Sabbathing For Health

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

Rusty wanted to dig a little deeper into the five chapters I wrote about a shepherd’s health. Quite simply, we cannot give to others what we do not possess ourselves, so if the shepherd isn’t mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy, he cannot give health to the sheep under his care. 

Rusty and I specifically chatted about what Jesus did to remain at optimal physical health, because as I point out, without physical health it’s hard to be healthy in any of the other areas.  

As I mentioned, in Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I take five chapters to unpack all of the various aspects of a leader’s health, along with some practical steps anyone can take. I’d also encourage you to check out this post on how Jesus practiced sabbathing during His earthly ministry. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared, they are located here, here, here, and here. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Sabbathing

On the Wednesday of Christ’s Passion Week, all of the Gospel writers are in perfect agreement. Between all four of them, they write not one word about what happened on that day. That silence actually speaks volumes to us!  

Jesus is almost surely in Bethany (since that has become is nightly retreat this week), and He is taking a Sabbath rest. “Wait,” you might be saying, “sabbathing on Wednesday?! I thought that was supposed to be Saturday or Sunday?” 

The Sabbath is not a day; it’s an attitude of the heart. 

Jesus followed the example His Father set right at the beginning. 

The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between Me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)

Notice that God rested and was refreshed. The word rested means to stop working and celebrate. It’s a time to reflect on the work completed and celebrate what has been done. Then the Bible says God was refreshed, which literally means “God refreshed Himself.” He took a deep, satisfying, rejuvenating breath! 

Resting and being refreshed—or sabbathing—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity! 

Jesus understood this principle of sabbathing. Remember that He had only a limited time to accomplish all that the Father had for Him: “We must work the works of Him Who sent Me and be busy with His business while it is daylight; night is coming on, when no man can work” (John 9:4 AMP). If anyone was a Man on a mission, it was Jesus, and yet rest was vital to Him…

  • …from the very beginning of His life, Jesus practiced healthy habits
  • …He started each day in prayer 
  • …He rested and refreshed after expending Himself in ministry, and encouraged His disciples to do so as well (see Luke 2:52; Mark 1:35; 6:30-32, 45-46) 

Now—just before the intense, horrific, inhumane experience He is about to go through—Jesus is sabbathing. He is resting and refreshing His body, soul, and spirit. 

So what keeps us from sabbathing? 

  1. Guilt—“I feel guilty taking time off.” Remember that if Jesus did it, we should too. 
  2. Misplaced priority—“If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” But remember Who is in charge. The psalmist reminds us, “The Lord is king!” (Psalm 99:1). 
  3. Fear—“If I ‘tune out’ what might I be missing?” Remember: Your Father is watching over you every single moment (see Psalm 121).  

If you want to experience more productivity in your life, don’t try to go 24/7—take a sabbath break. Stop working and celebrate what God has done, then take a deep breath of worship in God’s presence. Jesus demonstrated that sabbathing was vital for ministry success. 

A Healthy On-And-Off

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

The guys asked me a question about how I keep myself healthy, and I pointed them to a principle I observed in the life of Jesus. Check out this excerpt from the chapter “A Healthy Leader’s Sabbath” in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     Jesus had a human body just like ours. The demands of ministry caused stress on His body just as it does on our bodies. This is totally natural—this is the way God designed us. Our body helps us meet the demands of each day by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps us by managing how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; keeping inflammation down; regulating blood pressure; controlling the sleep-wake cycle; and boosting our energy. … 

     Cortisol is naturally flushed from our bodies by a healthy on-and-off rhythm. God built this into His Creation by giving us daily rhythms of day and night, work and rest, and by providing a weekly Sabbath to rest and reflect. But as most shepherd leaders know, setting aside a consistent Sabbath day is extremely rare. Again, let’s look to Jesus: Do you see Him doing anything—or not doing anything—on the Sabbath day that He didn’t do the other days? On any day of the week, we see Him speaking in a synagogue, healing the sick, teaching crowds of people, giving instructions to His followers, correcting religious leaders, walking with friends, or stopping to eat at someone’s home.  

     Jesus had a healthy on-off rhythm: work-rest, minister-celebrate, expend-refresh. Jesus demonstrated that the Sabbath is not so much a day as it is an attitude of the heart. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit say something like, “You’ve been very busy this afternoon, so it’s time to take a nap” and then obeying that divine prompting. Resting and being refreshed—“sabbathing”—is not a luxury; it’s a necessity! That’s why, after a busy day of ministry, we see Jesus spending time in prayer, or taking a nap while crossing the lake when He didn’t have anyone to teach or heal, or finding time for a retreat with His disciples so they could rest and recuperate. 

I have five chapters in Shepherd Leadership about a leader’s overall health, and two chapters in particular where I talk about practical ways that we can create the time to practice sabbathing.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Present Communion With Jesus

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Present Communion With Jesus

     The desire of a renewed soul is to find Christ and to be with Him. … Past communion with Christ is very well: ‘Therefore I will remember Thee from the land of Jordan…’ (Psalm 42:6). But these are only stale meats, and a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ. … 

     A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ. So the question is, ‘Tell me where You feed. Where do You get Your comfort from, O Jesus? I will go there. … Where do You feed Your flock? In Your house? I will go there, if I may find You there. In private prayer? Then I will not be slack in that. In the Word? Then I will read it night and day. Tell me where You feed; wherever You stand as the Shepherd, there will I be, for I want You. I cannot be satisfied to be apart from You. My soul hungers and thirsts to be with You.’

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

There are so many pictures in the Bible about our continual reliance on God’s presence—from the manna that was only good for each day, to Jesus teaching us to pray for “our daily bread,” to the vivid example of Christians being as dependent on Jesus as a branch is dependent on the vine (see Exodus 16:4-5, 14-17; Matthew 6:11; John 15:1-8).  

All of these mean that we need to constantly abide with our Savior. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I spend two chapters talking to leaders about the need to rest—or sabbath. In fact, I call it sabbathing to give it the emphasis on the ongoing nature of this activity. I wrote—

“Without building in sabbath breaks, we run down emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically, which means loving God becomes a chore, not a delight (Mark 12:30). This then means loving your neighbor becomes nearly impossible (Mark 12:31). Ultimately, this means that we aren’t able to be the compassionate, wise, strong shepherds that the sheep under our care need us to be. … 

“The goal of sabbathing is to infuse more vitality into the shepherd leader for the purpose of pasturing the sheep under that leader’s care. You cannot give hope to others unless you are hope-filled; you cannot give health to others unless you are healthy; you cannot consistently speak wisdom to others unless you are growing in wisdom. All of this healthy growth for the shepherd leader takes place while sabbathing….” 

To reiterate what Pastor Spurgeon said: “A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ.” I hope you will always seek that for yourself.

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The Ultimate De-Stress Practice

We all experience a certain amount of stress in our daily activities. Our body helps us meet the demands of each day by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Here’s how cortisol helps us— 

  • manages how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, proteins 
  • keeps inflammation down 
  • regulates blood pressure 
  • controls the sleep/wake cycle 
  • boosts energy  

Cortisol is naturally flushed out of our body each day by exercise and rest. 

But what happens if we don’t have the proper exercise and rest? In that case, cortisol can become a cruel double-edged sword leading to things like unhealthy weight loss or gain, inflammation (and the accompanying aches and pains), elevated blood pressure, difficulty sleeping at night, and difficulty staying awake during the day. 

As a result, we start to turn every molehill into a mountain, and we tend to the extremes of avoidance (flight) or argumentation (fight). 

Cortisol is naturally flushed from our bodies by a healthy on-and-off rhythm. God built this into His Creation by giving us daily rhythms of day and night, work and rest, and by giving us a weekly Sabbath to rest and reflect. 

We don’t need just a Sabbath day (although that is important and God-honoring), but we need to engage in sabbathing. Look how Jesus did this: 

  • up early to pray before a busy day 
  • a nap in the afternoon when He was tired 
  • a snack along the road when He was hungry 
  • an extended getaway time with His friends 
  • time alone with God after a long day of ministry (see Mark 1:35, 6:30-32; Matthew 8:24; 12:1; 15:21) ** 

In Psalm 61, notice how David’s stress is building: he says, “my heart is overwhelmed” (v. 2). He needed a Sabbath pause (a Selah) to look back on how God had helped him in the past. When we are over-stressed, we seldom Selah to look back because we are so focused on NOW. But a time of sabbathing will allow us to reflect and celebrate yesterday’s blessings and provisions so that we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” 

David concludes his prayer by building a proper God-honoring rhythm into his life—So I will sing praise to Your name FOREVER, that I may DAILY perform my vows. The sabbathing kept David eternity-focused which gave him the daily strength he needed. 

Beware of the warning signs that you need a sabbathing pause: turning every molehill into a mountain, avoiding problems, frequently arguing with others, constantly feeling fatigued. Allow these signs to turn you to this Psalm, and turn this Psalm into your prayer. 

**To learn more details of how Jesus practiced this principle of sabbathing, check out this post.

If you have missed any of the other posts in our Selah series, you can access the list by clicking here. 

Year-End Review (2019 edition)

Ten years ago God called me to pastor at Calvary Assembly of God, and we have so thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cedar Springs! One of the really cool things I get to do is teach an amazing group of people every Sunday. Here’s a recap of the series and messages from 2019.

Boldly Praying—As a general rule, God would like us to pray much more boldly than we typically do. Jesus told us that we could pray mountain-moving prayers, but C.S. Lewis rightly observed, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” 

Christ’s Passionate Journey—In action movies, the crucial moment usually is filmed in slow motion. The Gospels do the same as Jesus approaches the Cross. For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1000 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Is That In The Bible?—Sometimes things that sound “biblical” aren’t actually in the Bible at all, and sometimes they are there but are misquoted. 

Selah—When you see this word in the Bible it can mean either a pause from the noise to reflect on something, a preparation for an exciting accent, or a reflective time of consideration. We are working our way through the Selahs in the Psalms.

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—The five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of these prophets writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power!  

Fading Gratitude—Looking back at the history of God’s people in the Bible, there is a distinct up-and-down cycle. I believe their slipping away from God can be directly linked to their forgetfulness. If there is a peril in our forgetfulness, there is also a power in our thankfulness!

The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2020, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Christ’s Passionate Journey

In some of our favorite action movies, when the crucial moment for our hero has finally arrived, filmmakers will often switch into slow motion filming. They want you to feel the tension. They want you to see the emotion etched on the face of our hero. They want to make sure you don’t miss a single detail of this pivotal moment in the story. 

The same thing happens in the life of Jesus.

The four Gospels record 3+ years of the life of Jesus on earth. But when Jesus is approaching the Cross—the crucial moment of His ministry—all the Gospel writers go into slow motion. 

For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. The numbers are similar for Matthew and Luke, with John devoting almost one-half of his account to Christ’s Passion Week. 

Clearly, there is something happening here that the Gospel writers want to ensure that we don’t miss a single detail! 

Jesus knew all that was about to happen to Him. When Peter swung his sword at the soldiers that came to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (Matthew 26:53-54). 

Every step that Jesus took toward the Cross was a step of love. Every word He spoke in His final moments before His death was calculated to sink deep into the memories of all who observed this story. 

We are going to go into “slow motion” as well as we look closely at each day of Christ’s final week of ministry. From His dinner in Bethany to His resurrection, we’ll slow down and ponder deeply the love message Jesus is still conveying to us. 

Join me this Sunday as we begin this passionate journey. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message on Facebook Live.

Here are the days we explored on this journey:

Saturday In The Psalms—A Sabbath Psalm

A psalm. A song for the Sabbath day (preface to Psalm 92).

The Sabbath is—

  • a day of reflection
  • a day of rejoicing
  • a day of reconnecting
  • a day of meditating on past blessings
  • a day of strengthening for the upcoming week
  • a day of acknowledging the Creator
  • a day of appreciating creation
  • a day of assessing the investment of my God-given talents
  • a holy day—different from all other days

So … “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night” (vv. 1, 2).

Sabbath is not just a noun, but a verb—sabbathing—something that can be done every day, but something which also takes on special significance for the one day each week that we set aside as our holy day or worship and reflection. 

The Creator’s works and wisdom should be pondered and praised as we sabbath (vv. 4-6), something “a fool” doesn’t take time to do.

As we sabbath, we should confess to God—and then turn over to Him—those things which have overly preoccupied our minds (vv. 7-9).

We should recommit that the place of growth and blessing is in God’s presence (v. 13) as we endeavor to keep our hearts there. And then we can be energized and joy-filled as we contemplate His blessing which never diminishes nor grows old (vv. 14, 15).

Truly sabbathing is a good thing!

Do you have a Sabbath day? Do you find time to regularly sabbath in God’s presence? 

UPDATE: I dive deep into this idea of sabbathing in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

When Nothing Is Something

I’m not a typical Type-A person, but I do find it very hard to take time off. As soon as I find I’m doing Nothing I’ve immediately got to start doing Something… Anything.

When I’m doing Nothing I feel guilty.

“Who do you think you are? What makes you so special that you can do Nothing! Everything is not finished, so get up and do Something. Do Anything. Just don’t do Nothing!”

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And 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).

God did Everything in six days. There wasn’t Anything left to do.

So God did Nothing.

And yet that Nothing was Something special.

The Hebrew word for rest is shabath which means, “sit down and sit still.” Why? Was God tired? No, the resting is not Nothing; it is Something.

God paused from His work because He wanted to reflect on what He had accomplished. That’s the point.

Doing Nothing is really doing Something. When we take a shabath we’re taking a day to reflect on God’s blessing, His provision, His faithfulness.

I did Nothing today.

My Nothing was really Something special! I began the day by thanking God for all of the blessings in my life. And the more I gave thanks, the more reasons I realized I had to give thanks! After all that thanks-giving, I found that I had one of my most creative and encouraging days.

It’s amazing how Nothing can be a very special Something.

If you’re not already, find a day to do Nothing. I think you too will discover that Nothing is Something.

***A postscript for my pastor friends. Just a reminder: If you have church services on Sunday, then Sunday is not your shabath—it’s a day you’re doing a whole lot of Something. Find another day to do Nothing. God will bless the rest of your week when you do.***

I have some other posts about sabbathing that are worth your time here, here, and here.

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