Some news regarding the Dukes family and the Westpoint Church family.

Jen and I shared some life-changing news this last Sunday morning at the end of our gathering.

We tried as best we know how to communicate that we sense a leading from the Holy Spirit to be sent by this awesome church family which we helped initiate and with whom we have walked these last nine and a half years in order to equip and lead a local church family elsewhere. It was with a profound ache in our hearts but with a peace we don’t understand that we shared this news, and we are grateful for the loving, affirming encouragement we have received.

When we started Westpoint, we started with the full intent of growing old with Westpoint. We were not looking to leave. We were not pedaling resumes. We have over the last year sensed an unsettling in our hearts that we could not explain. But we are very surprised to even be writing this, much like you might be surprised reading it.

Long story short is that someone recommended us to be considered for lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Booneville, MS. It happens to be the church family of which my brother and his wife are a part, which is not in and of itself significant except to say that is how they knew who we are. We know that we will be stretched to lead a beautiful people in a culture like which we have never led before. We pray that we will be able to equip and love and send a people eager to make disciples, live on mission, and equip future leaders to go and be the church from the most churched state in the country, Mississippi.

We have a peace in our hearts. We have sought the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. We have been affirmed in personal prayer and study of scripture. We look back and see some spiritual guideposts via a few relational experiences and God-sighting circumstances over the past year for both Jen and me. We have had so many people with the church family there who have prayed for a pastor to lead them to live sent locally and around the world. We have had the fervent prayers and full support of our elders. We simply feel like God is saying that He wants us there.

We don’t understand. But we have a peace that we don’t have to. It is hard to even proclaim excitement. But we have a sobriety that in past experiences has always indicated God’s presence in the midst of something.

We are sobered by the notion of moving our family there to learn the ways of Jesus in a whole new context as well as to think and live like a missionary among a people who are so familiar with the stories of the Bible they often find themselves, without intending to be, complacent and self-sufficient. And we sense the Spirit whispering as we lean in close that we have encouraged the church here in Central Florida to live sent, and now He wants us to encourage His church in Mississippi to do the same.

I will also continue to write. I will still continue to support and serve church starters and missionaries in Montreal, Quebec in partnership with NAMB. And I will begin exploring relationship with Mississippi Baptist church starting leaders as well as exploring partnership with the Launch Network for new churches.

The bottom line. We hurt at the thought of leaving. And the culture of Westpoint isn’t one in which there would be hurt for leaving SOMETHING, but rather SOMEONE. We hurt to leave the beautiful, caring people with whom we have been being the church together and living sent daily. Who have cheered with us over the births of our children. Who have stood beside us during the accident of my parents and the death of my mom. Who have supported us as we have tried to equip leaders both here and around the world. Who have endured so many long-winded teaching times on Sunday mornings. Who have prayed with us for the continued growth of our marriage. Who have welled up with joy with us at the continued growth of our family. And who have simply been our friends. Loving. Gracious. Forgiving. Beside us.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We have a little time left together before we would move. It looks as though our last Sunday with Westpoint would be July 7th. We would then load up and move the following week. We hope to soak up this time with you between now and then.

As far as Westpoint goes, may she be even more committed to loving as we have been loved and living on mission unified by togetherness around sentness. Westpoint is led by a strong, Spirit-led pastoral team and vision team who are equipping others to think and live like a missionary here. A transition team is being pulled together to lead Westpoint during this transition on into the future of whatever God has for His local church here. They will begin exploring options and be regularly communicating with the Westpoint family.

In case you might be wondering – what about Jason’s dad? Doesn’t he live here, too? Well, he is moving to Booneville, as well. And as you might expect, he is grateful for how God would bless him during this season of his life to be in a town that contains both sets of grand kids. Twelve in all (at least for now). Both sets of parents are grateful, too.

Regarding Jen’s family, Jen and I will miss the blessing of living so close to them here in town. We will miss them very much, but they have been and continue to be so supportive and very affirming of this calling to equip in a more traditional setting.

Please pray with us as we transition. Thanks to all who have been praying and encouraging us through this decision.

