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Archive for April 17th, 2014

HOW ABOUT A NAP?.

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Have you ever been in the presence of an over-stimulated, exhausted little urchin? They’re like wind-up toys with no off DSCF4887switch. And the longer they’re allowed to crank, the faster they spin, ‘til terror, tantrums, and tears erupt.

And I’m like that too. How about you?

The moment my feet hit the floor in the morning I cruise at DSCF4890ninety to ninety-five MPH, ‘til I surrender to exhaustion around midnight. Multiple days of over-booked running and I’m likely to end up in tears or over-reacting to everything that ruffles my expectations, just like that irritable, tuckered-out child.

A few weeks ago, during Bible study in Nehemiah and Malachi, the words leaped off the page, bold-printed on my brain, and convicted my heart.

Nehemiah threw a wall-eyed fit at the nobles of Judah, saying: “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet, you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath” (Nehemiah 12:17-18 NAS). He even grabbed some of the men by their beards and yanked out strands of their hair.

And God tells the people through Malachi: “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar. I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you” (Malachi 1:10 NAS).
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Yikes! What had these folks done to upset God so much He wanted to shut the gates and stop the sacrifices?

The year was somewhere around 436 B.C. The people of Judah had completed their seventy year exile in Babylon, returned to Israel, built a new temple, and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem under the direction of Nehemiah. They pledged obedience to God and signed a contract. The city was on the way to restoration, but Nehemiah had to leave for a time and guess what? Yep, the folks reverted to their old ways, just like their fathers had done.

In Judah the Sabbath had become like any other day—shopping, trading, and selling inside the gates—everything but rest and worship.

God is dealing with me about my failure to maintain a Sabbath DSCF4892rest. What about you? Could we be guilty of doing the same thing ancient Israel did?

From the beginning chapters of Genesis, God rested on the Sabbath day. The seasons were created to give the earth rest in the DSCF4700winter and resurrection in the Spring. Every seven years they were also to allow the land to lay fallow, giving the land a Sabbath rest. And He instructed His people to keep this eternal statute forever.

Now that wasn’t the only statute the people refused to obey, but let’s stay focused on this commandment today.

I’m old enough to remember when stores closed on Sunday so we all could worship God. America stopped to thank God for His blessingsDSCF4795 and enjoyed a day of rest. Sunday afternoon was given to naps and reflection. A time for God. A special day. And a time for family.

In my early adult years there were Sunday blue laws still in affect in many Southern towns. But as Americans grew more prosperous and spent more money, merchants realized they could have the blue laws overturned, keep the stores open, and make more money. And the folks agreed—‘cause they made money too.

The more prosperous Americans became, the less we needed God. DSCF4891‘Til today, in most neighborhoods across this land God has blessed, few of our neighbors even think about, much less attend church to honor God with thanksgiving and offerings.

But what about Christians? You and me? Do we honor God on the Sabbath? Or are we kindling useless fire on God’s altars? Do we meditate on God’s Word during the week so we can enter His rest on Sunday?

Or is Sunday catch-up day? Another day to worry? Often busier than the rest of the week. Or are we just grateful to have an air-conditioned place with soft pews to collapse and plan next week or shift our minds into neutral for an hour?

What kind of sacrifice are we bringing to God’s altar? Pure or blemished?

Do we honor God in the Sanctuary? Or do we profane His house and His name?

Is Sunday a day of restoration for you, or another day crammed full of activities that leave you burned-out and used up like those cranky children we talked about?

Are Malachi’s words pertinent to the Church in 2014?
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We are called to worship the Lord, folks. Not be entertained. We are called to make disciples. Not serve as a social club. We are called to worship and praise God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Not the pastor, nor a building, and certainly not the music minister or ourselves.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NAS).
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