Do you hear what I hear? (week 2)

I found myself in a Starbucks on Friday night…working…waiting (for my kids)…wanting to hear some of Lauren Daigle’s new Xmas album (she’s good). One problem, I didn’t have ear buds with me. Instead, I had to listen through my iphone’s small speaker. Not good quality at all, as I’m missing all the good and important parts of the music that support Lauren’s beautiful voice. And to top it off, I’m competing with café noise, store music, and a bit of café chatter.

This would’ve been a good time to have a great set of earphones or headphones.

If you crack open a Christmas flyer, you will be sure to find a section on music listening devices…things like as bluetooth speakers, headphones & ear buds are very popular items this time of year. It’s a huge market. In 2017, the bluetooth speaker market alone was 3.4 billion. This is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2023.

Back to headphones; when buying one of these said headphones…what is the most popular feature? Noise Cancelling! The goal of these headphones and any kind of speaker, is to help you, the listener, only hear and focus on…the music…the podcast…the voice!

 

– – – – –

Last week we talked about the Christmas song, ‘Do you hear what I hear?’. Written by Noel Regnay and Gloria Shayne, in 1962, during Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s a song about the fear of war and the longing for peace. 

“I am amazed that people can think they know this song and not know it is a prayer for peace” (Noel Regnay)

The second verse gets to the heart of the title of this song…

Said the little lamb to the Sheppard boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky Sheppard boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Listen, the writer says, for a voice, a voice as big as the sea. I really believe he’s contrasting the fears of citizens hearing bombs fly through the sky, to the one who truly has a voice that big – GOD.

We choose who’s voice gets a hearing in our lives. We know there’s competition, but in the end, we choose what goes in. We choose who & what we listen to.

Whoever has access to your ear, has access to your life.

Just like we choose what fills our calendar and our schedules…we choose what fills our ears… our minds…our hearts.

So…will we turn down the noise, and turn up the volume…to hear the voice of Jesus in our lives?

 

Last week we looked at Zechariah…

This week we turn to Mary…

Advent is a great time for Christians to reflect on the witness of Mary. I’m so grateful for her because she holds the contemplative and justice traditions together…She deeply ponders and daringly prophesies.

We get our first introduction to her in Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.(OT meaning)(a big deal for Israel) The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. (= Yeshua = yasa = saves/rescues) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[ the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

– – – – – – –

This of course is a pre-birth narrative –  because babies aren’t just born, something has to happen before birth. And this was an important birth. Larry King was asked who’d he’d interview if he could only choose one person behind the desk with him. He said, Jesus. Because if Jesus could prove he was born from a virgin, that would change everything. He was. It did.

What can we take from this message to Mary?

God initiates conversation (v.26)

God sends an angel…God starts this!

If God wants to talk to you, he will talk to you. That’s the way it works.
(download this exchange between Seinfeld and Stephen Cobert hello?)

God calling us and us responding with an ‘hello’ is a grand theme in scripture: God initiates! How amazing is that? God’s a conversation starter!

God chooses…and it’s not always (or often) who we think it is. (v.27)

Mary has a few things going against her in the “I’m going to make a difference category”

  • She’s from a very small town (what good can come from Nazareth)
    • think about a town or city that you don’t like, maybe it’s your home town, and the best thing about it was leaving…that’s what people said about Nazareth
  • She’s a woman (in the first century)
  • She’s young (in any century)
  • She has ‘no status’ (in the first century)

Yet, what do we hear the angel say, “you are favoured.” Does the favour come before the choosing or the other way around? I’d say it works like this, God chooses you, therefore you’re favoured.

Conversations with God go both ways (v.29)

Mary was perplexed and confused.
This story reminds us that we are allowed to wonder…it’s ok to ask a follow-up question…God can handle it.

God is powerful, strong, intentional, and risky…(v.35)

God overshadowed Mary. What a beautiful and mysterious description of what happened. Overshadowing is normally a negative thing…right? Someone taking the credit from you. But think of it as being wonderfully and beautifully overwhelmed by God. Someone described it as a BIG tree that overshadows you, covers you, protects you, envelops you. Mary recognizes at that moment, that God is so much bigger than her – that her story gets enveloped in God’s story.