-Jason and Jen

Get the free ebook – “Say No to Discipleship?!?”

So grateful for the Exponential leadership team and the ebooks they have so generously offered over the last year. So grateful they would include one that I have written entitled Say No to Discipleship?!?

You can get your free copy by clicking here and choosing one of three sharing options.

It is worth connecting with the Exponential email blast that goes out. Such great equipping tools they share week to week. Hopefully the new ebook will be worth leaving them an email or posting on Facebook or tweeting out. :)

Much love.
-jason

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Check out SENTkids.com (aka MissionalParenting.com)!!!

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May I invite you to check out SENTkids.com. It is a brand new resource we launched two weeks ago to help equip moms and dads to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel. The hope is that parents will send their children off to college as disciple makers rather than just moralists.

Surf the site. We kicked it off unpacking the four suggestions from the “suggestions” page over the first four weeks (two more to go). We will not only be sharing thoughts and stories and resources, but from time time you can enjoy guest bloggers offering their perspectives. Expect posts every Monday and Wednesday and Friday. Also, be looking for three to five ebooks free as encouraging and equipping resources to parents.

Comment with suggestions or any feedback.

Hopeful this will be a meaningful resource to help families live sent together and to equip moms and dads as they cultivate into the hearts of their children the gospel of the God who came near.

Much love.
-Jason

A hymn I wrote this weekend. “i Need You.” I so need Jesus. So grateful He graciously came near and stays near.

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i need You.

You didn’t need, but were compelled.
To share communion, love, and worth.
The Word existing beyond the now
Breathed life in dust, brought heaven to earth.

I think I need more than You gave.
Delight in more. Discontent. Ongoing strife.
The Word made flesh one time You came
Resurrection needed. My untombed life.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Need forgotten. Accolades.
Pride swells. Favor won.
You were already proud of me
Not my own merit. But Your Son.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Help me remember. Keep believing.
My independence no longer chase.
So unaware how much I need You.
More gratefulness for Your grace.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

We need You. Lord we need You. Every breath we need You.
You’ve blessed us now our Savior. You came to us.

“Triangle. Square. Arrow.” Three shapes metaphorically shaping our lives. A poem I wrote this last weekend.

Triangle. Square. Arrow.

Father and Son and Spirit in unity and love together.
Love can’t be held in a box.
Love is compelled to give love.

Time. Space. Earth.
Garden. Man. Woman. God.
Love sends beloved to enjoys what’s been made.

Man. Woman. Choice.
Serpent. Tree of life. Tree of more. Woman decides.
Love mercifully sends away selfishness to die.

Covenant. Geography. People.
Multiply. Bless. Tree of more again. Divide.
Love graciously sends then restores.

Legalism. Licentiousness. Emmanuel.
Rome. Jews. Authority. Disturbance.
Love selflessly buries selfishness then rises.

Live for self. Live for God. Live WITH GOD.
Believing. Confessing. Depending. Restored.
Love, as Sent One, now sends beloved.

Listen. Learn. Love.
One Christ. One mission. One church. One another.
Love given together to neighbors and nations.

Groom. Bride. Wedding.
No more evil. No more tears. No more death. Hope no more.
Love welcomes beloved as intended, fully restored.

why SENT life? why TOGETHER? And a link for some resources for those who are or know those who are depressed or struggling in silence with mental illness…

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Can I give you three reasons why walking in SENT life with a few others is so crucial to both our own salvation as well as others experiencing Christ’s saving grace?

One _ because without intimate relationships, can we really learn the Gospel? I am not sure it is possible. In order to actually learn the good news of Jesus coming near to us as well as the security that Gospel bears upon my self-perception as well as the compelling love that Gospel moves me to give freely into my everyday friendships, I need community. I need the exposure of my weaknesses that an environment of intimacy provides. I need the edification of my becoming who Jesus is making me to be that the encouragement and sharpening of others offers. I need the tastes of conflict and grace and forgiveness and restoration and growth. This interaction provides me the space to believe I am fully loved as I walk with an otherwise selfish group of people who are uniting around a forever, selfless Love.

