Fresh Water: The Course of your Life

Fresh Water: The Course of your Life
4/22/18
Pastor Mike Halstead

In his epistle, James takes time to pay special attention to the potential dangers of how we use our speech.

Read
James 3:3-6

Go Deeper
1.What kind of situations may be present in James audience that he takes time to discuss the dangers of the tongue in such great detail?

2.Which of the metaphors that James uses sticks out to you?

3.Why does it seem like James is placing such an emphasis on the tongue as a dangerous part of

Apply
1.What kind of consequences can an uncontrolled tongue have on a church body?

2.Have you ever had a time when your speech has had a lasting impact on your life? Share that with the group.

3.Read James 1:19. How would this approach have helped the situation from the previous question? If you didn’t have an example, when is it the most difficult for you to be “slow to speak and quick to listen?”

4.Why is it that we often find it so difficult to apologize?

Pray
Praise God for giving us the ability to overcome our tendency to use poisonous words with others. Ask for courage to apologize to those with whom you may need to rebuild bridges that have been burned.

Fishing with Jesus

Cash Lowe
4/15/18

This week, we’ll take some time to take a look at the first instance of Jesus calling some men to follow Him. While it seems like this story is a pretty simple one, there may be a deeper truth to Simon’s interaction with the Christ then we may notice at first.

Read

Luke 5: 1-11

 

Go Deeper

1.How do you interpret Simon’s tone in verse 5? Does he seem reluctant?

2.Peter was sure that putting out the nets was a waste of time, because of his recent experience in doing so. What is something you have tried in the past that did not meet your expectations, leading to doubt in the future?

3.Why would Simon Peter react the way that he does in verse 8?

4.How do you think Simon, James, and John felt after this miracle took place?

 

Apply

1.What does it mean to go “fishing for men?”

2.How do you imagine you would respond to Jesus asking you to literally drop everything and follow him?

3.Have you ever had a time of doubt in your life that was followed up with a moment of truth? In other words, have you ever felt like Peter, when he told Jesus that fishing was pointless and was quickly shown Jesus’ power? How does that affect you moving forward?

 

Pray

Pray this week that you assumptions about what God can, cannot, will, and will not do are all erased. Ask God to show you your areas of doubt and mistrust. Examine your life and look for areas in which you may be hesitant to trust God because of your past experiences and ask Him to give you an opportunity to change.

The Free Gift That Costs So Much

Speaker: Cash Lowe
April 8th, 2018

This week, we are taking a look at two stories from the last week of Jesus’ ministry on Earth. Both of these stories are well-known, but because of the chapter interruption in between, we often tend to create an artificial disconnection between two moments that happened very close together. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, take time to read Luke 18:25-19:10, doing your best to ignore the chapter and verse designations.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into these two encounters.

 

Read

Luke 18:35-42

 

Go Deeper

1   Why do you think the beggar used the words “have mercy on me” instead of something more direct, like “heal my eyes?”

2.  Why would Jesus’s followers rebuke the beggar?

3.  When Jesus asked the beggar what he wanted Him to do, he was in fact asking if he was ready for the entirely different life that would come with the ability to see. His way of living would shift drastically. How is this similar to our experience in encountering Jesus?

 

Read

Luke 19:1-10

Go Deeper

1   Tax collectors were included in the category of “sinners” in Jesus’ day. They were cast on the outside of society for their collaboration with the Jewish peoples’ Roman oppressors. Who are people that we might push away in society today?

2.  The followers of Jesus had probably spent a good amount of time witnessing the miracles of Jesus, and hearing Him teach. Why do you think they sound indignant when Jesus then decides to stay with Zacchaeus?

3.  Reread verse 9-10. To whom do you think was Jesus actually speaking?

 

Apply

1  What parallels do you see between these two stories?

2  The people following Jesus attempted to stop the beggar from Who in our society have you unconsciously decided is not worthy of Jesus’ time or grace?

3  Just like the followers of Jesus in these stories, we often tend to put our own selfish desires above the actual will of Jesus. How do we try to reverse this way of thinking?

 

Pray

Ask God for opportunities to extend an open invitation to know Jesus to people with whom you may have difficult time doing so. Ask for forgiveness for the times you’ve decided that certain people don’t actual deserve to encounter Jesus.

Lion, Lamb, and Savior

 

I’m likely not going to be telling you anything you don’t know here, but this past Sunday was Easter, the day when we take special time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Today, we are going to take a look at a passage not commonly read during the Easter holiday: Revelation 5. The book of Revelation is…interesting. Full of colorful imagery and epic scenes of triumph and defeat, it culminates in the return of Jesus to Earth taking his rightful place as King. Let’s take a deeper look.


Lion, Lamb, and Savior
Pastor Mike Halstead
4/1/18

Read

Read through Revelation 5 in its entirety.

 

Go Deeper

1. Who is “the one who sat on the throne?” (Vs. 1)

 

2. Why would nobody be worthy to break the seals and open the scroll? (Vs. 4)

 

3. Verse 6 includes describes the Lamb as “looking as if it had been slain.” What is significant about this?

 

4. The second half of this passage depicts a grand scene of worship, and includes several songs that are sung in praise of the Lamb. What are some songs that you sing that depict the majesty and royalty that our Savior deserves?

 

Apply

1. Why should this passage be significant to us on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ?

 

2. It is often the case that we relegate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection to one day of the year- Easter. How do create a habit of celebrating this monumental event year-round?

 

3. I believe that a major purpose of Easter should be to remind us of the importance of the story of the gospel, which has the possibility of being something we can take for granted. Who will you spread the “good news” of the gospel to as a response to this reminder?

 

Pray

This week, pray that we start to recognize that our Easter celebration should not be kept to a single day of the year. Praise God for his mastery over death and his gracious decision to bring us into eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

2017 Annual Report

The State of the Church: 2017 Annual Report

This past Sunday, Pastor Mike discussed Harvest: our history, our present, and our future. It was a great message that touched on the roots of our church, our values and what is important here at Harvest [Listen Here]. He briefly introduced the staff (meet them here), talked about our Executive and Elder Board, and went over our 2017 Annual Report. To download a PDF: Annual Report 2017.

Take a look below at the 2017 Annual Report. It might look like a bunch of numbers, but it is important to remember that every number represents a unique individual with their own story. Here at Harvest, we aren’t about numbers – we are about the people. As a staff and leadership, we are so excited about the upcoming year and what is in store for 2018.



 

For this week’s study, we are doing something a little different. Instead of going further into the texts used in this week’s Sunday morning message, we are going to take some time to look at the “state of ourselves.” That is, we are going to look at where we came from individually, figure out what we find important in the life of the church, and then look to the future as we create a goal for how we can be part of God’s mission in our community.

Where do you come from?

  1. Mike gave a brief history of the movement in church history from which Harvest originates. We are a “reformation” church. Talk about how you came to be a part of Harvest.

 

  1. How was this last year for you, spiritually? What were some highs and lows?

 

  1. Read Acts 2:42-47. Has your life reflected the life of the early church?

 

What is important?

  1. Let’s start this section with a deceptively simple question: Why do you go to church?

 

  1. What do you believe should be the priority of the church, both the global church and the congregation that meets at Harvest?

 

  1. If Harvest were to create some sort of new ministry or program, and asked you what you believe that ministry or program should be geared toward, what specifically would it do? For example, if community outreach were your answer from the previous question, what practical steps should the church be taking to accomplish that goal?

 

What’s in the future?

  1. How will you serve the church body over the next year?

 

  1. What is some sort of habit you need to either break or improve this year?

 

  1. In whose life, either within or outside the church, can you make a difference this year? How will you do so?

 

Pray

Pray for the upcoming year, and the enormous potential we have. Remember we are a church backed by the almighty creator of the universe. The goals we have are nothing compared to the power and faithfulness of our Lord! Pray for opportunities to carry out our mission and to become a church body that impacts our community in the name of Christ.

Worship in Reading the Scriptures

In this weeks post I want to take some time to talk about the Bible. We are all aware of the Bible’s importance to our lives as believers, and that we all need to be taking time to regularly be immersed in the Scriptures. But today, I want to introduce you to a practice called lectio divina, which is a way of reading and meditating on Scripture, and teaches us to be attentive to God’s voice as we do so. Think of it as Bible “listening.”

 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The Bible can mean many things to many people. For some, it is merely the best-selling and most widely distributed book of all time; for others, it is a tool to look back into an ancient world and learn and study about ancient civilizations, religions, and politics; for some, the bible is a book which outlines the “do’s” and “do nots” of how one is to live their life. For believers, the Bible is holy; we read it as Scripture.

What does it mean to read the Bible as Scripture? When we approach the Bible as Scripture it means that our intent is to know God and to learn how to be God’s people. Scripture shapes us. Scripture changes us. We read to be transformed, and such a transformation is necessary in our pursuit to live a life of worship.

“When we engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation, on the other hand, we engage not only our mind but also our heart, our emotions, our body, our curiosity, our imagination and our will. We open ourselves to a deeper level of understanding and insight that grows out of and leads us deeper into our personal relationship with the One behind the text. And it is in the context of relational intimacy that real life change takes place.”[1]

When we read our Bibles in this way, it is completely different from how we normally engage with reading material. Instead of seeking to gather information, or engage God on a cognitive level, reading as Scripture allows us to listen and learn from God. We do not rush on to the next chapter, or seek to power through our daily reading assignment; instead, we linger and contemplate what we are reading and how we react to that reading. It is in this context that we can be intentionally aware of what the God is saying to us through the text. It is a move from the head to the heart.

The practice of lectio divina is an approach to reading the Bible that sets the stage for God’s word to speak to us in the present moment. Lectio divina means “divine [or sacred] reading.” It is a practice that dates back to the early followers of the Christian faith. “The practice of lectio divina is rooted in the belief that through the presence of the Holy Spirit the Scriptures are indeed alive and active as we engage them for spiritual transformation (Hebrews 4:12 [quoted above]).”[2]

This process requires that we read slower, and more reflectively. When practicing lectio divina, you will not be reading a large chunk of text, but smaller pieces, maybe only a handful of verses. Whatever section you are reading and reflecting on, you will read the passage several times, with each repetition bringing a new focus to consider.

Lectio divina consists of four movements, or steps. Think of it like learning how to dance. At first, it may be awkward, and you will be very concerned about getting it right and not making a mistake. As with learning anything, it takes time and practice. Eventually, you will stop thinking about the steps (the mechanics of the process) and simply dance and enjoy your dance partner.

For lectio divina, you will select a passage of Scripture that is no more than 6-8 verses in length. Then, you’ll take some time to prepare for your reading and to enter into God’s presence. In the first move, you read (lectio) and listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you. Then, pause to dwell on that word. In the second move you will reflect (meditatio) on that word or phrase. Read your passage again, and ask why that word stood out to you, followed by silence. In the third move, you will respond (oratio), read the passage again, and ask if there is an invitation or challenge for you to respond to. Take some quiet time to respond to the word that’s been given to you. Finally, in the fourth move you will read again and contemplate (contemplatio) what you have received, and rest in God with it.

Below, I have outlined a simple process to follow in order to practice lectio divina. Give it a try. It is likely a very different approach to reading the Bible than you have experienced before. Do it alone, or in a group.

Practice lectio divina

Choose a passage (6-8 verses). It can be part of your normal reading, or something you select.

Preparation (silencio): Take a moment, close your eyes, and relax your body, become consciously aware of God’s presence with you. Tell him that you are here, and you are ready to listen. Offer it up as a short prayer.

