When God ceased from his labor on day seven of creation, he created a category for how we approach work. “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Genesis 2:3). He anointed a time in which his image bearers would cease from their labor to enjoy God and to enjoy the fruit of subduing and cultivating his world.
Our Creator embedded many gifts in this Sabbath command. Rest reminds us that he is the Sustainer of all things, not us. Rest reminds us that our identity flows from our relationship with God, not from our work. Rest reminds us that owner and servant, wealthy and poor stand on level footing before the King of all, equal in dignity as those created in his image. In these regards, Sabbath rest serves as a reset, a time during which the Spirit can recalibrate our priorities and passions to God’s original design.
As our family returns from a two month Sabbatical, I wanted to share the ways in which God is resetting our lives at the personal, family, and church levels. I do this with a profound sense of gratitude for the elders, deacons, and others who increased their labor to enable us to receive God’s gift of Sabbath rest.
The two weeks since my return from Sabbatical have looked radically different than the two weeks before. Convicted of my need to care for myself if I am to fully care for my family and church, I have significantly changed my habits of sleep and diet and have reordered my work space and schedule. The time away alerted me to how unnecessarily frenetic my life had become and the toll that took on my personal well-being, relationships, and work. I am very encouraged about the trajectory of healing these disciplines have created.
One of the most potent changes since my return has been pausing for silence and prayer multiple times throughout the day. From Daniel, who knelt for prayer three times a day, to Jesus’ apostles, who attended temple prayer at 9 AM, Noon, and 3 PM, God’s people have made breaks in their day to experience mini-resets in his presence. My time has consisted of two minutes of silence followed by three to five minutes of praying through the Lord’s prayer. As simple as this sounds, the degree to which it has kept my heart at peace has been profound.
Through long conversations and listening to wise voices, Rachael and I have identified ways in which our parenting and family rhythms invited excessive stress into our lives. Now that God has graciously resolved much of the physical illness that plagued us over the last year, we feel encouraged about new ways of ordering our family life and the time that schooling decisions have opened up for personal refreshment and connection with one another.
I have spent many hours with Peter, Mike, and Stevo upon my return and have been deeply encouraged that they have been in “reset mode” during my absence. Part of this is evaluating how every aspect of our church’s life serves our purpose “To glorify God through reaching up, reaching in, and reaching out.” In my short time back I can already see fresh excitement in our worship ministry, children’s ministry, and care for vulnerable children in our city–all indicators that God is powerfully moving at Whitton Avenue Bible Church.
As we begin a new sermon series through 1 John on August 16th, I believe God has a specific reset for our church family. I have listened to and studied this letter for more than two months, and the simple and profound force of these 105 verses stuns me more every time. As one British preacher put it, John expresses deep, life-changing truth with one-syllable words: light, love, life. He resets us to the center of the Christian life: fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. And he continually draws our attention to Jesus in his tangible humanity and sublime divinity.
This is where you can be part of the reset at Whitton Avenue. As we approach this study in 1 John, let me challenge you to read or listen to this beautiful book daily. The audio version I listen to is 15 minutes long (available on the free ESV App, among others). That could easily fit into your drive to work or daily chores. Familiarize yourself with the language of the letter so you come toSunday morning prepared to plunge into the simple depths of this manifesto on life with God.
As we enter into the reset together, may God’s light, love, and life be richly experienced and boldly shared through our church family.