Living Creatures

The Man Became a Living Creature

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2

 

The love, care, and interest God had in His creation as it unfolded is extraordinary. He placed everything in order and it still goes. It still follows the pattern. People love it and yet they don’t want anything to do with the Creator.

When God created the world, evil was already in existence because of Satan’s rebellion. Understanding evil was not part of God’s intent for Adam and Eve in the garden. However, He put in place a tree and a rule. The tree was called, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The rule: Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God knew what was best for Adam and Eve, but He still gave them the freedom to choose for themselves. Not only was God open with man about the existence of evil, but He was also transparent with them on the consequence of disobeying His established rule. Certain death.

I’m getting to a point in life where I’m seeing more threats of death’s reaches in my own extended family. It’s sad and unpleasant. It’s frightening. I don’t want them to go through it, but it’s inevitable. We’re all on our way.

And it makes me wonder how people explain death in the evolutionary process. Why on earth would an organism form itself into a body that begins to decay? Shouldn’t we be evolving to live longer than our predecessors without the help of medicine? Shouldn’t we be seeing some super humans? We don’t because it’s impossible to step outside of the curse in these bodies. We have to go to that scary end and approach death, stop breathing, stop beating, close our eyes and open them to what’s next. And that’s whatever God has planned. Whatever He wants to show each of us.

We were not originally designed for death. We chose death. And it hurts and there’s nothing anyone can say to ease the grief that must be embraced or quicken the time that brings healing. The loss will always remain while we’re here, but the pain will fade.

I do wonder what’s going on on the other side. What’s C.S. Lewis doing? Nabeel Qureshi? Rich Mullins? Aunt Myrtle?

When I read Genesis 2:2, I feel the calm pause before the rest of the narrative takes place. Before man decides he really does want to cross the line and taste evil. The word used for rest in this verse actually means “to cease” in the Hebrew. God ceased His work and blessed it.

Bringing that home, do you cease your work and appreciate it? In life we complete projects, events, to-do’s and move on with our lives. God didn’t do that with His work. He stopped. During this Season of Rest, look at what you have going on and see if there’s anything worth stopping and taking note of. Will you be hosting a holiday this year? Don’t forget to stop and reflect on the little victories from all your hard work! Is a project at work going to come to completion? Celebrate it!

We know that death is inevitable, but while we are alive here and interacting with our Creator, let’s enjoy the time! The Season of Rest is a perfect excuse to cease the day. 😛

Settle Down

Since we’ve now entered the Season of Rest, it seemed all too appropriate to start off with this Hebrew word for rest: נוח (nwh). I know you’re thinking, That’s not a word. It’s three consonants crammed together. Well, that’s what it looks like, but the way it’s pronounced is noahcchhhhh. Like if you said “Noah” and then let the “ah” sound like “achhhh”. Click on this link to hear an actual pronunciation of the word. What it means is “to settle down”.

In ancient times, God directed to Moses some awesome rules of rest that Israel was to follow. The laws God gave were a reflection of His character and His holiness. Exodus 20:8-11 and 23:12 give specifics on one area of rest the Israelites were to take and it’s where we find our word נוח.

It was on Mount Sinai that the Lord delivered the laws to Moses and in the fourth law God gave an explanation to the command. He said,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

God told Moses to remember the Sabbath day. Keep it holy (set apart). It’s a day that is different from the six others in the week. God said on the seventh day after He had created everything, He settled down. I know we think we work hard in a week… but have you ever created everything in six days? Wow.

In my mind, creating everything in six days is a lot of work and I’d definitely need maybe more than one day to rest up, but I don’t think God rested because He was tired. I think He was being loving and thoughtful as always and set a pattern for His entire creation. Humans and animals were all designated a day to settle down and rest. We look to our Creator to see how He did it and we see that He prioritized rest.

The term “settle down” creates a great image. An example that comes to me is getting in my car after work. It’s been a crazy day and I’ve had a million things flying at me from everywhere. The moment I clock out and step into my car, all those things get locked out. They stay in work world and I’m now in my car world. It’s silent, it’s warm, and it feels comfortable. I can sit back and relax. The next thing that happens is I’m able to think! Thoughts pop into my head and I start reflecting on how I feel and what happened throughout the day. I can process.

Settling down allows you to process your life and it’s so necessary. Not only can you think through your feelings and daily activities, but you can also stop and appreciate the blessings God has granted you. God settled down on the seventh day and I wonder if God just looked around at His work and appreciated it all day. I think it all put a smile on His face. Do you take time to appreciate your work? It’s easy to get drawn into the madness of life and never have a moment to take a breath.

