Beyond Sunday From Pastor Ashton

July 24, 2017 |Overworked and Under-rested?

 
Who loves a good heat wave?  No one?  Me neither.  Last week Western Indiana experienced some of the warmest temperatures of the season with temps in the mid-90s with high levels of humidity making it feel even warmer outside.  Although I may not be so grateful when it’s time to pay the electric bill at the end of the month, it’s days like these I am grateful for the invention of air conditioning.  I can tell how incredibly hot it is outside because the air conditioner at my house has not stopped running all week.  After thinking about how overworked my air conditioner has been, I was reminded of an incredible principle that prevents us from overworking: The Sabbath.

“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 2:2-3

You and I are not machines.

 We were never meant to run constantly. We need consistent opportunities to take a break, recharge, and refresh. That is the pattern that God set for us in creation. That is the pattern that He commanded the Israelites to follow as one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” Exodus 20:8-10

We need a break in the regular rhythm of life.

 Without a break you will burn out. But it’s not always easy to simply stop what you’re doing, walk away from your work for a day or two. I’ve found that if I don’t plan ahead, I may be robbed of my Sabbath. More commonly, if I fail to plan ahead how I will guard my Sabbath, it’s tempting to allow someone or something else to make use of it.  So here are three ways I regularly prepare for and guard my weekly Sabbaths:

1. Write Down Your Plan
When I begin my week on Monday, I begin mapping where I want this week to go. It’s important to “begin with the end in mind”.

 If I don’t see at the beginning of my week that I will end with a break, then anything can rob me of that break. Planning ahead creates a sort of urgency that prevents procrastination. I know that everything will not necessarily go according to plan; however, this plan will provide a sort of map that will allow me to ultimately reach my destination.

So begin your week writing out a few planned goals for your week. This does not have to be a detailed to-do list. Just a few general guidelines for the general direction for your week.

And at the end of your plan, write down your break. Schedule it. There is power in scheduling your break. It not only holds you accountable; but, it will also empower you to say 

“No, I already have something scheduled on that day.”

2. Create Personal Deadlines.

As a Pastor I have learned the very rude lesson that Sunday comes every week without exception. Therefore, I better be ready to preach when Sunday comes. Enjoying my Sabbath on Saturday is not a legitimate excuse for not being prepared on Sunday. Therefore, I have learned to create personal deadlines earlier in the week that forces me to complete the goals in my plan sooner.

For example, I typically take Friday and Saturday as my days off. I use one as a family day to do whatever my family wants to do. And the other is my Sabbath – my personal day for rest and refreshment. In order to protect these days from being used as last minute sermon preparation, I have created a personal deadline to have my sermon finished by noon Thursday. My goal is actually to have a completed rough draft ready to send to my worship leader by Wednesday evening.

What would “creating personal deadlines” look like in your line of work? Personally I would rather work late Thursday night than have to come in to the office on Friday. Your week may be the traditional Monday thru Friday with the weekend off. Maybe you have a varying work schedule with your days off changing. Whenever your day off comes, protect it by getting your most important work accomplished before it’s time to take a break.

3. Make it Holy.

The Bible commands us to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it…HOLY.” Sabbath is a Hebrew word that literally means to “REST”. Rest is not just a physical activity. Rest is a spiritual event. You not only need rest to recharge your body and your mind. You also need rest to refresh your soul.
David understood this about rest when he penned the 23rd Psalm.  He wrote, 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3

).  Our Good shepherd knows how to restore our weary souls.  Rest should replenish us spiritually.  

Some spiritual refreshers to include on your Sabbath may be worship, reading the Bible, extended time in prayer, fasting, or fellowship with other believers. After your Sabbath, you should not only be physically ready to go back to work, but you should feel spiritually ready as well.

Rest doesn’t come easy for many of us. 

 We all too often are wired to work because our culture has conditioned us to believe that time is money.  Consequently, there are great costs to taking time off for rest.  Taking time to rest demands that we trust God to provide and care for us.  The way you rest actually reflects how much you trust God as your Shepherd.  So plan so you will be able to take some quality time for rest and restoration.  

 

In Christ,

Ashton 

July 17, 2017 |The Lord is my shepherd … so why do I find it so difficult to hear His voice?

There are so many voices vying for our attention.  From the moment you open your eyes in the morning to the second you close them at night, hundreds of voices are begging for you to notice them.  There’s the voice of your spouse.  And there’s the voice of your employer.  The voices of your children want your acknowledgment.  And there’s the voices in each television commercial attempting to make a sale.  Unless you’ve turned them off, many services now have an instant connection by way of the notifications of your smart-phone.  When you check your email, there are voices wanting to share something with you.  As you scroll through your Facebook feed, limitless voices are posting mostly nonsense for you to read.  With so many voices filling our lives, it’s no wonder why so many find it so difficult to notice the voice of God in their lives.  

One of the analogies that the Bible most often uses to describe the relationship between God and His people is that of a shepherd and his sheep.  It’s a metaphor that shows up in Scripture more than five hundred times.  One example of this is what Jesus said in John 10:11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  That’s the redemptive death of Jesus on the cross for our sins — He laid down His life for us.  

If Jesus is the shepherd and we are His sheep, then of all of the voices that pollute our minds each and every day, His voice should be the one we listen to above all of the other voices in our lives.  With so many other voices seeking to give direction to our lives, as members of Jesus’ flock, we must be careful only to yield to His voice.  Here’s how Jesus describes this relationship in John 10… “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:14-15; 27-28) 

Many of the voices we hear are good and valuable to our lives.  We cannot live without the voices of our loves ones.  It would be unwise to not listen to the voices of our employers.  Sure there are many voices that are nothing more than “noise” that we could easily live without.  But above all of the voices that are vying for our attention is the one voice of the Good Shepherd who speaks and offers us “life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  If we are going to live the full and abundant lives, then we must learn to hear the voice of God amid the myriad of voices in our lives and trust what His voice is saying to us.  From one sheep to another, here are three suggestions to help you find and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.  

1. Make room for the voice of God daily.  
Prioritize a time and place where you will commit yourself to listening to the voice of God.  When I begin a new day, before I hear another voice, I want to hear the voice of God.  That means I must wake up before anyone else in my house, and begin a conversation with my Shepherd in prayer and reading His Word.  If I open my email, turn on the television, or login to Facebook before I connect with my Shepherd, then a thousand other voices will compete for my attention.  Give God priority by intentionally making room for His voice in your day.  

2. Learn to discern God’s voice from all of the other voices.  
Once I heard a story about a group of shepherds who grazed their sheep in the same pasture.  Each flock was intermingled to the point it was indiscernible which sheep belonged to each shepherd.  At the end of the day, one of the shepherds let out a loud call to his sheep.  And a group of sheep followed his lead.  Next another shepherd let out another loud call to his sheep.  And some of the sheep broke from the larger group and followed his lead.  After each of the shepherds, one by one, let out a distinct call, each of his sheep followed his lead because they knew his voice.  They did not follow any of the other shepherds because they knew that voice wasn’t the voice of their shepherd.  

Likewise, as God’s sheep, we must spend time with our shepherd so that we can learn His voice.  As we devote ourselves to reading His word and praying, we will be able to what is truth and what is lies.  Even when competing voices are louder, we must compare them to the truth of God’s Word to ensure we’re listening to the right voices.  When we’re become familiar with His voice, we will be able to discern God’s voice from all of the other competing voices in our lives.  

3. Yield to God’s voice.   
When God’s children are able to discern God’s voice from all of the other voices in our lives, we must make a choice to obey His voice.  It may mean disappointing some very influential voices in our lives; however, only one voice has promised eternal life.  When faced with competing voices, we must always yield to the Shepherd’s voice.

With so many voices competing for our attention, we’re likely not going to get it right every time.  Thank God for His mercy.  And by grace, keep practicing giving your attention to His voice.  

In Christ, 

Ashton 

One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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