Friday, August 24, 2012

Observe the Rhythm

I am settling into my seat after the music set at Crossroads.  I pull out my catch-all journal and a pen from my stash.  I flip to the right page and write the date. 

Then I sit expectantly. 

I have been looking forward to hearing Mike Breen speak since I heard him, for the first time last week.  I wonder what he will have to say about “The Good Life” today.  He takes the stage and says, in his British way, he wants to talk about the rhythm of rest that God has woven right into creation. 

I smile to myself, thinking, “I’ve been reflecting on that lately.” 

I’m curious to see what he will say. 

He calls rest an essential rhythm of the good life.

He tells of how work that doesn’t come from rest leads me to believe that change depends on me and not on God.  It leads to anxiety.  It leads to frustration.  It doesn’t lead to fruitfulness.

I find this quite interesting. While I have made the connection that rest leads to energized work, productive work, and life-giving work, I have not associated rest with fruitfulness in my work. 

It makes sense, though.

Mike goes on to describe how we can see this rhythm of rest in the life of Jesus and in the Bible.

He reads John 15, one of my favorite passages of Scripture. 

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing that you are my disciples.”  John 15:4-8 NIV

Then as he finishes, Mike begins to trace the rhythm of rest that God set in place right from the beginning.

He takes us back to Genesis and God’s words to man and woman in the garden, “Be fruitful.”

We were designed to be fruitful.

Mike points out the order of events in creation.  Man is created on the sixth day. 

Then, he calls attention to the seventh day.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his word.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3 NIV

The first day man lives, they enjoy rest.  We rest before we ever work.

We enjoy our creator.  And then we work. 

This is the rhythm of the good life. 

This is the rhythm of fruitfulness.

I had never considered this before.  Yet, it makes so much sense.

We hop forward to the commands God gives to Israel. 

In the Ten Commandments, we find the command to observe the Sabbath. 

Mike explains that if God puts the command to rest on par with other commands like “Do not kill” and "do not steal" and "do not commit adultery"  it must be important.

I think I begin to understand the reason he says it over and over again in the Law.  “Observe the Sabbath.”

Observe is the word used most in connection with the Sabbath throughout the Old Testament.  I learned this in my Judaism class in college.  In Hebrew, the word is “Shamor.”  It means “to keep,” in the sense of tending and taking care, watching over or giving attention to. 

The teachers of the Law, in Israel, responded to this command by denoting 39 categories of work.  They wanted to be sure they did not fail to observe the Sabbath.  I don't blame them.  There was a high penalty for breaking the command.  While I do not think God was surprised by this development, I'm not sure this is really what he intended when he gave them this command.

I certainly could be wrong, but I wonder if death, as a penalty for breaking the Sabbath, might actually be an act of  mercy.  Because who can really work endlessly without rest?  When we do, aren't those the times when we wish we could just die to escape the work and the heaviness we feel under it? 

We need rest to have a full life.  We need to be filled up by the one who gives us life.

For me, as I read the Hebrew definition, what comes to mind is the idea of caring for the Sabbath, of creating space to rest with God, the one who initiates it. 

I read these words in Exodus:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.”  Exodus 31:12-13 NIV

I hear God inviting me to come.

I hear Him saying “Keep the rhythm of fruitfulness.  Rest and spend time with me.  Let me prune away that which will not bear fruit.  Let me remind you of who I am.  Let me remind you of who you are.  Let me refresh you.”

Can you hear him calling you to rest with Him?

Let’s observe the Sabbath, partaking in this rhythm of rest, that we might bear fruit.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we take up the rhythm of rest that God has for us.  May we find that we are refreshed in Him.  May we discover that he bears fruit in us as we remain connected to the vine.

Jessica :)

P.S.  If you would like to listen to or watch Mike Breen's messages from "The Good Life" series at Crossroads, I recommend both.  You can find them here (weeks 4 and 5).

...reposted from the archives

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