EHS-GraphicToday we are going to talk about something that is probably more needed than any other principle in the entire book but here’s what is really interesting to me.  While this subject is probably the most needed for our culture today…it is also the most ignored.  So while it is something we all need it is also something many of us simply don’t engage into so this makes for an interesting day for sure.  If I pulled each one of you aside today and asked if you think it would be a good idea to engage into a rhythmic relationship with God, and to engage in pure rest to rejuvenate your soul, every one of you would say yes.  We could all agree on that.  How do I know that we would all agree?  Because contrary to popular belief I live in this world too and here’s what I know, we are all busy.  We are all running with little to no margin in our lives.  Many of us are walking through life absolutely exhausted.  We bounce from one thing to the next and often times it can feel like our schedules run the show in our lives rather than us taking control of our lives, It’s amazing, somehow Google calendar push notifications say what happens next!  Listen, I understand we are up against a difficult and challenging subject today.  We are going to talk about two disciplines that when applied to your life can literally take your life and your health both spiritually and emotionally to a whole new level!  Those two disciplines are called Daily Office and Sabbath…that means that we need to have a rhythm to our spiritual walk with God, and that we need to rest from our work one day a week.  Oof…you can almost feel the air get sucked out of the room when I bring up spending time with God and resting can’t you?  Why is that?  This is so interesting, as much as you need rest and rhythm in your life, and as much as I can prove to you just how important it is…odds are you will struggle to think you can apply this to your life.  There isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t believe that they need rest and peace and rhythm in their life but it really seems impossible in the culture that we live in to actually stop, spend needed time in relationship with God and to stop and actually rest from life for a while.  I get it, it seems impossible to ever put on the brakes from a life where our schedules seem to overwhelm and bully us around.  It makes this idea of rest and relationship with God literally seem impossible doesn’t it?  Here’s the other thing, I know this isn’t the first time we have talked about Sabbath and spending time with God here at MRC…so you’ve heard this before and you know the solution.  We see it all through scripture but it literally seems impossible to engage into real rest and rhythm for the busy whirlwind that we call life.  Listen to Jesus words here…

Matthew 11:28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

How many of you can relate to these words from Jesus?  Jesus says “I get it, your tired and beat up by life and religion.  Come to me, get away with me and you will recover your real life.  I will show you how to take a real rest.  I will show you how to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”  So we all would acknowledge that we want that!  We want to walk in that freedom, with that energy.  But I think we would also acknowledge that we are tired, busy, cluttered, and in deep need of rest and rhythm in our lives.  We read books telling us to rest.  We listen to sermons on it at church and we have the Bible which literally has over 600 different scriptures challenging us to slow down and create boundaries so we can find rest in our lives.  We go to work and see in our leadership training sessions that we are more productive when we rest.  But we can’t stop.  Frankly we get so used to the speed of our lives that I don’t think we would know how to stop if we could.  It’s almost like in some weird way if we aren’t busy we have decided that something is wrong!  Amazing isn’t it?  You live in a world that makes it almost not ok, to find rest and peace in your life.  We talk about this a lot, just walk out into the lobby after church and ask somebody how they are doing.  Listen to the responses you get.  It will be something about how crazy busy they are…how much is going on, and how life is just flying by.  How often do you ask someone how they are doing and they tell you they are well rested, feeling great, and enjoying healthy boundaries in their life?  You won’t hear that!  Frankly even if they aren’t really busy they won’t tell you that because it’s almost like it’s become a bad thing to have health in your life which is sad.  So culture really pushes against us here and our busy lives become a real obstacle to us engaging God deeply, and entering Sabbath rest well.  The speed and clutter of life may be the first obstacle but I think this first obstacle actually leads into a second one…the speed of our lives causes fractured relationships.

We seem to really struggle to find deep and intimate relationships with people.  We move so quickly through life that we don’t really have time to engage into someone’s life and really invest into a deep and meaningful relationship do we?  So everything stays on the surface, sadly even with our closest friends and even our spouses we struggle to really enter into a deep relationship with them.  It’s almost like as humans we seem to be relationally challenged.  Now I understand that you have 5,000 followers on Instagram and lots of Facebook friends but that’s not what I mean by relationship.  We seem to be relationally challenged as a culture to relate to others and to engage in deep friendship.  So if having a relationship with people who you can physically see, and physically hear is difficult, than I think it’s safe to assume that we are going to really have some challenges connecting to God in a deep and meaningful way!  I mean he isn’t screaming for your attention and he is not physically right there in front of us.  This is a huge challenge for us to enter into a pure and true relationship with God.  Now let’s think back to what we head from Jesus earlier.  Where was it that Jesus told us real rest for our souls is found?  It’s found in our relationship with Him…that’s where we learn to live freely and lightly.  So we can find real rest and the rhythms of grace in our relationship with God, which is a beautiful thing but we struggle to engage into that type of relationship with Him.  This is a huge challenge for us to overcome as a people.  Now listen, I am not saying that we don’t love God.  I believe we do.  I believe we want a deep relationship with Him…or we at least like the idea of that intimate walk with God but we really struggle to live that out.  Well today we are going to talk about two very important disciplines that can help us live that relationship out which would lead to us finding rest and rhythm in our days and in our lives, the Daily Office and Sabbath rest.  I would like to really spend some time talking about these two things today…we start with the idea of the Daily Office.  Check this out, right from the book…

“Today we teach young Christians eager to develop their relationship with God to have devotions or a quiet time.  Normally this consists of ten to thirty minutes a day spent reading the Bible, praying, and perhaps reading something from a devotional book.  Along with church on Sundays and perhaps involvement in a small group, we hope this will enable them to withstand the blizzard swirling around them.  It won’t.” pg 155 Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Why isn’t this enough?  It’s because life is nuts!  The reality is that we have a lot going on…think of the amount of tasks you have in a day.  Think of the people and activities that you run into in just the first few hours of your day.  Life is overwhelming and it’s going to take more than just a morning devotional of a few minutes to keep you focused on God and rolling through a chaotic day!  We need to find a rhythm to life and I would like to show you one of the best examples of that in a man named Daniel.  I have spent a lot of time lately looking at the life of Daniel and there is so much that we can learn from this guy.  First of all he lives in a very difficult circumstance.  The Babylonian Empire has taken over everything including Israel.  What the Babylonians would do is they would come into a kingdom and conquer it.  Then they would take the best of that country’s leadership, and the brightest of their young people from that kingdom back to Babylon and turn them into Babylonians!  Pretty savage if you ask me, they would crush you physically, then take the best of your people back to Babylon and over time it turned them into Babylonians, which would weaken every nation around them while in turn making their kingdom even stronger.  Daniel was one of those young, bright Israelites taken back to Babylon.  He was so wise, and such a good leader that eventually King Darius puts him in charge of the entire kingdom!  Now this really enraged the other leaders to the point where they wanted to kill Daniel so they began looking for a way to trap him…

Daniel 6:3 But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom. 4 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life that they could use against him, but they couldn’t dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct. 5 So they finally gave up and said, “We’re never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious.”

So basically Daniel is so true to who He is that as much as they wanted to trap him into something they couldn’t figure out how…and then they remembered how religious he is!

6 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, “King Darius, live forever! 7 We’ve convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree: For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 “Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians.” 9 King Darius signed the decree.

So remember King Darius loves Daniel, and would never want to hurt him but he is blinded by his ego here.  This is a devious little scheme they have put in play here…now let’s look at how Daniel responds to it because this is something Daniel will be executed for and he knows it.  How’s he handle it?

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands-in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” NIV

So here’s what we know about Daniel.  He is brilliant.  He is running an entire kingdom and he lives in the Babylonian Empire which is doing its best to turn him into a Babylonian yet through all of this pressure and all of these challenges Daniel stays true to who he is and continues to worship God.  He runs an entire nation, and still spends time with God three times a day.  How can this be?  Well it’s because he walks in relationship with God.  He walks with a rhythm to his life.  This news that he just got was not good news!  He knew it was a trap and that it was a huge life or death moment for him and what does he do?  He continues to walk in the same rhythm that He did each and every day.  Daniel prayed three times a day, every day.  Now try and place yourself in his shoes.  Everything is telling him to live differently, everything is telling him to be Babylonian yet he stays true to who he is because of how he lives his life.  There is some great imagery here for how you and I live today.  Just as Babylon worked to make everyone like them, we live in a world constantly trying to keep us from being who God created us to be…and just like Daniel we can withstand it, with God’s help.

Now let’s go back to Daniel for a moment.  This is a HUGE moment for him isn’t it?  He is in a really tough spot and how does he respond to it?  He continues to walk in the rhythm of his life with God.  I think for a lot of us, and I definitely include myself in this…it’s easy to get really focused on God in the big and dramatic and difficult moments when we really, really need God to come through for us.  That is something that has always frustrated me about myself…that I can be so dialed into God when I need Him to defend me, protect me, or come through for me in some way, and I am realizing that a big part of why so many of us act this way, is because there is no rhythm and consistent time with God in our relationship with God.  Look at Daniel here, the thing that stands out to me the most is that he isn’t getting more spiritual because he is in a tough spot.  He just goes about his day and continues to meet with God three times a day…that is a beautiful thing and really models for us what our relationship with God should be…rhythmic and steadily consistent.

