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Why Did God Rest? How Do We Honor Him In Ours?

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Come to me and I will give you rest. -Jesus

Summer is almost over, and many of us are done vacationing (or trying to squeeze in one more before fall hits). So while “vacation season” is winding down, many people are gearing up for the grind of fall. Kids or no, the “new school year” changes the way we feel about the change of season from summer to fall. In the air there’s a sense of time-to-get-back-to-it and okay-the-fun’s-over. We feel like we’re moving out of a season of fun and rest, back to a season of work — even if our work schedule didn't change over the summer!

Enough has been written about work, why we work, and even work as worship. Since we spend so much of our time working, it’s not surprising that we want to know our work counts for something bigger — but what about our rest? What about when we’re not working; does our down-time glorify God, when we’re on vacation, when we’re doing nothing? Is rest worship?

Work and rest do not simply have a rhythm — they are the rhythm. They are the ebb and flow of life, and we find them demonstrated routinely in our days, weeks, and years. We go to work, then come home and rest. We work five or six days, then take a day off. We work for six months, then take a week off for vacation. Work. Rest. Some work more than others; some rest more than others. Some are in more of a routine; some rhythms are more like a scratched record, erratic and unpredictable. But we all work and rest.

God rested because he earned it; his rest was an expression of satisfaction in his work.

We all work and rest because we are created in the image of God. And that’s what God does. In Genesis 2:2-3, God’s activity in creation is referred to as “work” three times. Then he rested. In creating the cosmos, God demonstrated the work-rest rhythm. (“Work-rest rhythm” — say that three times fast!) God worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. Why?

It’s important to understand that God did not rest on the seventh day because his work exhausted him. Our work may make us tired, and we need to rest out of necessity. But this was not God’s reason. Instead, we’re told that God rested because he was finished (Genesis 2:2). He had completed his work, and he saw that it was good. God rested because he earned it; his rest was an expression of satisfaction in his work.

In a similar way, we glorify God when our rest is rooted in a job well done. Our rest is satisfying when it stems from routinely completing the work God has given us to do in our jobs, our families, and our lives. And, rest—which is a physical need for us as we exhaust our bodies—serves as a great reminder that God is in control; everything around us doesn’t depend on us! God will not only govern the universe in a way that satisfies him, but he will also govern our lives in a way that instills confidence in his invitation to find our true rest in him.

Our rest is satisfying when it stems from routinely completing the work God has given us to do in our jobs, our families, and our lives.

REFLECTION

Do you ever feel guilty for resting from work?  Why or why not? (If you do it a lot at work, maybe you should.)

How can you make more time to rest? Or, if you have plenty of time to rest but you never feel refreshed, how can you make better use of your down-time to honor the Lord and let your time do what it was designed to do?

For further reflection, read Matthew 11:28-30.

God Communicates With Us -- And He Does It Through A Book

If you don’t like reading, fake it till you make it.

When I was in middle school and high school, I didn't read anything. To Kill A Mockingbird. The Scarlet Letter. Beowulf. Nothing. We were assigned all these classic novels that (now) I wish I had read. Somehow I got by, but not only was my laziness sinful, it was practically unhelpful as I got to college and had to read something. Winging it wasn't going to work anymore. So I forced myself and I did it — but I didn't enjoy it. I got bored. It made me tired. I knew I was being coerced into reading so I could get a decent grade. Whatever the excuse, I still hated reading.

Then sometime between undergrad and graduate school, I discovered a joy for reading. It was like someone flipped a switch. Reading was no longer a chore, but it was becoming a hobby. Maybe I was growing up. Maybe it was because I got to pick the books. Maybe it was friends who challenged me. In truth, it was probably a combination of all those. Or maybe the Holy Spirit simply worked a seismic miracle!

I’m grateful that God changed my feelings about reading; how else would I commune with him?

Since then, I’ve amassed a library of almost 1,000 books; many I’ve read, and many I still need to. So I am definitely not the me of fifteen years ago, the me that hated to read. And I’m unspeakably grateful that God changed my feelings about reading — because how else would I commune with him; how else would I know what he’s done and what he’s like?

God wants us to read; he has not left us to ourselves to figure him out. As with many of the world’s religions and philosophies, we’re not left to feel and guess and grope at notions of why the universe exists, or what part we play in it. God communicates with us — and he does it through a book. History’s meta-narrative, the grand overarching story of creation-fall-redemption, including the good news of God’s own son coming into the world, comes to us in a book.

Written down and compiled over nearly two millennia, by around forty authors from three continents, the Bible is the most unique book the world has ever and will ever see. And we as 21st-century American Christians have more access to it than any other people in the world, or in the history of the world. The Bible reveals God’s plan, his character and nature; it is full of history and poetry and wisdom. But what if I don't like reading? Do it anyway! A general disdain for reading will not set itself aside for the Bible. So fake it till you make it. Force yourself to sit down and read. God will take that time and use it; he’ll teach you and you’ll grow in your knowledge of him. He’s big enough to meet you there in spite of your reluctance.

While the Bible is the only book without error, God has blessed the church with so many other resources that can be a tremendous aid to our growth.

As you begin to enjoy (or at least tolerate) reading, you’ll see that, while the Bible is the only book without error, God has still blessed the church with so many other resources that can be a tremendous aid to our growth. Again, because of the internet especially, Christians today have access to articles, books, e-books, blogs, and sermon manuscripts that they couldn't have imagined even twenty years ago — and many of them at no cost to the reader! 

With so many good resources at our fingertips, all it takes to learn and grow is a commitment to read. After all, Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). And if we apply that to the amount of information we have available to us, we have a huge responsibility to fight through the excuses and take advantage of it!
 

REFLECTION

What stops you from reading more? Time? Interest? Something else?

Reading from a variety of sources is not bad, but why should we be careful about what we take in, other than the Bible?

Think about your typical day. Where could you make a little extra time for a habit of reading? And don’t say you don't have any!

For further reflection, read Psalm 119:9-24.

God Rules Everything -- Even The Climate

People are getting a kick out of comments Rep. Tim Walberg (R.-Mich.) made at a recent town hall. Because he’s a Christian, his faith is in the Lord — not science. “I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I believe there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.”

So what’s going on here, aside from non-Christians still being surprised and repulsed by Christians for giving Christian answers?

With President Trump recently withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, it’s a great time for left-leaning “news” outlets to get a few extra clicks by turning the congressman’s comments into a story. Huffington Post wants you to know “you can rest easy now,” mocking Walberg. MSNBC thinks the congressman’s remarks are “problematic” because we could apply his logic when he says, “if there’s a real problem, [God] can take of it,” to everything from national defense to healthcare.

So what’s going on here, aside from non-Christians still being surprised and repulsed by Christians for giving Christian answers? Is the congressman correct? He said he believes “there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And [he’s] confident that, if there’s a real problem, [God] can take care of it.” Is he wrong?

God is the creator and the sustainer of the universe. And if that’s true, people—with all our pollution and carbon emissions and plastic water bottles—will not be able to render ourselves extinct by changing the world’s atmospheric makeup.

Sounds like Walberg is expressing one of the most basic beliefs of Christianity: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). God is the creator and the sustainer of the universe. And if that’s true, people—with all our pollution and carbon emissions and plastic water bottles—will not be able to render ourselves extinct by changing the world’s atmospheric makeup. The simplest of Christian beliefs is that God is the ruler of everything, including time and history. It sounds like the congressman is only expressing a belief that since God created the world, God will rule it in such a way that if a changing climate is not God’s ordained means of ending the world, then we’ll be fine.

What Walberg didn’t say is that we should be irresponsible or not take any steps to steward God’s creation well. Because along with the basic belief that God created the world and knows how to keep it going until the end, is another basic Christian belief that people were given dominion over the creation and the responsibility to care for and steward it. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28).

Should we, as Christians, care about the world? More than anyone else! Is it important; should we be conscious of the impact we make on the environment? Absolutely. If we can take reasonable steps to guard our negative effect on the climate, we should. The trick is finding agreement on “reasonable steps.”

But should we, as Christians, place all our eggs in the science basket and abandon our trust in God’s providence? By no means. God’s promises are truer than all our climate data. Should we denigrate those who disagree with us — either for or against climate change? Not if we are followers of Jesus.

And should we maybe not read so much into a couple of insignificant passing remarks made by a congressman at a local town hall meeting? Now that’s an answer everyone should be able to agree on!

Is It True That Grass Is Green And The Sky Is Blue?

What is truth?

That was the question Pilate (I believe rhetorically) asked Jesus on the morning he was crucified. While Pilate was trying to ascertain guilt enough to warrant a death sentence, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate answered with a question of his own, a question philosophers had been asking long before this day of Jesus’ trial — and people have been asking in every generation since. “What is truth?”

Is 2+2=4 true? Is it true that grass is green and the sky is blue? Is it true that I sound like Dr. Seuss, even though I’m not trying to?

The truth is, yes 2+2=4 — every time, in every culture, everywhere, on every day of the week. That truth is objectively true based on fixed laws of math; there is never a situation where you will not get 4 if you add 2 plus 2. And the green grass and blue sky? Yes, sometimes, and no, not really. Grass is green, unless it’s dead — then it’s brown. And it’s true the sky looks blue because we see blue light from the sun scattered through our atmosphere most of the time, but at dawn and dusk we see more red and orange light — so technically the sky doesn’t have a color because it depends on the time of day, light, and angle of viewing the sun. Our statement then, the grass is green and the sky is blue, is true upon conditions. It can be true, but it can also be not true. Head spinning yet?

One more. “There is no such thing as absolute truth — truth that’s true for everyone all the time.” Is that true? Of course not; in order for that statement to be true, it must be true for everyone all the time! No such thing as absolute truth? It sounds absurd, but people assert it, and as far as doubting truth goes, many believe seventeenth century French philosopher René Descartes to be the founding father.

Personal truth as the only truth, has inevitably grown out of Descartes’ foundational proposition cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” After all, that’s the only truth any person can be 100% sure of—his own existence. Right? Stay with me for one more minute. Because if that’s the case and I can’t be absolutely certain that anything else is objectively true, it follows that I am the maker of my own reality and the only truth for me is what I perceive to be real based on my experiences.

But do you see the problem? The wrong I Am is at the foundation.

Truth is a person; Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

When Moses asked God his name, God answered, “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). He is the only one who measures truth by his very existence, because he is Truth. And when we start the search for truth with ourselves instead of its author, we end up with nonsense like, “what’s true for you doesn’t have to be true for me.” There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what truth is, but why wouldn't there be for people who don’t know Jesus? Truth is a person; Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). When we don't recognize Jesus as the truth, everything else becomes distorted.

Pilate wondered, “What is truth,” with Truth standing right in front of him (John 18:38). The answer to his question, the thing he was after, was right in front of his face — and he missed it. Today, let’s not miss it. Look into the face of Jesus and find the Truth.

Pilate wondered, “What is truth,” with Truth standing right in front of him — and he missed it. Look into the face of Jesus and don’t miss the Truth!

 

REFLECTION

What kind of problems are created if everyone is able to define their own “truth”?

What “truths” have you created, that need to be measured against what Jesus said or taught?

For further reflection, read John 8:31-38. How can/does the truth set you free?

Thankfulness Is Not Natural -- But Christians Are Supernatural

Put on a new self.

The idea of universal truth has come under attack in our culture. It’s a serious debate, whether something can be 100% true all the time. But we know universal truth exists, and it can be proved by this one simple experiment: serve a slice of chocolate cake to two siblings, giving one a (possibly even unnoticeably) bigger slice than the other, then sit back and watch what happens.

“That’s not fair. His piece is bigger than mine!”

This is who we are in our natural selves. Sin makes us selfish. Sin makes us ungrateful.

Every time. Without fail. Universally true for every piece of cake ever distributed to a child under the age of ten. If you're a parent, you can recall this scene happening a thousand different ways with your own children. If you don't have kids, just know that your parents could recall this scene happening a thousand different ways with you. And no parent’s “You should be thankful for what you got” response has ever sunk in and caused a child to not feel slighted by the smaller piece of cake.

This is who we are in our natural selves. Sin makes us selfish. Sin makes us ungrateful. But Christians are called to the super-natural. Gratefulness is not natural to the sinful heart; it can’t simply be conjured up because someone tells us to be thankful. But Someone does tell us—commands us—to be thankful, and now every Christian has a duty to live a life of gratitude.

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul exhorts believers in Christ to put on a new self, a self that is not natural, not like the world, and not like the old self we were before coming to Jesus (3:5-14). His encouragement is grounded in our union with Christ. (3:1-3)

Since we’ve been empowered to live not according to our own nature, but Christ’s, Paul exhorts us to thankfulness as a mark of the new self.

Union with Christ not only gives us the what to be thankful for — it also gives us the power to live that way. Being united to Christ actually empowers us to be thankful, to live a life that reflects Jesus’ own nature and attitudes. And since we’ve been empowered to live not according to our own nature, but Christ’s, Paul exhorts us to thankfulness as a mark of the new self. In verses 15-17, there are three references to thankfulness.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

Like love, thankfulness is both something we feel and something we do. With the power of the Holy Spirit, it is something that can (and should!) become a distinguishing characteristic of God’s people. Gratefulness is not natural, therefore it doesn't come easy—but it is commanded. And it’s what sets Christians apart from the world. Believer, you are different because you have put on a new self, a self united with Christ, and you are not bound by the natural; no matter the circumstances, you have been empowered to live a supernatural life of thankfulness!

 

REFLECTION

Is a life of thankfulness realistic, especially with all of life’s trials and adversities?

Paul’s exhortation to the life of gratitude is grounded in our union with Christ. Why is it important to understand thankfulness springs from our position in Christ, not life’s circumstances?

Is your life marked by thankfulness? Does your new self look more like Christ or your old self?

For further reflection, read Colossians 3:1-17.