On the Sabbath

As we remember the sabbath (Ex 20:8) in the midst of a fallen culture, we find ourselves questioning what kinds of activities are allowed. This isn’t new; even in Torah-keeping cultures there’s controversy here. It’s one of the chief obstacles Jesus Christ Himself faced. (Jn 9:16)

God says we’re to stop working on sabbath (Ex 20:10), and do all our work the remaining six days (9), but He never defines work, and for good reason — it’s evidently related to our motives, which are context-specific. He does, however, give us some helpful examples.

Gathering manna on sabbath was forbidden (Ex 16:29), as well as cooking and preparing it (23), gathering firewood (Nu 15:32,35) and kindling a fire. (Ex 35:3) Conducting business as usual, in manual labor and routine commerce, violates sabbath (Ne 13:15-17), and carrying burdens profanes the sabbath. (Je 17:21-22)

Jews extrapolate from this to extremes, forbidding us to operate elevators, microwaves, stoves, light switches, or tear off pieces of toilet paper, drive a car, or lift anything heavier than an infant.

In light of our modern conveniences, is there perhaps a balance here which honors the spirit of sabbath without perverting it into a burden (Mt 23:$), especially in cultures which are ignorant of sabbath?

For example, is it OK to go to a restaurant, go shopping, warm up some left overs, or to go for a hike or a jog on Saturday? Perhaps this depends on what we do for work the other six days, to provide for ourselves and those we care for.

Perhaps we should each take the time to define what work means for us; maybe whatever that is should be off limits for us on Shabbat, without neglecting our duty to ourselves or others. If our work requires shopping during the week, then maybe we should avoid going on Saturday; if we’re manual laborers, then prioritize physical rest; if we make a living straining our brains, best forget problem-solving on Saturday.

It’s perfectly consistent with sabbath to engage in needful, useful activity, even if it happens to be difficult. (Mt 12:12) The key appears to be related to both our weekly routine and what it means to love each other. We ought to do our best to set the day apart, and not impose rigorous work on others, but when people are working anyway, how do we integrate this into our own observance? Must we isolate ourselves and disengage, or might it be wisdom to leverage their voluntary sabbath violations to make our own more peaceful, joyful and restful?

These questions get at the heart of obedience, yet we may not have definitive answers until our Lord returns. Meanwhile, each of us must do our best to honor Him as our conscience directs in our particular circumstances, enlightened by the Word, and the Spirit of the living God.

Keeping the spirit of Sabbath in mind, that it’s sanctified by our Father for our benefit in rest, what can do to set this day apart and make it more of a delight? This perspective will lead us on a journey to discover sabbath, to orient our lives around God’s appointed times of rest, teaching us, as each sabbath evening draws on, to rest in what He’s allowed us to accomplish for the week, and to worship Him as our Fountain of eternal rest.

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Be Kind

Since God is kind, and since He commands us to be kind (Ep 4:32), we ought to understand what kindness is.

Kind is not nice, avoiding conflict, difficulty or discomfort; at times we’re called to speak the truth (Ep 4:15) even when it wounds. (Pr 27:6) Nice is generally selfish and fearful; seeking approval and acceptance; this isn’t the servant of Christ. (Ga 1:10)

Kindness isn’t passive, weak, insecure or timid; God commands us to be strong (1Co 16:13); Kindness can be bold (Pr 28:1), standing firm (Ep 6:13), confronting evil and defending ourselves as needed. (Lk 22:36)

The root words from which we get our English word kind also give us our word kin; as if God’s calling us to treat one another like family: we are all related, members one of another. (Ep 4:25) The Greek is chrestos or useful, suggesting moral helpfulness and benevolence, also translated easy (Mt 11:30), good (Ro 2:4), and gracious. (1Pe 2:3) It’s how we treat our loved ones.

Kindness is love in action (Tit 3:4), loving my neighbor as myself, seeking their ultimate welfare. Love persists in kindness (1Co 13:4), for love perfects and completes kindness. (2Pe 1:7)

The opposite of kindness is evidently malice (Ep 4:31): having ill will, animosity, wanting less than the best for another. This is often rooted in vengeance, thinking others deserve less than the best, rendering our own sense of justice rather than letting God do so. This is, at it’s root, unbelief in the goodness of God (Ro 2:2), refusing to walk in love and let God be God.

If God is ever inviting us to what is best, both for ourselves and others, if He is never malicious, then we should be like Him. (Lk 6:35) This is our design, when we’re at our best and bring Him glory, being like Him, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:17)

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The Whole Matter

Solomon sums up our entire duty very simply: Fear God and obey Him. (Ec 12:13) Summarizing well takes insight, and is often very useful in helping us focus.

I’ve been trying to summarize what I see going on in our post-election limbo, not knowing who our next president will be, convinced that vast voter fraud is in play to unseat president Trump. How do we view the hand of God in all this, especially if the deep state, the Left and big Tech are successful in their veritable coup? To do so, I need to step back a bit and identify a biblical perspective.

God’s goal in history is simple: He’s redeeming and purifying a bride for Himself (Tit 2:14), in the way that brings Himself the most glory. (Ps 145:10) Nothing else matters; it’s mere dust in the balance. (Is 45:15)

God is choosing to Himself souls who love the truth and pursue it (2Th 2:10); we’ll find the truth (Mt 7:8) because He’s teaching us. (1Jn 2:27)  And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31)

As for the world, it’s lost, steeped in wickedness. (1Jn 5:19) Yet God is restraining evil according to His perfect timing and will (2Th 2:7); He’s always in complete control of everything. (Da 4:35) Nothing takes Him by surprise; nothing frustrates Him. He’s very patient, and what He’s doing, tending His golden harvest, will be precious beyond description. (Ja 5:7)

God must let His enemies act like enemies in order to reveal and glorify Himself; there’s a purpose in all of it, even the timing; it’s perfectly designed for our good. (Ro 8:28) Only by His mercy is humanity not already so much worse than it already is, so much more dishonest and rebellious and deceitful. The final age of Man is prophesied, and it will be an order of magnitude more corrupt than anything we see today.

God has chosen certain dear believers to walk with Him during the evil days to come (Re 7:14), shining as lights in the darkness (Php 2:!5); He’s calling us all to prepare and train for battle, to be ready. (Ep 6:13) If we aren’t willing to follow Him there, then who would we send in our place? If not now, when?

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The Scornful

Scorn is a word indicating lack of respect, or contempt for another, to find someone unworthy of proper consideration. It’s often expressed through laughter or ridicule at another’s behavior (Mt 9:24), as if what someone says or does makes them less valuable to God.

The Psalmist opens with a warning that being quick to scorn others removes us from the blessing of God (Ps 1:1); this disposition comes from failing to esteem others better than ourselves (Php 2:3), so it’s rooted in pride. (Ps 123:4)

We may find others in error or sin without feeling scorn, simply by recognizing that if it weren’t for the grace of God in our lives (1Co 15:10), we’d likely be doing worse. (1Co 4:7) Grief is the appropriate reaction in the presence of evil (Php 3:18), not disdain.

We’re to honor all people (1Pe 2:7), praying for and thanking God for everyone (1Ti 2:1); of course, some deserve more honor than others (Ps 15:4a), but we shouldn’t disrespect anyone, even in our hearts.

Each and every person is deeply precious to God; He’s handcrafted each soul uniquely (Ps 119:73) in His image, for His own pleasure and purpose. (Pr 16:4) It matters not what they’ve done: He’s willing to become sin for them. (2Pe 3:9) If we don’t love those we can see, who are the special handiwork of God, how then can we say we love their Creator? (1Jn 4:20)

So, when we find ourselves laughing at someone in contempt, the joke’s on us: the enemy has leveraged another’s fault to take us down again. This is war; when we’re laughing at sin and brokenness, there’s no victory. God chooses who to restrain from evil and when. (Ro 1:24) If He’s mercifully kept us from certain types of sin and let others go their way (Ro 9:16), we’ve nothing to glory in. (1Co 1:29-31)

Think of every single soul as family, brothers and sisters, relatives; we’re members one of another (Ep 4:25), all of the same blood (Ac 17:26), all part of the human race.

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