I spoke last week about being broken before the Lord, and many responded in brokenness and asked God to make something beautiful of their life. Fiona and I had a few days off this week, and stayed by a beautiful Lake, so I had a chance to slow down, look at nature and really seek the Lord for our future, our marriage, our family and our church.
And God continued to challenge me about the speed at which I run my life. The speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s, which is pretty quick, but sometimes my life is faster than that. Those of you who know me well have often commented on the frantic, busy, warp speed life I tend to live, and expressed concern over my health.
I’m the kind of guy who is always in a hurry. I seem to thrive on it, but maybe it’s is actually hurting me. When we drive long distances, Fiona often says, slow down, I want to look at the scenery, but every man knows there is a hidden timetable when you travel, known only to the man, so he presses on, refusing restroom stops for the kids, rushing through life.
And I am the first to admit I have terrible trouble slowing down. Yes, I am a type A, high achieving kind of guy, I have trouble sleeping because my brain never slows down. I love adrenaline, maybe I’m addicted to it. Neuroscientists tell us that a consistent pattern of overworking can impact the neurochemistry of your brain? Over time, the body becomes accustomed to the hormones and chemicals that drive us, to the point that we develop a kind of dependency on them. In some cases, business executives in intense environments have actually developed clinical adrenaline addiction.
I want to be here serving Jesus for a long time. I want our church to grow and prosper. We want Ignite to be an eternal flame, not a flash in the pan.
What about you? When I ask people are they spending time with the Lord, many tell me “they just don’t have that kind of time.” God is showing me that I can keep all the balls in the air for a time, maybe even a long time, but that eventually I’ll start dropping them.
I remember being on a bullet train in China… Beijing to Shanghai, 1500 km, that’s more than from here to Melbourne, in under 5 hours. Yet on board it was quiet and you barely even knew you moved. The thing about speed is, you can’t sense how fast you are actually going.
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this verse, CONFORMED is in Greek SYSCHEMATIZO, which means moulded or squeezed into the pattern of the world. Now I’ve always thought that this meant sin, but that is not necessarily so. I could mean the pace of life, the pattern of working and striving to obtain success. Maybe we need our minds renewed so we stop running at the pace of the world.
Galatians 5:25 (ESV)
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat!
So perhaps the perfect time to do this is right now, coming off COVID and reconstructing life. I believe this is a fresh chance to do it right.
SKY SCRAPERS GO DEEP
The island of Manhattan consists almost entirely of bare granite, a very hard and strong type of rock. To carry the weight of a 75- or 100- story skyscraper, builders use foundation anchors called “piles.” Piles are concrete or steel columns hammered into the ground until they penetrate solid rock.
For especially tall buildings, some piles are driven twenty-five stories below ground. The heavy weight of the skyscraper is then distributed through each of the piles. Together they support the structure’s enormous weight.
You can’t go high until you go deep. You cannot be someone great for God until you are someone great with God.
Acts 19:13-16 (ESV)
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognise, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The guys were religious, they were exorcists, and they saw the power and fame and miracles Paul was doing, and they wanted it. It can’t be that hard, they reasoned, it can’t be that hard, just name the name, blab it and grab it, and the demons have to obey. But they didn’t, they turned on them. Why? Because the sons of Sceva might have the right words, but the had no relationship to back the words up.
Whenever we find ourselves wanting the ministry impact of Jesus while simultaneously resisting spending time with Jesus, we are positioning ourselves for a beating and some variation on being run “out of the house naked and bleeding.” The seven sons of Sceva tried to speak and act on truths that were not realities rooted in their lives.
I don’t want to be that guy! I don’t want to run out of here naked and wounded. We see miracles, finances, healings and salvation all the time here at Ignite, but it is directly proportional to how close we are to Jesus. And we cannot get close to Jesus in a hurry. You’re in a hurry, He is not. He has eternity!
So here is what the Lord has been teaching me about the Sabbath. I know it will have relevance for many in thus fast paced, modern world, even if you are not as driven as I am.
Our bodies, and our minds, need rest. We cannot run at a pace forever. If you have ever been through burnout, it’s not a pretty sight. We need to stop, disengage from the world, and rest. COVID lockdowns made us do it, but frankly some of us have just jumped back in the saddle ready to run at a pace again, ignore the Sabbath.
Most of what we read in the Bible about Jesus is the last 3 years of His life. The first 30 years are largely hidden. That means 90% of the life of the Saviour was spent in obscurity, preparing Him for the last 10%. And even during that 10%, Jesus followed a cycle of ministry, then withdrawing to spend time with His father. Jesus, the Word, God Himself among us, took time to rest and the Sabbath.
God is so serious about rest and the Sabbath, He wrote this in the 10 Commandments
Exodus 20:8-10 (ESV)
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
But we want to work 24/7, even if it eventually kills us. The issue for us is that we go either of 2 ways with this commandment… Legalistic or licentious.
Legalism is how many Jews approach it. They created hundreds of laws trying to modify behaviour, to the point of the ridiculous. Not being allowed to look into a mirror, because you might see a grey hair and pluck it out, and that’s work. I even heard of a Jewish hospital in New York that makes the elevator automatically stop at every floor on the Sabbath, so people don’t sin by pushing a button, which could be work on the Sabbath.