If God asks something of you, he will come through.

“Nothing is impossible” (the angel says)
“The word of god will never fail”

Often, we’re afraid of what God might want to say, or ask of us, because the task or the outcome seems too daunting, too scary, impossible to succeed. You’re right, it is. But there’s one big difference – with God, nothing is impossible!

Press “1” for yes… “2” for no… “3” for French… “4” to hear this message again.

Mary’s presses “1” with an emphatic YES.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

TAKE HOME:

Everything that happens in this story…and everything that follows in this gospel, happens because…God speaks…and Mary listens!

Are we hearing what she heard?
Are we hearing what God wants to tell us today?

Think about the ripple effects of your YES’s to God’s voice and message in your life.

Remember this, when God speaks to us, two things happen: Either He’s working in us. Or. He’s works through us!

Are you willing to listen to God’s voice? Worthy or Unworthy? If you think you deserve to hear him or not?

  • Mary was a young, female, virgin, from Nazareth
  • Nothing about her, in that context, would say that she should be used for great things
  • Yet…God…spoke…to…her…

Will you push through the noise and clutter, to hear what God has to say?

  • What might be in the way of you hearing God’s voice? (I’m not ‘able’ to hear this message)
  • What’s competing with God’s voice in our lives?

Will you say YES? Press “1”? Even in the midst of the confusion and questions, will you trust God enough to say yes, allow him to overshadow you, allow him to use you? Allow him, dare I say, to use you to share Jesus with the world?

That’s what Mary did.

What’s your part in this story?

“Whoever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”

Do you hear what I hear? (week 1)

Do you hear what I hear? (week 1)

I love the Christmas song, “Do you hear what I hear?”

Some people can only think of the late Bing Crosby when they hear this tune.

This song was written by Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne, (who also wrote…Rain, Rain, go away…go figure). in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. The song was actually a powerful plea for peace by a man who had experienced the horrors of war. Peace was in high demand then, as it is now.

A little bit about Noel Regney

  • French born, but drafted into the German army
  • Hated the Nazis who occupied his land
  • While fighting for Germany he became a part of the French underground (SPY). Led the Germans’s into a trap with the French, but still felt guilty about it, as he was well aware of human tragedy in that moment.
  • After escaping and living underground until the war was over, he became a musical director on the Radio and in Clubs.
  • Moved to Manhattan in 1952.
  • Met and Married Gloria.
  • They wrote music together. She lyrics, he music, except for this song.

Noel said about this song, “I am amazed that people can think they know this song and not know it is a prayer for peace”

Who would’ve known all this about a Christmas Carol?

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? Was Noel & Gloria’s plea. They want to know if their listeners, were as concerned as they were. Are we as passionate as they were for peace?

We want to ask the same question this advent season. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

Are you attentive to what is going on around you? Are you attentive to God’s voice in the midst of it?
Are you aware of the brokenness? Are you aware of God’s presence in the midst of it?
Are you listening to what God is saying, in, and into, the real matters of this world?

Do you HEAR HIS voice…today?

I can imagine characters in the Biblical Narrative, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, saying…Did you Hear that? Did you catch what God just did? Did you catch what Jesus just said? (NT)
Did you hear what I heard?

Over the next 3 weeks we’re going to walk through Luke 1.

We want to hear what they heard.
We want to see what they saw.
And we want to discover how we can hear God’s voice, just as clearly as they did.

Why? Because if we’re not careful, our ears will be filled with noise that doesn’t help us at all.

“Who ever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”

The question is: will you turn down the noise, and turn up the volume?

For this, we look at 3 characters that ‘heard from God’.

I want to learn what they heard, and I want to hear what God is saying to me today?

First up? ZECHARIAH!

Luke is a story teller who sets up the story well.
Know that we’ll eventually get to Jesus, but first, the preliminaries.

Let’s read through this story and see what we learn…what we HEAR!

