Monthly Archives: September 2009

What are we all arguing about?

Really, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I even scratched out an epiphany on the back of a bulletin while at church in St. Joseph, Missouri, since the words just came to me all at once–stream of consciousness style. Soon after, I thought, “I’m glad I finally wrote this down. Now I can do something about it.” I planned to blog about it. But then just thinking about it made me weary. I realized, I am just very weary of this subject in general. When it comes to differences between denominations, especially denominations that have experience with ex-Adventists, this seems to be where we argue:

“Are we under law or under grace?”

“What commandments still stand today?”

“Are we still required to keep the literal, 7th-day Sabbath?”

Most of the time I just want to throw up my hands at both sides. Forgive me if my tone here is not incredibly tactful or smooth, but this is the state of mind I am in when I think about this, and I can’t wait any longer to write it down.

We’re not getting anywhere on this argument. Sometimes it even feels like the other side is winning because there are more of them than there are us. But we’re not coming to any common ground because we’re hovering over the deeper, SIMPLER issue. First I ask, “why NOT keep the Sabbath? Why wouldn’t we want to?” or “Why NOT keep the 10 commandments?”

If we start at the other end, I think we’ll get farther than just arguing the original question. Honestly I’m still surprised that there are people that are so against the Sabbath. To me, that seems like the most nonthreatening “law” there is! Obviously those that are in a spirit of rebellion over the Sabbath are reacting against the way our own culture has made it, not the Biblical guidelines (which I think are made intentionally vague!!!)

Anyway, we are told all throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, how to treat people. We find out what the fruits of the Spirit are. And we are told in many places Who the One True God is. If we live by those words and principles, we may find ourselves ENDING UP keeping the 10 commandments! Not because “it’s the law” but because it’s smart! Because it makes sense. The principles are there! And they are even recognized by most of society as the “right” things to do!

And on the other end of things, if we notice a person “breaking a commandment” and repeatedly falling into habits that are self-destructive or could make life difficult for them, we want to “restore them gently” because we CARE for this person’s WELL-BEING! And, foreseeing possible challenges in the future based on his or her behavior, we want to HELP them, not to police them or humiliate them. (If the latter is EVER the intention, than you are in much bigger trouble that wondering if you are under law or under grace. That is just plain the Wrong Spirit. Most anywhere in the Bible will tell you that.)

We don’t need to be debating this, really. Perhaps the devil is WANTING us to get caught up in the details. Yes, Paul does make a lot of references to “the law” and being “under the law or under grace.” I suppose that means that we are not to forget about the law and that we are to know its place in our lives. Because really, we only need a law when things are getting out of control and need regulation or clarification (and I’d say the world is a bit out of control!). If we daily live by the fruits of the Spirit, being guided by God Himself, we eventually won’t even NEED the words of the law to tell us to do what is right. It will be in us.

Test it. I dare you.

Good to read:

James 3:17

Galatians 5:22

Hebrews 4:9

Acts 18:1-4

Colossians 3

Deuteronomy 6

And so many more….

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Filed under Argument, Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Logic, Spiritual Application, State of the world

The Seventh Day. Wow.

Here is the last in Christopher Smith’s creation week devotional series. Enjoy.

The Seventh Day

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:1, 2).

As the afternoon of the sixth day waned in the sky, God surveyed all that He had created—all that He would create for this earth. He knew He had finished His latest work, every facet of life had been put into place: light, sustenance, diversity, prosperity, and purpose. God had provided all for His newest world; His work here was done.

But God did not simply leave His finished product. He didn’t pack up His tools, tuck away His hard hat, and ascend back to His heavenly throne. Instead, God watches over His creations—He and Adam had a busy day of naming beasts and birds, of teaching and learning how to work the grounds, of noticing the lack of and creating a partner. God lingers.

I see Adam and Eve yawning, eyes drooping, then laying down on a bed of grass and moss, one that God has prepared just for them. He speaks to them as they hold one another, soaking in His words, the moonlight, the twinkling stars, and they fall asleep in the same way they awoke: to His voice.

