BUILDING A HEALTHY FAMILY
March 12, 2006
How do you find rest in a culture full of distractions, busyness, cell phones, and blackberries? How do you disconnect in order to deeply reconnect with God and those you love? Join Ben Young in the fourth message of this series as he discusses what he learned from a Jewish Rabbi regarding the importance of the Sabbath rest, God’s rest for His creation.
About five years ago, I was asked to participate in an interfaith religious panel at PBS. There was a Buddhist Monk, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, an Islamic Lay-Leader, and a Baptist Preacher—that was me. And we all walked into the bar—No! It sounds like one of those jokes—“The Rabbi said to the Monk…”
We had a good discussion about the similarities in our faith, and also the differences in our faith. But what I got from that dialogue was something much deeper. There was someone on that religious panel that had something that I didn’t have. There was something about his life that I really wanted. It intrigued me. I couldn’t figure out how I had missed it—how I had missed out on this in my life; because this thing I was missing was something that was very life giving, something very real. Something very profound, but somehow, I missed it. That started about a five-year journey that God has taken me on. What I’ve discovered is that there are a lot of other people, maybe some of you or maybe not, who are missing it as well. Maybe just a handful; but there are others I have discovered that were also missing it.
Now, whenever I start missing something, or I get a little confused, or discombobulated; the best thing to do is to go back to the beginning—back to square one. So that is what we are going to do this morning. Let’s go back to the beginning—-to Genesis. (I told you we were going back to the beginning). Genesis Chapter 1. Even the guys can find that!
In Genesis 1, we see God creating exnilo—that means “out of nothing.” God is speaking the Universe into existence. On day one, He creates light. On day two, He creates sky. On day three, God is just warming up—He creates land, and ocean. On day four, He creates two great lights, the sun and the moon. On day five, He creates birds that fly, and great creatures of the sea. Then, on the sixth day, if you’ve got an NIV translation—you’ve got to like this: On the sixth day, God created livestock! Yeah, we are from Texas! We like that sixth day where God creates livestock, and all the wild animals that roam on the prairie, and in the mountains that scurry about.
Then, at the end of the sixth day, I imagine it is kind of around dusk—as the sun is setting. God creates man and woman. He makes them, creates them in His image, and blesses them. He says, “Go for it! Reproduce! Have authority and dominion over all the beauty—over the entire Garden, over all this incredible, lush nature I have given you.”
Look at Genesis 2:1. We come up on day seven. “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. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it, He rested from all the work of the creating that He had done.” On the seventh day what did God create? Nothing! Nada! Not one grain of sand, not one star that twinkles in the sky, not even a little bluebonnet on Interstate-10. Day seven, God creates nothing!
What is Moses, who wrote the book of Genesis, trying to say to the Israelites in this Creation story? He is saying a lot of things, but I think one of the things He is saying is that nature dances to a certain rhythm like this: Six and one, six and one, six and one, six and one, six and one.
Look around you! Have you ever noticed that God has infused this tune, and this rhythm into all the created order? You’ve got the seasons, don’t you? You have a time of winter, of death; a time of spring, of growth. There is a time of summer, of heat and humidity. There is a time of autumn or fall. You have the changes of the tide—the high tide, the low tide. You have the rhythm we see in the day, sunrise and sunset. We can look at our human bodies, and right now, we can feel our hearts beating—BOM-bom—BOM—bom—BOM-bom, with a rhythm. If that heartbeat gets out of rhythm, what do they put inside of you? A pacemaker, to get you back in rhythm.
Breathing! It’s your rhythm there of work (inhale) and rest (exhale). We see this rhythm all around us. The Creation story tells us there is even supposed to be a rhythm in our weeks—this six and one, six and one, six and one. Nature, all of life, even our calendar dances to this rhythm.
Now, a lot of times, we get too familiar with the Bible. It is a big problem. I am sure you have read this passage many times; but does it strike you as being a little bizarre that God rested? God took a nap? A siesta? God rested? Why would God need to rest? That is strange. Let’s read on, Exodus 20. We’ve got 64 books to go after that!
Years have passed, the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others have come and gone. The Israelites have been in slavery for decades, and decades and decades. Moses, “Let My People Go,” is bringing them out in the desert. He is at Mt. Sinai. He is coming down with The Ten Suggestions, I mean, The Ten Commandments. You’ve seen the movie with Charlton Heston. You know the story—here we are: Exodus 20:8-11—It looks like He is going to give a name to this seventh day. It says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” There it is again, six and one. “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant, or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien, within your gates. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day, and made it Holy.” He is telling these people who have just been in bondage, who are about to come into the Promised Land, “Listen, you have to get your life in tune with ultimate reality. You have to get your life in tune with this cosmic dance of six and one, six and one, six and one.”
