28 Jul Sabbatical Update #1
God’s promise of entering his rest still stands … Hebrews 4:1
Resting has never been an easy thing for me. I can work hard and I can be lazy – but resting … that is a different animal that I have struggled with my whole life. By “resting” I mean – stopping and stepping away from work to renew the body, mind, and soul. Being lazy is not resting – it is avoiding work. Resting is purposely stopping and stepping away even though there is more work to be done because this is God’s design for us.
Over the next three months, I want to write out thoughts for me and for us about rest, about Sabbath. I want to explore, question, and seek the heart of God on why He designed us this way. I want to share stories from this season of “rest” for me and hopefully encourage us all that rest is not just a way to enjoy life – but resting in the right thing or person – is the only way to know joy in life. Here is one short story from the beginning of this sabbatical to illustrate this point.
My 18 year-old son, Will, and I recently journeyed to Japan to explore partnerships with Japanese church planters. Japan is the second most “unreached” nation on the earth. “Unreached” refers to any ethnic or ethno-linguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the nation. In a nation of 121 million people, less than 350,000 claim to be Christian. This is a tiny portion of the population. In addition, the training and equipping of pastors and lay people to make disciples is very weak to non-existent. The Acts 29 churches of the midwest region of the US (Acts 29 is a church planting network we partner with to plant churches across the globe) are seeking to partner with a few church planters in Japan – specifically in Tokyo. This trip was an exploratory trip and a successful one at that I will tell you more about in coming blogs.
One day on this trip we were eating in a traditional Japanese restaurant called a ryoutei. Thirty minutes into our meal, the room began to shake a little, then a lot, and it didn’t stop. This was an earthquake. 5.6 on the Japanese Richter scale – which is not small, but also not huge. It shook us for about 30 seconds and stopped. No one was hurt and nothing was damaged. It was both exciting and scary. Side note: Drew is an American who will soon be moving his family to Japan to help one of the church plants make disciples. He is fluent in Japanese, he is a solid guy, and he was our guide on this trip. Yoshi is a Japanese church planter in Tokyo. A humble yet passionate man, he is one of the planters we hope to partner with. Both were at this meal when the earthquake started. Drew’s eyes grew larger and larger as the shaking intensified. Across the table, Yoshi took his teacup, leaned back in his chair and calmly announced – “earthquake.”
I later asked Yoshi if he gets nervous in the middle of earthquakes to which he replied “yes.” He also answered, he knows they are out of his control. Yoshi was resting in the middle of crisis not because he was devoid of fear, but rather because he knew this situation was out of his control. In the midst of fear and chaos – Yoshi found some joy we were all missing because he knew this shaking was in the control of One way bigger and greater than us. He could rest – because He knew who was in control.
Rest is something God offers us through the finish WORK of Christ. It calls us to trust him in the midst of our fears and our work – that HIS WORK is better than ours – that His work offers real rest for our body, mind, and soul. How does this work? We will talk about this more over the next 11 weeks. For now, hear God’s invitation … God’s promise of entering his rest still stands. Come – let’s rest together in Christ.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28