With the sun down, evening has come and it is a new day. But God does not let this new hour, this new day pass by unnoticed. He watches its coming, this seventh day.

“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3).

While much of the world sleeps, God walks across His world—through the thick forests, the fields of waving grass and wheat, and across the waters—and He continues to pile on the blessings. He has blessed all at their creation, but He knows that life will only continue with His words, His blessings. So He gives the sun and moon and stars, the waters and land, the birds of the air and fish of the sea and beasts of the fields, and man, God gives everything a special day, one in which there is nothing to do but commune with Him, to rest, to heal—ourselves and others—to set aside everything we’ve done in the past six days and focus on one thing and one thing alone: Him.

As dawn breaks and Adam and Eve stir from their slumber, they awake to the morning sun and God’s face smiling down upon them. I see Adam stretching, eager to learn more about this world that he and his wife have just been named caretaker of, and asking “What’re we doing today?”

And I imagine God taking both Adam and Eve by the hands, lifting them up beside Him, and saying, “Come. Let me show you the world that we’ve created for you. Let us guide you. Let us be your all. For this day has been created to build our relationship with one another.”

Then they walk and eat and talk the day away, Adam and Eve drawing nearer to one another, both of them drawing closer to God, and starting their lives on the right foot by spending their first full day, together with God.

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The Sixth Day, Part 2

The Sixth Day Pt. 2, by Chris Smith

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Genesis 1:26).

Notice the difference in what God says here. On the other days, He says “Let there…” and “Let the…” These are commands to the items themselves. God calls directly to the light and darkness, the waters, the land and plants, the birds, fish, insects, and animals. He does not reference Himself. God is not simply musing over what the day will bring, what He will create and shape out of His words. No. He commands the light to separate from the darkness. He commands the waters to part, the earth to rise, the vegetation to grow. He commands the hearts of whales and worms and wrens and wolves to start beating, to pump the blood and let them flow. But God starts this day out differently. He does not command His creation; He commands Himself.

He says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Already He refers to the trinity. While He is the only one of them to be referenced thus far, He does not say: “Let me make man…” or “I will make man…” He says, “us” and “our.” There is more than one that has been watching the creation, the Godhead, the Trinity, has been a part of all—for each are separate but one in the same.

And God says to the others—I doubt He is commanding, but is suggesting as one might say, “Let’s go to the park today”—“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

In this moment, God is so excited about His creation that He cannot even give the words to His scribe. He’d spent His previous days forming the world from nothing, speaking every beam of light, plant leaf, flowing river, and leaping frog all in preparation for this moment. This one act where everything that has come before—short as it was—has built up for—and where everything after will point back to. God creates man. And not simply another creation, but one that echoes and rhymes God’s own self. We were made in His image, because that is how He wanted it to be. And He is so excited about His newest creations that He skips the details of how He made us and saves them for another chapter, another verse.

For now though, He blesses man, as He did with the animals before Him, and as He would later bless Abraham. “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:28-30)

God not only blesses us, but He also gives us two gifts: a domain and sustenance. Even from the very beginning, right after Adam took his first breath, God already had His plan to sustain each and every one of us, and give us a purpose in life: to rule over the animals. What’s more is that this blessing extended beyond us to the birds and beasts as well: God provides for all and uses all of His creations to His will.

He steps back, perhaps even hovers back into the expanse He called sky, and soaks it all in. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Things are not just good this time. God smiles even wider today, for He knows His work is complete. And this work needs a modifier, because it exceeds the simple, lonely form of good. It is very good.

“And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).

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The Sixth Day, Part 1

The Sixth Day Pt. 1

(by Christopher Smith)

Now with the coming mornings, there is more than the rising sun, the separation of darkness and light, the drowsy flowers and stretching trees, there is bird song that fills the air—and even the ocean claps with the sounds of breaching dolphins, whales, and sharks.

God probably could have watched His creations for the rest of the day until another evening and morning had past without Him uttering so much as a single syllable. But again, He spoke, knowing that He had even more to bring into existence.

