Sunday, July 29, 2007

blogging on the Sabbath?

The 4th Commandment is the only one not repeated in the New Testament, and yet...the Sabbath is connected to the Creation-- and in the words of Jesus, the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). So, what should one do with the Sabbath? More specifically, should I blog on the Sabbath? And if so, how so?

At least for now, I am open to blogging on the Sabbath. But when I do so, I will focus exclusively on spiritual topics-- taking a break from the wide range of topics I plan to address on a regular basis. In particular, I'll probably write about moments in worship, our pastor's sermon, and my teaching lessons that day.

Our associate pastor, Kyle, delivered another excellent message this morning, closing out a three-week series on prayer. Within the framework of "the network"-- outgoing calls, incoming calls, and this morning, dropped calls-- he offered a range of helpful suggestions and encouragement to invest more in our relationships with God through prayer.

He spoke at length about the reasons for "unanswered prayer" and came up with seven categories: unconfessed sin, an unforgiving spirit, an unbelieving heart, impure motives, unresolved conflict in marriage, unconvincing effort (in prayer and work), and unwise requests.

In my teaching, I have often talked about the absurdity of asking God for something in an area where we are also engaged in active sin. Kyle used the example of borrowing a lawn mower from a neighbor who just saw us kicking his dog. I've often used my children here-- to note the incoherence of disobeying me and then asking for a treat. Likewise, it's interesting to hear about non-believers and (quite) nominal believers going to God in prayer.

As for unconvincing effort, we can be both unconvinced about the power of prayer and unconvincing in terms of our participation in the same project. I'm sure that I have students who are passionate petitioners of the Almighty-- after they have failed to study much during my courses. In contrast, a strong relationship with God points to both dependence on Him and active participation within His provision. Anything else is testing God-- and ultimately, ridiculous.

In my lesson this morning on Exodus 32:7-14, I was especially struck by the impact of this incident on Moses' ministry-- especially his petition on behalf of the Israelites, despite their gross sin. In seeing/experiencing God's wrath and then His mercy and grace-- and in advocating for people who had been and would continue to be bozos-- this was a pivotal moment in his ministry, one he would often reflect upon.

This is a rich passage, including the remarkably eloquent four-fold intercession of Moses (I thought he said he couldn't speak very well!) and God provocatively portrayed as both never-changing (in His promises and character) and seeming to change His mind.

Two other fascinating questions: why did God allow this to go so far before intervening and why God didn't zap the sinners himself. (And what are the applications for us in terms of intervention and zapping?!) One of those applications takes us into politics, but I won't succumb to the temptation to pursue that tangent! ;-)

Grace and peace to you and yours on this and every Sabbath!


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