Keeping the Sabbath

In the 1980s, when spending extended time in space became a reality, NASA studied how many days you could work in a row at maximum efficiency. They could have just asked God. But instead, their study found the same result that God taught in the first two chapters of the Bible. Working seven days a week at maximum long-term efficiency is impossible. We need a sabbath. We need at least one day of rest each week. And for those who don’t keep this sabbath practice voluntarily, life itself makes us take time off.

“If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our sabbath – our accidents create sabbath for us.” Wayne Muller

Do you feel that too? We live in a culture that breeds chaos in our day-to-day lives. We feel hurried, distracted, busy, and suffocated by our schedules. We often have no margin to catch our breath. And in this constant busyness, often, the only place we can find rest is an illness, accident, or crisis that forces us to stop and rest.

The Bible opens by describing the creation of the world. Genesis 1 was written in the form of a poem. In Hebrew culture, it would have been read as a poem or sung as a song.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

The first three days of creation are about God forming the formless. The Scripture tells us the earth was without form until God separated three things.

He separated:

-The light from the dark

-The land from the water

-And the earth from the sky.

And then, days 4-6 are about filling the void. God populates the earth with three things:

-Plant life

-Animal life

-Human life.

Then we get to the seventh day.

By the seventh day, God had finished all 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. Genesis 2:2-3

Most scholars say Genesis 1 is a massive setup highlighting the seventh day. The whole thing builds to this crescendo that it reaches on the Sabbath. And there are two reasons for that.

The first reason that tells us that the Sabbath is the highlight of creation is the change in cadence. The first six days all follow a familiar cadence. If you read the whole account, it jumps out. At the end of the first six days of creation, it has this poetic phrase:

There was evening, and there was morning the first day. There was evening, and there was morning, the second day. There was evening, and there was morning, the third day.

It goes like this six times over until the 7th day. And then it reads as follows:

By the seventh day, God had finished all 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. Genesis 2:2-3

That change in cadence matters because the creation account of Genesis 1 is written in Hebrew poetry. In a poem, rhythm is essential. So the rhythm form of the poem that is Genesis 1 goes like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7.

For most of human history, the better part of the world was illiterate. There was an oral tradition before there was a written tradition. There was verbal learning before there was written learning. The Scriptures were learned orally before they were understood by reading. Most of the early Hebrews would have known Genesis 1 as a poem. They would not have understood it by reading it on a page. They would have learned it by hearing it recited or read aloud like a poem or as a song set to rhythm.

The creation story is a song, and Sabbath is the chorus. Everyone knows the chorus in most songs, and everyone forgets the verses. So Sabbath is the hook of Genesis 1. It goes like this. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Sabbath, Sabbath, Sabbath. That’s how Genesis unfolds rhythmically. Sabbath is the part that gets stuck in your head.

So the change in cadence is the first thing that tells us that the Sabbath is the highlight of creation. The second thing that tells us that the Sabbath is the highlight of creation is the change in writing.

The account of the Sabbath is written down. Repetition in Hebrew is like an underlined, italics, or bold type in English. It’s a way of screaming from the written page, and this part is super important. It’s why Jesus is constantly quoted in Scripture as saying – “Truly, truly I say to you.” That is a different catchline than that Jesus liked to use a lot. It is a very Hebrew way of saying – pay attention! I’m about to drop say something important. You don’t want to miss it!

The phrase “the 7th day” is named three times in one verse, which puts it in an incredibly rare biblical company because three is the biblical number of completeness. God in 3 persons, blessed trinity. Three days in a tomb and then resurrection. Theologians speak of the three parts of man as body, soul, and spirit. Scripture tells us to love God in three ways – heart, mind, and soul. The song being sung in God’s throne room is holy, holy. And creation ends with Sabbath, Sabbath, Sabbath.

That’s like bold, underlining, italics, and all caps. It’s almost obnoxious in the Hebrew language. So as the story unfolds, this 7th day becomes known as Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, which translates as quit, stop, take a break. So in Hebrew thinking, the Sabbath – the day of rest – also means seventh.

So that is the background of the Sabbath in Scripture, taught in the first two chapters of the Bible – Genesis 1 and 2. It seems like a concept God wanted to emphasize from the start. So here are some quick reasons to practice Sabbath.

Why should we keep a sabbath – a day of rest?

1. We keep a sabbath because it is kept in creation.

God’s creation story includes rest. God’s continued work of creating the image of Christ in us also provides rest. Enough said about that.

2. We keep a sabbath because it is kept in the commandments.

You go from Genesis to Exodus, and we find the ten commandments. God’s top ten list, if you will. Here is the fourth commandment.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8

That’s straight out of the ten commandments. The 7th day is the only day of creation to which you and I are invited. We get to participate in creation by participating in recreation, keeping the Sabbath, and letting our souls rest. It is the only part of the creation account in Genesis that becomes a command for how we should live. Exodus says – rest because God rested, and as you rest, you enter into the work of God.

3. We keep a sabbath because Jesus keeps it.

Jesus affirmed the Sabbath with his life. All the historical evidence strongly suggests that Jesus observed the Sabbath himself. Jesus went to the temple every Sabbath that we recorded.

We are followers of Jesus. We do what he did. We obey what he taught.

4. We keep the Sabbath because the early church keeps it.

Sabbath is mentioned six times in the book of Acts – the early church’s history. They shifted their Sabbath from Saturday, the Hebrew day of rest. To Sunday – to celebrate the day Jesus was resurrected.

These are good reasons to keep the Sabbath! But how do we keep the Sabbath? Here is a hint from Jesus.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 (NIV)

The same verse in another translation:

The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 (NLT)

Between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, in that 400-year gap, the rabbis added 440 specific rules to the ten commandments, most of which were about how to keep the Sabbath.

