Tag Archives: Sabbath

God cares about cross-dressing and fallen bird’s nests? [Should Christians Observe the Old Testament Law – Deuteronomy 21-25, part 1]

28 Jan
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I wonder how many women reading this post are wearing some form of pants? Actually, what I should do is ask, how many of you are wearing clothing that is traditionally women’s clothing?  Some form of dress or skirt?

All of you wearing shorts, pants or jeans, why did you choose something so detestable?  You think I’m joking?  You’re not sure if I’m being serious. 

In Deuteronomy 22:5 we read very clearly that “a woman must not wear men’s clothing.”  Now it also says “nor a man wear women’s clothing.”  So men, are there any of you wearing women’s clothing?  If so, it seems that would be detestable too.

If this is true, then why do so many Christian women disobey this teaching?

Before we answer that, let’s keep reading more laws in Deuteronomy 22.

Look at verses 6-7, and God seems to have an interest in fallen bird’s nests.  If a nest falls from a tree, he says, you can take the young birds as your possession, but not the mother.  What could that be about?

And then in verse 8, he jumps to parapets around roofs.  You must build parapets on your roofs.  Reader, do you have a parapet on your roof? No…Neither do I. Are we disobeying God?

Then in verse 9, God commands them against planting two kinds of seed in one vineyard…not good…that will defile the fruit.  Again, what is God thinking here?

How about verse 10, any of you ever had to do plowing with animals?  Maybe some?  Well, take note…don’t plow with an ox and donkey yoked together. 

Verse 11, now check the tags on your clothing…any made with wool and linen mixed together?  Or in verse 12, any of you have tassels on the four corners of your cloak?  No???  Why not?

So many rules, and such a wide variety!

What do we do with these laws?  We’ve been studying the biblical book of Deuteronomy at Faith Church, and we’ve come to a section of the book, basically chapters 21-25, that lists a whole bunch of seemingly random laws. 

If you’ve read this blog for a year or two, you have most likely heard me talk about one of my seminary professors, Dr. Dave Dorsey.  He was a beloved, long-time professor of Old Testament at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.  There were many things I learned from Dr. Dorsey, but perhaps the one that I go back to time and time again is related to these laws in the Old Testament.  If I were to guess, this comes every couple months at Faith Church somehow or another.  What I am referring to is Dr. Dorsey’s four-step method for describing how Christians can interact with the Old Testament Law. 

There are plenty of these of these laws that come up in our day and age, even though we are 3000+ years removed from them.  Above I listed some bizarre laws, but there are also familiar ones too, and we Christians can have strong opinions about them.

Jump over to chapter 23:19-20 – charge no interest.  We hear Christians talk about this as if Christians are bound to follow this.  I’ve encountered people appalled that Christians would charge interest of their brothers or sisters in Christ in their church family, as if the person who is charging interest is some greedy, abominable sinner.  Are they? 

But what about the Sabbath?  The idea of not working on the Sabbath.  That’s in the OT law. Shouldn’t we keep the Sabbath?

What about tithing?  The idea of giving ten percent. 

What about tattoos?  What about eating shellfish?  Pork?  On and on we could go.  Are Christians supposed to follows these laws?  Why do Christians follow some and not others?  What we are going to see in this series of post is that Dr. Dorsey’s four-part method helps Christians understand every law in the Old Testament.  Check back in for part 2 where we’ll get started!

My year without Facebook

9 Jan
Image result for deactivate facebook

On January 1, 2018, I deactivated my Facebook account. I had been an active Facebook user for about eight years, but I was starting a three-month sabbatical from pastoral ministry in my church, and I was concerned that the purposes of the sabbatical would be impeded if I spent time on social media. I also had numerous games on my phone, and I deleted those as well. Finally, I managed the church Instagram account via my phone, and I gave that up too.

On my laptop, as I navigated through the menus to get to Facebook’s deactivation page, I started feeling nervous. The social media giant had been a significant part of my life for a long time. I shared photos, articles, and kept up with my family, friends and church. All that scrolling through post after post after post. It seemed that extricating myself from that connection would be detrimental. My body actually felt anxious and fearful. Maybe I was making a bad decision. I’d read numerous stories of people who deleted Facebook, and I longed for freedom from the constant pull of fear-of-missing-out.