Two _ because without life together, how could I know when someone’s life is falling apart? Isn’t it irrational to think that some professional clergy can discern when a congregant is depressed just because he or she shows up for gathering on a Sunday morning? Isn’t it ridiculous to assume that one “church member” could know how to meet the need of another “church member” without walking in deep friendship together. Very few people cry out for help. Rather, they isolate themselves either to come out again when they hopefully feel better, which may never come, or to die a slow, lonely death. An emphasis upon community and a reorientation of our otherwise busy, suburban lives toward SENT life together is necessary in order to discern when each other is hurting. It is necessary in order to reach out and touch and care and simply be there to help. Jesus modeled this both with those seemingly healthy as well as those showing signs of dysfunction. Both the lost and the found. He lived like family with those who weren’t His literal family. He loved even the least of these.

Three _ because without each other, how can we live sent? This has often been a criticism of the live sent message we have emphasized – when are we gonna care for one another? The answer is found in the new command of Jesus from John 13:34-35. There, Jesus makes it clear that others will know we are His disciples (insinuating they would thus witness a glimpse or taste a small portion of “on earth as it is in heaven”) when we have love one for another. In other words, we love each other as we are going in daily life loving others. We care as we are caring. These small groups of people living SENT life together become family pictures in the here and now of what God’s family will be like in the not yet. A glimpse of Kingdom found in little pockets of Kingdom all across the community.

Jen and I are not doing this to the fullness with which we would like. We are learning, too. But we are becoming more and more convicted that SENT life with a few is essential for us to learn and live Jesus, for our marriage to embody the gracious, Gospel love, for our kids to see the reality of resurrection life, and for our neighbors to experience “on earth as it is in heaven.”

It also frames the purpose of our Sunday gathering. We gather to equip for the sending together. Nothing more. And it frames the motive of our together generosity. We give time and money and muscle because we want to share what we have found to be worth giving up everything else for. The pearl of the Kingdom, here and now.

May we not expect this to come as easy as a sign up sheet. May we look for and initiative SENT life with a few from the Westpoint family and then together with a few of our everyday neighbors.

This is the church.

The intention of Jesus for His people. The mission to which He is calling His church to exist for, not the mission that He is asking His church to add on top of everything else that we do.

May we think and live like missionaries in Lake and Orange Counties, family-like pockets of “on earth as it is in heaven” who happen to value and appreciate gathering together to be encouraged and equipped at an elementary school on Sunday mornings, gracious environments of friendship who generously give themselves away into one another as well as into neighbors and nations.

Love y’all. Praying to learn how to live this as well as equip for it better.

-jason

A BIG PS FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT BE HURTING _ the exponential network posted a blog post with resources and links for those depressed or struggling with mental illness who are ready to ask for help. In light of Pastor Rick Warren’s son taking his own life this last Friday, we pray for those hurting right here among us. Hope these resources help – http://blog.exponential.org/2013/04/mental-illness-resources-for-the-church/#more-5696

The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does.

As the WestpointChurch.org 2013 SENT life emphasis continues, the equipping focus for this month is NEIGHBORING. The Sunday teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” This past Sunday morning, we spent time in John 4. Each week, I close the teaching with “the bottom line.” Here it is from March 10th:

THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does. It is the moving news of God changing locations, coming near, compelling us to take initiative to go near. God’s commands are not overbearing rules that when kept earn God’s love. They are rather eye-opening pathways down which we walk with Jesus in order to experience God’s love. And worship is not some emotional event defined by geography and circumstance. Rather, it is a breath-by-breath, relational response to the God who stepped into the geography He made to resurrect life from our consequentially deadly circumstances, transformationally declaring once and for all the Truth of His love.

When we believe this Good News, and over time as His Spirit grows us in understanding how this Gospel is embodied in our daily relationships (which is wisdom, by the way), then we realize how neighborly God has been with us and are gratefully and graciously compelled to go be neighborly with each other as well as to others.

So grateful to be reminded of the mysterious, beautiful, compelling news that God came near taking up residence among us. We are loved. His presence is our good.

