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Obadiah

There are only a handful of one chapter books in the Bible. Obadiah is one of them.

When the book is so short, it’s tough to find much to write about. So, I’ll provide a summary and thoughts on one specific idea.

In a nutshell, Obadiah’s prophecy is about curses and blessings.

  • Curses on Edom via God’s judgment.
  • Curses on the nations at large via God’s judgment.
  • Blessings on Israel via God’s restoration.

Why is Edom judged? Two reasons: 1) For not helping their brother out, aka standing aloof. 2) For pride.

Its easy to point the finger at the nation of Edom and say, “Man, you guys suck.”

But it is much harder to ask the person in the mirror, “How many times have you seen someone in need and not taken action to help? How often have you been in too much of a hurry, or justified not stopping to help someone in need?”

And what if you ask yourself the pride question, “How many times have I looked down on someone else for any number of reasons? How many times have I thought I was a bigger deal than I actually am? How many times have I thought of myself first, at the expense of others?”

It’s painful. Trust me, I get it. Self-reflection is tough.

But don’t let it end there. Don’t stop at beating up yourself (or Edom).

The book ends with a vision of the end, saying “The Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” Now that’s good stuff. I look forward to that day. He’ll set things right.

Interesting random side-note: The first nine verses of Obadiah can be found in Jeremiah 49:7-22.

**Originally published in April 2013. Updated in November 2021.**

What are the Imprecatory Psalms?

Have you ever wanted to call down a curse on someone?

Have you ever been so mad at someone that you wished bad things upon them?

Yeah, it’s a natural thing. It’s part of our human condition. People offend us, annoy us, or harm us, and we get upset. Rightfully so.

In this article, I want to answer three common questions about the imprecatory Psalms:

What does imprecatory mean?

Merriam-Webster defines “imprecate” in this way: to invoke evil upon; to curse.

Other synonyms might be:

  • Ban
  • Afflict
  • Maledict
  • Anathematize
  • Vigorous denunciation

I love words, but those sound pretty rough, right? Who would ever wish those things upon someone?

I can almost hear the spelling be judges now…you’ve spelled it, you’ve defined it, now could you use it in a sentence please?

Sure! Let me give you a quick example of how you could use imprecatory in a sentence and where it would make sense:

If you’re a parent and someone purposefully harmed your kid, would that get you fired up?

What if that person sexually abused your kid, would that get you fired up?

What if that person was someone in your own family, or someone that you had trusted, would that get you fired up?

It would get me fired up.

I would, for sure, pray imprecatory Psalms on that person!

So there’s a definition and example of where an imprecation would be feasible.

If you’re calling upon a power (or God) to send injury to another, it better be for a darn good reason.

What are the imprecatory Psalms?

The Psalms have a few different flavors, and they can be divided in a myriad of categories, depending upon who you ask. I’ll divide them up in this way:

  • Imprecatory Psalms
  • Celebration / Praise Psalms
  • Lament Psalms
  • Wisdom Psalms
  • Remembrance / History Psalms

The imprecatory Psalms are actually quite abundant. All of these Psalms include prayers against an enemy, and the lines in them aren’t exactly the type of things we’d expect a “saint” to say:

  • Psalm 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139

Now, you have some Old Testament proof that imprecatory Psalms are ok to pray. But I can already hear the dissenters, “But that was the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who spitefully use us.”

And here’s my reply:

Yes, Jesus did say that. But Jesus also called the Pharisees to the carpet in Matthew 23. That whole chapter sounds like imprecations to me: “Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!”

And Jesus also flipped over the tables (and made a whip to drive out people and animals) in the temple courts, because they had made it a den of thieves instead of a house of prayer.

And Peter and Paul invoked some curses upon folks in the book of Acts. And Paul invoked some curses in Galatians and 2 Timothy.

For many centuries, the test of doctrine has been:

  1. Was it taught or demonstrated by Jesus?
  2. Did the apostles do it in Acts?
  3. And is there teaching or examples of it in the epistles / letters?

If the answer is “yes” to all three, then it’s good to be accepted. It sure looks like imprecations upon the enemy are still acceptable.

