Last Monday, I posted part 1 of rest and worship. You can read it here. While this installment completes my blogposts on the subject, I hope it does not represent the last of the lessons God will teach me about rest and worship.

I must commend Adam Mabry’s book The Art of Rest to you. It is filled with insights and instruction aimed at reminding believers who God is and who they are in Christ. Rest and worship flow from a right relationship with God.

Before sharing a few practical insights about rest and worship here are several quotes from the book that I trust will encourage and challenge you:

You won’t lose anything by resting that you need to keep, and you won’t gain anything by overwork that you won’t one day lose.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 38.

In a section dealing with how the people of Israel forgot God by forgetting rest, Mabry made the following point.

If you’re concerned that by embracing regular Sabbath rest you’re in danger of coming under some harsh legalism, simply ask yourself how not observing Sabbath rest is going for you. It’s not rest that threatens to oppress you, but your refusal to.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 48.

Here’s a final, extended quote that God used to speak to me. In this chapter, Mabry emphasizes that we are no longer slaves. We are now children of God, granted the privileges of inheritance from our Father.

Slaves can’t rest. Slaves can’t take a day off to recuperate, reflect, and enjoy God. Slaves must work–either to pay off a debt, to please their master, or to simply stay alive. And most of us are slaves–because we enslave ourselves to the American Dream, the boss, our kids, or even (and worse) to earning God’s favor. We’re so often working to prove something, or to pay someone, or to get the promotion. But whoever enters God’s “rest” lays down that kind of life-proving work. We have rested from our works. Why? Because suddenly and supernaturally, we are secure. We have been saved apart from our work, regardless of the merit of our work. We have been adopted as children without regard to our achievements. Only children can rest.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 103.

One of the theological challenges I’ve wrestled with over the years is how to implement the command to keep the Sabbath. It is a command, but it is not emphasized in a legalistic fashion in the New Testament epistles. Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not in the legalistic manner of the Pharisees. Maybe the early believers and apostles did not emphasize it because early Christianity had a large slave population. Many early Christians were not masters of their daily or weekly schedule. So reiterating a command they had no control over keeping would not make sense.

Paul also makes clear in his letter to the Colossians that we are not to argue over special days and legalistic questions of the faith.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Christ has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). So in Christ, all the commands of God are accomplished. Yet God modeled the Sabbath for man, commands us to build rhythms of rest and worship in our lives, and invites us to bring our weariness to him (read part 1).

So, it is wise to build rest and worship into your weekly schedule. It is unwise if you do not. So what does this look like. Here are some things God is teaching me through Mabry’s book and in my own relationship with him.

  • Make time throughout the day to pause and rest in God. We need to remind ourselves of the gospel, of what God has accomplished for us, and who we are in Christ. Moments and minutes in between meetings, projects, and sermons are good times for me to pause, pray, and worship.
  • On the day that I worship, make time to rest. For me Sunday is a day of worship and my day of work. I love the privilege and calling to preach, but it is draining (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). As I worship with God’s people on Sundays, God is reminding me that it’s ok to take a nap and recuperate with family after worshiping with with the church.
  • On the day that I take off of work, make time to worship. While we all should build in a day off from our regular work, many of our jobs require us to be on call or require rotating schedules that make a set day off difficult. While it is certainly ideal for most of us to have a Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), some of us have to work on that day (pastors, doctors, nurses, restaurant employees, etc.). God is teaching me to spend extra time with him, just resting in him, listening to him, reading his Word, praying (not preparing for a sermon) on my day off.
  • Take a day off to unplug and disconnect. This might be the greatest lesson God reminded me of in the book. If I really want a mental and spiritual break from my stresses, then I need to unplug and disconnect from the devices and screens that drive work and drive worldly desires. Admittedly, this will be difficult. But if resting in God is as important as the Bible teaches, then learning to disconnect from worldly voices and constant connections is a must.
  • Turn annual vacations into holidays. We used to go on “holiday,” but now we call it vacations. Holiday emphasizes time set apart, with spiritual purpose: to be quiet with God, to rest, to read, recuperate, and recreate in a healthy way. Vacation emphasizes getting away from work, but getting active with something else. It’s not wrong to vacation, but the mindset of holiday keeps our time away in perspective. Holidays, vacations, or staycations (whatever term you use) should be time to disconnect, to pause, to rest, and to make time to be with God.
  • Take advantage of the quiet moments. Some days there are not many of these. But at times (in the car, after the kids are asleep, or when everyone else is busy), there are moments when the noise stops, silence happens, and God is there. God is teaching me to pause and listen to him (reading his Word) and talk to him (pray) in the quiet moments through the day.