The LORD made the Sabbath holy. It didn’t matter if you were the master of the house or the ox pulling the cart – you had to settle down for one day out of the week. The Sabbath rest was not an option. Is it that way today? No. When Jesus brought us into the covenant of grace, He fulfilled the law and therefore freed us from its condemnation. There’s no one on earth, besides the Son of God, who could keep even one law for life. I mean, think about how lovely a Sabbath day sounds, and then think about how often you take time to just rest. Does anyone have time to rest these days??

Just because the laws have changed, does not change the fact that God created and God prioritized rest. He still did that and we’ll find some New Testament rest happening later this season. It’s good to rest and God has given us time that our body naturally slips into more relaxation. Enjoy this season with God and may the resting begin!

Exercise for this week: I think a big reason many of us don’t rest is because we lack preparation. Look at your schedule and select some time to be set apart for rest. It could be a time you set every day, or an actual full day that looks different from your work days, or it could be a few hours somewhere within your week that you can take some time. Whenever it is and for however long, allow yourself to truly put aside distractions and responsibilities. Just for a bit!

Questions for personal reflection or group discussion:

  1. Read Exodus 20:8-11 together and share thoughts. Any questions about the scripture or observations made?

  2. God said that on the Sabbath day the Israelites were not to work. What different facets of work are in your life?

  3. How does looking at God as one who rests enhance your perception of Him?

  4. What image comes to mind when you hear the phrase “settle down”? Do you have a good or bad connotation with this phrase? Why?

  5. What are some ways you can prioritize rest this week?

 

You Ready?

This coming Sunday is the end of daylight savings. The sun sets one hour earlier and we will begin our official season of rest. This time of the year has the potential of being a phase you look back on with warm nostalgia. It can also take the opposite route and be a time in your life you wished had never happened. My hope for you is that this will be a time of both. Why? Because without adversity, there is no growth. We need challenges in our lives to draw us closer to God and become more like Him. We also need fun! What is life without joy?!

So, we have shorter days coming and the question is: Are you ready?

You may not know. I’m not sure, myself. The certainty is that we will have good and bad times during this season. In Galatians 6:14-20, Paul gives encouragement to his readers on how to face tough times.

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Adversity comes from our adversary: Satan. He knows we have weaknesses coming with shorter days and will be on the prowl to attack. According to Galatians 6, there are three things we can do this week to prepare for his attacks:

  1. Stand (v. 14-15) It can be tempting to cave when life closes in on you, but that is not the way to go when you have the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit slows down the scenarios around you and grants you awareness. You can see what’s going on and stand. Stand firm! Depression, anxiety, anger, loneliness… whatever negative emotion plagues you, will come. You can anticipate their arrival and stand against them.

  2. Take Up (v. 16-17) Whether you realize it or not, you are walking armor. Your faith is powerful. Nothing Satan throws at you can overcome or defeat the sound faith that is wrapped around you, the salvation that protects you, or the word of God. All these things God has given you to equip you for any attempt Satan makes to bring you down.

  3. Keep Alert (v. 18-20) You have awareness through the Holy Spirit, but it’s important to be alert. Someone could be showing you signs all day long but you have to look for them to see them. Look for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Look for opportunities to pray for yourself and others around you. Prayer is our most powerful and instant connection with God and yet it is often so poorly utilized.

One of Satan’s main goals is to cripple us from doing the service of God. The best thing we can do this season is prepare ourselves spiritually and interact with God daily.

Paul needed protection, truth, and prayer to carry out the job God had given him to do. We need the same. Satan wants you at a safe distance from God, if you must be close at all, and he knows where to get you. That’s why we must know God. We need to read His word and talk to Him. We need to place ourselves under Him. It is through His truth and His strength that we can stand against the devil and his schemes. Once we are standing in the truth of God, we combat evil with prayer. We take it to God who can actually do something about it. What better way to spend this Season of Rest than in constant communication with God who loves you?

Get in tune with the Holy Spirit and enjoy the rest of your week!

Strategies for the Season of Rest

I hope last week was helpful for you in finding out where the weak spots were in your winter season last year. A difficult area for me is negative thinking and discouragement. It’s easy for me to get enveloped in the darkness.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were imprisoned for removing the demons from a girl who brought two men profit by fortune-telling. They were placed in the inner prison and fastened into stocks. That is some absolute captivity! But, what were they doing during this time? Verse 25 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…”

It’s officially dark where Paul and Silas are. They don’t have an idea of when they’ll get out and they are quite uncomfortable. They had been beaten by rods prior to being locked up into stocks. However, we find them trapped in the dark communicating with God and singing His praises. What a testimony to the freedom we have in Christ! No environment should ever be allowed to steal our joy when we have been given so much through salvation in Jesus.