Real life looks like six days of the week—creating, producing, running errands, being busy, cutting deals, paying taxes, going to ball games, shuttling kids, drinking coffee, working more, drinking more coffee. This is work—this is the real life; getting stuck in traffic, getting stuck in traffic again, dodging cones, negotiating the weather, e-mailing, instant messaging, all this stuff. All these things are going on, all the time! And we are busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, six days a week—and that is great! God wants us to work! The Bible says if you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat. But, on day seven, He said put on the breaks! Take a Sabbath, a Shabbat, which means to cease, to rest, to take your hand off the plow, or the laptop, and let it go. Rest. Sabbath. He is saying that is the way things really are. There is this six and one, six and one, six and one. There is this rhythm to life.
I’ve got two brothers, no sisters. Two brothers—one is in Dallas; and he can play the drums. He is really good. I have a little brother, nine years younger than I am, and he can’t play the drums; but he can play the guitar. He has turned out to be a pretty good musician. I made him a musician—not because I am a musician, I made him a musician because I tortured him, and aggravated him. So, if I hadn’t done that, and he had no pain in his life and nothing to work through…you figure it out!
But, here is the deal about music and rhythm. I am going over to the electric drums—what is the difference between this drumbeat (which is just making noise) and this drum rhythm (which is making music)? The difference between making noise and making music is knowing when to be off and when to be on.
The difference between making noise and music and rhythm is knowing in the piece when to take a rest, when to have a pause. You see, God’s design is in the galaxies, it is in the universe. It is on this small little star called planet earth. It is in your human body. It is even in the calendar the way God set it up. God has designed this cosmic rhythm that goes like this, six and one, six and one, six and one.
I’ll make a confession. I am very good at going, and going, and going, and very bad at resting. For many years, I’ve lived my life, working, and working, and working, and planning, and planning. Here comes a vacation coming up—-short—-go back to work, got to work more hours, I’ve got so much to do—I’m so important, I am so valuable, the world cannot go on without me. Here comes a vacation. Short-lived.
Are you making music with your life? Or are you just making a noise? The difference between music and noise is knowing when to be off and when to be on. It is knowing how to rest, rest, rest. Six and one, six and one, six and one. He has written this into the fabric of the Universe. If we try to go against it, it doesn’t work, have you noticed that?
I love cartoons. I love to see the cartoons that have endured the test of time. Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd have made it big time. One of the cartoons that has made it in my life time that intrigues me, has been Scooby Dooby Doo, Where Are You? I didn’t think that Scooby Doo, and Velma, and Freddy and Daphne and Shaggy would make it. But my two kids, ages 7 and 10, love Scooby Doo!
Now, I think when Scooby Doo added Scrappy Doo, they jumped the shark—that is another whole entire message. It is like the Brady Bunch when they added cousin Oliver—another shark jumping episode. You have Scooby Doo, and then you have The Jetsons. My kids also love the Jetsons. Remember George Jetson? Remember that? “His boy, Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife?” Oh, by the way—the Jetson’s have the dog Astro, which is a good name. Do you know why Astro and Scooby Doo sound a lot alike? The voices? It is the same guy who is doing it! Most of you will remember about the message tomorrow. That’s what I learned yesterday—Astro and Scooby Doo, same voice!
I like at the end of the Jetsons, where George is going out—“George dear, can you walk the dog? He goes out, and they have this kind of cool treadmill that is attached to their nice little satellite condo that kind of orbits in mid-air.
So, he is out there taking Astro on this walk; and all of a sudden, MEOW! The cat jumps onto the treadmill, and pretty soon, they are running, and BOOM! George is cruising! Astro just jumps off to the side there on the ledge with the cat, and they are just watching George run on this treadmill, going nowhere, but going as fast as he can! “JANE!! STOP THIS CRAZY THING!!” Remember that? That is the way the show ends.
Sometimes, I feel like that. Do you ever feel that way? We are not in that six and one, six and one, six and one…and we are just going, and we are running around, and we go, go, go, go, go, go, go…stop this crazy thing; and we don’t feel like we are really living a life. We feel more like a machine. But we know down deep, it is not supposed to be this way. Life is not supposed to move THIS fast, is it?
Back to the PBS interfaith, religious dialogue. It wasn’t the Buddhist Monk; it wasn’t the Islamic lay leader, it was the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who, unbeknownst to him, spoke truth into my life. Because this Rabbi, not intentionally, but unintentionally, accidentally, made me realize that I was missing the rest of God.
