The Fourth Commandment

I love not having anything to do on Sundays. Resting on the Sabbath is no problem for me. I ordinarily just go to church, eat, sleep, and watch T.V. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly lazy person, so this isn’t hard for me.

If you’re an active person, resting on Sunday may not come as easily to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. Because ultimately, the whole point is that what you do on your Sabbath isn’t labor.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT).

So no labor. But what about those who have to work on Sundays?

The most important part of the Sabbath is not the day of the week that we observe it. The seventh day is important because that was the day God rested after creating everything and because the number seven is symbolic of completion and wholeness (i.e., the seventh day of the week is the last day of the week, signaling its completion). If we have the option to observe the Sabbath on Sunday, we should because it is the seventh day. Life doesn’t always fall neatly into seven-day increments, though. The most important part of the Sabbath, whenever one can observe it, is that it is a day dedicated to God. This follows with the theme of the commands that precede it.

We do not get gold stars for not working on Sundays nor do we get gold stars for simply going to church. If the Sabbath is to be dedicated to God then we have to engage with God and the conversation about Him.

When the worship band plays, don’t just think about whether or not you like the songs. Think about what the lyrics are saying, and if a song resonates with you, express that to God, whether it’s by singing or dancing or raising your hands or meditating quietly. There’s no one way to worship, but we do need to worship.

When they’re taking up tithes and you are able to give, give. Whether you view it as a form of worship or sacrifice, do it for God by giving to God.

When someone prays aloud, don’t just stand there and listen to them. Talk to God by praying.

During the sermon, interact with the message. Personally, I take notes, and if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I’d ever look back at most of them. I write down the points the speaker is making, but I also write down scripture that fits the message that wasn’t used and my own perspective on the scripture and points being made if they differ from the speaker’s.

An example of this is my post on the woman at the well. The way I see her and her story is different from how Alan views it all. We read the same scripture, but our life experiences (specifically, his as a man and mine as a woman) create different lenses through which we see and analyze the text. Thinking about these different perspectives and writing about my own was a way for me to interact with the message and the scripture.

This interaction with God and His word is what He wants from us and, I believe, what He ultimately commands us in Exodus 20. Not time when we’re with Him and ignoring Him, but time when we engage with Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the advice I’ve given here. (I believe it’s Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who says, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”) I don’t always do or want to do these things, but if I want to observe the Sabbath and dedicate my time to God, I need to focus on Him, be mindful of Him, and interact with Him.

This is the importance of the Sabbath, whenever that may be for you if not on Sundays: dedicate your time to God. Not that we always want to or that we always find it easy but that God is always deserving of our best efforts and our affections.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- For more on resting and spending time with God, check out this post of mine from quite a while back. I hope you find it useful.

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For the Weary

There are few things I do exceptionally well, and sleep is one of them. I usually have very little trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. If I’m stressed out, my first two reactions are to eat and sleep. If it’s past 10:00 at night and I’m bored, I go to sleep (although sometimes I go to bed that early simply because I’m tired). I try to get between six and eight hours of sleep every night. I was that way in college, and was mostly successful at it; I never pulled an all-nighter.

A lot of people say I sleep too much, but really, I don’t. It just seems like I do because most people don’t get enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours. That’s how much sleep our bodies need on a regular basis to be fully rested.

My brother texted me the word of the day last Wednesday. It was “slugabed,” which means “a lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.” He sent me this because he thinks it describes me. The funny thing is, my sister also saw the word of the day that day and thought of me.

This is inaccurate in the sense of what the word literally means because I wake up between 7:00 and 7:30 every week day and no later than 8:00 and 9:00 on weekends, all hours that are considered normal hours to wake up and greet the day. To further prove my point, I ordinarily wake up before my brother on weekdays. It’s also inaccurate because I get up and go somewhere after waking on six out of seven days every average week, which seems the opposite of lazy.

My dear siblings thought of me when they read this word and definition because it reminded them of someone who sleeps a lot, and that is me.

But a long time ago, before electricity lit up our nights and before people lit candles to guide their way to bed, people went to sleep when it got dark and rose with the sun. That would’ve been around 12 hours of sleep in the winter. Our extremely distant ancestors slept for half the day, yet I get grief for sleeping four hours less than they did.

