We are a typical American family. We have full time jobs, our sons play football and soccer, we are in ministry, and our family has plenty of social calendar demands. We have found the Sabbath to be an important part of keeping our family life peaceful in the midst of a chaotic world. Our family craves that time, and we look forward to it each week. We never have to remind or beg the children for Sabbath time, because it meets deep needs in all of our souls. What does celebrating the Sabbath look like in real life?
Learning how to take a family Sabbath has been a journey of experimenting, exploring, trial, and error. It has taken us some time to learn how to extract the benefits and freedom of the Sabbath, and to live it abundantly in the context of an active, modern, mainline Christian family. It is important for us to be involved with neighbors, friends, and family. We had to figure out how to walk in the joy and benefits of the Sabbath without cutting ourselves off from the perishing world God is calling us to reach. The best way to explain how we arrived where we are at is to take you on our personal journey.
In starting our journey, we knew two things. We could not ignore the Sabbath since it is one of the Ten Commandments and we also knew that following it legalistically would not provide the freedom and rest we have inherited in Christ Jesus. Somewhere in the midst of that wide spectrum lies a living truth.
Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 says,
In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
Do not be over righteous, neither be over wise— why destroy yourself?
Do not be over wicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
One thing you will find as you start to study the Sabbath is a lot of opinions. I mean A LOT of opinions. It takes some serious sorting and sifting to mine of life changing truth from this stream of still waters. It is like panning for gold in a stream. You may have to sift through a bunch of sand and silt, but when you strike gold it is worth every ounce of effort!
In this process, I had to sort through the seyag (fence laws – see article on “The Fulfillment of the Law”), sort through tradition, theology, church history, and most importantly sort through the Word. We took all that understanding and began the great experiment of “doing the Word, and not just hearing it”(James 1:21-25). That section of Scripture tells us that if we look into the perfect law of liberty and do it, we will be blessed in all that we do. We knew that somewhere in the Sabbath there would be liberty, and we would be blessed in it. If Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath, how can a pure celebration of who he is not yield freedom?
We had to open ourselves up to some new concepts so that we could fully understand the Sabbath. The Bible is a Jewish book, and the context of it cannot be fully understood without learning Hebrew words, culture, and thought. There are great riches to be found in Scripture which will be completely missed if we pull out only the principles of the Bible devoid of all culture of the Scripture. The Jewish culture is different from any other culture of the world because it is a culture God set up. I am not saying that it is perfect. The Jewish people are fallen humans needing redemption like anyone else, but they were given the great task of taking heavenly principles and bringing them onto the earth.
Romans 3:1-2 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. NKJV
In my article on “The Fulfillment of the Law”, I shared how the word Torah, translated in our Bibles as law, also means to teach. It comes from the Hebrew word yarah which means “to point out, teach, instruct or give direction.” The Sabbath is not just a law, but it is a wonderful teaching tool which guides us on how to enter into God’s rest.
For those out there who are teachers, you know that the more senses you involve, the more emotion you connect, and the more meaningful context your student experiences, the more they will understand and retain. What memories are burned in your mind? I didn’t know what hospice was until I went through it with my father. What I learned through experience, I will never forget. The Hebraic style of teaching is very interactive, experiential, multi-sensory and multi-generational. It is intended to strike a chord deep within us and help us to remember who we are as children of God.
For instance, God did not just tell his people in the desert that he would provide for them, He rained down manna six days a week for forty years so they could actively experience His faithfulness in provision. When God led his people out of Egypt, He did not just tell them to remember His deliverance; He gave them a multi-sensory family activity called the Passover Seder so that they could relive and remember that they serve a God who delivers. Exodus 13:14 tells the children to ask questions during the Seder so that they can learn about their faith and pass down the story of God’s deliverance from generation to generation.
For the modern day Christian believer, the story of Exodus is no longer just the Hebrew story, but it is also our story through adoption in Christ. Our ancestors may not have been Hebrew slaves in Egypt, but we needed to be delivered from the bondage of sin. Jesus addresses that issue in John 8.
John 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. NKJV
By the blood of our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. If you ever get a chance to experience “Christ in the Passover”, you will be amazed to see how Passover helps us to understand our faith and what great deliverance Christ purchased for us with his blood.
What does Passover have to do with the Sabbath? Everything! The Sabbath is more than just a holy time out. It is a time of learning about God and experiencing His rest just like the Passover helps us to learn about God’s deliverance. These are both designed to help us pass our faith onto the next generation.
