Today, we’re continuing our new series called I Love Sundays. Just for fun, I made a list this week of things I love: my husband, my kids, my family, I have a deep love for God, the outdoors, hiking, biking, sitting in the sunshine, looking at the night sky, weirdly enough I love to clean…like a lot, and my husband would tell you I love throwing things away, and one of my biggest loves is….ice cream.
Before we get into this series, I want to do something we’ve never done here (or at least since I’ve been here). I’d like you to turn to a neighbor and in thirty seconds or less, tell them three things you love…..
If you worked at it awhile, I’ll bet you all could come up with a huge list of things you love. But I’m not sure if you’d think to include Sundays on your list. Our goal, over these five weeks, is to change that.
If you attend church each week, and participate in an I Love Sundays small group, or at least read the book, I guarantee your life will be better, or your money back. You see, because there’s a dynamic power when a group like us study the same material together over a month-long period of time.
On Sundays, I’ll bring practical preaching on how to change your life by changing your Sundays. During the week, we’ll read the study guide and meet with our small groups. I am so looking forward to this experience together because thirty days from now, if you choose to participate, if you make the decision to work at it, we are all going to have a better pace and rhythm to life and a better outlook on life. At the end of this experience, I believe we will all be saying one simple little phrase: I Love Sundays.
Let’s pray before we dive in together.
Father in heaven, you made us, and we’re grateful. You designed us, and you know how we best work. We came this morning hoping that you would speak to us in life-changing ways. And that’s our prayer right now. Lord, in these next few minutes, please speak to us and change us. We are listening. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Again today, I want to propose to you that Sunday was meant to be the best day of your week.
During Jesus’ day, the Jews had all sorts of laws about what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. One Sabbath day, Jesus was hanging out with His disciples, and they were debating which things applied to them and which things didn’t. In a show-stopping statement, Jesus clarified God’s purpose for the Sabbath once and for all when He said to them,
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
What Jesus was saying was, of all the days of the week, God knew we would need a day to break away from everything else we were doing, and get refueled, refreshed, and refocused. So, when God was arranging the rhythm of the world, He designated one day for refueling.
Study the history of Christianity, and I think you’ll see that whenever people have taken the time to set aside a day for rest and refocus with God, their lives have gone better. They’ve felt better about themselves, enjoyed their families more, and experienced the smile of God.
The problem is we live in a never-stopping culture where it feels like we never have enough time, there’s always something else to do, the pressure is on to get it done. We never stop worrying about deadlines, or feel like we’re making enough money to guarantee our happiness. Day in and day out we live with pressure, pressure, pressure.
Do this for a minute. (It’s going to seem weird, but do it anyway.) Put your teeth together, take a deep breath, and go “Sssssssssssssss.” On three . . . Sssssssssssss.
You know what you were just doing? (No, you weren’t telling everyone to be quiet.) We were all letting off pressure, like when you let the air out of a beach ball or an air compressor, or like how the pressure pot hisses. Anyone still use one of those?
I don’t want you to relax so much this morning that you go to sleep, but I do want you to relax enough to lower your blood pressure, listen well, and leave here feeling like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.
In our country, a hundred years, two hundred years, three hundred years ago, there was a lot less pressure. Nobody worked on Sundays. Businesses were closed for the day. There were no kid traveling all-star teams. People used Sunday for a day of rest. Which seems very old-fashioned. But doesn’t something about that old-fashioned lifestyle call to you?
In prior generations, Americans got a lot less done on Sundays. But as a result, they got a lot more done on Mondays. After a day of rest, they attacked the week eagerly. Work was considered a noble thing.
Athletes have found they perform better by working hard and then resting instead of working hard all the time. Our muscles are designed for stress, but then release. And our souls are too.
What if we took a step backward in order to go forward?
Way back in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was about to enter the Promised Land. For forty years, they had lived in the desert, without houses or jobs or responsibilities. As they got ready to enter the Promised Land, where they would occupy homes and lead working lives, God visited their leader, Joshua, and talked to him about his priorities. He said….
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
God was saying, “Joshua, once you and your people settle in, you are going to be very tempted to work, work, work, work, work to get ahead. But if you work, work, work, work, work to get ahead, you won’t get ahead. You’ll fall behind.”
“Joshua, the secret to getting ahead is to spend time in this Book. Because if you get into this Book, this Book will get into you. And if this Book gets into you, you will become the kind of person who is prosperous and successful.”
And that’s been proven true. In eighteenth-century England, Jonathan and Charles Wesley started a movement that resulted in 100,000 weekly Bible studies by 1798. And for the next one hundred years, England was the most prosperous nation in the world.
In 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier started a noontime prayer meeting in the Dutch Reformed Church in downtown New York City that sparked a movement of Bible reading throughout our entire country. As a result, the history of America’s westward expansion was marked by households huddled around their kitchen tables at night. Mom and the kids would all gather around the table, and dad would read the Bible to them all, out loud, for an hour. Once that Bible-reading habit was ingrained in our families, over the next one hundred years, the United States became the most prosperous nation on earth.
