Relax – it’s August!

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” ~ Genesis 2:1-2

Yes – God took a break.  

Not because He was tired from creating the world but to set the pattern for us, his creatures who are made in his image.

Here in Genesis, the pattern of 6 days work and 1 day of rest was establish for all human beings. And throughout the Old Testament law, we see God extending this pattern for the nation of Israel – work and rest – work and rest. Exodus 20 gives us the 4th commandment: “‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

The pattern of work and rest is extended to the yearly calendar of feasts and festivals God commanded as well as the Sabbath Year (Lev 25) which called for the nation of Israel to refrain from working the fields every seven years.

In our modern days, we have to fight to keep our “Sabbath day” holy.  Work continues 24/7 for many.  Some struggle with finding a pattern of work and rest because they are not in control of their work schedule.  At times bosses don’t care that you’ve worked 10 days in a row.  If you want to keep working, you better show up tomorrow!  The Sabbath laws were laws of justice as they protected Israelite workers from being exploited.

Thankfully, many of us do have some control over our schedule.  The pressure to overwork comes from our internal identity issues in which our personal value is wrapped up with our performance on the job. Taking non-productive time off to read, hike, or even sleep challenges our performance-based identity.

The month of August is a time when it seems as though London takes a deep breath, slows down just a bit, before roaring back to life in September.  And I’m so thankful for this month.

Take advantage of the London calendar. Slow down a bit.  Turn off the TV and read a book.  Walk in the park.  Take a nap. Slow down and “smell the roses” both figuratively and literally!

This is the pattern God designed for us.  Rest is good for the soul.  Make rest a priority in your life – weekly, monthly, annually.

And thank God for his good design!

The pain is real!!!

Have you ever been hurt by someone else?  

Now, even in asking that question, I must admit that it’s a bit silly cause I know we’ve all been hurt by other people.  Human beings are sinners.  We’re selfish and don’t naturally look out for the good of others.  We don’t naturally sacrifice our desires in order to benefit others. 

I know you’ve been sinned against.  

What I don’t know is the degree of that pain.

For some of us it’s major.  We’ve been violated sexually or assaulted physically or abandoned as a child or verbally abused in ways that go beyond comprehension.

For others of us it’s fairly minor.  At least it seems fairly minor but those little cuts have added up over the years to create pain that is real.

We live in a fallen world which is marked by evil.  Sometimes the caricature of Christians is that we blissfully walk through life pretending everything is wonderful because Jesus is with us. But the Christian scriptures speak to the reality that life is hard.

The bible is brutally honest with the evil in this world.  We see suffering by God’s people all through scripture culminating with the ugly death of Jesus.  We even have songs written – we call them Psalms – which can help us cry out to God in our pain.

Listen to how David expresses his frustration in Psalm 69:
I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God. (Ps 69:2–3)

Let the Psalms of lament give you words to express the fact that you’ve been sinned against.  There are many Psalms which fit into the “Lament” category – read Psalm 3 and 13 and 22 and 28 to get started.

These poems express anger and sadness and even despair.  They can give you voice to the valid frustrations you have.  When you have feelings that God doesn’t care and that life isn’t going the way you planned.  Go to the Psalms of lament to give you a voice to express your feelings in a God honouring way.

Summer Reading Recommendations

Today, I was looking at my reading list for 2017 and it’s been a pretty good 6 months. 

If you’re looking for some good books to pick up over the holidays, here’s a few which stuck out in my mind in no particular order:

Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K.A. Smith   I picked this one up on Kindle because Smith teaches at Calvin College where my daughter goes to school.  He highlights many of the joys and sorrows I see in the reformed world.  I’d recommend this to both those new to Calvinism and to those, like myself, who are “covenant children”.

 Seeking refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman   There is plenty to read online and in print on the refugee situation the world is now facing.  Here we have a book seeking to answer the question: “How does the church respond to the refugee crisis?”  It’s thoughtful, balanced and full of hope.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray   I first read this 25 years ago and picked it up again this spring. Murray is a Scot who taught at Westminster in Philly for many years.  He’s theology is deep but this book is small enough to be read at the beach!

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall   This book has come up in conversations again and again this spring.  It’s a fascinating look at how the physical features of a country impacts politics.  I’m not sure we’re “prisoners of geography” but there’s no denying that the physical space around us impacts our lives.

Silence by Shusaku Endo   I’ve only read a couple of novels this spring but this Japanese historical fiction deserves a mention.  There’s loads to be frustrated with as well as admire here.  This story of Portuguese priests seeking to bring the Christian faith to Japan in the 1600’s will make you angry, sad and encouraged.

Our Mobile World Offers Opportunities and Challenges

This month New City Church will be welcoming visitors for New City’s R7 Week, as well as the “Philly Team” who are returning to assist us in our annual “Kids Club” at White City. I’m thankful for these groups as they bring energy, money, and a passion to serve the Lord. It also provides us an opportunity for all of us to expand our understanding of God’s Kingdom.

The mobile world we live in offers the opportunity to travel like never before. And with this travel comes wonderful joy as we are able to visit places former generations only dreamed of. But our mobile world also brings challenges as people leave their country of birth for new opportunities or to flee hostilities. Differences in language, cultural background, and belief systems can lead to conflicts that just didn’t happen in years past.

For the church, the mobile world has been used by God to bring people into the Kingdom who had absolutely no connection to Christians in their home context. Josephine and I know a number of people who have come to faith here in England because they finally met a follower of Jesus. And we all know that London is a city where this mobile reality is multiplied to the extreme.

My prayer is that New City would be a community for all people to worship and serve King Jesus for the time they are with us.

 

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