Sharpen The Ax

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Ever noticed how God introduced the Ten Commandments?  Exodus 19:3-13 reveals to us that before God spoke His laws to the people in Exodus 20, He took time to remind them of three vital truths:

  1. The love He had for them
  2. The victories He’d won for them
  3. The future He planned for them

God spoke of how He intended to bless Israel as His children, and He warned them of the boundaries to keep – how to survive His fiery presence on Mount Sinai.  Only then did He give them His commandments to obey.  This was a genius sequence that God went through.  Let me pause here and say this: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.  Before God demanded His people keep His rules, He reminded them of His relationship and blessings.  It gave Israel the incentive they needed to follow through on their commitment.

It is in Exodus 20:1-17 that we see these commands spoken by God to Israel through the man of God, Moses.  It is this fourth command in Exodus 20:8 that I wish to focus on here.  It is a command that was in practice long before it was a command.  One would need to go back to the Genesis and find in chapter 2 verse 2 that the seventh day God rested.  The example was set for us in the beginning of time that you and I were not created to work 7 days a week.  You and I live in a society of go.  Go non-stop.  Go! Go! Go!  

It has been in just the last 7 years or so that this subject of rest is becoming a hot topic not only in the church world, but the business world as well.  We can literally work ourselves to death.  You must understand the difficulty I have in writing this, because I’m a guy who doesn’t like to sit still.  I want to be doing something all of the time.  There is a saying out there that says (and yes I have used it often): “you can sleep when you die”.  The truth of the matter though is you will die sooner if you don’t get some sleep.  Now I’m not talking about sleeping 12 hours a day and being lazy.  I’m talking about work when it’s time to work, and then take that one day a week and get some rest.  You and I need a day of rest.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin states that “Even the human body does best when its spiritual and physical sides are synchronized.”  Often times we focus on the spiritual that we forget about the physical.  Over the past decade I have read several books dealing with rest, replenishment, renewal, and refocus.  If all you do is give off and receive nothing you will eventually run out of resources to give.  In my studies on the sabbath and taking a day of rest there are six purposes that I have learned concerning the sabbath.

1. Time of rest
You and I need sleep.  Shawn Stevenson in his book “Sleep Smarter” states that “Research shows that after just 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is an overall reduction of 6 percent in glucose reaching the brain. Simple translation: You get dumber.

This is also why you crave candy, chips, doughnuts, and other starchy, sugary things when you’re sleep deprived. Your body is trying to compel you to get that glucose back to your brain as soon as possible. It’s a built-in survival mechanism.”

A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that poor sleep quality was equal to binge drinking and marijuana use in determining academic performance. The study reported that college students who were poor sleepers were much more likely to earn worse grades and even drop out of classes than their healthy sleeping peers.

Finding out that poor sleep can be as detrimental to learning as binge drinking should be a real eye-opener. Learning is a big part of our lives no matter what stage we’re at. Our ability to learn and retain information is paramount to our success.

2. Opportunity for Redemption
Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

To redeem is to rescue from loss.  When you take this one day a week, your are literally redeeming or rescuing what you have lost.  The sabbath provides for redemption.  All of your energies, thought processes, emotions, and bodily strength that you put into the work week or school week are redeemed on that day of rest.  The busier we become the less time we have for activities that replenish us.

3. Time for reflection
Reflection is important in each of our lives.  In order to properly reflect you must intentionally slow down.  You cannot reflect when you are in a hurry.  The psalmist David said in the twenty third psalm that the Great Shepherd leads us beside still waters.  Reflect on the last six days of your life.  What was good?  What was bad?  What do you need to improve on?  Reflect!  Wayne Cordeiro says in his book “Leading on Empty”:  “Solitude is a healthy and prescriptive discipline; isolation is a symptom of emotional depletion.”  He goes on to say: “Our lives are like notebooks. Some are lived with empty pages—nothing is written down. Others are filled with experiences, but once they are recorded, they are never visited again. The best lives are like notebooks whose writings are read and reflected upon over and over again. Lessons are extracted and futures are reassessed.”

4. Time for reward and repair
The sabbath is a time of reward and repair.  It is a time to recognize that your provision comes from God not from yourself.  Creators need time to enjoy their creation.  You and I are creators just like our Father.  The Bible tells us that we are made in His likeness.  

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
~ Michael Jordan

The sabbath allows us the opportunity to see where we need to fix things in our lives.  It’s only failure if you stay in the dirt.  You can either learn from failure or be defined by failure – the choice is yours.

5. Time for relationships
In a relay race, the baton isn’t transferred when the lead runner is staggering and exhausted. He is at the top of his stride when he reaches the other runner in the box.

