Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: rest

The Gate of the Year

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I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known Way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still, what need our little life, our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things both high and low,
God hideth his intention.
God Knows. His will Is best.
The stretch of years which wind ahead, so dim to our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God, our fears are premature;
In Him all time hath full provision.
Then rest; until God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes, when, as the sweeter features
Of life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures
Our minds shall fill.

-Minnie Louise Haskins

Are we like oxen?

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(My father broke land with oxen when he homesteaded in southern Saskatchewan a little more than 100 years ago.)

Exodus 32:9 – And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people.

Stiffnecked was originally used to describe oxen who would not lower their heads to permit the yoke to be fastened in order for them to pull together. The term was applied to the Israelites a number of times during the Exodus. After forty years, when they crossed the Jordan, they were a united people, able to work together.

Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

If we are a stiffnecked people, we will resist with all our might having the yoke applied. Thus we will never be able to pull together with fellow believers and never experience the truth of Jesus’ promise.

Daylight Saving Time is hazardous to your health

Most readers of this blog will now be on Daylight Saving Time. Here in Saskatchewan we didn’t set our clocks ahead. When I was a boy, the province was on Mountain Time and towns and cities could choose whether to go on Daylight Saving Time. In addition, the eastern half of the province lies in the Central Time zone and some towns there opted for Central Time. It made for much confusion, even on a short trip. The frustration prompted a decision to place the whole province on Central Standard Time year round.

Research suggests that Saskatchewan may be on to something. Setting clocks ahead for DST messes up our biological rhythms, which can be disruptive for people who have difficulty getting to sleep. Besides insomnia, the studies note an 11% increase in traffic accidents in the week following the time change, an increase in workplace accidents and a 55% increase in heart attacks. A move to Saskatchewan (or Indiana, or Arizona) would eliminate that stress. (I am not aware of any studies on the effects of the stress caused by relocating.)

Time shall be no more

Can you imagine an existence without time? I have tried, but I can’t. Does it mean that everything happens all at once, a state of super excitation with no ability to separate one event from another? Or does it mean a state of suspended animation where nothing happens at all? Neither of those states sounds appealing, so the Bible must mean something else when it speaks of eternity where there shall be no more time. Something that is beyond the scope of our present capacity to understand.

Our earthly existence is measured by the rhythms of the sun, moon and stars, the changing seasons, and by remarkable events. The prophet Amos was given a vision of the spiritual condition of Israel “two years before the earthquake.” The ancient Greeks believed that the position of the stars at our birth birth determined our character and the course of our life. Many people still set great store by such notions. In the Old Testament, the passage of time was marked by the weekly Sabbaths, the blowing of trumpets at the new moon and the seasonal holy days. I grew up with the ecclesiastical calendar of the Anglican Church in which every Sunday, and many other days, were given names to denote their significance. Thus we had days like Quinquagesima Sunday and Maundy Thursday. I understand there is an ongoing controversy among those who really care about such things concerning the origin and meaning of the word “maundy.”

The New Testament teaches that these markers of time should no longer govern our lives. The apostle Paul warned: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11). “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

The sun still rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, the changing seasons are accompanied by movements of the stars, but these are not to be the markers of our spiritual lives. When a person repents and is born again, that person enters into a continual spiritual Sabbath of rest from any labours to establish his or her own righteousness.

“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:1,  3, 10).

It is still right and good to gather for worship on Sunday, to feed our spiritual hunger, to be refreshed in the company of the saints. But this is not the Sabbath, and being a Christian on Sunday only means that one is not a Christian at all. To this extent the times and seasons are no longer markers of our spiritual life, we have entered into a foretaste of eternity. Beyond that, we cannot tell just what eternity will be like.

The Sabbath: rest for the body or for the soul?

Philo of Alexandria, defending Jews from Roman accusations of laziness because of their strict observation of the Sabbath, wrote:

“On this day we are commanded to abstain from all work, not because the law inculcates slackness. . . . Its object is rather to give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities. For a breathing spell enables not merely ordinary people but athletes also to collect their strength with a stronger force behind them to undertake promptly and patiently each of the tasks set before them.”