Similarly, I spent time on Facebook to be present where so many people were spending time. In fact one ministry leader stated on his podcast that pastors are being irresponsible if they aren’t active on Facebook. It makes good sense: be among your people and your community. They aren’t learning about your church by visiting your physical building. Instead they are first spending time on your website or on your social accounts. Now I was removing myself from that. Was I stupid?

To address this, we created a social media team to manage our church Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as the church website and podcast. All those digital connection points have continued to this day. I was the only one leaving social. Still, I was scared that I was making a mistake, personally and missionally.

A huge amount of work had gone into creating this sabbatical, though, and I really wanted it to go well, for me and the church. As I deliberated my Facebook decision, it was the purposes of sabbatical that won the day. Sabbatical has its roots in the word “sabbath,” first mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures when God himself takes a sabbath, a day of rest, after working for six days to create the universe. God embedded that concept of rest into the life of the nation of Israel. This Saturday break from work has numerous benefits, not least of which is a trust in God’s care for their needs. By not working on the 7th day each week, they are in essence, reducing their income by nearly 15%. That’s no small amount. The same goes for sabbatical. It is a period of intentional rest, designed to give a person an opportunity to refresh, and to trust in God. I wrote about that more here, and I knew that I didn’t want Facebook to get in the way. Cognizant of my tendency to open Facebook frequently, I could easily see myself wasting precious sabbatical hours on social media.

I hovered the mouse over Facebook’s “Deactivate” button, and I was sure something would happen after I clicked it. It felt momentous, significant, and very possibly consequential. Visibly shaky, I clicked my mouse and deactivated my account.

And nothing happened.

Not that first hour, nor that first day. Nothing happened for the first week or month. It was oddly calm and quiet. I thought for sure people would notice and contact me. Of course they would, it was such a big deal! They didn’t though. Over the course of the three-month sabbatical, being off Facebook had no discernible negative impact to my life. That has continued for the whole year. No one got angry. No one felt neglected. Or at least they never told me about it. A couple times people messaged me, as I kept Facebook’s Messenger app for that reason. But that was less than a handful of instances, over the past year.

As a result, this lack of impact was very eye-opening to me. I thought of all the hours I spent on Facebook, often justifying to myself that I was connecting with people, spending quality time learning about their lives. But with Facebook gone, I gained a new perspective on social media: it doesn’t matter.

Sure I missed out to some degree. I haven’t seen recent photos of my nieces and nephews, for example, but I still saw them at family events and got to catch up in person. Recently I found out about an acquaintance that got a new job six months ago. If I was on Facebook, I would have known this information all along. What I discovered was that missing out didn’t matter; it didn’t impact me at all. If something important was going on that I needed to be informed of right away, people still got in touch with me.

Removing Facebook actually added something that I believe is quite important. Intentionality. Rather than passively learning about friends and family on Facebook, if I wanted to express interest in them, I would have to be intentional about it. That intentionality is a very good thing, showing that I care about people.

I’m not saying that Facebook is bad or uncaring or that it is not possible to be intentionally friendly through social media. A person can be very healthy and intentional about their use of social media and the plethora of other digital communication and community resources available to us. Given their extreme popularity, many find that their use of social media is beneficial. But I didn’t. While I was on Facebook, I thought it was great. Once I removed myself, I realized how unnecessary it was. Frankly, I wasted a lot of time on social media. I own that. I made the choice. Now a year later, I’m so glad I’m not on any social media.

Will I ever go back? I can’t say. But I don’t think so. What I’ve found on the other side is far better.

Is Sunday the new Sabbath? – Luke 6:1-11

25 Mar

sabbath580Last week I introduced the next sermon in our series on Luke saying that Jesus told the Bible scholars they didn’t know the Bible.  In Luke 6:1-11 he really gets in their face.  At one point the Pharisees confronted Jesus’ disciples for rubbing grain in their hands on the Sabbath, saying the disciples were harvesting on the Sabbath.  It was more than likely just a little snack.  Harvesting?  Not even close.  So in response, Jesus says:

Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?”

Wow! That’s bold, because you know they did read it, and were quite familiar with the story.  What is he really saying to them, then?  Basically, he is saying that they are wrong in their view of the Sabbath and they should have known better because it was right in front of them all along in an old Sunday School story.  That story shows clearly that exceptions to the Law are needed and good when it comes to caring for people.  The very next episode, when Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, tells the same principle.