Your family is the other runner in the box. They need you at full stride. Many ministry leaders make contact with their families when they are at the lowest point of their stride . . . when they’re stumbling with mindless exhaustion.

Build lasting relationships.  Often times the most neglected relationships are with the people in our own home.  Throw a ball.  Ride a bike.  Go on a picnic with the family.  Take a family vacation.  Spend time with those in your own home and build lasting relationships.  Give them your best, not what is left over.

6.Time to refocus
The more clearly you identify your target, the more apt you will be to hit it!  Focus on what is important not urgent.  Get your priorities straight.  Get Matthew 6:33 in line in your life.  Refocus on what you have been called to do.  Get rid of the distractions.  Habakkuk 2:2 instructs us in this manner: “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.”

Bring clarity to your purpose!  Life has a way of getting us off track.  You will go where you are looking.  Choose to live life on purpose, to love intentionally, and to plan accordingly!

The Dignity and Value of Work

The subject of “work” is a very interesting subject.  Most people think of work as punching a clock, collecting a paycheck in order to pay bills.  We tend to look at work as boring, and look forward to the day when we don’t have to work anymore.  I want to look at work from a different perspective.  Have you ever considered the dignity and value of work?  Colossians 3:23 says: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”

You and I were created to work!  God worked in Creation.  When God is first mentioned, He is creating and working.  Since we are created in His image that means we are created to work as well.  When you study the Bible you will see a repeated promise to Israel is that God would bless them in the work of their hands.  The word work is found over 700 times in the Bible.  We get this idea that Adam and Eve just walked around the Garden of Eden eating at their own leisure and not having to lift a finger to do anything.  Then they sinned and all of a sudden had to work, and we blame them for us having to punch a clock from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.  It’s often times hard to see the dignity of work because of the reality of the curse as a result of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden.  However, if you study Genesis 2 you will see that God placed man in the Garden to dress it and keep it.  In other words man was to be a steward of what God had created.  Yes work got harder after the Fall of man, but man non-the-less was created to work.  God never intended or designed man to be sedentary or lazy.

The way that God created us physically is clear that He intended us to work.  He created our hands with opposable thumbs to hold and manipulate objects.  He created our bodies to stand, walk, and lift.  We were created to be active, not be couch potatoes.  Doctor’s, nurses, chiropractors confirm that lack of physical activity will eventually lead to discomfort and even disability.  Sitting in a chair or a couch, or lying in bed all day makes you feel more tired and achy than putting in a good day’s work.  Patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have limited mobility have to be moved regularly to avoid bed sores.  These are signs that God did not intend for us to lie around or sit around and do nothing.  He created us to work.

When you study Genesis 6 the Bible tells us that the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  Sounds a lot like our world today.  God calls us to be counter-cultural.  As things get worse in our world, it’s time to work, both physically and spiritually.  We live in a society that places little value or dignity on work.  Too many of us look at work as a necessary evil.  We look at it as a way to pay the bills or take a vacation.  I can remember the day when work had an inherent value and dignity for its own sake.  My dad taught my brother and I to do a job well for its own sake.  Whether it was mowing the yard, washing the car, keeping our rooms clean, helping mom with the dishes, or vacuuming the floor to do the job to the very best of your ability.

God blessed Noah with a meaningful job to do – build an ark!  This meaningful work would be the salvation of his family.  Have you ever considered that the work you do could make the difference in your family?  Like Noah, being given a meaningful job to do, whether physical or spiritual, should not been seen as a hardship, but instead as a sign of God’s grace on our lives.  Genesis 6:8 says: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”  Noah was given a physical job to do – build an ark, and a spiritual job to do – preach righteousness.  Imagine the heartache and pain Noah went through while building the ark.  People laughing at him and his sons for building a boat because it was going to rain.  People had never seen rain before.  For a hundred years Noah built the ark and preached righteousness.  Some may look at Noah as a failure, but to those 8 people that were on the ark, Noah was their salvation.  Noah obeyed God’s word, and built an ark to the saving of his house.

Look at it like this – the work God gives us to do is a gift, not a curse.  We show our faith in God through our work.  Hebrews 11:6-7 says: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”  Faith puts us in motion.  Faith makes us work!  It is through work we counter the curse.  When a gardener weeds a garden or a farmer tills a field, they are countering the curse.  When a doctor helps someone’s body heal, they are countering the curse.  When we work to help someone fix up their house, help them get groceries, mow their yard, shovel snow off of their sidewalk we counter the curse.  That work usually opens the door for us to talk with someone about the Lord, teach a Bible Study or pray with them, and instead of being overcome with evil, we are overcoming evil with good.

So as you go through your work day look at your work not as just merely a means to collect a paycheck, but look at it as being meaningful and giving glory to God.  Fulfillment in life does not come through houses, land, money, cars or toys.  It comes through accomplishing something that is meaningful and makes a difference.  You can make a difference in the world.

I leave you with the words found in Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Vision

As a pastor I am often asked the question “What is vision, and where does vision come from”?  Aristotle once said: “The soul never thinks without a picture”.  Vision is nothing more than a clear picture of what could be.  Once the vision of what could be becomes crystal clear, it is then powered by the conviction that it should be.

Most people think that vision is reserved for corporate leaders, pastors, coaches, etc.  What most don’t realize is that each and every person needs a clear vision for their life.  Proverbs 29:18 states: “Where there is no vision, the people perish:”  You need a crystal clear picture of what you are here on planet earth to accomplish.  There is a certain sense of conviction that comes with a vision.

Vision is a preferred future, and demands change.  A vision is more than just a good idea, but it requires you to get into motion to make that idea become a reality.  Anyone can talk a good game, but it takes someone with a vision to make that dream become a reality.  You have to put legs on your vision.  You can’t just sit around forever and daydream of what could be, you must get up and do something about your vision.

Getting a crystal clear vision takes time.  There is a process that takes places between the conception of the vision and the fulfillment of the vision.  There is a purpose in the process.  The process not only allows our vision to mature, it also allows us to mature as well.  The process can be painful, frustrating, lonely, and just down right agonizing.  Think of your vision like a child in the womb.  After conception there is a period of time where the child matures in the womb before the child is born.  You cannot rush the development of the child.  Those months that are spent in the womb are crucial to the survival of the child after the child is born.  Likewise your vision must spend time in the womb in order for the vision to survive after it is born.  We live in a world that pushes change, but doesn’t want to go through the necessary process to bring about change.    This concept is brought on by the push-button society that we live in.  Everything has to be instantaneous, and we don’t have time for processes.

The greater your vision the longer it will take you to grow into your vision.  The Bible tells us that Moses was forty years in training before the vision God gave him became a reality.  Nehemiah was nearly a year in preparation for his vision to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.  Vision will involve your emotions.  You can’t have a clear vision and be emotionless.  Vision will also motivate you to act.  The monotonous, mundane, everyday cares of life begin to matter.  Vision will also give you direction.  Think of vision as a roadmap to get from point A to point B!  Vision will cause us to get our priorities right.

Maybe you are a Moses or a Nehemiah that is starring down a monumental task, and the task at hand seems overwhelming.  Let the vision become clear, and then get up and begin to make that vision become a reality.  Value the in-between (the process) between the conception of your vision and the birth of your vision.  During that “in-between” segment spend time praying and planning so your vision will become a reality.  You were created for a reason and a purpose.  Go ahead and get started on fulfilling your purpose in life.  Don’t be that person who perishes because you had no vision!  Be a world changer because of your vision!

 

How Am I Living?

The sun is quickly setting on 2017.  In a little more than 40 days 2017 will be a memory.  In the closing moments of 2017 have you thought to ask yourself “how am I living”?  It seems that it was only just the other day that New Years Resolutions were the topic of conversation on social media.  It was a great idea for the moment, and even provided some motivation, but as time passed so did those resolutions.

How Am I Living?  What challenges did you overcome this year?  What victories did you celebrate?  What mountains did you climb, and what valleys did you walk through?  How are you living?  The writer James in the New Testament part of the Bible states that life is a vapor.  It is here one day and gone the next.  We keep saying things like “tomorrow I will start this business” or “next week I will start taking a class”, and we keep putting off what we could do right now.  I had an individual stop by my office the other day and wanted to know my thoughts on them going back to take some college classes.  I need to tell you that this individual in north of 65 years old.  They want to learn additional information that will help them be better in a skill that they have done for years.  I told them that I thought it was a great idea.  I asked “when are you starting the class”?  Their response was “I’m leaving your office to go and sign up right now”, and they did!

So things didn’t go as planned in 2017.  Just get back up, and brush yourself off and try again.  Dave Ramsey recently made a statement that says: “Success is a pile of failures that you are standing on top of”.  It is only failure if you stay in the dirt.  Get up!  Is life happening to you or are you happening to life?  Keep trying!  Keep getting back up!  Learn from the process!  There is purpose in the process!  It is better to aim high and miss the mark then it is to aim low and hit it.  Shoot for the stars!  Good is not good enough if you can do better.

Over the next 40 days or so take inventory of your life.  Ask yourself “how am I living”?  Write down the things you want to improve about your life, and get started on that list today!  Don’t wait!  Don’t put it off until tomorrow!  Start right now!  I leave you with the words of the Holy Scripture as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”

%d bloggers like this: