Sunday, January 29, 2012


While there are some questions I have always had about our observance of the Sabbath, this is not a platform I am going to use to debate which day is the true Sabbath. Because, honestly, it doesn't really matter. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 lays the foundation on which we base the Sabbath. If we read these four verses, a very simple understanding of the Sabbath comes to light. The Hebrew word translated as Sabbath literally means "the day of rest." It is that simple translation that gives significance to the Sabbath. It is to be set aside as a day of rest. I know, this is rocket science right? Come on, it doesn't take a scholar to come to that conclusion. Yet, that simple design for the Sabbath still seems to evade most of us.

It's interesting to note here that despite all the warnings about honoring the Sabbath, God himself rarely gives examples of what constitutes 'work.' But, as is usually a given with humanity, we took it upon ourselves to take the place of God by try to define what exactly was meant. Back in the day, the Pharisees were no exception to this rule. They took it upon themselves to take God's original decree 'to honor the Sabbath' one step further. Actually, they took it 'forty minus one' steps further (so there's no misunderstanding, that's a religious way of saying 39). From that one command, they established 39 rules that must be followed in order to maintain the integrity of keeping the Sabbath holy. In doing see today, it seems we came up with quite a burdensome list ourselves. The result has been that today, we inadvertently associate all of these unspoken 'rules' with the Sabbath.

At the heart of Jesus' teaching about the Sabbath in Matthew 12 (along with a few other passages), we find that in the scheme of things, Sunday should really be no different from any other day. Well, I guess the exception to that is that we take advantage of the rest it offers. There is nothing special, sacred, or even holy about Sunday. Jesus himself said no day was more holy than another. When then do we make such a big deal about this particular day?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we abandon church, our worship services, or other important things we do on the Sabbath. What I am saying is this: Let's keep the main thing, the main thing! It's time we shy away from making it about appearances. Does God really care if I'm clean-shaven, wear my Sunday best, have the car washed, or heaven forbid mow my lawn? It's as if we think doing certain things or avoiding other things only on Sunday will make us more spiritual. To think that is what is at the heart of the message God has given us with the Sabbath is to miss the point. None of the things I mentioned will make us more or less holy. Nor will they offend God. God will not strike anyone with lightning for mowing their lawn after church...maybe (He is God so I can't give you money back guarantees).

All of these associated rules with the Sabbath might fool ourselves. Shoot, it might even fool a few others, but we aren't slipping anything past God. He will never be fooled with our facades, because "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart."

During my sophomore year of college, I volunteered at the homeless shelter. On one occasion I sat down to have dinner with one of the men staying there. After a bit of small talk, we started to open up to each other quite a bit. He began sharing his life story and pouring his heart out to me over an overcooked pork-chop, some lukewarm beans and watered down pink lemonade. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I discovered how he had been laid off from a well paying job several years ago. The short version of everything else that happened is as follows: the income his family depended on dwindled away since he was driven into a state of depression and found it difficult to find work; inevitably his family packed their things up and left him.

Even while all of this transpired, this man informed me that through the whole ordeal, he never lost his faith. He continued to attend church until he began to see it in a much different light. Because of his tattered clothes, unkempt beard, and God forbid the smell, he felt shunned. This homeless wandered no longer fit in at church. You see, he had a job working for Boeing--the company that makes airplanes--that paid quite well. Without that income, he could no longer afford a shower or food, let alone the three-piece suits, fine jewelry, and nice cars everyone else at the church could. The point to all of this is that the Sabbath is not about appearances. God is not impressed by the name brand clothes we wear or the BMW's we drive (yes, that was a jab at myself). It has never been about cleaning ourselves up and coming to meet with God! Instead of striving to change our outward appearance, we should focus on transforming the state of our heart.

