Thrive
Podcast

Overview

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, co-founder of Blessed Earth, joins the podcast today. Dr. Sleeth is a former ER physician and chief of medical staff. He resigned from that position to teach, preach and write about faith and stewardship issues. Today, we talk to him about his book “24/6” that invites us into a beautiful rhythm of work and rest that is woven into the universe. We talk about what Sabbath is, why it’s important to our faith, lives and health, and practical ways for us to develop a Sabbath practice.

Let’s listen!

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Blessed Earth

Matthew Sleeth, MD, a former emergency room physician and chief of the hospital medical staff, resigned from his position to teach, preach, and write about faith and stewardship issues. Dr. Sleeth has spoken at more than one thousand churches, campuses, and events, including serving as a monthly guest preacher at the Washington National Cathedral. Recognized by “Newsweek” as one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders, Dr. Sleeth is the executive director of  Blessed Earth  and  author  of numerous articles and books, including “Reforesting Faith.” He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with Nancy, his wife of nearly forty years. Their grown children serve with their spouses in full-time parish ministry and as medical missionaries in Africa.

Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast

Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.



Transcript

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Thrive with Asbury Seminary Podcast. I’m your host Heidi E. Wilcox bringing you conversations with authors, thought leaders and people just like you who are looking to connect where your passion meets the world’s deep needs. Today on the podcast, we are so grateful to have the opportunity to talk to Dr. Matthew Sleeth. Dr. Sleeth is a former ER physician and chief of hospital medical staff. He resigned from that position to teach, preach and write about faith and stewardship issues. He is currently the executive director and co-founder of Blessed Earth, and today we get to talk to him about his book, 24/6.

Heidi Wilcox:
It’s an invitation to a wonderful rhythm of Sabbath that is woven into the universe. So we talked about what Sabbath is, why it’s important to our faith, in our lives, and our health and some practical ways for us to either start practicing Sabbath, or to make our current practice more robust. Let’s listen.

Heidi Wilcox:
Dr. Sleeth I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to stop by today. I just finished reading your book, 24/6, a few days ago, and I can’t tell you how much I really enjoyed it and how much it made me start thinking about my own life and how to incorporate Sabbath a little bit more into that. So I’m really looking forward to our conversation today.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, thanks for having me. It’s a delight to be with you and your listeners.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, thank you. Before we get started talking about your book, I want to know a little bit about you because I know you were an ER doctor. How did you go from that to being the co-founder of Blessed Earth?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, the short answer is I found the Lord and I had not been a person of faith and no one in my family was, my wife, my children, we just lived as a little heathen, or whatever. And that all changed when I picked up a Bible and read it. And I picked it up in a time where things were kind of rough going in our life, in our family. My wife’s brother had drowned in front of my children, and a number of bad things kind of happened, and when I read the Bible and by the way, this is an example of prevenient grace, if anybody wants the definition of prevenient grace. But the Bible is a big thing, and if you’ve never read it before you pick it up, where do you begin?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
My parents named me Matthew, and that’s where I started. If they had named me numbers, we wouldn’t be talking today. But I met the Lord and nothing has been the same since and it’s just our family has been incredibly blessed that we’re all on the same page and we’re all in various jobs serving the Lord.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s awesome. Okay, so I want to talk about your book, 24/6, which is all about the Sabbath. So if you could, would you give us just a little overview of your book.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s about the Sabbath, and I really think of the book as an invitation. Sometimes people talk about the Sabbath or have had an experience with the Sabbath where they think of it as a must do or another thing to check off that you’ve done. But I really view it as an invitation into this wonderful rhythm that is really woven into the fabric of the universe. When God made the universe in the six days, on the seventh day he rested, and he made Sabbath and that rhythm is woven into the very fabric of creation. And it’s been my experience that when we enter into that Sabbath in a spirit of joy and thankfulness, that it becomes one of the very things we look forward to most. It’s just a lovely aspect of life. So it’s an invitation.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
A lot of people, we live in a 24/7 world, they’re things coming at us all throughout the day and night. I mean, we could buy a car at 3:00 in the morning. You can take classes or do tests any time of day or night, and in that kind of situation, having a one 24-hour period set aside for rest, for refreshment, for worship and for God, is just kind of a blessing I found.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did the practice of Sabbath first became important to you?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
My wife and children and I didn’t have any faith or anything. And when I first read the Bible, now, I’m the only one in the family who is believing in God. My wife was raised as a Jew, and the practice of stopping one day out of seven was something that wasn’t intimidating to her. That was familiar territory for her and so we began to have that as the pattern of our family.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Once we were all on the same page, theologically, then we all kind of agreed why we were doing it. But Sabbath is for everybody. It’s not just for believers, and the Sabbath commandments in the Bible, a lot of the verbiage of them aren’t to the person who’s actually reading it and going to practice the Sabbath, they’re to the people around that. The maidservant, the man servant, and don’t we wish we all had a couple of those these days, and children who might not even be able to read yet and strangers in the land, that sort of thing, and even up and to and including our cattle. And so a lot about the Sabbath is not just us taking it, but giving it to other people as an introduction to the Lord.

