word at work. In Ephesians 6, we are told to stand firm and put on our spiritual armor, which includes the “sword of the Spirit, which is word of God” (v. 17). Do you have your armor on? Are you daily arming yourself with this sword? See each of us has the ability to tap into the power of God. We have His Word. We as believers have His Spirit. Yet it is apparent that so many people do not use what is right before them.
Is it a trust issue? Do we not trust the character and promises of God? Do we think we know better? Do we not have the time to read God’s Word? Do we believe we are fine as we are? There are so many possibilities, but each answer is simply an excuse—an excuse to not accept the love, grace, mercy, protection, favor, direction, comfort, and will of God. As we make these excuses, complaints and grumbling follow. When will we get it? When will we reach forward to the hand that God extends to us?
I told my students this weekend that we must not simply remember “it is written,” but we must also remember another short and powerful statement made by our Lord and Savior. We must remember “it is finished.” We have victory thru Christ, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). We need to live right now as if we have this victory. We need to stop allowing the world to get the best of us, and cling to this victory that we already have in Christ. We need to trust Him and trust in this victory. In doing so, we would live very differently. We need to learn not only to trust God’s character and the promises in His Word, but also to live by them each day of our lives. As Burl Ives sang, “O victory in Jesus, My Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.” The song goes on to speak of singing a song of victory one day in heaven, but I think we should start singing this song today, as we trust God, as we cling to Him and His Word, as we hold tight to the power of God. Surely, we have victory. Let us trust in Him and open our eyes to His power which is at work even today.
We all seem to be in overdrive trying to rush through life. This morning I noticed something I see every day while taking my daily walks. The one street I walk on has a big dip which requires people to drive slowly or they will hit the underside of their car on the road. People that are unfamiliar with the street and do not slow down and pay attention to what is going on around them will hit bottom. Without fail, every morning or evening walk I will hear the all too familiar sound of the underside of a car making contact with the road. Sometimes I am even unfortunate to see the facial expressions the driver makes as they realise what has been done.
We are all guilty of doing this with our lives at some time or another. In a world that teaches us to be fast and to pile in as much as possible to our schedule, we rush. We think everything must be in a hurry. We do not have time to relax with family at dinner so we make a “quick and easy” meal or get some “fast food.” We listen to books in the car because we do not have a second to actually sit and read. We send text messages because we have no time to truly speak to another person.
What is worse is that we rush and make decisions without waiting for the Holy Spirit to illuminate us about the decision. We take it to God in prayer and then we do not like waiting for the answer. We pick and move along. We also get so caught up on what is going on later today, that we do not slow ourselves down to enjoy the right now. There is so much going on around us but we run the race as if we are wearing horse blinders, not able to take our eyes off what might not even happen on later today.
God did not create us to run around like crazy people in a world full of nuts. He wants so very much for you to have peace and happiness in life. If you are stressed out, overwhelmed, bogged down with so much on your plate, perhaps today is the day to take a deep breath, evaluate what is a priority and what is not, and have some “me and God time.” There is nothing so peaceful than some time with God. Whether you are reading His Word, worshiping Him, or simply resting in Him, you will find that He provides a comfort and a peace you cannot achieve alone. You will find that life can be so much better if you only slow down.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
– Psalm 23 [NASB]
In Mark 4, we read about how Jesus stills the sea. It is such a powerful miracle that we hear of so often that perhaps we do not appreciate it as much as we should. When the disciples became fearful of the boat sinking, they ran to Jesus who was asleep. He rebuked the wind and then He said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” Right away everything became “perfectly calm.”
I can only imagine what it is like to be perfectly calm. I am sure that most people do not know what that means. We can only imagine. There are times in life when I believe Jesus is saying to us, “Hush, be still.” We get so busy that we are blowing all around off course. We get so worried about the situations in our lives that we start to drown ourselves in anxiety. We are like the storm, breaking apart inside instead of breaking a boat.
Jesus says, “Hush, be still.” Immediately the storm ceases and then everything is “perfectly calm. Do not let the storms in your life break you apart. Allow the comfort of Jesus to take over. All you need to do is ask Him to help.” If we accept the peace that Jesus has to offer, and we listen to His Word, we can be still. We can rest in Him.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
– Matthew 11:28 [NIV]