Posts filed under God

The Sabbath

The Sabbath, what is it? How does it work? Why does it matter?

There is never enough time. I work hard at managing investments, I cook, I am the main caregiver for our kids I maintain the house and cars. My wife works a job which demands her attention ten hours a day and another one to two hours every night from home. With all that going on we still need to reserve time to exercise. Then the church asks for our presence in main service and small group. There are multiple requests every week for us to participate in separate men’s and women’s ministries and also do service projects. Whether we have been in a big church or a small church, the story is the same. Whether I have been in a full-time engineering job, or worked as a pastor, the story is the same. There are more demands and requests for our time than we can possibly meet. This is why it is essential to prioritize our time. And the best way to schedule our priorities correctly is to start by making time for the Sabbath. Let me show you why….

The Sabbath is a weekly day of rest. Once a week we need to set aside time for our minds and bodies to relax. Through the centuries since the first human beings came into existence many traditions have arisen regarding the ‘proper’ use of the Sabbath. On one extreme is the practice of never doing anything at all, not even turning on a light switch. On the other extreme is the habit of treating the Sabbath like just another day. These extremes are still widely practiced today, to the detriment of their adherents. If we want to live happier lives it is essential to understand and apply the biblical teachings regarding the day of rest.

The first recorded day of rest was the seventh day from creation. God worked six days creating the world and He rested on the seventh day. Did God need to rest, or was He setting an example for us? A case can be made for either view but these cases depend on a great deal of conjecture. What we know for sure is that God did rest on the seventh day.

The first time we see God telling human beings to rest once a week is in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. The scene occurs after the Hebrews have been led out of Egypt by Moses. Now Moses is on the mountain and God gives him the Ten Commandments.  Here it is; “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God;” The term ‘holy’ means ‘set apart for God’.

God further clarifies the practical application of the commandment. “In it [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant, your cattle or your visitor who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Yes, we are supposed to have one a day a week for rest. But which day? Monday? Sunday? Saturday? Does it even matter?

Jewish tradition says the Sabbath begins just before sundown on Friday and ends Saturday evening when the first three stars appear in the sky. Christian tradition says the Sabbath is from sunrise Sunday to sunrise Monday. Many of us have or do work at jobs where the day of rest depends on our work schedules for that week. Others of us are expected to be available seven days a week. The intent of the commandment is not for us to stress about which particular day we take off each week, but to make sure that that we do take a day off. We may well ask if the Sabbath is so important then why do the priests and ministers get paid to work on Sunday? The answer is that for most of them their Sabbath day is either Friday or Monday.

Is it really up to each individual to choose their own Sabbath day? Jesus Christ clarified this question in  


In Ezekiel 20:12 God says “I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” The Sabbath is more than just a tool for recharging our soul, mind and body. It is also a sign that we are the people of God. Setting aside one day a week for our Lord causes us to be reminded that He is the One who is bringing us into heaven. The word ‘sanctification’ signifies that we are being cleaned up prior to our entry into haven. This is a lifelong process that does not end until we draw our last breath. Every person requires sanctification because none of us are perfect. Only Christians are receiving sanctification because we are the only people who are following Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The reader may have an objection to this last statement, but answer this question? Does eternal salvation come from within yourself? If so, why are you aging instead of remaining perpetually young? If eternal salvation comes from outside yourself, is the source the God of the Bible? The Bible says yes. What evidence do you have to say no?

We are in the process of being sanctified. Observing the Sabbath is one of the ways we demonstrate our faith in the Lord. We are commanded to do it, it only helps us and on top of that, it feels good to be refreshed.

Jesus was asked a question by the Pharisees. Keep in mind that the Pharisees were of the tradition that nothing was to be done on the Sabbath. Not healing the sick, not working in the fields, not working in your home or business, not preparing food. This was a case where tradition went beyond the intent of the commandment and became a burden rather than an encouragement. Jesus was walking with His apostles one Sabbath day. The apostles were picking the heads off some stalks of grain and eating them. The Pharisees asked about this apparent violation of the commandment. The passage is Mark 2:23-28.  [The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look why are your apostles doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”]

Some Christians have taken this passage to mean that they never need to respect or observe the Sabbath. This interpretation is not supported by the passage. Jesus was not saying that the commandment was eliminated. He was saying that the Pharisees had an incomplete understanding of how to obey the commandment. The Sabbath was not created to be a negative (Don’t do this…). It was created to be a positive (Do this and be renewed and refreshed and demonstrate by your actions that you follow the one true and living God.). When we obey the commandment we actually provide inspiration and encouragement to others.

