Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Beautiful Scars, part 2

There are actually seven Sundays of Easter.  The resurrection is so powerful, it takes Seven Sundays to express it fully.  In addition, every Sunday of the year is considered a “little Easter”, the Lord’s Day, the day we worship the resurrected Christ.

However, Eastertide is seven Sundays and 50 days from the first Sunday of Easter until Pentecost Sunday.  Eastertide is like Lent, which is a time of repentance and spiritual preparation, except Eastertide is filled with more wonder and excitement and joy than Lent, which tends to focus on penitence.  Eastertide is a time of anticipatory waiting and expectant prayer and reveling joy that Christ is risen indeed.  Recall that the resurrected Jesus told his followers to stay in Jerusalem and wait until the Holy Spirit came to fill them with power (see Luke 24:49).  Today, I want us to consider the beautiful scars of Jesus and what we could gain by rediscovering the practice of the Eastertide tradition as many of found in the Lenten observance.

John 20:19-24
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 

Christ is Risen, and He Appears to Many
One of the key things that happened during Eastertide, the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, is Jesus appeared to many people.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:5-6 – “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.” 

What would it be like to see the risen Christ?  I know we can see Him in many different ways However, what was it like to seem Him in bodily form?  Perhaps that is something you could strive for during Eastertide.  Let’s examine what it was like for the Disciples to see Him.

Behind Locked Doors
The disciples were afraid.  Even after we’ve walked with the Lord for a long time, we can still experience fear.  So, the Disciples we hiding behind locked doors.  Christians were never meant to meet behind locked doors.  We don’t need to be afraid of rejections, persecution, intimidations, sickness or tribulation.  In Christ, we have nothing to lose.  We’ve already won.  In Christ, we are accepted, valued, and protected.  Even if we die, we’ve lost nothing.  This world has nothing for us and when we die we are raised to new life, true life, eternal life in Paradise.  Therefore, we don’t need to hide behind locked doors.

Jesus is Here, in the Flesh
The Disciples plainly see Jesus is alive!  Even though He is a physical being, He can somehow still come to be among them.  No matter where you are or where you try to hide or what experiences you feel separate you from Christ, nothing can keep Him from you. 

Furthermore, Jesus is the first fruit.  That means, His resurrection is the example of what our resurrection will be like.  We will have bodies like Jesus had a body.  But our bodies will be new and improved.  You think the next version of yoru smart phone will be something great?  Wait until you see the second version of your physical body in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Apparently, if Jesus is the example, locked doors will not be able to hinder your passage. 

We All Have Wounds & Scars
Jesus had scars, but His scars were not shameful or disfiguring.  Jesus’s scars were glorious because they tell the story of who He really is.  He can show them to us and prove that it’s really Him.  He’s the one who loved us so much He laid down His life for us and won our freedom from sin and death!  And so, the sight of His scars brings us joy!

 What stories do your scars tell?  It could be that they tell the story of foolish choices.  You did something stupid and have scars (whether physical or emotional) to prove it.  I hope more of my scars will show how I sacrificed for others.  A few weeks ago, a Christian came from Pakistan to tell how He runs a Christian school in Pakistan, a country that is 97% Muslim, where Christians are persecuted and even killed for their faith in Jesus.  The man told me, “Chris, real Christian love always hurts, because it means you must sacrifice like Jesus sacrificed.” 

To love like Christ means being vulnerable.  Sometimes when you love others, they will use or abuse your love and it hurts.  You will be tempted to withhold love next time, but don’t do it.  Real love hurts sometimes.  It may even leave you wounded and scarred.  But don’t’ give up.  Jesus will heal you and empower you to love again.  And the scars you bear will tell the glorious story of how you loved like Jesus loves.  Your scars will be a beautiful crown of glory!  So just keep loving!

Peace & Forgiveness
At first, it puzzled me that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit.  I always think of the Holy Spirit coming to the Disciples at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, which happened 50 days later.  However, then the Lord reminded me, the Holy Spirit comes at many different times for many different reasons.  In this instance, the Holy Spirit was given to impart peace and the ability to forgive.  In Acts 2, Spirit imparted the power to speak boldly in ways that everyone everywhere could hear and understand the Good News about Jesus Christ.  God gives us His Holy Spirit when we believe in Christ to help us overcome any obstacle.  If you ever feel inadequate to complete a task God gives you, do not fear.  God is about to show His power through His Holy Spirit! 

The Disciples need to be able to forgive.  Even though it was an amazing revelation that Jesus was alive and not dead, the Disciples still had a lot to be angry about.  The were angry at the Romans and the Jewish leaders for crucifying their Lord.  They must have been hurt and angry that one of their own number—Judas Iscariot—betrayed them and Jesus and then committed suicide.  They were surely also angry at themselves for their own shameful behavior, fleeing in terror, abandoning their Lord, and Peter denying he even knew Jesus right after boldly telling Jesus he was willing to die for him.  The Disciples need the Holy Spirit to help them forgive others and even themselves.  So Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and gave them the power to forgive.

Have you eve considered what a tremendous privilege it is to be able to forgive?  One of the reasons the religious leaders criticized Jesus was he forgave people’s sins.  They scoffed, “No one, except God, can forgive sins!”  So to prove that He had the power to forgive sins (and that He was God), Jesus did something dramatic.  In Luke 5, a some people brought their paralytic friend to Jesus for healing.  Jesus told the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”  When the Pharisees scoffed, Jesus said, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”  25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 

So you see, Jesus is God and has the power to forgive sins (and heal a paralytic).  And now, Jesus has given His followers the power to do something that formerly only God had the power to do.  When you forgive, you are doing God’s work by the power of His Holy Spirit.  It is a tremendous privilege.

Poor Thomas missed out on this whole episode.  Apparently, he was away doing someting else.  We don't know what.  Thankfully, Jesus came back another time so that Thomas wouldn’t be left out.  no one gets left behind in God's Kingdom.  We will look at Thomas' the story next time. 

I want to challenge you to devote yourself to spiritual renewal as we lead up to Pentecost on June 5th.  Pentecost is six weeks away.  Pray each day about how God wants to transform and empower you.  How might God want you to serve Him this summer?  Pray about it and let Him tell you.  And I also challenge you to read the Book of Acts.  If you read one chapter per day Monday through Friday (taking the weekends off), you should finish the 28 chapters of Acts by Pentecost Sunday.  Acts is the story of the earliest believers going out to tell the world about the risen Christ.  As they did, they transformed the world.  And the cool thing about Acts is, it is an unfinished book.  It’s unfinished, because we are writing the last chapters today.  We are the people of Acts and we are continuing their mission—sent by Jesus Christ to tell the world God’s Kingdom has come.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Beautiful Scars - Easter Sunday

For Easter, Our choir shared a beautiful Easter Cantata (which you can watch here).  They used music and narration to share the story of Jesus' resurrection so beautifully.  Now I want to share one ramification of that resurrection.  But first, let me read Paul’s words about the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

24 After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. 25 For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. 26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Incredible Hope
Christians have incredible hope.  We believe our hope transcends what happens in this life.  The fact is, some of the problems in this life aren’t going to be put right in this life.  There is no greater example of this that what happened to Jesus.

Here was an absolutely innocent man–the very best kind of man who ever lived–who was humble and yet full of incredible power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and open the ears of the deaf.  Jesus only ever loved and helped people, yet he was arrested on trumped up charges and tortured and executed–the greatest injustice ever wrought on earth.

If that was the end of the story, then it would be the most tragic story ever told.

It wasn’t the end of the story.  Easter is a Sunday that is traditionally the most well attended day of church the whole year, because we celebrate Christ’ resurrection. 
And resurrection means death is not the end.

This life–with all its troubles, many of which are never resolved in this life–is not the end of the story.  Christians believe that what is not resolved in this life, God will make it right in Eternity.

First Fruit
The Bible calls Jesus the “first fruit” of a great harvest.  What this means is His resurrection is the example of what will happen to all His followers.

Many people--including me--started gardening during the pandemic.  Perhaps this is because the pandemic began near the beginning of spring and we couldn't go anywhere or do anything except go outside.  Plus, there were concerns about food shortages.  So we took to our gardens.  And this is the time of year you plant things like tomatoes.  There's nothing like a homegrown tomato.

So you plant a tomato after Easter, after the danger of frost has past.  Then you car for the plant for several months, dreaming of those fresh tomatoes.  And then it happens. you get that first tomato.  It starts out green, and slowly ripens.  So you pick it and take it inside.  It looks great, but how will it taste.  You slice it and taste it.  And you are so pleased when it is delicious!  But the greatest things is knowing that tomato won't be the only one.  It is an example of how all the other tomatoes will taste.  If you've been successful, you will have many more tomatoes just like the first one.

Jesus is the first fruit.  Just like Christ died, we will all die.  But hang on.  It also means that just as He rose to new and eternal life, so will we (if we truly follow Him). So if we want to know what’s in store for us after this life, we just have to look at Jesus.  He shows us what it will be like.

Living with the Scars
One of the unexpected things that strikes me about the resurrected Jesus is this:  He had scars.

One of the ways the early disciples knew they were actually talking to the resurrected Jesus and not some one else pretending to be Jesus, was Jesus’ scars.  Remember, he was nailed to a cross until He died, and a soldier pierced His side with a spear to make sure He was in fact dead.  So one of the ways Jesus authenticated His identity after the resurrection was to point out His scars.  He said, “Look at my hands and feet.  Look at my side.” 

And I want to point out that these scars were not gross or festering wounds.  These scars were fully healed, but they were not erased  And they were also somehow beautiful.  These scars were a badge of honor.

Do any of you have physical scars that you received earlier in your life? Maybe you have a great story that goes along with your scar.  I got a scar once doing something really stupid.  (My friends told, "Don't tell people you got that scar doing that.  Tell them you got it fighting a bear or something.")

I have a friend who likes to tell people he doesn’t have a belly button.  It's true.  Apparently, he had a surgery when he was very young and it somehow erased his belly button.  So he likes to introduce himself saying, "Hi, I'm Dave and I don't have a belly button"  It's quite memoriable! 

Jesus’ scars tell the story of a man who was the absolutely perfect Son of God, worthy of all glory and honor and praise.  And yet, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippian 2:6-8) 

“He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) 

“He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (Romans 4:25) 

So, when Christ shows His scars, they are the highest badge of honor that can ever be traced upon human skin. 

And that got me thinking about what scars we have now–scars that we’ve received from our own personal tragedies–whether physical or emotional.  And perhaps they won’t be completely gone when we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Maybe they will be like Jesus’ scars.  They will be there to remind us–and remind others–who we are and what we’ve been through.  But they will also not be horrific reminders.  They will be like Jesus’ scars–beautiful badges of honor that God has miraculously transformed so that we will gladly show them to people and say, “Look at my scars!  Touch them.  It’s really me!  But Praise be to God!  My wounds have been healed by the blood of the Lamb!” 

What would that mean for you?  What wounds have you received?  What scars do you bear now?

The Apostle Paul who wrote so brilliantly about the Good News of Christ, shared his own struggles.  In 2 Corinthians 12:7, he said, “ keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” 

People have speculated as to what was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”, but we don’t know for sure what it is.  There’s no record left as to specifically identify the "thorn in his flesh ".  Some have said it was a temptation he struggled with throughout his life.  Others have said it was a speech impediment, which for a man whose passion was to preach the Gospel would have been awful (because no matter how brilliant this arguments, there would always be some people who paid more attention to his impediment than the force of his arguments).   Others have said Paul had a crippling ailment like arthritis, a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, or epilepsy.  It could also have been a wound that wouldn’t heal, perhaps something he sustained in one of his meaning beatings, imprisonments, or the time he was nearly stoned to death.  Those tribulations had to leave their marks. 

And Paul was just like us when we have a painful and nagging problem.  He wanted to be free of it.  He wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 - “8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

Sometimes God brings healing from our physical, spiritual, and emotional wounds in this lifetime.  When He does, it brings glory to His name.

Sometimes, we must bear up under our wounds–with God’s help–until God heals us in eternity.  

When we endure our hardships, it brings Him even more glory.  But I believe there will be a great reward in this too.  For the wounds and scars we’ve carried throughout this life will not be anything for which we will be ashamed in eternity.  Perhaps, they will be like Jesus' scars that He gladly shows.  Perhaps they will be our beautiful badges of honor in the next life.  We will be able to show them to the people we love and say, "Look at my scars!  It really is me!  Remember how I carried that burden all through my life?  But I made it!  I thought I was carrying it alone, but I wasn't.  Christ was there carrying it with me!  Remember when my loved one died and it nearly killed me too?  I didn't know how I could get out of bed and keep going.  But Jesus brought me through!  Remember how I survived that divorce (or devastation, or tragedy, or trauma, etc.)?  Jesus brought me through it and here I am and all my former hurts and wounds and scars are now fully redeemed!  Look at the scars that tell my story and the story of how Jesus set me free!" 

That’s what the power of Christ’s resurrection does.  It has the power to transform death into life.  Look at the cross.  It started out as a symbol of the cruelest, most shameful form of execution known to man.  Easter transformed the cross into the greatest symbol of hope and love we have.

Christ resurrection changed the most evil act humanity could do–murdering the Son of God–into the greatest act of grace and salvation God could offer.

Jesus was the first fruit.  He is the example of what we will experience if we follow him.

We can’t imagine how our resurrection to eternal life will completely transform us–even transforming our scars.  So as you go through this life and face whatever trials and sorrows and burdens you must bear, find hope in the Resurrection.  The Resurrection changes everything! 

And the Resurrection can change you–both now and for eternity.  I pray God will open your eyes today to see things as Jesus sees them.  See your wounds as future glory of God’s triumphant grace.

So now, I invite you to repent of your sins, turn to God through Jesus, and follow Him so you can experience the Ressurection to eternal life.  Won't you?

Monday, April 11, 2022

Who Is Your King? (A Palm Sunday Message)

All four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell the story of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem, riding on the back of a donkey while crowds of people hailed Him as king.  There must be an essential lesson for us if the Bible repeats this story four times.  What could it be?  I would suggest on important purpose is to lead us into honest reflection about who is really our king?

John 12:12-19
The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God![a]
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”[b]

14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.[c]
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”[d]

16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others[e] about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone[f] has gone after him!”

Praise God – Hosanna!
The people cheered Jesus and praised God.  But there is more to this expression than first meets the eye.  The NLT says “Praise God!”  A more traditional translations is “Hosanna” an exclamation of praise adapted from a Hebrew expression that means “save now.”

The people of Jerusalem were cheering Jesus on as the man they believed would save them from their foreign Roman occupiers.  People 2,000 years ago are a lot like people today.  They tend to oversimplify issues.  The Jews believed the Romans were the source of all their problems.  If a savior could just kick the foreign oppressors out of the land, then everything would just be peachy, right? Well, no.  You may know that before Rome occupied Jerusalem in 63 BC, the city enjoyed nearly 100 years of self-rule.  It was terrible.  Jerusalem was filled with coruption, infighting, and miserable suffering.  Even when Israel existed as an independent kingdom in Old Testament times, they never fully lived up to God's plans for them as a faithful kingdom of royal priests who represented God to the world.  So, it's not like the Israelites could make life any better than their Roman occupiers. 

However, the Israelites wanted to be free of their Roman occupiers, so they start chanting the Old Testament prophetic phrase from Psalm 118 and Zephaniah 3 that promise a Messiah from the royal line of David, the Lord Himself, will disperse the armies of their enemies and at last their troubles will be over.  “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hail to the King of Israel!”  “Hosanna!  Save us now!” they demand.

Well, Jesus did come to save.  But the armies of enemies from whom we need saving are not the Romans.  It’s not a weak president or hyperinflation from which we need to be saved.  It’s not even Mr. Putin that is the real enemy.  These are the symptoms.  If we get rid of these but don’t address the core issues in the perverted human heart, there will always be more corruption and tyranny and death and suffering.  Broken humanity always invents new ways to oppress ourselves.  We’ve been doing it for thousands of years.

Why A Donkey?
Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.  Look, your King is coming,
 riding on a donkey’s colt.”

The conquering hero—the one the crowds in Jerusalem thought came to conquer their enemies—came riding on a donkey.  Why a donkey?

Well, if a king believed a city was in rebellion, they might come on a horse and attack and set things back under their control. But if the king came on a donkey, it meant peace.  And Jesus certainly would have been justified to attack Jerusalem as a rebellious city.  Jerusalem wasn't exactly being very loyal to God.  They were loyal on the surface, but the religious leaders were only using their devotion to God as a cover to maintain their own power.  All you have to do is read many of Jesus' parables and outright criticisms of the religious leaders to know he thought they were rebelling against God (see the Parable of the Evil Farmers Matthew 21:33-46).   

Fortunately, Jesus came riding on a donkey.  This was a symbol that Jesus came to make peace, not war.  It was another fulfillment of prophecy, this time from Zechariah, a prophecy from over 500 years before Jesus was born.

Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.”

Jesus came to make peace, not war.  He came to offer forgiveness and salvation to the Jews, but also to the Romans.  The Messiah’s came to save all people from ourselves.  It is not the rebellion of one nation or another that is the cause of human misery.  It is the rebellion of all humanity that is the culprit.  It is the seditious determination in each and every one of us that says, “This is my life and I will live it however I please.” 

So, the Lord came to offer mercy and a to plead for us to give up our rebellion and come back to God.  He didn’t ride in on a war horse.  He plodded in on the back of a humble donkey.  Apparently, the people of Jerusalem missed this symbolism.  John 12:16 tells us even Jesus closest disciples missed it at the time.  It says in John 12:16, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy.”

Isn't It Ironic?
Palm Sunday is a day of deep irony.  It’s a day of celebration, but it’s a celebration by crowd of people who don’t really know what’s going on.  It’s a day when people hail Jesus as king, but only with the expectation that the “King” will do what they want him to do.  And sadly, when their “king” doesn’t live up to their expectations, they abandon him and shout “Crucify Him!”

In less than one week, Jesus goes from adored Savior King to their despised and executed criminal.  On Palm Sunday, they hail Jesus as King.  On Good Friday, they beat him and mock him and they proclaim in John 19:15, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Man, people are fickle.  We all figuratively say "We have no king but Caesar" whenever we choose our own way instead obeying God's way.

Who is Your King?
And so, in the midst of our Palm Sunday celebrations, as our kids wave our palm branches and we sing “Hosanna! Hosanna!”, I have to ask you, honestly:  “Who is Your King?”

You might assume that Jesus is your king.  Surely, Jesus is our king?  Right?

But is Jesus only your king if He gives you what you want?  I mean, are you like the crowds of people shouting hosannas on the streets of Jerusalem, only because you expect Jesus to solve the problems you want Him to solve (and to leave everything else alone, thank you very much)?  Because, if Jesus is truly a king, The King, He doesn’t work that way.  He is the Sovereign and we are the subjects.

Jesus’ message was consistent.  He said “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)  And he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  And he said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  And he said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

So we have to decide.  Who will we welcome as the King of our life?
Will we continue to try and be lord of our own life or will we let Jesus truly be Lord?
Will we put our hopes in the things and people of this world, or will we see Jesus is our only hope?
Will we welcome Jesus as king, just so long as he fixes things the way we think they should be fixed, or will we surrender unconditionally to the One who is Lord of all?

I pray you will truly receive Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords and give yourself to Him with no reservations.  He is worthy and this is the way. 
If you settle for anything less than full surrender, you will just crucify Jesus again and again whenever He challenges your sin and rebellion.

So, this Palm Sunday, I invite you to surrender, repent, and pledge your complete allegiance to the King who came to save you and the whole world.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Creation: Day 7 - Rest

The world we live in is breathtaking and complex. The artistic genius of it points to Something/Someone higher, greater, more wonderful than we can even imagine. How did it all come to be? Was it merely an accident or does nature’s harmony point to a Higher Power? The creation story in Genesis is full of deep spiritual truths that help us understand the character of God and our purpose for being. Today, we learn how important it is to take time to rest and reflect and worship the great Creator.

Genesis 2:1-3

1 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

On the Seventh Day, God Rested.

We live in a hectic world that values productivity.  Rise early, work hard all day.  Get off work and go to one or two or even three extra activities before you go to bed too late at night.  Studies show that 60% of Americans don’t get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep increases the risk of being overweight, heart disease, and breast cancer in women. It also leads to more car accidents and medical errors.  Yet we have too much living to do to get more sleep.

It is not just a lack of sleep that plagues us.  There is also a lack of resting—a time when we just refrain from working.  Studies show that 1/3 of Americans don’t take vacation time even when their jobs offer it.  Often this is because they feel pressure not to—either pressure from their bosses or pressure they put on themselves.  When people do take a vacation, they rarely use the time to “rest.”  Instead, they opt to fill the time with numerous activities.  How many of you have gotten home from a vacation and thought, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”?

In our busy world, the idea that God rested and that He made “resting” a Holy commandment may seem alien.  Yet rest is essential to healthy living. 

God did not design us to be machines that work nonstop.  God wants us to take time to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10).  When we pause from our labors and other distractions, we have time to remember who we are and who God is and to just enjoy life.  When we do not rest, we are less human than God wants us to be.

The very first thing God calls “holy” in the Bible is the Sabbath rest.  A weekly day of rest was so essential that it became one of the most important religious laws in the Bible.  It was a day that God ordered teachers and priests and prophets to defend again and again.  We also see that when God’s people did not keep the Sabbath, they suffered or were punished.

Mark 2:27

In Mark 2:27, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”  This is a reminder not to let religious devotion to the Sabbath outweigh common sense or common decency.  However, Jesus’ words also remind us that the Sabbath is an incredible gift God has given us—something we need.  Jesus observed the weekly Sabbath all his life.  The Bible tells us it was his custom to worship God in the synagogue each week.

God created the Sabbath for rest and worship.

Work is important.  But working too much can be a way for us to cover up and hide from things.  People—known as workaholics—use work as an escape the same way alcoholics or drug addicts use substances to escape from reality.  When we rest, we sometimes must confront things we might rather have left uncovered—things that need to be confronted.  So we must rest and worship.

Worship is the adoration of God.  It is when we pause to recognize the wonder of God and His goodness and express our gratitude to Him.  Proper worship humbles us, reminding us of our proper place in Creation.  It also opens us up to the voice of God who reveals where we need to change or grow.  At the same time, worship lifts us up as we recognize we are unconditionally loved by an incredible God.  

We were designed to worship God.  It is such an integral part of our DNA, that we cannot avoid it.  Every society that has existed since the world began has had some notion of God and has sought to worship Him.  This fact testifies to both the reality of God’s existence and the innate desire within humanity to worship God.  How else would so many different kinds of people from so many different backgrounds who never spoke to each other to share ideas, all reach such similar conclusions?

Some people—especially in our modern times when we place more value in science than religious traditions—have chosen not to worship God.  Yet we see that even these people worship some kind of “god.”  Perhaps they worship people they admire or things they can acquire.  They may worship an ideology or even themselves, but they cannot avoid worshiping something.  Because of the way God made us, we must worship just like we must breathe.  The question is not “Will you worship?”  The question is “Who or what will you worship?”

Jesus came to help us worship the One True God.

He shows us what God is really like.  Before Christ, humanity was limited in their understanding of God.   We only knew about God from the religious scriptures or from the stories others told.  God recognized that because of our sin, we were no longer able to recognize His voice and worship Him in His fullness.  So God decided to come to earth to live among us.  God was born as the baby Jesus.  He grew up under the supervision of a mother and father.  He learned how to live, suffered the same temptations and disappointments we face, and was obedient to the very laws He created.  Ultimately, Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins that keep us from worshiping God.  

And so now, through Jesus Christ, we can turn away from our sins of error and sins of willful disobedience and come to worship God.  Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heaven burdens, and I will give you rest.


Are you weary from carrying heavy burdens?  Are you working yourself to death trying to do too much?  Are you weighed down with the burdens of grief, guilt, worry, stress, loneliness, disappointments, shame, or anxiety?  The grace of God through Jesus Christ calls to you: “Come, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus wants to forgive you, to wash away all your sin sickness, and give you a brand new life.  Jesus wants you to use your time reasonably.  He wants you to work, but Jesus also wants you to take time to rest and worship and enjoy the amazing life God created in you and all around you.  So what’s stopping you?