A Quick Way to Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Christmas Story

It was if I had never read the Christmas story before.

There on the page of a child's book, the story was totally foreign to me.

That frigid night my son and I sat by the window sill—the cold air bleeding through the panes, doling out goosebumps. With son on my knee, we read through the entire Christmas story culled from all three of the synoptic gospel accounts.

Maybe it was the simplicity of the book or the setting in which we read, but something about those words struck me that night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

You’ve probably read this verse before. I know I had.

And while it might seem like a side note to the story of Christ, it actually holds the key to why Jesus came to earth.

Let me explain.

Should We Buy Things on the Sabbath?

The Fourth Commandment's prohibition against work most assuredly includes commerce.

Selling goods and services for profit is an activity aimed at making money, and Nehemiah warned against this very thing:

I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. Nehemiah 13:15

In the book of Nehemiah, Israel began rededicating itself to God after exile, and Nehemiah knew the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. Tempted as the people might have been to make some extra money, he told them to avoid selling food.

Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass (Creative Commons)

But selling is just one half of commerce. What about buying? I buy things on the Sabbath almost every week. Is that prohibited?

How to Observe the Sabbath and Stop Worrying About Money

I dare you to tell me that the Fourth Commandment—the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath”—has nothing to do with money (Exo. 20:8).

True, you will not find the word “money” anywhere in the passage. But to ignore its financial overtones would be a grave error.

You Might Be Asking the Wrong Question When it Comes to the Sabbath

We know that the Fourth Commandment prohibits working on the Sabbath:

On it you shall not do any work . . . Exodus 20:10b

But what exactly is work?

If I work in my yard or clean house or cook a meal, is that work? What if I go hiking or jogging?

I have news for you.

We might be asking the wrong questions. Rather than asking, “What is work?” maybe we should ask, “Why am I working?”

How to Prevent Burnout God's Way

You might think the Fourth Commandment is about resting, but you'd be wrong.

Well, half wrong.

The Sabbath commandment is as much (if not more) about work as it is about rest. It admonishes both the sloth and workaholic.

The Ewan (cc)

Throughout my own life I have wavered back and forth through these extremes. I went through pendulum swings of productivity and inaction.

In high school I spent most of my free time playing video games.

As I entered my second semester of college I had transitioned into an almost full-fledged workaholic. I had a couple of part time jobs, was going to school full-time and regularly updated a blog. All the while I was trying to maintain a long distance relationship with my future wife.

Here's One Less Thing to Worry about This Thanksgiving

Driving to work one day, something struck me so poignantly that I nearly had to stop the car.

It was a cool fall morning.

The leaves had turned colors overnight. Light rain gave a welcome reprieve from the dry sizzling summer we had just endured.

I was a bit bleary eyed—not unusual despite the strong cup of black coffee I had swallowed in the moments prior my departure.

I fiddled with the radio, trying to find a station not airing commercials.

A school bus passed by in the voluminous roar of its massive engine. Turning a corner, I headed west only to be struck by the magnificent:

Why Keeping the Sabbath is Easier Than You Think

Keeping the Sabbath is easy:

Go outside, and watch the sunset.

Hold an infant. Pick a flower. Pet a dog.

You see, remembering the Sabbath means reflecting on God’s creation.

Is Working on the Sabbath a Sin?

Working on the Sabbath is not necessarily a sin.

Jesus said so himself.

Photo Credit: Alexander Baxevanis (creative commons)

In response to criticism of His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath He says:

Haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? Matthew 12:5

How can this be? I thought that priests were holy. How did they desecrate the Sabbath?

Why Throwing Away Your Traditions Is Sometimes the Best Way to Honor God

It was a Sunday afternoon when I received the phone call.

Someone needed help moving.

I remember thinking, But Sunday is my day of rest. If there’s anything I hate more than moving, it is moving on a Sunday. Sundays are when I eat too much and then sleep it off on the couch; they’re not for moving.

Alex Dugger (CC)

I was placing a higher value on my own needs rather than on someone else’s. I had determined that anything I did not want to do was work. And God forbid I work on the Sabbath. 


The Pharisees did the same.

Here's Something More Important Than Voting to Do on November 6

It was during quiet time with God that it hit me.

I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

I had let myself once again fall into the divisive trap that is American politics.

Photo credit: Ricardo Fernández (Creative Commons)

You see I am often critical of politicians. I question their words, their motives, their initiatives.

And rightly so in many cases.

But it was in that moment that I felt God asking me, "For all the criticizing that you do, have you taken time to pray for them?"

The truth is, I had not.

I had dehumanized the politicians on the other side of the aisle so that I could demonize them.

But what God reminded me that morning is that these same politicians are real people, made in His image, loved by Him, and in need of a savior.

Just like me.

The 76%

Most of us have already decided who we're going to vote for in the presidential election.

And all of us think we are right (myself included).

But how many of us have taken the time to pray about it?

The Secret of Honoring God on the Sabbath

I am a hard-core Kansas City Chiefs fan.

During the NFL season I soak in as many highlights, news stories, predictions and box scores as I can. My brother and I have even gone as far as to sync up the television (using DVR) with the radio so that we can listen to the Chiefs’ own broadcasters.

The problem is that most NFL games are on Sundays.

From ages 12 to 17, I lived in the Pacific Time Zone. So what used to be noon kickoffs when I lived in Kansas were now at 10 AM—the heart of church time.

Why Studying The Fourth Commandment Will Help You Understand the Other Nine: Part 2

(Read part 1.)

How do we obey the Fourth Commandment?

We have to understand what it is not.

If you would have asked me a year ago what the Fourth Commandment is, I would have told you that it is the rule against working on the Sabbath. Yet I was focusing on the wrong part. 

In fact for me, it was the only part.

Yes, God told Moses not to do any work on the Sabbath, but there is much more to it than that. But before we go any further, let's take a moment and read through the actual commandment:

Why Studying The Fourth Commandment Will Help You Understand The Other Nine

Think you have a handle on the Ten Commandments?

So did I.

Jukka Zitting (CC)

That is, until I started studying the fourth. You know, the Sabbath commandment:

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... Exodus 20:8-10a

This one seems out of place in the list. The rest are fairly obvious: don't kill, steal, worship other gods. But keeping the Sabbath holy? Stopping work one day of the week?

Does this even apply to us Christians?

What Does God Really Want From You?

Do you ever read something in the Bible that makes you do a double take? Something you had no idea was part of the holy word of God?

If you ever read through Leviticus and Numbers you'll probably have many of these moments.

Photo Credit: Tom Thai (Creative Commons)

One such instance is the abrupt mention of testes in the twenty-second chapter of Leviticus. At first glance it seems bizarre and not important, but though it may not seem to apply to 21st Century Christians, I assure you that the principle behind it will never be irrelevant.

Sacrifice Is Still Relevant

The verse in question relates to Jewish practice of animal sacrifice. God gave Moses guidelines for beasts that are unacceptable as an offering:

You must not offer to the Lord an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut. Leviticus 22:24

Who said the Bible was lacking in imagery? This is one of many Mosaic regulations for sacrifice.

But I know what you’re thinking. We don’t sacrifice animals. How is this relevant?