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Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he that trusts in the Lord.  – Proverbs 16:20 

Parents and teachers alike talk about ‘teaching moments’.  Teaching moments are those times in life when something happens and the situation or occurance can be used to teach a lesson.   We usually think of teaching moments in relation to children, but we grown-ups are fair game for them, too!  In fact, God often uses real life situations to teach us lessons that we need to learn or be reminded of. 

One such lesson recently occurred.  Words spoken in jest with ‘buddies’ were mistakenly shared with others who misunderstood and were hurt and offended.  Important relationships were affected.  Damage control was needed asap, and everything possible was done to rectify the situaiton and restore relationships.  Time will hopefully fade the memory and impact of the situation, but nothing can erase the words already spoken or the mistakes that were made. 

We are so limited in situations like this, and no person is exempt from making mistakes.  Challenging situations like this can seem hopeless to some, but not to those who put their trust in the Lord.  Without a moment’s hesitation, prayer should be the first step in approaching difficult and seemingly hopeless situations.  In this case, God saw this dilemma as a teaching moment to deepen faith, foster self-reflection and personal growth, and show how powerfully He can work.  Just as we seek to grow our children in positive ways through life’s lessons, God seeks to do the same with us.  Likewise, just as we seek to help our children along and prepare for life because we love them and want them to be the best they can be, God reaches out to teach and correct us for the very same reasons.  Although the process can be painful at times, there is great joy in knowing God is keeping His eyes upon us and that He loves us enough to help us along. 

Dear God, Thank You for being ever-present in our lives and caring enough to not only help us past the rough spots, but also for growing us in faith and drawing us closer to You in the process.  We cannot promise to never again make a mistake, but we can promise to seek You and trust You in all we do, and to make the best of the teaching moments You put before us.  Amen.

HE IS RISEN!  WE ARE FORGIVEN. AMEN.

 I always chuckle when I watch the tv commercial where two boys are camped out in a mini-van parked in their driveway.  The dad, who has obviously been working hard on a building project, excitedly tells the boys that he finally finished building the tree house they’ve been waiting for!  The boys are comfortably situated in the back seats of the mini-van enjoying  a movie played on its ‘media system’.  Instead of responding with shouts of glee and excitement to the news that their long-awaited tree house is ready, they ask if the tree house offers the same comforts as those they’ve gotten used to in the van.  After determining that it doesn’t, they decide they’re good where they are, close the van doors, and the dad walks back to the tree house alone, scratching his head in bewilderment as he goes.  

The point of the commercial is to promote the features of the mini-van.  Although I do get a chuckle from this commercial, it occurred to me that we are often like those kids, so comfortable in our surroundings, that we fail to recognize the gift our Father worked so hard to prepare for us, too. 

The Easter story tells us that God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to die for us, as a sacrifice on the cross, an offering for our sins, so that we could be forgiven for our sins.  I’ve known that story for as long as I can remember.  My boys learned it at a young age, too.  When my youngest son was just 4 years old he looked up at a dark red sun-catcher cross that hangs high on a window in our home and told me the dark red color reminded him of the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross.  (I remember that moment well.  It was one of my ‘proud Mama’ moments.  My son understood the meaning of the cross!  Thanks for that go to the education he received at church Sunday School and Weddington Christian Preschool. God bless our teachers!) 

We learn to recite the meaning of the Easter story, but do we actually understand it?  Until I read about sacrifices in the Old Testament, I did not have a true understanding or appreciation for what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross.  Sacrifices began way back in the Old Testament.  I started recognizing the significance of sacrifices and their importance to God when I read through the Book of Leviticus.  It immediately follows the Book of Exodus which tells of the Israelites exodus from Egypt.  Now that the Israelites are separated, ‘set apart’, from the influences of other people and religions, God is instructing them (the Hebrew people) that they are to be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 19:2).  Being holy meant living in a righteous and proper way that was pleasing to God, and offering proper worship to Him. An important part of worship was offering sacrifices.  The notes of my Bible (NLT- Life Application Study Bible), explain well what I want to say, so I will share them with you. 