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

Zechariah was a priest & Elizabeth was from a priestly family. Both lived according to the law and lived good lives (righteous). We learn here that Elizabeth could not have children…and that they are both…older.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 

Twice a year a priest would come to Jerusalem for his turn to serve. They’d live and serve as priests where they were, but came to the temple twice a year. (not company training days:)

As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 

Now…this didn’t happen to every priest. It was a once in a lift time opportunity. They were chosen by lot; kind of like drawing straws. Who ever got the ‘unique’ piece from what they chose, was chosen to go into the inner sanctuary.

The chances were slim to have this opportunity. Like my chances of winning anything…very slim (anyone else with me?).

While inside, his duty was to burn incense.

10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

This caused a bit of drama. People waiting for Zechariah to complete his duty. They were praying…worshiping…waiting. Such an advent thing to do…wait & pray

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.

Zechariah wouldn’t have been expecting this. Maybe he thought that this is what happens on the ‘inside’. But he definitely wouldn’t expect it.

What’s a normal response to an angel sneaking up on you? Fear & trembling! Freaking out a little.

Then comes the words…the message!

13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

This is amazing. Zechariah & Elizabeth have been praying for years. And God tells them they will have a son. Not just any son, but John the Baptist. Your son will prepare the way for others to receive Jesus; to receive God into their lives. He will get others ready for God’s ARRIVAL!

Can’t imagine what that responsibility felt like, we can hardly get ready to receive company, making sure things are in order for people to arrive. John was getting Israel, the world, us, ready to receive Jesus.

This is the first of Luke’s layers that lead us to Jesus.

GOD. Through an angel. Speaks to Zechariah.
Zechariah. Listens to this message from God.
Think about this for a second. The message is of course amazing and life changing. For him, for Israel, and for the world.
But the shear fact that it’s GOD speaking to him. WOW.

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

Can’t spend too much time here, but Zechariah gets snubbed. His mouth is shut. Doubt creeps in.

Who do you know that you wish this would happen to? (HA)

What would we learn if you couldn’t speak? If you could only listen?

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

What an Amazing way for Luke to start his gospel. If you know a bit of the OT, you’ll recognize a theme here…older married couples having children…more importantly, miracles of birth and new life, when all hope was essentially given up.

– – – – – – –

So many things to take away from this first episode in Luke’s gospel; let’s focus on a few.

Are you willing to listen to God’s voice? When you’re ready or not?
– Zechariah may have been a priest, but this was not something he saw coming.
– In your everyday life, routine, rhythm, if God speaks, will you actually hear what he has to say?

Will you push through the noise and clutter, to hear what God has to say?
– What might be in the way of you hearing God’s voice?
– Is it noise? It is you? Does there have to be an adjustment of sorts? Noise down, Volume up?

Will you take or make time to be attentive?
– I find advent to be a great opportunity to centre ourselves. Reading/Prayer/Worship.
– From now until Christmas…what is your plan? (we have a reading guide, check it out)


Everything we hear from God either works toward preparing our hearts for him, or is a tool to use us to prepare other people to receive him.

God speaks to us…to work in us…or to work through us. 

Remember this: “Who ever has access to your ear, has access to your life.”

WHY-WHAT-STAY: from Cathy Tollefson

Cathy Tollefson from DaughterProject was with us this past weekend. She shared about what she’s doing to prevent human trafficking. Here is a quick summary, plus a short inspirational word from here.

Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in Ontario. The average age a girl
trafficked is 12 -14 yrs. We estimate over 3,000 girls were trafficked in Ontario last year. Over 98%
are Canadian girls. A trafficker will make over $300,000.00 per victim, per year, tax free. It is
high profit, low risk, because we don’t even recognize it is happening all around us. These girls
are hidden in plain sight. In Canada it is most often “the boyfriend” trafficker that will groom a
girl. Low value / low self esteem is the number one thing that makes a girl vulnerable to
exploitation. We must empower our girls! We must do all we can to shine a light on this dark
Canadian secret.

– – – – – – – –

We asked Cathy to leave us with a few encouraging and challenging words. This is a recap of them.

