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God Is Available

July 20, 1969. Around the world, people peered at television screens or kept an ear cocked toward a radio, waiting to hear the words of the first man to set foot on the moon. What would he say? Speculation had gone on for weeks. The words were certain to go down in history.

We watched as Neil Armstrong climbed down the lunar lander; then with a little jump he placed both feet on the lunar surface. “That's one small step for a man,” he said. “One giant leap for mankind.”

Following in Armstrong's footsteps, 11 more Americans stepped out onto the bleak lunar landscape over the next three and a half years. What they found was a hostile, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, but never inviting environment. A harsh landscape with no happy mediums - an environment without Earth's sheltering blanket of air to ameliorate the extremes.

While it must be exhilarating to walk on the moon, every astronaut who has had that privilege has had one even higher priority: to get back here to Earth where he belonged!

Edgar D. Mitchell of Apollo 14 described his experience this way:

“The first thing that came to mind as I looked at Earth was its incredible beauty. Even the spectacular photographs do not do it justice. It was a majestic sight - a splendid blue and white jewel suspended against a velvet black sky…. The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes.”

Mitchell said that this experience contradicted the “pragmatic engineer” attitude that had made him an astronaut and gotten him to the moon. It was a spiritual experience based on what he called “experiential cognition” - something different from the cold, scientific, mathematical reasoning that had occupied his life until that time.

In a sense Mitchell's experience is a metaphor of our society's experience in recent years. The '60s saw the push for scientific and technological excellence. The '70s saw the pragmatic application of that excellence in space exploration. But the '80s have revealed that Armstrong's giant leap was more of a side step. The scientific achievements live on in the history books, but most people think little about moon walks anymore.

We have gone searching for the “something” that we feel must lie beyond what our technology can accomplish. We have rediscovered and reclaimed the more human-centered values that technology treated as obsolete. It's as though in the '70s we stepped out into the world of technological triumph, but found nothing there worth staying for.

Our human souls are retreating from technology's soulless, uncaring environment.

The Search for God

This retreat has contributed to the return to spirituality that we are witnessing today. Not only is church attendance on the increase, but even among non-attenders there's a growing awareness of and search for a spiritual experience. A strange mix of spirituality and superstition is sweeping across the country.

People, from media stars to the couch-potatoes who dote on them, are seeking gurus and spiritual guides to lead them to a spiritual experience. A segment of Entertainment Tonight once mentioned more than a dozen stars, including Michael Jackson, who consult spiritualist mediums for guidance. (They call the mediums transchannelers these days. And their sessions are called consultations, not seances, but it's all the same.) It's as though the baby boom generation has entered a collective midlife crisis that demands spiritual answers to age-old questions.

Fifteen centuries ago Augustine said of God, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose itself in Thee.” Our basic human nature hasn't changed since his day. Like astronauts looking wistfully back toward the blue jewel of Earth, by nature we return from the barrenness of godless secularism to the God who has made us for Himself.

What many of those involved in this search don't realize is that God, as soon as He had created mankind, set aside a special time and way for seeking Him. And so thousands, even millions, go astray in their search for spiritual realities. Self-proclaimed gurus, guides, and channelers reap millions in profits from gullible souls who are groping after God.

God Is Available

But all of this wasted expense is unnecessary because God has committed Himself to being readily available, anytime, anywhere, to every human being on this planet.

He demonstrated this commitment by setting aside special time for communion with humanity immediately after He created our first ancestors. At the end of creation week, “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). Later He wrote His commitment in stone as part of His Ten Commandments: “The seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work,…for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:10, 11).

To hallow something means to make it holy - to set it aside for a special purpose. The special purpose of the seventh-day is to provide people with a time when they can forget their temporal cares, relax from their work, and set aside time for nurturing the spiritual, God-seeking side of their beings.

In recent years millions of people the world over have rediscovered the value of putting aside an entire day for God. And not just any day, but the Day - Saturday, the seventh-day – that God Himself set aside.

I've heard it said that Christians should live every day for God, and that somehow that negates the fact that God set aside a specific special day for fellowship with Him. Others claim that when Christ died on the cross that eliminated man's need for a special day – a Sabbath - to spend with God. No valid basis exists for either claim though. Certainly nothing in the New Testament suggests either idea. Jesus Himself went on record as to what it was lawful to do on the Sabbath: “It is lawful to do good on the sabbath” (Matthew 12:12). Notice that He didn't say it's lawful to do any old thing you please on the Sabbath, but that it is lawful to do good - to perform deeds of mercy.

After Jesus: death, His disciples still “rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56, King James Version), demonstrating that the cross abolished neither God's commitment of special time to us, nor His expectation that Christians would reserve that special time for Him.

Unfortunately, modern Christians tend to heap up arguments against keeping holy the day that God hallowed. A few decades ago most Christians thought of Sunday as a holy day - a Christian Sabbath, as it were. But today many denominations admit that there is no scriptural basis for setting aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as holy. (The Bible calls only the seventh day “the Sabbath.”) So they no longer teach people to set aside any day for God. The result is that most Christians consider the remainder of Sunday, after they've been to church, theirs to do with as they please. They have no special day for God.

Perhaps the reluctance of Christians to hallow the Sabbath is partly due to the way holy time for God has been misrepresented through the years. The Pharisees of Jesus' day had made the Sabbath a burden by encasing it in a myriad of laws that were nearly impossible to keep. More recently the Puritans and other religious groups placed restrictions on Sunday that made it an onerous rather than an honored day.

Delightful Day, Delightful God

God never intended that the Sabbath should be treated that way. He does ask us to “turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day”; but in the same breath He tells us that He wants us to “call the sabbath a delight,” and promises that when we have learned to do that, we will have learned to “take delight in the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13, 14).

What better way would there be to learn to take delight in God than to devote an entire day to Him every week? He wants us to turn aside from our temporal pleasures so that we can learn to delight in worship, prayer, Bible study, and doing good to others on His special day. To the Christian bogged down in the rat race of the daily grind, the Sabbath should be a jewel shining forth at the end of the week, inviting, promising rest and refreshment. Time with God should be the goal of the week, just as Earth was the real goal of the moonwalking astronauts.

It's not that we shouldn't spend time with God during the week - we need that just as much as the astronauts needed life-support systems filled with earth's air on the moon. But the Sabbath is a special time for basking in His love.

Let's face it, most of the arguments Christians muster against keeping holy the day God hallowed during creation week are self-centered - based on an unwillingness to give up an entire day for God. These arguments are the product of wrong perspectives and misplaced priorities. Wrong perspectives lead to wrong priorities, and wrong priorities lead to spiritual torpor.

But those who give God His day find renewed spiritual vigor each week. That's what God intended the Sabbath to do for us.

If you have sensed a spiritual hunger in your life, if your life seems as barren as a lunar landscape, isn't it time to head back home to God? Isn't it time to begin keeping holy the day that He has hallowed? That day is Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

The special day that God set aside has not been lost track of through the years. It's still there, shining like a jewel at the end of each week's journey, inviting us back home to God.

The book of Revelation pictures three angels flying in heaven with messages that must be proclaimed just prior to the second coming of Jesus. The first angel says with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory… and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water” (Revelation 14:7).

People everywhere are hearing and responding to this call today. Responding by seeking God and honoring the day He has set aside for remembering His mighty act of creation.

Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

It was made for you!

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