“When God taught his people to worship him, he placed great emphasis on sacrifices.  Sacrifices were God’s Old Testament Way for people to ask for forgiveness for their sins.  Since Creation, God has made it clear that sin separates people from him and that those who sin deserve to die.  Because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), God designed sacrifice as a way to seek forgiveness and restore a relationship with Him.    Because He is a God of love and mercy, God decided from the very first that he would come into our world and die to pay the penalty for all humans.  This he did in his Son, who, while still God, became a human being.  In the meantime, before God made this ultimate sacrifice of His Son, he instructed people to kill animals as sacrifices for sin.  Animal sacrifices accomplished two purposes: (1) The animal symbolically took the sinner’s place and paid the penalty for sin, and (2) the animal’s death represented one life given so hat another life could be saved.  This method of sacrifice continued throughout Old Testament times.  It was effective in teaching and guiding the people and bringing them back to God.  But in New Testament times, Christ’s death became the last sacrifice needed.  He took our punishment once and for all.  Animal sacrifice is no longer required.  Now all people can be freed from the penalty of sin by simply believing in Jesus and accepting the forgiveness He offers. “   – Life Application Study Bible  New Living Translation

Did you catch that last sentence?  All we have to do to be freed from the guilt and weight of our sins is to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and to accept His gift of forgiveness.  It’s a shame that the boys in the mini-van missed out on all the joys and delights they’d find in the tree house their father worked so hard to build for them.  Unfortunately, they thought they already had everything they needed.  The father was left to walk away without them. 

It’s Easter.  Christ has risen!  We are forgiven!  Through Christ, your Father worked hard to build a new Kingdom for you.  It’s one of love and forgiveness.  Will you go with Him to check it out?  Or will He have to walk away without you?  

So much has happened since I reported of the night’s activities.  (See post below.  Holy Week – While You Were Sleeping)  This is a very sad, dark time. 

After a long night of being harassed and physically beaten and abused, Jesus was condemned to death by the crowd that gathered outside of Pilate’s quarters.  Not wanting to feel responsible for Jesus’ death, Pilate gave in to the crowd’s demands and handed Jesus over to them.  Jesus was then mocked, beaten and bloodied more severely, almost to the point of disfigurement.  My heart broke to see someone I loved and admired so much treated so cruelly.  Despite the deep wounds that covered his body, Christ was forced to proceed through the streets of Jerusalem as a criminal to the hill where he would be crucified.  Although soldiers tried to make him to carry his own cross, he was physically unable to do so.  Someone named Simon was pulled from the crowd to carry the cross for him. Eventually they arrived at Skull Hill where Jesus was nailed to the cross and hung to die.

We were terrified when, at noon, a great darkness coverd the earth.  Two criminals were also being crucified.  They also hung from crosses on each side of him.  One was taunting Jesus.  The other recognized Jesus as his Savior and asked for Jesus to take him where Jesus was going.  Jesus promised that he would, granting salvation in the criminal’s dying moments.  Some of guards and people in the crowd cried out to also taunt and mock Jesus.  In his graciousness, he cried out to his Father seeking forgiveness for all who had wronged him. 

I could hardly bear to watch what was happening to our Savior, yet I couldn’t leave.  I stayed until he took his last breath.  He shouted out, then gave up his spirit.  As this happened, the earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened.  It is said that at the moment Jesus gave up his spirit, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  (Matthew 27:50-52)  Our Savior, Messiah, had died.   

Although the darkness of the land was lifted at 3:00, my heart feels the darkness of the blackest night.  How could they have treated him that way?  How could they kill the one who came to save the very people who led him to his grave?  How could they not have recognized him?  What do we do now?  He said he would be raised and come back again, but what did that mean?  How could that be possible?  It is Passover, a time that usually calls for celebration, but I have never felt such sickness and pain in my heart.  This is a time of great mourning for me.  Oh, for our Savior to live again. 

It’s been a long night.  In some ways this day is just beginning.  Yet, looking back at last night’s events, it’s hard to tell where yesterday stopped and today began. 