People today, say they’re too busy to read the Bible because they have to work more hours to get ahead. But the Bible says that if you’ll read it regularly, you’ll become the sort of person who gets ahead.
The same is true with the Sabbath. We think we can get ahead by working more. But sometimes the best way to be productive is to rest and refuel for a while. That’s the concept of the Sabbath, and God invented it.
God prescribes fifty-two Sabbaths a year as part of our health-maintenance plan. That’s seven and a half weeks of spiritual vacation! God did this because when He hardwired us, He constructed us to run best on a rhythm of engagement and withdrawal, stress and then release.
This pattern is sewn into the fabric of the universe. Days were made for work. Nights were made for rest. Summers have more daylight so we can work more. Winters have shorter daylight so we can work less.
God made Sundays as release days. A Sunday rest day is part of our divinely designed nature.
Do this once again: Ssssssssssss! No pressure today, just release.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Repeat line three after me:
If you call the Sabbath a delight….I will cause you to ride in triumph.
God’s secret for riding in triumph is to call the Sabbath a delight! Which means that Sunday ought to be the best day of your week! How can you make that happen? What would it look like to make Sunday the best day of your week?
Last week, we talked about how making Sundays the best day of your week is first a decision to do so, and then invest in Sundays. Church is no different than anything else—to get something great out of it, you have to put something great into it. Being part of worship and a small group is a great start.
Today, I want to take you further with two more ideas of how to make Sundays the best day of your week, and how Good Sundays can make better Mondays. We know how many Mondays go for many people… We reluctantly get out of bed saying, “Ugh, I have to go back to work today.” We’re exhausted and unmotivated because we used all our energy on Sunday instead of resting and getting refueled.
But there’s something we can all do, to not have those kind of Mondays and to actually not just have a good Sunday, but a great Sunday.
A few years ago, Pastor Hal Seed (who authored the book called “I Love Sundays”) was at the Western Wall in Jerusalem as the Jews there brought in the Sabbath together.
He writes, “It was a raucous celebration. Jewish men, dressed in their finest, were bobbing back and forth. Israeli soldiers, Uzis in hand, were singing Sabbath songs together. One little boy ran up to me with a huge smile on his face and shouted ‘Shabbat (shuh-baat) Shalom’ (‘Sabbath peace’) to me like I was a long lost relative. It was one of the most festive celebrations I’ve ever seen.”
For Orthodox and conservative Jews, celebrating the Sabbath is the high point of their week. In fact, the Sabbath celebration is so sacred to the Jewish people that the entire nation of Israel puts their elevators on automatic during the Sabbath. To avoid even the slightest amount of work, like pushing an elevator button, Israeli elevators are programmed to stop and open on every floor from the beginning of the Sabbath to its end. This might seem extreme to us because we live in a country where everyone can do whatever they want to. But imagine if you lived in a high-rise and every Sunday your elevator stopped on every floor whether you wanted it to or not?
It may get on your nerves fast, but every stop would at least remind you that there is a God who created the world, and He wants you to release and enjoy Him.
Jewish people celebrate the Sabbath on the seventh day to remind themselves that on the seventh day God rested from His labor of creation (Genesis 2:2–3). Because the resurrection of Jesus happened on a Sunday, Christians adopted the first day of the week as our Sabbath. But the principle is the same: take a day to rest. Build it around God and family. Make the Sabbath a delight!
Did you know that God, through Moses, gave the Ten Commandments twice? Once in the book of Exodus, once in the book of Deuteronomy. Once as the children of Israel were entering the wilderness, then once again forty years later when they were leaving the wilderness to enter the Promised Land.
The first time…Exodus 20:8-10
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
Right off the bat, it says, “Remember, remember the Sabbath.” Remember is a verb that looks back. Meaning that after the Sabbath has passed, we should think back on it.
The second time says… Deuteronomy 5:12
Observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.
Notice the change in verb?
In Exodus, the command reads “remember”—look back. In Deuteronomy is reads “observe,” which means to look forward.
Because of these two Sabbath verbs, Jewish people have built their lives around making the Sabbath the best day of their week. The first days after the Sabbath, they remember by looking back. The last days before the Sabbath, they observe by looking forward.
All of us know what it means to look forward to something. You hear about a great movie that’s coming out on Friday night, and you look forward to it all week. Or you hear about the game between your favorite team and their arch-rival, and you think about it and talk about it with your friends for several days before the game happens. Then, if it was a great movie or a great game, you talk about it for the next few days.
Remember. Observe. Remember. Observe. That’s God’s rhythm.
What if, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, you talked with your family or friends about what you learned in church on Sunday? Or, what you did for fun on Sunday afternoon or evening?
And what if this Friday you posted on your Facebook page, “Sunday’s coming!” Or, “I can’t wait for Sunday!” And you started thinking about what you might experience in church this weekend?
There’s a saying in psychology that says, Act your way into a new way of thinking. Counselors teach couples who have lost that lovin’ feelin’ to act like they’re in love so that they will fall in love again. And it works. A husband who goes out and buys his wife flowers finds himself liking and loving his wife more, because he did something that was loving. A wife who takes special care to prepare a great dinner for her husband finds herself loving her husband more because she’s putting effort into the relationship. (At least that’s how it is in my house because I rarely do the cooking.)
