Choosing Jesus: The Sabbath Truth

The Sabbath Truth

Our willingness to stop and participate in Sabbath, is a choice. It doesn’t depend on how much of my check-list I have accomplished by Thursday or Friday afternoon. The choice of celebrating Sabbath, is the same choice we make on Christmas – when we anxiously await the opportunity to open the gifts given to us by those we love.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, Sabbath is an absolute gift from our God and Creator. One to be adored by all creation.

The Truth

I don’t think we can fully understand the gift rest is. We have been given by God the opportunity to take one day of the week, and simply rest in our Creator.

Through opening the gift of Sabbath, we can

  • enjoy intimacy with our Creator
  • take time to spend with those we love
  • experience renewal on a physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental level

We don’t fight the benefits that accompany rest. We fight the compulsion to see how stretched thin we can become, as we live as though we have no limits.

Sabbath is the time to remember our Creator has no limitations, and He alone has provided all we need.

Sabbath is the gift to simply rest, and enjoy His Presence – knowing He will provide. We don’t have to fret that we are “running out of time” to get things done, because He is the Author of time.

As we take these moments to celebrate all God is and seek Him on an intimate level, we can rest assured He will provide.

Why

You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work,  but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God. Keep it holy by not doing any work—not you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, or any outsiders living among you. – Exodus 20:8-10, VOICE

We are called by God to remember Sabbath, because of its rich blessings given to us. God knows us far better than we could ever know ourselves. We need to rest. We cannot function without adequate rest. By not resting, we hurt only ourselves (and those we love).

God has this wonderful gift to give us – the gift of rest. What is stopping us from enjoying His rest? Is what we have on a comparable scale to what God has in His hand to offer us, through Sabbath?

Benefits

There are a few benefits of keeping Sabbath.

It is personal. We have to make the decision to keep Sabbath. Otherwise, all the benefits slip through the cracks… and we won’t experience any of it. It is an earnest heartfelt decision.

We can experience God’s Presence. His holiness. His goodness. We want more in our lives. In order to “get more,” we need to take this time to be with One who is all we need!

Let it be set apart. Get out of your routine, and just be with your Savior Jesus! That’s all we have to do. He is beckoning us to “come away with Me.” There is no expectation. All we have to do is, being willing to come. God is more than willing to spend all of your Sabbath weekend to just be with you. One-on-one. You are all He seeks.

God wants to give us the vacation we deeply seek. We just keep refusing it… Our weeks turns into months, where we have decided… I am just too busy to rest. I have X, Y, and Z still on my to-do list. Do yourself a favor. Enter God’s rest. Let yourself rest in His Presence, because God has said “It is good. It is more than okay!”

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).’

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His (Hebrews 4:9-10, NKJV).

Questions

Through the gift of Sabbath, let’s bask in His Presence and Sacrifice through the death, resurrection, and eternal life found in His Son Jesus Christ. That is our starting place for Sabbath. He is why we can rest. Joyfully, putting away our incomplete lists of tasks to be done.

How can we enter a deeper communion (intimacy) with our Savior this Sabbath?

Activities

Set aside one day to choose and worship God, while resting. It doesn’t have to be planned out. It is YOU choosing to meet with your Creator. In Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, they offer some helpful ideas for carrying out your day of Sabbath. I want to highlight a few…

  1. Have a Sabbath box of distracting items that don’t add to your Sabbath (cell phones, etc).
  2. Begin the night before, to recognize the day as a spiritual act of worship.
  3. Experience thanksgiving for the opportunity to rest your whole being, in Christ.

Choosing Jesus: Choosing Transformation

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One of the rules I want my life to be governed by, is a life of participating in Sabbath. Its benefits far exceed its risks of maintaining an overly busy lifestyle. This is a choice I make. Some weekends, that choice is more difficult to maintain. But, it is still a choice.

In Order to See God

… work in my life, I have to allow God to infiltrate the choices and habits we maintain in our daily lives.

This is the time of year, where we all seem to reevaluate the lives we lead. Are they lives of spiritual success, where we have made concrete decisions to follow Jesus through the choices and habits we have formed this year?

