Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Somebody pointed out to me recently that you can't mess with God's commands, including the sabbath command.  So, to put it differently, if you don't take a rest, God will give you a rest, and most often that means you're going to get sick.

Have you experienced this?  I certainly have.  In fact, at the moment I am feeling the first thrilling touches of a brand new cold.  Ick.  I know how this goes -- I can take a rest within the next couple days and get enough sleep (that's been the struggle lately, to be honest) or I can get way sicker, and take involuntary time to be sick.

God's law is not some arbitrary thing that God occasionally enforces.  Rather, God's law functions much more like the law of gravity.  If you choose to walk off tall buildings, it's up to you.  God gave you the commands so that you might live in cooperation with the way he's designed the universe to work, rather than fighting against him all the time.

(Note to Lutheran theologians in the crowd:  I know that this is not the primary function of the law, but it is certainly one way the law works.  And I am not talking about a "third use" argument here -- this is strictly second use stuff, saying that God has set the universe up to work according to certain principles and our lives will be a lot better -- within the church and within society -- if we structure ourselves according to God's basic commands.  So a day of rest is important for everybody.)


Saturday, February 22, 2014


Do you like leftovers?  Sometimes I do.  I realize this may offend many of you, but I love cold meatloaf.  Or cold pizza.  Under the right circumstances, bits of cold meat that came off the grill yesterday or the day before can be delectable.

But sometimes leftovers are a sad disappointment.  When you open the fridge and stand there looking, and it all looks like wilted lettuce.  If presentation is important when it comes to food, sometimes leftovers just don't make the cut.

I think that's how most of us treat the idea of "sabbath."  It's an old fashioned word, I realize, but it just means "rest."  We're called, even commanded, even created, to make rest an integral part of our schedules.  Recently I've run across a couple teachers who have pointed out that while God works and then rests (though it's arguable that there was rest going on before Genesis 1:1), humans are created and immediately move into the sabbath day (day 7 of creation) and then -- and only then -- move into a week of work.

So we work from our rest, more than we rest from our work.

But most of us, I suspect, handle the sabbath commandment like leftovers.  If we happen to have a week that's not too busy, we might get some rest (or not).  If we have a day with nothing on the schedule, we try hard to catch up on our sabbath discipline.  What's with that??  Leftovers.

I've been trying hard lately to schedule sabbath days.  It's a little tricky because I'm 1) trying to be intentional about spending my last few days -- now down to my last week -- at Central well.  Lots of good conversations, lots of good work, lots of things I want and need to do well.  All this militates against a discipline of sabbath.  At the same time, I'm 2) crazy excited to start a new job at Calvary, so when opportunities come up to meet with people or to provide input into critical decisions that will impact how we move forward in this new position, I'm incredibly eager to be a part of those things.  Mostly I've been putting things off until after March 16th, my official start date at Calvary, but sometimes things come up and I want to be in on the conversation.  So that militates against sabbath. At the same time, I'm 3) getting our house ready to go on the market (the listing goes up today, hopefully) and so Julie and I (mostly Julie, to be honest, she's amazing) have been cleaning and rearranging and painting and staging like crazy.  And at the same time I'm 4) all too eager to start looking for a house in the Cities that will be a perfect place for us to live and within easy reach of Calvary and all that, but so far we've put a lot of that off, and at the same time I'm 5) trying to fit in all the normal day-to-day stuff like doctor's and dentist's appointments, oil changes, paying bills, getting taxes ready to file, blowing snow out of the driveway, etc.

So I really don't have time for a sabbath day.

And if I continue to live that way, I experience the consequences.  Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, right?  So I'm reaping that fuzzy, unrested thinking that so often gets me in trouble.  I'm reaping a little edge to my temper.  I'm reaping forgetfulness about important details.  I'm reaping a sense of frustration and futility.

Today, for at least a few hours, I will rest.  There are things I need to do today and I would like to put them off but some of them, at least, rise to the level of "sheep falling into a pit" items (see Matthew 12).  (I think blowing snow out of the driveway sometimes is like pulling your sheep out of a pit.  If this doesn't make sense, don't worry about it.  Chalk it up to my fuzzy thinking, or yours.)  But for the last hour and a half, I have been resting, reading my Bible, sitting with a cup of coffee and watching the shadows move across the gloriously beautiful snow on the yard and the trees.  It's quiet.  It's peaceful.  And I can sense the Spirit of God regenerating and restoring my soul.  I may not get a full sabbath day -- we'll see how close I can get -- but a little healing, a little restoration, sure beats none at all.

How do you handle sabbath?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reading the Bible

LOVE this perspective -- I think this blogger has gotten a glimpse of why it's so hard for Americans to read the Bible well.  Take a few minutes and read through this short piece -- and then think about it.  Wow!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


No posts in quite some time!  Sorry, especially to those of you who spent the last week in the frozen north country.  Julie and I were visiting friends near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and I stayed off the internet (including email) the entire time.  And off my phone.  It was wonderful.  So I was faced with difficult decisions each day like, should I lay on the beach or walk into town for a cup of coffee?  (Coffee usually won out, which will come as no surprise to those of you who know me.)

Also no surprise to those who know me will be the fact that out of that week, I had some great conversations about the church, mission, and how to reach various cultures with the good news of Jesus.  I also did some interesting reading that will no doubt make it onto this blog very soon.

For the moment let me recommend the book Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.  I'm only about a third of the way through it but if you're involved in church leadership in any way, this is going to be an important read for you.  It's thick slogging with lots of heady language and abstract concepts, but stick with it and you'll find your thoughts about church leadership stretched.  After you order the book but before it arrives (assuming you're not like all those people by the pool with digital devices where they can order a book and then read it within a few minutes -- that is so wrong) spend a few hours reading and studying Ephesians 4.  That's the chapter that this tome lasers in on.