Jesus shows the Pharisees, and he shows us, that we cannot let our religious system become more important than God’s intent!

One of the big questions about Sabbath is how Christians should apply it.  What was God’s intent?

There are Sabbath principles that we need to adhere to. Remember that God’s OT Law was for Israel, not for us. That Law can be helpful to us, but only insomuch as we understand the heart intent of the law. We can apply the heart of the law to the church, to Jesus’ disciples. But we should not apply the law itself to the church.

When the first Christians tried to apply OT Law to the Christian Church, things got messy and the early church had to have a major meeting to discuss what to do. You can read about it in Acts 15. Some Christian Jews wanted the non-Jews who were coming to Christ to start following the OT Law, particularly in the area of getting circumcised. The Apostle Paul says “No Way!” And James, the brother of Jesus, who was the leader of the church at that point said, “Paul is right, we’re not going to bind people to that.”

But Christians through the centuries have still tried to take OT Law, which was only meant for Israel, and apply it to the church many times. One of the recurring mistakes has been when Christians and churches have taken Sabbath law and moved it to Sunday. Many Christians grew up in a day and age in which it was common practice to understand Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, so what I am saying here might be hard to fathom.

Consider this: Not only is the OT Law not applicable to the church as Law, but practicing a Sabbath day is not mentioned at all in the NT in connection with the Christian Church. It is the only one of the 10 commandments that is not somehow repeated in the Apostles’ teaching in the NT.   The early Christians chose to gather on Sundays not because they wanted a new Sabbath day, but because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead! They simply wanted to meet to celebrate his resurrection every week.  We should do the same. We do not gather for worship on Sunday because we are trying to obey Sabbath Law.  We gather together to worship, to fellowship, to refocus on the mission of God’s Kingdom, to practice rest.

So while we don’t apply the Law, we can and should apply Sabbath principles to our lives. The principles of rest from labor and gathering for worship should be very evident in our lives. It doesn’t have to be a 24 hour period. It doesn’t have to be Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. It doesn’t have to be Saturday. We Christians do not need to follow Sabbath law. But we should show that we are following the principle, that we are resting from our labor, that we are trusting in our God to supply our needs.

God required the Israelites to rest so that they would learn to trust in him. By not working that one day per week they were showing great faith in him, that he would provide for them. They could have increased their incomes by 1/7th if they would work that extra day. Imagine how much money you would earn if you increased your wages by 1/7th? That’s a lot of money!

This is why I have great respect for companies that close their doors out of a desire to live out Sabbath principles. They are showing trust in the Lord. Think about their earning potential if they would open their doors a 7th day! You ask any company how they would feel about an opportunity that has a strong potential to increase their income by 14%? They wouldn’t bat an eye. It would be an automatic “Yes! Let’s do it.” But those companies are closed, if they are doing so with the right heart motivation, to say “No Lord, we’re going to trust in you. That potential 14% is yours.”

That’s pretty awesome.

But does that mean Christian companies or owners that keep their businesses open 24/7 are sinning? Nope, not one bit. There is no Sabbath law for Christians. If a Christian wants to make a voluntary sacrifice to the Lord, such as closing their business on Sunday, that is certainly their prerogative, but it is not required. And we should not judge either way. Leave the judging up to the Pharisees.

Instead we should individually ask ourselves “How am I practicing the principle of Sabbath?”

I really struggle with this. When do I intentionally put rest in my life? My Pastoral Relations Committee last year required me to rest on Wednesday afternoons and once a month take a Friday for spiritual refreshment. I will be honest, and Michelle can vouch for this, I have done pretty bad at that. I want to do it. But it is hard.

It is really, really hard to unplug, to disconnect.

We got new cell phones this past week, and I have yet to add my email account on my phone. I am doing that intentionally. But I will tell you that I’m iffy about it. I argue with myself. What would it hurt? What if I get an important email I need to answer right away? Don’t get me wrong, I think answering emails and replying to texts promptly is important. I have my computer open 8-4 everyday (and often in the evening and on Saturday…and on Sunday…).  But an email that comes in at 7pm can probably wait til 8 the next morning, right?

I really struggle with the connected society we live in. Email, Facebook, texting, cell phones, etc, etc.