Why

… are such “rules” for living needed?

the choices we make.
the habits we cultivate.

… can bring us closer to Jesus Christ and the transformation we experience in Him!

These decisions and habits, Calhoun in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, describes as a rule for life. These things we make the decision to do, ensure our spiritual success.

We need to start to implement these influential disciplines into our lives, and allow God to bring the fruit from such choices, habits, and actions.

These choices and habits allow us to draw closer to Christ and join God like never before. “The spiritual practices of a rule provide a way to partner with the Holy Spirit for personal transformation (p. 35).”

Benefits

The choices and habits we form today, help us to reach where we want to go tomorrow or next year. Calhoun encourages his readers to “take stock of your desires, natural rhythms, limits, and times of closest connection to God.” This is great advice, because these choices and habits we cultivate will bring us closer to God.

It’s in these places that God can work, the greatest, as we give ourselves more wholly to Him.

Some examples of these choices and habits can include:

  • Beginning our morning in prayer.
  • Confessing our sins before bed.
  • Honoring God, by spending the first part of our day exercising physically and spiritually. I tend to exercise when I first wake up, and focus my attention to talking with God and working out the difficult things in my life. That is my time of giving them to God, while I am physically exercising.
  • Staying engaged in the Word of God and community of other believers.
  • Surrendering wandering thoughts to God. (see p. 37-38 for more)

Question

Think about your life right at this moment, how can we begin to give more of ourselves to our beloved Savior? We need to consider how God wants to help us grow in our relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. Let’s be intentional, because we know all too often this whole “failing to plan, planning to fail” has played out in some area of our lives.

Two Questions

  • What concept of following Jesus are we most wrestling with? Perhaps. honoring the Sabbath (free of social media), daily in the Word of God, or reaching reconciliation with other believers.
  • How can God begin to allow us to experience a personal transformation, as we apply His Word?

Activity

We need to “pay attention to the experiences, practices, and relationships that draw [us] toward God (p.37).” Let’s be intentional in continuing to seek God, so we don’t ever risk reaching a spiritual plateau.

When we seek to become physically healthy, we are aware of the risk and watch for it. We need to do that when it comes to our relationship with God.

It.is.so.much.more.important!

Though physical health is important, our relationship with God far exceeds the importance of monitoring ourselves against a physical plateau.

How can we keep watch over our spirits, to make sure we keep growing and becoming more consistent in our relationship with Jesus?

If we want to grow spiritually, we need to consider our choices and habits that are in place today – and what we would like to no longer see in our lives. We need to be proactive, and begin to surrender these areas to God today. Let’s not delay.

This week, starting with Sabbath, let’s place ourselves in Christ’s Presence deliberately and see what additions and subtractions we need to be making in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit be the One to lead you, in your choices and habits. Let Him begin to govern more of your life through developing God-honoring habits.

Choosing Jesus: Thanksgiving Edition 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Today, is Thanksgiving. We know there is one big component that should characterize our day – our week. Giving Thanks. In other words, joy. gratitude. celebration. coming together in unity with our loved ones. These would sum up the past three weeks of spiritual disciplines –

Celebration

Gratitude

Holy Communion

How can we go about our week in such a way, where our hearts can experience honest thanksgiving and building the community God placed us in?

One word for us, today: intentionality. Let’s be intentional, as God places us in community, allows us to experience things in which we can be thankful for, and we taste the sweet provision of our great God.

Why?

God has given us much! We may not have what our hearts’ desire, but God has gifted us with so much. Much of what we have, we are undeserving of. Instead of letting our heats be dominated by greed, we need to allow thanksgiving to cultivate in our hearts.

As I write this, I am reminded of one particular verse.

This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24, NASB)

Rejoice.

Gladness.

These both require us to do something. They are verbs, but gladness (and rejoicing) doesn’t just happen! We must be intentional. As we go about our lives, and the holidays, let’s be people who choose gratitude versus the disease of greed.

