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I Can't Slow Down

[Psalm 23:2]

A long time back, Princeton University did an experiment with seminary students to prove that when we are rushed, we struggle to make good decisions, and things like patience, kindness and presence suffer. Basically they had a group of students write a paper, then they told those students, “you have to share your writing with a group of people, you have to present it to them. And they are in a different building on campus - so you have to go over there right now and present.” They split the students into three groups. The first group was told, “You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago - you have to hurry to get over there.” That’s the high hurry group. The second group was told, “They are ready for you, so please go right over.” That’s the medium hurry group. And the last group was told, “It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you should head over now - they’ll be ready soon.’ That was the low-hurry group. Now here’s the trick, as each student walked from the first building to the second - they would encounter someone in their path who needed help. (the university recruited theater students for this). This person appeared destitute, slouched, trouble walking, was very clearly in need of assistance. You probably know where this is going. 10% of the students in the “high hurry” group stopped to help, 90% blew past the person in need. 45% of the medium hurry group helped, and the low hurry group had the highest percent with 64% stopping to help the victim.

Today we are continuing our series called “The Lies I Tell Myself” - and what we are going to see is in our lives there are a lot of lies that we believe. And those lies form us, shape us - keep us from becoming the person God has made us to be. And here’s the thing - a lie that you believe will affect you the same as if it were true. But praise Jesus that he has given us his word, because what we are going to see is that the word of God rips apart the lies of this world. His truth breaks open the cage we have built for ourselves - and those lies do not have to have control over you. Last week we talked about lack, and how our culture has taught us that we are not enough, but then we saw in Psalm 23 that with Jesus we have everything we need. It pushes back the scarcity mindset. But today we need to talk about hurry. The lie we tell ourselves is, “I can’t slow down.” I said this last week - there are moments in life when the grind is such a grind and the rat race is a hamster wheel and we cannot get off, we cannot slow down we just have to keep going. But what we saw with that psychological study from Princeton (and what we see in each and every one of our lives every single day) is that love is incompatible with hurry. So let’s dive in. 

 If you want to grab your bible, or look it up on your phone - we’re going to get started in Psalm 23. One of the beautiful things about this series is that each lie only needs one verse. If we pay attention, and we look closely - God only needs one verse to bust you out of the prison of lies we live in. Last week we learned Psalm 23, verse 1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need.” It’s like a memory verse (you remember those, from way back in the day?) - if you have no idea what I’m talking about, for kids who grew up in the church… a lot of programs had memory verse challenges, and you would memorize verses of the bible, and sometimes you’d win a prize or get a treat or something. So your memory verse for this week, Psalm 23 verse 2, [read it]. Now okay, I need to admit something to you all. [hold up the bible]. This is the New Living Translation, it’s a very modern translation - and it’s very easy to read and clear to understand. I use it a lot because I’m always looking for ways to make God’s words easier to understand. But can I confess something to you? When it comes to Psalm 23, and ONLY Psalm 23, I kind of like the King James Version better. I know, I know - I’m supposed to be this young, hip pastor with the hair and the tattoos and King James is not trendy, but that’s just.. It’s true I like the New King James Version of Psalm 23. It’s the one I memorized as a kid, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” And I know that nobody says, “restoreth” anymore, that’s not how we talk - but darn it, it’s beautiful and poetic. So I’m going to use it for a second. Let’s put that second verse on the screen - because I want to walk through this. [put verse 2 on the screen] - now there’s two big things I want you to see this morning. First - he MAKES me to lie down in green pastures. Now to really understand this, we need to dive into the world that it was written in. We have this framework of shepherd and sheep. Jesus is the shepherd, and we are the sheep. And to really understand what that means, I had to go and learn a bunch of things about sheep -and I think this is really cool, I want to show you what I found.

Did you know that you can’t train a sheep to lie down? You can do it with a dog, you can even do it with toddlers (“Go sit down and I’ll get you a treat”), but you can’t make a sheep lie down. Sheep will only lie when they feel safe. Sheep will only lie down when they have had plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and are not threatened by a predator or biting insects. You have to set things up just right for a sheep to be able to relax. The shepherd has to pay a lot of attention to the environment in order to create a space for the sheep to relax (and we’re going to come back to this, but it’s just like that with humans, isn’t it? Have you ever had trouble falling asleep at night? Maybe you’re stressed about a thing at work, or there’s just a lot going on and so your mind starts racing? And you try to force your brain to relax? Does this make sense? Come on, i can’t be the only one this happens to. Normally, I have no problem falling asleep. I am so good at sleeping. I’m like a professional sleeper. But every now and then I’ll have a night where I’m stressing and my mind races and you just sort of watch the clock. I NEED to sleep right now. If I fall asleep right now I’ll get 7 hours. Okay 6 hours. If I fall asleep right now I’ll get 5 and a half, that’s not enough, but maybe I can still function and be okay for tomorrow. But you can’t force your brain to relax.)

And here’s another thing I learned - the good shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures. Apparently, “green pastures” are super sparse in the ancient near East. I never really thought about that before, but of course - there’s lot of deserts… and most of the year is dry, and brown and not green. It really only rains three months of the year over there (December, January, and February). When it rains there’s these pockets of lush green grass, but the other nine months - the grass is brown and brittle - more like hay than grass. On average, shepherds move their sheep 5 square miles a day to keep their sheep from overgrazing the brown, dry land. Constant movement from place to place. When I was in seminary, I got to go to Israel - and it was this amazing trip, and one day we were on our way up this hill to go see one of the historical sites, and this flock of sheep just walks through our group. And it was so cool, but also crazy - “where did all these sheep come from, what is happening right now.” And then I looked up and there were a couple of guys following the sheep, herding them around from patch to patch. I went in January, so there was green - but even still the herd was always on the move, moving from food to food. So when the bible says, “he makes me lie down in green pastures” the people hearing it would have been confused. Wha- you mean hold still? What are you talking about, lie down? Rest? 

Now here’s what I want you to pull from all this - the world is not going to encourage you to rest. You have to carve out the time. Everything around us tells us that we cannot slow down - there is this pressure to fill every waking moment with productivity, with product, with more. But the good shepherd makes us lie down. Following Jesus means finding a rhythm of rest. Actually, let’s jump back to Genesis chapter 1 real quick. You’ve probably heard about Genesis chapter 1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” - yes, we’ve heard of this. And it’s this beautiful picture of the creator speaking/creating/shaping the entire universe. And they put it into the framework of a week. Day 1 - creates day (light and dark), Day 2 - water, Day 3 - land, Day 4 - plants, Day 5 - stars and the moon, fish and birds, Day 6 - animals and humans - six days to create everything that is. But here’s why I bring this up, chapter 1, verse 31 [read v.31-2:3] God rested on the seventh day - why? Why did God rest on the seventh day? When I was little it was always shown to me that God rested, because he was probably tired from all that creating. It’s a lot of work to create the entire universe, so he needed a little nap. And maybe that’s a cute way to explain it to kiddos, (especially if you’re trying to get them to go down for a nap) - but if you think about it, that doesn’t make any sense. No really, think about this - what is the verb they use when God is creating. What does God do in order to make things? (He speaks). For God, the creation of the entire universe is as easy as speaking. And as a professional talky-person, let me tell you - talking doesn’t make us tired. Every pastor I know - we’re talkers. You can ask my wife, I can talk all day. God does not rest because he is tired. God rested at the beginning of creation, because he knew you would need rest this week. He set up a rhythm for how humans can thrive. He did that, not because HE needed rest, but because YOU need rest. When Psalm tells us, “he makes me to lie down in green pastures” - that is a command to rest. 

But hold on a second (I feel like the sham-wow guy, “But wait, there’s more!”) - let’s put that verse back on the screen. He makes me to lie down in green pastures… “HE LEADS ME BESIDE STILL WATERS.” Now here’s another thing I learned this past week when I was studying up on sheep. Sheep are really dumb, they don’t like lying down, and they are SUPER skittish. Sheep are afraid to drink from moving water. If there is a stream, and the water is moving really fast - they won’t drink it, the swift waters freak them out. So what shepherds would do, in certain places where the water is too fast, they would dig out a little nook for the water to flow into from the stream where the water would be still. The sheep will line up quickly for still waters. A small natural pool along a stream works way better than fast moving water. Here’s why this matters - our society keeps getting faster and faster. Hurry sickness pervades our lives. We are afraid of slowing down, of falling behind, being left out, being forgotten. Underneath that panic, underneath that hurry is the lie - “I can’t slow down.” But what God’s word is telling us today is - “you HAVE to slow down.” In order to flourish, in order to thrive, in order to survive as a human being - you need to drink from still waters. And this isn’t just in Genesis, God is constantly reminding us to rest in the bible. The word sabbath is used 154 times in the bible, ‘rest” is used 508 times in the bible. If you don’t know, Sabbath is what the Jewish people call the seventh day, the day of rest. It comes from the hebrew word “shabbat” which literally translates as “to stop.” But actually, it can also be translated as “to delight.” There’s this idea that sabbath, the rest we need is about stopping and delighting in God. 

You know what it reminds me of? My children brushing their teeth. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. One of the places where hurry invades my life and makes me worse at loving is with my children. Do you remember how I said at the beginning that “love is incompatible with hurry”? Well, I have seen that over and over in my life. I mean, have you ever noticed this? Children are never in a hurry when you need them to be in a hurry? “Okay buddy, we need to go fast - let’s go” “OH, but look at this flower, I just needed to stop and check out this awesome rock in the parking lot.” They are the WORST at hurrying! Now, don’t raise your hands - but let me ask you, “if you have children, how many of you acted un-christlike while getting your children ready for church this morning?” [laugh] But you know what, for me it’s bedtime. I get so impatient with bed time. I have five children, four who are boys who can brush their own teeth. They can… but they take a hundred years. And I get so irrationally angry about it. Like, I’ll get them all set up - here’s the toothbrushes, I’ll be right back I’m going to go check on your sister. And then I come back and they’ve done nothing. The one has climbed up on the counter and is dancing, making faces at himself in the mirror, the other one has not even put the toothbrush in his mouth yet because he’s so busy trying to tell me a story, and the little one has gotten into the toilet paper AGAIN, and he’s unspooled half a roll and is feeding it into the toilet and I’m about to lose it! And for a while I really struggled with that. I felt bedtime should take 10 minutes and it was taking 45 minutes to get it done. And some of it was self-reflection, but a lot of it was Sara. She helped me see what I was doing. She would hear me struggling and come up and ask, “Are you okay? Seems like you’re really upset.” And I would try to explain it, ‘well, the four year old is… acting like a four year old.” And I had this moment where I realized that hurry is incompatible with love. And I was letting hurry dictate and control how much I loved my children. And so I am still a work in progress, Jesus is still working on my heart - but man, I try to enjoy every minute of teeth brushing. It’s a lot more chaotic, and it still takes forever - but now we have a “teeth brushing party” every night. The word “Shabbat’ can be translated as “to stop” or “to delight” - and that is a method to push back against hurry. To stop and delight in my children, while they are still children, pushes back the hurry and helps me to love better. 

And let me drive it home with this last point. This has been proven by study after study - there’s no correlation between hurry and productivity. Once you work a certain number of hours in a week, your productivity plummets. Do you want to know what that number is? 55 hours. Ironic - that’s about a six day work week. One study literally found that there was zero difference in productivity between workers who logged seventy hours and those who logged fifty-five. God’s truth is written into the rhythms of our life. God is speaking to us, even in our bodily rhythm of rest. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. The good shepherd is calling you to rest. 

The good news that I have for you today, that’s just jumping off the page, is that God gives us a rhythm of rest. We see it back in Genesis, we see it in our Psalm, we see it all over the bible - God gives us a rhythm of rest, and if you can live into that rhythm - you will be able to flourish and thrive as a person in this world. It’s how we were created to be. In the creation story, at the beginning of the book - it’s like God is teaching a little child how to do something. Okay, I’m going to go first. I’m going to do this. And then I want you to do it. It’s like, “okay, watch what daddy’s doing” - and then he rested. And I want to say - there’s two levels to this. First - we need to rest once a week. Take a day off, set it aside to focus on God. But we also need it on a daily level. Every single day we need to carve out some time to be still, to drink from the still waters and spend some time with God. 

And actually, there’s one more level to this - it is in the stillness where we meet God. Slowing down is not just about rest, it’s about finding ourselves in front of God. When we slow down, when we stop - we start to itch. You know what I’m talking about - I mean,, “how long can you stand in line before you bust out your phone?” I think it’s about three seconds for me. I’m at the grocery store, I’m at the post office, coffee shop - there’s three people in front of me, out comes the phone. As a culture, our ability to sit still without distraction is shrinking. We have the greatest and most effective distractions in the most convenient method riding around in our pockets everyday. But it is in the stillness where we meet God. Skye Jethani once said, “boredeom is a fruit of the Spirit.” I think he probably meant when you put peace and patience together, but it’s the same idea - when we rest beside the still waters, the lie comes out. I can’t slow down. We get the itch. I need to to be doing something. And if I can’t do something, then I need to distract myself. Even when we are “resting” we’re watching TV. And for the younger generation, one screen is not enough of a distraction. I need to be watching TV, WHILE scrolling on my phone. Even in our rest we run away from stillness. Because to be still makes us uncomfortable, it makes us vulnerable - and it is in that space that you can find God. When you learn to reach for God in the stillness, you won’t need to reach for other things quite so much. Boredom can actually be a really great thing - because it can put you in a place where you reach for Jesus. 

So I have two challenges for you today. Two ways that I want you to take this good news and put it into your life this week. Number 1 - carve out time for God. The world is not going to give you time, you have to fight for it. Carve out the time - which probably means take stuff off your schedule, and DON’T fill it back up again. That’s my problem - I carve out time, and then I immediately fill it back up with other stuff. “Alright, today is my day off - I’m not going to work, I’m goin to sabbath” and then ten seconds later I’m like, “so what else can I get done today.” As some of you know, I do a lot of stuff on social media. I make little videos, and I post lots of stuff. I want there to be a Christian presence in content creation, but I also know that social media apps are not healthy. So for the last few years, I usually take the apps off my phone for lent. I want to carve out some time in the morning to worship God, I’m not going to scroll on my phone. So I delete those apps. But do you know what happens? I delete all those apps off my phone, but for the first couple weeks I still pull my phone out. I still have that reflex. I deleted the apps, I carved out the time - but I’m still trying to fill that time with something. I’ll open my phone - oh, that’s right, there’s nothing on here…what else do I got on this phone? I’m looking through my phone, “I got any news apps on here? Maybe I can google some stuff.” Maybe for you it’s not your phone. Maybe it’s news programs you watch on TV. Maybe it’s the latest TV show you’re streaming. We fill the stillness in a thousand ways, but only one of those ways will give us rest. So that’s my challenge for you - carve out some time for God this week. Maybe that means ten minutes. Maybe that means more - but try it. Say no to things, take things off your schedule - find stillness in your day. 

My second challenge comes right out of that. First carve out the time, and the second - wait, wait for God in the stillness. This is actually something we need to practice, because we’re not good at it. I said earlier that peace and patience are fruits of the spirit, but here’s the thing about fruit - they are grown. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly be good at finding peace in the stillness. We have to carve out the time and wait. And hurry is going to come knocking. And boredom is going to come knocking. And productivity is going to come knocking. And I want you to ignore them all. Make them wait outside. Don’t reduce your sabbath to an hour service that you check off your to do list when you get home. Sabbath means you stop and you delight - so find ways to stop and to delight. Carve out the time and wait for God in the stillness. It will change your life. 

Love is incompatible with hurry. Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, is giving us really clear guidance on this. He makes us lie down. And he leads us to still waters. And so let me leave you with this. There’s a line from an old Mark Wahlberg movie called Shooter, and he says, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” And I love that line because it applies to so much of life. When you hurry, when you rush - you’re more likely to make mistakes and then you have to do it all over again. But if you slow down, you can do things smoothly, and when you do things smoothly - they go faster. When I say “take things off your schedule” I’m not actually telling you to do less. I’m saying if you slow down, find rest, find the rhythm God has created for us, you will more capable and more able to flourish. And I hope it was obvious - this is one of those messages that I am preaching right into the mirror. I might be up front, but I’m also sitting right there. I need this message too. Last week - I came up and this was one of the cards I grabbed. The lie that I cannot slow down is something I tell myself every day, but God’s truth is pushing back, nudging us in a healthier direction. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. Let’s pray.


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