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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.

The Bible May Be Deep -- But We Have To Get In The Water

The Bible is too hard to understand.

Sound familiar? Even if you’ve never said it, chances are, you’ve heard it. And the truth is, the Bible can be a hard book to understand. It’s really a compilation of sixty-six books, all telling different parts of the same story. Some of the books are history, telling us what happened in the past; some of the books are prophecy, telling us what will happen in the future. Some of the books are poetry, some are letters written to churches 2,000 years ago. No wonder people say it’s hard to understand!

Most importantly, though, the Bible is the word of God. It was inspired by God himself, and the Holy Spirit guided its writing, compilation, and preservation. The Bible is also sufficient to teach us everything we need to know about God, about our relationship to him, and what we can do about it (which is really what God did about it).

But along with the inspiration and sufficiency of the Bible, we have a lesser known belief in the perspicuity (understandability) of the Bible. Because we believe the Bible was inspired by God and tells us everything that’s essential to our spiritual condition, the Bible can be clearly understood by any person of average intelligence. In other words, you don't need any special training to grasp the essential truths of the Bible.

But since the Bible is inspired, sufficient, and understandable — we have to get in the water.

Think of the ocean. A child can play in the shallowest parts on the beach, while any adult can swim out and play and surf and swim and enjoy the waves. Still farther out, with the right equipment an experienced diver can descend to parts unseen by most people, while the deepest parts will likely never be reached. Just because we’re not trained or prepared for deep sea diving doesn’t mean we can’t play in the water.

Likewise, just because there are deep parts of the Bible doesn’t mean we can’t still read and understand and grow. We may have to ease into it. We may have to work hard. We may need the right equipment to go deeper. But since the Bible is inspired, sufficient, and understandable — we have to get in the water. 

If you’re not a good swimmer, you need practice and some training. If you’re not a good Bible reader, or the Bible is hard to understand, maybe you simply need some direction and the right equipment. Several years ago I stumbled onto a strategy for Bible reading that has helped me wring out passages like never before. Coined by Matt Rogers, these Seven Arrows for Bible Reading* could help you better understand your Bible.

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Answer a few, or answer them all. Either way, you will get more out of your reading when you read with a purpose. In order, the arrows ask you to look for seven things when you read the Bible:

  • What does the passage say? Try to summarize the main idea of the passage in one sentence.
  • What does the passage mean to its original audience? Try to figure out the author’s intent based on context and culture. (This question will likely require the help of a study Bible or other tools.)
  • What does this passage teach me about God? Try to discern what the text reveals about the nature and character of God.
  • What does this passage teach me about man? Try to recognize what the passage teaches about humanity (and man’s need for the gospel).
  • What does this passage demand of me? This question begins to apply the reading. Try to observe the ways the text calls you to action.
  • How does the passage change the way I relate to other people? This question applies the reading to relationships. Try to determine how the text shapes your daily interactions with those around you.
  • How does the passage prompt me to pray? Try to pick out specific ways to pray based on what you’ve read.

If you don't read the Bible regularly—or even if you do!—see if these questions don’t help you understand more of what you’re reading. The word of God is meant to be understood; God wants you to know him. So try it out! Wade out into the ocean. Start playing in the waves. Before you know it, you’ll be deeper than you ever expected!

For further reflection, try out the arrows on 2 Timothy 3:12-17.

 

*For more information, check out Seven Arrows, by Matt Rogers, available on Amazon.

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.

Baptism: A One-Time Event And A Constant Reminder

Buried with Christ in death; raised to walk in newness of life.

Many of us have either had this familiar mantra spoken directly to us, or have been around church (especially Baptist churches) long enough to hear it spoken over others. But unfortunately, time and familiarity can erode the effect such a powerful truth can have on our hearts.

As children we’re wired to remember everything; our minds are like sponges that soak in every detail — but somewhere along the way that sponge begins to leak. The information begins to seep out, and all of a sudden one day we can’t remember what we ate for lunch the day before. (I had two chicken sandwiches, by the way, so I’m not quite there yet.)

That’s why God built reminders into our faith — so that our minds don’t grow dull with the memory of his work in our lives, and our affections never get bored of sensing his glory.

However, the good thing for all of us is that it’s not important to remember what you ate yesterday. But it is of utmost value to remember spiritual truths and realities, especially when they have personal and practical implications. And God knows that our minds easily forget. That’s why he’s built reminders into our faith — so that our minds don’t grow dull with the memory of his work in our lives, and our affections never get bored of sensing his glory.

Baptism is one such reminder, but how? Getting baptized is the first step of a Christian’s obedience. In the New Testament and much of the history of the church, baptism immediately followed (or even initially proclaimed) a new believer’s faith. But unlike communion, which is regularly practiced, baptism is a one-time event. So how is baptism given to us as a constant reminder of the truth of Romans 6:3-4? That all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death, and just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we too are raised to walk in newness of life.

In our own baptism we proclaim to everyone, “That’s happened to me!” There’s usually excitement and celebration and a shot of spiritual adrenaline that accompanies our baptism. But over time that energy fades. We always remember our own baptism, but many of us don't get excited about it anymore. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

More than a little has been preached and written and shared about getting baptized if you never have been. But Christian, when was the last time you were exhorted to celebrate others being baptized and let it call to your remembrance your own baptism and its significance? In regular practice, the baptism of others should call back to our minds the reality that each of us has also participated in that same death and resurrection, that same cleansing from our sin, and all the joy and excitement that come with it. As we look on we should reflect on our own faith, and let the initial gratitude and zeal for God come rushing back.

This is why my faith is not just about me and God, and your faith is not just about you and God. Faith is a personal thing, but it’s not meant to be private. I need to be reminded of the joy I felt the day I got baptized. We all do, and every time we witness a baptism let’s remember our own, join in the celebration, and be reminded that we were dead and now we’re alive!  

 

REFLECTION

What do you remember about your own baptism? When you think about it, does it energize you?

If the power of baptism is not in the water or the act of being dunked, but in the truth it represents — why is it so important for Christians to participate in the actual event of being baptized?

If you’ve never been baptized, what’s stopping you?

If you have, what aspect of your faith can you celebrate as you remember your own public profession? Freedom from sin? New life? Eternal security? Something else?

For further reflection, read Romans 6:1-14.