What does it make sense to do on the Sabbath? If the primary use of the day is prayer, praise and good works, great! Do it and be refreshed by the renewing of your mind. There’s still time to enjoy your hobbies. However, if your primary use of the day is “I need to catch up on everything from last week”, you will never catch up.

This is the God who created the universe. Always loving. Always practical. Always perfect in His judgment. This is the God who calls us to observe the Sabbath. He knows that some people need to work on Sundays. We cannot close the hospitals. We cannot abandon our military and police posts. This is why He gives us the freedom to set our own Sabbath day. Make sure that you do set one. You need the rest. You need the recharge. Observe the commandment and set aside a weekly Sabbath day for the Lord.


Posted on January 14, 2016 and filed under God, New Testament, Old Testament, Sermons.

Maintaining Joy in Every Situation, Part II

Maintaining Joy in Every Situation, Part II


(for Part I of this series click here) 

Maintaining joy in every situation is like exercising a muscle. Consistent and proper preparation gives better results. The better the results we see, the more we want to keep doing it. What are the results of maintaining joy? Peace, patience, confidence in God and love. If you want these features to be part of who you are then practice the discipline of having joy in every situation. It is far better than any alternative way of life.

            In Part I of this series we discussed the fact that love is central to maintaining joy. We saw that love is not enough by itself. This is because love must have an object, a purpose, a direction and a goal. If we maintain God as the primary object of our love, then we are on the right track to maintaining joy in every situation. In this part of the series we look at two specific examples of how we lose our joy, and how we can get it back.

            Male/Female relationships. Everyone wants joy in their personal relationships. The Bible gives us the tools to make this happen. How many of us are truly committed to living the biblical model for male/female relationships? It is not the world’s way of doing things. To hear the world’s message through television and other media is to hear a false promise. To listen to and to try to live out the world’s message is to live a lie.

            The biblical model for men and women is that men are to treat all women of the same or younger age as if they were our own sisters. We are to treat all older women like we would treat our own mothers. Respect for women will lead a man to treat women properly. Women who wish to respected will respect men as their brothers or fathers, depending upon the relative age of the man. Notice that there is nothing in the biblical model which calls for or blesses abuse, discourtesy or putting yourself above another person.

            The relationship between husband and wife is unique. God says that man and wife become one flesh. The human marriage is supposed to be an earthly reflection of the bond between God and the believers in heaven. Men are called to love their wives. Women are called to respect and follow their husbands. If a wife decides she is the boss, then she brings a joy-killing attitude into the marriage. If the husband does not love and respect his wife, then he robs their union of joy. Maintaining joy in marriage is a subject unto itself, which will be covered in another part of this series.

            There are many ways to view the topic of male/female relationships. No matter what we may think or discuss, we must never abandon biblical accuracy for cultural acceptance. In these times it is popular for some preachers to say that there is no difference between men and women. Some churches take this idea to the extreme of installing women senior pastors and they call this a good thing. The Bible is extremely clear. God created a natural order of things. We should not be offended by this fact – we should celebrate our differences. God did make men and women different from one another. Although we have some differences in functions, neither male nor female is of more value to the Lord. Men and women are equally valuable to Him. God did establish an order in the home and in the church.

One of the reasons why we are sometimes robbed of joy in male/female relationships is that we ignore God’s order and create our own hierarchy. If we want to maintain joy in the church and in the home it is essential that we not violate Scripture. It is not good for a woman to be in a position of spiritual authority over a man in a Christian relationship. The Bible gives us many reasons why this is the case. This is a truth which is sometimes difficult for Christians to accept. Remember that God’s ways are higher and better than our ways. We are best off when we follow His directives. Churches which choose to violate this principle go astray from the Gospel because they let social and cultural thoughts override their obedience to God. Every time this happens the church moves further away from the Lord.

A personal example I will share with you is this – I have learned as much about how to live a God-honoring life from my Christian sisters as I have from my Christian brothers. The principle of “equal value but different functions” has been borne out in my walk with the Lord, as it has for Christians since the resurrection of Jesus. I encourage all my sisters and brothers to learn from one another. Men and women are designed to complement one another in ways that make the whole body of believers stronger than the sum of the parts. That is where our focus should remain – on the things that make our witness to the world true and accurate to the Gospel.