As the story unfolds, Luke (the author of Acts) continues the account by telling of an earthquake that shakes the prison and opens the doors. Prisoners bonds are unfastened, yet they all remain at will. The jailer is stunned by this and asks how he can be saved. Paul and Silas shared the gospel with the jailer and all his household. He and his family were baptized that night and rejoicing ensued. What an amazing set of circumstances all taking place within a night!

God can use the dark of night to reach those who are in low places. He can use you and me to bring the light to those in the darkness. Paul and Silas’ devotion to God was carried down into the depths of a prison. It was there they sang hymns to God and we see Luke make note that the prisoners listened. This life is not always about our earthly freedom. For a night, Paul and Silas gave up their freedom so that other people’s souls could be freed from condemnation. Paul and Silas’ actions in the darkness impacted the eternal state of those around them.

Being a light in darkness is a crucial part of Christianity. We are different than those who don’t have Jesus because we have the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, a promise of a new life in the future, and hope of Jesus’ imminent return. Let’s interact with God about the upcoming darkness of daylight savings coming to an end. Let’s strategize on how we can bring light into the long nights.

Below are some strategies to help you change things up this year:

1. Shift Your Schedule – Take a look at what you do at night versus in the morning. Can anything be shifted to the evening? I used to have my quiet time at 6:00 in the morning, but it’s been a struggle for me to wake up lately because it’s so dark. So, I switched my quiet time from 6:00am to 10:00pm. It’s been a fun change and has actually given me more time to read my Bible, pray, and process life.

2. Get Accountability – Don’t walk through this season alone! Find someone you can talk to regularly to help prevent negativity or depression. Let this season be an opportunity to deepen some friendships.

3. Treat Every Day Like A Vacation – Fun doesn’t have to be reserved for just the weekends! If you’re going to be at home and the time seems to drag because of early evenings, make use of that extended time. Make fun drinks on the weekdays, diffuse something, watch a fun movie, cook something colorful, read a page turner, do some hobby you’ve been meaning to do for awhile, create a tradition with some friends; anything that gets you feeling like each day is a “treat yourself” kind of day.

4. Let Yourself Sleep Longer – Don’t beat yourself up for wanting to sleep longer. If your schedule allows and you can shift some things around, give yourself a little more rest this season. Like I wrote in the first strategy, put some of your morning routine into your evening. I used to wake up at 6:00am, but now I wake up at 7:00am. I don’t have as much time in the mornings anymore, but I wake up feeling refreshed and know that I’ll have plenty of time to relax in the evening. It’s been a fun change for this season.

5. Do More Outside When You Can – Take advantage of the daylight hours. If you’re able to eat lunch outside, do it! Take a walk around the office building, run an errand; do whatever you can to soak in some sunlight during the workday.

6. Find Beauty In The Darkness – There’s a lot to be said for appreciating the mysteries of the night. If you live in the city, you might not see a whole lot of stars, but you’ll definitely be getting more of the night sky. Learn about constellations, listen to the night sounds, sit outside with your family around an outdoor fire… there’s a lot of spirituality to experience when an evening mood is embraced.

7. Do All You Can In The Morning – If you can catch a little bit of daylight before your morning commute, take in the beauty. Drink your coffee outside or take a long glance at the sunrise. Find out what starts your day off in a cheery disposition.

8. Softer Light At Night – Shorter days come at the start of holiday season. This is a time of traditions and family. Make shorter days special. Light candles around the house and enjoy a cozy atmosphere.

9. Get A Sunrise Simulator – For those who have to wake up before the sun, a sunrise simulator could be what you need to get up naturally. There are many variations, but click on this link to see one option on Amazon.

10. Improve Your Environment – Clean out that hall closet, redecorate the room; make your living space more aesthetically pleasing and fresh. Change rejuvenates the spirit and stimulates the senses. Coming home to a new environment or knowing you have a creative project at home can make this season have fun challenges. These kinds of projects can steer you away from the temptation to be bored or depressed at home.

There are many possibilities out there for enjoying this season of rest instead of merely getting through it. Enjoy your week! We’re almost to the end of daylight savings and the beginning of our Season of Rest.

If you have any strategies that would help, please comment below!

Week of Reflection: How’d You Do Last Year?