But we go the other way. Hey God, I’m so busy, surely we can let this time of rest slide for a bit. It might be my day off, but I have to shop for groceries or mown the lawn or wash clothes or catch up on work on the Sabbath.
Your Sabbath should be rest, but also reconnecting with God and those you love. Get out into nature, watch a fun movie, have a meal with friends, do hobbies, enjoy life! Come ye apart, or come ye apart. If you don’t, you will!
I found a very interesting verse, talking about the people of Judah being exiled to Babylon for 70 years. Why 70 years?
2 Chronicles 36:20-21 (ESV)
He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
That verse suggests that the people were exiled to make up for the Sabbath they had abused.
There are consequences to not observing the Sabbath, and if we consistently ignore this commandment, we will eventually suffer for it. At some point you pay the piper.
It’s not enough to stop, to cease work or to sleep or collapse, we have to prioritise using the time to reconnect with God.
Revelation 3:20 (ESV)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
That verse is not written to the unsaved, it’s written to the church of Laodicea. They were busy, growing and prosperous, but Jesus described them as lukewarm, and they made Him throw up. Life is busy with so many loud voices shouting for our attention, but if we take the time to slow down, we might just hear His gentle knocking at the door of our heart.
God is not in a hurry, He is waiting for you to slow down enough to reconnect with Him. That why David famously wrote,
Psalms 23:1-3 (ESV)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
God doesn’t want us to be human doings, but human beings. He has always wanted relationship, not religion.
Immediately after the 10 Commandments had been given, Moses encouraged the people to get closer to God, to have a relationship, but they were afraid,
Exodus 20:19-21 (ESV)
and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Right there people chose rules over relationship, precepts over personal connection and laws over love.
Deuteronomy 5:27 (ESV)
Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’
I believe God is calling us this day to not just rest, not just reconnect with Him, but to go deep and have a deeper, personal relationship with Him. How?
Start by opening His Word. Reading, studying, coming to church and hearing God’s Word taught. Do our Bible reading plan with us. Many of us are doing it together in unity, so why not join us. God speaks every day from His Word to me, and He can to you also.
Our outer life should be a reflection of our inner life. You can make the decision right now to drive your roots deep down into God, and draw upon His endless supply. A tree with a shallow root system may still look beautiful on the outside, but it is incapable of supplying the water and nutrients for long-term upward growth of an entire tree, and for bearing much fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Do you want to prosper in all you do? Do you want to bear fruit? Then sink your roots down deep. A really strong, prosperous tree has a root system beneath the ground as big as the tree itself about the ground. Storms come, floods come, but it stands strong and true and fruitful.
Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV)
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Rest, reconnect, have relationship, be deeply rooted, but here’s the most important.
You might change a thing or two coming off COVID, you might rest a little for a time, maybe read a bit more Bible or start coming to church more regularly. But if we are to see our church community grow and prosper for generations, we have to remain in Him.
1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV)
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Lamentations 3:25 (ESV)
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of the right relationship with God is spoken by Jesus Himself,
John 15:1-5 (ESV)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (We don’t like it, it’s painful, but His purpose is that we bear more fruit. Then He says this)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
My challenge to you today is a simple question… Are you abiding in Him? Are you too busy to remain, too fast paced to fellowship, too distracted to deepen your walk with God? Remaining or abiding means every moment of every day living in His presence, sharing every moment with Him, keeping the Sabbath. The highs, the lows, the joys, the pain, all of it can be lived with His Holy Spirit.
IGNITE THE FIRE WITHIN
When lighting a fire, how you place the sticks and logs is important. But equally as important is the space between the wood. Pack it too tight, and your fire won’t burn. Leave gaps and it will Ignite and burn properly.
Fire, by Judy Brown
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the spaces in between,
as much as the wood.
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need lay a log
lightly from time to time.
simply because the space is there,
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.
God loves you so much, that’s why He longs for you to abide in Him. Yes, He wants you to rest, reconnect and have relationship, be rooted in Him, but He especially wants you to remain, to abide in Him. He has plans for you, to prosper you and not to harm you
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes
He promised that to the Jewish exiles, and He promises that to you also.
But it starts with a conscious decision to change. To turn away from this fast paced lifestyle of our modern world and seek Him. To turn off the news, disconnect from Facebook and reconnect with God. To purposely place margins or gaps in your time schedule and allow the flames to breathe and grow strong. The rewards are rest, rejuvenation, relationship, and a life of true abundance abiding in Him. You will bear fruit beyond your imagination if you choose to slow down and abide in Him today. You will also do so for a long time.
Will you commit with me to taking the time to rest, reconnect, have a close relationship, be deeply rooted and remain in Him? Will you commit before God to allowing space to breathe and grow closer to Him on the Sabbath?
Psalms 139:23 (ESV)
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
WHAT ABSORBS MOST OF YOUR TIME RIGHT NOW?
HOW CAN YOU SLOW DOWN THE PACE OF YOUR LIFE?
HOW CAN YOU USE TIME AND SPACE TO GET CLOSE TO THE LORD?