Posts tagged ‘Rest’

The Sabbath: More Than Just a Day

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One of the interesting features of the creation account comes when God rests from His work on the seventh day:

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)

This is history’s first Sabbath day, practiced by God Himself. But this seventh day breaks a pattern that is found in days one through six. Each of these days are described as having “evening and morning”:

And there was evening, and there was morning the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

And there was evening, and there was morning the second day. (Genesis 1:8)

And there was evening, and there was morning the third day. (Genesis 1:13)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fourth day. (Genesis 1:19)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fifth day. (Genesis 1:23)

And there was evening, and there was morning the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

On the seventh day, however, there is no “evening and morning.” God simply rests.

Though there is no reason to believe that the seventh day is any different than any of the other six days per se, the break in the pattern seems to indicate that this day is special. There is something more to this day than just a day.

The preacher of Hebrews speaks of this first Sabbath when he says:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

The preacher of Hebrews seems to be picking up on the broken pattern for the first Sabbath day. Though it may have been just a day, there seems to be something about it that lingered, something about it that transcended evening and morning, something about it that, as the preacher of Hebrews puts it, “remained” right up to the present day.

When God set a pattern of work and rest, He was not just setting a pattern, He was making a promise – a promise that rest does not merely need to be confined to one day between one evening and one morning. This is what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day forgot. They became so obsessed with keeping the Sabbath day, they forgot that the Sabbath was not just meant to be a day, but a gift for anyone whenever they needed it. As Jesus puts it, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

These past fifteen months have been brutal and exhausting for many people. Summer officially began yesterday. My prayer is that you’ll take advantage of God’s gift of a Sabbath during this season of time off and fun. Get some rest with family and friends. The Sabbath is God’s gift to you. And it remains for you.

It’s a gift worth using.

June 21, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

A Hard Way to Rest Easy

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According to Jesus, salvation is hard. A narrow way constricts entry into God’s kingdom:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

According to Jesus, salvation is easy. He invites us to lay down the hard and harrying burdens of this world and pick up His designedly light mantle:

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Salvation is hard, Jesus says. And salvation is easy, Jesus says.

This, of course, begs a question: what is salvation, really – is it hard or is it easy? The answer is: both.

These two sayings of Jesus teach us that the hard road of salvation is the one that takes up Jesus’ easy yoke of rest. The human assumption is that, in order to be saved, we must not rest, but must instead work our way to salvation with our good works and noble character. In our day and age, we see this assumption play out in both the utopian delusions of progressive societies and in the repristination efforts of traditional ones. In both cases, we are the ones who can set our society and ourselves straight, or, to put it negatively, save our society and ourselves from those who are wrong. But, as the old apothegm goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Our good intentions and good works, when they are employed to save our society and ourselves, seem to have all sorts of unintended consequences that often do little more than further a cycle of decay and, ultimately, destruction.

The hard way of Matthew 7 is to lay down our fiercest fights and best efforts that constitute the common way – or, as Jesus calls it, the wide way – of our world’s attempts at salvation and instead walk in the narrow way of faith, trusting that Jesus has done the hard work of salvation for us on a cross and, in exchange, has provided us the easy yoke of rest in Matthew 11. This way of faith is humbling because it declares that we cannot save our society or ourselves. Instead, we are called to rest in the One who can.

Yes, we can still work on ourselves and for the good of our society. But salvation – that’s up to Jesus. And if we find ourselves tempted to try to save our society or ourselves because things seem so bad, let us never forget that the very moment when things looked the worst for Jesus – the very moment when it looked like He could not save anything or anyone, including Himself – was the very moment at which He was “reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

All is not lost. We are not lost. May that promise help us rest easy.

May 10, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Weary from Work

It’s that time of year again.  You know, the time of year when school begins, extracurricular activities increase, social events get scheduled, and work projects pile up.  This time of year is difficult and wearisome for many – from parents right down to their kids.  When the calendar fills up, it can be easy to throw your hands up in resignation.  How does one navigate the wiles of overwhelming obligations?

It must be understood that becoming weary from a sometimes heavy workload is simply part of living in a sinful, fallen, broken world.  This is why, after the first man Adam eats of the fruit of the tree of which God has warned, “You shall not eat” (cf. Genesis 2:16-17), God says to Adam:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

When sin enters the world, Adam’s work gets hard.  He must earn his wages by the sweat of his brown and be nicked and pricked by thorns and thistles.  And he cannot escape this.  He must simply deal with this.

