August 13, 2007

Delighting in the Day, Part 1: Riding on the Heights of the Land

This Sunday we will come to the fourth commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Three years ago, I wrote a series of nine practical articles on how we might 'make Sunday special' or, to use a more biblical phrase, how we might "delight in the day." For my congregation's benefit, and inspired partly by Jordan Thomas's recent post on congregational sermon preparation (which wins the Jonathan Edwards prize for longest blog-post title in world history!), I am going to post them here this week - one or two a day. I hope the rest of you enjoy, too! Here is the first one, entitled Riding on the Heights of the Land:

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the land; and I will feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 58.13-14

We all want to be happy. Every person on the face of the earth wants life to be good instead of bad. There is no debating this fact. And you and I are no different than everyone else. We may all have different ideas of what true happiness would look like…but in the heart of every man, woman, and child is the desire to ‘live the good life’—however we may define it. We all want to “ride on the heights of the land.” But if we’re realistic, we must admit that, while we strain after ‘the good life,’ it always seems just a little farther out of reach. There’s always that ‘one more thing’ that might make life just a bit better.

Could it be, though, that the “one more thing” has been right under our noses all along? Scan back to the top and read Isaiah 58.13-14 again. God says we will “ride on the heights of the land” if we “delight” in His “holy day.” There is a world of contentment awaiting us if we will make Sunday special!

Through the ages, men have made the Sabbath principle a burden on one another—filled with ‘don’ts’ and ‘can’ts.’ But that is not what God intended at all! God intended, from the very outset of creation, that we have one day in seven, on which we might seek His face, free from all worldly distractions. And He says in Isaiah that, if we would but take advantage of a day set aside for worship, prayer, and holy contemplation, we would be genuinely happy—finally! But frankly, most of us spend more Sunday time with the Bengals, the yard work, and the newspaper than with Jesus. No wonder we lack contentment! No wonder we don’t “ride on the heights of the land!”

So, Delighting in the Day will be the theme of this blog for the week. In it, I intend to give some practical hints at making Sunday special. They will not, I hope, be a Pharisee’s rules and regulations. Just honest suggestions for those who want to be happy! If you would but heed them, you have the Lord’s guarantee you will be happy—and our worship times together will be exponentially richer and more beneficial to us all!

3 comments:

Jordan said...

Kurt,

Thanks for the re-post (and for the JE award). I'm looking forward to all nine of them.

On a less delightful note, how can I get a snazzy picture on the top of my blog too?

Your brother,
Jordan T

Anonymous said...

Kurt, I am a sister-in-Christ who lives in Virginia. For years I have desired that the entire little flock (of which I am only one needy member) be graced of God to mount up on high and ride in the heights. I have known that delighting in the Lord's Day is a key to this heavenly-mindedness and power in prayer (where we experience the enemy being put under our feet because we are in submission to all God's commands).
Thank you for sharing your heart with your little flock. I would love to hear testimonies of your congregation members who have put into practice the instruction you gave them as underShepherd. I am still remaining in the place of crying out for God to reveal these old paths to "my" church. I would greatly appreciate your agreement in prayer for this truth to be revealed to my pastor and those he pastors. I think God's servants in the pulpits have a hard time sometimes thinking that they can clearly declare "thus saith the Lord." So, they urge, they teach, they pray, trust and wait for the Holy Spirit to complete His work of preparation in the hearts of the flock. May you not grow weary in well doing. I have been greatly blessed, comforted and strengthened to continue to cry out in faith to God to make His ways known to my brethren. Love in Christ -- Annie

Kurt Strassner said...

Annie,

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. As you well know, this issue, which promises so much blessing, is so very difficult for people to latch onto. Years and years of going our own way on the LORD's day makes for a difficult pattern to break - even where it is known and preached as the right thing.

There are a few encouraging stories of God's blessing our delight in the Lord's day here at PRBC - not as many as I'd like. One particular lady I think of is very active, always on the go, very much on top of her game. But she has decided to break on Sundays - to stop prepping for Monday AM, to spend the day in rest and reading, to really break from her nearly boundless energy for getting things done. And she has been blessed! More than anything, I think it serves her as a weekly reminder that spiritual gains are not accomplished by working, but by resting...in Jesus. We don't have to work to save ourselves! Sunday is a lovely reminder of that isn't it?

My encouragement to you is: keep praying and keep resting on the Lord's Day - and invite others into that rest. If you can have brothers and sisters in Christ over for a leisurely lunch and conversation after Sunday service, you can allow them to see how very special a day of rest, fellowship, and praise really is.

If you'd like to have something a little more full regarding the Lord's Day ... backtrack from the blog to the PRBC website (see the Navigation section in the sidebar), then click sermons and track down the series on the Ten Commandments, and go to commandment 4! I hope you'll again be encouraged to keep on, and maybe have something to pass along to friends when the timing is right and hearts are open.

I will be praying for you and for your congregation in VA. Blessings in Jesus,