Men and women are called to certain functions while some other functions are denied them. Christian men and women are directed by the Lord to treat one another with respect and to do all things in holy platonic love. Everyone should use their skills and talents, but we must use them in ways which do not violate Scripture. It is not about following social and cultural conventions it is about correctly interpreting and applying the Scriptures.

 Jesus warned us that a little bit of evil works its way through the fellowship just like a little bit of leaven works its way through a whole loaf of bread. We all want God to bless our male/female relationships. Are we willing to ignore the world’s message and adhere to God’s message? Is it worthwhile to us to walk the narrow path of proper God-honoring behavior? The answer is yes.


            When a pastor tells you the wrong thing. This is the second topic for this session. There are far too many examples of lying pastors, false shepherds and manipulative ‘prophets’. It hurts when we trust the clergy to tell us the truth and instead they hurt us. Wounds can run deep and may be painful for many years until another Christian helps us heal. So how can we maintain joy when a professional pastor lies to us?

            There are three aspects to setting things right. The first step is to recover the biblical truth. The second aspect is to release the pain. The third step is to use the experience to help others in some way. This may seem counterintuitive but it does work.

            1. Recovering the biblical truth means taking whatever the pastor said and examining it by the light of Scripture. Make sure that you do not just believe the pastor was right, or that they had the correct interpretation of the Bible. Check their words. Examine the passages where the topic is discussed. Many times when false teachers hurt people it is because the pastor himself is a white-washed tomb, clean and pretty on the outside but full of decay on the inside.

            There are three components to recovering biblical truth. First, pray to God for clarity as you study the Bible. He will help you. Second, look up every passage which deals with your specific situation. Read all those passages and their surrounding context. Take notes as you read. Then compare what you see to what the pastor said to you. Do you see any points where there is a mismatch?

            2. Releasing the pain. This takes time. Ingest this fact – how much time it takes is within your control. God tells us to lean on Him, cry to Him and to ask Him for peace in our hearts and minds. Sometimes when a minister has lied we are too hurt to trust God. Maybe we pray and then if the pain is still there we lose confidence in the Lord.  Once you realize that what the minister said was in fact not true, and you know from you study of the Bible the reason it is not true, then it much easier to trust God. Two very effective ways to release the pain are to give it God in your prayers, and then go help other people.

            3. Using your pain to help others. This is what Jesus did on the cross. He went through unimaginable emotional and physical pain in order to bring us to God. The Lord Jesus bought our salvation with His blood. Now salvation is available to anyone who accepts Him as Lord and Savior. All Christians are covered by His sacrifice. He went through the pain in order to help us.

            We can apply the same principle in our lives. One great way to recover from being lied to by the pastor is to go use your pain. Find a charity or ministry where you get to help people whose pain is worse than yours. There are many ministries dedicated to helping people. God says in the Bible that He makes everything that happens work for the overall good of the entire body of believers. The psychic and emotional injuries we receive from being deceived by false teachers can be turned around and used to help other people. But you have to go help people in person, hear their stories and walk alongside them. Then the pace of your own healing accelerates.

            Conclusion  Maintaining joy is a perpetual challenge. If we take up the dual responsibility of treating others well while also doing the right things to heal from our wounds we will become more joyful. Join me for Part III of this series.


Posted on December 15, 2015 and filed under God, Joy, Love, When Pastors Lie.

Maintaining Joy in Every Situation, Part I

Maintaining Joy in Every Situation, Part I

by Mike Sackmary

The Bible is no empty word for us but it is our very life. God says in the Bible that He set eternity in the hearts of men. This means that each of us, whether we are Christian or not, have a desire to believe that there is something better and beyond this present life. After living through various circumstances and experiences, we may choose to believe that there is no afterlife, but that thought is rooted in some past cause. It is not a thought which occurs to us naturally. What does occur to us naturally is that there is an afterlife. This is a seed which God planted in our hearts.

The key to maintaining joy in every situation is to keep our focus on the true afterlife. God promises that every person who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior will be with Him in paradise forever. Some opponents of Christianity have raised various objections to this truth. The most common objections have been answered in my paper ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ’. For purposes of this article we will proceed with the understanding that every human being has to make the choice between becoming a Christian and going to heaven, or rejecting God and going to eternal torment.

There is a cost required of every Christian who wishes to live an effective, God-pleasing and joyful life. The cost is that we must be willing to submit our stubborn selves under the Lordship of Jesus. This means we study the Bible, we participate in a local church, we give of our resources and we chase our mission of preaching the Gospel and making disciples. A joyful Christian life is rooted in the concrete foundation of the love we have for the Lord.

