Category Archives: the Bible

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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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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More on The Beginning…

Fourth in the series of Chris Smith’s Days of Creation

The Fourth Day

Here is the world, with the pine green trees mixed with the cobalt waters and white sands and chocolate earth. The trees have slept through the night. The flowers still wait to bloom, wait for the light of morning to stretch, open, and flex their petals. Without the light breaking every morning, they would shrivel, wither, and fade—much the same as we would. Without the light, we could not survive. Without the distinct shift from darkness to light and back again, we could not mark the days as they pass, count each one down as we move closer to His return.

So God studied His handiwork, how the darkness and light He’d created three days before flitted through the universe, still marking evening from morning, but otherwise free to bounce and float, free as the soon-to-be-created birds.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth; And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars” (Genesis 1:14-16).

He has already separated the light from the darkness, but He has not set them into forms. He speaks, and there is an implosion of light, the rays and warmth balling up by unseen hands, the beams weaving tighter and tighter, like a spool of yarn. I imagine God taking the bulb of a sun between His fingers, then pulling out a pebble for the moon, carving out tiny shards of light with His thumbnail to act as stars. Then He grabs the darkness—a swath of black silk—by the edges and spreads it over the expanse of sky. He stretches and pulls and folds the darkness in place, prepares it to cradle His sources of light.

Next, God positions the sun at a perfect distance from His creation, to keep the world from burning, to keep it from freezing. He screws the moon into place, then gives it a flick to set it into motion. And the stars… The stars He flings out like handfuls of birdseed at a wedding, letting them stick where they fall—to shine and blink and twinkle, gifts of diamonds for His son’s future bride.

“God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:17, 18).

Whatever the time, whatever the place, we would have light. God ensured that there would always be a beacon for us to latch onto, a reminder of hope, that dark as the world may seem, there is always a tiny flicker—even from the most distant of stars—of light.

“And there was evening”—this time with moon and stars—“and there was morning”—this time with sun—“the fourth day” (Genesis 1:19).

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“The Beginning” – Guest Blog by Chris Smith

This morning, in worship, Outlook‘s editorial assistant Chris Smith announced he was trying his hand at devotional writing, and read his take on The Beginning, in Genesis. I liked it, so I thought I would share it. Who knows, there may be many more to come.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Imagine a space of emptiness, a place so utterly void of everything that not even light exists. This is the absolute nothing, the space of non-existence. Yet here is God, hovering over “the face of the waters,” hanging over our formless, empty place, where liquid exists—not the oceans and rivers we know, but a shapeless mass that shifts—without form—like a giant glob of Mercury that beads and flexes. And here is God, watching over this mass, knowing what He is about to do, what He is about to say, knowing that this world will fail, knowing each and every life that will spark, flicker, and fade before His eyes, yet He speaks nevertheless. He says, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

I picture Him peeling a ball of darkness like an orange, tearing the rind away in a single, coiled strip that reveals the life-giving light that explodes to every corner of the universe. I picture Him pulling the strands of light from the darkness, as if He were fishing for glow worms. But it was probably closer to Him saying, “Good morning,” and the light beaming back at Him, bright and full, and whispering “Good Morning” in reply—before He ever took His next breath.

Like all things that are loved, God named His latest creations. “He called the light Day, and the Darkness he called Night.” He already began to show His love for unique creations, for equal and opposite forces, and He started with the biggest contradictions of them all—as the saying goes, “They were different as night and day.”

As any good father would, God took the time to watch His creations, to soak them up, to appreciate them with His full and undivided attention. His mere words brought them into existence. How much easier would it be for Him to complete His work with a few more simple sentences? The world might have been created in moments—with one long and complex sentence, full of commas and dashes and even a semicolon or two—instead of days; but God was in no hurry; He knew the outcome, and He had a plan. So instead of rushing on to the next portion of His creation, I picture Him holding back, waiting, playing with the rays of light, bending and flexing the individual beams to make rainbows between His fingers. I picture Him pulling every colored beam from the darkness, making the darkness darker and the light lighter.

I realize that I’m merely playing with my own ideas and images here. He may not have done any of these things, and maybe He did all of these things. In heaven, we will be able to ask such questions, and find out what He did as He waited through the evening and the morning, and spoke into existence the first day.

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The Unknown’s Gravitational Pull

Knowledge is Power

Is it?
Is it really?

Now, I’m not referring to the normal and necessary pursuit of studies and exercising of common sense. I’m talking about simply….Knowing Things. Or rather, the not knowing of things. And why that can be better.

First off, on a silly little note, have you noticed how happy naive people are? Have you experienced how you can have such a wonderfully carefree time being around those that have no clue (or at least no intention of thinking about) all the deeper, sadder, depressing things going on in the world? Or have you observed how liberating it is when you choose to not know something, or at the very least choose not to worry about it? Sometimes I feel like those people are more powerful than a person like me, who has wasted much of her time worrying about things that I don’t have anything to do with or trying to find out things that I have no real need of knowing.

OK, before a bunch of you Knowers out there retort with your list of the profound gifts of knowledge, expounding on how precious the knowledge is, and how you would never give it up even for the greatest happiness because of all the parts of you that would be lost in the process, about all the new connections you have to the universe and possibly to God, as depressing as some of the facets of knowledge are that you would never relinquish it…well, you guys can be quiet for now.

I’m not saying that you Knowers are wrong. And I’m not about to say that ignorance is blissful enough to be meaningful or smart, or even close to a good way to live life. No. I am not an extremist. What I am posing is this: Knowledge may be power, but perhaps it is power we shouldn’t always feel we need to tap into. Or, we shouldn’t always feel like we deserve to know all things.

One good example is near the end of Jesus’ physical ministry on Earth. His disciples needed to know what was going to happen to Him. However, He wouldn’t just sit down and spill it all out on them. He knew that, at that time, it would be too much for them. He knew that if He said too much too soon, it would prove futile because their current understandings of His great purpose wouldn’t be able to hold it for what it’s worth.
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now,” Jesus spoke in John 16:12.

That’s just one angle of my point: strategic withholding of knowledge. I’ve heard many arguments against Jesus’ fairness that stemmed from this verse. One person said that if Jesus was fair and really loving, He wouldn’t be so arrogant with His power as to ration it out like that, He should tell all and let everyone deal with it. No, I disagree. I’d rather have someone care about me enough to value my own understanding of such an important concept that they would nurture my process of learning. However, I certainly can relate to the opposing viewpoint. If I find out that there is something that someone (anyone, really) knows that I do not, I don’t care what it is or even how relevant it is to my life, I WANT TO KNOW IT! How annoying. I guess it’s a human tendency. But how much hassle would I save myself (and others too, probably) if I wasn’t such a baby about it. (I want i want i want!) It’s true, I admit it. I really really like to know things. And most of those things I probably didn’t really need to know.

Or, on the shallower side of things, don’t you just love being surprised? I’m not talking about near-scary surprises that can attack the heart, and I’m also not addressing bad or tragic surprises. But when something unexpected happens that turns out to be nice, it makes it all that much nicer because it was unexpected. Sometimes I’ll find out about something nice that is going to happen and it takes some of the niceness away because now I know about it. Or one year when it was nearing my birthday, I caught wind of something my friends were discussing. I didn’t actually know if it was about my birthday or not (turned out it wasn’t…) but it sounded like it could have been, and what was mentioned sounded nice. So here I was expecting a certain kind of something to happen, and it didn’t. Something else happened that was equally as awesome, but it didn’t seem as wonderful to me because I was getting excited about something else. I wish I never knew of that Something Else, because it almost ruined my Something Real.

In that sense, Knowledge’s wonderful power can be slightly dangerous if it is misused or misinterpreted. Or at least it can be a disappointment. And I’m sure you can come up with your own examples relating to my silly little example situation. But situations like that can also be slightly altered and transformed into an actual serious situation, so demonstrating the aforementioned danger of too much knowledge.

Also, as great a creation as we human beings are, we are not really that awesome. We could be, but as we are now, we are most definitely not. We have no business knowing Good from Evil. Heck, we’re having trouble enough with that right now on earth. That’s what’s behind this whole mess we’re in. We asked to learn good and evil, and we are right in the thick of this knowledge. Life could be paradise (as intended) if we weren’t so darned curious about evil. But there we go again….just because there’s something we don’t know, we automatically want to know it, as proven way back when.

So, in closing, here are some things I’ve learned, in short:

Knowledge is Power, but not such that we are automatically entitled.

and

Get over yourself. You don’t need to know everything. It’s not your job.

and, to quote The Rock: “We’re on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know.”

Ok. I’m done scolding myself.
Keep it real, everybody. May your days be full of pleasant surprises.

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If only they’d look a little closer…

There’s a country song that is played on the radio quite frequently, and it’s lyrics make me sad. It shows a common mentality of average joes these days. The song is Everybody Wants to go to Heaven by Kenny Chesney. Here are the lyrics:

Preacher told me last Sunday mornin’
“Son, you better start livin’ right:”
You need to quit the women and whiskey
And carrying on all night.”

Don’t you wanna hear him call your name,
When you’re standin’ at the pearly gates?
I told the preacher, “Yes I do”
But I hope they don’t call today
I ain’t ready

Everybody wants to go to heaven
Have a mansion high above the clouds
Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now

Said, “Preacher maybe you didn’t see me
Throw an extra twenty in the plate.
There’s one for everything I did last night,
And one to get me through today.
Here’s a ten to help you remember
Next time you got the good Lord’s ear
Say I’m comin’, but there ain’t no hurry
I’m havin’ fun down here.
Don’t you know that!

Everybody wants to go to heaven
Get their wings and fly around
Everybody want to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now

Someday I want to see those streets of gold in my halo
But I wouldn’t mind waiting at least a hundred years or so

Everybody wanna go to heaven
It beats the other place there ain’t no doubt
Everybody wanna go to heaven
But nobody wanna go now

Everybody wanna go to heaven
Hallelujah, let me hear you shout
Everybody wanna go to heaven
But nobody wanna go now
I think I speak for the crowd.

Obviously this guy hasn’t looked too closely at what it means to be a real Believer, a true Christian, following Christ. Some people like to leave it at the imagery of halos and harps, not applying the grace and guidance and Abundant Life to daily life. Really, it just makes me sad. But it alerts me to a view on Christianity that is still common in society, that I need to be prepared to reach. Now that I’ve heard this song, I better make it a personal mission and prayer request to live out what we so affectionately call the “Joy of the Lord,” praising Him when things are good and looking to Him when things are tough. Sharing the happiness and contentedness I get from putting trust in an all-knowing, all-powerful God and not worrying about “chasing after the wind” (here it is again!) or other vanities of life that distract the attention of millions. For some individuals I come in contact with, I never know if I’m the only one they might witness that is a committed Christian, experiencing the Peace that only God gives (that surpasses understanding), and the joy that comes from that Peace.

I guess some examples could be everyday conversations when I’m out and about. That’s what I need to work on. When I’m at the post office, buying vitamins at Walgreens or asking for a price check at the grocery store. Can my patience be detected? Can my love for humanity and burden for souls be picked up on, in one small way or another? When I’m with my volleyball team, when I’m performing with my country dance team, when I meet with friends that don’t belong to a church? I guess that’s my challenge for myself, and for everyone, really. Go out and connect with people. You don’t have to make friends with everybody, you don’t have to become an extrovert. But you can live out the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the commands of Colossians 3, the mindset of Philippians 4:8, and some more of my favorites, Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12. I’m making those my daily instructions.

Hopefully we can show people that God’s grace can’t be bought by money or “make-up good deeds,” and that Heaven and following Jesus Christ is more than just singing with a harp and getting a halo someday.

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