Furthermore, we should begin striving to change every other day of the week to look more like the Sabbath (minus that whole resting thing because work needs done and bills need paid). As I said earlier (and to be quite honest, Jesus said it first thousands of years ago) it's time we quit turning the Sabbath into a show. How about we make every other day of the week look more like the Sabbath, rather than struggling to make it different from every other day of the week.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Puzzled by the Bible is our current series at The Ransom Church. So, I figured now would be an appropriate time to address the honest questions I had about the Bible. Actually, my questions have never been about the Bible; rather, they have been about the way we have viewed and addressed this book. Let me begin by stating two foundational premises I hold true and will not even attempt to defend or debate here. The first is that I wholeheartedly believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God...period! The Bible we have today is exactly as God intended it to be and has upheld its integrity through thousands of years and numerous translations. Premise number two stems from the first. Because Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, for me, that means it is authoritative when it comes to the truth it speaks into my life. Just because it is true and authoritative doesn't mean I haven't struggled to apply sound Biblical teaching into my life at times. Just like anyone else, I can be selfish and sometimes I have to learn things the hard way.

During my high school career, I was one of those people you weren't entirely sure how you felt about. On one hand, you wanted to envy me; while on the other hand you despised me on an intense level. It wasn't because I was a super jock--I only wrestled for a few years and while I was decent, I didn't overly excel. It had nothing to do with my rugged good looks or my charm--those didn't develop until college. Neither did it have to do with my extreme popularity--that was non-existent for me through most of high school. The reason you both envied and despised me was because I was one of the students that showed up for class, goofed off, never studied, and still wound up with A's. Because school was such a breeze, I viewed class and homework as a waste of my time. Let's be honest, during that period of my life anything that didn't involve partying, chasing girls, or hanging out with my friends was considered a waste of my time. In order to keep my grades up, I did what some people would call cheating. However, I tend to think of it as being resourceful! Anytime I had homework, I went straight to the back of my text-books for the answers. (Either my teachers were not intelligent enough to figure out the randomly assigned problems were answered in the back, or they simply didn't care--for their sake, I will assume the latter.)

Oddly enough, this is the approach many of us (myself included from time to time) take when it comes to the Bible. If there is any way to bypass the discipline and work of diving into the Word on a regular basis, all the while receiving the benefit that comes from within, we will try it! The problem with that is we begin to lose sight of the big picture the Bible has to offer. I’m not sure about you, but I think we have turned the Bible into something God never inteneded it to be.

We treat the Holy Word of God as a text book on life; looking for the answers to all the mysteries of life. Does Big Foot really exist? What happens to everything vanquished from Bermuda Triangle? How does the Nintendo gun know where, on the screen, I'm pointing (it was way ahead of it's time)? Or maybe you have more legitimate questions along the lines of: Which job should I take? Where should I live? Who should I marry? Or, like every man on the face of this planet, you are curious: what do women really want? While the Bible is chalked full of answers, you have likely discovered it doesn't just lay out answers to all of life's questions. At least, not in the way we hope it will. And then there is always the possibility that some things are intended to be a mystery.

Then there are those who view Bible as nothing more than a self-help manual on life. We dust it off, open it's sacred pages and scour the words within to find some great advice from God when we have exhausted all other avenues of help. When finances are in short supply and our financial adviser can't help, to the Bible we go. Relationships begin to crumble and no amount of counseling is making improvements, surely the Bible can fix it. Not sure how to do that home improvement yourself, maybe reading about Noah will provide answers and motivation--this guy built an ark with a hammer and nails of sorts.

When it comes to the Bible, a paradigm shift may be in order. Instead of viewing it in one of the ways discussed above, perhaps it's time we look at it a bit differently. Just maybe, the Bible is a book of stories--I'm not talking Grimm's Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss or Where the Red Fern grows kind of stuff. The stories contained in the Bible are much more poignant and pregnant with meaning. The stories within the pages of Scripture cut to the heart and lay open our soul. To quote some words within, "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." (Hebrews 4:12). Perhaps this quote from John Eldredge better explains my point. "It's overwhelmingly a book of stories--tales of men and women who walked with God." Maybe approaching the Bible this way will change things for the better!

Again, I have to agree with John Eldredge when he says, "Approach the Scriptures not so much as a manual of Christian principles but as the testimony of God's friends on what it means to walk with him through a thousand different episodes. When you are at war, when you are in love, when you have sinned, when you have been given a great gift--this is how you walk with God."

You see, the Bible is a story. But it is not just any story. It is humanity's story. It is your story. It is my story. But most importantly, it is God's story and how I am to play my part in that grand story.