Any pastor will openly tell you that one of the biggest challenges of our time is the problem of passing on our faith to the next generation. God is many steps ahead of us in this! We will have the solution to our problems once we take him at His Word. This is why the Hebraic Biblical style of worship is interactive, multi-generational and repetitive. God in his wisdom knew that we needed our worship to be this way for it to be successful.
With that knowledge in hand, our family took the bold step to research the Jewish Sabbath, learn the aspects of that celebration, and put it into a format that captures the freedom in Christ perspective. Passover happens once a year, so it is easy to go to that celebration and carry on with life as usual. The Sabbath took a lot more thought, prayer, and leading of the Holy Spirit because it is a repetitive weekly activity. We knew that there had to be a sweet spot somewhere between legalism and not celebrating the Sabbath at all. We were determined to do whatever it took to find that place of abundant life which the Sabbath was intended to create.
We have gone through different seasons of discovery on our Sabbath journey. Our first season was amazingly eye opening, freeing, and educational. From all of our research, we pulled together an interactive, in-home, Christian-Hebraic inspired order of service for our family to do together each week. It was a lot of fun! Everyone in the family had a part to play in the Sabbath, and we all grew in amazing ways. Our time together was very alive, personal and centered on the Lord. God’s Shalom (peace) would fill our house in such a strong, recognizable way that we all began to crave that time.
This initial season was very important for laying the groundwork on how to understand and enter into God’s rest. Many people are unaware that the Sabbath is in interactive family ministry full of object lessons which help us to remember and celebrate the tenets of our faith. The revelation and understanding we received was rich! There is great power in learning how to rest together, learning how to enjoy the Lord and each other. It was so rejuvenating! What we learned in this season built a strong foundation for worship within our family.
(There is an article called "The Sabbath Challenge" located on our Educational Resources page which outlines our family Sabbath worship format. The Sabbath Challenge contains all of the object lessons for a full Sabbath. In order to have a healthy balance of keeping Sabbath, it is good to use this article and The Sabbath Challenge in conjunction with each other. It will help you to navigate the questions of how to do it and what is appropriate. I will also be offering an e-book soon which goes into more description on how to have a family Sabbath time. You may also e-mail our ministry with questions.)
Since we live in America, we experience the constant pressure of schedules that are not built around taking a Sabbath rest. We were caught in the tension between breaking away to worship God intimately and also being a part of the community around us which we are called to reach for Christ. We knew that the answer was not to give up on the Sabbath, it was blessing our family too much, but we needed to see how the whole picture worked together in real life as modern day Christian family.
How you approach the Sabbath scripturally is important. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, that he “did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.” The beauty of this is that the law/teaching speaks of Him, and he fulfilled the legal aspects of it, so we can celebrate what he has already done for us in freedom. The law did not go away. It is now complete in Christ. The great benefit of our family taking the time to learn and do the teaching of the Sabbath is that it created a foundation of rest and worship in our family which can never be taken away. We now know how to enter into God's rest whether we are able to enjoy a full Sabbath or have to be more flexible that week.
After the first season we had of doing the Sabbath fully every week, we went in to a period of time where we could not do it like that. Just to be honest, some weeks we were not able to take that time at all. We did not lose our salvation because it. God did not love us any less. Sometimes it was just hard to fight society who seemed to plan something every time we wanted to break away to be with God. The American way was trying to beat us into submission. We did not want to sign out of life, but we also knew that we could not just yield to the world’s way either.
My husband and I talked. It felt like something was missing if we did not have this time together as a family in worship. We decided that we would find a way to take some time for the Sabbath and celebrate it each week even if we did not have all of the accompaniments. We talked with kids, and they shared from their hearts why they liked the Sabbath. It broke us down to hear them express how they genuinely enjoyed that time. It was good to know that they wanted to Sabbath too and that it was not just us pushing our parental agenda. We knew then that it was time to go back to the drawing board and see how we could maintain this vital family worship in the midst of our hectic schedules.
Here is what we found. Because we had that great foundation from the initial time of fully celebrating Sabbath, when we say it is time to Sabbath the whole family jumps on the same page and enters in to God's rest whether we have a full set table or not. It was really fun to Sabbath when we were in the middle of moving. We had battery operated candles on a card table with pizza and paper plates. It was awesome! The Lord of the Sabbath showed up just the same! We did not get to rest as much that Saturday as we would have liked, but we did enough to refresh our spirits and keep our focus where it needed to be.