Read (lectio): Listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you. Turn to your passage, read it slowly. You may find it helpful to read aloud. Let the passage sink in as you read, and listen for a word or phrase that strikes you, or catches your attention. Allow some space for silence. Repeat the word softly to yourself. Don’t ask questions yet.

Reflect (meditatio): How is my life touched by this word? When you have the word, read again and listen for a way the passage connects to you. What is it in your life that needs to hear this word? If your passage is a story, place yourself at the scene, how do you react to it? How does it touch you? Meditate on this in silence.

Respond (oratio): What is my response to God based on what I have read and encountered? Read the passage again, listen for your own response. How are you reacting to the word you’ve been given? In your time of silence, enter into a prayerful dialogue with God, share with him how you have reacted, what emotions you are feeling, pour out your heart to him. Pay attention to any sense that God is inviting you to act or respond in some way. It may even be helpful to put this step to paper and write it down.

Rest (contemplatio): Rest in the Word of God. In your final reading, return to a place of rest in God. You’ve given full expression to your response and now you’re surrendering to God.

Resolve (incarnation): Incarnate (live out) the Word of God. When you are done resting in contemplation, resolve to carry this word with you into your life and live it out. If you were led to action, or to confession, make it a part of you as you move forward. Allow this time of reading and listening to transform you, and take you further on your journey into living a life of worship.

“Reading is like brining solid food to the mouth; meditation is the chewing of it, while prayer is the trusting of it; and, in contemplation, we take delight in the sweetness we have found.”[3]

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May you ever been willing to listen to his voice, and seek his guidance in your life. May your faith be put into practice and taken out into the world with you, and not kept privately in your heart. Amen.

 

[1] Barton, Sacred Rhythms, p. 50

[2] Barton, Sacred Rhythms, p. 55

[3] Quote from Guigio II, the Carthusian. A 12th century French monk.

A House of Prayer

We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 28th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.


A Spiritual House

Week Three: A House of Prayer

Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/28/17

This week, in our series on the spiritual nature of the church, we take a look at the role that prayer plays in the mission of the church, and how is it used when we look at the community we have been placed in as our target audience for the gospel.

Read

James 5:13-18

Go Deeper

  1. The first verse tells the audience to both pray and sing praise. How are the two activities connected?

 

  1. Why is it so important to remain prayerful in times of blessing?

 

  1. What can we learn from Elijah’s faithfulness and habit of prayer?

 

Read

James 5:19-20

Go Deeper

  1. Who is somebody you know that has “wandered away” and needs prayer to help bring them back?

 

  1. What else can we do, apart from prayer, to bring the lost sheep back into the fold?

 

  1. What does James mean by his assertion that the one who brings back a wanderer will “cover a multitude of sins?”

 

Apply

  1. What is a time in your life when you find a habit of prayer comes easiest? How about when it is more difficult?

 

  1. What is a way you can influence our community in our collective effort to spread the gospel?

 

  1. Why is a personal habit of prayer important in the global mission of the church?

 

Pray

This week, start a regular habit of prayer. Take some time each day at the same time to pray for our community. Harvest has the opportunity to affect our city for the gospel, but will only succeed if we are continually dedicating ourselves to God’s will for us. Ask God to show who and how you can personally influence as we seek to bring our home into the kingdom of God.

 

Now It’s Personal

We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 21st) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.


A Spiritual House

Week Two: Now it’s Personal

Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/21/18

In the second week of our series entitled “A Spiritual House,” we take a look at the story of Nehemiah, a man who saw the need for the wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and took personal responsibility in gathering together the people to make it happen.

The task of building and strengthening the kingdom of God has been given to us by our Creator. He has graciously allowed us to take part in the glorious mission of spreading the gospel to the world and bringing together the church in way that shines the light of God to those still outside its walls.