The long night began when Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Passover meal.  John tells us that, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his father.” (John 13:1)  They met in an upper room as instructed by Jesus.  It had been an interesting week with Jesus – some wild events had occured and he’d been saying things the disciples didn’t quite get.  He’d talked of dying, going where they couldn’t go, then coming back again, and later they would follow him.  They didn’t question him much.  He often spoke in ways they didn’t understand.  Other times, they thought they understood, but really didn’t.  Although Jesus seems to be at peace, John states he is also in a state of  great anguish. (John 13:21)  Jesus knew that Judas would later betray him, thus putting into motion the events that would lead to the long, painful night ahead and his eventual death on the cross. 

So they gathered for the traditional Passover meal, but theirs was not to be completely traditional.  Jesus, their beloved leader, upon which they hung their hopes of saving the people of Jerusalem, the one who would lead them to a new kingdom, began the evening by lowering himself to a servant’s status and washing their feet.  He did this to set an example for them.  Then said that the servant is not greater than the master and commanded them to serve each other.  (John 13:12-17)

After observing the usual symbolic procedures of the Passover meal, Jesus went on to break the bread, telling the disciples the bread was his body, and that they were to partake of the bread in remembrance of him.  Surely the disciples were wondering what he meant!  Then Jesus went on to lift his cup of wine, not to make a toast, but to tell the disciples that the wine was his blood, poured out for each of them.  That, too, was to be taken in remembrance of him.  Did the disciples understand the importance and meaning of what Jesus was teaching them? Did they wonder what it meant that Jesus had poured out his blood for them?

Jesus used the time during the meal to continue teaching and encouraging the disciples.  He also shared what he could about things to come so later they would know he truly was the Messiah – even foretelling that one of them would betray him.  He also gave them a new commandment: “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  (John 13:34-35)  Jesus ended their evening by praying for himself, the disciples, and future believers.  Then it was time to go.

Jesus led them across the Kidron Valley to an olive grove known as the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was there he met Judas, his betrayor, who came with Roman soldiers and Temple guards.  It was here, in the dark of night,  that Jesus was arrested, tied up and led away – secretly so as not to begin a riot with those who supported him – to a preliminary hearing.  From there Jesus was secretly led to another hearing before Caiaphas, the high priest.  At this ‘hearing’, those who opposed Jesus looked for men willing to bear false witness against Jesus.  When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the rulers declared his words to be blasphemy, declared him guilty, and said that he must die!  Then they spit in Jesus’ face, slapped him and mocked him. (Matthew 26:63-68) By this time it was late at night.  Notes in my Bible (NLT) say that this ‘trial’ made a mockery of justice. 

Early in the morning, Jesus was bound and taken before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Only the Roman governor could impose the death penalty.  Pilate saw Jesus was innocent, but was afraid of political upset and riots, so he sent Jesus to Herod for judgement.  However, when Jesus refused to perform a miracle for Herod, Herod lost interest in him and sent him back to Pilate.  It was at this last meeting with Pilate that Jesus’ fate was handed over to the public, and they cried out for him to be crucified. 

While you were sleeping, Jesus spent the last evening before his crucifixion sharing a Passover meal with his disciples, using his last moments with them as effectively as he could to teach them, prepare them for times to come, and prophesying to establish that he was the Messiah.  His emotional agony was so great over what was to happen that he suffered physical agony, too.  Then, the events of the night led to him being arrested, mocked, spat upon, physically abused, and abandoned by those closest to him.  In addition to his physical and emotional suffering, Jesus traversed 21 miles from where he was arrested in the Garden to his final meeting with Pilate.  Now that morning has come, in addition to all he endured through the night, his final journey to the cross will begin. 

Today is Maundy Thursday, aka Holy Thursday.  I’m very excited to be acknowledging this day at our monthly Friends of God event at our church this morning.  Our new Senior Pastor, Dr. Terry Moore, will be our featured speaker, sharing an Easter message with us.  If you live near Weddington, NC, come join us!  We’ll be at Weddington Church (south of I-485 on Providence Road) in the Family Life Center (new building just south of the church).  Time is 11:45 – 12:45.  Light finger foods will be served, or bring your lunch.  Beverages are not provided, but good fellowship and inspiration are!  Join other Friends of God as we celebrate Easter! 