I get a sense that many of us need to apply Sabbath principles in the area of social connectedness. I get a sense that we need to disconnect. This is why I love that Twin Pines has a rule for summer camp about no electronics. We need more of that.

I often take my cell phone to the toilet so I can “redeem the time” and work on my cell phone in the bathroom. When do I ever just stop and think?

After the big snow storm a couple weeks ago, there was a full moon. At around 10pm, I was in our backyard dumping our woodstove ashes into our fire pit. The moon reflecting off the snow was so bright everything had distinct shadows. It was quiet. The sky was clear and you could see constellations.

I wanted to just stand there and look and think. I had that urge within that I need more Sabbath in my life. It was too cold, though, and I dressed only for a quick trip to the fire pit. I had to go inside.

But I could feel it. A need, a yearning for Sabbath. I really enjoy our technological and connected world. Technology amazes me. But in the backyard under that beautiful moonlit night, I remembered Sabbath. Frankly, I can forget about Sabbath. I can become accustomed to incessant work. Social media constantly with me on my phone. The TV seemingly always on. Emails flowing to my computer without end. When I open my computer I rarely have less than 20 emails needing attention each morning. And they do need attention, and I do need to reply. But after dinner time (when I am home) the emails can wait til the next morning. I can rest from that several hours a day.

How about you? Do you get like that about work? When do you rest? I don’t mean sleep. I mean rest from your labor to seek the Lord. Yeah, I do believe we can and should do this on Sundays. Not because that is the new Sabbath day. It’s not. There is no new Sabbath day. We meet on Sunday because that is day Jesus rose from the dead and we gather to celebrate him, to renew our focus on the mission of God’s Kingdom. And Sabbath principle, not Law, but principle, says that we should be passionately committed to opening up our schedules to actively participate in regular worship.

Sabbath is not a law that requires you to be in church every Sunday. But Sabbath principle says that we should be passionately committed to being there because we want to be there, we want to see our church family, we want to sing in worship, we want to give, we want to serve, we want to hear the word of the Lord, discuss it, and we want to refocus on his Kingdom. Sabbath principle is a heart that wants to worship because we love the Lord so much we want to participate in the gathered worship of his church.

I’ve heard it said that nowadays regular participation is once or twice a month attendance in worship. That concerns me greatly. In fact it could be argued that is an ignoring of Sabbath principle.

Do you need to gather for worship more? Do you need to rest and take a break to reflect on Him more? Do you need to show your trust in your loving God in this area?

What happens when Jesus tells the Bible scholars they don’t know the Bible?

20 Mar

grain-fieldThe religious establishment is on him.  They’ve been following him ever since he splashed onto the scene months earlier, healing people and preaching and gaining a following of large crowds.  These Bible teachers, these Pharisees, are the religion police of their day, and they have dispatched some agents to check Jesus out.  Now they’re following him everywhere.  In this passage, they are walking through a grain field.  And they confront his disciples for picking some of the grain…a major no-no?  So Jesus responds with with a story.  He even starts it off by saying “Have you never read…?”  And you know they read it many, many times.  But there he is taking the Bible scholars back to Sunday School.

Basically he is saying to them “You guys who are supposed to know this Bible inside and out, you missed something.”  I wonder how he said this.  I would love to know the tone in his voice.  Was there any sarcasm?  A twinkle in his eye?  Frustration?

I think the Pharisees are quite surprised by Jesus.  Take a look at Luke 6:1-11, and see what you think.  Does he surprise you?

He tells them a story from the life of Israel’s most famous king, David.  When you read it, my guess is that it would rank, for most people, in the category of little-known stories.  The bible scholars of his day would have been, or should have been, really familiar with it.  It’s a story when David was in a tough predicament and he did something unheard of.  Scandalous even.  And actually a priest let him do it!  A priest let David break the Law.  Shocking?  Not really, when you find out the details.  But why not?  We’ll learn more on Sunday.

And we’ll see why Jesus brings this story up on a Sabbath day in the middle of a grain field to confront the religious establishment guys who are ticked off.

Why are the Pharisees so upset?  Why does Jesus confront their Bible knowledge?  As we study this passage, perhaps we need to go back to Sunday School too.  It is possible that we might have a little learning from Jesus to do too.

If you’re not part of a church family, we’d love to have you join us at Faith Church!