The Gift of Sabbath Rest (Part II)

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Matthew 12:12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”

There aren’t an overwhelming number of authors who specifically research and write about Discipleship or Spiritual Formation. But here are what a few say about Sabbath rest:

Peter Scazzero: “Sabbath protects us from doing violence to ourselves.”

Ronald Rolheiser: “There is a kind of hurry that is a form of violence exercised upon time that is detrimental to our health, to our families, to to our communities, and to our relationship with God.”

Dan Allender: “Sabbath stands against all forms of greed, power, control and ultimately, violence against others and against ourselves.”

Violence. That’s an incredibly strong word to consider when you simply think of not resting and experiencing the Sabbath. But Matthew 12:9-14 reveals that Sabbath rest not only bring physical healing, but also heals a weary soul. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 12:9-14 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Consider how well you have practiced Sabbath rest over the previous 8-12 weeks. In what ways may your lack of Sabbath rest be a form of violence against your physical health, your family, your community, and your relationship with God? Take your time and write out as many as you can.

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Sabbath isn’t about “adding one more thing” to your busy schedule. It’s about removing some things that don’t build you up. Consider what you may be able to remove from your schedule so you can experience real rest.

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that today’s reading is challenging because I don’t like to think that I have been violent toward myself, others, or my relationship with You. But a I’m beginning to see that lack of Sabbath does lead to destruction. Help me to build up, not tear down. Amen.

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The Gift of Sabbath Rest (Part I)

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Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”

Many people are able to recite at least 6-8 of the 10 Commandments. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not worship any other gods. And so on. But do you know which of the 10 Commandments God provided the most explanation? 

Interestingly, in Exodus 20 it’s the one commandment in which many people today pay the least attention to. We may do our best to not steal, or murder, or worship other gods. But when it comes to setting aside an entire day every week for Sabbath rest, this is something many struggle to live out consistently. 

We must remember that while obeying the Sabbath is a commandment, it wasn’t given as a threat – “Obey the Sabbath, or else!” No. No. No. Instead, an entire day of Sabbath rest is a gift from God. He desires that we rest in Him. In fact, if you read the Creation account you’ll see that each day begins with evening. God created us to begin each day by experiencing rest, and He longs for us to continually experience a deep sense of rest in Him.

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 12:1-8, EXODUS 20:8-11 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were more concerned with the commandment of Sabbath than they were the gift of Sabbath. Today, many struggle to see it as a commandment or a gift. How about you? Do you see Sabbath as a gift from God to be received? 

Ask yourself: Is there really anything more important on your schedule than taking a full day each week to rest in God? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Begin to plan now for a full day of Sabbath rest sometime within the next week. 

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, too often I believe the lie that I’m too busy to rest in You. This week, continue to help me recognize that nothing is more important than experiencing Your rest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Write it Out

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Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

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Humble and Gentle of Heart (Part II)

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Matthew 11:29 (ESV) “…learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly takes a detailed look at this passage, unraveling the mysteries of Jesus as gentle and lowly of heart.

Ortlund writes, “The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.” Ortlund continues, “The posture most natural to him isn’t a pointed finger but open arms.”

Read that last sentence again, slowly. “The posture most natural to him isn’t a pointed finger but open arms.”

If this statement is true (and it is), then it means that you don’t have anything to fear when it comes to approaching Jesus. He welcomes you. You are safe in His presence. You belong. You are loved. The more you experience the intensity of His love and grace, the more others will see something extraordinary different about you. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 11:28-30 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: In what ways would those you interact with on a regular basis recognize you as a follower of Jesus? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Continue to live your life at the pace of your soul. Slow down in order to catch up to the pace in which God created you to live. 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I’m very grateful for the reminder that no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus. Too often I fear approaching Jesus, believing the lie that He won’t accept me. Today, may I rid myself of this lie and approach Jesus with confidence, knowing I am accepted and loved. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Humble and Gentle of Heart (Part I)

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Matthew 11:29 “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

This popular Scripture passage is known by millions of Christians around the world. Different English translations have some minor differences as to how to translate this passage from Greek to English. The NLT reads, “I am humble and gentle at heart,” while the ESV reads, “I am gentle and lowly at heart.” It’s easy to read this verse as part of Matthew 11 and then just keep on reading. But there’s something about this verse which ought to lead us to pause. 

First, the heart, according to the Scriptures, is not just a part of who we are but is at the very center of who we are. So when Jesus says, “This is my heart…” we would do well to pay close attention.  

And second, this is the only time Jesus describes what His heart is like. He surely expresses His heart through His actions, but this is the only moment when He clearly articulates what His heart is like. Again, we would do well to dwell on this. The very center of who and what Christ is, is gentle and lowly. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 11:28-30 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: If the heart of Jesus truly is gentle and lowly, in what ways does this impact your desire to sit and silence and be with Him? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Continue to embrace silence and listen for the whisper and heartbeat of God. 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m often looking for quick and simple answers that will help me experience peace and contentment. But the life of Christ reveals that peace and contentment are not something that comes quickly, but by regularly experiencing the heart of Christ. Continue to increase my longing and desire to be with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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What Are You Expecting (Part II)

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Think about this: each and every time you are bothered by something, it’s likely an indication that you had an expectation that went unmet. You experience frustration when somebody cuts you off on the highway – you had an expectation that others would drive more safely. You are bothered when a colleague is late for a meeting – you had an expectation that the meeting would begin on time. Sometimes our expectations are very realistic, meaning they are not at all unreasonable. But sometimes our expectations are unrealistic, meaning they are unreasonable. 

John the Baptist almost certainly had an expectation that Jesus would set him free from his prison cell. He may have been thinking things like, I’ve lived in the dessert. I’ve lived on locusts and honey. I’ve taught thousands of people of the coming Messiah. I BAPTIZED JESUS! 

On the surface, John’s expectation may appear realistic. But Jesus had a very different understanding of what it meant to “set the captives free.” He did not fulfill John’s expectation. Yet Jesus still thought very highly of John and went on to preach that nobody was greater than John (Matthew 11:11).

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 11:2-19 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Do you live your life with the belief that your circumstances are a measure of God’s love for you? (e.g., If your life is going well, God must be pleased with you. But if your life is going poorly, God must be displeased with you.) What steps do you need to take to rid your mind of this lie?

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Today, take 2-3 times to remind yourself of Romans 8:38-39. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing. 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that there are times when I wrongly believe that if my life circumstances are poor, it means You are displeased with me. Today, I am grateful for the reminder that nothing can separate me from Your love. May I take opportunities to fully experience Your love today. Amen. 

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What Are You Expecting (Part I)

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Matthew 11:2-3 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

John had taught about the coming Messiah and the signs, wonders, and miracles He would accomplish. As he was sitting in a cool, damp, prison, John was hoping to discover that Jesus, indeed, was that Messiah. 

But Jesus responded to this question in a different way than John had hoped. Jesus sent the messengers to tell John that the blind see (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5), the lame walk (Isaiah 35:6, 61:1), the lepers are healed (Isaiah 61:1), the deaf hear (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5), the dead are raised (implied in Isaiah 11:1-2), and  the Good News is preached to the poor (Isaiah 61:1-2). Knowing the Old Testament very well, John would’ve understood that these six signs of the Messiah’s coming were being fulfilled. But John was expecting a seventh sign – the captives would be set free (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus left this one out. It was a not-so-subtle way of telling John that Jesus was not going to meet John’s expectation of being set free from prison.

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 11:2-19 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Have you ever found yourself thinking that God serves as your personal assistant and you expected Him to do something specific for you? What are some of the dangers of living in this way? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Slow down to be with Jesus a few times daily. Spend time in prayer and quiet yourself so that you listen intently for His whisper and direction.

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that there are many times when I’m more prayerful that You will accomplish my will instead of me praying that Your will be done. Continue to transform my thoughts so that I seek out Your will above all else. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Write it Out

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Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

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Taking Up Your Cross

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Matthew 10:38-39 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Matthew 10 concludes with Jesus sharing a theme that was  common throughout His ministry: those who follow Me will need to give up everything they think is important and instead commit to what matters most. Throughout His ministry, some heard this teaching and walked away. They wanted to continue to live and enjoy the things they thought were important. But others were all in, accepting Jesus’ invitation to begin to see God, others, the world, and even themselves in a completely different light. Oddly, their lives didn’t become any easier to live – it was complete opposite! But by committing to following Christ, they came to experience love, joy, peace, and contentment in profound ways. 

Today, Jesus’ invitation continues to be offered to all. We each must choose whether we are truly willing to give up everything we think is important and begin to see God, others, the world, and even ourselves in a different light.

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 10:32-42 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Is there anything you are unwilling to give up (or struggle to give up) in order to be more deeply rooted in Christ? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Take the opportunity to write down how you have spent your time each day over the previous week. Is there anything listed you’re holding onto which God may be inviting you to let go of? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today I recognize that my unwillingness to let go of certain things ultimately does violence to my heart and soul. But following you brings healing, joy, and contentment to my heart and soul. May this truth stick with me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Peace and Contentment

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Matthew 10:19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.

The one command Jesus communicated more than any other was, “Don’t be afraid.” When Jesus sent out His disciples He didn’t sugarcoat what they would experience. But He also assured them that there was no reason to be afraid. 

In our own lives, we are often afraid of what might happen. Each and every day we have thoughts of, “What if…” enter into our minds. What if my spouse or child are in a terrible car accident? What if I lose my job? What if my sales report is low again this quarter? What if my landlord requires us to move out because we’re short on rent…again. What if…? 

This worst-case scenario way of thinking creates tension and anxiety and isn’t good for our souls. Jesus sent out His disciples saying, “These things will happen…but don’t worry about how to respond or what to say.” The principle is clear: we can experience peace and contentment no matter the circumstances we’re facing.

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 10:10-31 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Do you have any ongoing “what if…” thoughts that are preventing you from experiencing lasting peace and contentment in your life? How may Jesus be inviting you to hand those thoughts over to Him so you can “be not afraid”? 

REAL LIFE PRACTICE: Write down a list of 5-10 things that help you experience peace and contentment in life. Then make a plan to make these things part of your regular routing in the weeks to come.

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I recognize there are times when I get caught in a mental battle and can only think of the worst-case scenario. Today, may I rest in you, knowing that no matter the circumstances, I need not be afraid. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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