Earlier this year, the SDBC elders approved for me a three-month break from working at the church, called a "sabbatical." The concept of sabbatical has a source described in several places in the bible. For example, in Leviticus 25, there is a commandment to desist from working the fields during the seventh year. This allows the soil to rest and replenish itself.
I expected to accomplish three goals between June and August this summer: 1. to read through the entire bible in 90 days; 2. to prepare to teach the book of 1 John in India in November; and 3. most importantly, to spend time with Chris who had quit her job to be with me for the three months.
These plans were changed, however, by the sudden death of the brother-in-law of one of my daughters. Through the circumstances surrounding her travelling back to Arizona we had the opportunity to have three of our grandchildren, who we rarely get to see and who barely know us, come to the northwest (as they have no passports) and spend three weeks camping with us.
This gave us the unexpected opportunity to pour our love and the love of Jesus into their lives as they are not being raised in a home where Jesus is worshipped. We were able to talk with them about our faith in non-threatening ways and simply just love them. That time alone made the sabbatical a success for us.
Of my personal goals, I read about halfway through the bible. I decided my goal of completing it in 90 days was too arduous and burdensome. I had turned my focus to the study of 1 John and in combination with my reading found myself more in love with God's ways and his grace in my life than ever before.
Many ideas and concepts were revealed to me during this time of prayer and reflection. In particular, from my study of 1 John and in my reading of the Old Testament, I rediscovered an old truth: some Christians fail to confess sin because they are uncomfortable confronting their own failings, but others fail to confess sin because they are all too comfortable with it. Yes, they know it is sin, and they know it falls short of God's standards, but some sins have become acceptable in their eyes. This might happen slowly, particularly with ongoing struggles that never seem to dissipate. The believer simply gives up and he or she stops confessing.
This can be understandable, since ongoing battles are wearisome, and an apparent lack of progress can be disheartening. It's just easier to stop dealing with it, both in resistance and confession, but the result is that the believer allows a dark corner of his or her life to remain unexposed to the light. But, as long as the sin secretly remains, it will fester.
1 John 1:6 says, "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth."
1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
My renewed desire is to walk in the light seeking to have the relationship with God, that He designed for me to have with him. My prayer for myself has become that I will walk in truth concerning myself, my circumstances, and my ministry at SDBC. It is my prayer for SDBC that we will be a people who walk in truth and grace, loving each other as Jesus commanded.
Another way that God blessed us, toward the end of the sabbatical, was Chris was able to find a new job doing what she loves to do, helping people recover from physical issues. This was a direct and amazing answer to our prayers for her.
I love being a pastor at SDBC, and I would continue to be a pastor at SDBC with or without the sabbatical. The sabbatical was a gift. I urge you to join me in praying that we will be a people of grace, truth, and love so that we will bear honest witness to the love of Jesus in our lives as we share the love of Christ in our community.
With grateful hearts,
Rick and Chris Burdett