Now, should we work to forgive the transgressor? Absolutely. But forgiving is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we accept what they did as right. It doesn’t mean we have to have a good relationship with the person. As Mike Foster has said:

“Sometimes continuing the relationship is both impossible and inadvisable.”

Mike Foster

Now that you know what the imprecatory Psalms are, where you can find them and other imprecations in the Old and New Testament, it’s now time to answer the question:

Can I pray imprecatory Psalms? Should I pray imprecatory Psalms?

I think you know where I’m going with this. It’s true: people offend us, annoy us, or harm us, and we get upset. Rightfully so. That’s our sense of justice kicking in. If you weren’t getting fired up at the example I shared in the first section of this post, then I’d check your pulse.

But we also know our own limitations, and we know we shouldn’t take revenge, so we have to ask for help from above. Perhaps God will see fit to handle that person for us.

There is nothing wrong with praying imprecatory Psalms. We can be honest with God in our hurt, our pain, our grief. He’s big enough; He can handle it.

In fact, we should be honest with God in our hurt, pain, and grief. If we can’t be honest in our private prayers to God, who can we be honest with?

So yes, you can pray imprecatory Psalms. Yes, you should pray imprecatory Psalms. If David, Jesus, Peter, and Paul did it, you can do it too.

Just be careful you don’t do something to be on the receiving end of someone else’s!

If you have experience praying the imprecatory Psalms, let me know in the comments.

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The Sabbath Series: How to Not Screw Up Sabbath

For years, I screwed up Sabbath. I mean, I could not rest.

Have you ever experienced that?

Even on my days off, I had to be busy, I had to be doing things. If I didn’t “feel productive,” I was miserable. Even if it wasn’t a full day off, but it was supposed to be a birthday party or a get-together with friends, I would feel antsy, checking my phone to see if there was anything I could “do.” Just longing to get something done, anything.

I was a wreck. The only way I could experience Sabbath was by sleeping.

In this post, I want to show you how to NOT screw up Sabbath. First, we’ll look at two ways you can screw up Sabbath. Then we’ll look at how to recognize your signals for needing rest. Finally, we’ll talk about how to do Sabbath well.

Two ways you can screw up Sabbath

First, you can screw up Sabbath by doing way too much. It’s Saturday and you’re “off,” but you’re not really off. You’re still on your phone, checking emails, social media, and the news. You’re still running places, picking up things at the store, dropping off kids at birthday parties, and going to sports and social activities.

Maybe you’re not doing those things, but you’re staying at your house and stressing yourself out. The to-do list is massive, so you’re cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry, dusting, mopping, mowing the grass, weedeating, sorting and organizing the garage. You’re a fury of activity. You’re playing Mr. Clean or Mrs. Meyers and at the end of the day, you find yourself exhausted.

The second way you can screw up Sabbath is by doing absolutely nothing. You can work so hard during the week and run yourself so ragged that when Saturday comes (or Sunday if you do it on the wrong day *wink*), you have nothing at all in the tank.

So you sleep in until 11am or noon. Then you mozy into the kitchen, grab something to eat, and fall asleep on the couch afterward. You sleep another couple hours, wake up and eat dinner, then fall back asleep.

What’s wrong with that you say?

I commend you for getting rest. The Sabbath is supposed to be a time of rest, absolutely. But it’s also supposed to be a time of rejuvenation.

If you’re in zombie mode the whole day and can’t do anything but sleep or “veg,” there might be a problem with your week and/or your health. You might be ignoring some of your body’s signals.

How to recognize your signals for needing rest

I don’t know your signals, but I have learned mine. As I share my list, maybe it’ll prompt some self-examination to find your own signals. Here are some of mine:

  • Cranky or irritable, short
  • A general sense of frustration / annoyance, grumpy
  • Longing to get away
  • Overly sensitive to noise or light
  • Feeling of uneasiness in my spirit
  • Eyes hurting or twitching
  • Tightness in my shoulders or my toes (the two places I store stress)

It took me well into my adult years, but I finally learned how to recognize these signals for needing rest.

What are yours? Write them down.