How many Christian readers of this blog would say a hearty Amen! to that defence of the Sabbath? I have often heard the same arguments stated in defence of Sunday as a day of rest, albeit with somewhat less eloquence. Folks, we are missing something here if Philo’s argument makes sense to us.

Jewish author Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book The Sabbath, points out the error:

“Here the Sabbath is represented not in the spirit of the Bible, but in the spirit of Aristotle. According to the Stagarite, ‘we need relaxation, because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end’; it is ‘for the sake of activity,’ for the sake of gaining strength for new efforts. To the biblical mind, however, labour is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labour. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. ‘Last in creation, first in intention,’ the Sabbath is ‘the end of the creation of heaven and earth.’”

In other words, the Sabbath was intended to draw man into a closer relationship with God and heaven, not to give him rest for his earthly toil. There is no biblical basis for arguing the benefit of the Sabbath as a rest in order to be able to work more efficiently.

Consider these verses from Isaiah and consider if they don’t point to the New Testament era where Christians enter into a perpetual Sabbath, not seeking salvation through works, but learning to delight in the ways of the Lord:

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

The Sabbath © 1951 by Abraham Johua Heschel, published by Farrar Strauss and Giroux, New York.

Restless Christians

Throughout the Bible there is a promise of rest for the people of God, typified by the seventh day when God rested from His labours. The Bible tells us that after Joshua led the people of God into the promised land they had rest from all their enemies round about (Joshua 23:1).  However, the book of Hebrews tells us that this was only another type of the promised rest, not the real thing: ” For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day” (Hebrews 4:8).

(Just a note here for anyone who might be confused by that passage in Hebrews: Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was the Bible in common use during the time covered by the New Testament.)

The peace promised by God is peace of the heart which comes of knowing that one’s sins have been forgiven and there is no need to labour to earn salvation by works. When this peace is firmly established in the heart, it pervades all of one’s being – mind, body and soul.

The works that a Christian does are the result of being obedient to the voice of the shepherd. Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (1 John 10: 27-28).

This rest is not a one day a week affair, rest from physical labour is necessary but God offers something far better: rest from the turmoil caused by guilt for the things we have done, and rest from the turmoil of wondering if we can ever measure up to what God expects of us.

Why then are there so many restless Christians?

One reason is unconfessed sin. Someone may recite the sinner’s prayer without ever really understanding the need to come clean before God and other people. Salvation is not a band aid applied over the festering wounds caused by sin, it is a deep cleansing of those wounds that allows them to heal. We must confess sin, forsake it and do our best to undo the wrongs we have done to others. If we hold anything back, we will not know rest.

Little children may be led to recite the sinner’s prayer long before they have reached the point where they can comprehend their accountability to God. Any time that such a prayer is made to please others – parents, friends, camp counsellors or pastors, the result will not be true rest.

Pride often leads us to want to prove that we are a cut above other Christians in some aspect of the faith, or to apply ourselves diligently to some work that will make us stand out from the crowd of our fellow believers. Such an attitude is not conducive to rest.

Another aspect of pride is to believe that the way I understand things is surely the way that God sees them and that anyone who differs from me is not fully enlightened. This is the source of many conflicts among believers.

Another cause of unrest is the unwillingness to forgive others. My toes are going to get stepped on from time to time. It’s not deliberate, but it will happen. I may be totally unaware of how many times I have stepped on other people’s toes and they have just forgiven me, but I remember clearly every single instance when someone has stepped on my toes and I cannot forgive.  Yet forgiving others is the only way to find rest for myself.

Sadly, there are church fellowships that are not restful places to be. Even if we find ourselves in such a situation and feel we need to look for another place to worship, it is well to ask ourselves what it is we are searching for. If we are  seeking to find a body of believers that truly knows the rest that God gives, He will lead us quietly to such a place. If we just don’t get along with the pastor, or his wife, or some of the other people in the church, we are not apt to find a restful place. Many have wandered in this way until they gave up on the idea of church altogether.

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