Benefits

Choose thanksgiving. Choose community over being alone. Invite others into your life, so God can use you in their midst. Choose to celebrate God’s work in your life. Even if He isn’t doing things the way you want, choose Him and thanksgiving over His work in your midst. Choose to be thankful about all the things He is doing, that you just can’t seem to wrap your head around. Choose to celebrate that He works differently and better than you ever could. Remember the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6.

Activity

Choose to take time this week, to stop and look at your life. Look at your life with God in Jesus Christ. Can you honestly say, “my life is hidden in God”? Or, have you allowed other things to crowd Him out?

During the holidays, these things have a way of “showing up”. Especially as we think about “Black Friday” sales and deals. We begin the process of thinking we need stuff we really don’t need.

Keep Christ first.

Not just this season.

But every single day.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. (Col. 3:2-4, NRSV)

So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry).  It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience], so avoid them at all costs. (Col. 3:5-6, VOICE)

Choosing Jesus: Holy Communion

Treasuring Communion

Jesus becomes the innocent lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Sacrificing his own life, he opens a doorway from death to life, from rebellion to friendship, from separation to communion and from senseless suffering to redemptive suffering. (Spiritual Disciples Handbook, p.33)

Holy Communion is a special experience in the life of the believer whose eyes are fixed on Christ Jesus. It isn’t something to take lightly. It is not a gift that I have enjoyed as regularly as I could have. But, it’s important to note something…

It is about the community we experience.

Communion is not solely expressed during a Christmas Eve service at the place we call our church home. It is in the community that joins us first with Jesus Christ – our Savior, and second to the church in which we have been called – the body rightly called the body of Christ.

Communion is in the unity we have found in Jesus Christ, because He taken all of our punishment upon Himself. He has called us His own, when He has the authority to eliminate us from the opportunity to sit at HIs divine table.

Communion is found in the unity we have within the church. As Christ’s bride, we have been scooped up from the various place of the earth and called His own. Together, we are called His own.

This weekend, let’s consider the important of the Holy Communion and the influence it has on our faith, relationships, and walk with the One True God.

Why…

Jesus, the Christ, has endured all things for our sake. To redeem us. This is why we celebrate the Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper.

Maybe, you haven’t taken communion in years as it is described in the Scriptures. It is about that community and unity found first and primarily with God through Jesus Christ and secondly – His Church.

In Acts 2:42-47, we gain a beautiful picture of the way God has designed His church – where no man, woman, or child is left to keep the faith and follow Jesus on their own. They came together, ate meals together, fellowshipped, and held church services inside their homes.

They made Jesus Christ their priority, which meant making His church a priority too. Accurately, they can be described as fully devoted to their Savior and those He cares deeply for.

This vision stands for us, as well. Even today. It doesn’t matter if you live in America or another country. The unity in His church needs to continue and flourish between the body’s members. It is not enough to accept this when it comes, but we must make it a goal we strive toward. This is a benefit of communion. Communion reminds us that we are to be “of one accord” (see Philippians 2:1-2).

The Holy Communion offers us the chance to remember Christ, and keep Him as the center of our lives. I have heard it described as an act of renewing our vows to our Savior, and the community in which He has placed us.

Benefits…

The greatest benefit of all, is remembering what God through His Son Jesus Christ has done on our behalf. There is nothing more sacred, than hearing these words and remembering what it is really all about

He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it.

Jesus: Take this; share it among yourselves. 18 Know this: I will not drink another sip of wine until the kingdom of God has arrived in fullness.

 Then He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it with them.

Jesus: This is My body, My body given for you. Do this to remember Me. And similarly, after the meal had been eaten, He took the cup.

Jesus: This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant, made in My blood. (Luke 22:17-20, VOICE)

It is about the sacred covenant God has made with each one of us, calling us out of darkness, into His marvelous light, but it doesn’t stop there. We aren’t merely to tolerated in the Kingdom of God, like we might allow someone into our lives – however we keep them at arm’s length. God shows us what true love is. We are not foreigners in His Kingdom, but citizens.

As we are taught in the Word of God,

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Eph. 1:13-14, NLT)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Phil. 3:20, ESV)

Question…

“What do you hope to receive at the Lord’s Table?” (p. 34)

Activity…

Remember what has been done for you. Jesus Christ came, to save us from all unrighteousness. For those who have placed their trust in Jesus, He has taken us from death to life. We are forever His, and nothing can change that. This is plenty for us to celebrate. Let’s spend this time, in thanksgiving – thanking God for His unending love for us!

If you have an opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Supper this week at your home church, take time to prepare youself beforehand. Scripture reminds us of our need to spiritually examine ourselves, before taking communion – for it is important to make sure we are right with God. (see 1 Cor. 11:17-34)

If you made it through today’s post, I have a surprise for you. May they be an encouragement for you – as you focus on communion with our Lord and His people.

“That’s My Lord” by Phillips, Craig, and Dean

“Brother” by Need-to-Bre

Choosing Jesus: Gratitude

A-Thankful-Heart

After a few weeks hiatus, this is the week we return to our “Choosing Jesus” series. This is the second spiritual discipline in our Sabbath series, which is on gratitude. It is only nature that gratitude would proceed celebration. These two disciplines really go together.

While it is November, gratitude isn’t reserved for solely this time of year. We are called to be thankful – “delight[ing] in God and his good will” year long. Delighting in God, is described as “the heartbeat of thankfulness (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).”

We all have been around others who are either incredibly thankful or a chronic complainer. We need to consider, which kind of person we want to be.

Do we want our hearts to be filled up with bitterness or God and thanksgiving for what He is doing?.

I have refused the gift of gratitude for most of my life. Even my adult life. God is showing me a different way – “the path of life (Ps. 16:11),” where we are given the opportunity to experience God’s Presence and the joy He offers to us. It’s not anything like this world could ever afford. God’s joy is real-and-long-lasting. Our circumstances may not vanish in an instance, but we will begin to realize that we can be happy despite our circumstances.

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. ~ Henri Nouwen

As we endure our high and low days of life, we can choose to be thankful people. Even when circumstances unforeseen enter our lives, we have much to praise God for.

Why We Can Express Gratitude

We can express thanksgiving, because of our intimate relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. We can rejoice and express thanksgiving – because:

  1. God has not left us (see Deut. 31:6; Jn. 14:18).
  2. His joy is within our reach, through His Son Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2).
  3. Others around us, act as a spark to help us learn what gratitude looks like (see Prov. 27:17).

It’s about delighting in Him, not how good life seems to flow.

Its Benefits

There are several benefits of developing a thankful heart. Let me try and list a few, for us all, to meditate on this Sabbath.

  1. Pleasure: God is not the only One who gets pleasure from our spirit of gratitude. We are tremendously blessed, when a light switch in our spirit is turned on – and we go from “complainer” to “the thankful person” (see Neh. 8:10; Prov. 21:19).

    This is the Holy Spirit’s work on our lives (see Gal. 5:22-23) – and a result of the Romans 12:1-2 kind of transformation God wants to do in us.

  2. Promises: It doesn’t just give us pleasure. It helps us to get God’s prospective on things in our lives. We learn God means what He says, when He promises to take care of us – and strengthen us (see 2 Chron. 16:9).
  3. Perspective: We learn not to take circumstances at a face value, because God is working on our behalf. God is changing our hearts, as we make the choice to follow Him and resolve to let His joy become our own – despite our circumstances (see Col. 3:1-2).

Question

I love this question that is listed in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook:

How has a grateful person affected your own vision of what matters in life? How has someone who lives out of bitterness affected your life?

Activity

Finally, we come to the one thing that will help us move toward a thankful heart. This is the place where we don’t just talk about gratitude, but choose to live it out.

Take time to focus on what kinds of things help you to give thanksgiving to God. Do you know anyone who reflects a truly thankful spirit who is firmly rooted in Christ Jesus? Focus on building into your daily life a thankful heart, and watch for ways that can flow out of you onto the community He has given you.