If you have spiritual practices that help your program of rest and worship, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to share in the comment section below or on the platform on which you read the article.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Governor Cooper issued a stay at home order on Friday for the state of North Carolina through the end of April. Social distancing and isolation are real. I realize that many of us will still be working. I also realize that many who remain at home are responsible for children or aging parents. But all of us will be affected by these bans.

We can no longer join friends or spouses for lunch at a favorite restaurant. We can no longer meet with our children’s friends for playdates. We can no longer meet together for worship services at our local churches. I could go on, but you are very well aware of these isolating circumstances.

I’m not here to debate the validity of the isolation, nor am I going to bemoan the difficulty of it. Rather, I would simply like to point out that God has used isolation as a tool for spiritual development for thousands of years. How can you be sure that God uses this situation in your life as a means of growth and development?

Here’s a short list of the ways God worked through people in the Bible while they were in places of isolation:

  • In the isolation of prison, God helped Joseph overcome bitterness and pride in preparing him to rescue his family from the famine.
  • In the isolation of the wilderness, God developed the heart and patience Moses would need to lead Israel during the exodus and their wilderness wanderings.
  • In the isolation of shepherding, God taught David the importance of worship and knowing the Good Shepherd.
  • In the isolation of famine, God taught Elijah his need to trust God for his daily needs.
  • In the isolation of captivity, God taught Daniel and his three friends the power of prayer and keeping the faith.

This is just a sampling. Throughout Scripture, God used isolating circumstances to get the spiritual attention of his people. Maybe he’s doing that with you and me today.

I reached out to some folks this past week with the question, “How are you managing your isolation?” I received a litany of responses. Here are some of the things people are doing to manage their isolating circumstances: housework, yard-work, serving family and neighbors, FaceTime with kids and grandkids, reading, writing, cooking, gardening, making art, playing music, studying, watching streamed worship services, writing down and sharing inspirational thoughts, walking, praying, exercising, making face-masks for hospitals, spending time with family, playing games, doing puzzles, extra devotional time, and schoolwork. These responses were great! Many of these activities provide natural stress relief. They help us deal with isolation while keeping us from desolation.

What can we take away from biblical examples and comments above to grow during this time of isolation? Here are several recommendation:

  • Set aside time each day to unplug and be quiet. It is tempting to constantly search for the latest COVID-19 update or binge watch tv. And these things aren’t necessarily wrong. But we will grow in the quiet with God. To be quiet and unplug for a period of time each day might require some aid from a spouse. Don’t be afraid to ask for some time alone.
  • Read the Bible and pray. Often, my time to unplug and be quiet is my time for prayer and Bible reading. They go together. Make sure you are reading the timeless and universal truths of Scripture and communicating to the only One who is sovereign.
  • Connect with others through communication. That we are socially distant and isolated does not mean that we cannot have any social interaction. Make time daily to talk to those in your life who matter most (parents, children, grandchildren). Call a neighbor. Text an acquaintance. Message someone you know. I’ve reached out to dozens of people in various ways in the last several weeks. My aim was to encourage them, but I’ve come away from nearly every conversation encouraged myself.
  • Find some good activities to relieve stress. The things people are doing to manage isolation are great. See the excellent list above provided by some of my friends. While all of these may not work for you, I would encourage you to find one (or several) that you can put into practice. Not only are these activities likely to reduce your stress, they can be God’s means for personal growth and development over the next weeks.

This time of isolation does not have to lead to desolation. It can lead to spiritual fruit in your life. By embracing the positives and opportunities of this situation, God can use these days to bring us closer to him. That in itself would be worth the isolation.

If you are in need of prayer or conversation, feel free to reach out. I’m happy and available to pray for you or chat with you. Message me through the social media platform that directed you to this blog or comment below.

Photo by Claudel Rheault on Unsplash