Heidi Wilcox:
Interesting. I hadn’t thought about not just taking it for ourselves, but it could be a gift to other people. I like that a lot.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yeah. There’s no civilization, there’s no culture around the world that has come up with Sabbath on their own. And one of the things that was always most apparent as missionaries went around the world and encountered various cultures for the first time is that they encountered the Sabbath. Because Christians have, by and large, throughout the 2000 years of their history, kept a Sabbath observing it on the Lord’s day or on Sunday, but the principle is the same because people who would meet those missionaries had some times never stopped in an animistic society every day is the same. And so it’s really God’s gift to the world.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Otherwise, I think we would go all the time or else never. We’re not very good at figuring out rhythms like that, that we can stick to on our own.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, so after you started practicing Sabbath, then why did you go on to write a book about it?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, I saw what it did for our family, and I saw how the church by in large, didn’t know why they were keeping in if they were keeping it. As Christians were freed from the law, and the Sabbath commandment is the longest commandment in the 10 commandments, and we’re no longer under judgment by the law, and nonetheless, the law has always been a gift.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s the boundaries that civilization needs in order to be civilized. And so I wanted to share my experience and my family’s experience with the Sabbath as a thing to know the Lord better, to know ourselves better and to in a way separate ourselves from the rest of society for at least one day out of seven. And so I say it was an invitation to people. The book has, I don’t know how the book is now. It’s got to be eight years old, something like that, and it just keeps going and being reprinted and everything.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
So, as far as I know, it’s the best selling book on the Sabbath that’s come out in the last decade. And so other people see it as an invitation too. I think a lot of people realized maybe their life is really going too fast. But they really don’t know how to get off of that, and incorporate a Sabbath in a very different context than it was given thousands of years ago.

Heidi Wilcox:
As people read your book, they’ll see as I did after I read it, and then this was kind of cool. So I finished it up on a Saturday and then Sunday and we practice Sabbath. Anyway, but it just felt a little bit different that Sunday. I just felt like I was more intentional about resting and maybe things I would have done like, oh, that won’t take me very long just to be like, you know what? I can wait. I want to try like really resting today, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I think that’s probably one of the reasons that Sabbath keepers if you look at them in a kind of a medical scientific lens, Sabbath keepers live longer than non-Sabbath keepers. And the longest lived cohort of people in the United States are in Loma Linda, California, which happens to be the kind of Central headquarters or one of them of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and those folks live about a decade longer than the rest of Americans do. And so I think that it’s not only a good spiritual practice, I think it’s a good physical practice as well.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, definitely. So we’ve talked about the practice of Sabbath. What is the practice of Sabbath?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, I think I distinguish it as not a day off but a day with the Lord. A day off is great but it is only part of the picture. I found that when I set that set time aside for the Lord, and that doesn’t mean I have to study my Bible all the time or read only religious books. But when it’s in my mind, hey, I’m doing this with God. And by the way, one of the questions your listeners may have is, what day does this have to be?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, good question.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
To me, the ideal is Sunday, because that’s when Christians have most often observed it on what we call the Lord’s Day. There are people who can’t do it on that day. There are people who are in medicine or the military or firefighters, that sort of thing, or pastors, and I tell those folks, if you can’t do it on Sunday, move it to Saturday or Monday or something, try to keep it the same. But I think that God wants us to build a community, and I got to say that here in the middle of talking about this, we’re in a very unique situation as a globe where we can’t do everything we want to do.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
We haven’t been able to go anywhere we want and buy something at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. Coronavirus epidemic or pandemic began, I really thought about how this could be a time, either where you look at what we don’t have, or you can say this is a time that God is reminding us A, that he’s in charge, B, that the globe spends whether we’re at work or not, and that we can view this as a time to draw closer to God or not.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
But I think the one thing that all of us are missing who are part of the church and part of this body of Christ is the ability to get together and fellowship and worship one day of the week, and we can’t do that. We haven’t been able to, and you never realize what something is until you can’t do it, until it’s gone or missing, and I bet you there’s a whole bunch of people who kind of maybe grumble, should I go to church on Sunday? Who would dearly love to go right now. So Sunday, ideal day. If it needs to be another day move it, would be my answer to what day of the week is it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. At the start of your answer, you said the Sabbath is not a day off but a day with the Lord. What does that mean? What does that look like?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s a day where I try to sync up and be like the Lord. And I know that in Scripture that after God spent a week creating the universe, that he rested from all his labors. And so it’s the one day that I know that I’m doing something exactly like what the Lord did, and that is to rest and to listen for God and God isn’t in the world when the incident and the tornadoes and the fire, he’s the quiet voice that we need to listen for. And so, I kind of review the days before. One thing that I started doing early in my Christian life was that having come out of emergency medicine, that sort of thing, I was a bit of a cynic.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
There’s a kind of ER humor, it’s called, I didn’t really have a heart of gratitude that I should have. And so I realized I needed to work on that, and every day, I would write down something that I was grateful for, literally wrote it in a journal that this is what I’m grateful for today. And then on Sabbath, I’d look back at that, and a lot of us can’t remember what we did over the last week, but to look back over a journal day after day of what you’re grateful for, it tends change your view going forward. And I realized that that gratitude journal really morphed into a miracle journal, and that in opening my heart in gratefulness and taking the time to jot that down in reviewing it on Sabbath, I began to see miracles. And you can’t help but wonder when you read the Bible, here’s Jesus walking across water and healing people and feeding 5000, all these amazing things.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Why didn’t everybody come to him and say, heal me? And I think they just didn’t have the heart that allowed them to see or hear the miracles that were going on right in front of and that’s true today. And so I would say that one of the byproducts of the Sabbath and keeping it and by the way, let me get this theology out there.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay, please.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Let me just throw this out there. In my understanding of Scripture and theology, Sabbath keeping is not a condition of getting into heaven. You could never keep a Sabbath and you could still go to heaven, you could still be with the Lord for eternity. So Sabbath keeping, not a condition of getting into heaven. It’s just the condition that heaven is in if you get there.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And so, this isn’t a you have to do it.

Heidi Wilcox:
But it’s kind of like a gift that we can take if we want to, yeah.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s a gift, yeah. Exactly.

Heidi Wilcox:
One of the things because I’m a doer and it sounds, given your career history and just some of the things that you’ve said it sounds like you’re a doer as well. And the statement from your book really stood out to me when you said it took a while for me to feel as good about resting on Sabbath as coming home from a productive day working. And I was like, yes, because every day I started out and I feel like I have to earn. Just doing nothing time in the evening, reading a book or magazine on a regular day. And so the Sabbath I’m like, every day I feel like I have to earn the right to rest. If I have to check X number of things off before I get to do it. So I was curious what the tipping point for you was when resting was as worthwhile as checking things off your list.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yeah. I’m not sure exactly where that came and for your listeners who maybe want to try a Sabbath, I’ll tell you that you’re not going to get it right the first time, you’re not going to get right to 10th time. It takes a while to learn this and that’s okay. Have a lousy Sabbath the first dozen times or whatever, but you will eventually realize that the God’s rest is more powerful than your work. And a lot of us go through life, I think our Christian lives not really appreciating that. It’s if you will a trust fall. You know those things where you lean back and you fall into somebody’s arms?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, I don’t like those very much at all.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yeah, and you got to trust the person, you got to trust that they’re there, that they’re strong enough to catch you and everything. Well, this is the God of the universe, who’s saying, trust me, fall back on me. I’ve got a Bible in front of me here and I’m going to flip to a verse that kind of gets at that. And I say you don’t have to keep Sabbath, but God makes certain promises if you do and you want this out of an ESV version, or you want the message? You get your choice. What do you want to hide?

Heidi Wilcox:
Let’s go with the message.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
The message. Okay, so this is in Isaiah. It’s not where we traditionally think of the Sabbath talking in Exodus and Deuteronomy and that sort of thing. But this is in Isaiah chapter 58, and starting at about verse 13. If you watch your step on the Sabbath, and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, if you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, if you honor it by refraining from business as usual, making money running here and there, then you’ll be free to enjoy God. Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor, Jacob. Yes, God says so. And so God always keeps his promises, and he’s promised here that if we can set that time aside, that we’re really going to ride high on it. Oh, and that’s been my experience. One of the puzzlers for me as I’ve been talking about Sabbath for a decade or so, and teaching about it, is why more Christians don’t just give it a try, why they don’t trust God in this, and particularly business owners. A couple of the most successful Christian businesses I know keep the Sabbath.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
They aren’t open, one day out of the week, and they’ve absolutely prospered with that. And so, for your listeners who might be involved in business or spouses involved in business, I would say try God on this one. See you if he can’t make your ride high above at all.

Heidi Wilcox:
As you mentioned earlier, right now as we’re recording, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and so it can seem like our lives are already slower or they are slower. We can’t travel, we can’t go here and there as much as we used to, and so what does Sabbath look like during a time when it can seem like there’s nothing to rest from?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, for me, I’ve still been working eight hours a day. Monday through Friday and Saturdays are kind of do the projects around the house, and Sunday really still has been set aside as a time for refreshment, and focus on God. And so for me, the Coronavirus, it’s changed that I’m not traveling, it’s changed that I’m not on a different church every Sunday, it’s made it possible for me to have my Sabbath on Sunday. But I’m still got that work and rest rhythm.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I think everybody needs to get out and work some everyday. Even if you’ve been laid off of your job, go clean up a stream, or something. Seriously, there’s always work to be done that improves our world, our Father’s world and can help our neighbor. But then you don’t have to do that seven days a week.

Heidi Wilcox:
So I just thought of this as we were talking but one of the things that I heard growing up and so I want to know how you feel about this statement is, I was told how you spend your Saturday affects your Sunday. Do you find that there’s any truth in that?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, I believe that, for me, the Sabbath day, Sunday is the crown of the week. It’s the high spot for me, and particularly when the world is kind of going around as it normally does, not necessarily in the middle of a pandemic. A Sabbath will not happen without preparation.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yeah.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
You’ve really got to prepare for it, you’ve got to get your work done, and particularly for the parents of young children. This is a time to instill in them a discipline, and a pattern of putting first things first, and we were told to first seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, everything else will fall in place afterwards. But in order to do that, we have to prepare. Even when God was teaching the Hebrew people about Sabbath and Sabbath is the first thing he taught them before they had any of the other commandments, he taught them Sabbath. And he did that, by teaching them to prepare by picking up twice as much manna the day before. If they did that on any other day, the manna was rotten.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
So we have to prepare and that means we have to get schoolwork done, we have to get clothes cleaned and laundered, we have to go to the store, whatever, and prepare for a day of rest or it won’t happen. And it’s my observation and I think I’ve been to probably more churches than anybody I’ve met. I know there are people who’ve been to more but I doubt they’ve been to the variety that I have, mega churches, micro churches, home churches, high church, low church, church without instruments, churches with rock and roll bands, the entire thing and I’ve seen a lot of pastors, and for the last five years, probably three quarters of the work I’ve done has been with pastors and I love pastors as a group.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
But without question, the most effective ones are the ones that keep Sabbath. They get way more done, and I believe that’s because they have to learn the discipline of preparation. And I think that you see this even in the Jewish people. The Jewish people are a very small minority of people on the planet, and yet have something like 40% of the Nobel Prizes, and I think that it is because of the refreshment that comes and the discipline of preparing for that. And I know that my, you know both of my children.

Heidi Wilcox:
Oh, yes.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
They both went to Asbury’s undergraduates, and my son went to University of Kentucky as a medical student, and both of my kids did spectacularly well in school. Clark graduated first in his class from medical school as the youngest med school graduate University Kentucky had ever had.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And he kept the Sabbath throughout undergraduate in medical school, and I believe that was his edge. There’s other bright kids. There’s other kids that knew how to study hard. He had the one thing I don’t think anyone else had, and that was one day a week in which he didn’t have to be a human doing, he was a human being.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
So that has been my personal experience, it’s been my family’s experience and it’s been my observation that Christians who Sabbath are much more effective. There’s other six days of the week. Now that’s not a reason to Sabbath, but it is a cause and effect, I believe.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. You mentioned families with young children, and I know when I was a child, I really did not look forward to Sunday because it felt like a lot of things that I couldn’t do, instead of the joy that you’re talking about that comes with Sabbath, and the thing that you get to do is rest. So, can we talk about that for a little bit and how we can make Sabbath more about what we can do?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yes, yeah, absolutely. And I think for kids, kids love routine, and they love also kind of a little celebrations, and so they like knowing what’s coming up. And so if you’re your child has to make the bed six days out of the week and they should moms, dads, listen up here. That’s not your job past a certain point, that’s their job. But they don’t have to do that on the Sabbath. And maybe even there’s certain things that they’re allowed to do only on the Sabbath, a certain toy they’re allowed to play with or, whatever. And if parents kind of make those routines or on Sunday, that’s the day we have pancakes. And that’s a big one I found Sundays and pancakes go together. You can even make them in the initial of the child, and they begin to look forward to those things rather than we got to go to church on this day. You got to do this. You got to do that.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s my understanding that Jews for a millennium had a habit of on Sunday, excuse me, on their Sabbath which would have been Saturday of giving each of their children a spoonful of honey. In the ancient world, they didn’t have refined sugars, there weren’t Coca Colas, they couldn’t get ice cream or whatever. Honey was the sweet thing, and the reason to give them that was to look forward to it and to understand and remember the sweetness of Sabbath. And so with kids, that’s what I’d aim for, and I’d make sure that they’ve got something that they can be a slacker on Sundays.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah, we all need a day that even as adults that we can be like, I don’t have to do that today. So why is it significant? And you talked about this in your book, why is it significant that the commandment regarding the Sabbath begins with the word “remember”?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I think it’s because of our propensity to forget this, more than any of the other commandments that God gives us. We want to do everything our own way, and one of the things that I do if I’m teaching about this in a church is I’ll read the Sabbath commandments, it’s the longest commandment, remember this habit to keep it holy six days. You should labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath set aside to the Lord your God. And so I’ll read that whole thing, and then I’ll say, you know what? We’re going to keep that commandment, because the commandment it says, remember the Sabbath to keep it holy, meaning that simply in recalling it to mind, we’re beginning to do the commandment. And what I’ll do is have everybody buddy up with somebody in church, I’ve done this in big churches, I’ve done it in Southland, It doesn’t matter what size church you’re in, you could do this.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Have everybody buddy up and talk with their neighbor about a Sunday when they were growing up. If it’s a very young church, I tell people there’s a premium on no hair and gray hair people and get with them and listen, and I have everybody share their experiences of what makes Sunday different than every other day of the week. What did people do on that day, and what did they not do? And I know what they’re going to say.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
The number one memory they have is that they went to church. Not surprising that more Christians or more people are in church who remember that as a child. They were brought up in that. When we go to church, we do a bunch of things besides just go to church. There’s no other day of the week that people get together and sing. We may pray every day, but that’s the day for a corporate prayer. We may read the Bible every day, but that’s probably the only day that people hear I’ve read aloud by someone else. And so when we go to church, if you unpack that there’s a lot of things that are done that don’t happen on any other day of the week. The next most common memory is meals with family. Do you remember that or was that?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, I remember that, and my family was fortunate enough to be able to have schedules that we could eat together a lot, but it was always something special on Sunday dinner, and then we did a lot of sitting on the front porch on Sunday too.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
A lot of people remember that’s the day that their mom and dad were both home, or if they grew up on a farm, that’s the day that the farm work was not the first priority. And so they remember those meals. A lot of people remember taking naps on that day, and interestingly, more people remember being told to take a nap.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, I remember I didn’t have to take a nap but I had to be quiet for a certain number of like an hour or so on Sunday afternoon.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And then a lot of folks remember that that is a day that their family refrained from commerce. That they didn’t go shopping on that day, et cetera. Then what I do is kind of explain the 10 commandments and the 10 commandments are not grouped randomly, it’s very specific in how they’re… The first three commandments, I’m the Lord your God, you’re not having any other gods above me, I made you, you can’t make me so no making of idols and then to call on the Lord’s name in reverence, which as the Bible puts it is not to take it in vain.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Those commandments are about God. They’re about how we understand God. Commandments, five through 10. Honor your parents, don’t lie, cheat, steal, murder, run around or put stuff on your credit card to keep up with your neighbors. Those commandments don’t really have anything to do with God, per se. They’re about civilization about people. The Sabbath commandment is the longest commandment. Then I’ll ask people, which group do you think it belongs to? Is it about God or is it about humanity? Is it about heaven or is it about Earth? Is it about eternity or is it a temporal commandment? And pretty much everybody gets it, it’s about both.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
It’s the bridge between heaven and earth. It’s the bridge between God and humanity. It’s the bridge between the temporal and the eternal. And when you walk out on that bridge, God is there. Now, the interesting thing that I’ll then point out is that by merely keeping the Sabbath, they really probably did all 10 commandments. And I’ll walk through that because your first memory is we went to church. We unpacked that. You have the first three commandments.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Remember, if a commandment says, thou shall not or don’t do that, that’s the extent of as far away as you can get to God without going over a boundary and in Judaism focuses a lot on that, Christianity is the exact opposite. How close can we get to God? We don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain. But the real point of that commandment is to call on the Lord in reverence. And so people remember going to church, they kept the first three commandments. The next memory they have is we had meals.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, I can tell you as a parent and as a grandparent, and as a grandparent who’s separated from their children and grandchildren. First because they’re missionaries and now they’re home on furlough, but because of the Coronavirus, there’s nothing that honors me more. There’s nothing I’m looking forward to more than being around the meal table again with my family. And so that’s the honoring of the parents. Well, what about the next commandment, thou shalt not kill? Physically impossible to do if you’re taking a nap.