Read

Nehemiah 2: 11-20

Go Deeper

  1. Nehemiah’s first task is to inspect just how much damage has been done to the walls of his city. When we set forth to accomplish our mission, what are some ways we prepare to do so?

 

  1. When Nehemiah goes the Jewish people and explains to them the task that is before them, how does he convince them that this is something that needs to be done?

 

  1. How do we “strengthen [our] hands for the good work” (vs. 18) that we need to do?

 

  1. Nehemiah then encounters people who oppose the work that he intends to do. What kind of opposition might we face in our mission to spread the gospel?

Read

Nehemiah 4:6-14

Go Deeper

  1. 6 says: “And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Why is this verse significant?

 

  1. How do the Jews respond to the threat of opposition and violence from those who don’t want their work to continue?

 

  1. Sometimes we consider the mission of spreading the gospel to the entire world a massive undertaking, one that might be impossible to fully accomplish. What does verse 14 tell us about how we should approach our mission?

Apply

  1. In chapter 3, we see that the people of Jerusalem took personal responsibility for portions of the wall that were near to their homes. What lesson can we take from this?

 

  1. Nehemiah’s specific task was to lead people in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, something near and dear to his heart. What is your specific task?

 

  1. It is important to recognize, as the Jews did, that our work will not always be easy, nor will it always feel like we can accomplish the task set before us. What are some ways to get through those times?

 

If we are to see the mission of the church to be accomplished, it has to become personal. We need to see that we are not just trying to do “good,” but to bring the peace, love, and grace of God to those closest to us. We should start to see that our mission to the world doesn’t just include third-world countries across oceans, but that it should start in the communities in which we live!

Pray

Pray for clarity and discernment as to who you can reach in the church’s mission to spread the gospel. Pray for unity amongst the church as a whole and see the urgency in the needs that must be addressed. Thank God that he has given us the opportunity to be a part of His plan, and for a way to actively show our gratitude for the grace He has given us.

A Church on Purpose

We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 14th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.


A Spiritual House

Week One: A Church on Purpose

Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/14/17

This week, we began a new sermon series entitled “A Spiritual House,” in which we are examining what “church” is truly supposed to be.

In our first passage, we will look at what Peter says about what it means to be a spiritual house and who God’s people have been called to be.

Read

1 Peter 2:1-11

Go Deeper

  1. Based on this passage, what is a “spiritual house?”

 

  1. In the first verse, Peter mentions things that cause dissension between people in the church. Have you ever experienced something like this? What was the result of that strife?

 

  1. This entire passage focuses on the spiritual aspect of what it means to be a Christian, and the importance of God’s people, rather than the buildings, titles, and services we use. What is the danger of viewing the church as a physical place?

 

Peter’s words would have pleased Jesus. He, too, was concerned with the goings on of not just His followers, but also with the actual workings of the temple and made efforts to right the wrongs that were being committed in the courts of the House of God.

Read

John 2:13-16

Go Deeper

  1. How does this image of a violent, passionate Jesus clash with the popular image of Jesus we have today?

 

  1. How does the scene in this passage relate to having a pure and spiritual house of God?

 

  1. If Jesus were to attend a church service this Sunday, how do you think he would react?

 

Apply

  1. How can the church become a more spiritual house in 2018?

 

  1. How about your own house?

 

  1. Pastor Mike talked about the misconception that we have sometimes that church is supposed to be a boring event. Do you agree? How do we make church less boring? How does this relate to the idea of a “spiritual house?”

 

Pray

Pray for guidance in how to build yourself, your family, and the church into a spiritual house. One that seeks to build each other up and spread the message of God’s kingdom to those who’ve yet to hear it.

Worship in Observing the Sabbath

 

Today’s post is for those who feel tired, beaten down, and overwhelmed. Sabbath has been woven into the fabric of creation; God knew that we would need rest from our labor to keep us healthy. Learning more about Sabbath has changed my life, and I believe that it can change yours as well! I highly recommend reading the two books that influenced this post, “The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel, and “Sacred Rhythms” by Ruth Haley Barton. Both are available in our Harvest bookstore on Sunday mornings.

 

“Better one handful of quietness than two handfuls of toil.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

We are all familiar with the days of creation found in Genesis. In this first account, we see creation poetically patterned into days where God makes the entire universe in which we live[1]. At the end of the account, we reach the seventh, final day, and the Bible tells us “God finished His work” and “rested from the work.”[2] Wait, God finished working on the seventh day? I thought he took a day off? What did God finish on this seventh day, what did he create?

The ancient rabbi’s taught that there was an act of creation on the seventh day. After six days of creation there was still something that was lacking in the universe, and that was Menuha (the Jewish word for “rest”). The Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book “The Sabbath” explains that menuha is so much more than the cessation from labor, toil, or activity – and that the universe would be incomplete without menuha. Here is how Heschel describes menuha:

“To the biblical mind menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. The word with which Job described the state after life he was longing for is derived from the same root as menuha. It is the state wherein man lies still, wherein the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust. The essence of good life is menuha. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters” (the waters of menuhot). In later times menuha became a synonym for the life in the world to come, for eternal life.”[3]

In a previous post, “Living a Life of Worship” we talked about how learning to live a life of worship begins with time. Entering into menuha on the Sabbath is where we enter into God’s time. Heschel describes the world as existing in a tension between space and time. Space, is our realm where we create and we possess. In space, we build and we do. Time, is God’s realm, for not a single one of us can possess time.  In time, exists eternity and the world of eternal life to which we look to in the future.

We control space. Within space, we create and we build. We do. We shape the world into what we would have it be. In Genesis, God commanded humanity to “fill the earth” – to build up civilization within the realm of space. The goal of space is to have, to do, to create. We spend most of our lives caught up in space. God knew this when he created the universe, which is why he wove menuha into the pattern of creation so that we would not forget to leave our space behind to seek out God in time.

When we observe Sabbath, when we enter into God’s menuha (his eternity of time) we set aside our “doing” in the realm of space in favor of simply being. This is the meaning of Sabbath. When we observe the Sabbath we are set free from the dreaded “to-do list” that constantly hovers over us, and instead get to live in a time as if the cares and burdens of our world have already fallen away and we are already living in the eternity of the world to come. The goal of time is not to have, but to be.

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”[4]

Maybe you have felt as I have, that there is always something to do and there is never enough time in which to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished. Perhaps your chest will begin to feel tight, like mine does when I become overwhelmed by “doing.” Like me, maybe you will begin to lose sight of God’s eternal time and menuha. Don’t waste your life in “space” pursuing temporary life and neglecting the pursuit of eternal life and time!

The Sabbath is what sets us free from having to do, anything! It is not simply something else to do, another righteous task that we have to commit. The bible tells us not to grow weary of doing good, and the way that we keep from becoming weary is by entering into menuha – on a regular basis. Menuha can’t be sprinkled around or squeezed in “when I have time” – because let’s be honest, there is never enough time. We need to be intentional about drawing a hard line between our space (our work) and our time (our rest). I hope this is making sense.

The Sabbath is not another thing to “do”, as if it existed in the realm of space – it is instead something for us to look forward to! It is the climax of our week. Heschel says that the Sabbath is not a date, it is an atmosphere.

“The Sabbath is no time for personal anxiety or care, for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy. The Sabbath is no time to remember sins, to confess, to repent or even to pray for relief or anything we might need. It is a day for praise, not a day for petitions…

[The Sabbath] is a profound conscious harmony of man and the world, a sympathy for all things and a participation in the spirit that unites what is below and what is above. All that is divine in the world is brought into union with God. This is Sabbath, and the true happiness of the universe.”[5]