Jesus says the Sabbath is not about requirements and rules but about rest and relaxation. We need a day off! We need a day to rest! We need a day to worship! Society used to help us keep a Sabbath. When I was a child, nothing was open on Sunday. Nothing. Everyone followed the Chick-Fil-A model. First, they were closed on Sundays. Then “essential” stores were allowed to be open on Sundays. Next, pharmacies and gas stations, but “blue laws” meant only necessities could be sold on Sundays. After that, Sunday was for worship at church and rest at home.

But as society drifted away from God, we also drifted away from the Sabbath. How do we get back there? How can you and I practice Sabbath as a regular rhythm? By including four essential elements of a great Sabbath:

1. Stop

Stop all your work. All your striving. All your accomplishments and accumulation. Turn off your slack channels where your boss can ask you questions on your day off, don’t check your email, and disconnect yourself from your work. Turn off your phone for the whole day.

Stop and set aside a whole day where you can be intentionally unproductive.

2. Rest

Do what is restful to you. Sleep in or get up early. Exercise or take a day off. Go for a long leisurely walk or stay inside all day.

Whatever is restful for you, do that. Cook an elaborate meal to share with friends, or take a day off cooking and warm up a TV dinner. Play board games with your family. Pour a glass of wine in the evening and light candles around the house. Crack open a novel, memoir, or poetry book and sit by the fire. Go to the movies. Rest.

3. Delight

Do something you love doing. Do something that replenishes your soul. Do what makes you grateful and happy and puts a smile on your face. Get lost in something you love.

4. Worship

Make sure that at some point in the day, you are unhurried in the presence of God, just enjoying him and letting him enjoy you. Worship him because the Sabbath is about God.

Warning – do not buy into the “I can just worship alone in nature” idea. It’s true. You can. You can worship alone in nature, at the lake, or on your back porch, but that is not sabbath worship. So instead, we see Jesus headed to the synagogue every Sabbath for worship.

Give God your Sabbath by gathering with his people. We can escape the busyness and chaos of the week with a weekly practice of sabbath rest.

What part of your Sabbath needs to change?

Mary Southerland

Prayer for Long-Term Healthcare

I belong to the “sandwich generation.” My parents need my care and my child needs help. I am being eaten alive between two needy generations. They each expect, require, and dictate my time, energy, and money. Both ends of this continuum—the silver-haired and the spiked, purple-haired—act out their emotions in orneriness. Their stubborn refusals to cooperate with me make me want to pull my hair out.
My parents need to reside in a long-term health care facility. “No, we won’t go. You can help us. We took care of you for years.” Oh no.
My child refuses to get an education or a job. “I don’t want to. You can’t make me. I don’t need your advice.” Yikes!
I examine my limited options. I need wisdom to deal with this type of bologna. I seek my Lord. I ask for wisdom.
I discover my parents have a long-term healthcare policy. It will pay a part-time medical assistant to help with their care. I find a community service that offers free taxi service for my parents’ appointments. Hallelujah!
Now, I must attend to my child’s needs. I pray for understanding. I pray that the bottom of my generational sandwich will begin to mature, begin to understand that the Holy One provides long-term healthcare of every type.
With optimism, I head for the kitchen. I grab the grape jelly (which matches my child’s dyed hair color) and proceed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—my child’s favorite. Maybe its sweetness will overcome the orneriness.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.”—Proverbs 9:10–11

Holy One, teach __________ come to the knowledge and understanding of You. In addition, Lord, add years to _’s life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Susanne Scheppmann

Watch Them Words

The soothing (healing) tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse (distorted, vicious, deceitful) tongue crushes the spirit.Proverbs 15:4

Have you ever experienced a betrayal by someone who you trusted? Years ago, I suffered the pain of an undeserved betrayal. Trust, then peace, and finally unity were all destroyed as the matter was repeated; after all, “gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28). 

Soon, what might have been a private matter became convoluted by those who were quick to judge without knowing the facts. I wish I could say that I took the hurt to God in prayer, allowed him to defend me, then forgave and happily moved on with my life. That is what I wanted to do. It is what I tried to do, at times. But what I mostly did was cry, seethe, and talk endlessly about how I had been hurt. 

In the midst of that season, the bitterness of unforgiveness slithered out of my heart and into my speech. After all, “whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12:34). During my quiet times, the Lord began to speak to me about my habit of complaining about those who had hurt me. Here is what I wrote in my journal during that difficult season:

When I speak angrily about another, gossip, or bad-mouth, I am unleashing a heap of fire with my tongue. It is a spark that goes to the person who hears it and either rests on them, igniting hatred and division, or it will be thrown back at me and I will feel the ferocity of its heat. Do I really want to lay that fire down upon my loved one’s heads? Do I want my child’s spirit to be crushed and destroyed by the words I speak? I may not be speaking ill of my children, but if I speak ill in front of them, they will feel it just the same. 

I must guard my tongue, for it is a wellspring of life for all who bathe in streams of healing, true, and nurturing words. But it feels like death to those who have to hear bitterness and curses; it wearies the soul and crushes the spirit. I will speak life and blessing, being powerfully transformed by it, and witnessing those around me transformed by hearing it.

Although I had read Scripture about the power of the tongue for many years, I continued to justify unwholesome speech as a “small” sin. The truth is that “those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). 

It is a lie that careless words are fleeting; did you know that you will be judged for every thoughtless and unprofitable word that you speak? (Matthew 12:36) That is a sobering thought that should cause us to carefully examine our speech!

Our words are powerful. We are made in the image of God, who called Creation into existence with his Word and makes himself known to us through the words of Scripture. Let us harness the life-giving power of our speech today.

A Prayer for Life-Giving Speech: 

God, forgive me for the careless words I have spoken. “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). May the law of kindness be on my tongue (Proverbs 31:26), for I know that my “tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). Give me “a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary” (Isaiah 50:4). Grant boldness and wisdom so that when I begin to speak, the right words will come to me so I can fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. Let me claim it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19,20). In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.