How to Do Sabbath Well

If Sabbath is one part rest and one part rejuvenation, we need to learn how to do both well. Here are some simple activities to do Sabbath well:

  • Read the Scriptures
  • Read a book
  • Listen to or play your own relaxing music
  • Have a picnic in your yard, or a simple but special meal
  • Throw a frisbee, or play catch with a football or baseball
  • Take a short walk around your property
  • Enjoy a nap
  • Sit and talk with someone you love
  • Reflective writing / journaling / creative writing
  • Drawing, sketching, painting

Of course, I’m sure you can come up with a variety of other fun things to do on Sabbath. These are just a few I normally do, because I find them rejuvenating and simultaneously, restful. Creative activities, but not work by any means.

I hope this post helps you live a more joyful, integrated life.

Next Step

If you’re looking for more posts in The Sabbath Series, check out these articles:

If you’re looking for a free resource to help you be successful in all areas of life, check out this page.

The Sabbath Series: What is a Yearly Sabbath?

A yearly Sabbath is a series of celebrations, festivities, holidays, and/or vacations spaced adequately throughout the year.

When you read the Old Testament, you hear about all these different festivities that the Israelites celebrated. Sure, they had their weekly Sabbath, but they also seemed to have these seasonal or yearly Sabbaths.

Then, you look at our American culture and you realize we have some of this, but our holidays look a lot different.

In this article, I want to look at this concept of yearly Sabbaths from three angles:

American Holidays

In the United States, we celebrate quite a few holidays. Or at least we say we do. But when it comes to actually honoring those holidays, everyone has their own flavor of doing it.

Every company chooses which ones they follow. In most companies, you’d be hard-pressed to find 10 paid holidays. In the company I work in, we have 10 exact.

If you’re in retail, hospitality, or the restaurant industry, you might only get two, if that.

Yet if you have a government job or work in education, you likely have close to 20 holidays.

If you’re a teacher or professor, you get a whole summer off! That’s usually 10+ weeks. And you get a winter break (2 weeks), a fall break (2-5 days), and a spring break (1 week). Holy moly!

Here’s a list of the most commonly honored holidays:

  • New Years Eve
  • New Years Day
  • Good Friday or Easter Monday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • TOTAL = 10 days

*Some companies will give you the day off after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) or Christmas Eve.

Here’s the problem with all of those holidays… they’re all one-day holidays! So unless you take additional vacation days around those holidays, you’re usually not going to get more than three days off in a row.

I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of times when it would be nice to have more than three days off in a row!

Israelite Holidays

When you read about the Israelite’s history in the Old Testament, you come across a lot of festivals and holidays. Honestly, when I first read it, I thought, “All these Israelites do is party and celebrate!”

Here’s a list of the holidays from the Old Testament, along with the length of days:

  • Purim (2 days)
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread – Passover (8 days)
  • Pentecost – Shavuot (1 day)
  • Feast of Trumpets – Rosh Hashanah – ending with Yom Kippur (10 days)
  • Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot (7 days)
  • Feast of Dedication – Hannukah (8 days)
  • TOTAL = 36 days

For 2022, there are even more Jewish holidays than this. Some celebrate wars won and independence, or some honor tragedies of the past, like the Holocaust.

But look at the difference between American holidays and Jewish holidays. Americans take 1 day at a time and only take 10 total. Our Jewish friends only have one holiday which is a single day. Most of them are a full week or more. And they have 36 total days off. That’s over a full month each year!

It would appear to me that the Israelites of old and the Jews of today understand the importance of taking time off.

How can we blend the best of both and create Yearly Sabbaths?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: We, as humans, need rest. We need to cease from our labor. We are not cogs in a machine. We are not robots. Our batteries need to be recharged and changed every once in a while.

It’s very hard to get recharged in a weekend or three-day intervals. Hence, we need longer vacations on top of our yearly holidays. Some people do great at this and take at least two big vacations (yearly Sabbaths) per year. Maybe they travel, maybe they don’t. But they take two full weeks off, and they enjoy it.

Other people do horrible at this and hardly take any time off. They might even work on the company holidays because they feel behind or are offered double time or whatever. In two of my jobs, I totally fell for this trap. I’d work a holiday to try to get ahead, even though I was in a salaried position. Or, in the other job, I’d work a holiday for double time because I thought we needed the money more than I needed the rest.

Wrong!

Working on holidays is a bad idea. Not taking time off is a bad idea. Burnout is real. I’ve experienced it (and written about it in another Sabbath Series post).

So here’s what I propose we do:

  • We take at least two large vacations per year. Take a full week off. Don’t work for 7-10 days straight, so you get 14-20 days off in those two big vacations.
  • We take two smaller vacations per year. At least 4 days off in a row, if not more. Don’t work for 4-6 days straight, so you get 8-12 days off in those two smaller vacations.

If travel is refreshing for you, travel. If staying home is refreshing for you, stay home. But don’t work! Don’t do a single bit of it!

Enjoy your rest!

Take yearly Sabbaths!

Next Step

Be sure to check out the rest of The Sabbath Series, as it develops.

If you’re looking for a free resource to help you be more successful in all areas of life, check out this page.

The Sabbath Series: What is a Daily Sabbath?

A daily sabbath is a daily reset. It could be a nap, meditation, deep breathing, or a relaxing walk. This concept is not new to me. It has been passed down by the greats throughout history. (More on that later.)

In this post, we’ll cover:

I understand that Scripture is clear the Sabbath is a one-day rest, once a week. But I am convinced that a daily Sabbath is just as crucial for most of us, especially in the present day.

Here’s why:

Our Current State

At no other time in history has our human race been more inundated with information. In America, we literally have the world at our fingertips, provided we have a smartphone. We can ask Google any question and it knows / nose. 🙂

Our eyes are darting and moving faster than ever before. One screen to the next, one tab to the next, one app to the next. We scroll and scan, tap and swipe, click on and click off hundreds of times per day.

Because of this, our minds tire faster than they did in previous generations. Information overload is a real thing. Overstimulation is a definite problem. And over-working, hyperconnectivity (aka never shutting off) is an epidemic in our culture.

I’ve struggled with it too.

As a coworker confessed recently, every time I have a “free” moment, whether it be driving to run an errand, folding the laundry, or laying in bed before sleep, I feel an urge to turn on my phone. I need to respond to comments on social media, look for an email, listen to a podcast / audiobook, or do something to “feel productive.”

This constant hyperconnectivity is an addiction. A daily addiction.

So how do we combat it?

What Does Daily Sabbath Look Like?

We find a space for a daily Sabbath, a daily rest. Some sort of exhale. Some sort of intentional pause. Some sort of disconnected, unplugged experience.

It doesn’t have to be long. And it can look different for each person.

Here are some examples:

  • Maybe you do 2 minutes of deep breathing exercises
  • Maybe you do 5 minutes of Headspace or Calm meditation
  • Maybe you do 10 minutes of yoga and stretching
  • Maybe you take your dog on a walk in the middle of the day
  • Maybe you sit in your chair and stare out the window at certain intervals
  • Maybe you take a 20-minute nap

I practice the last one on the list. I take a 20-minute nap every day, usually sometime between 12pm to 2pm. I usually don’t need it before 12pm. And if I wait until after 2pm, I can have trouble sleeping that night. But to be crystal clear, it is a 20-minute nap, not a 2-hour one.

I finish whatever I was working on, leave my desk, find the bed, and set the alarm. It’s that simple. That gives just enough time for my brain to process, calm down, exhale, and reset. Then ding, I’m up and at it.

I encourage you to try napping. You may suck at it the first time, don’t give up. Keep practicing daily, and soon enough, you’ll be a napping champ.

Truth is, the mid-day siesta is a beauty. Call it whatever you will: a siesta, a power nap, a 20-minute reset, a daily Sabbath. The practice is incredibly rejuvenating. It makes you feel like you have two days of accomplishment in a single day because you’re able to reset focus and go strong in the afternoon when others are winding down and hitting their walls.

Not yet convinced?

Check out these examples

Some very notable figures throughout history have been regular nappers. These folks include the likes of:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Thomas Edison
  • John D. Rockefeller
  • Winston Churchill
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Albert Einstein
  • Michael Hyatt

You can find a more comprehensive list of nappers and the scientific benefits behind napping from Michael Hyatt. Personally, I’d be honored to be included in these ranks as someone who takes a nap every day.

