We are on a Sabbath journey. We began exploring and doing Sabbath about 6 years ago. I would have thought that by now we would have it all figured out but quite the contrary! This blog post is an experiment that proves I have a long way to go. Why? Well, because I am still trying to figure out what to do and what not do on the days we take as Sabbath. And because I haven’t figured it all out yet, these days can be quite difficult.
Angela suggested this morning that I write a blog post because when I started blogging about 7 or 8 years ago, it was a creative outlet for me. It was a joy. Now it has become a chore. Or at least when I think about it in terms of keeping our senders and supporters informed. I have found in my life that when something I enjoy doing becomes my work, the joy diminishes to the point of loathing. This happened with music years ago. And writing has followed a similar pattern. Not that anybody is keeping track but I haven’t posted on our blog yet this year! But maybe a change in perspective (on my part) can change a few things. Maybe writing can bring life and draw out creativity in me again. Time will tell.
But there is irony in this very day of Sabbath because my boss insisted I take today as a Sabbath day. In fact, he told me to take Thursday to Saturday as a Sabbath rest. So, I could go as far as to say that I have to Sabbath for work but I am hoping that Sabbath will grow into something really good rather than lose its allure like music and writing. I’m glad he told me to do this, though. He has learned a few things about resting and he knows that resting well is easily neglected by international workers and burnout takes many workers out of the field quickly and permanently.
It’s so easy to forget that Sabbath is not just a great suggestion but a command. Yup – a command! It’s one of the big 10! It’s up there with “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20). So, it goes without saying: it’s pretty important to the LORD that His people keep the Sabbath. If I think back 6 years to when Angela and I began to keep the Sabbath, I think guilt was a lot of the motivation. But that thankfully has changed for me. I have come to look forward to our Sabbath days. To long for them. And it was only a few months ago that I realized how much a gift the Sabbath can be for us. I read this verse: “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” That’s from Exodus 31:13 – New Living Translation.
“It is given so may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” There is sooo much freedom in that statement! Why? Because sometimes I think that by working hard, doing “ministry”, doing my devotions, praying, building relationships with locals, being a better husband and father – that all those things make me holy. That all those things earn me something. But of course that is absurd! You and I both know that doing doing doing doesn’t get us any further into the Kingdom!
And God knew early on that man would forget that He does the work of making us holy that He gave us a whole day to remind us of that fact!
Another secret reason I keep myself from blogging and sending out regular newsletter is because as international workers representing the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, and as the LORD’s ambassadors here, I don’t see a lot of forward progress or “return for the investment” if you know what I am saying. A lot of resources have been been poured out to get our family here and to keep us here and with that comes a tremendous pressure to make sure there is something to show for that investment. We are church planters and we have yet to plant a church. I have not personally had a hand in anyone turning from the darkness and to the marvelous light.
This is usually where people chime in with feel good statements of: “it’s still early”; “it’s only your first term”; “your still learning the language”; “Caracas is a hard place”. And those things all may be true but what I am trying to communicate here is that I can sooo easily get caught up in the mind game of measuring my worth by results. And I call it a mind game because I know better. I know where my worth and value really comes from but I still play the game.
And that is why I need this Sabbath day – to remind me that it is the LORD that makes me holy. It’s not how many churches I plant or how many people I see come to Christ. Yes, that is a large part of why we are here but I believe the LORD has given me the Sabbath to re-orient myself and my perspectives and then go about doing what He sent me to do knowing that He is the one that brings me value and worth. That He is going to build His church. That He is going to go before. That His Spirit is already speaking and softening hearts. That our presence here in this city is about Him, not us and not about what we can or can’t do.
But not only does He give us the Sabbath to remind us who we are when we struggle to see our value and worth, He gives us the Sabbath to remind us that in the midst of busyness, ministry success, and when things are going well and we are “lookin good” from a ministry perspective, that it is the LORD who makes us holy. And I think my boss knows this too and is another reason why he insisted I take 3 days of Sabbath.
We just hosted a team from Heritage Alliance Church from Abbotsford BC. They were here almost two weeks and a lot of good happened in those two weeks. They served the boy’s school and their staff, they loved on kids and families at the english speaking church in the city, they loved on locals, they loved on us, they grew by leaps and bounds in their faith. Really, you could say it was a short term missions trip success! And as a team, we hosted well. Kelly had 4 girls stay with her and we had the 7 others in the group stay with us. We planned their time here. Angela made sure they were fed (no small feat). I made sure they had connections with ministry here and that they got from point A to point B, C and D safely. We have reason to be proud (and perhaps a bit tired). But again, I need the Sabbath to remind me that it is the LORD who makes us holy. Not hosting short term missions teams and having an impact on the people in the city. That it is the LORD who makes me holy and not all the pouring out of my team and myself to make ministry happen.
So today is about pressing into the Father. It’s about being with Him and hearing Him speak truth and love into me. It’s about healing, It’s about reorienting, reconciliation and rest. It’s about Him. And the cool thing is is that by resting and not working, by stopping and not striving, I am being made holy!