For more info about Maundy Thursday, go to www.gotquestions.org  It’s an excellent Christian reference site.  Just enter Maundy Thursday in the ‘search box’.  It will give you great info and links to related topics. 

Easter blessings to all,

Renee

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.   – Matthew 18:11

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.    – 2 Corinthians 6:2

I wear a pink band on my wrist.  It reminds me of a friend and sister in Christ who recently lost her battle with breast cancer.  Tara was only 35 years old and left behind her parents, many friends and loved ones, her devoted husband, and two children ages 6 and 2.  She was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in August of 2007.  Immediately God began working through her to inspire faith in others.  Regardless of her situation or symptoms, God worked through Tara and her disease to reach out and minister to others.  Tara began responding favorably to aggressive treatments (cancer was detected throughout her body), and seemed to use every opportunity available to her to live as a witness for Jesus Christ.  Then, just 6 months after treatments began, doctors ceased all treatments.  Despite many prayers and great hopes for healing, God’s response was that hers was to be an eternal healing in heaven, not a physical healing here on earth.  Her days were numbered.  As the Bible says, only God knew the number of her days. 

Surely Tara felt an urgency to do all the things she wanted and needed to do for her children and husband, to say the things she needed to say, to prepare them for life without her, to encourage and inspire everyone who knew her in their faith.  She had so little time…

Jesus, too, had very little time and so much to do.  His ministry lasted only 3 years.  In His final days especially, He surely felt an urgency to accomplish that which He came to do.  On the day we recognize as Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem, strong in will to carry out His Father’s plan.  His countdown was on.  His clock was ticking.  He had but a few days left to teach, heal, and counsel His followers; and just days to prepare His disciples for the times to come. 

It’s Wednesday as I write this, the day before Maundy Thursday/Holy Thursday – which is the day when Jesus would have His last supper with the disciples.  He would begin the evening of Maundy Thursday by washing the disciples feet to teach them to be servants to the world, not slaves to the world.  Jesus surely felt great urgency to finish teaching his disciples what they needed to know.  He knew His time was almost up. 

What about us?  As stated above, only God knows the number of our days.  Do you feel urgency to do what you need to do?  To teach your kids about God, Jesus and the Bible; to prepare your spouse for life without you.  If you don’t feel an urgency, maybe you should.  Like Tara, our final day is coming but we don’t know when it will be.  Let’s learn a lesson from Jesus and make every moment count. 

Easter blessings,

Renee

Even if you don’t live in North Carolina, you’ve probably heard of the violent, unfair, and seemingly untimely death of Eve Carson, Student Body President for UNC.  Her death has had a huge impact on many because her life made such an impact on so many.  For a while this afternoon I watched the live coverage of her memorial service being held on the UNC Campus. 

I never had the privilege of knowing Eve Carson, which is a shame.  From what I heard said about her by a few of her friends, she’s someone who probably would have delighted, charmed, inspired and challenged me. 

What if there’d been coverage of Jesus’ death and a memorial service for Him after He died?  Reporters would likely have said the same things about His death that I said above about Eve’s – that He died a violent, unfair, and seemingly untimely death.  Who would have spoken at His memorial service?  I think it would probably have been His mother, possibly other family members, some of the disciples, and probably a few of those whose lives were literally touched by His.  How would they have described Him?  I think they’d have described Jesus as being loving, faithful, wise, righteous, excellent teacher and counselor, amazing prophet, giving, caring, a miracle-worker, healer, passionate, courageous, gentle – yet strong, and One Who possessed an unparalleled knowledge of the scriptures.  Just as I said about about Eve, it would be especially true to say of Jesus that His death had a huge impact on many because His life made such an impact on so many. 

Just like memories of Eve inspired and challenged me, the words shared in remembrance of Jesus would have inspired and challenged others, too.  In fact, they do.  We don’t have preserved films to chronicle that time of Jesus’ life and ministry, but that’s ok.  We have something much better – the Living Word, the Bible.  The Old Testament is filled with prophecies, foretellings, and descriptions of the Holy One to come.  The New Testament is a complete set of Books sharing personal accounts of Jesus’ life – how He lived, loved, taught, and made a difference to all who encountered Him.  Some were even written by eye-witness reporters!