Andrea Herzer

Fuels Humility and Generates Unity

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2, ESV).

Suffering is a reality for everyone on this earth, including believers. To deny that is to deny the reality of the fact that we live in a fallen world, and Christians are not exempt from the results of it. Remember, the apostles suffered greatly, and many of them died horrendous deaths as martyrs. But it was all for God’s glory and a part of His sovereign plan for their lives.

We must remember that Christ is with us in the midst of our trial to bring us through it with perseverance. Not all people have this access to Christ’s comforts; only those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s righteousness alone (Ephesians 1:6). When our heart is agitated, this is the “pillow treatment” in which we can rest our heart and receive God’s overwhelming love (Psalm 34:8). In addition to having the nearness of Christ when we are suffering, as believers, we have also been given the gift of the Church. The Church should be carriers of God’s love- extending counsel, fellowship, humility, and service towards one another. 

The Apostle Paul encourages the Philippian church to be in unity and of one mind, sharing the love of Christ, which brings comfort. This is a wonderful reminder to us today as well:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2, ESV).

The graces found in Christ fuels our humility that generates unity.

Intersecting Faith and Life:
God will use all things to conform us to the image of Christ, and often in the life of the believer, that includes pain and suffering, but we do not have to suffer alone. We can find comfort in the riches of Christ, and He often uses the family of God to bring His love and peace into our situations. Have trials in your life embittered you and caused you to build up walls around your heart to keep you from being vulnerable and transparent with God and with others? We need to be honest about our insecurities and pain so that we can receive Christ’s comfort and encouragement. Through this vulnerability with others, God gives us the wisdom to show us who to specifically speak to about our hurts, frustrations, confusion, and deep sorrow. Let us tear down the walls of privacy and pride to receive the Lord’s tender mercies and rich grace. Who do you need to share God’s affection and sympathy with? The greatest way to do this is by sharing the truth that Christ died so that others may live- the gospel. We must remind our hearts and share with others that our faith in Him means that because of the cross, we are forgiven. Now we can have the hope that He never leaves our side and walks with us through the valley and the mountaintop experiences, and we have the ultimate hope that there is a glorious eternal life that awaits us in Christ Jesus. Oh, what comfort we can find in Christ!

Emily Massey

When We Are Silent About Evil

When we see evil happening in our fallen world, it naturally upsets us because we know in our souls that it’s wrong. But do we speak up about it, or do we stay silent? Calling attention to evil is important yet challenging. Should we speak up or not when we witness something wrong, like lying or bullying? How should we respond to news stories of evil, such as violence and corruption, raging in our world? What does the Bible say about being silent about evil? Learning that is vital to answering our call from God to overcome evil with good.

What Does it Mean to Be Silent about Evil?

Being silent about evil means ignoring the opportunities God gives us to do something redemptive in the evil situations we encounter. It involves neglecting to bring attention to evil that’s happening, rather than speaking up about it and taking action for justice. When we choose to be silent about evil, at best, we’re not helping to stop it, and at worst, we’re helping that evil situation progress. Being silent about evil is essentially like agreeing with that evil. When we realize that our passive silence is actually an active choice not to stand against evil, that can motivate us to stop being silent about it.

What Does the Bible Say about Being Silent about Evil?

The Bible has a lot to say about how to deal with evil, and as part of that guidance, God’s Word helps us discern how to speak about it. Simply being silent about evil isn’t biblical. Romans 12:21 tells us clearly: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We must speak about evil in order to act against it. Leviticus 5:1 points out that staying silent about evil is a sin for which people will be held accountable: “If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.” James 4:17 declares: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” If we know that God is calling us to speak out against evil but choose to be silent despite that, we’re sinning.

However, the Bible also calls us to speak wisely – including recognizing the best times and ways to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

We are meant to be silent in circumstances where we can’t speak about evil carefully, and therefore may make sinful situations worse instead of better. Proverbs 10:19 cautions: “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Sometimes, if we speak without caution about evil, we can become caught up in it. Amos 5:13 describes the wisdom of staying silent in those cases: “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore, the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” Galatians 6:1 also addresses the need to speak carefully when dealing with sin: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Proverbs 21:23 tells us: “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

We are meant to speak up about evil when God leads us to point out sin or confront injustice. In Isaiah 58:1, God urges speaking up about sin: “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.” Ezekiel 3:18-19 urges speaking out to warn people who are sinning: “When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.” The Book of Esther tells the story of Queen Esther, who seeks God’s guidance for how to best speak out against evil plans to annihilate the Jewish people. When the right time arrives, Esther’s cousin Mordecai encourages her to speak up with these words: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Ephesians 5:11 exhorts us: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Proverbs 31:9 encourages us to speak up against the evil of injustice: “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Isaiah 1:17 advises: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

3 Ways We Can Stand Up Against Evil

So, whenever God calls us to stand up against evil, it’s important to respond faithfully. Here are 3 ways we can stop being silent and start speaking up about evil:

1. Speak up when God calls us to do so – even when we’re afraid. It’s vital to be willing to act whenever we sense God calling us to say or do something in response to evil. Because God often works through people, we could become part of a miracle simply by saying “yes” when God nudges us to proceed, I write in my book Wake Up to Wonder. The more we choose to respond with faith rather than fear when God calls us to do something, the more God’s love will cast out our fear. 1 John 4:18 promises: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” We don’t have to wait until we feel courageous enough to speak up about evil. We can simply ask God to help us when we’re afraid, then receive his love to empower us to overcome our fear. Then we’ll be bold enough to speak against evil. In the process, we’ll experience the wonder of becoming part of God’s redemptive plan to overcome evil with good.

