Sabbath: The Sacred Space

Anna had just finished cross-country practice when she opened the passenger side door of my car and sat in the seat next to me.

After a few minutes of chitchat with my oldest daughter, she asked a very direct, yet inquisitive question.

“Dad, why do certain religions have a day when they don’t work or do anything?”

It was a fantastic question. And just the kind of question I love to answer.

I explained to Anna that the Sabbath was a day of rest given to mankind at the very beginning of creation. It was a day in which all work activity was to cease so that people could rest, rejuvenate, and give thanks to God.

I then further explained that Sabbath was central to the very heartbeat of Judaism, as God instructed them through His law to abstain from any activity that constituted work. Sabbath was, not just true for His people, but also the animals and the land. Animals were to be given a day of rest each week and the land a year of rest for every six it is worked.

As I explained Sabbath to Anna, and how important it is to our well being (mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and communally), I began to think about my childhood and how every business in our small town stayed closed every single Sunday. And as I thought back to that time it made me so profoundly sad. It was a sad realization that there had been something so simple and so life-giving built into our culture, given for our benefit, rooted in the very foundation of creation, and we lost it… we walked away from it. And there was not even as much as a whimper when we lost it.

Maybe because we lost it so slowly. Maybe because it started as one store and then another and then another. Maybe it happened so subtly that our pace didn’t really change and we really never recognized what was truly being lost. Maybe if we would have lost it suddenly then we would have realized the magnitude of what we were giving up.

It wasn’t just stores and businesses.  It was us.  Individuals.

We were walking away from Sabbath as something that was optional, even a little archaic.

It was insignificant… of little consequence.  If we lost it… well… we wouldn’t be missing anything.

But Sabbath was a fortress wall behind which we could retreat at least once a week to find our breath and maintain our rhythm. Behind the towering walls of Sabbath we found respite, relief, and peace and even regained our sanity because it was the only thing strong and sturdy enough to withstand the unrelenting assault of busyness, 60-hour work weeks, and capitalistic greed.

But here we are now as wayfarers and travelers, with not even as much as a faint memory of where we used to be. Another generation, and the generation after that, has come along after us and has been introduced into a world, and a culture, that does not stop, that does not rest, that does not take time to breathe, and does not understand our desperate need for sacred space.

The pace at which we are moving is increasing without any evidence of slowing down.

The amount of information coming at us at any one moment is doubling and tripling in the wrong direction.

The degree to which we are connected to technology only promises to make us more connected and more connected… not less.

And to be honest… it feels like suffocation or drowning or losing control or all of them at the same time.

But to many, including Anna, I am fearful that this feeling is shockingly normal… because they have not known any other way.

And it is evident.

In our anxiety.

In our stress.

In our mania.

There is no denying that we are paying for it heavily with our minds, bodies, and souls.

And the thing is… the forces keep coming and they continue to increase and they keep taking more and taking more.

It is subtle but incremental… and completely overwhelming.

Matthew Sleeth, in his eye-opening (and highly recommended) book 24/6, writes:

We cannot turn back the hands of time. Our 24/7 world is not going to change. Life will only get more intense. New communication tools, nanotechnology, and human engineering will increase the number of tasks an individual can do simultaneously. We will look back with nostalgia at the 24/7 world once these “advances” make 48/7 a reality. If we wish to have a weekly day of rest, it will no longer happen as a societal default. It will happen only as a result of conscious choice. All we need to begin is to “remember,” as the Fourth Commandment tells us. We must remember the why and the how of a day of rest.

He is right. We cannot depend on our societies, our governments, our businesses to make the right choices or create sacred space for us. Once we abandoned the sacred space of Sabbath, there is nothing left but empty promises that will never give us what we keep hoping to attain- a better life.

The fortress of Sabbath still stands. It is still there. It hasn’t fallen or been destroyed. We just left it. The doors are still open to enter back into a Sabbath’s Day rest… to stop the madness… to stop the cycle… to stop the work… to escape the forces that are overwhelming us and imprisoning us.

The Sabbath doors are open and beckoning us to come back and take a deep breath and spend time with family and play with our kids at the playground and take a walk in the evening while watching the sunset and enjoy a meal with our friends… and discover what we have really wanted all along (but maybe never even known it)- life in it’s fullness.

Sabbath is calling us back.

I am not much on New Year’s resolutions… but Sabbath would be worth pursuing in the new year.

Have a happy new year!

brandon

Heaven: Heaven and Earth Be One

Over my last four posts, I have centrally focused my attention on deconstructing the predominant belief of many within mainstream Christianity, which asserts that the goal of God is to ultimately take His people away to a disembodied heaven to live for eternity while destroying all of creation.

At the same time, I have been offering glimpses from Scripture of what God’s true intention has always been and what it continues to be- not whisking people away to a disembodied heaven for eternity, but rather working to redeem, renew, and restore all of His good creation through the defeat of sin and death as evidenced and initiated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the bringing together of heaven and earth has been launched in the present and we look forward to the day in which the full consummation of heaven and earth will be complete with God making His dwelling place among us in a renewed and restored earth.

We didn’t arrive in this place by accident. The Scriptures from Genesis forward evidence a God who has been working painstakingly to remedy, mend, and heal that which was fractured and broken from the very beginning- not just people, but all things.  

The central purpose, the grand narrative, the over-arching achievement of God is to- bring heaven and earth back together as one.  

Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, in the new age [the Messianic rebirth of the world], when the Son of Man shall sit down on the throne of His glory, you who have [become My disciples, sided with My party and] followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19: 28 AMP

So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord; And that He may send [to you] the Christ (the Messiah), Who before was designated and appointed for you–even Jesus, Whom heaven must receive [and retain] until the time for the complete restorationof all that God spoke by the mouth of all His holy prophets for ages past [from the most ancient time in the memory of man]. Acts 3: 19-21 AMP

For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it–[yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons). Romans 8: 19-23 AMP

In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him, [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth. Ephesians 1: 7-10 AMP

For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him. And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]. For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently. And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross. Colossians 1: 16-20 AMP

It is obvious that the weight and trajectory of the Scriptures come together in the victory and accomplishment of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross and resurrection to new life…and describe the objects of this salvific activity as a complete reconciliation and restoration of all thing in the Age to Come- our bodies, the creation, everything, and all things in heaven and earth.

For all that had gone wrong in the garden, it is the gardener who fixes it and restores it.

In every way our paths have been crooked, there will be a day when they are all made straight.

In every way God intended for us to be helpers and caretakers of His good creation, His original intention will be realized in the new heaven and new earth.

In every way nature has suffered the curse, producing thorn and thistle, and animals have had enmity toward man and one another, there will be a time when wine will flow from mountains an the lion will lie with the lamb in peace.

In every way we have been told, or have come to believe, that we are of little value or significance, we will fully and finally realize the profound value we have in God’s eyes since the creation of the world.

In every way relationships were fractured and broken because of our rebellion against God and our distrust and hatred of one another, there will be perfect harmony, unity, and community one with another and all with God.

In every way we have longed for peace and justice, and held out hope that there would be a better day, we will one day beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, never again lifting a sword against another, nor learning of war any more, for the love of God will fill the cosmos.

In every way nation has risen against nation and kingdom against kingdom, the fullness and completeness of God’s glory and peace throughout the land will reveal the cultural beauty and uniqueness of every nation as they are healed and celebrated.

In every way rulers have crushed, oppressed, and killed those whom they have subjugated, we will one day experience the loving, merciful, and victorious leadership of Jesus and those who rule with Him.

In every way we have split and divided over race, social status, and economic achievement, dishonoring God in the process, the nations will one day gather united in our diversity and worship God as one.

In every way our bodies have given out, been debilitated or handicapped, and suffered the crushing weight of disease and death, we will one day have incorruptible, resurrection bodies that will do things we could never imagine.

And in every way we have longed for and anticipated eating and drinking anew with Christ and one another in the fully realized and consummated Kingdom of God, we will one day sing praises, give thanks, break bread, and celebrate the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Messiah.

peace…

brandon

Heaven: The Spiritual Body

This is the fourth post in my heaven series. If you are interested in reading all of them from the beginning… you can start with the first post here.

What we believe about our end significantly influences our present.