The Rabbi told me this story five years ago; I reconnected with him about a year and a half ago. He started telling me something that his family does. He has seven children, one more than Carol and Mike Brady. No Astroturf in the backyard. Seven children! Every Friday night, about eighteen minutes before sun down at their house, (he now lives on the East Coast), they turn the electricity off. They unplug the T.V., the radio, and all the gadgets. The entire family gathers there as the sun goes down, for a three-course meal the mom has been preparing for this special evening. As he is sitting at the head of the table one of his sons will come up to him and he will lay hands on his son, and he will bless his son, and pray a prayer of blessing over him. Then, he kisses his son on the cheek; his son kisses him back, kisses his mother, and has a seat.
His daughter will come up. He will pray a different blessing over the daughter, lay his hands on her. He will kiss her on the cheek; she kisses him back, kisses her mother and goes back to her chair. All seven children do this; I think they range in age from three to about sixteen. Then, after that, they have this great meal. In that meal, they will sing songs that believing Jews have sung for centuries, and centuries—songs about the Sabbath, and songs about “Will you squander the Sabbath, or will you use it for rest and refreshment?” Then, they sing a song of praise to the mother. After a three-course meal you should sing a praise chorus, right? Hallelujah! They do that! They laugh, they talk, and they have a great time together. They break, and they fall asleep.
They wake up the next morning. They walk to Synagogue, they say the prayers, they listen to Torah, they go home, and they eat leftovers from the night before. They discuss Torah together. They pray, they feast, and they go take a nap. They may read, and then they go back to Synagogue. At around 5:00, the sun goes down. There are prayers, and that has ended another Shabbat, another Sabbath, for this Orthodox family.
They’ve been doing this for decades—for all the years of their kid’s lives. I said, “Rabbi—come on. Do your kids like this?” He goes, “Oh yeah, they like it!” I said, “Oh, come on! They really, really like it?” And he was very humble, and he said, “No, they love it! They love it.” As I listened to him and asked him more questions about his family and the Sabbath, I realized that God was speaking to me. Uh-oh! It looks like God is going to use another Rabbi to change my life. Somebody will get that in a few minutes.
Don’t panic. I am not saying we need to go back to the rigid law keeping of an Orthodox Sabbath. I am not becoming a Seventh Day Adventist. I am not going back to even the old, dreary, “Let’s take all the fun out of Sabbath,” Protestant things maybe you went through as a child. I am not even arguing for a day – be it Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, or Tuesday. I am not saying that. Don’t leave here and misinterpret what I said today. But I do believe that God has designed this rhythm that we are to live in—this six and one, six and one, six and one, six days of work, one day of rest—one day to detach, to unplug, to let it go. I believe when we see, and we get back into this dance—we get back into this rhythm—life, work, family, kids, friends, relationships, will begin to take on a whole new meaning, and a whole new richness in our lives.
It is good news, isn’t it? Think about it. God commands you to take a day off! Take a day off! It is a commandment. It is woven into the fabric of creation. It is the way He set things up, six and one, six and one. Take your hands off the plow—-take your hands off the computer. Rest. Don’t create; instead, re-create. Have fun. Forget the to-do list. It will always be there.
I’ve taken baby steps in my life, and my family; just baby steps, in practicing a Sabbath time. I want to get to a full day, but I have just taken little baby steps. And it has been wonderful, for me and for my family; and most importantly, for my relationship with God.
For you pragmatists, and utilitarians, it has also helped my work. If you like it kind of stripped away and raw, becoming a better “rester” will make you a better worker. How do you do it? Well, I think you have to disconnect in order to deeply reconnect.
You’ve got to disconnect a little bit in order to deeply reconnect. Jesus said, in Mark 2 that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, if you are thinking, “On no! I’ve got to do the Sabbath too—another thing on my list?” No, no, no. The Sabbath is a command, and the Sabbath is a gift. The Sabbath is for you! Rest, refreshment, recreation, joy, feasting is for you! God is for you, not against you. I am not talking about religion. Religion is handcuffs. Religion is a straightjacket. I am talking about getting your life, and getting your family, and getting your friends, in tune with ultimate reality—-in tune with how things really are. It is about getting in tune. So, you have got to disconnect in order to deeply reconnect.
The first thing you have to do, I think, is disconnect from the matrix of technology. You have to do that, you have to disconnect from the matrix of technology. Pick a day. I am a realist; pick two or three hours. Pick some time in your week for Sabbath time. First thing you want to do is take off your watch. Take it off and put it in a box, put it in a drawer. I don’t know about you, but people are always kind of kidding me, “Ben, you are always checking your watch.” I am. I am very much into punctuality, and being on time. I like to be busy—I enjoy that. Many times, I am rude, and I look at my watch. Take your watch off. You can waste time on the Sabbath! You are not looking at the clock.
The next thing you want to do is, this is tough…“he is going from preaching to meddling.” The telephone…put it in the box! You know what I’ve discovered about the phone this week? This is weird. I was driving home during the six to eight, work-create mode, you know? I noticed that my phone only had one bar left. One bar! Whoever designed the phones—maybe they’ve been reading in Exodus and Genesis—I don’t know—but my phone is so smart that is shuts down automatically before the batteries totally go out. I have noticed that even our cell phones, when we use them too much, have to re-charge their batteries! I don’t know anybody’s cell phone, in the free world, with the exception of Jack Bauer, who doesn’t need to recharge his cell phone. So, turn off the phone.
Oh my goodness! I almost forgot. Whoa! The Old Blackberry! Wives, don’t elbow your husbands too hard. The ribs are very fragile—we have fragile ribs, ladies. Blackberry, Blueberry…don’t worry—they can e-mail you during Sabbath time. You will still get the e-mail; you won’t miss it.
Also, our thumbs work, work, work, six days a week. Turn off your DVD, plasma big screen, HD T.V., 800 channels, and have nothing on. Put that in the Sabbath box. Unplug your telephone, too. Thank goodness for answering machines! I don’t want to miss that call!
You have got to disconnect from the matrix of technology; so a part of Sabbath is—I’m not trying to be negative here, but it is disconnecting. It is emptying yourself. It is taking away the technological tethers for a Sabbath time, whenever that is in your life. And then what do you do? You need to reconnect with God, and those you love. The Sabbath is not about fasting and deprivation, like we have been taught in old, puritan Protestantism. The Sabbath is about life. It is about joy; and for Christians, it is about resurrection. Jesus is alive, and He has given us new life. So, on the Sabbath, do something that will re-create you—that will help you to worship God, and focus on Him. Take a walk, enjoy nature, and enjoy the beautiful creation that God has for you. Enjoy the fact that you can rest on what God has provided for you during that time, during that day. Chill out. Time out. No guilt. Recharge—re-create, hang out with your family. Enjoy a great meal together. Have three deserts! Tres leches, cream brulee, bread pudding.
Let me say this: I am not speaking as some old, Sabbath-keeping veteran. No, I am speaking and confessing as a Sabbath breaker; but I have tasted a little bit of this dessert, and it is good. I mean I didn’t need three more bites of tres leches to know, “This is some good stuff.” First time I had Cookies and Cream from Blue Bell—“Hm. I don’t think I need the whole gallon.” The first three bites—“This is good stuff.” The Sabbath is a command. It is a gift. It is good. It is for you.
There are some great boundaries on the Sabbath. One of them is it is against the law on the Sabbath to worry. Isn’t that great? God says, “Take a break from your worry—for a day.” What would your life be like if you took a break from worrying for a day? On the Sabbath, you can’t work, and you can’t even think about work. You live the Sabbath day as if everything is finished, though it is not. Everything will never be finished in your life. Never. There will always be a task-list at work, at home. There will always be things you need to fix that you haven’t done—always, always, always. When you are there, lying in your beautiful casket with your blackberry and your cell phone, you will still be getting calls and e-mails. “I’m dead—I can’t answer it.” I mean—it is going to happen, folks. So, we live in Sabbath time—we learn to live in the moment. Learn to live in the moment. We learn to realize that I didn’t create this world, and this world is going to go on long after I am gone.
See, when you start practicing Sabbath time, I’m not going to tell you everything, but you are going to learn a lot about grace, and you are going to learn a lot about providence, and sovereignty. You will learn about thanksgiving, and about how to meaningfully connect to God, and to the ones you love. You are going to learn that. It is going to happen—six and one, six and one, six and one.
God doesn’t need to rest! Why did God rest on the seventh day? It is the same reason when you have a toddler, you kind of fake it; you model it so that if you rest, they will fall asleep. So, God, when He created this world, rested on the seventh day to show us that we need rest. God doesn’t need rest, we need it.
One Rabbi puts it this way, in Matthew 11. He says, “Are you tired, worn out, burned out on religion? Yes?” He says, “Come to Me—get away with Me, and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me, and work with Me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy, or ill fitting on you. Keep company with Me, and you will learn to live freely, and lightly.” Six and one, six and one, six and one.
On the seventh day, God said, “It is finished.” “My work on the Cross is finished,” Jesus said. It is finished.
Don’t ever forget—the Bible is about one subject, and one subject alone: Christ. He is our Sabbath, He is our rest. He has provided a rest for us—a physical rest, with spiritual realities. I don’t want to miss it anymore. I don’t want to miss it! Let’s not miss it. Let’s not miss the rest of God. Six and one, six and one.