Obviously, a daily Sabbath can go a long way toward restoring and maintaining your health. I hope you give it a shot. May you be less stressed, better balanced, and live a more joyful and integrated life!

Next Step

If you’re looking for more posts in The Sabbath Series, check out these articles:

If you’re looking for a free resource to help you be successful in all areas of life, check out this page.

The Sabbath Series: Why We Need Sabbath

For years, I was in denial.

My wife said I had a problem. My best friend alluded to the problem. My boss, the CEO of our company, even talked with me about my problem.

The problem: I was a workaholic.

In this series, we’re going to take a deep look at the concept of Sabbath. It’s an ancient concept, with loads of meaning, and very little understanding / adoption / practice today.

In this post specifically, we’ll look at:

What is Sabbath?

Here are a few definitions:

  • a day of religious observance and abstinence from work
    • kept by Jewish people from Friday evening to Saturday evening
    • kept by Christians on Sundays
  • Judaism’s day of rest on the 7th day of the week, i.e. Saturday
  • Hebrew verb: sabbat which means to stop, cease, or keep; interpreted as rest.

Those definitions sound very technical and dictionary-like. If you want the religious law version of Sabbath, read Exodus 20:8-11. Here it is in The Message Bible:

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; He set it apart as a holy day.

Exodus 20:8-11, The Message

A quick interpretation. First, notice that the tone is not a declarative or an interrogative sentence. God isn’t just stating a thing, “Sabbaths are good for you,” implying that you would be wise to do them.

And He’s definitely not asking a question, “Would you please try to not work one day per week?”

He is giving a command. It is an imperative sentence. Do this; don’t do that. I think it’s important to notice that the positive imperative comes first. Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God.

Honestly, I think He could have stopped there. That’s pretty clear. Meaning, that if you do the positive part, you don’t need to worry about the negative part.

Of course, we rarely listen to the positive command on something. We usually need it contrasted with a negative. Because if you’re struggling to follow the positive part or if you have questions about how it works and what it means, you need some more clarity. Keep reading and it will become abundantly clear. Sure enough, there’s a lengthy negative imperative.

Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town.

Which immediately begs the question in my mind, “Why didn’t He just stop at you?”

“Hey, you! Don’t do any work.”

Instead, God takes the time to spell out who all shouldn’t be working on Sabbath. Allow me to role-play why I think He does this:

You might have a conversation with God and He asks, “So how is work and Sabbath going for you.”

You say, “You know, God, it’s going well. I’ve actually quit working on the Sabbath.”

God looks at you, looks around at your house, and asks, “Well, what’s all this hustle and bustle around the home then?”

“Ah, well God, You said I couldn’t do any work. But there’s still stuff that needs to be done around the house, so I set my kids on the task. It’s been lovely. My wife and I have taken a break, and the kids are getting all the work done.”

He gently responds, “That’s not the point, buddy. The point is that you all rest.”

“Ok, got it.”

A month later, you notice your house is going to crap every Saturday, so you hire a maid / nanny. “Here Nanny, I need you to do the chores and clean the place since my family isn’t supposed to work today.”

God says, “Buddy, you’re missing the point. No one is supposed to be working.”

“Cool, no more work will be done at this house, God,” you acquiesce.

So the next week, you take your family and head into town to enjoy food and shopping so you don’t tear up the house. Minimum wage workers are running all those places, and since they’re not your family and your home, you feel justified.

And God looks at you with compassion but firmness and says, “Not just you, Buddy. Not just your family. Not just your nanny. But everyone! Everyone should have the Sabbath off. Everyone needs a break from labor. No work across the board.”

Finally, you give up.

And because this is our nature, I want to dive into…

Why You Need Sabbath

Have you ever found yourself exhausted? Run yourself ragged? Burnt that candle at both ends?

Have you ever gotten sick and it’s like your body took two or three days to just purge itself, rest, and do absolutely nothing? Maybe it took a full week and you were completely out of commission?

If you’re an American reading this, I have a strong inclination that you fall on one of two extremes:

  1. You are a workaholic like I was. You rarely, if ever, rest.
  2. You are lazy. You barely work a couple days a week, let alone six. And you probably stopped reading this post as soon as I said that. 🙂

If you fall in the first camp, I know your life because I’ve been there.

You work from sun up to sun down at your job. After you eat dinner and say “hi” to the family, you start working again. You take your computer or phone to bed. You fall asleep checking it.

Then, you have the weekends. Supposed to be time off, but instead, you’re running kids to practices and games on Saturday mornings. You’re running all the errands to keep all the things running. You may even log on Saturday afternoon to knock out “just a couple quick things” which turns into four more hours.

On Sunday, you’d think you rest, but instead, you rush around to get kids and family ready for church. After church, there’s a group of people wanting to do something, or maybe you have another round of kid games and tournaments, or maybe the lawn needs to be mowed. When you finally sit down on Sunday evening and think about exhaling, you remember tomorrow morning you hit the ground running at work.

So you better take an hour or two to prep and get things ready for the morning. You collapse in bed on Sunday night and start work before sunrise on Monday.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

It’s exhausting to write that out. It’s even more exhausting to live that out. And you do it week after week, month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year.

You do it until you eventually burn out.

Which is why you need Sabbath, and why I need Sabbath.

Why I Need Sabbath

I was the person I just described above, and I needed the ceasing from labor in a major way.

So what happened?

I lost a part of me in 2015. I went through the summer from hell, working 2 full-time jobs and a part-time job, 80+ hour weeks, even pulled a couple all-nighters. After that, I didn’t have adrenaline at the same level. Pretty sure it was all used up.

After 2015, I learned I needed more sleep. No more all-nighters, no more 80+ hour weeks, no more 5 hours of sleep. If I didn’t get 7.5 hours of sleep, I felt like garbage. And if I worked more than 50+ hours, I felt like garbage.

Taking care of myself on those two fronts, I thought I was ok for a few years. For the most part, I was. But then, it started creeping back up.

In 2021, I hit a similar wall but in a different way. I was losing my drive at work, even resenting it at times. I was frustrated and losing my temper more easily. Essentially, oscillating between work and frustration, work and frustration. If I wasn’t working or frustrated, I was asleep.

Clinically, probably, depressed.

What came to my attention was needing something I call seasonal sabbaths. I was getting daily naps and daily sleep of 7+ hours. Weekly Sabbath was hit and miss. Probably 60% hit, 40% miss. But quarterly or yearly Sabbath, aka seasonal Sabbath, was a total miss. I wasn’t taking vacations or multiple days in a row.

The rhythm of my years was still work, work, work and grind, grind, grind all year long.

I need Sabbath on the daily, on the weekly, on the quarterly, and on the yearly. Ironically, this is exactly what Dr. God prescribed. When you read the Old Testament, you learn there were/are quarterly feasts and festivals. (More on that in another post.)

This year, I’m doing those things and I’m in much better shape. Still not perfect, but healthier than ever. I’m a work in progress.

Now, if you need Sabbath, and I need Sabbath, then it follows that we all need Sabbath.

Why We All Need Sabbath

Very few people have a good rhythm to life.

Our bad rhythm as Americans became abundantly clear to me when I was in Israel a few years ago. In Jerusalem particularly, on Friday night, the city started to shut down. Lights out, literally. On Saturday, you stayed home, hardly saw any cars on the street, and nowhere was open.

Can you imagine this with me?

In America, if restaurants, shops, etc. shut down on Friday nights? If on Saturdays, there were no cars on the road?

Or, if we didn’t honor Saturday that way, what if we actually shut all the stores down every Sunday, like Chick-fil-A. Can you imagine?!

In my estimation, this would be glorious!

We, as humans, need rest. We need to cease from our labor. We are not cogs in a machine. We are not robots. Our batteries need to be recharged and changed every once in a while.

I’ll close with this, we’re all made in God’s image. And as Exodus 20 states, For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; He set it apart as a holy day.

Did you catch that? God rested.

If He needs rest, surely, we need it too.

May this article help you live a more joyful and integrated life!

Next Step

Be sure to check out the rest of The Sabbath Series, as it develops.

If you’re looking for a free resource to help you be successful in all areas of life, check out this page.

What is the Bible? : A Review of Rob Bell’s Book

This is a book review post.