-jason

Two quotes and two exercises that might help you lose the “wait” toward oneness in your marriage…

Hard to believe March 1st is tomorrow. That means the Sunday morning equipping focus for the Westpoint Church family moves on from the letter “E” to the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “NEIGHBORING.” This next teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” We will walk through four Scriptures in the Gospel of John as we consider the implications of God coming near to us. Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

And here is the final Spouse Beach Diet weigh in! Even still, I hope you and your spouse will continue to give energy and effort to the diet and exercise of marriage together. To wrap up the month, consider the following two quotes and two questions together. Take some time on an upcoming date night or late night coffee at home to thoroughly discuss them. It may be just the workout you need to continue to lose the “wait” toward oneness and to go with God together on the intimate, beautiful intended mission of your marriage.

First quote…

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ if the Gospel is not just something you trusted one day for conversion but everyday for abundant life in Christ, AND if the Gospel is something that is embodied more than just intellectually received, then how might you and your spouse need to center the Gospel more in your marriage? How is it absent from your relationship (in ways that you treat each other)? How would it be displayed to one another if Gospel was more central to your relationship?

Next quote…

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ How are love and truth playing a part in your relationship? How might one or the other be missing? HUSBANDS – is your wife certain that, like Christ, the one thing she will always be able to count on is your love and your presence? WIVES – is your husband encouraged and affirmed in the ways that you communicate your needs, or is he discouraged and torn down? How can love and truth draw you closer toward each other? And how, if applied, might it transform the way you communicate with each other?

Hope this is a meaningful and fruitful exercise, even if it is hard, even if it hurts. Please remember that difficult does NOT equal bad. Often, in fact, it equals becoming. In the context of marriage, often it equals becoming one.

Much love.

-jason

What is the mission of your marriage?

Time for our Spouse Beach Diet weigh in again this week. Have the daily suggestions been helpful? Hope so!

This coming Sunday, the series concludes with the question – “Are you eating your way together into the Kingdom of God (aka what is the mission if your marriage)?

Marriage is not just for our own good. Rather, God uses marriage both to teach us of His goodness and grace as well as to teach others of His goodness and grace as they see it embodied in our marital relationships. Gospel believed and lived and given. There is definitely a mission to marriage. Are you engaged in it together?

Alan Hirsch’s mentor told him once that he was convinced of the following:

Followers of Jesus should eat their way into the Kingdom of God

.

I am convinced he was right, if couples will use the daily rhythms of meals to invite others along with them as they learn the ways of Jesus. And the mission of your marriage could be as simple as supper and hospitality. The conversations that Jesus had over meals and the oneness His hearers experienced with God are apparent. Imagine the conversations around your table becoming just like His, and imagine the oneness you would experience as a married couple watching others discover oneness with the God who came near to love them.

May you find the mission of your marriage and go with Jesus together to live sent.

One more extra resource to share this month _ “10 ways to joyfully keep your marriage vows.”

And, just like we shared in the last three weeks’ emails, from the minds and hearts of your pastoral team, here are “28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage” (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out.

Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.”

Click here to check out what the husbands are encouraged to consider. Click here to check out what the wives are encouraged to consider.

Much love!
-jason
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PS _ The Northland DADDY-DAUGHTER DANCE is March 1st. If you are planning on going, reply and let me know. We will try to grab a meal together beforehand like last year. Click here to register.

PPS _ next month’s Sunday morning equipping focuses on the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “neighboring” – with a teaching series entitled “God became neighbor.” Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

Barbara Rainey suggests, “Without question, the biggest deterrent to romance for moms is children.” Read more in this repost of her article “Need Machines.”

Our emphasis on “marriage” and living the SENT life with your spouse continues with this great article from Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today entitled “Need Machines.” Great discussion starter for husbands and wives regarding their intimacy and oneness in the busy season of raising children. Good stuff! Thankful for Dennis and Barbara Rainey and how they encourage so many couples.