When things go dark, our natural desire is to use the world as a coping mechanism. We sleep and watch tv to ignore depression, we eat away stress, and relish in negative thinking. I know these things sound obviously unhealthy, but in the moment, sleeping, binge watching, eating, and obsessive thinking seem to be quite enjoyable methods to pass time. We can be self-destructive like that.

Romans 12 warns the reader to not conform to the world but be transformed. The Christian life is begun by a rebirth. When you accept Jesus as your savior, the Holy Spirit indwells in you and gives you a new life. Once you have the Holy Spirit, you have the opportunity to ground yourself in God’s word everyday. It is through the Bible that you find knowledge of who you are and what your purpose is.

This is what Paul would call a “renewing” of your mind. You filter out the worldly tendencies and fill up with spiritual renewal. By seeking God everyday, you continue to deepen your understanding of what He finds to be “good and acceptable and perfect”. God brought you new life to fill you with light, joy, and hope. Through hard times and phases of peace, you walk through this life and learn what it is to have joy in every circumstance. You learn the depth of gratitude.

Reflection is part of the renewal process. It’s an important piece of growth as an individual. If you are not working through your successes and failures via the lens of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, you are not learning the lessons that God is teaching you. Therefore, you’ll be taught the same lessons over and over again. You won’t be able to move on to the next one. Some people will go their whole lives without moving past a particular struggle!

To reflect is to pause. Our culture has made it very difficult to do that. Even when you have a moment to yourself, there’s the temptation – addiction, I may even say – to take the phone out and keep your thoughts from bringing unpleasantries to the surface. When you are in constant distraction, you’re not going to be talking through life with God, asking Him questions, and waiting for Him to respond. Keeping life experiences to yourself like that will sink you further into isolation. We don’t want that to happen!

So, being a few weeks away from daylight savings coming to an end, spend some time in reflection this week on how you handled shorter days last year. You can use the exercise below as a guide through your reflection.

Week of Reflection Exercise:

  1. Schedule time this week to sit down and reflect over last year.
  2. During your reflection time:
    1. Ask God to show you how you did last year.
    2. Write down what comes to mind:
      1. How did you feel last year when it got dark early?
      2. Did you develop any habits during that time that were self-destructive?
      3. Are you still feeling the effects of those bad habits right now?
    3. Ask God to reveal to you healthier ways to cope this year.
    4. Ask God for forgiveness if you feel you placed something over Him as a comfort last year.
    5. Thank God for what He is going to do for you this season.
  3. If you were not affected by the shorter days last year, ask God to show you others that may need your help during the winter months.

The Dark Season: How Short Days Affect Your Soul

Looking back at last week, remember that hormonally, shorter days and longer nights mess with your melatonin and serotonin levels. This can cause SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which brings on symptoms including depression, overeating, oversleeping, and a desire to isolate yourself from others.

When faced with symptoms like these in a world that goes dark before you leave work, motivation to connect with God can also fade off. A connection with God takes effort. If you find yourself drifting away from talking to God, listening to Him, and interacting in His word, you’re going to find yourself sinking further into a dark hole.

When you’re feeling hopeless, you’re going to need a power outside of yourself to lift you back up. If you feel gross after overeating due to boredom and depression, you’re going to need a Higher Power to remind you of your value. When you feel purposeless because you spent a week going to bed early, waking up late, and working through the daylight hours, you’re going to need someone to reveal that you do have purpose.

God is your light, always. You’re going to need Him every single day during this Season of Rest. He is the one that is going to give you exactly what you need right when you need it. All you’ll have to do is ask. Darkness is a forceful presence that demands a seeking for God’s light. Do your soul a favor and seek God during the coming short days. This time can either be empty darkness or vibrant light filling the deep void of night.

Psalm 119:105 is a well-known verse and describes perfectly what a connection with God can do for you in the midst of darkness. It reads,

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”

King David was dedicated to God and to God’s word. He meditated on it and returned to God when trouble arose. When David consulted with God for direction, God was faithful to provide it. The same is true for you.

Stick close to God and His word. Pursue His guidance and His truth. The light of His character will bring you hope, joy, and relief through the winter.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection:

  1. Thinking on past winter seasons, share stories of how you felt during those times. Did the long, dark season have an affect on you?
  2. What are some ways you have made the short days better in the past?
  3. How are you doing when it comes to connecting with God on a regular basis? Are there things you would like to change?
  4. Read Psalm 119:105-112
    1. How does the word of God affect David?
    2. What are the implications for anyone else who places their focus on scripture?
  5. How can you strategize to have a healthy relationship with God for the upcoming winter months?