Not all who encountered Jesus did so in a positive way.  He had many enemies.  Those who opposed Him were those who couldn’t recognize Him as the long-foretold Savior, Messiah.  They lived of this world and were unable to live of the Lord.  They were unable to live by faith.

Those who did recognize Him loved Him, praised Him, exalted Him, followed Him, and worshipped Him.  Some went on to be His apostles and teachers.  They might not have held a memorial service for Him to honor their memories of Him, but they did eulogize Him with their gospels and Bible teachings. 

Just as Eve Carson’s legacy inspired and challenged me, Christ’s legacy is preserved and presented so that all who seek to know Him will also be inspired and challenged. 

As we proceed through Holy Week, remember Jesus Christ.  Think about what He means to you.  Write down the ways you would describe Him. 

Do you need to know Him better?  We all do.  We all need to be challenged by the Word everyday, for the apostle John tells us that He was the Word (John 1:1).  Read your Bible.  Go to church to hear teachings about Him.  Join a Bible study. 

The Bible study that changed my life was Disciple 1 Bible study.  It takes participants on a journey of the Bible, covering more than 80% in just 34 weeks, from Aug – May.  If you’re unable to commit to that study, find something that’s short-term.  Before you do, pray to God and share with him your interest in knowing more about His Son.  Seek His direction of how you should go, what you should do, what’s right for you. 

Often when someone young dies, our thoughts go to their parents.  We’re sorrowful for their loss and often seek ways to honor their child’s memory. God had to watch as His son was rejected, mocked, beaten, spat upon, and killed in a brutal and painful way.  Wouldn’t you like to pay tribute to the Father by honoring His Son?  Nothing would please God more than to know that the sacrifice made by the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ – who died as a sacrifice to pay the sin-debt for all of mankind – touched your heart enough that you would want to commit your heart to Him; be cleansed by His forgiveness; seek to know more about Him; and live out the love He taught us to live. 

 “Seek understanding before seeking to be understood.” – Eve Carson

“At last the time has come!…The Kingdom of God is near! Turn from your sins and believe this Good News!” (Mark 1:15)   “…There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. (Luke 24:47)  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mark 16:16)  – Jesus Christ

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”    -John 1:29

It may be St. Patrick’s Day, but God is speaking to me as if it’s Valentine’s Day, for His theme for me seems to be ‘love’. 

Our pastor preached about love in church yesterday.  Then a dear friend in Christ shared today about how she was ‘washed’ with love from the Holy Spirit after giving her heart to Christ.  It reminded me of my ‘moment’ with God when my heart was filled with the love of the Holy Spirit. Although you couldn’t see it happening to me physically, I could feel it physically.  It felt like I was getting bigger and bigger.  I felt like the ‘blueberry’ girl in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.  In that moment, my heart was changed forever!  

That moment came after God spoke to me for the first time, in answer to prayer about how to respond to someone who was upsetting me.  His answer was, “Just keep loving her”.  I’ll never forget that moment, when God took a moment of time away from everything else in the world to speak to me!  I was so awed, humbled, elated, amazed…so many things all at once, that I started laughing and crying at the same time.   I was thanking Him and praising Him, and then it happened.  My heart started to fill up, as if being inflated, with the love of the Holy Spirit. 

Just last week ‘love’ was the theme word for our Bible study.  We read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – the “Love is…” verses.  We reminded ourselves that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30).  How appropriate that the Bible should give us specific instruction on how to love. 

 My friend who was ‘washed’ in love also shared that when she’s trying to figure out what to do or how to respond in a situation, she begins by going to her Bible to review the “Love is….”  verses.  What a great thing to do!  I search the Bible for verses that pertain to what’s on my mind, but she goes first to learn how to love the person/people in her concerns.  Before ‘doing’ anything, she follows the greatest commandment – to love.  I should have thought of that, too.  After all, when I sought God about how to approach someone who concerned me, He didn’t instruct me to approach them in any way.  He instructed me to just keep loving them.  He took care of the rest. 

