A post for my preacher buddies. What an awesome age we live in! We don’t have flying cars or robots that make supper but technology has brought some amazing blessings that can be used for ministry.
I attended an online conference this morning (right from my desk) that was hosted by Forge Canada, a missional cooperative that provides resources and connects people with influential voices in the missional conversation. It was all on GoToMeeting, an amazing tool. Even out here in the country, our marginal Internet connection at church was able to keep up.
About 24 ministers and lay leaders heard from Mark Buchanan this morning. He has worked with New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan BC for the past 17 years. He has written six books, including one called The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.
This conference was of particular interest for me because this book was of such vital importance for me. A couple of years ago with the help of this book I began to observe Sabbath, for the first time in my life. I started to recognize that I had leisure time but God was absent from it. As a result, I found that it did not restore me or nourish me. Even when I had a “day off” it was encroached on all sides by a number of distractions. Everyone says, “just block the day out,” but I have always had trouble knowing how to do that. Does that mean block out family? What about school work? How do you keep from getting dragged into tasks that are urgent but not important.
During the webinar Mark had some real gems. He describes the practice of Sabbath as “52 snow days a year.” The Canadians on the call got the idea: a day that comes to you, clear of agenda. It is a day that you do not take care of; it takes care of you.
Mark says that in order to truly experience Sabbath you need to develop a “Sabbath Heart”: an absolute trust in the sovereignty of God and in God’s capacity to nurture and provide for you. Keeping Sabbath means practicing God’s sovereignty. You need to ask yourself, “Does God run the Universe or do I?” Does God manage your church, your ministry context or do you? If God is not sovereign then you had better get your butt off the couch and worry because it is all falling apart. If God is sovereign, however, you can rest in his promise (Rom 8:28) that He is working everything for good. Practicing Sabbath means acting like you really believe that God is large and in charge.
When I am not rested I am more than just tired. I find that in the weariness, I become less than myself. I am more sensitive, more bitter, and less balanced. Sabbath rest, a stillness that is practiced in light of who God says I am, makes me more like God’s preferred person for me. I become more aware of my limits, more comfortable in my own skin, and more able to respond appropriately to criticism.
St. Augustine once said, “Lord, deliver me from the lust to vindicate myself,” and this prayer is one that comes from a heart that is at rest in God. When I am rested I am more certain of the sovereignty of God, and better able to let God deal with my critics. Psalm 92 is called “a Psalm for the Sabbath day,” and it’s easy to see why. It starts with the assurance that God is powerful and capable, and then talks about how God’s enemies will get what’s coming to them.
The practice of Sabbath is in some way acting better than we know. Sometimes our hearts and our minds have trouble being at rest in God – not fully believing that God will do what he says He will do. We mentally know that God has it all under control but we just can’t relax enough to believe it. This is one way how our bodies can instruct our minds. Practicing Sabbath is living like God is in charge. As we live into that reality through receiving God’s rest , pray that your mind will slowly be convinced by the obedience of our body.
So my prayer for my colleagues in ministry and for anyone who is following the call of discipleship is to schedule a day, soon, where you will put everything down and just receive the day. Read, sleep, take a walk, spend time with friends. For one day act like it really isn’t all about you. Secondly, take advantage of all the great resources that are out there. Check out Forge Canada and their partners. There are some great resources out there for you.