Lights are actually a big part of why we don’t sleep as much as our ancestors did. Light stimulates our brains and sort of makes them feel like it’s still daytime. This is why sleep experts and psychologists recommend lowering lights as a process of going to sleep instead of just turning them off suddenly. It helps the brain calm down, and it makes you sleepy (like what a sunset probably did for our ancestors). The bright lights also enable us to see and continue to do things. They help guide us along. They allow us to stay busy.

That’s really the issue, isn’t it? We don’t have enough time to do the things we want or need, so we neglect the rest our bodies actually do need. Sleep resets and refreshes the body. It gives the rest of our organs a break while the brain remains hard at work. They still function and work and keep us alive, but the brain shifts to a lower gear and works even more than it does while one is awake. But that’s not as important as watching another episode on Netflix or finishing an essay for class or worrying about what’s going to happen at work the next day.

How often do we think or hear or say something along the lines of, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”? There are 24 hours in a day, so if we spent eight hours sleeping and eight hours at work, that would still leave us with eight hours to do whatever we need or want to do. Surely there’s time for God in those eight free hours.

The problem with that is that our lives aren’t arranged as neatly as that. We get a few minutes here and a half hour there, and we’re waiting in line at the store, and we’re stuck in traffic for a few minutes on our way somewhere. Then there’s overtime and emergencies and tons of other things that keep us busy and take away from our peaceful, resting time with God.

Stephen King said in his book On Writing that he reads 70 to 80 books a year. To me, that’s an unreal amount. And he gets all of this done in addition to writing books, columns, and reviews, spending time with his family, exercising, running errands, hobbies, and just sort of dominating.

His secret? He’s always got a book with him in some form or fashion. He reads in the line at the grocery store. He listens to audio books in the car. He turns off his TV a lot and reads instead. He utilizes the spurts of time he’s given, and he makes time by prioritizing. Reading is important to him professionally and personally, so he makes sure he gets it done.

I do think we should make time for God, but it also helps to fill in our gaps with Him. Pray during a lull at work. Pull up your Bible App on your phone (or if you’re like me, pull out an actual pocket-sized Bible) when you’re out to eat and waiting for the food to come if you’re without company or good conversation. Hum worship songs or meditate on scripture on your way to class or work. If you want more time with God, give Him the time you’ve got and then spend valuable time with Him.

The same goes with physical necessities. If you didn’t eat breakfast and you’re hungry, eat on your way or on your break. If you didn’t get much sleep the night before and you’ve got some time and a place to sit or lay at lunch, try a nap or just closing your eyes and resting. God designed our bodies to need food and water and sleep, and without those things, we hurt our bodies and tell God, “No, it’s okay. I don’t really need this after all. I can handle this myself, my own way.”

And it’s worth mentioning that there is a point where too much food or sleep is just as harmful as not getting enough. You’ll be left exhausted with many other problems if you’re not careful, so I advise you not to push the boundaries.

So what’s the connection here between making time for God and getting enough sleep?

Rest.

Ernest Hemingway said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Sleep can be an escape from our issues, but it is certainly a time when we are largely without control. Our body is on autopilot, and our minds kind of do whatever they want, like exploring our thoughts by dreaming. Everything slows down and we just are. We aren’t doing anything. We’re just resting.

We do the same when we lean on God. Have you ever felt so spiritually strained or drained that you feel yourself falling and found God was there to catch you? When that happens, God doesn’t make you go on, He helps you go on. He’s right there with you, doing what you can’t do and doing what you trust Him to do. You relinquish control, and you just are. You’re just resting in God.

And you know what? It feels great.

I know I’ve used this scripture in the past two weeks, but I think it goes well with the entire Crazy Busy series, particularly this week’s subject matter. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

This is like Jesus is offering a spiritual pillow and blanket. It’s so inviting and peaceful and comforting. Our souls need this like our bodies need eight hours of sleep. Without it, it’s not enough to really, properly keep us going.

There’s an Irish proverb that says, “When God made time, He made enough of it.” That doesn’t always seem true, but it is. God knew what He was doing when He created our concept of time, and if we believe in Him, we have to believe that. How we use our time is up to us. Are we using it to rest up or to burn ourselves out?

By Carrie Prevette

GodAndSleep

Distracted and Overwhelmed

The old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” but the same could be said for busy hands as well. The adage refers to the trouble one can get into with no plans, hobbies, commitments, etc. What of an excessively occupied mind, full hands, or a clock without enough time? Aren’t those spiritually risky as well?

Busy lives are spiritually risky, not because being busy is a sin or even frowned upon, but because being busy often distracts us or overwhelms us to the point that God becomes an afterthought.

Just about anything can become a distraction – work, money, hobbies, family, church. If it’s capable of consuming the largest part of your heart or time, it can be a distraction from God and your relationship with Him.

“I’d like to go to Bible study tonight, but I need to get in overtime at work before the holidays get here.”

“I know God wants me to start this devotional, but I’m wiped out and my favorite show’s coming on in ten minutes.”

“I skipped my quiet time with God this morning to sleep in, but now something’s come up. I’ll just do it tomorrow.”

It’s not that we ignore God for people or reasons that are intrinsically bad. Most of the time, it’s for things that should be high priorities. It’s our habit of putting things as a higher priority than God that ruins us.

There’s nothing wrong with volunteering at church or spending time with family and friends or furthering your career. There is something wrong with burning ourselves out on something to the point where there’s not much, if anything, left to give to God.

The receiver of our first fruits is the receiver of our worship.

All of our running runs us ragged.

Personally, if I’m given the choice to sit and relax while snacking and watching a show or movie or to read and think and really study, I’m far more inclined to choose the former over the latter.

Our everyday lives can overwhelm us so much that we don’t want to do much in our downtime.

Let me rephrase to better iterate my point: We’re so busy that, most of the time, we want to spend our free time doing things that require minimal mental and physical activity. We sometimes choose not to do what we really want or need to do because we’re too exhausted.

Where’s the joy in that?

Jesus tells us that we’ll have joy in Him. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. No, we may not always be happy, but we’ll have a deep, profound sense of joy. And if we’re not turning to Jesus to fuel and refill us, if He’s not our source of joy, it’ll be a more generic, fleeting form of joy that we do receive.

I’m reading a book called Playing with Purpose by Mike Yorkey. The book tells the stories of some professional athletes who use their talents and positions in life to glorify God. One such athlete is Jeremy Lin, the center of “Linsanity” in early 2012 and current point guard for the Charlotte Hornets.

Lin signed with the Golden State Warriors his rookie year after going undrafted and after the Warriors were bought by two men, one of whom had coached against Lin when Lin was a kid and knew his talent and work ethic. Later that season, the Warriors sent Lin to their Development League team in Reno. Lin’s first season in the NBA involved being moved around, few playing minutes, and a losing record.

Lin says of this time in his life, “People don’t believe me when I say my rookie season was the toughest year of my life, but it was. I had a lot of long nights and struggles. I had to really learn how to submit my will to God and learn to trust Him while going through difficult situations that I thought were maybe unfair at times or things that I had wished would have gone in a different way. What I learned was to lean on God in those situations, and to make my relationship more intimate by spending more time with Him every day. I did a lot of reading and I did a lot of praying. More praying than I had ever done. I just learned a ton.”

Lin could’ve been bitter and upset at how everything was turning out, and he was so busy that it would’ve been very easy to neglect his relationship with God. He chose to trust in God and carve out time for Him instead. He made sure that God was first in his life and prioritized spending quality time with Him.

I’m not telling you to neglect parts of your life altogether or to sacrifice healthy aspects of your life. I’m advising you to look at the parts of your life, what’s necessary and what’s not, and determine what’s most important.

Because in addition to joy, Jesus gives us just what our busy lives need: rest. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT), “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Doesn’t that sound nice? Doesn’t that sound exactly like what we need is this crazy, busy world? Jesus offers it freely and gladly. Rest for our souls. Relief from our burdens. Relaxation for our minds. All we have to do is turn to Him. He’ll replace our busy with joy. He’ll refresh us in a way that only He can. We just have to take the time to give it all to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. – My mom says that the saying is, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but I’ve only ever heard “devil’s playground.” Despite the fact that the two offer different images and connotations, the meaning remains the same. Although I am kind of interested in hearing any other different versions of this phrase now, so if you’ve got a different one, feel free to share it with me!

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