For the first time in this series, I’m going to shift away from the source text, as the scholars would say. Instead, I want to look at the book by Rob Bell on the topic, and I’ll add my thoughts.

Here’s where we’re going:

The Book: What is the Bible?

Check out this subtitle: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything!

What a mouthful! And what a beauty!

The book starts out with a very memorable commentary on Moses, and its one that once you hear it, you can’t unhear it.

He then dives into the question we’ve always wondered, “Who paid Jesus’ bills?”

He tackles some Greek words, an obese Old Testament king, the enigma that is Melchizedek, and a wonderful chapter on Why Americans Often Miss the Major Themes of the Bible.

And by that point, it feels like we’re just getting started.

To be fair, there is organization to the book. He organizes the book into these sections:

  • There’s Something More Going on Here
  • The Nature of That Something
  • Where That Something Takes Us
  • The Questions That Always Come Up
  • Endnotes

But that hardly gives you a clue of the rest of it, right?

There’s so much more to the book — so much more — but I will let you experience the joys, wonders, and laughs of reading it. I highly recommend it!

About the Author

Rob Bell is a New York Times Bestselling author of multiple books. I say “multiple” because I think he’s currently written 10, but that could change tomorrow. He’s always releasing new content, whether it be video, audio, or written. He’s a content machine!

His podcast, The Robcast, is a delightful listen. He riffs on a myriad of things from an intelligent and joy-filled perspective. The titles are enough to make pique your curiosity and make you listen. 900 Ligaments, A Brief Guide to Ecstasy, She Always Whispered “White People,” and more.

He has self-published audiobooks and recordings on parenting, Leviticus, and public speaking. Again, wonderful titles: Launching Rockets, Blood, Guts, and Fire, and Something to Say.

And of course, he does speaking tours and makes time to write all those books.

I actually had the privilege of meeting him at one of those speaking events and getting a signed copy of his book, What is the Bible?. I’ve also had the privilege of hanging out with him virtually on a Zoom Writing Session. He gave me advice on my book, On The John: A Devotional for Dads.

Rob is just as delightful in person as he is in the books, videos, and audios. He has incredible command of a room, always finds a way to make you laugh, and really connects with people in the highs and lows of life. It’s a skill and a gift.

What I Didn’t Like

The only thing I didn’t like about Rob’s book was that it didn’t cover ALL of the Bible.

The book picks some obscure stories, some familiar stories, some controversial stories, and rather than picking and choosing through the whole of it, I’d love to hear him go through the entire thing.

Now, that book would likely be multiple volumes and take years to write, so I can’t blame him for making one that was just long enough to get the masses to read.

1200 pages might be a little much, whereas most people can handle a couple hundred pages at once.

But… if he wrote a commentary on the entire Bible, book by book, I’m sure many others, just like me, would read it.

What I Loved

More than anything, this book revived my curiosity in the Bible.

Being a Bible college and seminary student in my earlier years, there were times it felt like we had the Bible under a microscope of examination and we were trying to change it rather than letting it change us.

When I read this book, I had just gone through a bit of a dry spell with my reading and study of the Bible. His book reminded me that there’s so much more to be discovered, and I’ve truly just scratched the surface.

He and Philip Yancey have that unique gift of taking you on the exploration and making you feel like you’re unearthing things together.

The other thing I love about this book is Rob does a phenomenal job of sharing just enough.

  • Just enough to prove there’s a lot more going on under the surface than you originally see.
  • Just enough to show you that this ancient library is still relevant today.
  • Just enough to provoke you to dive into it more yourself.
  • Just enough to make you laugh.
  • Just enough to make you question.
  • Just enough to leave you wanting more.

And as someone who has followed his work for years, I can say Rob does this in almost every piece of content he puts out. He gives you just enough.

You can find all of Rob’s work here.

Additional Resources

Visit this page for more posts in this series on “What is the Bible?”.

Visit this page for commentary on different books in the Bible.

What is the Bible? : The Ultimate Story

The Ultimate Story. Here’s what that means:

A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

Or, a story is about a character who meets a guide, who gives a plan, and the character follows that plan to success or failure, aka comedy or tragedy.

Those specific definitions were formalized by Donald Miller, or at least that’s where I heard them first. He got them Robert McKee. Robert McKee probably got them from someone else. That’s how story works. It gets handed down from person to person.

Now, if we unpack that simple story framework while looking at the Bible, we’ll see the Bible as the ultimate story. I realize this is a broad summary of all that is in the Scriptures, so please keep that in mind. Any single blog post trying to summarize a 1200+ page book(s) is going to have some inherent shortcomings.

A Character

Who is the main character of the Bible? The protagonist?

There are many characters in the Bible, but I hesitate to call them characters lest we think of them as fictional. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – they were all very real men, in real time and history, with real problems. But they aren’t the main character.

Each of them was leading up to the tribe and nation of Israel. Some might say Israel is the main character of the Bible. If you’re only looking at the Old Testament, I could see where you would get that notion.

As much as I love my Jewish friends and enjoy their deep knowledge and insights, I’m afraid this is one of the areas they have it wrong. The nation and people of Israel is not the main character of the Bible. They are supporting characters.

If you, in Sunday School mode, called out, “Jesus,” or “God,” or “Holy Spirit,” as your answer, you’re right.

The main character of the Bible is God / Jesus / Holy Spirit. He’s the one main character throughout the book, always working, always moving, always with a deep desire for…what?

Who Wants Something

God wants something.

What does He want?

World domination? No.

The Republicans (or Democrats) to win the next election? No.

The Bears to win the Superbowl? Maybe, but no.

God wants a relationship with us.

He’s the lover, pursuing His beloved, in story after story within the Bible. He’s the one longing for us even when we’re not longing for Him. He’s the one who jumps in and intervenes at times to show us His deep care, compassion, and empathy.

According to the Scriptures, God had a relationship with us in the Garden. We broke it. He, being a holy God, had to lay down some boundaries and consequences. Our own devices led us further astray and estranged from God.

God gave some laws and guidelines by which we were allowed to get back in proximity with Him. We followed them, then broke them, followed them, then broke them, followed them, then… you get the idea.

And that’s most of the Old Testament.

God utilizes the Prophets to call us back to Him. Sometimes we heard and responded, at least temporarily. Sometimes we killed the Prophets and said screw it.

And Overcomes Conflict

This conflict of a broken relationship just keeps rising and falling, rising and falling, throughout the Old Testament.

Then, it’s as if God finally has enough of it and says, “Here! I’ll make this easier for you. Not easier for Me, but easier for you. Since you don’t understand how much I love you, and you think this is all about a power play, let Me show you that it’s not about power, it’s about love.”

And a virgin becomes pregnant with a child and all kinds of miraculous things happen to bring this baby into the world. And when He is born, they call him Jesus / Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”

For thirty-three-ish years, this Jesus / Immanuel is with us. He demonstrates deep care, compassion, and empathy. Sometimes, this comes out in rebukes of the religious elite. Sometimes this comes out in miraculous healings. Sometimes this comes out in teaching. Sometimes this comes out in sharing meals with people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and color.

Jesus, the God in flesh, demonstrates His love in the ultimate climactic scene. In nonviolent protest, with no wrongdoing on His head, He takes on the established system’s guilt, corruption, inhumane practices, abuse, shame, ALL of it. He takes it all on Himself and says, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Stew on that for a bit.

Then, just when it seems all hope is lost, three days later, this Jesus rises from the dead. He comes back to life and says, “This system can’t kill Me. This system can’t kill My love for you. Let’s re-unite.”

To Get It

And then, we read the stories of Peter being restored, the disciples as a whole being re-united, Jesus revealing Himself to the greatest persecutor of the church at that time, Paul, and all the rest of it.

Jesus / God / Holy Spirit gets a restored relationship with folks in droves.

And it sets off a spiritual revival of folks in the first century, which continues into each century following.

It seems to look a bit different with each century, in each different cultural context, but the effects are much the same.

People find a renewed life, a renewed mind, a renewed mode of being. And their hearts and minds are captured with the living God, who deeply cares for them.

Relationships restored.

Additional Resources

Visit this page for more posts in this series on “What is the Bible?”.

Visit this page for commentary on different books in the Bible.