Know Your “Why”
– always remember why The Village exists (and why you exist)
– if you don’t remember your “why” you will loose your focus

Choose Your “What”
– what does God have for you to do?
Joel Houston once said,  “God doesn’t want you to do everything, but he does want you to do something.” And that something is usually right in front of you”
Proverbs 31:8-9…
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

“Stay” the Course
– whatever you choose to do, stick with it until it is solved or eradicated
– may it become part of your DNA – who you are not, just what you do
Micah 6:8…
O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Limit-Less (Part 2)

In last week’s conversation we felt like we hit a sweet spot…a bit of a nerve. You can check out the full recap (here). I’m guessing this is because many of us may be tired or burdened. Well of course we are…life is filled with heaviness and energy sucking activities.

(Anyone shut their phone off more, not sleep with it, finish work earlier or on time, etc?)

Well, Limit-Less is a 2 week series. A two sided coin. A two part conversation.

As much as we want to invite and welcome, healthy limits and boundaries, to protect, to nurture, to build us up, to reenergize and fill us…
There are limits…glass ceilings…lids…that others have placed on us, that we even put on ourselves, that inhibit us from doing what we were called and created to do…becoming who were called and created to be.Both Matthew 11 & Genesis 2, the texts we looked at last week, reflect a balance to this equation: Rest & Work. Sit & Serve. Fill-up & Spill out.

Jesus’ words about his yoke, help us see this balance. After all, a yoke is a tool to work efficiently and effectively. And the creation story is a story of creative work, followed by holy and blessed rest.

This is (or should be) our pattern: We work, we run, we influence, we produce, and then we pause, we sabbath, we rest…so we can get back to doing what God has called us to do.

Jesus, in his ministry, showed us time and again, that when he retreated, he emerged ready to serve, to heal, to teach, to do the impossible and change the world.

On this side of the Limit-Less coin…in this mode…in our work, in our calling, in our dreams…don’t let anyone or anything stop you from doing and achieving your good work.

Paul’s words, a pep talk if you will, in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 should inspire us…
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

ALL THINGS
NOTHING WILL LIMIT or STOP me from doing what God has called me to do. RUN like you wanna win.

In Romans 8:37-39, we read Paul’s own inspiration for this drive…
…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Limits removed. Obstacles taken away. Lids blown off.

The question is…
Who put a lid on your calling? 
Who dropped an obstacle in your path? 
What happened that made you think you couldn’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t?

– – – – – – – –

Maybe this OT story will help us here.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Leading up to chapter 16 we see that…
– Israel had wanted a king like the other nations. A king that wasn’t God. They begged God for this.
– God said ‘fine, I’ll give you Saul’
– Saul does not turn out to be good. He gets things wrong at every turn. Never realizing that leading God’s people is different than leading other nations.
And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (these words end chapter 15)

From there we reach chapter 16.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

  • Samuel is sent on a mission to find a new leader
  • Samuel is afraid (of being killed…or at least he expresses this)
  • Limit #1 = FEAR
  • How many times have we not done what we should, what God would have us do, something that could make a huge difference, because we were afraid?
  • What are we afraid of? Failing? Falling? Embarrassment? “_____________”
  • Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you know you should do.

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

  • Again, Samuel is on a mission to find a new leader
  • He veers towards what he thinks God wants
    • Age, Ability, Resume, Height, Outer strength and appearance
  • Limit #2 = I’m not ________ enough.
    • Wrong age, not able, too short, too weak, not enough experience,
  • How many times have we not done what we should, what God would have us do, something that could make a huge difference, because we or someone else put a limit or lid on us?
  • Don’t ever let someone else’s lid keep you from where you should be
  • Don’t ever let someone else’s expectations keep you from getting to where God wants you to be
  • Don’t ever let AGE, ABILITY, STATURE, WEALTH, EXPERIENCE, ____________ limit you…
    • And don’t ever put those lids on someone else…
    • (google HDDH Marcus Stroman)

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

  • I love this last line
  • We will wait. We will hold on a min or more.
  • Limit #3 = Time…it’s a limit we can’t allow to get in our way
  • Most people miss opportunities simply because they couldn’t wait for the moment to arrive.

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

The beginnings of the story of King David is profound. To think that because of Age, Ability, Height, Time, he could’ve been overlooked. But God wouldn’t let that happen. To him…or to you.

What is limiting you? What’s in your way? What have you allowed to block you?

TAKE HOME…

If we let every obstacle or limit control our destiny, we wouldn’t do or achieve anything.

God does not put limits on us, he takes them off.
God doesn’t put a lid on us, he removes it.
God says, you can do this. You can achieve this. You are called to this. I’ll put my Spirit on you, and you can walk forward in confidence.

Think about how this effects you. And think about how this effects our church community, and what we think God’s challenging us with here?

  • no limits
  • no lids
  • no obstacles
  • keep moving forward
  • keep pushing through
  • keep obeying, and loving, and serving, and giving, and gathering, and scattering, etc.

Will you balance last week’s Rest with this week’s Run? Stop with Go? Asleep with Awake? Limits with No-Limits? Boundaries with Boundless possibilities?

Let these words from Jesus be your final word:

“With God…ALL things are possible…” (Mk 10)

Limit-Less (part 1)

(this short video was shown before the talk started)

Limits. Boundaries. Some people don’t like these two words because they make us feel restricted. Stuck. Constrained. Fenced in. Limited. We see those things as negative…like we’re being held back…or not allowed to experience what is at hand.

But what if we needed, for our health, both physically & spiritually, to be…limited?

On November 1 our seasonal focus changed. The day after Halloween it became, “…the most wonderful time of the year”. If we’re honest, we also know it to be, “…the most busiest time of the year”. We are about to enter into a season where our schedules, our calendars, our eating habits, all go out of whack.

So…in light of that…in preparation for what is to come, perhaps it’s a good idea to address our business, our hurry, the lack of limits in our lives.

Limit-Less. A 2 week series. 2 parts.
– Two sided coin
– Limits (healthy, important, balance, breath)
– No Limits (living your best life, experiencing God’s dream for you, making a huge difference in your life and the life of others)

We tend to be on one side or another. Perhaps we’ve been forced by circumstance to push harder, to do more. Or we may be energized by an opportunity to chase or produce. Or we may be sidelined by difficulty and have no choice but to live inside imposed limits. So we tend to either withdraw completely or go all out with no regard for rest or rhythm.

We must learn to balance both sides of this coin.
– Stop/Go
– Rest/Run
– No/Yes
– Limits/Limitless

God is found on both sides of this coin, but can be lost if we don’t learn to balance the two.

We’re going to start with the one we have most trouble with: Limits & Boundaries.

We are a society that doesn’t know when to stop. I know this is true because as you read that statement, you feel it to be true inside you. We don’t know when to stop eating, stop playing, stop working, stop watching TV, etc. However, our faith calls us to be countercultural – to know when to work hard and to know when to punch the clock – to know when to say yes, and when to say no – to know when to limit ourselves and when to break the lid off and shoot for the sky.

Ecclesiastes 3 says…there is a time for everything

A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

Let’s look at 3 places in the scripture where limits, rest, and stillness, work to our advantage. Not just because it’s practical, but because it’s godly.

(1) Are you tired & burdened?

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Two things are going on in this text. We’re invited to find rest in Jesus, and we’re challenged to admit our tiredness.

Jesus’ rest is a yoke of wisdom and love that unites us to him.

  • a yoke was used to keep the cattle or farm animals centred on what they were doing and where they were going.
  • Jesus says, his yoke is light and pleasant, if you’re walking in the direction he leads, you’ll find rest and joy.
  • The yoke he’s talking about keeps us close to him and him close to us.

It’s like Jesus is saying, you don’t have to do this on your own, attach yourself to me and your burden will lighten. (the words gentle & humble follow this)

That’s the invitation. But what about the challenge?

We actually have to have enough humility to acknowledge that we are tired – that we have burdens – that things are weighing us down. Jesus was directly talking about legalism & religion, but it can be a whole lot more. What is that for you?

What makes you tired these days? What is heavy on your shoulders this season?

Do we have it in us to confess our tiredness, our burdens, our trust in the wrong things, and in turn allow Jesus to give us the rest and peace we so long for?

(2) Do you know how to punch out; to finish what you’re doing?

Right at the start of it all, God is our example of setting limits. He is our example of what it means to hit the pause button, to mark a day-off on the calendar, to rest, to create a finish line and say, “I’m done for now”.

Genesis 2:1-3
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. 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.

Take note of 4 words in these verses:
– Finished (x2)
– Rested (x2)
– Blessed & Holy

There seems to be something deeply spiritual about finishing something – something mysteriously beautiful and satisfying about saying, ‘I’m done’. One thing to take away is that completing what you started is always a good thing. However, so is acknowledging that it’s time to punch out. If there is more work to do (or you see it that way) then sometimes you have to create your own finish line and call it a day (or a week).

God finished his work
God rested after he was done
God blessed the seventh day and called his day-off holy

The questions out of this text are…

  • Do you honour the work you do by finishing well?
  • Do you honour yourself and your health by punching out and actually saying, “I’m done”
  • Do you see the blessing and holiness in Sabbath, in rest, in limiting your production?

Sabbath is about ‘not’ producing for a period of time. Not thinking that the world needs you to keep producing that day. Limiting yourself to a set work time, and resting before you get back at it. Reminding yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around your work.

Leaving your worries and anxieties about production, on your desk, and more importantly, on God’s desk.

A few social media posts (tweets) speak to this well. A Rabbi, a Pastor, and a Writer. (this is not a joke I promise)

Shabbat Shalom, y’all. 
May you find rest and joy and connection and hope and the spark of the sacred within yourself sometime in the next 25 hours.
You are good and holy for who you are, intrinsically, not because of what you make or produce.
(rabbi danya ruttenburg, sabbathmanifesto.com)

In a culture with so much noise, chaos, and clutter, we must create space to hear God’s voice. Embrace solitude and silence. Learn to breathe, listen, sabbath, and pray. If Jesus took some to retreat for prayer and silence, how much more do we need it in our lives. (Eugene Cho)

It takes courage to say yes to rest and play, in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol. (Brene Brown)

Think about Sabbath like this…
Less stuff, more stories.
Less clutter, more adventures.
Less debt, more freedom.
Less things, more experiences.
Less busyness, more time.
Less consumption, more creativity.
Less stress, more joy.

So what do we do about this? How do we set healthy limits in our lives that give us the energy to do the good things we are called to do?

TAKE HOME…

Use your calendar wisely and well.
– Mark out times to pause, to stop, to rest, to be present, to listen, to not speak, to unplug.

Shut off your phone.
– This is a problem with all of us in some way, shape or form.
– Phone usage stats are unbelievably high (150 home button touches a day, 2500 touches total a day, 70% sleep with their phone close to them, 90% respond to text messages within 3 min)
– Read this Globe & Mail article “I gave up my smart phone”
– Consider the cell phone sleeping bag

Learn to say no & yes to the right things

Take some kind of Sabbath
– Don’t be religious about it, but be wise about it. Create a finish line for you work or productivity.

Be aware of the limits that are already in place but we ignore
– Natural (day light), Physical (strength/tired), Mental (awareness level), Relational, Spiritual (we can only grow one day at a time)

So…you may remember that I said there were three places in scripture we would go to. Here’s the last one.

“Be Still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

If you want to know God…Be Still. Stop. Pause. Listen. Wait. Be quiet.

Finally, Try this prayer…

God, give us the courage to leave some things undone today. 
Give us discernment to walk away from useless conflict. 
Give us strength in stillness. 
May we know that our belovedness isn’t in what we do, or say, or finish, or prove.
Help us be brave enough to rest.
In Jesus name (the one who took time to pray, rest, sleep, and be alone)
Amen.

– – – – – – – – –

small(er) group discussion questions:

“We are a society that doesn’t know when to stop”. Does that ring true for you? Why? What do you have a hard time saying no to?

Why do people fear limits & boundaries?

We look at 3 places of scripture where limits and rest are welcomed. Let’s discuss them.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
– what are you hearing and seeing in this text?
– how can we combine the invitation to rest, with the challenge to confess our tiredness & burdens?

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.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 2:1-3)
– what do you hear in this text, about God and about you?
– how do you feel about the 4 words: finished, rested, blessed & holy?
– how realistic is it to follow some kind of sabbath?

How are we doing with: Calendars? Smart Phones? Intentional & Purposeful rest? Saying yes and no to the right things? Being Still (Psalm 46)?

Pray the final prayer together (slowly).