2. Keep praying for God’s help. Communicate with God often through prayer and ask for his help to stand up against evil. Ephesians 6:12-13 points out the reality that we need to battle evil often: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Through prayer, we can put on the armor of God that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-17, and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” as Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to do. That will welcome God’s power into every evil situation we encounter.

3. Steadfastly resist evil and cling to good. Stay committed to joining God’s redemptive work in the world. When describing how to put God’s love into action, Romans 12:9 advises: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” We can choose good over evil day by day by letting God’s love flow through our lives. By asking the Holy Spirit to renew our minds every day, we can see situations from an accurate perspective and boldly confront evil. When we do so, we’ll be connected to God regularly, which will empower us to stand up against evil victoriously.

Conclusion

The Bible says that being silent about evil is usually not wise. We should only be silent if we can’t speak about an evil situation carefully at a certain time. But we should be willing to respond faithfully whenever God calls us to speak out against evil. Neglecting to do so is like giving evil permission to continue. While standing up against evil can be challenging, we can rely on God to help us do so in all circumstances when we trust him for help. God will give us important opportunities to join him in his redemptive work. By doing so, we can become part of the miracle of good overcoming evil in our world.

Whitney Hopler

He Still Moves Stones

YOU KNOW how you can read a story you think you know and then you read it again and see something you’ve never seen?
You know how you can read about the same event 100 times and then on the 101st hear something so striking and new that it makes you wonder if you slept through the other times?
Maybe it’s because you started in the middle of the story instead of at the beginning. Or perhaps it’s because someone else reads it aloud and pauses at a place where you normally wouldn’t and POW! it hits you.
You grab the book and look at it, knowing that someone copied or read something wrong. But then you read it and well-how-do-you-do. Look at that!
Well, it happened to me. Today.
Only God knows how many times I’ve read the resurrection story. At least a couple of dozen Easters and a couple of hundred times in between. I’ve taught it. I’ve written about it. I’ve meditated on it. I’ve underlined it. But what I saw today I’d never seen before.
What did I see? Before I tell you, let me recount the story.
It’s early dawn on Sunday morning and the sky is dark. Those, in fact, are John’s words. “It was still dark …” (John 20:1).
It’s a dark Sunday morning. It had been dark since Friday.

Dark with Peter’s denial.
Dark with the disciples’ betrayal.
Dark with Pilate’s cowardice.
Dark with Christ’s anguish.
Dark with Satan’s glee.

The only ember of light is the small band of women standing at a distance from the cross—watching (Matt. 27:55).
Among them are two Marys, one the mother of James and Joseph and the other is Mary Magdalene. Why are they there? They are there to call his name. To be the final voices he hears before his death. To prepare his body for burial. They are there to clean the blood from his beard. To wipe the crimson from his legs. To close his eyes. To touch his face.
They are there. The last to leave Calvary and the first to arrive at the grave.
So early on that Sunday morning, they leave their pallets and walk out onto the tree-shadowed path. Theirs is a somber task. The morning promises only one encounter, an encounter with a corpse.
Remember, Mary and Mary don’t know this is the first Easter. They are not hoping the tomb will be vacant. They aren’t discussing what their response will be when they see Jesus. They have absolutely no idea that the grave has been vacated.
There was a time when they dared to dream such dreams. Not now. It’s too late for the incredible. The feet that walked on water had been pierced. The hands that healed lepers had been stilled. Noble aspirations had been spiked into Friday’s cross. Mary and Mary have come to place warm oils on a cold body and bid farewell to the one man who gave reason to their hopes.
But it isn’t hope that leads the women up the mountain to the tomb. It is duty. Naked devotion. They expect nothing in return. What could Jesus give? What could a dead man offer? The two women are not climbing the mountain to receive, they are going to the tomb to give. Period.
There is no motivation more noble.
There are times when we, too, are called to love, expecting nothing in return. Times when we are called to give money to people who will never say thanks, to forgive those who won’t forgive us, to come early and stay late when no one else notices.
Service prompted by duty. This is the call of discipleship.
Mary and Mary knew a task had to be done—Jesus’ body had to be prepared for burial. Peter didn’t offer to do it. Andrew didn’t volunteer. The forgiven adulteress or healed lepers are nowhere to be seen. So the two Marys decide to do it.
I wonder if halfway to the tomb they had sat down and reconsidered. What if they’d looked at each other and shrugged. “What’s the use?” What if they had given up? What if one had thrown up her arms in frustration and bemoaned, “I’m tired of being the only one who cares. Let Andrew do something for a change. Let Nathaniel show some leadership.”
Whether or not they were tempted to, I’m glad they didn’t quit. That would have been tragic. You see, we know something they didn’t. We know the Father was watching. Mary and Mary thought they were alone. They weren’t. They thought their journey was unnoticed. They were wrong. God knew. He was watching them walk up the mountain. He was measuring their steps. He was smiling at their hearts and thrilled at their devotion. And he had a surprise waiting for them.

At that time there was a strong earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone. He was shining bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb shook with fear because of the angel, and they became like dead men.