Love is not enough by itself. This is because love must have an object, a purpose, a direction and a goal. The object of our love is the Lord. He created the heavens and the earth. He gave human beings a free will, which Adam the first human decided to use to rebel against God. Sometimes we may be tempted to blame God because bad things happen. We should remember that without the ability to make bad decisions we would not be free beings. With the ability to make decisions comes the responsibility to make good decisions and the accountability to suffer the results of bad decisions.

The purpose of our love for God is to prepare us, over the course of our lives, for our entry into heaven.  Yes the Creator of the entire universe cares that much about you. We are born with a tendency to sin. Once we reach the age of awareness we begin to lie, steal and break many of God’s commandments. We sin. We all sin. The only person who never sinned was Jesus. He is one-of-a-kind, being 100% human and 100% God at the same time. This brings us to the mystery of the Triune God. The Lord describes Himself as existing as one God in three persons (Father, Jesus the Son, Holy Spirit). God never explains exactly how this works, which is why we call it a unique method of existence. Think about the reality that this is the God who not only loves you, but who gives you the capacity to love.

I must confess to a rather unmanly trait. I love my cat. Spock has been with me for nineteen years. That is longer than some marriages. Why do I love my cat? I did not create him. I certainly do not get any work out of him. I love him because he is a lot of fun and he is always waiting to greet me when I come home. But where does my capacity to love come from?

Our capacity to love comes from God Himself. He is the author, creator and prime source of love. In the Bible the word love is used as both a verb and a noun. The love we are given from God is a verb. He loves us continually and forever. Thus the first step to maintaining joy is to ingest and feed upon this concept. God’s love is continual and eternal. Let that course through your bones for a while until you are soaked from the inside out in the radiance of His all-consuming love for His children. But do not be fooled, God says that only those who are Christians (and all the Old Testament believers who died before the Resurrection of Jesus) are His children. Non-Christians are not called the children of God until they become Christians. The purpose of our love is to keep us motivated and excited about living our lives in a way that shines the light of God into this world, while God prepares us for our entry into paradise.

The direction of our love is upward and outward. Upward in worship to God. Outward toward our fellow humans. As Christians we want to use our unique personalities to show God’s love for other people. By sharing the good, by doing random acts of kindness, by being there to listen and not try to ’fix’ everything, by standing up for the helpless and defending the weak we spread the good of God around the globe.

The temporary goal of our love for God is to win souls for the kingdom. No one becomes a genuine Christian solely because of logical argument or emotional appeals. The unsaved become Christians by one method, they respond with a ‘yes God’ when they hear the Gospel. The Gospel only comes to a person by the preaching of the Word of God. No one method is used for this preaching. It is done one-to-one, it is done in big churches, it is done in the open air on the street, it is done in prisons, it is done when a Christian is about to be murdered by terrorists, it is done when a student shares the Gospel with an atheist teacher. Preaching the Gospel happens in more ways and places than any one of us can even count. One of the most wide-reaching methods is expositional preaching from the pulpit of a church.

Now that we’ve seen a brief survey of the purpose, goal, direction and object of our love let us see how we can turn these concepts into useful every day practices which will allow us to maintain joy.

Bad situations. This category of challenges includes anything that happens which was not caused by ourselves or by other people. These are occurrences such as flooded houses, tornadoes, cancer and so forth. The most dangerous aspect of dealing with this type of problem is to assume that we are being punished. Certainly there are passages in the Old Testament where God purposely causes these types of scenarios. But every time He does so, there is also an explanation as to why He does it and a corresponding opportunity for people to repent and get relief from the Lord.

The key to maintaining joy in bad situations is to first ask God if there is any unconfessed sin in our life. If He brings anything to mind confess and repent immediately. Beyond asking that question, be glad for what went right. You are still breathing. You did not lose everything. And God certainly has placed Christians in your path who would love to help you. Use that resource, let God’s children walk alongside you.

Bad people. This is a real sore point. Maybe I should skip this topic….or not. The trick here is to ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’. If we make the mistake of judging the person then we fall into extremely negative thinking. This is accompanied by hatred, anger, more hatred, stress, ongoing hatred. You get the idea that that person needs to have their (insert your own word here) removed. Then we start thinking that the bad person needs to die. It is easy for our minds to become clouded to the point where we think of ourselves as righteous judges instead of recognizing the reality that God is the only Righteous Judge.