This isn’t just true for the topic at hand; it is also true in our everyday experiences. For instance, good companies have a vision and goals that orient their daily work toward those ends. And as a result, workers understand their work presently through the lens of where the company ultimately wants to be.

This principle, I believe, is significantly important for our discussion on heaven.

If the ultimate goal of one’s life is to go to a disembodied spiritual existence with God for eternity… then not only will one’s life activities (and the Church’s activities) be oriented around that end… but how one reads Scripture will be oriented around and influenced by that end as well.

But, if our future hope is actually different than a disembodied spiritual existence for eternity, and I believe it is, then it will not only influence our understanding of our identity and purpose in the world, it will also help us better understand Scripture as it relates to that end. I cannot underscore how important this point is for us to understand.

Let’s look at the end (our future hope), so we may better understand some seemingly confusing Scripture in light of it.

Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God.

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. Revelation 21: 3-4

There should not be any question that the consummation (the fulfillment, the bringing together) of our future hope looks like this: God living among us in a renewed and restored creation where the former order of things have passed away and where there will be no more death, anguish, sorrow, or mourning.

Since this is the case, it only makes logical sense that our future hope does not involve us as disembodied spirits floating around, but rather people who are clothed in new bodies, fully integrated spiritual bodies, that will feel, touch, sense, experience, taste, smell, hear, sing, and talk.

Having this understanding helps us unlock another commonly misunderstood passage in which Paul is writing to clear up significant misunderstanding by the Corinthians of, not just the physical resurrection of Jesus, but also of the future physical resurrection of believers.

His contention is that there is absolutely no point of putting his life on the line if Christ has not been raised from the dead- what do I gain if, merely from a human point of view, I fought wild beasts at Ephesus…if the dead are not raised at all. But, since Christ (the first fruits) has been raised to resurrection life, he is confident that those who belong to Christ will also experience the same bodily resurrection- for if the dead are not raised then Christ has not been raised.

Let me be clear…Paul is making the emphatic point that those who belong to Christ presently are guaranteed a bodily resurrection at some point after they die.

At this point in Paul’s letter, he begins to get even more frustrated at the Corinthian’s lack of understanding of the bodily resurrection, so he gets incredibly specific in his argument with imagery they might understand… and this where undue confusion for the average Christian has occurred. He says, that in the same way a seed must die when planted in order to then spring up as a different kind of body, so too the human body dies but will rise in another kind of body.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead.

[The body] that is sown is perishable and decays, but [the body] that is resurrected is imperishable [immune to decay, immortal].

It is sown in dishonor and humiliation; it is raised in honor and glory.

It is sown in infirmity and weakness; it is resurrected in strength and endued power.

It is sown a natural (physical) body; it is raised a supernatural (a spiritual) body.

[As surely as] there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

Had Paul wanted to say that a person becomes a spirit, he may have used a noun such as spirit (pneuma), but he doesn’t. He used the word body (soma) and then qualified it with the adjective spiritual (pneumatikos), which implies that Paul’s understanding of a resurrection body was a fully realized and fully integrated physical and spiritual body that is imperishable, honorable, glorious, strong, powerful, and supernatural.

To be sure that this is the case, Paul never once used the adjective pneumatikos to describe anything as a disembodied spirit. In fact, every time that the word pneumatikos was used by Paul in the New Testament, it was to convey the mark of the Holy Spirit on an object. Oddly enough, Paul described those of us who presently have the Holy Spirit as being pneumatikos (spiritual), and we are certainly not disembodied spirits right now!

The greatest evidence of new (kainos) creation and the renewal of all things, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For in this singular event the physical body of Jesus, which was once dead, came back as resurrected life- not as an apparition or bodiless spirit but as fully realized, supernatural, spiritual body. In the resurrected Christ we find the most perfectly integrated and the most fully realized Spirit (Pneuma) and body (soma). That is our future hope, a spiritual (pneumatiko) body (soma). Christ had a resurrection body of supernatural form that was tangible and touchable, for even Thomas the doubter was able to see and touch!

One day, that which we have been given a foretaste of presently (a portion of the Spirit)…will be the full measure. And while we inwardly have the profound joy of experiencing what it is to be pneumatikos, we groan inwardly and long for the day when our bodies will be pneumatikos, as well.

Read the next post here

peace…

brandon