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Man has a need for sabbath.  I’m not talking about the legalistic binding and observance of the 4th Commandment of the Decalogue found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.  I’m talking about the concept of sabbath (ceasing, stopping, resting) that predates, underlies, and supersedes the ritual regulations regarding the seventh day which were revealed to Israel through Moses at Sinai.  We need to observe sabbath in the sense of regularly and consistently fulfilling our recurring need for physical rest, mental and emotional refreshment, and spiritual renewal. 

When do we stop?  When do we listen?  When do we observe silence?  When do we commune with the Lord?  We do we meditate (think long and deep) on the Word of God?  When are we introspective, reflecting on our walk with Christ and assessing our spiritual health?  II Corinthians 13:5 urges us to “test” ourselves to see if we are in the faith.  When do we have time for that kind of test?  When can we sit for that kind of examination?  When do we pray longer than in cryptic tweets to the Lord?   When do we fast?  When do we demonstrate that we are masters of our schedule rather than slaves of the calendar and the clock?

As justification for our non-stop, “no breaks” manner of life, we often seek solace in the fact that every available time slot has been overly filled with good things, necessary things, and useful things.  But, we, like Martha of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42), can become so busy doing things for Jesus that we have no time to spend with Jesus. 

Unless we observe sabbath with regularity, we are headed for emptiness and exhaustion (physically, mentally, and emotionally).  It took a hospitalization and some serious counseling three years ago for me to begin acknowledging and responding to this truth.  Without regular refreshment and renewal we will be left with hollow forms of ritual rather than joyful acts of service.  Our hearts will grow calloused and cold from having had no time for an intimate, personal relationship with the Savior.

One of the beauties of a sabbath that is not tied to a particular day or rigidly attached to an unalterable time is that we can seize opportunities for refreshment whenever they arise; we can find God in the interruptions of life rather than being frustrated by them.

Last Sunday, as I was preparing to make an emergency 10-hour drive to Alabama to spend a couple of days with my Dad, I was tempted to become frustrated with the unexpected alterations to my plans and schedule for the week.  Instead, because of recently being challenged by reading Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God, I decided to use the drive time as an opportunity for sabbath.  I didn’t turn on the radio.  I didn’t listen to any CDs.  God provided the beautiful gift of 10 uninterrupted hours to think, reflect, pray, confess, thank, observe silence, recite Scripture, and dream about the future.  Time was no longer a factor.  I wasn’t focused on setting a new land speed record on the trip.  I was calm and relaxed.  Even though it was 11:00 p.m. when I arrived at Dad’s house, I felt amazingly fresh at the end of the journey.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28).  Jesus extends that gracious invitation not just to those burdened and enslaved by sin, but also to a multitude of over-committed, stressed out, activity-weary church folks.

We would be wise to take the Savior up on His offer.

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August 2011