WARNING: This is more of a shot gun rant than anything. Yeah, it’s that kind of day.
The Wednesday night time slot has LONG been abandoned by the church. When I was a kid, that was what my folks wrestled over – ball practices & boy scout meetings on Wednesday nights vs. prayer/kids club. Today, it’s Sunday mornings, and to my sadness, I don’t really even see a whole lot of church folk wrestling over it or challenging each other on it.
We’ve read the passages about Jesus & the Pharisees butting heads about the Sabbath & have as a Church whole, swung dramatically the other way in the last couple generations. It is true Jesus condemned the religious rulers of His day for getting so caught up in Sabbath rules they put that above loving people. Those Pharisees knew what God said in the OT! And they took God seriously. They got off track. That is very true. They missed the Messiah when He was right under their noses. All that being said, I don’t think we’re in danger of over doing the Sabbath rules any time soon, do you?
This has been circulating around facebook the last few weeks. Two words: Eric Liddell. True, his decision didn’t effect a team; he switched his own personal races. But his whole country had sent him to race! Talk about pressure. Obviously, his stand has been used for God’s glory & to get the attention of His people even almost a century later. Here we sit these days contemplating how to “take back Sunday” from sports. Why not just do it? The world never took it; if you don’t have it, you gave it away. Now it’s time for God’s people to simply honor God’s Day, gather with His people, be committed to that, & let chips fall where they may. How hard is that? After all, it’s not like we’ve yet shed blood here over it… (Hebrews 12:4)
Can I give you a small personal example from my life of honoring the Sabbath & God answering my prayer in it? When I was in college, I moved to Marion for my last year to live with my grandparents. (PRECIOUS memories, btw. Wouldn’t trade that year for anything. Highly recommend it! And at the time, many kind of felt sorry for me that I had to “stay home” for my degree. No need to feel sorry for what God blessed me with people! Just saying.) Anyway, I needed to get a job, so put in my application at two restaurants & one grocery store. I was looking for a job where I didn’t have to serve alcohol or work on Sundays. On Wednesday night, I shared this request with the prayer group at church. Mind you, it was me, Pastor, and about 15 elderly in attendance as usual (in a church that had around 300 on the roll). I was shocked by their response! They shook their heads, patted my shoulder, & acted like I was soooo naive to think that could happen. (Really, my naivety was in not understanding these people who had walked with the Lord for so many years could be so spiritually crusty – haven’t they seen God do even greater??) But I was committed & prayed. Within a week or so (can’t remember exactly, but I know I didn’t miss any income!), I had a job at the grocery store & praised the Lord at the small group. They were stunned. Within a few months, I was scheduled for a Sunday even though I had clearly told boss I couldn’t. I went to him as soon as the schedule came out & told him I couldn’t work for pay on Sunday so would fill the position since I didn’t want to mess anyone else up, but couldn’t do it for pay. He didn’t know what to do with that. I got switched & he never tried that again. Again, the small prayer group watched in shock that God answered my prayer on all this.
Six months later, I got a waitress position & again, said I could work every Friday & Saturday but never on Sunday. (Worked out GREAT for me – best tip nights!) Nobody else wanted to work both weekend evenings so I always got them & it was never a problem. I believe God WANTS to prove Himself in just these kinds of moments! (Think Daniel & the lion’s den, Shadrach & friends, etc.) I believe He GIVES us these moments. Too often, we fail because we are too afraid of looking different, standing against the crowds, etc.
News flash: We are CALLED out of darkness. We are set apart! (1 Peter 2:9 – “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”) These “resolves” are what it means to be a “peculiar people”. It is exciting! It is a little risky. Sometimes it’s a lot risky. We have to depend on the Holy Spirit to lead in each unique situation. It looks different for each person. That makes it hard to teach or talk about. One family may feel led to never go out to eat or shop or even buy gas on Sundays – to do so causes others to have to work on a day they wouldn’t dare. Another family may feel it best to take an electronic fast to set the day apart. Or maybe even a food fast (vs. fast food!) on that day. Or making simple meals to minimize food prep. Some have used the Sabbath principle to start the night before – setting aside sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. To impose each other’s leadings/leanings on another is Pharisaical. We want to love, love, love, love, LOVE, not divide & put each other under man made laws.
But I do want to challenge each family who loves the Lord to really wrestle with & pray about what God is calling them to do about this issue, and may I suggest you start with Hebrews 10:24 & 25. Have you noticed how MANY times God talks about setting the Sabbath apart in the OT? It is perhaps the most mentioned commandment. And He is serious about it! There are blessings & curses associated with honoring it or not. (See a few links here if you’re interested.) It was & is a pretty obvious way God assigned His people to be different. Other nations worked for their own gain all week. They didn’t give a thought to what God said to do or how to live. We, God’s people, are supposed to be different here. (Ezekiel 20:19-21 – “I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules,and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths.”)
I hear you… “That’s Old Testament” you say. “We’re under grace so get out of my face!” you say. “The Sabbath was Saturday & we celebrate on Sundays now” you say. Okay. SO DO IT. Celebrate Sundays. SET THEM APART. Make them holy. Whatever that means for you & your family. DO IT. Stop twisting into pretzels with excuses as to why you’re out there & not in church on Sunday mornings. Stop so easily giving in to the world’s squeeze on making it just like any other day. Stop using Colossians 2:16 as a crutch & add a little Hebrews 13:8 & Malachi 3:6 in there. Let this be the year you commit to setting God’s Day apart & see what He does with it. “If MY PEOPLE, who are called by MY name… THEN I will heal your land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) I know this is talking about prayer, but it applies in that it speaks of God’s people getting their act together THEN God heals lands. (Don’t even get me started on the current state of (way too often anemic) prayer meetings in the American Church these days.) I’m praying this is the year the American Church gets real about holiness; gets out of the muck & gets set apart as intended.
Imagine an American Church Body that looks different, is set apart, holy. May it be so, Lord! The world’s waiting…