While flipping through pages of my Bible this afternoon, my eyes fell on this verse and I’d like to share it with you:

  1 Corinthians 16:13   “Be on guard.  Stand true to what you believe.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And everything you do must be done with love.”   

Did you catch that last phrase?  Everything we do must be done with love.  It might not always be easy, but it’s a challenge I’m going to take. 

Here’s another ‘love’ verse from this week’s Disciple Bible study:  

“You have been called in freedom to serve one another in love.”  Galatians 5:13

Especially as we start Holy Week, approaching Easter, wouldn’t it be a great honor to Jesus Christ himself if we purpose to do everything with love.  He did.  He lived and died the greatest love of all – and He did so for each of us, our loved ones, friends, and everyone we meet.   That means being loving in everything with our spouses, children (even when they take our last ounce of patience), parents, work situations, when we drive, when we’re out running errands, while pursuing activities, enjoying good times, handling tough times, and working through difficult times – sometimes working with difficult people. 

How might your relationships and your effect on others be changed if you do everything with love?  Let’s do our best with this, accepting this challenge for the entire week – going all the way through Easter.  For me this will mean watching my tone of voice, being more patient, and not letting grumpiness or crankiness take over.  If you accept this challenge, I’d love to hear back from you to see how it goes and what differences it might make in your life!

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for loving us enough to die on the cross for us, to give us freedom for our sins so that we could be free to love one another.  In Your Holy name we pray.  Amen.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe.  Tell the men to take twelve stones from where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan (river) and pile them up at the place where you camp tonight.”  Joshua 4:1-3

“So the men did as Joshua told them…just as the Lord had commanded Joshua.  They carried them (the stones)…and constructed the memorial there.”   Joshua 4:8-9

I’d like to offer a huge thank you to the United Methodist Women of Weddington Church.  They put on a FABULOUS Ladies Night Out last night!   The tables were BEAUTIFUL, each dressed and decorated in its own style by many creative women with talents that escape me!  The music was WONDERFUL, too.  Special thanks to Kendra, Julie and Darla for sharing their gifts of song with us, and for sharing God through their music.  I watched people as they entered, and all seemed taken in by the Spirit, so evident among us.  That was the best part.  This event has been so prayed over and prayed for, and God rewarded us by being the first to arrive to grace us with His loving presence. 

I was blessed in many ways just being there, but the greatest blessing for me was having the privilege and honor to serve as the speaker for the evening.  My greatest thanks for the evening goes to the Lord.  It was He who gifted and prepared me to speak last night, and it was He who dwelled within me to share the presentation ‘we’ put together.  It was my first ‘big’ speaking engagement, and from the responses shared by others, it seems to have gone well.  Praise be to God! 

 I did have one regret driving home when I realized I failed to mention something very important – that with every step we take in life, we need to give thanks to God. 

In my presentation we read from Joshua, chapter 3, and 4:10-14.  These passages tell about Joshua leading the Israelites and the Ark of the Covenant safely across the river Jordan and into the Promised Land.  I failed to mention that after they were all safely across, Joshua instructed them to build a pillar of stones as a tribute to give God the glory for their success.  By failing to mention this, I failed to build my pillar to Him for leading me to – and through – the evening, giving me the opportunity and capability to speak, and also providing me with the message He wanted me to share. 

The Bible tells us that whatever we do, we’re to do all for the glory of God.  No matter how big or how small an accomplishment might be, we’re always to stop and give God the glory before moving on.  I’m ashamed that I failed to do so last night, and that I failed to share that important aspect of faith with others. 

So here, on this blog site, I publicly acknowledge my failure to offer God the glory He was due.  I hope that I can honor Him here, in this way, as a way to make up for my failure.   

Lord, to You I build my pillar of love and gratitude for being the wonderful Father and faithful God that you are.  Please forgive me for failing to acknowledge you publicly last night. For Yours truly is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.    

 “The Lord has appointed tomorrow as a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.  On this day we will rest from our normal daily tasks.  So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

Exodus 16:23

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.  On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work.  This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day.  That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”

Exodus 20:4 (This being the fourth of the Ten Commandments)

Do you ever think about the Sabbath?  Do you honor the Sabbath?  Have you thought about what it means? 

