Keeping the Sabbath

After a bit of a hiatus, we return, this week, to our ongoing look at the Sabbath anthd what it means. The last time we look at the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant . This week’s topic is “Sabbath as Obedience.”

We’ve all probably heard jokes – or even serious comments – regarding the nature of the Ten Commandments as mere suggestions. One such statement says that, “if God had been a Liberal, we wouldn’t have had the ten commandments. We’d have had the ten suggestions.” The fact of the matter, however, is that God is not a liberal. He handed down the moral law with the expectation that it would be followed by His people.

Jesus told us that the law is still in force. It is not just an Old Testament device to keep people in line. He said,

 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, ESV).

This is not intended as an essay on the Ten Commandments, but I wanted to establish the binding nature of the Law before stating that the keeping of a Sabbath is not suggested. It is required. It is one of the commandments. Exodus 20:8-11 makes it clear that the reason we must keep the Sabbath is because God did.

 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Theological arguments abound as to exactly how we are to keep the Sabbath. Can we enjoy recreational activities? Watch football on TV? Do we have to attend two or more church services on Sunday? Does corporate worship include clapping, drama, music? We will leave those arguments for some other time. The fact is that we are to observe a Sabbath, which includes worship of the Creator who has blessed that day.

Why would God make this a command, instead of a helpful suggestion, we might ask. Because people don’t always respond to suggestions. Good intentions there are aplenty, but actions don’t necessarily follow the intent. “Nothing less than a command has the power to intervene in the vicious, accelerating, self-perpetuating cycle of faithless and graceless busyness, the only part of which we are conscious being our good intentions.” (Eugene Peterson).

 What, dear readers, do you think of the Sabbath?




The President and the Prayer Breakfast

President Barack Obama made a major speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5. I have let a little time go by before adding my brief set of remarks to the cacophony which was occasioned by this oratorical event.

thThe question which precedes my remarks, however, must be: why was he even speaking at the event? I will not attempt an answer.

My responses, in brief, are these:

  • He was actually RIGHT when he said that many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. Some by people who were actually committed to a perversion of the religion they professed, others by those using religion as an excuse, many by true believers in evil groups professing to be directed by God. I can say unequivocally that there are sinners in EVERY religious group. Romans 3:23 states that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. “All” is a pretty comprehensive term. Christians have sinned. Christians have committed brutality and savagery. But read on.
  • He was WRONG when he made favorable comparisons between the cruelties and barbarities of Christianity and Islam. Christians who commit atrocities are perverting the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught peace, love, holding people accountable, turning the other cheek, and standing firm in the face of persecution, among other notable and noble concepts. One who kills, maims, rapes – even defames – in the Name of Christ is acting contrary to His teaching. There are, of course, many “Christian” leaders who are responsible for much of the hatred and strife. They use their “bully pulpits to bully and teach violence and hatred. Others simply teach little to nothing about what the Bible says. The state of the church is perilous with such leaders. Their punishment is sure. (“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1, ESV). The teaching of Islam, however,  (as reported by both believing Muslims and others) is that conversion or death are the only two options for the infidels (defined as anybody that is not only not Muslim, but perhaps even the wrong kind of Muslim).
  • Are Christian churches part of the problem? (The reader can supply here whatever problem he/she thinks is most needful of reversal). Absolutely.  I have written about this for years. Here is just one example from 2004. The specific topic of this article was homosexual marriage, but it also addresses the loss of a prophetic voice on the part of the church. Things certainly have not gotten better in that regard.
  • Christianity is under attack all over the globe – NOW; TODAY. The United States is not excluded from the list of nations in which it is not politically expedient to identify with Jesus Christ. The attacks come from numerous positions. The most obvious and brutal at this  moment is the assault of the Islamic fanatics and the silence of the alleged islamic moderates. This is much the same as the situation which occasioned the Crusades. Christianity – western civilization – was under attack by Islam.

Mr. President, the Christian church has its problems. It is not, however, the moral equivalent of beastly, brutal, bloodthirsty, and barbaric Islam. Some commentators and pundits label your relations to the Islamic aggressors to be treasonous. Some call it appeasement. Neither policy is befitting the nation formerly known as the last superpower.

I have some suggestions as to how best to handle the current geo-political morass. You can feel free to respond to this post and we can correspond privately if you wish. I will, however, note the first and most important item from that list.

  1. PRAYER, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do Your Job

At the end of the recent National Football League campaign, it came down to two teams vying for the championship. One, from the west coast of the US, was the reigning champion. On the other side of the field was an east coast team, a regular in the upper atmosphere of championship contests.

th-4The airwaves were filled with controversy as one of the teams was accused (not very convincingly in my opinion) of cheating. Their coach constantly played one theme in the ears of his players: “Do Your Job.” The slogan caught on. When the New England Patriots won that game – and the Super Bowl Championship – banners started appearing with the motto, “Job Done.”

We over at Lifework Forum have been saying the same thing for years. For as long as I can remember our website – in its various incarnations – has carried the phrase,

The name Lifework Forum comes from the concept that a person’s life is his or her work. As with an artist’s lifework, one ought to be able to look back over what has been produced and see the expression of their worldview. For theChristian, that means clear evidence of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

Recently we have added the phrase, “make your life your work.” What does this mean? Do your job. Long before Bill Belichick, coach of the Super Bowl champions, began extolling the virtues of disciplined labor, this was a Biblical concept. In Colossians 3:17 we can read:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle Paul went so far as to include the joys of mealtimes to the mandate, writing,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

A Christian’s life is intended to be a life of service to God. Paul exhorted his Christian brethren, including those of us alive today,

…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Do your job. This may be preaching, digging ditches, baking cakes, teaching in a school – or at home. It may be running a fortune 500 company or selling hot dogs in the park. The point is that there are no jobs without dignity if they are done to the glory of God.

Do You Job, brothers and sisters . And thank God you have one.