Matthew 28:2–4

(Now, read carefully, this is what I noticed for the first time today.)
Why did the angel move the stone? For whom did he roll away the rock?
For Jesus? That’s what I always thought. I just assumed that the angel moved the stone so Jesus could come out. But think about it. Did the stone have to be removed in order for Jesus to exit? Did God have to have help? Was the death conqueror so weak that he couldn’t push away a rock? (“Hey, could somebody out there move this rock so I can get out?”)
I don’t think so. The text gives the impression that Jesus was already out when the stone was moved! Nowhere do the Gospels say that the angel moved the stone for Jesus. For whom, then, was the stone moved?
Listen to what the angel says: “Come and see the place where his body was” (v. 6).
The stone was moved—not for Jesus—but for the women; not so Jesus could come out, but so the women could see in!
Mary looks at Mary and Mary is grinning the same grin she had when the bread and fish kept coming out of the basket. The old passion flares. Suddenly it’s all right to dream again.
“Go quickly and tell his followers, ‘Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there’” (v. 7).
Mary and Mary don’t have to be told twice. They turn and start running to Jerusalem. The darkness is gone. The sun is up. The Son is out. But the Son isn’t finished.
One surprise still awaits them.
“Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings.’ The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there’” (vv. 9–10).
The God of surprises strikes again. It’s as if he said, “I can’t wait any longer. They came this far to see me; I’m going to drop in on them.”
God does that for the faithful. Just when the womb gets too old for babies, Sarai gets pregnant. Just when the failure is too great for grace, David is pardoned. And just when the road is too dark for Mary and Mary, the angel glows and the Savior shows and the two women will never be the same.
The lesson? Three words. Don’t give up.
Is the trail dark? Don’t sit.
Is the road long? Don’t stop.
Is the night black? Don’t quit.
God is watching. For all you know right at this moment he may be telling the angel to move the stone.
The check may be in the mail.
The apology may be in the making.
The job contract may be on the desk.
Don’t quit. For if you do, you may miss the answer to your prayers.
God still sends angels. And God still moves stones.

Max Lucado

A Prophet and Fake Worship

Amos in the Bible was an Israelite who lived within the split kingdom; Uzziah reigned over Judah and Jeroboam served as king of Israel when Amos received the word of the Lord (Amos 1:1). This places his writing around 760-750 B.C., which is approximately 170 before Israel went into exile by the hand of the Babylonians as God’s judgment on the nation. Amos did not serve as a prophet by profession, neither did his father, but he worked as both a shepherd and dresser of sycamore figs (Amos 7:14). These two facts imply Amos came from a humble, impoverished background. Shepherds were considered among the lowest caste of society and the very poor commonly ate sycamore figs. Amos’ background adds irony to God’s choice for a spokesman because the wealthy oppressed the poor (Amos 4:1; 5:11).

What Is the Book of Amos About?

The dynamic book of Amos addresses multiple facets of society. The main themes of the book include social justice as a necessary outcome of true piety, God’s impartial judgment of His own people, and His call for holy living. God abhors evil in all forms, and He judges sin regardless of who transgresses. God demands His people seek Him in earnest and do what is good (Amos 5:14-15). Prosperity marked the nation of Israel, and people enjoyed an abundance of food and led comfortable lives (Amos 3:15, 5:11). However, the society experienced spiritual and moral decay (Amos 2:4; 3:10; 6:4-6). The poor and needy faced exploitation (Amos 2:6-7a, 4:1, 8:4), and corruption highlighted the people’s disingenuous, hypocritical worship (Amos 2:12-13; 4:4-5; 5:21-23; 8:5-6).

Amos begins the book with God’s judgment on foreign nations (Amos 1:3-2:3). No doubt, the Israelites would have been at ease when they heard or read God’s plans to judge the pagans. They may have even felt a sense of delight or joy. However, Amos then shifts the focus onto the main subject of God’s divine judgment, the people of Israel (Amos 2:4, 6). Thus begin the oracles of God’s contentions and plans of punishment for the nation of Israel.

How Is the Book of Amos Relevant Today?

It is not uncommon for Christians to think the Old Testament irrelevant and outdated, having nothing to contribute to our modern era. As a result, believers may avoid reading the Old Testament altogether. In truth, the entire Old Testament, including the book of Amos, teaches us a great deal. As Solomon says, “There is nothing new under the Sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), since the beginning, humanity has always dealt with the same transcendent principles. Although expressed in different societal forms, everyone deals with things such as lust, envy, wealth, selfishness, and sin. The book of Amos deals with issues everyone can relate to in principle and provides vital insight into God’s view of them. These issues include, but are not limited to:

Worship. In Amos’ time, Israel’s religious practices did not equate to godly behavior. People went through the motions, such as making sacrifices and tithing, but their sinful hearts corrupted their worship. It included idolatry (Amos 5:26) and blatant disobedience (Amos 4:4). In chapter four, Amos mentions Bethel and Gilgal, which were locations of false worship and sacrifice.

In Deuteronomy, God gave clear instruction to the people to bring their sacrifices to the place of God’s choosing (Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 13-14). The Lord established the Temple as the sole location to worship Him. King Jeroboam erected other places of worship and sacrifice so the people of Israel could avoid traveling to Jerusalem in Judah (1 Kings 12:26-30).

God cares about how we worship and the quality of worship we offer to Him. Showing up to service every Sunday does not garner automatic acceptance from the Lord. Our entire life is to be a continuous act of genuine worship to the Lord which conforms to His Word (Romans 12:1).

Wealth and comfort. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, but when they distract from and supersede God, they become an idol in our life which causes major issues. Amos displays how material wealth and comfort can become a curse that leads to spiritual erosion. The inevitable result is immoral living (Amos 2:4, 6-7). We enjoy an abundance of material wealth in our society, and even many of those we consider poor enjoy things the kings of old could have only imagined, such as electricity, ready access to clean water, and indoor plumbing. If we aren’t careful, we may find ourselves self-absorbed, like the people of Israel, and neglect the needs of others and conform our worship around our selfish desires (Amos 8:4-6).

Our pursuit of God does not revolve around our comfort or convenience. He is to be the central focus of our lives, and sacrificial love remains the core of Christian living (Matthew 6:33; John 13:34-35). Christians would do well to examine their own lives and heed the warnings in Amos regarding this issue.

God’s judgment. A somber truth revealed in Amos is God judges His own people for their sin (Amos 3:2). It can be easy for believers to have a false sense of security. One may feel they are not obligated to strive for holiness because they live under God’s grace and no longer stand condemned for their sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of God’s grace a believer should strive with all their heart to live for His glory (Romans 6:1-2, 10-13; Col. 3:23-24).