Isaiah 58:13 says we should “call the Sabbath a delight.” If we make a decision to call the Sabbath a delight, we will begin to feel like the Sabbath is a delight.
Step two takes it a little further.
2. Prepare for Sunday as if it’s the highlight of your week.
In Psalm 122:1, King David said…
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
He was all fired up and passionate about going to church, because going to church was the high point of his week. How could that happen for you?
Guys, when you were in high school, if you asked a girl out on a date, usually you’d take a shower ahead of time, comb your hair, and put on some clean clothes, right? (And least, I hope you did.)
What did you do when you asked a girl to the prom? Your regular date and your prom date might even have been with the same girl. For the prom, you would buy her flowers. You might rent a tuxedo. You probably washed your truck. You made reservations for dinner at a great restaurant. What made one good and the other great was in the preparation.
Imagine this: On a normal weekend, the Smith family goes out and does something fun on Saturday night, sleeps until the last minute Sunday morning, rushes to get ready for church, and bickers all the way to the parking lot. (That never happens to your family, does it?)
Fortunately, church parking lots have a miraculous healing effect on most families. Nobody wants to look bad at church, so when people turn into the church parking lot, all of a sudden, it’s like Jesus calmed the sea.
How hard is it to have a great experience at church if you’ve had a miserable experience getting to church? Hard.
Anyone who has ever put on a plastic smile knows how difficult it is to concentrate on something wonderful when they’re feeling something awful. One of the greatest things about church is that people regularly walk in a mess and walk out at peace. But just imagine how much better off we would be if we walked into church already at peace?
Rewind the Smith family’s weekend for a minute. What if, instead of living it up on Saturday night, they changed their fun late night to Friday? What if Mr. and Mrs. Smith developed a plan for preparing for Sunday like Sunday morning was the prom?
What kind of difference would it make in your church experience if every member of your family woke up rested on Sunday morning, clothes were picked out already, breakfast was planned and everyone sat around the table together for breakfast?
If you’re the Smiths and you have teens, you might not want to kill your kids’ social life every weekend by insisting on an early Saturday night curfew. But what if you worked together to come up with a mutually acceptable plan for Sunday mornings? What if you held a family huddle to talk about how long each member of the family will need to shower, dress, and eat breakfast so that you’re not all yelling at each other for the bathroom, falling over each other in the kitchen, and then running for the car at the last minute?
You probably do something like that for weekdays, why not treat the preparation the same way or even better on Sundays. Chances are, even if you are coming to Sunday school, you’re still not getting up on Sundays as early as you do Monday through Friday for work and school.
The U.S. Marines have a saying, “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” In other words, plan for church like you’d plan for the prom.
Now, replay Sunday morning. This might never happen, but imagine if it did: If it takes your family fifteen minutes to get to church, what if you all got in the car twenty-five minutes before church started and drove over here at or under the speed limit? No honking. No bickering. Maybe you sing a verse of “Kumbaya” together on the way? (Well, maybe not that. But you get the idea.)
When you get out of the car, you could actually walk across the parking lot leisurely. You could stop and have a conversation in the lobby and still arrive in your seats with a few minutes to spare. This might be a fantasy, but I have to tell you that your pastor would be thrilled and you might enjoy it as well.
Like prom versus date, the difference in a good Sunday and a great Sunday just might be the advanced preparation.
So how will you prepare for next Sunday? Let me give you some suggestions:
How to Change the Rhythm of Your Life:
It might be too much to expect to change your whole life in one sermon, so let’s start with this. What if you blocked out the next four weeks on your calendar and said, “We aren’t going anywhere on Sunday mornings except for church the next four weeks”? Schedule it in your smartphone like you’d schedule an appointment with your friend.
Sometime this afternoon, before the idea wears off, sit down with your family and talk about the kind of preparation you want to put into arriving here with smiles next Sunday. What time do you all want to get to bed the night before? Are you going to eat breakfast together? And what time do you want to leave for church next Sunday morning? Then, to make sure you have fun, how do you want to live it up on Friday night?
Each week for the next four weeks we’ll be huddling in our Small Groups to discuss what we’re learning. You can pick up a copy of the I Love Sundays Study Guide at the table in the lobby on your way out this morning.
To start looking forward to next Sunday, try posting “#Sunday’s coming!” on your Facebook page this Friday. Who knows, if enough of us do it, we might start a movement?!
During this series I want to teach you two things from God’s perspective. Number one is how to have a great week, and number two is how to have a great life. If your Sunday is lived the way it was intended, your Monday will go as it was intended. Good Sundays Make Better Mondays.
Church is much more than a Sunday experience. But the highlight should be the Sunday service. Sunday is game day for church members. Knowing this, how will you prepare for next Sunday? What will you do to prepare yourself to hear the voice of God?
Anticipate Sunday, plan for Sunday, and execute your plan as if you were about to attend something really important – because it really is the most important hour of the week for every believer.
Father, thank you for creating us for rhythm and rest. We’ve had a great morning together. Help us to live the kind of lives you intended for us and to make the Sabbath a delight. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.