Heidi Wilcox:
True. True.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And then I’ll say, okay, smarty pants, Dr. Sleeth, what about, thou shalt not commit adultery? And I’ll say, do you remember when you took a nap as a kid, everybody has a memory of going to their parents door once when they woke up and their parents door was locked, and I’ve had seven-year old people turned bright red in the face. Getting it for the first time. Their parents were not committing adultery, and everybody has a laugh in everything. I said, but it’s not a laugh. The Lord in His infinite wisdom knew that a marriage needed something like a day where work and getting in spending and working were not the center of it. And I wonder how many marriage counselors as they’re sitting there go, tell me about your Sabbath, and I believe there’s a direct correlation between losing the Sabbath and losing marriages. I have a friend who’s a pastor out in Oregon, he will not marry people unless they have a Sabbath plan.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
So there’s a whole lot more that happens by keeping the Sabbath. I’m not saying it’s going to fix every problem, but it sure makes a lot of them easier.

Heidi Wilcox:
And I remember as a kid, I mean, you’re a kid, life is easier. But I remember life in general being easier because my family kept a Sabbath.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
My heart goes out to this generation, some of them who go 24/7, literally who are returning texts at three in the morning, and who’ve never known that.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, I want to talk about that. How has technology and social media affected our ability to Sabbath?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, I think it’s invited the world inside our house in our pocket, and probably because I’m older, I’m not as attracted or addicted to the technology as perhaps younger people are but in talking to lots of younger folks, I hear that they develop the discipline of simply turning the phone off for the day, of closing your computer, of having a automatic return even on emails. I am Sabbathing today. I’ll back to you tomorrow.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, it can be hard, but it’s so good because at least for me, being on a device is not restful at all. So, yeah.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yeah. So a screenless Sunday, I think is and for me, I was raised in the television generation. I find that if there’s a television in the room, that I start watching something a commercial comes on, I start flipping through, I’ll get involved in something else. I can waste hours and not even watch a single show, from beginning to end. And so for me, that meant TV had to go when I became a Christian. Jesus said, pluck your eye out if it’s keeping you and so my version of plucking the eye out was to get rid of television. And so I understand, through that experience that having a phone or a computer can really be the thing that’s keeping people from seeing the kingdom of heaven.

Heidi Wilcox:
If practicing Sabbath is new for us or if we want to make our practice a little bit deeper and more robust, what are some ways that we can do that? And if you guys have resources that help with that, feel free to mention them as well.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Sure. There’s the book, 24/6. If somebody can’t afford it, they could contact me at our ministry, blessedearth.org.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay, we’ll link to your ministry into your book in the show notes too, just so you know and so our listeners know too.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Okay, so can’t afford it. Can drop me a line, I’ll get you one, and I think you need to read about this. I think you need to discuss it with other people. I think that for most doing it with a partner or your small group is going to be more effective than simply trying it yourself. I think you want to pick your time right to begin it.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I was in a college teaching and we were talking about Sabbath, a young woman explained that her whole goal was she wanted to go to medical school. She came to college, and she did not do well her first year, and she just kind of saw all her dreams evaporating in front of her. But she picked her time right. She read about Sabbath and everything just started keeping it in the summertime. A whole lot easier to do than mid semester or whatever.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, hard to start a new habit then.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Yeah, and a follow up from this because I actually know the professor who was in that class, is still Grace Miller, follow up is that person is in med school now.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow, awesome.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And so, pick your time right. And we have resources, the two websites would be blessedearth.org and follow the Sabbath advice there or sabbathliving.org.

Heidi Wilcox:
We will definitely link those out. How do you know what to do on the Sabbath? Because to me, sometimes I think of the Sabbath as a day of doing nothing and resting, which is good, but also, the idea of doing nothing makes me kind of anxious. So how do we know what to do on Sunday or the Sabbath day?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Great question. Well, I think the point is not to work, and then the question becomes, well, what is work?

Heidi Wilcox:
Exactly.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
And so, I use the example that if we were to beam somebody from that group with Moses, coming out of slavery in Egypt, and we were to beam them to 21st century America, and we were to beam them into an office building and say, Monday morning, this is work and there’s somebody sitting there in an ergonomic chair, there is an air conditioning vent over them. They’ve got a cup of coffee there, and here comes the work. They depress keys on a little keyboard through a quarter of an inch of non-resistance and we’d say, that’s work. And then we said, let’s go see somebody having fun. And we took them to a 5K Fun Run that’s taking place in 90 degrees, and say, those people are having fun.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
They’re not working. That slave from ancient Egypt would say, give me some work. Let me press those keys and so yeah, the definition of work has changed. For many of us who are sedate six days out of the week, a run is just the right thing or a walk or a bike ride or gardening, are just the things to do the rest. For a guy or a girl doing physical labor six days a week, sitting in the recliner, and studying the back of your eyelids might be the kind of rest.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
So the definition of rest and work has changed the definition of commerce has not and as I look at Scripture and look at the intent and everything, it’s really commerce that I think we should avoid. Getting and spending that sort of thing.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And even before reading your book, I kind of realized the commerce part in my own life because I had not that you have to keep a Sabbath like you said, but I went from my family, strict isn’t the right word, but we very much kept the Sabbath to being an adult when I was making my own decisions, and I was like, well, my church is in Lexington, especially during the Christmas season, I will stop and pick up whatever on my way home from church. And what I found is those few weeks before Christmas, I was just, I mean, I wasn’t doing a lot of things I don’t mean that we had a lot of Christmas events but I just found myself so exhausted and the going and the getting and spending had just become a habit and I was like, I have got to quit doing this. It is wearing me out. So I can definitely agree with that.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I think that it everybody needs this, and I’ll give you an example of a group. One of my favorite places that I get to preach in Kentucky and I don’t get to preach in my own home state as much as I’d like to, generally traveling all over but is in Little Sandy prison, its maximum security prison. I love going there and talking and I remember going and talking about Sabbath. Now, you would think, not maybe not much interest. But those men were so hungry to hear about it, and to share their experiences about keeping Sabbath, the ones that did. And so even in a prison, in a maximum security prison, people need Sabbath and they can keep it and they can connect with God.

Heidi Wilcox:
Dr. Sleeth, I’ve just really enjoyed reading your book, 24/6, and I know you’ve written other books, and we’ll link those out as well in the show notes. But do you have anything new in the works?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I do. Thanks for asking. I am just finishing a book which is a very heavy subject, which is about suicide. We live in a time where the suicide rates just go up and up and up. It was something I’ve been interested in my medical career. A lot of mental health is done and screened and taken care of in the emergency department, and I really wanted to know, what does the Bible have to say about this? I have yet to find anybody who’s ever had a sermon on suicide.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
People will get an after the fact talk. After somebody, perhaps in the congregation has committed suicide. People might hear what I would call a comfort sermon, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But suicide is something we got to get out ahead of. The only acceptable treatment for suicide is prevention, and the church needs to articulate a standard of life here that Christ did not die so that we would kill ourselves. He died so that we would have life. So that’s what I’m working on. It’ll be published with Tyndale.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay, do when we can expect that to come out?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
I don’t know the exact answer to that. That’ll be in the next nine months or so. I’m just finishing the last chapter now.

Heidi Wilcox:
All right. Well, when it does, we’ll definitely be looking forward to that.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Thank you so much.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. So I have one last question before we wrap it up. Because the show is called the Thrive with Asbury Seminary Podcast, what is one practice, it can be spiritual or otherwise, that is helping you thrive in your life right now?

Dr. M. Sleeth:
When the Coronavirus started. I said to my wife, Nancy, let’s go on a walk and let’s talk about this. And I said, we can either plan to grow in this time, or we can simply react to it. One of the things we did was just to decide some of the books that we would read out loud to each other. So right at the moment, she’s reading Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis to me. And for me, having a book read to me and then being able to discuss it is just something I really treasure, and that’s helping me grow, I think at the moment.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah, I love that. So, Dr. Sleeth I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our conversation today. It’s really made me think about Sabbath in new ways, and I just appreciate you taking the time to discuss it with me and the gift of getting to share that with our listeners.

Dr. M. Sleeth:
Well, thank you so much for having me and Shabbat Shalom to all your listeners.

Heidi Wilcox:
Thank you.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey, y’all, thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Dr. Matthew Sleeth. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll be sure to grab a copy of his book, 24/6. I really enjoyed it and I can say it’s definitely worth the read, and I really appreciate Dr. Sleeth’s time and coming on the podcast to discuss the practice of Sabbath with us today. And I hope that by listening to the conversation, we can all learn to remember the Sabbath in new ways. As always, you can follow us in all the places, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @AsburySeminary. Until next time, have a great day y’all and go do something that helps you thrive.