How to maintain clarity of thought and cleanness of heart? First, if the bad person’s actions were illegal, then press charges. Let the law enforcement professionals deal with the crime. If the actions were immoral or unethical then decide if it is worth your time and energy to sue them. Be aware the Jesus advised us to not sue other Christians but to do our best to work it out directly with them. By getting the question of crime and lawsuits settled, you prepare your mind for the next step.

To achieve clarity of thought and cleanness of heart, step back from passing judgment on the person. It is not reasonable to assume the motives of another. What we are called to judge is the action. We can and should say ‘that was wrong and it hurt’. We can and should vent our anger and pain to the Lord. We can and should cry out to our Christian friends and let them pray for us. Pain is overcome by love and love comes from God through other Christians.

God judges sin. He will deal with the bad person on His terms and in His timing. Dwelling upon the evil person will only cause us more pain. It keeps our wounds bleeding and prevents us from enjoying life. Take the right path, Maintain joy by letting your brothers and sisters love you and go do good works for others. Get rid of your anger by bringing out your love for God.

One word about forgiveness. The Bible never says that we are to forgive those who do not ask for our forgiveness. Sometimes misguided Christians might say “Oh just forgive that person.” This does not work. What does work is to say “Here God, you have my pain and give me something good to go do for others.”

The reality might seem upside-down to us, but here it is – God promised that every Christian would have some suffering in this life, and that everything works together for the good of those who love Christ. My form of suffering may be different than yours, but together we help one another maintain joy because we know that God has a greater purpose for letting us suffer. This is a reality which many anti-Christians cannot accept. The one whose mind is rooted in self-love says “What the heck?” The one whose mind is rooted in Christian love says “This stinks, and I have no idea why it happened, but I know that I can trust God with my soul, so I can also trust Him with this mess." Choose joy over anger.

Self-generated problems. Ouch. Maintaining joy is quite difficult in these situations. Our tendency is to blame others, and even to blame God. A homosexual catches a disease and says “God made me this way.” A man cheats on his wife and says “God made that other woman so beautiful and so available.” A pastor copies a sermon from someone else and says “I don’t have time to prepare sermons.” Whatever your personal problems are, check to see if they are self-generated. The great thing about these types of problems is that the behavior does not have to be repeated. Begin to attain joy by creating a commitment card. On the card you write down in present tense a statement that negates the undesired behavior. “I am celibate.” “I am faithful.” “I seek the Lord’s message for every sermon.” Keep that card in your wallet and look at it whenever you pay for something. Then think about the price Jesus paid for your soul.

Maintaining joy in every situation is like exercising a muscle. The more we do it, the better results we see. The better results we see the more we want to keep doing it. What are the results? Peace, patience, joy, love. If you want these features to be part of who you are, then practice the discipline of having joy in every situation. It is far better than any alternative way of life.




Posted on November 17, 2015 and filed under God, Love, New Testament, Old Testament, Joy.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
The Bible contains statements which undeniably make the assertion that Jesus rose from the dead. The truth is that the biblical account is either accurate, or it is not. Reaching one of these
two conclusions, and being able to defend one’s position on the matter, is required if one is to
engage in honest debate. Read more....

Posted on September 1, 2015 and filed under New Testament, Old Testament, God, Papers, Resurrection of Jesus.

Inspiration of the Bible

God had to reveal Himself to people in order for people to know about Him. The Bible is
God’s written revelation of Himself to man. It contains no errors or contradictions. Although
some have argued against the infallibility of the Bible there has not yet been a proven case where
the text has been shown to be in error. The sixty six books of the Protestant Bible contain
interwoven themes, subjects, stories and prophecies. The books were recorded by different men in different styles of writing. The total time span covered during the writing of the scriptures has
been estimated at 1600 years. The fact that these books never contradict one another is evidence of supernatural activity. Any other written work can be shown to contain errors. It is nothing short of miraculous that the Bible has survived intact through the centuries. While there are differences in specific terms among the major translations (KJV, NIV, NASB, RSV) careful
inductive study of the text reveals that meaning of the text remains the same. Read more...

Posted on September 1, 2015 and filed under New Testament, Old Testament, God, Papers.

Prayer is a gift from God.

Only the God of the Bible makes the amazing promise to be found by anyone who seeks Him. His promise does not stop there however. God not only promises to be found but also to actively lead His followers. “I will direct your paths”. God gives His followers instructions, guiding, correction and promises to never leave us or forsake us. The question then, is what does God mean when He says He will direct your path? One of the tools which God uses to guide us is prayer. Read more...

Posted on September 1, 2015 and filed under God, Love, Sermons, Prayer.