What do we do when our schedule does not always agree with our Sabbath time? If we have a Friday night soccer practice or football game, we come home afterwards, light our candles and enter into God's rest. Last week, we had to run out to the DMV to get new licenses and take my son to a soccer game. Guess what? We did those things and rested as much as we could around them. We did not just throw in the towel and decide that we would not have our rest time that week. We took our rest and drank it in like a cool cup of water. I enjoyed my snuggly bed until 11am and arrived at the DMV before they closed at noon. After the DMV, we came home, had a bite of some tasty leftovers from the night before, and then cruised over to watch my son play soccer. After soccer, we came home to a movie marathon. A great day it was!
The reason why we make every effort to enter into God's rest each week is because we have found that time to be like the air we breathe. The best way I can describe our weekly infilling is by comparing it to the way the heart beats. When the heart beats, the first stroke is a rest. That first stroke is when the heart gets full of life blood. The second stroke pushes the blood throughout the rest of the body. Living a rested life of worship follows the same pattern. When we get filled up on God's rest during Sabbath, we are able to live refreshed and be more effective the following week. We found this to be especially true after having a season where we were not able to Sabbath regularly.
Once we resumed our Sabbath rest, we saw the heartbeat pattern operating once again in our lives. It was amazing! When we took time to rest in God and get filled up, we could enter into our work week living abundantly out of our overflow. When we pushed it too hard and did not take time to get restored, we were like wilted plants who sat out in the sun for too long. We were droopy and struggling to get by. When we stopped and took time to rest in the Lord, our loads were lifted and we perked back up again.
During that off season, we found that if we did not take time to rest and fill up that we start running on empty like a car running on fumes. I don’t know about you, but it is never fun for me to run out of gas. As a family, we keep an eye on our rest gauges and Sabbath accordingly. The Sabbath is a necessary part of keeping us full.
Some weeks we fill up as much as we can just to keep going. Other weeks, we close shop and get the full filling that we need. We try to do the full Sabbath table worship at least once a month, not because we have do, but because it reminds us of God’s grace and ministers to us. Since we have committed our family to this time, joy and abundant life have become a natural part of our lives instead of something we have to drum up by faith.
Before I wrap up, I would like to explain how we learned to receive grace more effectively through the Sabbath. Grace can be a very hard concept to grasp. Sometimes there can be a gap between hearing God’s grace and actually receiving it into our lives. During a Sabbath rest we do not just talk about grace, we drink it in like a cool cup of water.
Psalm 23 says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul”.
Sometimes we need to be made to lie down to get the restoration that we need so badly. I learned that receiving God’s grace comes by learning how to rest in Him. What makes the Sabbath a unique form of worship is that it is all about being refreshed. It is not a time to do, but a time to receive. It is truly a type and shadow of God’s grace. In life, we can get so busy that it is easy to fall back into a works mentality. The Sabbath reminds us to rest in God and not to depend on our personal resources.
When we started learning about the Sabbath it was during one of the most difficult times in our lives. Our backs were up against the wall, we were on the brink of losing our house, and everything was falling apart around us. We were in a place where we could do nothing, but depend on the grace of God. God had a plan for us. He wanted to teach us how to rest in a time of stress! He did not want us to rest after we had everything figured out. He wanted us to rest in Him so He could work it out!
On Sabbath, we would break the Challah bread and thank God for his provision. We would remember how God provided daily for His children in the desert. We would sit around the Sabbath table and remind ourselves of all the times God came through for us and tell our children those testimonies. This not only reminded us that God is a provider, but our kids were able to see God working on our behalf as well. This built our faith and reminded us that we serve a God who provides. It also taught our kids how to depend on God.
During that time, God made a way for our family and we did not lose a thing. We did not just talk about God's provision. We lived it! We came through the fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We did not burn up and our clothes did not smell like smoke. We learned a lot about resting in Him during that season. We learned that He did not want us to fail. He just wanted to build our faith. Now when problems come our way, I do not worry. I know that the King of the Universe has got all things covered. He will find a way to work all things out for our good even it they do not look pretty in the process. We do not need to figure it all out. All we need to do is rest in Him. That is the grace of God.
The benefits of the Sabbath are so great that I don’t want to stop writing. The best thing I can do at this point is to encourage you to take the bold step to try it and see for yourself. Let the “Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus, take you on a personal journey of learning how to rest in Him. Hear his call in Matthew 11:28-30.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message Bible)
Jeremiah 6:16 Here is what the Lord says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths. ‘Which one is the good way?’ Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” CJB
Be blessed and go for it!!
With much love, The Crawford Family