So where, then, is the hope for those weary from work?  The hope is in Jesus.  There’s a reason Jesus contrasts His work with our work in the world by saying:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus says this because He knows whereas the brokenness of this world’s work can drain us, the glory of His work can fill us.  Jesus’ work on our behalf on the cross and our labor under His name for the sake of His Kingdom can bring contentment and joy like no other work can.

Finally, we can take comfort in the promise that the wearisome work of this world will not go on forever.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of a time when “instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow” (Isaiah 55:13).  Rather than the thorns and thistles of Genesis 3, Isaiah reminds us that in eternity we will enjoy lush pines and myrtles.  In other words, the pain of this world’s work will be wiped away in favor of work that bring joy, peace, and fulfillment.  Work lasts forever.  Wearying work, however, does not.

So if you feel overwrought by your work right now, take heart that you will one day feel overjoyed by serving God in glory.

September 2, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Some Much Needed Rest

Rest Area 2This past weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about the importance of working smarter rather than harder.  The poster child for the opposite – working harder rather than smarter – was Moses, who, after he explained to his father-in-law Jethro how he was serving as the sole arbiter and judge for all of Israel’s disputes, was told by his father-in-law, “What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18).  Blessedly, Moses humbly swallowed his pride and, in Exodus 18:24, we read, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.”

Moses may have had the good sense to listen to his father-in-law and delegate some of his duties to other trustworthy Israelites, but, even with some much needed help, Moses’ responsibilities did not suddenly became light and easy.  Jethro admits as much when, after encouraging Moses to share his workload with others, he says, “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain” (Exodus 18:23).  Moses’ responsibilities, though fewer, will continue to be straining and stressful.  There will still be plenty for Moses to do.

Perhaps you can relate to Moses.  After all, you, like Moses, have probably been told of the importance of working smarter and not harder.  Yet, no matter how many time management principles you implement and no matter how many tasks you delegate, you, like Moses, may still find yourself awash in a sea of obligations and unexpected troubles that can become overwhelming at times.  What do you do when the principles of working smarter rather than harder fail you?  Jesus shows the way.

Mark 6 proves to be one of the most tragic in the Gospel.  Jesus’ dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist, is beheaded at the behest of Herod Antipas’ stepdaughter.  Jesus is understandably distraught.  But Jesus’ jam-packed calendar of ministry marches on.  In the episode immediately succeeding John the Baptist’s untimely death, Mark notes, “So many people were coming and going that Jesus and His disciples did not even have a chance to eat” (Mark 6:31).  Jesus may be mourning, but the crowds still want to see Him.

It is with the memory of Jesus’ cousin weighing in on Him and the throngs of curiosity seekers pressing down around Him that Jesus issues an invitation to His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

Jesus’ invitation is fascinating.  Though Jesus Himself is certainly tired and emotionally spent, Jesus’ primary concern is not with Himself, but with His disciples.  The verbs of His invitation – “come” and “get some rest” – are second person plural verbs.  That is, Jesus is saying to His followers, “You come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and you get some rest.”  Jesus, knowing that His disciples are exhausted even as He is exhausted, nevertheless has compassion on His disciples and invites them to get some rest by spending time with Him.

Jesus, it seems, is a man of boundless compassion.  He has compassion on His disciples when He invites them to rest with Him.  When Jesus’ plans for a peaceful getaway are foiled because large crowds follow Him to His destination, Mark notes, “He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So He began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34).  Jesus has compassion on the crowds when He cancels His vacation plans to preach them a sermon.  Following His sermon, when He finds out the crowds He has been teaching are hungry, He has compassion on the multitudes by holding history’s first potluck.  When everyone else forgets to bring a side dish, Jesus takes the meager offering of a little boy – five loaves and two fish – and multiplies it to feed five thousand.

As He does on the disciples when they are tired and as He does on the crowds when they are spiritually lost and physically hungry, Jesus has compassion on you too.  When your life is straining and stressful, Jesus understands.  After all, He has gone through straining and stressful times too – losing loved ones and being exhausted by the rigors of day-to-day ministry.  But Jesus doesn’t just empathize, He can also help.  For the same invitation He offers to His disciples, He extends to you:  “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).  Or, as He puts it another time:  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

No time management principle – no matter how good it may be – can remove all stress and strain from life.  For life is full of the unexpected.  But no stress or strain – no matter how heavy – can destroy the peace and rest that Jesus gives.  For the peace and rest that Jesus gives is not based on life’s circumstances, but on His promise.  And His promise is stronger than life’s stresses.

So go away with Jesus and get some rest.  You need it.

January 28, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Kicking Back

They’re doing terribly this year.  My fantasy football team, that is.  Last weekend, my quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, scored an underwhelming grand total of fourteen points.  My wide receivers are putting more points on the board than he is.  To add insult to injury, the other day, I caught a few minutes of a game on ESPN Classic when Roethlisberger was still in college playing for Miami University in 2003.  I wish he played now the way he played then.

Most people know that I am a football fan.  There is nothing like kicking back on a Sunday afternoon taking in an NFL game or two, dozing in an out of consciousness, especially since my Sunday mornings, as a pastor, are generally action-packed!  And of course, I love watching my beloved Longhorns take on their toughest rivals.  The pageantry and suspense of college football is unlike anything else.

I’m not the only one who loves a good football game.  The NFL’s popularity has been rising steadily and startlingly over the years, this year reaching an all time high of 59 percent of Americans who say that they follow professional football according to an annual Harris Poll.[1]

As a football fan, I would be the first to say that there’s nothing wrong with following the game.  I would also add that there’s nothing wrong with all sorts of other things people do to kick back and relax – from golfing to finding your favorite movie on Netflix to fishing to surfing the internet.  And yet, if these are the only ways we spend our leisure time, we are cheating ourselves out of something transcendent.

The Lutheran theologian Gene Edward Veith wrote an article recently titled, “The Purpose of Work.”  In it, he noted a disturbing trend in the way Americans view their leisure time:

In our culture today…most people probably do not use their leisure to contemplate the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Our leisure is filled with more entertainment than contemplation.[2]

Veith’s last line is key.  When we find leisure only in what entertains us – be that a football game or a golf outing or a movie or a fishing expedition or a favorite internet site – we miss the more profound blessings that leisure has to offer.  For a bit of contemplation – on family, on work, on friends, and, most importantly, on God – can yield key and transformative insights for life and engender a thankful heart for all the blessings God has given.  But first, we need to take time away from being entertained to think and to thank God.

The Bible’s portrait of leisure can guide our us on our journey from liesure as solely entertainment to liesure that includes contemplation:

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.  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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

Notice that in Israel, the celebration of the Sabbath – a day to rest from the work of the week – is specifically tied to contemplation.  The Israelites are to remember their slavery in Egypt and how God brought them out.  For Israel, leisure was not just time to be entertained, it was time to spend with God.

How do you spend the bulk of your leisure time?  Entertainment is good, but not when it comes at the expense of reflecting on your life and on your Lord.  After all, He is the One who gave you that leisure time in the first place.  As the Psalmist reminds us, “God gives rest to His loved ones” (Psalm 127:2).  Maybe you should use your leisure rest not just to be entertained, but to say “thank you” to God.


[1] Michael David Smith, “Poll finds NFL more popular than ever,” NBC Sports (10.6.2012).

[2] Gene Edward Veith, “The Purpose of Work,” The Gospel Coalition (10.7.2012).

October 15, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – You Need A Break!

Yes, this is a picture of me.  This is when we were at the rodeo in January, seeing MercyMe in concert.  Well, our friends and my wife were seeing MercyMe.  I, on the other hand, was a little tired that evening.  So I took a little nap in the middle of a big concert.

I am one of those people who can sleep anytime and anywhere.  If I’m tired, my eyes begin to close and my head begins to nod.  It doesn’t matter if it is at night or during the day, at a public place or when I’m at home.  I can even doze at a rodeo.  My wife, on the other hand, needs everything to be just right before she can fall asleep.  The room must be pitch black.  The ambience must be dead quiet.  Even the slightest noise in the middle of the night can startle her awake.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about gift and glory of rest.  But in a world full of appointments, tasks, meetings, and errands, rest can be hard to come by.  Especially during this holiday season, when we have parties to host and presents to buy and relatives to visit, the specter of a restful Christmas can seem to be nothing but a cruel illusion.

So how do we get the rest we need when the world around us never seems to slow down?  First, to rest, we must intentionally slow ourselves down.  I shared this quote in ABC, but it is so insightful, I want to share it here again.  It concerns the biblical day of rest, otherwise known as the Sabbath:

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working [and rest] is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. As the Cat in the Hat says, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation – at the very least a scrubbed house, a full larder and a bath. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will.[1]

Resting “requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will.”  In other words, rest isn’t easy!  It must be intentional.  You must schedule rest, prepare for rest, and then stubbornly take a rest, even if it spites a calendar which clamors for your every waking moment.

Second, to rest, we must examine our hearts.  The apostle John writes, “We set our hearts at rest in God’s presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).  Rest, John reminds us, goes deeper than just how many appointments we have scheduled.  It goes down to the state of our hearts.  Thus, even when our schedules are packed full and our lives are running at high speed, our hearts can be at rest because our hearts are held by the Lord.  The stress our world does not have to ruin the rest of our hearts.  Thus, even when we feel as though our hearts are overwhelmed by this world’s demands, we can cling to this promise:  “God is greater than our hearts.”  God’s power and grace far outweigh, outlast, and outdo the anxiety and unrest we can harbor in our hearts.  So find your rest in Him.  He’s just the break you need.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] Judith Shulevitz, “Bring Back the Sabbath,” The New York Times (3.2.2003).

December 12, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – A Storm Before The Calm

A few weeks back, San Antonio was struck by a bout of severe weather.  Lightning, strong winds, torrential rain, and even some hail all contributed to one of the most damaging storm systems this city has seen in a while.  When the storm rolled into the area, I was on Concordia’s campus with our youth, leading our Fusion service.  I can remember strolling onto campus early in the evening, enjoying the warm and balmy air, and feeling the hot sun beat down on me with nary a cloud in sky.  But when I left an hour and a half later, it was a completely different story.  The sky was full of clouds tinted by sinister shades of green, the smell of rain hung in the air, and everything was dead calm.  But I knew this dead calm wouldn’t last for long. “It’s the calm before the storm,” I thought to myself.  So I hopped in my truck and put the pedal the metal to try to beat the storm back to my house.  I arrived at my front door just as the rain was beginning to fall.

It is not unusual, shortly before a storm, to experience an eerie calm.  But in our reading for this weekend from Hebrews 4, we find the opposite to be true.  The preacher of Hebrews says that when it comes to our lives in this world, there is not a calm before the storm, but a storm before the calm.  As the chapter opens, we read a promise of our coming calming rest.  “The promise of entering God’s rest still stands,” the preacher muses (verse 1).  But right now, we are in the midst of a storm.  For in this world, there is trouble, torrent, tribulation, and trial.  Indeed, the apostle Paul says that we are engaged in a struggle:

Against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

We are engaged in a storm before the calm.  How are we to engage with this storm of sinfulness and fight this battle of banality?  Paul answers: “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).  Or, as the preacher of Hebrews declares, “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (verse 12).  God’s Word is our weapon of choice to fight against the storms of this life and world.

For those who refuse to trust the sword of God’s Spirit, the preacher of Hebrews has a stark warning, drawn from the disobedience of the ancient Israelites: “For we have had the gospel preached to us, just as the Israelites did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (verse 2).  Without faith in God’s Word, God’s promise of a coming calm is of no value, for it must be believed to be received.

In this world, we fight many battles and endure many storms.  There are battles over our finances, our relationships, our politics, our nation’s security, and our cultural winds.  But none of these battles are nearly as fierce as the battle which rages for our souls.  Make no mistake about it, Satan desires to drag us away from God and dissuade and prevent us from entering God’s eternal rest.  But we cannot win this battle against Satan by the strength of our bodies, or the whit of our intellects, or the resolve of our wills.  No, Satan can only be beaten by wielding the Word of God.  And so, take up sword of Scripture so that “you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).  For Satan cannot stand against God’s Word.  As Luther reminds us:

Nothing is so powerfully effective against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy one’s self with God’s Word, to speak about it and meditate upon it…Without doubt, you will offer up no more powerful incense or savor against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, or think about them…For the devil cannot bear to hear God’s Word. (LC 10-11)

Trust God’s Word!  For after this world’s brief storm of sin, you will enjoy God’s eternal calm of salvation.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Nordlie’s
message or John Kammrath’s ABC!

July 5, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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