Hope it is encouraging to you!
-Jason
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Need Machines
by Barbara Rainey

Over our doors are all choice fruits, both new and old, which I have saved up for you, my beloved.
Song of Solomon 7:13

Without question, the biggest deterrent to romance for moms is children. These sweet, precious, innocent little ones given to us by God are also self-centered, untrained, unending “need machines” who can suck the life out of our marriage. They often leave us feeling like the mother who said, “It’s ironic. Romance gave us our children, and children ended our romance.”

But motherhood can simply be a tempting excuse for giving up sex. Caught up in her day-in-day-out responsibilities, a mother can experience a slow shift in loyalty from husband to children. She thinks the needs of her children, since they are so helpless and formative, are more important than the needs of her husband. After all, he’s an adult.

True. And yet one reason why this reasoning is faulty–one reason why it’s easy for us to have little sympathy for our husband’s sexual needs–is that we as women are able to experience our femaleness simply by nurturing our children. We feel fully alive as women when we’re caring for them (that is, when we’re not totally exhausted!). We feel a deep, innate sense of well-being and fulfillment; it is an indescribable privilege that brings us profound satisfaction. It’s what we were made to do.

But it’s only part of being a woman. God didn’t create you with the capacity and compulsion to nurture just for the sake of your children. He also meant for you to nurture life in your husband. Maintaining this balance is one of the biggest challenges of the parenting years; your children need to see Dad and Mom in love.

Nurturing life in your husband may not be as automatic as it is with your children, but it is no less important. God will help you balance the needs of both husband and children when you depend upon Him.

Discuss
What are some practical, creative ways you both could keep romance alive, even when living in a house full of children?

Pray
Pray for God’s wisdom in balancing life’s demands.

marriage and making love _ encouragement for those embarking on the Spouse Beach Diet with us this month…

Our emphasis on SENT life together continues this month with a focus on the most intimate of all of our relationships – marriage. The oneness or lack thereof in the relationship between a husband and wife can define and empower SENT life or distract and hinder mission together. The hope this month is to better equip husbands and wives to grow in oneness and experience the SENT life Jesus intended.

Last Sunday in the teaching, we learned together about “Eating Jesus Together.” If you so desire, you can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here are some encouraging words about romance in marriage from Dennis and Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today. Enjoy…

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Dennis and I received a cute email about the romantic differences between men and women. It began by asking, “How do you romance a woman?”

Answer: “Wine her, dine her, call her, cuddle with her, surprise her, compliment her hair, shop with her, listen to her talk, buy flowers, hold her hand, write love letters, and be willing to go to the end of the earth and back again for her.” I could go along with that.

But when it asked the same question the other way–”How do you romance a man?”–the answer was much more brief and to the point.

Answer: “Arrive naked. Bring food.”

Ahhh . . . men.

But in a way, this blending of our roman¬tic differences is similar to how you make a good salad dressing. Oil and vinegar are about as dissimilar as condiments get. The only thing they have in common is that they are liquids. Other than that, they’re night and day. Oil is smooth; vine¬gar is sharp. Oil is thick; vinegar is thin. Left alone in the same bottle, the two will always migrate to opposite ends and remain there forever–unless shaken.

Interestingly, however, even after the bottle has been shaken, the two ingredients retain their unique identities. And yet they complement each other in a savory unity. Together, they serve as a zesty finish to an otherwise bland mix of lettuces.

And so it is in marriage. No matter how many times a husband and wife come together, they always remain unique. He will always think like a man; she, like a woman. And although their innate design will never change, they can better under-stand each other and move to love one another with compassion, knowing that in so doing, they create a savory blend of romantic intrigue.

Discuss:
What do you love about your romantic differences? Which ones can drive you crazy?

Pray:
Pray for patient understanding and for new ways of embracing and loving this wonderful person you married.

__________________

As an ADDED BONUS _ here are “4 Ideas to Improve Your Love-Making” also from Family Life. Really enjoy this one :-)

Much love.
-jason

28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet)…

Eating was important to Jesus, and so it should be important to us as His followers.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
(Luke 7:34 HCSB)

Jen and I like to go out to eat. We don’t always like learning the nutritional information about some of our favorite restaurants, though. Jesus didn’t come with a nutritional information guide, but He did ask His followers to eat Him!?!