My Bible defines Sabbath as:  cessation of activity; a holy day sest aside to honor God

 God instructed the Israelites to conduct work and business as usual six days a week, but to rest on the seventh day, observing that day as Holy, the Sabbath.  Teaching the Israelites to honor the Sabbath was so important to God that he included it as the fourth of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:4) In that Commandment He went so far as to instruct the Israelites on how to keep this law.  Not even animals were to work on the Sabbath! 

The Sabbath is mentioned many times in the Bible, mostly in the writings of Moses in the Old Testament, but Matthew and Mark mention the Sabbath in the New Testament, too, with Mark noting that the Sabbath was established for the good of man. 

“The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

 God’s intent for the Sabbath was for man to take a day to rest and be refreshed.  In generations past, Sabbath days were spent by families going to church and then coming home to spend the day together.  Often they would spend the afternoon reading and studying the Bible.  Sometimes the male head of the household would read scripture to the family. 

Wow.  Can you imagine spending every Sunday at home together as a family – resting and relaxing? Can you imagine if we turned back to the times when businesses closed on Sundays and ALL families spent a day of rest together?  Seriously.  Think about that.  How might that change the face of the American family?  How might that affect our nation as a whole? 

When I was growing up, very few businesses were open on Sundays.  Traveling by car was tricky because many gas stations were closed.  The restaurants that were open on Sundays served only breakfasts lunch – serving church crowds – and closed by 2:00 so workers could spend the rest of the day with their families.  Sunday afternoons were quiet, restful days at home. 

I have to admit that, as a kid, Sundays were such boring days to me!  I appreciate them now, though, and look forward to my weekly ‘days off’. 

If the Sabbath was commanded by God, why don’t Christians still observe it?  Have we pulled away from honoring the Commandments?  Can we pick and choose the Commandments we’ll follow?  Or did the rules change when the first Christians emerged?  I’m no expert, but my understanding is that it’s a littel of both. 

Back in the days of Apostle Paul, as the first Christians and churches were being formed and Gentiles were also discovering Christianity, the legalistic Jews were offended by new Gentile Christians who failed to follow Jewish laws and customs.  Jews felt that Gentile Christians had to conform to Jewish ways before becoming Christian.  The apostles had a hard time explaining to Jews that even though their laws were important, following the laws wouldn’t lead to their salvation.  Even though Christ was a Jew, Christiantiy wasn’t about the Jewish laws.  The Jewish Council addressed this concerns and determined there were a few specific rules/laws Christians had to keep to be holy, but honoring the Sabbath was not one of them.  (Acts 15:19-21)

Most likely, Jews and Jewish Christians continued to honor the Sabbath as was their custom.  Possibly some Gentile Christians did, too, even though it wasn’t ‘required’.  Others might not have observed Sabbath. 

So what about us?  What are we to do?  Does God’s fourth commandment to observe the Sabbath apply to us or not? 

“In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike.  Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter.”

Romans 14:5

According to these words by Paul in the Book of Romans, whether or not you or I observe the Sabbath is a personal choice.  It’s ok if we do, and ok if we don’t.  However, we should make this decision based on personal conviction in our heart, not based on what our friends and neighbors do.  Consequently, because this is an individual matter, Paul also says this:

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.  For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.”

Colossians 2:16-17

Personally, I do feel a conviction to honor the Sabbath. 1) It’s one of the Ten Commandments.  2) A friend in Bible study once shared her perspective that not honoring the Sabbath was like not trusting God to provide for our needs.  I agree with her.  If God can create the whole world in six days and be afforded a day of rest on the 7th, surely I can mange to do the same!  Besides, I like taking a designated day away from household chores (laundry esecially).  I rest, relax, and get up on Mondays refreshed and ready to start a new week.  Giving myself that ‘day off’ helps me to be a better wife, mom, and most importantly servant to Christ. 

What is God calling you do to do?  Talk to Him.  Ask Him.  He’ll direct your thoughts on the Sabbath to where they need to be.

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