“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to it’s own kind.’ And it was good” (Genesis 1:24).

I can’t help but notice a split here, between verses 24 and 25. God speaks in verse 24, but He seems to actually create them in verse 25: “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1: 25).

As before, I hear Him calling each bounding doe into the clearing, every Komodo dragon swaggering into the sun, each tromping elephant to trumpet across the plain. Though it would be their offspring that would come to Noah’s ark in pairs, I believe God created these in pairs, too. Male for female and female for male, two of each to breed and spread throughout the world, fulfilling His design by fertilizing the earth, scattering seeds throughout the land for new trees and new blossoms that will feed the cubs and kids and colts. And us, too. God saw we would need help with planting. He saw that we would find companions. He knew the lessons we could—and should—learn from the beasts: balance with nature, living out one’s purpose, caring for another’s life.

Right from the beginning, He knew that there would be those animals to serve man, those animals to be independent of man, and those that would scuttle along the ground—almost unnoticed by man. God created the cows and sheep and dogs and cats to help with the planting and care of the land and to be a companion of man. God created the hundreds of thousands of insects to pollinate—bees buzzing from flower to flower—to break down the fallen leaves and fruit—ants marching across the land—and to keep the ground tilled and soft, ripe and ready for new seeds to be pushed within—the worms wriggling through the earth. And God made, oh my, the lions and tigers and bears to roam the forests and jungles, along with the giraffes and koalas and orangutans.

I can only imagine what it must’ve been like on that first day, the animals sprinting into existence, not fearful of the other—mice sitting on the heads of cats, tail-wagging dingoes panting beside an impala after a quick race through the trees, and weasels waiting patiently beside hens—not for their eggs, but for God to reach out, scratch their chins, the scruff of their necks, their bellies, blessing them, naming them, calling them His own. And though He would—and will always—remain their creator, God would give them a ruler, one in His own image, one that would be His greatest creation on earth and His biggest heartbreak: man.

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As the Creation Week Continues

The Fifth Day (by Chris Smith)

The moon shines full and bright. The sun has set and signaled the start of a new day. Waves now ebb and flow with the pull of the heavenly bodies, and God listens as they roll in and out, in and out, sounding like a rush of wind through the trees. This place—that was once so empty—is now almost full; there are only a few ingredients left to finish the recipe.

“And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:20, 21).

As the last echo of His voice fades, a new sound is born: tweets and twitters, the chirping and caws of thousands of birds. Like a chorus of bells, or wind chimes blown in a breeze, the birds rejoice in their new life, their new wings, the expanse of sky that God has given them to fly in. They sing for the trees that will act as a roost. They praise God for the blossoms He’s given them so that they might drink of the nectar and eat the sweet fruits. Again, I imagine God calling each of them by name, His creations flying up to meet His gaze in pairs, two by two, side by side, giving their thanks with bird song. I see Him painting each one with the brush of His touch: this one to echo the sky, this one to echo the trees, this one to echo the roses, and this one to preclude the rainbow’s color and splendor.

Then a puff of water shoots into the sky as a blue whale breaches the sea’s surface. Dolphins play nearby, as octopi crawl along the ocean floor, exploring the coral and waving away the clown and angel fish. God sees them, too, with His powerful eye and through the unpolluted, crystal waters. These He watches, His own private aquarium, and gently brushes their skin with the back of His fingers, calling them by His names, and marking them with His love.

“God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth’” (Genesis 1: 22).

A precursor to His covenant with Abraham, God blessed the flyers and the swimmers to spread out in the world, find a place to call their own, a path to roam, and multiply. He would provide for them, and they would do their part, too. The birds would eat the fruit and seeds, then spread them over the earth as they flew, planting more trees, producing more fruit, and filling the skies with song. God also knew that His prophet, Elijah, would need feeding—so the ravens obeyed God’s command. And another prophet would need some prodding and travel arrangements, and God provided Jonah with his big fish. Because of God and His blessings, everything—even the birds of the air and the fish of the sea—has a purpose.

“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day” (Genesis 1:23).

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