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.
(John 6:53-55 HCSB)

Paul gives us an indication of what it is that we are “eating” when we eat of the Bread of Life, because we become what we have eaten.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB)

The same principle is true in our marriages. Our marriages become what we are feasting on individually and together. The Spirit blossoms in us or the flesh rears its destructive head.

And so, “The Spouse Beach Diet.”

This month, as the Westpoint Church family focuses on the letter E of the SENT emphasis, as we continue to emphasize the mission of Jesus central to our daily rhythms and alive in our everyday relationships, we turn to the most intimate everyday relationship we can have on earth. Marriage is metaphorical of the relationship between Christ and the church, and it is literally the one relationship that can define the very purpose of our lives.

Because this is so, let’s take the time this month to discover what the Scriptures teach us about the dietary nutrition of our marriages.

On a very practical level, here are 28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out. Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.” :)

For the husbands to consider – http://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/husbands-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions-copy.pdf

For the wives to consider – http://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/wives-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions.pdf

Hopeful that this February will be a nutritious one for your marriage!!! Find a few couples to pray for you and with you and share the ups and downs with as you diet together this month.

Much love.

-jason

Jesus and the Sabbath _ an article my dad wrote on how Jesus thought of and taught about the sabbath…

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In light of our current teaching emphasis on “scripturing” and priorities and pondering “is sabbath a priority?,” I asked my dad to pen some thoughts about what Jesus thought about and taught about the Sabbath. Here is what he wrote. I love this guy!!! So grateful for my pop. :-)
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Jesus and the Sabbath
by Dr. Jimmy Dukes

How did Jesus react to the Sabbath? He was a Jew who honored the Law, but how was his reaction to the Sabbath different from the reaction of the Jewish leaders of his day? Mark gives us a great contrast between Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath Law and the Jewish leaders’ approach in two incidents from the ministry of Jesus in Mark 2:23-3:5.

Two simple stories. A walk through a grain field and a healing of a man in need.

The first involves Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field on a Sabbath. Jesus said nothing here until after the Jewish leaders had spoken in criticism of the disciples. The disciples were doing nothing wrong in spite of the accusation of the Jewish leaders that they were acting unlawfully. They interpreted the plucking of grain and the rubbing of it to remove the husks as harvesting and threshing. The disciples’ action was allowed under the law, but was not generally acceptable in the tradition of the elders on the Sabbath. Jesus was not criticizing the law. He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He reinterpreted the Law in the light of who he was and in the light of his relationship to the Father, the Giver of the Sabbath.

So what was the problem? The Jewish leaders had become so focused on the law itself as something to be revered and protected that they ignored the Person who was to be revered and protected. God had made clear from the Garden of Eden that his desire was to have a relationship with his people. All of the Law, including the Sabbath law was given in the context of that relationship. He gave it to make life better for his people. That is why Jesus made the key statement in 2:27-28:

“Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

With his response to the criticism of the Jewish leaders and the healing of the man on the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching three things. First, he was making his Lordship clear. That authority extends to the Sabbath, which was given by God to his people to strengthen their relationship and to make their lives more abundant and productive. Second, Jesus was teaching that men cannot understand their relationship to the law properly if they do not understand their relation to the Giver of the Law. Third, he was teaching that man does not owe blind obedience to the law but he does owe obedience to the Lord of the Sabbath to live out the relationship with the Lord and with his people.

Jesus used two examples to confirm his relational approach to the law. The first was David. He was fleeing with some of his men and they were hungry. They went to the priest and took away the Bread of the Presence, which legally only the priests could eat. David took the bread and shared it with his hungry men. The moral is clear. Meeting the genuine needs of people is more important than legal principles.

The second example is even clearer (3:1-5). Jesus, in the course of his ministry encountered a man with a withered hand. Coincidentally the encounter was on the Sabbath. The man could have waited another day to be healed, but Jesus was there on that day. He healed the man to demonstrate the importance of taking the opportunity to meet a need when it presented itself and to teach the principle that ministry to people is more important than legalistic rules. Here he affirmed his truth by contrasting a man in need and animals in need. (Man is more important than animals).