When a believer or church body finds themselves in a state of rebellion, they can expect God to bring judgment if they don’t repent. God’s judgment on His people has two functions; it calls them to repentance (Amos 4:6-11) and it separates those who are truly His from those who are not (Amos 9:8-10). The Church body exists to give Christ glory. If this fails to happen, the Church can expect to be pruned by God’s judgment until it is restored to His intended purpose.

God’s sovereignty. God brings the seasons of life we experience (Ecclesiastes 7:14). In Amos, God identifies Himself as the One responsible for the natural events in Israel He orchestrated for His divine purposes (Amos 4:6-11). God’s sovereignty should bring peace to a believer as He is always in control and works all things for our good (Romans 8:28). It should likewise cause the believer to think twice before rebelling against God. We cannot escape His hand.

Why Should Every Christian Know about This Minor Prophet?

The lessons gleaned from Amos apply to every believer’s life. We live in an age like the one in which Amos lived, where the same challenges threaten our walk with the Lord. Many in the industrialized parts of the world enjoy the comforts of our modern era. This is not wrong, however, there are believers all over the world who suffer injustice and oppression. With the advance of technology, the Church can extend its reach to global brothers and sisters in need. If we are not careful, we will look no better than the Israelites of Amos’ day, who neglected and exploited the helpless and needy. Injustice can certainly exist within the Church. Believers should always make a conscious effort to seek out the poor and needy whether they are in their own neighborhood or in another country (Acts 20:35). Whether we choose to give our time, energy, or resources, we can make a difference in the lives of the destitute. God does not merely bless us to enjoy life, but He also blesses us so we can bless others (James 2:15-16).

James warns us not to show favoritism to others based on our personal biases (James 2:1-4). If believers are not on guard, they may neglect to minister to the needs of certain people based on personal, sinful bias.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, God judges the Church. Believers will not suffer condemnation, but they will still be held accountable to God for how they lived during this life (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 1 John 2:28). If we allow ourselves to slip into a self-indulgent stupor just as the Israelites did in Amos’ day, God will not take pleasure in us. We should all heed the warning our Lord gave to the church of Laodicea. Complacent in their wealth, Jesus rebuked them for their spiritual poverty (Revelation 3:15-17).

The book of Amos provides Christians with much-needed reminders not to live for ourselves. Although our lives center around the Gospel and not mere humanism, good works should certainly be the natural outworking of a life transformed by Jesus Christ. The way we love our neighbors provides a good indicator of how well we allow Jesus to be the Lord of our life. Believers should take heart. God does not rate our work by comparing it to other people. Instead, He judges the quality of our service based on the physical and spiritual means He’s given us 

Stephen Baker

The Do-Do Is Back

The old cliché that something went “the way of the dodo” could soon have a very different meaning.

As Antonio Regaldo writes for the MIT Technology Review, scientists at Colossal Biosciences in Austin, Texas, are currently working to resurrect the bird that has become synonymous with extinction. If your mind is trending toward Jurassic Park flashbacks as you read, you’re not too far off base.

Colossal’s process works by genetically altering the Nicobar pigeon—the dodo’s closest living relative—to gradually turn it into its long-dead ancestor. This process is made possible by the research of Beth Shapiro and her team at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who recently recovered the extinct bird’s DNA from the five-hundred-year-old remains of a dodo at a museum in Denmark.

However, the dodo is not the only creature that Colossal is trying to bring back to life. By 2029, Ben Lamm, Colossal’s CEO, estimates that they will have successfully turned an elephant into a wooly mammoth, with the Tasmanian tiger also on their list of current projects.

Still, with any of the experiments it remains unclear just how many changes will be needed before one could actually say the extinct creature exists once more.

As Mike McGrew, an avian biologist at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, noted, “That is one of the big questions. At what point is your editing done? Is it hitting a hundred genes or one thousand genes?”

Whatever the answer may be, the possibilities of what such incremental changes could bring about have piqued the interest of an interesting assortment of people. Billionaires like Thomas Tull and Robert Nelson, as well as the CIA’s venture capital arm, have all decided to back Colossal’s efforts.

I bring this story up today, however, not because I’m overly excited about the possibility of seeing a dodo anytime soon—though a wooly mammoth may be a different story—but rather because the technique of relying on small changes rather than large leaps to accomplish something extraordinary offers some important parallels for Christians today.

“The best way to address social problems”

In a recent article for Persuasion, Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox approached this conversation from a more philosophical point of view.

The pair discussed the idea of incrementalism, claiming that it represents “the best way to address social problems in a climate where it is difficult to agree on basic facts, let alone expensive, large-scale government interventions.”

The foundation of their argument is that big plans often fail because they require “access to high-quality information, agreement about underlying values, and effective decision-making on the part of government planners” at a time when none of those conditions tend to exist in the real world. By focusing instead on small changes that build on one another, over time we can actually accomplish more than by trying to do everything at once.

They allow that “we still need dreamers and visionaries and rabble-rousers who want to pursue moon-shot goals like curing cancer and ending hunger. But our default setting should be to admit the obvious: our problems are big and our brains are small,” so our solutions to those big problems should start small as well.

What if small changes are the most lasting changes?

What would it look like if we took a similar approach to trying to change our culture for Christ?

Granted, it would be great if we could set forth a plan that would result in a sweeping spiritual awakening and see our culture turn back to God. But that’s not likely to happen, and we can’t afford to wait for such an opportunity to arrive.

By contrast, an incrementalist approach to sharing our faith and shaping society means each of us must take advantage of the opportunities the Lord brings our way to help people know him better. It means making sure that our lives match up with the message we’re sharing. And it means being satisfied with the knowledge that we’ve done our part even if it doesn’t always appear to make an immediate difference.