Sabbath is something that we need, and God knows it. Otherwise, we risk becoming slaves to our work, and we become caught up in the rush and we never slow down. I heard someone say recently, that God rarely speaks at the rate we are running. The Sabbath is about slowing down, and matching our pace with God. It is about letting go of everything temporary in this world that demands our attention and our time and instead giving our bodies and spirit a day to bask in the eternity of God’s time. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Here is how Ruth Haley Barton describes her experience with the practice of Sabbath keeping:

“The truth is, Sabbath keeping is a discipline that will mess with you, because once you move beyond just thinking about it and actually begin to practice it, the goodness of it will capture you, body, soul and spirit. You will long to wake up to a day that stretches out in front of you with nothing in it but rest and delight. You will long for a simple way to turn your heart toward God in worship without much effort. You will long for a space in time when the pace is slow and family and friends linger with one another, savoring one another’s presence because no one has anywhere else to go.”[6]

I don’t know about you, but I’m busy. I’m so busy that there are days when I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to do much of anything for anybody. There are days when I don’t have time to “waste” on my three year old daughter who just wants to sit with me, or read a book. Weeks can go by without spending time with friends or family. It is rare anymore that I can even remember a day where I felt “bored” because there was “nothing to do.” I am such a do-er. Resting is not my strong suit, I like to accomplish things and be productive! Yet, God is calling me to put down my work and enter into his rest. Maybe he is calling you into menuha as well – and perhaps you have been too busy to notice.

The question remains, how do we understand Christian Sabbath? In Jewish observance, on the Sabbath there is no work for an entire day, time is sanctified, and family gather together. For a Jew, observing Sabbath was part of keeping the law of Moses. We may not be bound by law to observe Sabbath, or to enter into menuha, but it is still a beneficial practice. As for incorporating Sabbath into your life, I have some suggestions.

First, find a day or a window of time in a day (it really doesn’t have to be the whole day) where you can devote time to entering into God’s rest. Use the following “litmus” test to determine if what you are doing during your Sabbath is true to its purpose. If an activity falls into one of these categories, its Sabbath honoring!

Faith based. The Sabbath is a holy time of entering into God’s rest. It needs to be centered/focused on God.

Family focused. Sabbath is a time for family to be infused with God’s goodness and presence together.

Friendship. The Sabbath is communal. It is not the same as spending time alone in silence or solitude to recharge. It is about entering into eternity with God, and with others. It is about living as if we are already enjoying eternity.

Freedom from “have to.” In God’s time, we leave behind our space. We don’t do anything because it has to be done, we do because we want to.

Fun. The Sabbath is not a somber duty; it is a day of celebration and joy! It’s a time to play games and have fun.

I challenge you to find time, as a family, to participate in Sabbath rest. If you’re having trouble finding a time slot try drawing out your weekly schedule by day and time. Color in the blocks of time that are already committed to things that cannot be changed (like your work schedule). Next, color in the times where you’re involved in church related activities, like your small group or attending on Sunday mornings. If there is any other things you do on a regular basis, fill those in as well. Then visually look for the gaps. For my family, that gap was Saturday morning. That is our time of Sabbath. We do whatever we want to do, together, on that day (as long as it isn’t a “have to”). Sometimes that means sleeping in, having a late breakfast, and then going on a drive or a hike. Other times, it involves going to the park or visiting with friends. Anything that is Sabbath honoring. Give it a try. See how you feel. Find freedom in “rest” and let your “have to’s” wait for a little while. Enjoy it. Find your stride again.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit continue to call you into the eternity of his time and give you rest. Remember, that our control over space is only temporary. Let us not get so caught up in “doing” that we forget to simply “be” in the presence of God. Amen.

[1] “First account”? In Genesis, there are two creation stories – have you noticed? The first is in 1:1-2:3, the second is in 2:4-25. The order of creation differs slightly in each account. Additionally, in the first account God creates all of humanity; in the second, He creates one man and one woman (Adam and Eve).

[2] Gen. 2:2

 

[3] Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951) p.23

[4] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 10

 

[5] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 30-32

[6] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 133