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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Abundant Life

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Do we believe it?Do we believe he was truly the son of God, God in human flesh? Do we believe he came? Do we believe we are among the “they” whom he promised abundant life? Do trust the abundance he offers?

I throw out this flurry of questions because life is full of stuff. Sometimes it is expensive stuff like the latest smart phone or electronic gadget. Sometimes it is a lot of stuff, like the numerous half flat yard-sale purchases basketballs in my garage. Sometimes our stuff has long since ceased meaning anything, but we chafe at the thought of throwing things out. We don’t consider the possibility that we might be fulfilled with less.

If it isn’t stuff, it is experience. We want to be thrilled. We want to be soothed. We want to be relaxed. We want to be stimulated. So gourmet chefs cook for us, chiropractors bend and contort us, acupuncturists stick us, pharmacists numb us, trainers work us, tour guides amuse and inform us, therapists listen to us, and (some) preachers talk (or yell) at us.

There is nothing wrong with experiences. Stuff is not inherently sinful. But sometimes people make choices like an object or a process or an activity is absolutely essential for the happiest possible life. Without the thing or the memory or the anticipation, we are less than we could be. Jesus gets tacked onto the life we want to live. He certainly is not the heart of life. He is relegated to a small part in the lives of so many who would identify themselves as His followers.

Jesus did not come to fit into our lives. He came to be the master of our lives, and He came, why? That we might have abundant life. He defines what abundance is. There is competition for definition. Other voices – temptation, our own sinful nature, the consumerism of our age, Satan – will try to tell us what abundance is. Who will we trust?

Here is Jesus, speaking in John 10.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Consider all that Jesus promises – pasture, abundance, salvation, relationship. Consider that work of the thieves and robbers: they deceive the sheep (we are the sheep). They steal, kill, and destroy. They flee when danger comes. Jesus lays his life down for us.

When considering Sabbath, turn off the TV (and PC and Smart Phone and IPOD, I-Pad, and I-Touch). Put your keys and wallet in the desk drawer to be left there. Ignore the phone when it rings.

Now, am I suggesting we sit and do nothing? Not exactly. I am suggesting that when we set aside time for Sabbath-keeping, whether it is a half-day or an entire day, we begin by asking Jesus to fill us. Ask Him to help us understand and receive the abundance He gives. A number of activities might open us to Him – walking; a laughter-filled family meal; an intimate meal with a spouse and intimacy following; throwing Frisbee on the lawn; gathering around the fireplace for time together; time in the garden. These are just examples, but for the most part, they are quiet and simple. The stimulus is limited because we want to make space for God.

Of course making space for God is not all there is to Sabbath, but it is all I’ll cover here. I think we would be wonderfully blessed if we emptied ourselves and simplified things during Sabbath. And once emptied and pared down, we ask Jesus to show us the abundance. I think we’ll be surprised and maybe overwhelmed with what He does. What He has to give is better than anything we can find, even on Google. Google has a ton of websites, but only Jesus gives abundant life. So carve out time for Sabbath, and seek His abundance, and trust Him enough to wait for it.

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