In the book we are studying Peter Scazzero really challenges us to enter into a similar type of rhythm.  It’s more than just a daily moment with God in the mornings before work or school.  It isn’t another religious hoop to jump through either.  It’s called the Daily Office and its goal is to get you to a spot where you can allow the work of God to work through your life throughout your day.  This really feeds into the Day by Day book that we will get into again today but here’s the concept.  We take two moments a day, maybe morning and midday or evening depending on your schedule to really engage into God and in those moments we stop and try to quiet ourselves which is hard to do!  Especially in the middle of your hectic day.  We spend some time in silence, we read scripture, and we pray.  This is all about forming a rhythm with God.  It’s hard to not think of David as we think of this type of relationship.

Psalms 27:4  I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long.  I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. 5 That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic. MSG

Think about what life would look like if we were actually seeking God all day long.  This is how David lived, now remember that David has an entire Kingdom to run!  Do you think he had a couple things to do in a day?  He was crazy busy, but he understands something.  We need to seek God first and we need him all day long, not just a few minutes in the morning.  I have always challenged you to spend time with God and it’s hard to do that once a day isn’t it?  Now I’m really piling on you asking you to do it twice right?  Why is this so hard for us to do, when it can actually change our lives?  Why is it so hard to do when we would all say that we should do it?  Well maybe this is hard because of the struggles we have relationally with God.  Maybe this is hard because we struggle to stay pure in relationships in general.  Maybe it’s hard because our Babylon that we live is changing who we are.  Our world pushes in and makes us so busy, so overwhelmed and pushes us to live life at a pace that we can’t see the need to talk to anyone or relate to anyone.  God, how in the world could I prioritize Him in there too!  Now when something bad happens he is first…but unless we really need something from Him, well God stays in the background.  This is the exact mentality that can make it is so hard for you to pray.  This is why it feels like work to spend even a moment with God.  I know you will tell me your schedule wouldn’t allow it…but if you are really honest and would really stop and look through your day.  I think you would see that you waste hours each day in conversations, standing around water cooler at work, on the internet, or watching TV.  This is what living in Babylon can do.  We just can’t seem to find time for God.  This is why so many of us are so up and down in our prayer life and why our relationship with God feels more like work than a friendship.  We need to slow down and find rhythm or we will always struggle here.  Our job is to seek God first and to find a consistent rhythm with Him…this is the only way to get through your chaotic day in a world that is trying to take your identity in Christ from you each and every day.  The Daily Office is huge.

The second discipline that goes hand in hand with your relationship with God is Sabbath rest.  So again we would all agree at just how important this is…it was so important to God that He actually modelled it for us.

Genesis 2:1 Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. 2 By the seventh day God had finished his work.  On the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 God blessed the seventh day.  He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. (MSG)

Can I ask you something?  Do you think the God of the Universe needed to rest?  Nope.  So why in the world rest, and make sure it’s in our scriptures if we aren’t supposed to be learning from it right?  So we learn just a chapter and a verse into our scriptures that rest is a big deal…it’s a big enough deal that the God of the universe who needs no rest would model it for you!  It’s a big enough deal that it is one of the 10 Commandments!  It is really interesting how specific this commandment actually is.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  NIV

The Sabbath is blessed and holy…and maybe more than that it is God designed and important for us to obey Him and engage into it…but again in our version of Babylon that we live in like Daniel everything around us says there is just no way we could ever do this.  Yet it stands in the 10 Commandments right along with “Do not worship other gods, Do Not Murder, Do Not Commit Adultery, etc.  Listen God worked so we work.  God rested so we are to rest!  I want you to see something that I think is a really big deal about Sabbath as a command.  Look at this…Moses is teaching the Israelites before the enter the Promised Land about the importance of God’s laws…and look at how he talks of the Sabbath.

Deuteronomy 5:12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day — no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. MSG

They were about to enter the big time, the Promised Land.  They would be around many other nations and Moses lets them know.  We will cease from working in the midst of all these surrounding nations as a sign of their freedom!  Remember they were slaves working 7 days a week for the Egyptians, they had no rest.  Now they are free and they have a chance to make a stand and embrace Sabbath rest.  It’s really no different for you and I.  We have been called out of a world all around us that pressures us to live as they live and work as they work, and act as they act.  We have been called out of a world trying to prove its worth and value by what it does or what it possesses.  We are deeply loved by God for who we are, not for what we do.  Our ability to pull out of the world around us and engage Sabbath proves where our faith and value are found!

So as you start to engage into Sabbath there are four parts to a Biblical Sabbath that we need to look at today.  They are very important and just to be clear I’m not worried about what day you do this or any of that type of thing.  You need to pick the day that works for you and your family and begin to engage into Sabbath.  Let’s look at these 4 principles to a Biblical Sabbath.

  1. Stop-Now this seems simple…when you rest you need to stop.  You need to stop working, stop everything and engage into God.  You need to stop regardless of whether the work is done or not.  You need to leave it for another day, pull away from all the tasks and goals that need to be done and focus on the fact that God is God.  You need to embrace the fact that you are a human being with limits, you are not a robot and realize that the world will probably continue to spin without you working for a chunk of time.  There is always a reason to not stop…maybe I can do it when my kids are older, maybe when I get my next promotion and am not out doing what I do…well in the next season of life.  No, we are commanded by God to stop and focus on Him.

“The core spiritual issue in stopping revolves around trust.  Will God take care of us and our concerns if we obey him by stopping to keep the Sabbath?”  pg 167 Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

You see when I trust God and obey His commands we realize and allow Him to provide.  We allow God to be God even when it doesn’t make sense.  We can trust God enough to stop.

  1. Rest-Once we stop we are called to rest.  God rested after His work.  We are to do the same thing, weekly.  So what do we do to replace all that clutter and time and busyness while we stop and rest…well this is what is really cool, we replace it with whatever it is that you enjoy or that refreshes you!  You like the outdoors get outdoors.  You love art, be an artist.  Engage into rest and enjoy what refreshes you.  When we stop and rest, we respect our humanity and the image of God in us.  Again we are embracing our limits and engaging into God…this is starting to sound like a good time isn’t it?
  1. Delight-We are actually asked to do something that can be a little challenging for some of us…we are to have fun and enjoy the Sabbath.  Remember what God said after He finished Creation…

Genesis 1:31 God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good! MSG

God worked so we work.  God rested so we rest.  God took a step back to enjoy what He had done…so should you!  On Sabbath we are called to enjoy Creation.  Slow down and look around, we live in an incredible world that God gave us.  We are to take the time to see the landscape around us, to see the beauty of a tree or the sunshine and remember just how incredible God is.  We are to use all of those senses that God gave us and enjoy the sights, the smells, the tastes, the textures all around us.  We are to have fun and play on Sabbath…and I think that is often lost on us as we study and work and strive to be perfect.  I think more than anything as we delight in being God’s creation we are reminded to take God seriously but maybe not ourselves so much.

  1. Contemplate-We think about our amazing God and who He is.  We think about all the gifts we have been given.  We think about all our emotions and things we have walked through…Sabbath is a time to reflect on our week, our emotions and most importantly on God’s love.

Can you imagine doing this one time a week for your lifetime?  What would life look like if you could find 24 hours and disconnected from everything as a family but God.  How would you feel?  Could this be something that starts on a Friday when the kids get home and ends Saturday evening?  I don’t know what this could look like for you but as you picture a life with rhythm and rest it sounds amazing doesn’t it?  It’s funny though, I told you at the beginning of this talk as much as we all agree that this is something we all need, we just don’t think it would be possible.  Just like Daniel you live in an empire like Babylon that has conditioned you to never stop.  Think about how crazy the idea of Sabbath rest sounds…but even as I describe it I know your soul is craving it, I know this because mine is too.  You have to break out of this and engage it.  God commanded it not as an oppressive religious thing, but to replenish your soul weekly!  Imagine engaging 52 play and rest days a year!  You can do this.  Imagine a life with a rhythm of engaging God twice a day, to keep you centered on Him in a hectic and difficult world.  That sounds impossible too doesn’t it…what if I told you that it wasn’t just possible it was necessary for you to survive as the child of God you were created to be in a world that is trying to take that away from you…just like Daniel.  I know your life is busy, but you do have the time…but you have to go get it and fight for it in the middle of your Babylonian Empire just like Daniel did.

So to close I would again like to go Day by Day book and read a bit, then give you a question…and then we are going to silently reflect on that then I will pray.  Let’s look at this right from the Daily Office…

Devotional:  When we are busier than God requires us to be, we do violence to ourselves.  Thomas Merton understood this and wrote:

There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…activism and overwork.  The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.  To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflict, to surrender to too many demands.  To commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.  The frenzy…kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. –Thomas Merton, Confessions of a Guilty Bystander

And when we do this violence to ourselves, we are unable to love others in and through the love of Christ.

Question: In what ways are you busier than God requires?

Prayer:  Father, I know how often I am carried away by too many concerns and demands and projects.  I have felt the violence to my soul.  Deliver me from this whirlwind around me and in me.  Heal my tired and weary spirit, allowing the wisdom that comes from rest in you to flow deep within me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen