Building Margin for Sabbath – Week 4, Day 1

Daily Scripture Reading:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.”                                                                 – Genesis 2:1-3

“Remember the Sabbath day and 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; you shall do no work . . .” – Exodus 20:8-10a

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that most of us have heard or said these words: “because I said so.” Since the beginning of time, children have heard parents give this reasoning for expected actions. Or at least I have.  My parents said it and their parents before them.

The practice of Sabbath is grounded in this reasoning: because God said so. He practiced it in the creation of the world. He made it one of the Ten Commandments. He talked about it in the Old Testament. Jesus talked about it in the New Testament.

Think about it: If the God who created the universe in 6 days needed to rest on the 7th day, don’t you think us puny humans might need to do the same – rest from our labors?

The fundamental reasoning for Sabbath may be God’s commandment but it is also a matter of trust. We are called to trust that we are not in control. The world will continue if we rest. It is in our practice of Sabbath that we acknowledge our trust in God who rules and reigns over this world and even more importantly, our own personal world.

Prayer: Gracious God, You tell us to rest, to stop, to cease but too often, we just keep working. We don’t take time to truly worship You. Forgive us, Lord, when we think it’s all up to us. Teach us to trust You in all things but especially in the practice of Sabbath.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

When do you take Sabbath? Do you truly stop from your labors?

If so, what are you learning as you practice Sabbath?

If not, why? Why do you continue to work? What can you do to move toward the regular practice of Sabbath?

________________________________

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Building Moral Margin – Week 3, Day 5

10911429_10205385323494847_4123007170283059392_o

Daily Scripture Reading:

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”  

James 5:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”   

Exercise is always easier with a friend. You know . . . someone to say: “You can do it!” “Work harder, Trish” “I’m with you!”   When I turned the big 5-0, I joined a few friends to run in the Princess 5-K at Disney World. I can promise you that I never would have done this alone. However, with support and accountability, I did it – not quickly – but I did it!

Everyone needs support and accountability when they are seeking to accomplish a goal, stay clean from a substance, or just live from day to day. Accountability partners help us maintain our margins in all areas of our lives, particularly in our moral margins. A confidant can be our strength when we are faced with a tempting situation. Knowing that someone knows our struggles, is available for us, and will support us can help keep us on the right path.

The Christian community can be this accountability for us. Not everyone needs to know our struggles but everyone needs at least one person in his/her life that can be the encourager. Christ calls us to encourage, build up one another and pray for each other. Life is always easier in community!

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the strength of the Christian community. Give me courage to reach out during my struggles and give me compassion for others in the midst of their struggles. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

Name the person or persons in your life that you call if you are struggling in some way.

If you can think of no one, ask God to show you someone today to be your confidant and accountability partner.

Ask God to show you who might need your listening ear and compassionate heart.

________________________________

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Building Moral Margin – Week 3, Day 4

Daily Scripture Reading:

John 10:3-4 – “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Luke 15:4-5 – “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.”

The sheep didn’t set out to get lost that day. He was happy being with his sheep friends and family. The grass tasted good. The Shepherd was taking good care of him.

But as he ate that day, out of the corner of his eye, just over the hill, he saw some grass that looked just a little greener. Why not try it? What could it hurt? So he moved a little away from the herd and had just a little taste. But as he ate, he noticed just a little further over the hill, the grass looked even better. He thought “well, if I’ve gone this far, I might as well try the other grass too.” And soon, the sheep was lost. Far away from the Shepherd. He didn’t intend for this to happen. It just happened.

It happens to us the same way . . . just a little discrepancy in our accounting for our taxes, the ‘just one try’ of the substance, the innocent flirtation . . . and so it goes. We are lost. Far away from the Shepherd.

How do we NOT get lost? By keeping our eyes on the Shepherd, following the Shepherd in all things, listening for the Shepherd’s voice, remaining in the Shepherd’s herd. . .

Prayer:  Gracious God, keep me close to You this day. Give me strength to hear Your voice in all things. Draw me back to You when I start to wander. Thank You, Lord, for always welcoming me home to Your loving arms. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

 Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to show you any places in your life that you have wandered away from the Good Shepherd.

Are there any places in your life that are tempting you to wander astray?

What do you need to do today to come back to the Shepherd?

____________________________________

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Photo by Will Archer

Building Moral Margin – Week 3, Day 3

Daily Scripture Reading:

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Question: Would you invite Jesus to watch TV with you tonight? I mean the shows that you regularly watch. Would he like them? If not TV, how about your computer history? Would Jesus be inspired by your website visits?

Robert Munger wrote a little booklet some years ago called My Heart, Christ’s Home. In it, he likened Jesus coming into our hearts to Jesus moving into our house. Jesus went into all of the rooms of the house – the rec rom, the living room, the dining room, the library. The homeowner felt a little uncomfortable when Jesus came into the library. He hadn’t given much thought to his books or the television shows he watched. He wasn’t very sure he wanted Jesus to see all of the things that filled his mind.

Today we might feel uncomfortable by some of our more modern technologies – websites, streaming movies, YouTube videos or just regular old TV. Would we be happy for Jesus to join us in our entertainment?

Building moral margin helps us to keep a distance from the temptations that fill our minds. Inviting Jesus to be in control of that space gives us the strength to overcome those temptations.

Prayer: Gracious God, in this world of constant information and entertainment, guard my heart and my mind from temptation. Give me the strength to turn aside and be filled with Your Presence. In Christ’s name, I pray, Amen.

      

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

Make a list of the “entertainment” has filled your mind for the past 24 hours. What books have you read? What TV shows have you watched? What websites have you visited? What music have you listened to?

Circle the entertainment that fits the criteria of true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable.

Do you see entertainment in your list that may need to be gone from your mind?

__________________________________

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Photo by Jon Strother

Building Moral Margin – Week 3, Day 2

Daily Scripture Reading:

 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.                  

Psalm 37:23-24 – “Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”                                          

“Danger, Will Robinson” or “Danger, Trish Archer”!

Maybe a robot like the one in the 1960’s TV show, Lost in Space, is what everyone needs when there is impending harm. Maybe a blaring alarm if we are getting too close to a minefield. It’s not a bad idea, but actually we have a warning system. It operates more like “Holy Spirit flares” – those warning lights that say “Stop!” “Turn around!” “You’re too close to temptation!”

My guess is that everyone has experienced a Holy Spirit flare. The challenge is to see the flare and move no closer. It could be something simple like not ordering dessert if you’re on a diet. The flare is shining brightly, illumining the scales for the next weigh-in.

It could be something like a quick glance at a website or a movie that has the potential to lead you down a dark path. The Holy Spirit flare shines brightly and reminds you that God can deliver you from temptation.

The Holy Spirit helps us keep a distance – a margin – from the temptation that is before us. We just need to pay attention to the warning lights!

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you that Your Holy Spirit is always with me. Help me, Lord, to see the warning lights that show the approaching danger of temptation. Help me respond to the warning and turn to you for strength. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

 Think about the temptations that most often come your way. What do you do when you are tempted?

If you give in, what can you do differently today to escape that temptation?

____________________________________________

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Photo by Jon Strother