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Showing posts with label Rest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rest. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Prayer of Rest


Introduction
Advent is the season where we get ready for Christmas.  It’s also the season we remember that Jesus is coming again and so we work to be ready for that Second Coming.  We prepare our soul through prayer and fasting and worship and study and service.  Advent is nearly at an end.  Christmas is in two days.  Are you ready?  It’s been a long, busy season.  We’ve worked hard.  We’ve studied many types of prayer.  I’m looking forward to the Christmas break when we can rest a bit.  We need rest.  I need rest.

Part of prayer is learning to truly rest in God, even in the midst of chaos.  So today, let me share about what is known as the prayer of rest.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus Invites us to Rest in Him
Who couldn’t use a little more rest?  As children, we often fought our parents when they tried to make us take a nap.  (When I became a parent, I learned how blessed it could be to make your child take a nap--because it gives you a moment to rest too!!!)  As adults, there always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to rest.  Some people would kill for a little extra nap time!  I have Good News!  God wants you to rest!

When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, He established a holy rhythm for life.  There were six days to do the ordinary work of life and then the seventh day was a special day to rest.  It is was a wonderful gift God gave to humanity--a special day just for rest, to leave off from the stress and strain of regular work and just enjoy sweet communion with God who is the source of life.

But people, who are overwhelmed with sin, always strive to gain more, more, more.  God wants to give us rest, but if we rest, we might miss out on some of the “more” that we desperately want.  We say we want rest, but when we have the choice between entering into the Lord’s rest or chasing after more (more money, more fun, more stuff, more more more), we usually choose “more” over rest.  If we are honest and if we really think on the matter, we realize our lack of rest is most often the result of our own choices and priorities in life.

In the midst of this, Jesus invites us to rest.  “Come to me,” he says, “And I will give you rest.”  In other words, be my disciple (follow me, pattern your life after my ways instead of your own or the world’s example), and I will give you rest.  Again, the choice is before us.  We can choose His way that leads to rest, but we most often choose a different path that keeps us from rest. 

Sabbath, rest, means to rest in God.  It is trusting in Him to take care of things without giving in to the nagging impulse inside that says we’ve got to make something happen.  Sabbath rest is not so much “being lazy and doing nothing or sleeping all day”; it is letting go and trusting God to handle it (or else doing what He tells us to do according to His plan).

3 Ways to Practice the Prayer of Rest
The first practice is solitude, something I spoke about last week.  Solitude is going off to be by yourself.  Solitude can help you worry less about what others think, but it can also help you stop trying to be in control everything.  When you voluntarily step away from all your normal work and interactions with people, you have to let go.  We may think the world cannot survive without us; everything is going to fall apart if we’re not there to keep the train on the tracks.  Is that really so?  Are you so important the world cannot survive without you?  Who do you think you are?  (Pause…)

Last January, me and my whole family came down with the flu.  I was not able to go preach or lead worship at the church I pastor.  Thankfully, my worship leader and choir leader volunteered to lead the service without me.  They told me to stay home and rest and recuperate.  They designed a prayer service with special music and different people from our congregation leading prayer.  They designed and lead it completely without me.  People loved it and told me how meaningful it was for them.  It was so well-received, we decided to do ti again this year (not get the flu, but the service!).  Furthermore, that same day, I was scheduled to lead a planning meeting where we planned all the activities for the 2018 year.  I was supposed to lead the meeting.  Thankfully, two ladies from my church stepped up and led the meeting.  With the help of other leaders in the church, they planned all the activities for the calendar year.  And it all turned out great!  We had a great 2018 year full of wonderful programs.  And it all got planned without me (maybe because I wasn't there).

Step away from things.  Go off by yourself for a time--a few hours, a few days.  Rest in the Lord.  Meditate on this eternal truth:  One day you will not be here anymore.  Do you think the world will not go on without you?  Of course it will.  And it will go on with you for a little while if you leave it alone and take a rest.  In fact, things may work themself out just fine without you (with God’s help instead of yours).  It may be that your absence is what is really needed in order for God to work it out.

Silence is another way to practice the prayer of rest.  What I mean by “silence” is not so much refusing to speak or make noise.  What I mean is to silence your striving and grasping and manipulative control of people and situations.  You have to silence the inner turmoil within your mind that worries frantically, “I have to do something!”  No.  All you need to do right now is rest.  Be still and know that God is in control.  He doesn’t need any help from you.  Quiet your mind and let God rebalance you. If and when He want you to get involved, He will show you.  Then you will be a peace in your soul and better able to resume your work according to His priorities.  But here’s the thing, you can’t hear God’s still small voice guiding you until you silence all the other worrisome voices loudly urging you to “Go! Go! Go!”

A third way to practice the prayer of rest is reflection.  Through reflection, you take time to stop your work, rest, and intentionally reflect on your life.  You consider:  Who am I?  What is my purpose according to God plan?  You make time to reflect on God’s glory, what He has done for you, and His incredible power and ability to hold the whole world together.  You empty your mind of all the things you have to do and instead consider the wonder of God and rest in His love for you and the reasons He gave you life.

Caution!  (Don’t Be A Pharisee)
The Pharisees in Jesus' day were militant about the Sabbath.  They believed you could not break it because God said so.  Jesus came along and drove them crazy, because he kept doing things like healing people or picking corn on the Sabbath and they said it was against the law.  Jesus said something different.  He said the Sabbath was made to serve man not man to serve the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is God's gift to us, not something we do for God's sake.

Sabbath is different for every person.  Exodus 20:8-9 says, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”  I added the italics to the word ordinary because I want to point out that everyone works in different ways and we need rest from our ordinary work.  Most people work all week long and then rest on the weekend.  I'm a pastor.  My most important work day is on Sunday, a day everyone else considers a Sabbath.  And I also work by serving God through religious activity.  That is my ordinary work.  So when I rest, I like to do something different--maybe build some furniture or work on a car.  That is restful for me, even though it may be very physical.  Resting for me often means not doing "church" stuff.  For you it will probably be different.  You need to take a break from your ordinary work routine and do something dedicated to resting in God.

Maybe, you want to take a vacation.  Great!  But be sure it's a resting vacation.  Sometimes we work so hard trying to pack more, fun, more memories, more, more, more into our vacations, they are anything but restful.  Just slow down, take it easy, and rest.

Closing
Jesus invites you to rest.  He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Notice that Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you.”  A yoke is a tool to help oxen do work by pulling a loaded cart.  So following Christ still means you will work.  The difference is, the work will fit you so well it won’t seem much like work at all.  On behalf of Christ, I invite you to come to him and rest.  Lay your burdens aside and take his yoke upon you.  Enter into the prayer of rest.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fourth Commandment

Copyright June 26, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Exodus 20:8-11

Introduction
            Written by the very finger of God, permanently engraved on two stone tablets, placed in the sacred Ark of the Covenant, and kept in the Holiest place of the Temple of God, the Ten Commandments are the essence of God’s law for humanity.  They teach us how to honor God and live well with each other.  They also make it clear how far we fall short of God’s glorious standards and how desperately we need God’s grace and forgiveness.

Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”  (Matthew 19:16-17)

            If the Ten Commandments are so important, shouldn’t we take time to remember and understand them?  I challenge you to memorize the Ten Commandments this summer.  Then, come to Pleasant Grove UMC each Sunday (or read this blog) to learn how each Commandment applies to your life.  

Let’s list all Ten Commandments (paraphrased):
1.     Do not worship any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not make idols of any kind.
3.     Do not misuse the name of the Lord.
4.     Remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your father and mother.
6.     Do not murder.
7.     Do not commit adultery.
8.     Do not steal.
9.     Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
10.  Do not covet.

Today we will look at the Fourth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

The Fourth Commandment
The Fourth Commandment is all about love, because it reveals a precious gift God gave us straight from His heart.  The Sabbath day is a gift of sacred time.  Few gifts are more precious than time.  The busier we are in this hectic world, the more valuable time becomes.  A child may beg for the newest toy advertised in commercials, but what they really want is their parents’ precious time.  What a wife really longs for from her husband it not jewelry, but to spend quality time together connecting (of course, jewelry is nice too!).  And how much would a man on his death bed give for a little more time to live.  Time is precious and the God of the universe gave us a whole day to share love with Him and He called it the Sabbath.
God gave us this holy “time” to rest and renew.  Some people don’t need to be told to rest, but most in our day and age will run themselves ragged, ruining our health and injuring vital relationships without resting properly.  God loves us and cares about our need.  Even when we neglect our own health, God cares enough to remind us to rest.  As we set aside the cares of the world and worship the Lord (as we were originally designed to do), God renews our strength.  Isaiah 40:31 – “…those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  God is the source of life and strength.  We are renewed as we rest in Him.
The Sabbath also reminds us what is most important in life.  When we step away from the cares of the world and rest, we reconnect with what’s really important.  This is another precious gift from God.  On the Sabbath, we reconnect with the people who are most important to us.  We find fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ--those who share common love for our Heavenly Father and who are on a common journey of discipleship in Christ.  The Sabbath--with its closeness to our Creator and like-minded believers--helps us remember what’s truly important in life.  It is not what the world promotes that is important--all the flashy trinkets and vices that would entice us to work harder and longer, never taking a break in our striving to get ahead and gain more trinkets.  The Sabbath gives us time to remember the relationships and love that are truly meaningful and be grateful to God.
 
Jesus and the Sabbath
            Some have taken the Fourth Commandment too literally.  Seventh Day Adventist insist that the church must worship on the true Sabbath--which is really the seventh day of the week or Saturday.  It was not until the second century that most Christians started worshiping on Sunday (known as the Lord’s Day because it was the day Jesus rose from the grave).  Every Sunday is a little Easter to Christians and it is fitting that most Christians honor the Lord’s Day as our Sabbath each Sunday.  Some Christians legalistically refuse to do any work on Sunday or argue against things like the sale of alcohol on Sundays.  Could it be that they are being too much like the Pharisees in Jesus time?
            Jesus observed the Sabbath.  Luke 4:16 tells us it was his custom to go to church on the Sabbath day (although they called it a synagogue).  So we know Jesus honored the Sabbath and we should too.  However, Jesus was not legalistic about the Sabbath.  In fact, he criticized the religious leaders of his day for their legalistic interpretation of the Fourth Commandment.
            In Matthew 12:9-14, Jesus healed a man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath while he was at church.  The Pharisees were self-righteously indignant because they considered healing to be work, and you weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath day.  Jesus thought that was crazy.  God is not upset when we do good on the Sabbath day.  So Jesus healed the man.  You can do good on the Sabbath.
In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus was at church again on the Sabbath when he healed a woman who was sick.  The leader of the church (I guess you could call him the pastor or rabbi) got angry and scolded everyone for working on the Sabbath.  He said (paraphrase), "You have six days in the week to heal and be healed.  Come on those days for healing, but not on the Sabbath."  Jesus called him a hypocrite and said healing the woman was the right thing to do--even on the Sabbath.
In Mark 2:23-27, the Disciples picked some food to eat as they walked through a farm on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees complained the Disciples were breaking God’s law, but Jesus rejected their Pharisaical thinking.  In Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “...The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath…”  You see, the Sabbath is for our benefit.  It is a gift from God, not a restriction meant to take away our freedom.  We should try to be more like Jesus and less like the Pharisees when it comes to obeying the Fourth Commandment. 

The Mark of Believers
            There is one more important thing to say about the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is what marks us as sacred people.  We live in a sea of secular people, in a secular world that constantly tries to take us over.  We must always be careful, lest we be swallowed up in the meaningless activity and busy-ness of an unbelieving world.  When we keep the Sabbath, it announces our loyalty to God and is a witness to our decision to follow His way instead of the chaos of this world.  It dramatically proclaims our faith that resting in God is more fruitful than toiling away an extra day in the world.
Some would say, it doesn’t make any sense.  Surely seven days of work will produce more than only six.  Yet we see in businesses like Chick-fill-a that a Sabbath day of rest is possible in a successful company.  Furthermore, it is a tremendous witness to everyone about who we are and who we trust.  I don't ever remember a cashier at Chick-fill-a telling me the restaurant was a Christian business.  No one there ever preached to me or quoted the Bible, but every time I am craving a chick-fill-a sandwich on a Sunday afternoon and can't get one because "Oh yeah, Chick-fill-a is closed today," it reminds me that Chick-fill-a is a business founded that operates on Christian principles.  You can say you are a Christian until you are blue in the face, but when you take the seventh day off, it speaks volumes.
The Sabbath rest challenges us to disengage from culture induced expectations for frantic leisure, frantic consumption, or frantic exercise. (The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I page 846).  It requires us to trust that God can provide just as much abundance (or even more) in six days than the world can give in seven.  This is what a God’s people believe. 

Conclusion and Invitation
I would like to challenge you to remember that Sabbath Day and keep it holy.  We live in a time when way too much has crept in to steal away the precious Sabbath gift God gave.  It didn’t happen over night, but little by little, over the course of years or even decades, this greedy world has stolen our sacred time--minute by minute and hour by hour.  Work schedules, business ventures, baseball tournaments, entertainment venues, the demands of people who do not understand or honor our God-given right to rest and worship the Creator…  They have stolen our precious gift.  You need the Sabbath.  God knows you need it.  That’s why He gave you the gift.  You are the only one who can choose to take it back.  You are the only one you can protect your Sabbath by choosing God’s way instead of the world’s way.  I challenge you to make a commitment to remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.  
            Jesus said, “…if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)  But who among us can really keep them?  Even if you break just one commandment, you have broken them all (paraphrase of James 2:10).  That’s why I am so glad Jesus came to offer us grace.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Lay down your heavy burden of sin and find grace and forgiveness in Christ today.  Stop frantically following the ways of the world trying to earn more (even trying to earn God's love) and come follow Jesus and you will find rest.  I invite you to choose Jesus today. 
            If you would choose Jesus today, would you pray with me: 
 
"Lord Jesus, forgive me for breaking God's commandments.  I know I am a sinner and I'm tired of it.  Please forgive me and save me.  I want to follow you and find rest.  Please come take control of my life and lead me.  I will do my best t follow you.  Amen." 
 
If you prayed that prayer today, would you send me an email and tell me so I can pray for you?  You may email me at ReverendChrisMullis@hotmail.com.