Archives For Sabbath

I love hearing Ruth Haley Barton’s voice when I read her books.  I have been on nine retreats led by Ruth over approximately a two year period.  When I go to read her books, I can’t help but hear the inflections in her voice and her deep care for ministry leaders (for me!) as she teaches during retreat and as she types the words of the book.

It’s been too long since I finished my Transforming Community retreats and it’s been too long since I read one of Ruth’s books.  My stated goal (rule of life) at the end of my retreat cohort was to continue in certain rhythms that would allow me to live an unhurried life where I was able to enjoy God.  I have not kept my rhythms, my life continues to feel over-busy, over-stressed, and over-hurried, and as a result, I’m not enjoying God in those deep moments like I did on my TC retreats.  Those deep moments that I still long for, but feel impossible to attain in my regular life and ministry.

Then I picked up Ruth’s newest book, Invitation to RetreatWhat I love most about Ruth’s writing and teaching is it reminds me I’m not crazy to desire rest.  She of course uses more eloquent words than this, but you get my idea.  In the world of life and ministry, you are made to feel out-of-place, lazy, and slacking off if you aren’t cramming your life full of tasks, accomplishments, and striving.  Nor does it helped that I am hard-wired for this sort of achievement-based life. Continue Reading…

What does the Bible say about the Sabbath?

Why did God institute the Sabbath on the 7th day of his creation?  Was he tired?  Did he need a nap after all that creating?  Of course not.  So why in Genesis 2:2-3 does God rest from all of his work, blessing the day and making it holy?

And yes, there are Sabbath commands in the old covenant, the Old Testament law, including the 10 Commandments and then given much more detail later.  And no, we don’t have to follow the old covenant, we follow the new covenant in Christ.  Which means we don’t have to follow the much stricter regulations to the Sabbath commanded in the law, but does the existence or non-existence of the law do anything to change what God put into the very fabric of creation as holy and blessed?  Again: of course not.

What’s unique about Genesis 1-2 is they are the only chapters of the Bible completely unstained by sin.  They are the world as it was always supposed to be.  If you are looking for a design for humanity, go to Genesis 1-2.  God created a Sabbath day of rest as part of the design of every single human being that he has created.

Jesus never canceled the Sabbath.  Far from it!  He said he was Lord of the Sabbath, the master of it (Mark 2:28).  He said that the Sabbath is his, that he owns it, not that it doesn’t exist anymore.

What Jesus did is remove all of the non-Sabbathy parts of the Sabbath, all the legalisms that the Pharisees had added over the years that had completely contradicted the purpose of the Sabbath in the first place: which was to delight and rest in God!  Jesus removed everything from the Sabbath that was non-Jesusy and pointed it back to himself.

Do you know who the Sabbath was first given to?  As in, do you know who Genesis and Exodus were written to?  These books were written to the just-freed Hebrew slaves.  The ones who had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  Do slaves get a day of rest?  Of course not!  The idea of Sabbath would have been so radical to the Israelites when they first heard about it.  It would have been such a gift, so freeing, so refreshing.  Just like it’s meant to be for us today.  Jesus says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man.  Sabbath is a gift for man.  Just like bread is a gift for someone who is starving.  He goes on to say in that same verse: not man for the Sabbath.  This means man is not meant to be a slave to the Sabbath, which is what things had turned in to in the 1st century thanks to the religious leaders’ legalism.  The Sabbath was never canceled, it regained its designed function.

The irony of all this is we are slaves in 2016.  While not on the same level as the African American slaves who were dehumanized and abused to found our country’s economy, or the Hebrew slaves of Exodus who were dehumanized and abused to found ancient Egypt’s economy, but we are slaves nonetheless.  Slaves to the treadmill of “you are what you produce.”  Slaves who go, go, go, go and do, do, do, do and work, work, work, work and achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve and who can’t stop to rest if their lives depended on it.  Slaves who think the world can’t go on if we take a day to rest.  Slaves who think God needs us.  This is a very real form of slavery as well.

Our emancipator is a weekly Sabbath rest centered on delighting in Christ.  It’s in the blueprint of creation in Genesis 2 and carried on by Jesus in Mark 2.  To ignore this is to willingly keep the chains of slavery bound tight, and to willingly disobey our loving God’s plan for us.

Just like a car is designed to have its oil changed every ~3000 miles, we are designed to rest every 7 days.  It’s obvious what happens when a car’s oil service is neglected, and it’s no less obvious when it comes the command and the gift given to us to delight in Sabbath once per week.




4.17.16 Sabbath from Lansing Crossroads Church on Vimeo.


Do you have “Christian Fatigue Syndrome?”

Are you tired of helping other people enjoy God while wondering if you’ll ever enjoy him again?

Do you feel like you’re on a spiritual treadmill?

Does God feel academic, cognitive and sterile rather than personal, intimate and close?

(I would have said yes to all of these things in January 2015)

Read these 4 books.  I hope and pray they have the same impact on your life and relationship with God that they have had on mine:  (The two Nouwen books take less than 2 hours to read)






the way of the heart

strengthening-the-soul-of-your-leadership-ruth-haley-bartonI’m re-reading Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton for the third time in 2015.  No book has brought such transformational change to my leadership and walk with Christ as this one.  I’ll be doing a full review of the book later this week.  Here’s a profound excerpt from page 118:

A recent survey of twenty thousand Christians around the world revealed that many identify busyness and constant overload as a major distraction from God.  Michael Zigarelli, who conducted this survey from his post as associate professor of management at the Charleston University School of Business, describes “a vicious cycle” prompted by cultural conformity.  He says, “It may be the case that 1) Christians are assimilating a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to 2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to 3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to 4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumption about how to live, which leads to 5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload.  And then the cycle begins again.

What motivates your busyness and overload?

For me it’s a twisted irony:

“I love ministry so much I’m going to do so much of it that I become so busy and overloaded that I hate ministry and want to quit altogether!”

It’s pretty hard to enjoy God when you are hating ministry, yet as a minister my calling is to help others enjoy God.  How can one help others enjoy something that they themselves are not enjoying?

What I’ve found so freeing about Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership is its ability to help me accurately identify what fuels my overdrive to overload and then to give practical (and essential!) ways to make sure God isn’t becoming marginalized in my life at the expense of all the pressing tasks around me.  More to come on that later this week.

Are you too busy?

Are you enjoying God?

The answer to the first probably indicates the answer to the second.

This past Sunday, my sermon was about the old covenant the Israelites made with God in Exodus 19-24.  I asked for people to text in questions they had throughout the sermon and I attempted to answer them at the end of the teaching.  Due to time restraints, we only got through two questions, so I promised I’d answer the rest online.  Below is a video of the sermon followed by all of the questions that were sent in, including the two I already answered verbally in the sermon’s Q&A time:


Q: Do we still need to obey the Ten Commandments?

Continue Reading…