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Sabbath Rest: Discovering the Rhythm of Creation
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
but he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
When you lead a ministry, life is busy and rest is rare. So how do you rest when you work on the Sabbath? To find the answer, we need to rediscover the rhythm of creation.
The Sabbath remembers and reenacts God’s creative, holy rest. It is a journey in holiness. The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh, a profound and deeply mysterious word representing the majesty and incomparable attributes of the divine. The word kadosh occurs throughout Scripture but appears first in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation, “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”1
On Entering Into New Ministry.
In the course of your ministry journey in the Salvation Army, you could receive up to ten or more assignments—ten or more transitions, departures, arrivals, opportunities. So, how should you enter a new ministry?
The Apostle John describes the greatest ministry transition possible: God becoming flesh: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”1 This is the most concise and compelling statement in Scripture of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” Jesus is the Word, fully God and fully human, come from the Father to “tabernacle” his glory at a specific time and place in history. The incarnation, of course, is and an unrepeatable work of God in Christ. Yet, when thinking about entering a new ministry, our purpose is the same: to glorify God.
But what would that look like? John offers the answer in his brief, profound description of the incarnate Word being: “full of grace and truth.”
What is grace? Grace is one the great Christian concepts in the New Testament. Grace signifies joy, kindness and favor, often when undeserved. In grace, God provides His Son as Savior. Gospel grace is often associated with God’s power over sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, Paul writes to the Ephesians: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”2 Grace, for Paul, is God’s operational power, not Paul’s power, remembering God’s word to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 3
What is truth? This famous retort from Pilate to Jesus highlights how truth, in Christian understanding, is much more than the opposite of falsehood. John writes that living by the truth means coming fully into the light, with nothing hidden before God. “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”4 Truth, like grace, is freeing.5 Truth sanctifies.6 Truth is a kingdom power.7 Scripture speaks of truth as a way of life and being. So, Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Truth is a Person, the incarnate Christ and the Holy Spirit, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”8
Using grace and truth as our guide, how shall you enter a new ministry?
Unless this is your first ministry placement, you come from somewhere else. The first step in entering a new ministry is leaving your last ministry well. In our work with many churches, we encounter too many leaders who leave bitter and too few leaders who leave well—with grace and truth. Leaving well means leaving reconciled. No regrets or grudges. “As far as it depends on you,” Paul writes, “live peaceably with all.”9 This includes leaving in peace. Leaving in peace means cleaning up the messes you made before you leave, or being truthful about the messes
that remain. It means blessing the people you leave behind and blessing the leader who follows you. Have you left well?
Beginning a new ministry with grace and truth means to enter like Jesus, with humility, considering the needs of those you are serving as greater than your own. Of the many steps to take, I will mention three that embody grace and truth like Jesus:
Be quick to listen: Many think leadership is about knowing the right answers and getting things done. Jesus never led that way. Jesus asked relational questions. He listened graciously. He engaged people one on one: emotionally and spiritually. He called his disciples “friends.”
Speak the truth: Your greatest asset is trust. Nothing kills trust like a lie or hedging the truth. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Confess your faults. Admit when you are wrong. Praise individual events. Correct patterns. When evaluating others, be candid, but kind. Treat all around you as responsible adults, not dependent children.
Enter with leaving in mind: You are a steward appointed to a specific place for a specific time, the keeper of a flame you may need to ignite but which will shine long after you are gone. Use your spiritual gifts to do your best work so that, in the end, people see the grace and truth of Jesus through you and glorify God.
–Jim Van Yperen
1 John 1:14
2 Eph 3:7
3 2 Cor 12:9
4 John 3:21
5 John 8:45
6 John 17:17
7 John 18:37-38 8 John 16:13
9 Romans 12:18
“Ancora Imparo” or Why You Must Never Stop Learning.
The great artist Michelangelo was credited for saying, “ancora imparo” which means, “Still I am learning.” In fact, even at the age of 87, Michelangelo inscribed the phrase, “Never Stop Learning” on one of his sketches.
Once, many years ago, I heard a professor describe heaven as a place of continued and continual learning. He imagined that every resident of heaven is at once both “completely full” of the knowledge and love of God while also growing, developing and learning more of God.With God, there is always more.
Most leadership development efforts involve gaining knowledge or mastering skill, and these are important for proficiency. But Jesus develops leaders through relationship that forms the character and wisdom necessary for skill. Qualification is measured in proximity. He calls us to abide.1 So, the Apostle John describes discipleship as a dynamic cycle of spiritual hearing, seeing, doing and telling others:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.2
Let’s examine leadership development in this four-step process:
1. Hearing. Transformation starts with hearing. In scripture, the Hebrew word for hearing (shama) and the Greek word (akouo) both carry a sense of action. Hearing implies obeying. Hearing summons a call. Jesus came to transform us not to inform us. Throughout the gospels Jesus is continually calling people to repent. The Greek word is metanoia, to actively, “change your mind.” This is no mere intellectual assent. Belief is an active response to the word of Christ. Belief recognizes our need, and exercises confidence that Jesus is Lord. Discipleship is relationship, a call to real fellowship with Jesus who invites you to, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”3
2. Seeing. Hearing forms a way of seeing. Having our ears opened to the word of Christ, the Spirit now opens our eyes to see what we were blind to before, beginning with our separation. We see ourselves truthfully. We see how desire hinders obedience. Seeing is description, the indicative following the imperative. Our desire is disordered; our love is misplaced. God opens our eyes to see the hope of a new creation.
3. Doing. Hearing and seeing may form knowledge and even belief, but they will not form character. Jesus teaches to transform us, not convince us. Faith must find expression.
Here, learning becomes a practice field, the arena where concrete habits and practices of faith are engaged and enacted. Spirit-life is revealed by the fruit of who we are and what we do.4 To live out one’s faith, disciplines, habits and practices must join intellectual and emotional learning. Walking by the Spirit means unlearning old habits and taking on new. Character is formed as fellowship with God enables the believer to have genuine fellowship with others.
4. Telling. Finally, learning comes full circle as the disciple proclaims what the Spirit has opened through hearing, seeing and doing. What Jesus learned from the Father he teaches us, so that we might teach others.5 We confess, “This is what God is doing in my life and in the world. This is what I have heard and seen and touched.” In confession, we affirm intention and confirm commitment to transformation. Our words are reflective (narrating what God has done) and generative (our commitment to what God will do.) In confession, we externalize an internal reality, confirming the hope in us while proclaiming hope for others in Christ.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.6
Note how the Trinity is active throughout every learning stage—hearing, seeing, doing, and telling. God is the initiator. Jesus is the subject. The Spirit produces the fruit. The role of the disciple is to actively believe, that is, to submit and to obey, allowing God to complete the work begun in us. We work out–with fear and trembling– what God has already put in.7
What about you? Are you “ancora imparo?”
–Jim Van Yperen
1 John 15:1-8
2 1 John 1:1
3 Matthew 11:29
4 Galatians 5:22-24
5 John 15:15
6 1 John 5:6-7
7 Philippians 2:12-23