Such an approach may lack the appeal of big changes and historic impact, but history shows it’s actually more likely to make the kind of difference we’d really like to see.

None of the spiritual awakenings in modern times began with Christians making a five-step plan to change the world, and they certainly did not include any reliance on government intervention to save the day. Rather, they started with believers who felt a burden for their culture and that burden led them to pray. Those prayers resulted in Christians starting to take their faith more seriously, and only then did non-Christians begin to take notice.

The same pattern holds true today as well.

From ordinary to extraordinary

While history may highlight the big movements and leaders that made an outsized difference, the most important work was often done by those who remain anonymous to everyone but the Lord.

If we can learn to be content with that fact, not allowing our ambition to grow larger than our calling, then we can begin to make the incremental changes that could eventually result in the kind of spiritual awakening and cultural renewal that often seems out of reach today.

Christianity is never going to go the way of the dodo and God will always have his remnant. But you and I can begin to make a difference simply by taking advantage of the incremental opportunities the Lord provides to share both his love and his truth with those around us.

As Oswald Chambers once remarked, “All of God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose he has given them.”

So What Is 666?

Here is your answer to what 666 means according to the Bible book of Revelation: 666 literally means a name. The number “666” is the number of the name of the coming Antichrist. Giving a number to a name is called “gematria,” which is the Greek practice of adding up the letters in someone’s name. In Latin, this practice is called “isopsephism.” Each letter in the Greek language has a numeral equivalent. Add up the letters and you get the number of the name.

When Julie and I were dating I often wrote the initials, “RB + JT” in my notebook or in the wet cement of a newly poured sidewalk. Of course, the Initials stand for, “Roger Barrier plus Julie Tacker.” Young lovers in Greece and Rome used gematria to express their relationships. For example, one inscription on a wall in Pompei reads, “I love the girl whose number is 545.

Of course, it is quite easy to take a name and turn it into a number. It is much harder to take a number and turn it back into a name.

Understanding the Greek Meaning of 666 in Revelations

Turning the number into a name is the key to unlocking the name of the Antichrist. Revelation 13:18 is the applicable verse: “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.” According to John, those who are wise can get an insight into the Antichrist’s identity by knowing the number of his name. 

In ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin letters represented numerals according to their order in the alphabet. For example, in Greek, Alpha is one, Bata is two and so on.

The letters in Greek for “Nero” (Neron) add up to 1005. However, if the Greek letters for Nero Caesar (Neron Kaisar) are transliterated into Hebrew (nrwn qsr), the letter numbers add up to 666 (50 + 200 + 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 + 200 = 666).

666 and the Number of the Beast

“The number of the beast” was not written as a figure like “666.” Rather, the letters of the alphabet were written out in full.

Many interpreters consider the Roman Emperor Nero to be the “antichrist” of Revelation 13 because the number of his name is 666 and because he inflicted “Antichrist-like” horror upon the first century Christians. Some consider Nero to be a historical Antichrist and that we are not to expect a future Antichrist. Yet, for the number to have any significance for a first century AD reader, it would have to refer to a contemporary historical figure.

Other interpreters, myself included, view the Book of Revelation as being both historical and predictive of coming future events (This is the double fulfillment principle of prophecy.) According to this view, Nero was indeed an “antichrist” as well as a type or picture of the coming future Antichrist—whose number-name will also add up to 666.

Nero was a despicable man who murdered his own mother. Nero fiddled the night Rome burned. By blaming Christians for the fire, he justified his tortuous murdering of uncounted hundreds of those who proclaimed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. He proclaimed his supposed divinity on coins, identifying him as the “Savior of the World.” Since Christians have only one Lord, refusing to burn incense and declare Caesar Nero as Lord was like signing your own death warrant. As an aside, since Nero ruled from A.D. 54-68 he would have been the emperor to whom Paul appealed his case as recorded in Acts 25:10-12.

For those who may be interested, I quote below a passage from Tacitus, the Greek historian (c. A.D. 60-120), who preserved in his Annals (XV.44) the viciousness of the Neronian persecutions which give us some idea of the horror the coming Antichrist will inflict on both Jews and Christians.

Nero falsely accused as the culprits [who started the fire] and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class … who are commonly called Christians. “Christus,” from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.… Accordingly, an arrest was first made of those who confessed [to being Christians]; then, on their evidence [refusing to worship Nero as Lord], an immense multitude was convicted … Besides being put to death they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clothed in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed…. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, even towards men whose guilt merited the most exemplary punishment; for it was felt that they were being destroyed not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual.

The number “6” in the Bible is often associated with man; just as the number “7” is the perfect number and “3” often correlates to the Trinity.

666 and 777: The Unholy and Holy Trinity

666 is thus a number that consistently falls short of triple perfection: 777. The number also refers to the “unholy trinity,” Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet.

One day I got to wondering what Jesus’ number might happen to be. So I added up the Greek letter-numbers in Jesus name (ιζσους = 10 + 7 + 200 + 70 + 400 + 200 =887). What a shame. 887 is only one digit short of “888” which would symbolize Jesus as consistently one better than perfection.

As I am writing my answer I wonder what “Christ” adds up to? Let’s find out (χριστος = 600 + 100 + 10 + 200 + 300 + 70 + 200 =1480). Well, I don’t find any symbolism in 1480, but it was worth a try.

By the way, some early manuscripts identify the number-name of the Antichrist as 616 (instead of 666). By omitting the final “n” in Nero’s name in Greek, transliterating that name into Hebrew, and then adding up the letters, the number of Nero and of the coming Antichrist both add up to 616. Regardless of the number, Nero is the only name that can account for both 666 and 616. But, 616 is a story for another time.

I hope my answer to what 666 means is both interesting and informative. Thanks for the question.

Roger Barrier

Have We Forgotten the Birthplace of Miracles?

Today’s church culture can make it seem like we’re there for professional musicians and twenty-something singers to serenade us with their talents. Some houses of worship go so far as to treat their congregations to twinkling light shows and a fog machine. Others build their pews like theater seats, gently sloping up toward the back.

I can’t blame anyone who mistakes churchgoing for an outing. Like attending a concert.

The thing is, despite superficial similarities between them, these activities cannot be more different.

My grandmother deserves the credit for imparting to me the primacy of church attendance. This prayer warrior sang in the choir and went to church multiple times a week.

Growing up, summers were largely spent with her and my mom’s family in Indonesia.

Some of life’s most memorable moments emerge among mundane activities. It was during a dusty pedicab ride to church—dodging motorcycles and their exhaust, with deafening car honks all around—that my grandmother handed me a pearl of wisdom.

“I don’t want to be late to church because Jesus is already there. I never want to make Him wait for me.”

Here are three eye-openers we experience when there are loud Christians in the service:

1. Loss of Reverence

So much has changed since her confession. My godly grandmother went to be with the Lord almost two decades ago.

I’m not sure it’s still legal for her townsfolk to hail a pedicab.

But because her words have burrowed their way into a corner of my heart, they’ve nestled there all this time, shaping my attitude of God’s house.

I’m not at church to impress anyone with bling or brand-name outfits.

I’m not there to earn pious points, either.

I’m there because Jesus is there, and since He has won my heart, I want to be where He is.

And because Jesus is Lord, His reign exceeds anything I can name. I shouldn’t pause my praise to chat with fellow pew-sitters about the latest on Harry and Meghan.

When churchgoers chitchat during service, the sustained noise has the unfortunate effect of pulling everyone’s focus away from Jesus.

Which brings me to this question.

Have we, as the body of Christ, strayed so far from Jesus’ identity—that He’s the most majestic Royal there ever was? Scripture hails Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:16), and as such, His presence deserves our utmost respect. King Jesus self-sacrificed while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8).

So different than every other overlord.

I fear we have overlooked the fact that He is Chief among ten thousand (Song of Solomon 5:10), the One everyone will soon bow to (Philippians 2:9-11).

Because how else can we explain the casual way in which we elbow each other—while Jesus is seated on the throne (Psalm 22:3)—and carry on with it, as though interrupting a lovefest for the Prince of life (Acts 3:15, NKJV) were no biggie?

2. Concentrated Presence

Some claim they can commune with God while fishing. Or hiking. The idea being since God is omnipresent, there is no need to seek Him at a special place such as a church service.

True. God is everywhere all at once.

But, as my mom once taught me, we experience more of His presence at church. “When I buy you a new dress,” she instructed my little-girl self, “wear it to church. Show it to Jesus first.”

She was right. There are reasons why the church provides an ideal atmosphere for the Lord to visit.

  • The quorum is met: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).
  • Attendees come expecting: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9, ESV).
  • Praise prevails (Psalm 100:4).

In other words, God’s supernatural presence falls when congregants come hungry, latching their minds on nothing but Jesus, lips letting loose songs of praise.

That kind of atmosphere is the birthplace of miracles—of healed diseases and restored marriages and renewed hope.

(I’ve been in church services where a woman hollered so loud the pastor asked her to explain. It turns out God healed her eyes so she could now see. Others glorified God for healing them from arthritis, cancer, back pain, and many different ailments. Suicidal people abandoned their earlier plan to kill themselves.)

When I find myself in such an atmosphere, I don’t want to miss anything.

When I find loud Christians in such an atmosphere, I don’t want them to miss anything, either. The Lord commands me to love them like myself (Mark 12:31). Since I strive to absorb as much from the Lord as I can, I’d like the same for them.

To escape the loud group behind me, I scooted to several rows behind the commotion—only to acquire an unobstructed view of these churchgoers’ phones clutched in their hands.

My spirit sinks. Often it is smartphones—not the minister’s sermon—that captivate our attention.

But why do you need to watch a movie clip at church?

A sage saying of Jesus from Matthew 26:11 comes to mind, paraphrased for context: “You will always have YouTube, but you will not always have Me.”  

3. An Open Invitation

Please hear me. I respect that these people come to church in person. Ever since the body of Christ learned to lean on live streams to survive the pandemic, some seem to loathe returning to church in the flesh, even though technology can’t fully transmit everything that happens in vivo.

So, thumbs up to all who can make it to church in person.

But if you’re willing to go to the trouble of swapping PJs for your Sunday best and guzzling up your car (despite today’s inflated prices), then why would you arrive at church only to eyeball your smartphone during service?

Isn’t that like reserving a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant only to nibble on the leftover casserole you smuggled from home?

I imagine someone responding with a reference to multitasking. Can’t you listen to a sermon and also watch a movie?

Not really. The concept may seem convenient for our too-busy culture, but multitasking doesn’t work—not when the tasks utilize complex mental faculties.

What we deem to be multitasking is, in actuality, switching our attention back and forth. But because God crafted our brains to focus on one thing at a time, going from one task to another to yet another will make it more likely for us to miss important elements.

It’s like another one of Jesus’ sayings, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Translation: At first, you might seem to juggle both the sermon and movie just fine. However, as time goes on, you’ll either be devoted to the sermon and ignore the movie or the other way around.

I don’t aspire to plant a stumbling block on anyone’s path. So, if you disagree with anything I say, let’s connect. I want to hear your response to my observations.

God warns us against ditching fellowshipping (Hebrews 10:25) because this is how we sharpen our mutual faith. To quote Paul, “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours” (Romans 1:12, NLT).

I’m convinced Paul didn’t mean for us to engage in this mutual encouragement during church.

Audrey Davidheiser

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