What can we learn?

A man so bound by tradition he ignores the needs of others is far off track from the purpose of God. If we have a relationship with the Giver of the Law we must demonstrate it as Jesus did by being obedient to the purpose of God. If tradition is more important than people, the purpose of God is violated. It always comes back to the purpose of God.

How are we working with Him to accomplish his purpose by meeting the needs he puts before us???

Eugene Peterson suggests that sabbath is the most important as well as most ignored function of the church today, for from this restful, trustworthy connection life comes.

The following is a summary from my notes of Eugene Peterson’s conversation with Gabe Lyons in Manhattan in February, 2012. One of the topics of conversation was SABBATH. Peterson had much wisdom to share on the matter.

:: a definition of “sabbath”

>> shut up and show up.

:: don’t try to be like God
It does not start with understanding sabbath but with looking at and understanding God from the beginning…when we don’t keep the sabbath, we are trying to be like gods.

:: when we started keeping a sabbath as a family
We didn’t start out doing sabbath in Maryland. However, I wasn’t working out of obedience but out of fear. Then, we would get away for a month as a family somewhere and just be together.

By the time I started working out of obedience rather than fear, we structured our sabbath for every Monday. I made lunch since Jan did the rest of the week. She prayed since I tended to the rest of the week. The kids would be in school. Jan would read a Psalm and we would be quiet and walk. Then we would come back and just debrief. Kids would come home from school and take part, too. First thing we noticed was the kids loved it because no one had to do work that day. We would do nothing we HAD to do.

I wrote our congregation a letter every year “why your pastor keeps a sabbath” in order to invite them to help us keep it. You can’t keep the sabbath alone. People took it seriously. And after 10 years or so, many of them began to keep one, too. And we helped each other. The most important thing we did was asking our congregation to help us keep it.

:: not just a cessation of work
Sabbath is not a cessation of work, but rather a contemplation of work. Non-sabbath keeping is a desecration of work, not honoring the real gift that our work is. When we do this, the work of man has inflated importance, rather than the work of God being honored most.

:: rest
Living in a rhythm of sabbath allows for restful living rather than guilty, busy, driven living.

:: evangelism may not be the primary work of the church…
I think evangelism may not be the primary work of the church, but rather sabbath-keeping. Because it puts us in the rhythm of stopping to listen to God and then responding and doing what he says. We try to do so much without being in this sabbath rhythm. Without it, how can we evangelize?

:: Jesus highlighted the importance of living in a listening rhythm with Him:

“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
(John 10:1-10 HCSB)

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Sabbath is a practical, merciful, intentional command. May we take it seriously. May it become a rhythm of our lives. May it be a priority.

Help “do good farm” get started as they hope for their first harvest this spring. Here are some upcoming work days…

Have you heard of “Do Good Farm” yet? It is a new hydroponic farm concept in the Winter Garden area led by Josh Taylor, the general manager of House Blend Cafe. The purpose is to learn how to create a sustainable food source for the hungry while providing fresh fruits and vegetables for folks here in our community as well as a few partnering organizations in impoverished communities around the world.

Josh is hoping for their first harvest this coming spring, and he could use our help. Can you come help dig and build and plant over the next four weeks? People can come work any window within the following time frames or all of that day.

Here are some dates for work days at the farm:

:: Thursday | Jan 17th | 9a-5p
:: Tuesday | Jan 22nd | 9a-5p
:: Thursday | Jan 24th | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Jan 26th | 9a-1p
:: Tuesday | Jan 29th | 9a-5p
:: Wednesday | Jan 30th | 4p-7p
:: Thursday | Jan 31st | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Feb 2nd | 9a-1p
:: Tuesday | Feb 5th | 9a-5p
:: Thursday | Feb 7th | 9a-5p
:: Saturday | Feb 9th | 9a-1p

Contact JoshT@HouseBlendCafe.com with questions or interest in volunteering.

So grateful for Josh and his wife and their willingness to lead out in this very important endeavor. And grateful to get to be the church together.

Here is a short video Josh put together introducing the concept: