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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Called to Work"

“Called To Work”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 25, 2015 :: Ephesians 4:1 

I read "Dilbert" everyday online and thank the Lord that my life is not like his!

Here’s the strip from last Thursday, the 15th of October.

Dilbert is sitting at his desk and thinking, “I like to start each workday by visualizing how my work will make the world a better place.   GAAAA!!!! My life is meaningless and nothing I do will ever matter!!!! ... Okay, good. I like to get that out of the way early.” And he goes back to work.

Ever feel that way about your work?

Every since Labor Day, we’ve been studying together what the Bible says about work in a series called “Working for the Lord.”

And we started with some big questions like:

Is Work – Good or Bad?  Dilbert would say, “very bad.” Meaingless!

But the Bible says that work was intended to be good but then turned difficult and in someways bad when we sinned. But it also says that Jesus Christ is reworking work to be good again and one day He will make work perfect.

Another question we asked was “Why Work?

And we learned the Bible teaches that we work NOT to be saved or to bring glory to ourselves but BECAUSE we are saved and to bring glory to God and serve our neighbors in love.

That’s big! That kind of work, no matter what the job, will bring meaning to your life. Dilbert is missing that.

After those opening messages in this series, we started to get even more practical. Pastor Kirk Albrecht talked about our witnessing at work and our witnessing through our work.

And we did two messages on both working hard and resting well.

Remember these questions for those tempted to be slackers, sluggards?

“Did you work hard this week? Or did you hardly work this week?”

But here was the follow-up question:

“Have you rested well this week? Or have you hardly rested this week?”

Because God cares about both. And some of us need to repent of laziness and some of busyness. A probably we all need to repent some of both.

God cares about our work and our rest.

Here’s the two questions for today.

What do we normally ask kids about work?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Right?

Not a bad question. It’s a good question to ask! Very important for kids to be thinking about as they grow up.

But here’s a more important one to add to it.

“What do you think God wants you to be when you grow up?”

When we start to ask that question, we’re talking about the idea of “vocation.”

Vocation. Or “Calling.”

Today’s message is entitled, “Called to Work.”

We have all been called to work.

And I’m talking about “calling” with a capital “C.”  Not just that interrupting phone call you get that they need you at your workplace.

But a Call from God to do some job or jobs.

Vocation. Calling.

Now, this message today is going to be different from most of the sermons you hear from me. And that’s because vocation or calling is a very different and difficult topic to preach on from the Bible.

For one, it’s a very complex topic. There are a lot of related concepts that flow into and out of this theme in the Bible. On one level, it’s a very big theme in the Bible and appears all over the place.

And yet on another level, it’s not a very big topic in the Bible. There aren’t that many passages that specifically teach about how God calls people into their normal every day employments.

One of the reasons for that is that in the time of the Bible (and really for most of the rest of human history) people didn’t have much choice about what they did for work.

Most people just did what their parents did. I mean, Jesus was a carpenter because Joseph was a carpenter, right? You were born into your work.

Our “Hide The Word” memory verse is addressed to whom?  To slaves, right? They didn’t have much choice of their careers. And yet they were called, weren’t they?

They had vocations.

So, on one level, the Bible is full of the idea of “calling,” and on another level it’s not really. There aren’t a lot of Scripture passages about “finding your calling in life.”

But there are a lot of passages about how to live in our callings.

Do you see the difference?

Yesterday, I looked up and read every verse in the New Testament that had the word “call,” “called,” “calling” or anything like that in the NIV.

I came up with 292 verses in just the New Testament.

I didn’t read every one in the Old Testament, but there are 739 verses in both testaments together.

That’s a lot of “calling.”

Now, most of those callings are naming things. “He was called Matthew.” That sort of thing.

A bunch of the rest of them were someone gathering a group together. Jesus called the disciples or called the crowd to hear some teaching. Or someone called the Elders to pray for them. That kind of calling.

Most of the references to “calling” in the New Testament are basically like that. They aren’t about diving “calling” to vocations or roles or jobs or anything like that.

They aren’t very theological, we’ll say.

But a number of them are very theological. They are God calling someone and giving them something important to do.

But most of those callings, it might surprise you to hear, are still not to what we might call a “job” but rather to a relationship.

And that’s the case in our key verse to start with this morning. Ephesians chapter 4.

Paul is opening up the second half of his letter to the Ephesians. He’s been very theological, talking about God’s grand plan for the universe. Now he’s going to get very practical. V.1

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

The Old King James says, “I...beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

The New American Standard brings out the extra-callingness in the Greek. “I ... entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called...”

There are actually two “calling words” there in the verse. And the Greek word sounds like our English word.  “Kalleo” is the Greek word.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

What is that calling?

It’s salvation. It’s a relationship with God through Jesus Christ isn’t it?

Here’s main point #1 this morning.

#1. CALLED TO HIM.

In the Bible, the primary call of God on each believer is a call to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s a call to salvation and a call to discipleship.

Paul says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

What does that look like? V.2

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called [same word!] to one hope when you were called [same word!]–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

What was the call? It was a call to hope (v.4)!

It was a call to salvation. To a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The primary call on every believer is a call to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

The call is a summons. “Come!” “Come to Christ.” “Trust in Christ. Love Him. Know Him. Follow Him. Become like Him!”

Let me show you this idea in few other passages that use this same word. You don’t have to turn there. Just listen.

Philippians 3:13&14. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 3:1 calls it our “heavenly calling.”

2 Peter 1:10 urges us to make our “calling and election sure.”

2 Timothy 1:9 says, that that God has “saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

Do you hear it?

The call of God in the New Testament is very relational.

It is a call to Him.

It is a call to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to walk in that relationship. Paul says here in verse 1, “to walk worthy” – “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

If God has saved you by His grace, then your life should show it.

If you have been called by God, then God has a calling on you to live out.

Does that make sense?

Now, sometimes that call is general. It goes out to all.

God is calling people everywhere to repent and trust in the Savior.

But sometimes the Bible uses the word call in a more specific way.

Those who have been called are those who have answered the call.

Remember Romans 8:28?  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Those folks have been called in such a way that they answered the call.

And because of that they know that all things work to their good.

That’s what it means to be called.

Every true Christian has been called to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

And it is truly life-changing. It means holiness and hope and love and unity.

Are you still listening to me?

I don’t want to confuse you.

Here’s the point. God is calling people to Himself. That’s the main point of “calling” in the New Testament.

Have you answered that call?

Like the song says, “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling for you and for me. Calling, O sinner, come home.”

Have you heard that call and answered it?

If not, then I invite to right now.

If you have, then Paul says, “Live like it.”

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Are you doing that?

The rest of Ephesians, chapters 4-6m, spell out what that looks like.

It means holiness and hope and love and unity.

It means Christ-likeness, becoming like the One called us.

We’re called to Him.

And...we’ve been learning that being called to Him means that we are also called to work for Him.

#2. CALLED TO WORK FOR HIM.

Working for the Lord, right?

If our primary calling is a calling to a relationship with Christ, that’s discipleship. But we’ve learned that discipleship gets worked out in our work.

Our work is worship. Our work is to be discipleship.

So, we are not only called to Him we are called by Him to our work for Him.

Does that make sense?

There are a couple of places in the New Testament where the word “calling” is tied more specifically to tasks or roles or positions that someone might fulfill. More like being called to a job.

Most of them are being called to a ministry role like an apostle. Paul in Romans 1 was called to be an apostle. God summoned him to that role.

In the book of Acts chapter 13, the Holy Spirit tells the church in Antioch to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

There’s work and calling connected and it’s vocational ministry work. It’s supported missionary work.

It’s not wrong to call a pastor. And to say that he is called.

This here is my letter of call from you. It is dated April 28, 1998 and signed by church chairman George Leathers. “Dear Mr. Mitchell, On April 26th 1998 the congregation of the Lanse Evangelical Free Church, Lanse PA voted ... to call you, Matthew C. Mitchell, to be senior pastor of the church. We praise the Lord for His faithfulness, and look forward with anticipation, having you and Heather ministering with us.”

We experienced God’s call through your call to us.

And this Pastor Appreciation Month, I’ve really felt that. Thank you all for your expressions of appreciation and especially for your prayers.

But being called by God is not just for ministry people is it?  It’s not just vocational ministry people like myself who have a God-given vocation, is it?

The other key place in the New Testament that connects up our work or roles or positions in life with this language of calling is 1 Corinthians chapter 7.

Now, 1 Corinthians 7 is one of the hardest passages in the whole Bible to interpret and untangle. It’s got great stuff in it, but it’s hard to access.

A lot of it is about whether or not someone should get married or not but also about whether or not they should try to change other things in their life like being a slave or not.

And in 1 Corinthian 7:17 Paul uses this language of calling (which we’ve learned is mostly calling to a relationship with God) to also the language of assigning (which Paul has also used of spiritual gifts and ministry positions) to talk about the more regular everyday callings of life.

Here’s what he says, “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”

Tim Keller writes this about this little passage:
In 1 Corinthian chapter 7, Paul counsels readers that when they become Christians it is unnecessary to change what they are currently doing in life–their marital state, job, or social station–in order to live their lives before God in a way that pleases him....Here Paul uses two religiously freighted words to describe ordinary work. Elsewhere, Paul has spoken of God calling people into a saving relationship with him, and assigning them spiritual gifts to do ministry and build up the Christian community. Paul uses these same two words here when he says that every Christian should remain in the work God has “assigned to him, and to which God called him.” Yet Paul is not referring in this case to church ministries, but to common social and economic tasks–“secular jobs,” we might say–and naming them God’s callings and assignments. (Every Good Endeavor, pg. 65-66)
Now, that’s actually pretty important because it says what we have already been learning.

What your job is is something God has assigned and called you to.

I’m not the only one here with a calling. In fact, my calling is not very different from any of yours.

We are all called to work for Him.

In fact, we all have multiple callings to work for Him.

Not just one. Sometimes we get the idea that our calling is singular.

“What is your calling.”

But the idea of calling is bigger than that. We all have multiple callings to fulfill.

In his excellent little book on the doctrine of vocation, Gene Veith writes:
Our vocation is not one single occupation. As has been said, we have callings in different realms–the workplace, yes, but also the family, the society, and the church. Someone who is retired may no longer be in the workplace, but he may still pursue his callings as a grandfather, a concerned citizen, and perhaps as an elder in his church. Some people find their callings in spheres other than the workplace–a woman who refuses a job so she can devote herself to her children; the independently wealthy man who does not need to work, so he devotes himself as a citizen to philanthropy; the elderly shut-in who devotes her energy as a Christian, to prayer.
Furthermore, a person may hold multiple vocations within each type of vocation. In the family, a woman may have a calling to be a wife, which is a task in itself, but she may also have a calling to be a mother, a vocation that involves different tasks in a different kind of relationship...In the workplace, a mid-level executive or a shop foreman might be a “master” to those he is supervising. At the very same time, he may be a “servant” to his supervisor. Both of these relationships entail different duties and kinds of service. Even the C.E.O. of the company, the top boss, the “master” of all his employees, very likely is also a “servant” to the Board of Directors or the stockholders.
He goes on to say:
Another aspect of our multiple vocations is that callings change. A young man working his way through college may get a job in a fast-food restaurant. For the time being, that’s his vocation, and he is to love and serve his customers and his shift manager by flipping hamburgers. If he is fortunate enough to be going to college, he also has the vocation of being a student, which has specific obligations of its own (study!). Eventually he may get that computer degree, and he may go into his lifework. That will be his vocation then. And if his dot.com company goes bankrupt, and he goes from vast wealth back to flipping burgers, he has a new vocation. At every stage his calling is not something that will wait until he graduates, or even until he gets that big promotion. Vocation is in the here and now.” (pgs. 48-49).
Is that helpful?  It was to me.

I think we’ve made this whole vocation thing both too small and too big.

We’ve made it too small by thinking that it’s no big deal what we do. That we can all just choose what we want and do what we want to do with our lives.

But if there is a calling there is a Caller, isn’t there?

It isn’t just what to do you want to do with your life?

It’s what does God want to do with your life?

But we’ve made it too big by trying to not seeing our callings in everything that we do.

Today is Reformation Sunday when the Protestant church celebrates the rediscovery of the gospel in the days of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther did a great job of breaking down the divide between sacred and secular with work.

He taught that there was no such thing.

All of what we call secular callings are actually sacred, too.

And that means that just about everything we do is our callings. We don’t have to search high and low to find them.

They’re right here.

So, do I have you lost yet?

I told Heather yesterday that this was the hardest message in this series to write and that it’ll probably be the worst, as well.

Because the Bible is full of the idea of God’s call but most of it isn’t talking about how to find your callings as in vocation or career.

But that’s still something we all want to know about, right?

I mean the practical question at the end of this message is:

So how do I know what work I should do?

If the Bible doesn’t say much about occupational callings, then how do I know what God wants me to do?

The good news is that the Bible says a lot about decision-making.

Let me give you a few points as we close.

#1. Pray.

I hope that doesn’t surprise you.

James chapter 1 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

God loves to give wisdom about what work you should do.

Just ask Him.

#2. Look around.

Mike Wittmer in his chapter named “What Is Your Call?” writes:
How do you know what God wants from you? Look at your callings. Where has God placed you? Whom are you obligated to serve? Our most important callings arise from our covenantal relationships. I am called to be a husband, father, son, brother, and church member, and each of these callings is too valuable to receive a paycheck. I would be insulted if [my children] Avery or Landon slipped me $10 for being their dad or my pastor gave me kickback for inviting people to church. This will be essential if to remember should you ever find yourself unemployed. You may not have a job at the moment, but your most valuable callings remain unchanged.
Beyond your covenantal relationships, examine where you are in the world. Your job as a restaurant server or sandwich artist may be a stepping-stone to something else, but as long as you hold that job, it is precisely what God has called you to do... 
...You are free in the Lord to change your paid job, and when you do, that new job becomes your new calling, the palce where you can love God by serving neighbor and contributing to culture. You can change callings because the pay is better, but the best moves tend to follow Frederick Beuchner’s advice, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ What do you enjoy doing, and what does the world need? It’s your call. (Becoming Wordly Saints, pg. 103-104)
That hits on #3. Look at yourself.

What do you love?  What are you good at? How has God wired you?

What experiences have shaped you?

I recommend The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias if you want to read about how God shapes you through the events of your life.  Chapter 3, “Your Calling Matters.”

If you think you may be called into pastoral ministry, I recommend, Am I Called by Dave Harvey.

I gave this book to Hunter Galley this Summer as he explores whether or not the Lord might have a vocational ministry calling on him.

Everybody is made differently. Everybody is good at different things.

I have four children and they are like one another in some ways and very different from each other in others.

How are you made? What flips your switch? Is it something that can pay the bills?

#4. Ask Others.

Proverbs 24 says, “A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.”

My mom’s job for many years was to be a career specialist at the local vocational school.

It was her calling to help others find their callings!

I think Laurie Verost does something like that, right?

It’s been one of my joys as your pastor to talk with many of you about vocational choices you’re making.

Get wisdom from others. Don’t try to do this on your own.

#5. Expect the Unexpected.

This road to uncovering your callings is almost never a straight one.

I’ve talked this week with 5 people who have had major unexpected left turns in their vocations.

One guy thought he was going to be a pastor and isn’t. At least not yet.

One guy was a pastor and it didn’t work out and now he’s in sales and doing really well.

Another guy is looking at changing his major in college because what he’s doing just doesn’t seem to fit him.

Ruth didn’t expect to be called into being a widow this month. But now that’s one of her callings.

We often don’t know what’s in store. And God has a change in that calling in the wind.

Tim here has been faithfully pressing on as a missionary for how man years?

But God has something different for him now.

Be ready for that. Don’t think you’ve know God’s whole call on your life.

He’s got lots of surprises up His sleeve.

Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

#6. Check the Scriptures.

There are all kinds of jobs that are acceptable for Christians to do but some that are not.

Here’s a short list:

“Thief, embezeler, contract killer, prostitute, exotic dancer, abortionist, snake-oil medicine man, porn star, Wiccan priest.”

You get the picture? Any job where you have to sin regularly to do it is not a place where Christians are called by God to serve.

And of course, there are many jobs where you have to draw some lines.

Always check, what does the Bible say about that kind of work?

And #7. Make Decisions.

Don’t get so caught up in trying to mystically find the Lord’s will that you miss it by letting the decisions pass you by.

Remember, the Lord loves to give wisdom so make your choices.

If you are walking with the Lord and trying to follow His call, then you will!

Don’t get caught up in a spiritual tangle trying to hearing a special voice from heaven when the Lord is talking in so many ways all around you.

Seek to glorify the Lord in all that you do, and you will live out your calling.

My guess is that this message has raised more question for some of you than it has answered.

And I’m okay with that today. Normally, I like to answer questions, not just raise them.

But we’ve got time for that. Living as called person is a lifelong process of discovery.

And I’m here to help you process your questions if you’d like.

Let me end by directing us to this verse in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1. It’s verse 11 and Paul tells them what he prays for them.

“[W]e constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

May we live a life worthy of the calling that we have received.

***

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest
07. Called to Work

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

An Interview with Katie Faris about "Loving My Children"

Katie, thanks for being willing to answer some questions about yourself and your new book Loving My Children.

1.  Tell us about yourself and your family. Who is Katie Faris and how did you come to write this book?

I’m an ordinary mom who prays that my extraordinary God will help me love and nurture the four small souls entrusted to my care! My husband, Scott, and I have been married for ten years, and we have one daughter and three sons, ages 2 ½ to 9 years old.

God put the idea for Loving My Children on my heart when I was in the thick of everyday motherhood. Even though I knew the Gospel, I was struggling to apply it to my own heart in the midst of sibling conflicts, unplanned potty breaks and trying to get out the door on time.
I didn’t need more head knowledge—I needed to apply what I’d already been taught in God’s word and from older, wiser women. This book is my attempt to synthesize what I’ve seen and heard from Scripture and more experienced moms about motherhood and then put it into practice.

Even though the first draft only took three months to write, it’s taken me five years to publish this book. I like to joke that it’s my doctoral thesis on motherhood! In that time, Loving My Children has been shared twice in a Titus 2 format at our church with older women teaching younger women and then leading small groups for discussion and prayer.

2.  What is the central message of Loving My Children? What are you hoping that readers come away thinking, believing, feeling, and doing?

Great question, Matt. In Titus 2, Paul says that older women in the church are supposed to teach the younger women to love their children, thus the title, Loving My Children. Essentially, I unpack what it means to love my children biblically, arguing that the very “best way we can love our children is by passing on the Gospel to them” (p. 22).

I hope readers walk away encouraged. Our culture tells us that “If we love our children, (fill in the blank)”—we’ll take them to Disney World, feed them all organic foods or educate them a certain way. When we embrace biblical love for our children, we’re set free from false definitions of love. I want moms to experience increased faith that God has a Gospel purpose and plan for them and their children, that he is with them each moment of their mothering journey and that there is great value to their work.

3.  What was the hardest thing to write about and the happiest thing to write about in Loving My Children?

Chapter 3 is “The Best Gift I Can Give My Children,” and in it I suggest that loving my husband and portraying the Gospel in our marriage is the best gift I can give my children. I’d say this was the hardest chapter to write because I kept thinking of the brokenness of our culture in general, and my single mom friends in particular. Because we live in a sin-diseased world, I believe it’s even more crucial that we teach our children about biblical roles, point them to marriages that reflect the Gospel and offer them a vision for God’s design for marriage. I tried to do this as truthfully but as sensitively as I could, speaking directly to single moms at the end of the chapter.

The happiest thing to write about…hmmm…probably my tribute to my mom in the last chapter. While the Lord has blessed me with many Titus 2 friends, my mom stands out among the rest. While she’d be the first to confess her weaknesses, they only serve to highlight God’s faithfulness and mercy. That’s why it’s a joy to honor her. She lives out the truths in Loving My Children so beautifully!

4.  What surprised you the most about writing Loving My Children?

Once upon a time before children, I journaled regularly. When I wrote this book, the Lord helped me process thoughts and remember stories that otherwise might have been lost. I’m really grateful for that.

Also, three years after the initial draft of this book was written and had been taught at our church, three of our four children were diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. Truths like God’s sovereignty in motherhood that I’d written about were tested in a new way, and I was so grateful for how God used the study and writing of this book to prepare my heart to love my children sacrificially in a new arena.

5.   In chapter 5 you ask the question, "What Does Doctrine Have to Do with Being a Mom?" How would you answer that question in a nutshell?

I’ll quote my book: “Good doctrine has everything to do with earthy, everyday motherhood! Doctrine is about living the life God intends for us, the way he intends it” (p. 60). To put it another way, doctrine is taking biblical truths about God, his Word, his world and even our own hearts and letting them guide our thinking, decisions and behavior.

In Loving My Children, I chose to focus on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and some of its amazing implications when applied to motherhood, namely (1) God chose me to be the mother of my children and (2) God chose my children for me in particular. Why? You can find the answer in my book.

6.   What word of encouragement would you want to leave any moms of young children who are reading this interview?

If you are feeling weary, don’t give up. Instead, lift your eyes off the playroom floor and look to Jesus—he loves you and your children (better than you ever could!). He knows, sees, values and will reward your labors of love for your little ones.

And, the Gospel really is enough. It’s enough for you and for your children. Sometimes that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Our confidence in parenting our children isn’t based on our performance as moms, but it’s based on what Christ is able to do in us and in them and, more importantly, what he’s already accomplished on the cross.

Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to answer these questions, but even more for writing this excellent book for Christian moms to know what it means to love their children well.

I encourage folks to buy a copy for themselves or a mom they love.

And I also encourage people to check out Faris Press' Facebook page about Loving My Children, especially for the beautiful sharable posters they've created to illustrate the lessons in the book.

Katie has also created a FREE study guide with discussion questions available for downloading on the Faris Press website. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

He Showed Us How It’s Done - Memorial Message for Blair Murray

“He Showed Us How It’s Done”
Celebration of Life Service for Blair Murray
Mark 10:42-45

Doesn’t Blair’s song say it all?

Lord, I love to say your name,
To lift my voice in praise to you.
Your love for me will never change,
I love you, and I love to say your name.
Glory Lord, Honor Lord –
All belong to you.
Hail, my King-
You’re my everything,
My life is in your hands.
So make me what I ought to be-
Work out Your perfect will in me.
You’re love for me will never change-
I love you, and I love to say your name.
- Blair L. Murray

That’s Blair. That’s who he was.

I don’t have to preach this sermon to you this afternoon.

Because you’ve already heard this sermon.

Blair Murray lived this sermon before you.

He showed us how it’s done!

He showed us how to be a great man.

I struggled all week to try to figure out what to preach at Blair’s memorial service.

He was an impossible man to summarize. With his love of his family, his music, his church, his airplanes, his work-ethic, his humor, food, people, ministry, Bible, doctrine, relationships, prayer, missions.

He did everything with zest, and it was impossible to summarize it all.

But I did come up with one word.

And that was GREAT.

Blair Murray was a truly great man.

Now, in the world’s thinking, you are great if you have success, and status, and stuff.

And Blair wasn’t at the top of our society, a great man in that meaning. But Blair was truly great by the standard of greatness set by the Lord Jesus Christ. If you would turn in your Bibles with me to the Gospel of Mark chapter 10, I want to take you to passage that shows that Blair was a truly great man. Mark chapter 10, verses 42 through 45.

In this chapter Jesus’ disciples were arguing with one another about who was the greatest among them. I’m sure that was a very profitable conversation!

“I’m the greatest! No, I’m the greatest!”

So our Lord Jesus gathered them together to give them a lesson in true greatness.
Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
Notice that it is not a bad thing to want to be great.

Verse 43 says that it is a noble thing to want to be great.

So, when I say that Blair Murray was a truly great man, that is an honorable thing and an honorable thing for everyone here to aspire to.

To want that people would say that at your memorial service.

Do you want them to say that at your service?

Because your memorial service is coming, too. Perhaps soon. We don’t know when, do we?

I never guessed that we’d be doing Blair’s today.

But here we are.

What do you want them to say about you at your service?

It’s a good thing to want them to say, you were a truly great person.

But it has to be with the Lord’s definition of great.

It can’t be the world’s definition.

Jesus says that the world defines it by authority. V.42

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.”

And it wasn’t with Blair. Blair didn’t need authority or to lord it over people that he was in charge.

He wasn’t the top dog.

He was a servant.

And that made him truly great. V.43

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

That’s what made Blair great. He was a servant through and through.

Everybody here can testify to that.

Everybody here has been served by Blair.

How did he do it all?  How did he do all of that serving when he was given just the same amount of time as the rest of us?

Think of all of the things he did. And how much of that was serving others.

How quick he was to drop everything do what you needed.

In the last month, I’ve called him for rides, I’ve called him to borrow tools, I’ve called him to bring out a hedgetrimmer to the church on short notice, I’ve called him to borrow a vehicle.

And he was there every time, no complaining, just a joy in serving.

How many places did he serve at church? He was no longer an elder, but he had done it for three decades. He was to lead worship on Sunday. He was to lead the prayer meeting on Wednesday. He was serve on the nominating committee this Fall.

I clicked up the heat this morning. And his handwriting is on the thermostat there saying when the battery was last replaced.

And those are just slice.

Everybody here has a story of how he served them.

He was a joy servant of all, and that made him, in Jesus’ eyes, truly great.

That Lord whom he loved to say His name, has greeted him in glory and said to him something like this, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:21).

Blair showed us how it’s done.

And it’s our job, we who are left, to follow his example.

Blair was unreplaceable.

Who wants to take his place and do the things he did?

Who wants to fill those shoes?  They are too big to fill for any one person.

So, we all need to step up and do it. We all need to become servants like he was.

And be truly great.

Do you need some comfort this afternoon?

Blair believed in the sovereignty of God. That God was in control of all of the details of life.

Including the trials and tribulations of life.

Yesterday, I went through my folder of letters and notes from Blair over the years.

He was always writing me little encouraging notes about things that he was learning, especially if it related to a sermon that I had recently preached.

This one here, wrote on the back of a place-mat from the Bell, the restaurant up there in Kylertown.

At the end he says:
My prayer for you is that you continue to find yourself alive in Christ all through the day and night. Enjoying him in everything we do makes life simply great. For me – just knowing I will never be blind-sided by something that escaped God’s attention gives great confidence. ‘God is good’ seems like such an understatement, but He sure has been good to this child. Love you in Him, Blair.
For those of you who need comfort this morning. You’re struggling with how God could allow such a tragedy as we all experienced last Monday.

Blair says to have faith in God’s sovereignty.

“For me – just knowing I will never be blind-sided by something that escaped God's attention gives great confidence.”

Yes, we will be blind-sided. I know that Blair was blindsided last week. And we were all blindside last week. But never by something that escaped our Father’s attention!

Blair’s God is sovereign and that give us all of the comfort we need.

Blair was a truly great man by Jesus’ definition.

And we need to follow his example of serving others.

But Blair would be upset with me if I made this sermon about Blair.

Because Blair was not the name he loved to say.

There was an even more truly great man that Blair would want me to talk about this morning. And that’s the Son of Man from verse 45.

He was the perfect example of servanthood. V.45

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus didn’t come the first time to be served.

He deserved it!  If anyone deserved service, it was Jesus.

But He came to be a servant.

Do you remember when he showed that by washing his disciples feet?

I once washed Blair Murray’s feet at a Family Bible Week one Summer. We acted out that parable. Blair told me later that nobody can touch his feet without him going through the roof in ticklelishness.

But that day, God gave him the blessing of being able to have his feet washed.

And we were acting out what Jesus. Jesus, our Lord, wrapped a towel around himself and acted like a servant as a visual illustration of what he came to do.

He came to serve.

And here’s how he did it–in the extreme.

Jesus gave His life as a ransom.

He died in our place on the cross.

He took our place. He served us by taking our place on the Cross.

And paying our ransom. Paying the debt we had racked up for our sins.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

That’s the gospel.

And it’s the message that Blair most loved to share.

Blair was a gospel-man. An evangelist.

Blair wanted everyone he knew and everyone he met to know Jesus and trust in His ransom for our sins.

Everybody here has heard Blair talk about the gospel.

Not everyone here has believed that gospel yet.

He was just telling me about people for whom he’s praying to know, trust, and love Jesus.

And to not walk away from Jesus.

He’s been praying for some of you for some time.

Blair wants to see you again and spend eternity with him praising the Savior all the day long.
We know where Blair is.

Do you know that you will be where he is some day?

Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

Are you part of that “many” who have put their faith and trust in Jesus?

Blair’s death has shaken me deeply.

I am grieving hard because I miss my friend.

But his death can bear much fruit in my life if I consider his truly great example of servanthood and aspire to be like him.

And if I point people to the Savior whose name Blair loved to say.

I invite you to trust in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord.

To put your faith in Him and what Jesus did for you on the Cross. Your ransom paid.

So that your sins are forgiven and you are promised eternal life.

The life that Blair is right now experiencing in full.

Blair invited you and I invite to receive Jesus so that you can sing with Him, “Lord, I love to say your name.”


Blair's runway.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue



Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my blog to find out more about Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue.  

Resisting Gossip was released on September 3, 2013 by CLC Publications.

Learn More

Preview, download, and read the endorsements, table of contents, foreword by Ed Welch of CCEF, introduction, and first chapter here.

Follow the story of the publishing or Resisting Gossip and discover many of the ways it's being used around the world by subscribing to the email newsletter.

Order Today

Resisting Gossip is available through these and other booksellers:

     Amazon

     CLC Book Center

     ChristianBook.com

     WTSBooks.com

     Next Step Resources

and in a growing list of e-book formats.

Now Even More

Go deeper into Resisting Gossip with the new participant's guide and Bible study Resisting Gossip Together, the corresponding video teaching series, plus the Spanish version, Resistiendo el Chisme, and the French version, Résister à la Médisance.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

CCEF#15

Heather and I are in Virginia Beach for the CCEF National Conference: "Side by Side" based on Ed Welch's excellent little book.

Live streaming of the plenary sessions is available for those who can't be here.

If you are here, my talk on "Behind the Back: When Gossip Distorts Side-by-Side Ministry" is Saturday at 1:45pm. I'd love to have you join me. Here is the outline for my talk. I'd appreciate prayer, too!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Coming Tomorrow: An Interview with Katie Faris about "Loving My Children."

Back in July, I told you about a new book by our friend Katie (pictured here with her husband Scott) called Loving My Children: Embracing Biblical Motherhood.

Tomorrow on the blog, I'll be posting an interview with Katie asking her about herself, how the book came to be, and what moms will will get out of reading it.

I'm particularly excited about this because Katie used to be a member of our church and is coming back for a visit on November 7th to speak to the ladies at our Fall Tea Party about "fruitful friendships" from Titus 2. If you're nearby, please plan to join them!

I'm not a mother, but I'm married to one and my church is full of them. I know it's a good book. Here is my brief review and endorsement again:
What do diapers, lullabies, laundry, and cleaning behind the baby's ears have to do with the gospel? Everything! In this gem of a book, our friend Katie Faris winsomely shares biblical wisdom on seeking the best for the children God has loaned us. Katie knows what she's talking about--we've seen her mothering in action--and she writes well. Sweet but not sentimental, direct but not demanding, Loving My Children helpfully connects the Bible's teaching on grace, sovereignty, and sanctification to the everyday hard work of being a mom. Heather and I highly recommend it.
Tune in tomorrow for more.


Review: Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus

Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent primer on the essence of eldership in the local church.

This is just the little book on eldership that the evangelical Church needs. For years, I have searched high and low for an accessible book that introduces biblical eldership which doesn’t devolve into either a technical treatise on ecclesiology nor a how-to manual that relies on debatable insights from the world of secular organizational theory. And here it finally is!

Rinne successfully avoids secondary polity and pragmatic questions while staying strongly theological and practical on both what an elder is and does. Need proof? Check out these chapter titles which edify all by themselves: “Smell Like Sheep,” “Serve Up the Word,” “Track Down the Strays,” “Lead Without Lording,” “Shepherd Together,” “Model Maturity.”

Church Elders does a good job of neither glorifying the position nor denigrating the work of an elder. Rinne writes as a vocational pastor but FOR avocational elders. He understands the perspective of a man for whom being an elder is lived out in addition to all of his other responsibilities including a family and a full-time job.

Rinne packs a lot into these 122 short pages, but it feels like just the right amount. His illustrations are concise but revealing and helpful. His prose is conversational and carries the reader along but isn’t trite, sentimental, or sappy. If I could write a book on church elders, I would want it to be just like this one. I’ll be asking all of our elders to read it and include it in all future elder training. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 11, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Work and Rest"

“Work and Rest”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
October 11, 2015

Our current sermon series is called “Working for the Lord,” and it’s all about our vocations, our daily labors, our jobs.

Last week, we talked about working hard, about diligence instead of laziness and industriousness instead of idleness.

We learned about that slacker from the book of Proverbs called the “Sluggard,” and how we don’t want to be “that guy.

But now this week, we want to talk about a surprising companion to hard work in the Bible. Another four letter word. Work is can be a four letter word, but so is this word: R-E-S-T.

“Work and Rest”

I said last week that some of you will need this week’s sermon more than last week’s, though you might not know it or admit it.

Those who tend towards the slacker-side, will love the sound of this week’s message! “Yes! Rest! Finally!” but those who are workaholics or have tender consciences might struggle with this word “REST.”

That’s me. I struggle with rest. I’m not very good at it. This Summer, I ended up in the hospital, I think, in part because God said, “You need to rest, Matthew, and I’m going to see that you do.”

How about you?

Last week, I asked you this diagnostic question:

Did you work hard this week? Or did you hardly work this week?

Now, I want to ask you a different question:

Have you rested well this week? Or have you hardly rested this week?

Because God cares about our rest.

He doesn’t just care about our work. He does care about our work. We’re learning that. But He also cares about whether or not we rest, and how much we rest and what quality of rest we get.

Do you ever think about that?

That God cares about rest?

A few weeks ago I read you a part of question that came in to me on the survey sheets.

Here’s the rest of it.
Here's a work related question for your sermon series. How do you know when you are working hard enough or long enough to please God?  If I get tired is it okay to stop and rest? I have found myself very convicted since the beginning of your sermon series. God has given me a lot to look after.  I love and I get pleasure from my work, but I find it hard to let myself rest knowing ‘Master is watching.’
That’s a really good question, isn’t it?

Last time we talked about it, we answered it by saying the good news is that we don’t work to earn our salvation or to earn God’s pleasure. Jesus’ work is perfect and already reckoned to our account. We don’t have to worry about working enough. He has worked enough for us.

But that’s just part of it.

Here’s another part of the answer.

Who is the Master that is watching us at work?

How does our “Hide the Word” verse end? “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Who is your Master?  It’s the Lord Jesus.

And He’s the best boss there ever was!

He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.

#1. YOUR LORD WANTS YOU TO REST.

God doesn’t just care about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.

And the first place that we’re going to see that is where He includes rest in the ten big rules. The 10 Commandments given to Israel in Exodus chapter 20.

The fourth commandment that God gave His people Israel was that they were to cease from work one day each week and set aside that day as holy.

They were to work, yes. And work hard. But for only 6 days.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Sabbath.

That was the pattern.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...Rest.

And that rest was for everyone. Not just for the rich landowner. But for all of the workers and everyone in the house. V.10 again.

“[T]he seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”

And that “alien” means an immigrant not something from Doctor Who or Star Wars.

Nobody works on that day in Israel.

And what was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath in this covenant that the Lord made with Israel?

Listen to Exodus 31:14-17 “'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”"

That’s serious stuff!

We need to be reminded that rest is a serious thing that God cares about.

Now, you and I don’t live under the Mosaic Covenant today.

Of all of the 10 Commandments the fourth commandment alone is not repeated in the New Testament as a binding part of the “Law of Christ.”

So, you and I as New Covenant believers are not under this commandment in the same way that we are under the commandments to not murder or commit adultery. I don’t believe that there is one day in seven that is the Sabbath now.

But even if the Sabbath day does not continue for Christians, the principle of rest is still there and the importance of rest is still there.

By the way, I’m not going to explain all of what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath today. There is too much to share and still stick with our theme of work and rest. But if you’re interested, I’ve written a little article about the Sabbath in the Bible and especially what it means for us today and I’m going to re-post on my blog this afternoon. It’s called “The Gift of My Rest.” I’d be glad to answer any questions that it raises for you.

The point I’m making here is that God cared enough about rest that He encoded into the Mosaic Law. This Lord commands that His workers rest.

Do the best employers include rest in their plans for their employees?

Of course they do! Days off and vacation and for some lines of work, sabbaticals.

And the best employers actually want their employees to take the rest that they offer.

To come to work rested.

And guess what, our Lord is the best boss there ever was.

Your Lord wants you to rest.

He gives rest to His people and even commands it of them.

So here is a way of thinking about it:

Sometimes your job is to rest.

You are required to rest.

On one level, no one can escape it. We all have to sleep. God has programmed it into our bodies that they require rest.

But we can push and push and push ourselves and deny ourselves the rest that God wants for us to take.

Is it hard for you to rest?

The slackers say, “No, it comes easy.”

But the workaholics say, “I don’t have time to rest.” or “I don’t enjoy resting. I’m not good at it. It’s too much work to rest!”

That’s what I often say. I’m not good at resting. It takes too much work.

Well, sometimes your job is to rest.

To play, to cease your work, to lay down what you’ve been laboring at and take a break.

God did!

Did you catch that in verse 11? And how it was repeated in chapter 31?

Why was Israel supposed to rest? “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

If rest is good enough for God, then it’s good enough for you and me, too.

And never resting is sin.

I was talking to a pastor friend a few weeks ago, and he said that he never takes a day off. He loves his work, so he never stops. He takes mini-breaks and portion of several days.

But he doesn’t have a day off, and he asked me what I thought of that.

And I said, “It sounds like sin to me.”

Now, I’m not his judge. I’m not his Lord. In the end, that’s between him and his Master.

But I know how his Master feels about rest. It is requested and required.

Now some of you have a tender conscience, and you are easily shamed. And now, this feels like another burden. “Oh no. I don’t rest enough! I can’t do anything right.”

Don’t forget the gospel. Don’t forget that Christ’s perfect track record of resting is reckoned to your account as well. Because you belong to Jesus you don’t have to get this right to be justified in God’s sight.

You can rest on Christ’s rest.

But think about that: Jesus rested. God rested after creating, but think about all of those places where see Jesus sleeping.

Sleeping in the boat!
Partying at a wedding.
Heading out by Himself to pray in solitary places.

Jesus wasn’t all work and no play. He worked hard but He also rested. Perfectly!

And He wants us to work and rest, as well.

So, how are you doing at this? Are you resting?

Sometimes, it’s your job to rest. So are you doing your job?

Do you take time off of work?
Do you use your vacation and rest?
Do you plan in enough time to sleep?
Do you take breaks?

Does your family believe that you rest enough? Your family needs you to rest.

I can’t tell you how much or when to rest, but I can tell you that God cares about that.

Do you feel that?

Or is your picture of God a slave master with a whip held up to his ear ready to crack behind you if you slow down?

I think that some people think they are resting, but they aren’t.

It’s good to figure out what is really resting for you and what isn’t.

I mean for some of you guys, a trip into the woods with a bow or rifle is really restful.

It’s really restorative for you.

Praise God!

For me, unless I actually fall asleep while hunting, it’s not very restful at all for me. It’s more like work than work is for me.

I’m still trying to learn how to do it right, but the effort of hunting isn’t very revitalizing for me.

But taking a long hike is.

Rest is not always sleeping, but it is always ceasing from work for a period of time.

And you know what that requires? Faith.

#2. YOUR LORD WANTS YOU TO TRUST.

Do you find it hard to rest?

That probably indicates a faith issue, a problem with unbelief.

Do you remember the manna?

The supernatural bread that God provided from heaven for the people of Israel.

How many days were they supposed to collect it?  6 days. And which day were they not supposed to collect it?  On the Sabbath, right?  He provided twice the amount the day before.

Why? What does that mean?

It was an object lesson, wasn’t it?  Yes, God wants you to work for your daily bread, but no, you are not responsible, ultimately, for even your daily bread.

One day a week, you stop working, but God still provides.

That’s hard to do. It’s hard to stop and just trust God.

But we are not our own Saviors.

In the Deuteronomy version of the ten commandments, the LORD emphasizes not His own example of rest at creation but the fact that the Israelites used to be slaves in Egypt but God rescued them with His mighty right hand.

So now they rest.

Do you see the logic?

“You didn’t save yourself by your own mighty works. And one day a week, I want you remember that by not working at all. Remember, how I worked!”

Some people need to repent of laziness.
Some others need to repent of busyness.

And I’m talking to myself here.

When we work without sabbathizing, we exhibit unbelief in the goodness and love of our Lord.

The best Scripture for this is the one that Marilynn put on front of your bulletins. It’s  Psalm 127, verses 1 and 2. It’s a psalm written by Solomon, actually.

And he starts it like this.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Do you hear those familiar words from Ecclesiastes and the curse of Genesis 3?

Toiling and vain?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

Is it wrong to build a house? Is it wrong to work hard at construction?  Of course not.

But ultimately, it’s not up to our hard work whether or not the house gets built.

It’s not up to you! It’s not up to me.

We act like everything up to us. When we don’t rest.

Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”

You can have 1 watchman or 2 watchmen or 200 watchmen or a 2 million watchmen, but if the LORD doesn’t watch over the city, your city is toast.

It’s not up to you.

When we don’t choose rest, we act as if everything is up to us.

Verse 2. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

You work and work and work and work some more.

You act like the fate of the world rests on your shoulders.

But yours are not those shoulders!

Instead, God grants sleep to those he loves. He gives rest as a gift.

Now, if you have the NIV, you see a footnote there for an alternative translation of verse 2, and I think it’s a more likely translation.

It would read, “For while they sleep he provides for those he loves.”

We know that God doesn’t always grant sleep to every believer.

I think that this verse is saying that even while we rest, God works.

Do you need to hear that today?

When you rest, you are exercising faith in your Lord.

He wants you to trust Him.

Because He’s always working.

Six psalms earlier in 121 it says, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (vv.3-4).

And that means that you and I can sleep.

It doesn’t all rest on you, so you can rest.

Are you trusting Him?

Or are you working like He can’t be trusted?

Remember, the Shepherd of Psalm 23 is your boss.

That description of someone lying you down in green pastures and leading you to drink from quiet waters and restoring your soul is your Boss. Your Lord.

You can trust Him.

You can rest.

Every week, we’ve been recognizing the hard work and celebrating a different group of hard workers in our congregation.

Today, I want to have the homemakers stand. If you are currently a homemaker or are a retired homemaker, I’d like to ask you to stand and be recognized.

Thank you!

The reason I picked the homemakers today is because when those kids are little, they almost never get a rest.

Sleepless nights and sleepless days!

Verses 3-5 of Psalm 127 describe how children are a blessing.

But they are a very tiring blessing, especially when they are little, and you ladies do an amazing job of caring for them so well on so little sleep. Hardest job in the world.

Guys, if you have a homemaker in your house, make sure you are finding ways to get them rest.

Make it your job to see that she gets the rest that she needs.

And that includes not just sleep but also time away from the kiddos. Date night. Girls’ night out. Whatever it is she needs.

Because her job never ends!

One more point this morning. Number three.

#3. YOUR LORD WANTS TO BE IN YOUR REST.

One of the reasons why our rest is not very restful is because we leave the Lord out of it.

We are not supposed to rest from the Lord but with the Lord.

The original Sabbath day was to be a day of rest from work but also for worship.

Turn with me briefly to Isaiah 58 where the Lord is explaining through Isaiah what genuine fasting and genuine resting is supposed to be like.  Scan down to verse 13 and see these promises.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight (resting for the Lord is delight) and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

You see the joy in the Lord there?

Do you see that the Sabbath was to be the Lord’s day?

Resting is for God just like working is for God.

Don’t do it without Him.

Don’t do anything on your day of rest, on your vacation, on your holiday, on your breaktime that you don’t want to do with Him.

Take your breaks with Jesus.

The Lord wants to be in your rest.

Because He’s the one offering it to you.

The Lord Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

I know that this sermon raises more questions than it answers.

Some of you are wondering now about the Sabbath.

How does now work?

Read that article I’m posting this afternoon. And I’d be glad to talk with you about that more.

Some of you want to rest more but you’re not sure how.

How does this look if you’re a second, third, or fourth grader?
How does this look if you’re a college student?
How does this look if you’re unemployed or disabled or retired?
How does this work out if you have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet?

What does rest look like for you?

How do I “work” at my resting to improve it?
How do I truly stop working and let rest be rest?

I don’t have all of the answers for you for those particular questions (I don't have all the answers for my particular situation!), but I believe the answers are out there.

What I can say is that God cares.

He cares, not just about the quantity and quality of our work, but the quantity and quality of our rest.

He cares.

He cares enough to request and require us to rest.

He cares because He wants to get the glory.  We labor in vain if we try to get up early and stay up late and leave Him out of the equation!

He cares because He wants us to experience everything good that He has for us. He gives to his beloved in their sleep. While we’re resting, He is giving.

And the biggest, thing He’s giving in our rest is Himself.

So I know that I need to repent of my busyness and get busy learning more how to rest in Him.

You, too?  Let’s do it together.

***

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?
03. Why Work?
04. Working at Witnessing
05. Get to Work!
06. Work and Rest

"The Gift of My Rest" A Fictional Letter of Sabbath Theology

In the Summer of 2000, when I was first preaching through the 10 Commandments, I really struggled to develop both my theology of the 4th commandment and my sermon once I had come to some conclusions. It had gotten to be Saturday at 2:30, and I had a sermon with 29 points that would have lost everyone!
So, I went for a walk (with my lawnmower), and prayed for help to formulate a message that would honor the Scriptures and help my flock. This fictional* letter from God was my answer...

Dear Matt,

I’m glad you asked. Thank you for coming to Me and asking Me what I would like to say to My people through you on Sunday morning. That’s a good question that you should be asking Me each and every week.

Matt, tell My people this: Tell them I love them and tell them to accept the gift of My rest.

Matt, when I created the world: the stars, The Milky Way, your Sun, when I created the Earth, every inch of dirt that you see, and every mountain that you’ll never climb, and every cubic inch of lava inside the Earth, and when I created the sea, every gallon of salty water and every fish and dolphin and algae and whale and shark in it. When I created everything that exists in Creation, I spent 6 days on it. Your ancestors Adam and Eve came on day 6. But on Day 7, I rested.

I didn’t need to rest, Matt. I rested to set aside a special time, a holy, sacred time, to enjoy Myself and all that I had created. I was creating something else by ceasing creating–I was creating the concept of rest. I, who never have to sleep, never grow weary, never have to relax–I’m God! I took a break from creating and rested. That last day I blessed, and made it a special day of enjoyment of Myself and My work.

Why do you think I was doing that, Matt? I was doing it to set out an example, a pattern for My people–to rest. O, I made work, too. And that’s awesome. It’s one of My better creations. My people should all work–put their hands and feet and brains to useful tasks. But I also created REST for them, rest from work and rest for the enjoyment of Me. I’m worth it! And that day that I broke from My creative work stands forever as a testimony of My value–I’m so awesome that I would stop and marvel and enjoy Myself and what I’ve done for a whole day.

Matt, tell My people on Sunday, that I not only created but rested; and therefore consecrated a day as an example of that rest for you to follow. Tell them that this is a gift from the beginning of the world for them to enjoy. (Gen 2:1-3)

Matt, you know that the Hebrew word to cease labor or to rest is “Sabbath.” And because I wanted My people to enjoy My gift of rest, I wrote it into law for the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 20:8-11, Deut 5:12-15) They needed a day that would be a marker for them–a weekly, spiritual reminder of My rest. I told them to remember it. To not forget it. To build it into their weeks, 1-2-3-4-5-6-Sabbath. 1-2-3-4-5-6-Sabbath. I wanted them to burn it into their minds and hearts that they need My rest. Rest from work and rest for Me.

That’s why I called it on that day, “a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” TO the LORD your God. This was to be a God-Day. To rest from labor and work and to spend their precious time worshiping Me.

Matt, I know human-beings. I know how forgetful you are in your fallen-state. You need reminders. I made the Sabbath a law for Israel because they could get to thinking that all that they have comes from their work. You do that, too. You think that because you have food in the fridge, it means that you’ve done something to earn it. But, Matt, who made your hands? Who made your feet? Who gave you energy to work? Who got you your job? Who gives you the beating heart and the breathing lung and the loud voice to do your work? Everything you have comes from Me–not from your work! That’s why I told Israel on the day we made our covenant in the wilderness that they should rest once a week–to remind them who really works in this relationship. If I say so, they will not have any more money or food or success even if they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to recognize that ultimately–I provide. Not you. (cf. the spiritual lessons of Exodus 16.) That’s why they need to accept the gift of My rest.

I know you need reminders, Matt. Since the Fall, you always have. That’s why when I re-wrote the 10 Commandments into Deuteronomy, I stressed that the Sabbath exists to remember that Israel was formerly a slave in Egypt and that I, I alone, brought them out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deut. 5:15) The Sabbath existed for Israel as a reminder that I had saved them–and not themselves. Their work did not rescue them from Egypt. I did. And I had them set aside a day to ponder that reality.

Matt, I saved you, too. You could have worked and worked and worked for your salvation forever and ever and never earned it. Your fallen condition was too far gone to restore by your work. You are totally depraved. But, I chose you. And I killed My Son for you. And I got the gospel to you. And I caused you to believe it. And I am sanctifying you and saving you and making you holy, like Me and like My Son. That’s part of the rest here, Matt. Tell My people, that they can cease striving to gain My approval–it will never work. Tell your congregation, that they must accept My gift of rest. Rest from working for their salvation, and rest for finding it in Me and Me ALONE.

This is important, Matt. It’s very, very important. I established the death-penalty for those who broke the Sabbath in Israel under My Old Covenant. (Ex. 31:14) It’s that important. Tell the congregation at Lanse, that My rest is not to be ignored. They need it. They don’t just need physical rest every night and every 7 days; they need spiritual rest. Rest from work and rest for Me.

Tell them to delight in Me, Matt. That’s a large, often forgotten part of what it means to accept My rest. To Sabbathize. That’s what I told the people in Isaiah’s day. They had ignored My Sabbath Day.  They were doing whatever they pleased, and not just work, but evil on My day! They were prostituting themselves with pagan idols and searching for happiness and joy in everything else but Me. That’s why I said through My prophet, “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight (did you catch that Matt? Resting for Me is a delight!) If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your JOY in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. My mouth has said it!” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Tell them that accepting My rest means enjoying Me. Finding your joy in Me. Ultimate happiness is available to those who rest on Me. That’s what Sabbath is all about.

O, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law got it all mixed up. They focused on the cessation of work, what is work and what isn’t work–the outside of the commandment and missed the gift of rest that I was giving!

Matt, My Son Jesus had to correct them on that. When he would heal someone on the Sabbath, they got all upset (see for example Matt 12, John 5). Upset about nothing! The Sabbath was a gift for mankind. A gift they must not ignore, but a gift nonetheless. The day was supposed to signify rest, rest from work and rest for Me. But they had it turned around. They had made it work to rest! And Jesus had to tell them that it WAS lawful to heal on the Sabbath and to do good works, works of mercy and love. That out of the overflow of your rest in me should come acts of love. Rest from work and rest for Me and rest resulting in acts of love. And My Son should know. After all, He is Lord of the Sabbath, Ruler of Rest.

It’s not about what you can’t do on the Sabbath Day. It’s about what you can! Rest for Me and rest for your fellow man in acts of love. Rest is a gift. That’s the point. I am giving away blessings to those who will trust in Me. Salvation and provision and joy and the ability to love others. But you have to come and accept the gift. It was made for you, not the other way around.

Matt, tell them that’s why My Son issued that precious invitation: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you (trust Me, become related to Me intimately) and learn from Me (join My school of discipleship) for I am gentle and humble of heart (I won’t hurt you), and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29, see also v.30)

My Son was issuing My invitation to accept My gift of rest. Tell the people of the West Branch Area that that Sabbath gift is still available to whoever will receive and follow Him by faith. Accept the gift of My rest. I hold it out to you. Rest from work and rest for Me.

Tell them that My Son is the total embodiment of the Sabbath principle. Now that He’s come and died for the redeemed and been resurrected for My glory and His, now the Sabbath is no longer commanded as a Day. Now it’s a person! The principle of rest from your work and rest for Me continues forever. But the command to hallow one day in seven is no more. It is subsumed, like the ceremonial sacrifices and the clean and unclean food laws into the New Covenant. As I said through My servant Paul, the Sabbath was a shadow of the Rest to come in Jesus. (Col. 2:16-17, see also Galatians 4:10)

Some of My people will want to celebrate My Son’s Resurrection with a whole day given to rest and worship and meditation and prayer and fasting and enjoying Me. That’s a great idea. My holy apostles started that pattern of Sunday worship. Never let My people forget their continued obligation and privilege to meet to worship, receive instruction, fellowship with other believers, eat My memorial meal, and give of their resources in offering (John 20:1, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). But that is not the Sabbath. Every day in Jesus is now the Sabbath. Every day, I call you to accept the gift of my rest. Rest from thinking that you provide for yourself. Rest from thinking that you can save yourself. Rest from striving after other, lesser things to give you true and lasting joy. And rest in Me. Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

Don’t quibble over days, Matt. And don’t let the congregation do it, either. As I said through Paul to the Roman believers, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind–and do it as to the Lord” (Romans 14:5, see vv.6-8, too)

Don’t get either lazy or legalistic. Lazy in never resting in this way or legalistic in mandating for others how to rest and how not to rest. Tell My people that the point is accepting the gift of my rest and resting in Me.

One more thing, Matt. The fullest enjoyment of My rest is still to come. O, yes, it does get even better–in Me! That’s what I meant when I said in Hebrews, “There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9) I wasn’t talking about a specific Day of 24 hours. I meant the full enjoyment of heaven–final salvation, where all striving against evil and striving with tired muscles at work and striving to figure out life and striving to make a living and striving to find joy anywhere else--where all that striving is over...and My rest and refreshment is all that you experience and enjoy forever. The refreshment of heaven! I make all things NEW and refreshing! (Revelation 21:5)

Many will not enjoy that rest, Matt. Many will be disobedient to My Gospel. Many will do nothing to enter into that rest because of the hardness of their unbelieving hearts. Don’t be like those who fell in the wilderness!

Exhort the people gathered at Lanse on Sunday to enter into My rest by FAITH. To put their full confidence in Me and Me alone. To cease their striving after the wind and rest in Me. Because if they live their lives like that now, they will enjoy My rest forever.

The rest that I began after I put you in the cradle of Eden will continue forever and ever and ever and ever if you trust in Me. Hold firmly to that confidence you had at first and you will have an eternal Sabbath. That’s what I want for My people.

Tell them that, Matt. Tell them I love them and to accept and live by the gift of My rest.

Sincerely and for the Glory of My Name,
The Lord Your God


*I stress that this is a work of fiction not a vision, prophecy, or revelation. It was just my attempt to summarize what God has said in His Word and apply it directly in the form of a letter. Please check out the verses cited to see what God has actually said.

The sermon version was originally preached on July 2, 2000, and the original blog version of this letter was posted on here on May 15, 2005.