The Gift of Limits

1395612_80122675Today I want to explore a little bit about what God gives in Genesis 1 and 2 to Adam and Eve. The first few chapters of Genesis are crucial for theology as we see the foundation for humanity, without the mark of sin. And what is interesting is that God gives Adam and Eve two things: responsibility and limitations. And let me say this, both are gifts.

God gives Adam and Eve responsibility, to be “fruitful and multiply” and steward the earth (Genesis 1:28). We are familiar with this part of the story; that they are given responsibilities and a task. And we understand this for our own lives. That God gives us gifts, abilities, and responsibilities that go along with those gifts. We are called to steward not only the earth, but our responsibilities well – and to increase the flourishing of life around us.

Yet God also does something very interesting. He sets limits. He gives Adam and Eve the garden to tend to, but sets very precise limits about its location and its boundaries (Genesis 2:10). And I think this is really something that we miss. God gives limits because limits are a blessing. We cannot be responsible for everything. We cannot do everything we want to. Responsibility reminds us of our calling to others, and limits reminds us of our need for others.

We cannot accomplish the calling of God upon our lives without both of these things, limits and boundaries, in equal play in our lives. If we live without limits we burn ourselves out, tend to use people, and forget we need others. If we live without responsibility we become a burden to others, self-centered, and destructive. We need to use our responsibility, but acknowledge our limits. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I can’t do more”. God gave limits to Adam and Eve in the garden before there was sin. Limits then are not a result of the fall, but a gift of God to remind us we need each other. I can’t do it all, and neither can you. We need one another.

So I think this is worth thinking about. To reflect on what responsibilities has God given you? And what limitations has he also given you? Who can you lean on when you come to your limits, and how might they help you to see a greater flourishing of life around you?

The point is this, limits aren’t a bad thing, they may be one of the biggest blessings God has given us if we would but acknowledge them.

Seeing God in the People Around You

The Bible sometimes is so radical that it’s hard to believe. I mean the very first few chapters of the Bible reveal some truth’s that are so amazing they are hard to believe. Today I want to draw your attention to one verse that changes how I see everyday people around me.

Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves.’” Humanity is somehow made in the image of God. Each person, because they are a person, has somehow a part of the very image of God. I know that in some situations, with some people, and with so much of the brokenness around us, that it is hard to see sometimes. But this is the radical truth of the Bible, that each person is made in God’s image. Sometimes we choose not to demonstrate, reveal, or act in accordance with that image but that doesn’t change the truth. We are all made in God’s image.

This changes how I see people, because I have to be open to seeing God’s image in them. So when I am struggling to see God in a person, a situation, or a circumstance; when my anger, hurt, or pain rises and I have that temptation to reject, exclude, or simply ignore someone, you know what I try to do now?  I try to look harder.

I look harder, I look deeper, and I look longer. Yes, it is hard and sometimes with some people I really struggle to see the image of God in their life, actions, and words. But the point isn’t whether I struggle to see it. The point is whether or not the Bible is true. And if the Bible is true, like I believe, then I have to believe that each person that walks by me is made in the image of God. Each time I make eye contact with someone the image of God is in that person. And this should change how we see each and every person around us. This means that we need to treat everyone with respect, dignity, and worth, but it goes much beyond that. It means if we look hard enough each person might just reveal a bit of the image of God to us. And that is worth finding…

So the next time you are tempted to reject someone, exclude them, or simply ignore someone who is different…remember we are all made in the image of God…and maybe it’d be worth taking a second look their way…

Labor is a Craft, Perfect Rest is An Art

On Sunday we shared about Sabbath. You’ll be able to download the sermon here. I shared about how the very first thing that God calls holy is the Sabbath. He declares that it is special. It is to be set aside and not used in an ordinary way. The point isn’t to become legalistic about Sabbath but to enter into the beauty and art of it. Abraham Joshua Heschel writes that “Labor is a craft but perfect rest is an art”. This is why trying to approach keeping the Sabbath from a perspective of rules always fails. It’s like trying to paint a beautiful piece of art through using a paint-by-numbers approach. The point is that appreciating the holiness, beauty, and gift of Sabbath is more of an art-form and less of a list of rules to keep.

So my goal yesterday was to inspire us to take a Sabbath. In Exodus 20:8 we read that for six days you will work and complete all your work. As I mentioned, no one ever completes all their work in 6 days. The point is that when we come to the seventh day, the Sabbath, we rest as if all the work has been completed. We leave it up to God and enter into the day. We seek to practice the art of keeping Sabbath.

So my question to you is what helps you to practice the art of Sabbath? What makes the day special for you and helps you to accept the gift it is?

For me Sabbath keeping is all about trust. It’s about trusting God to take care of all that needs to be taken care of. I trust him that he cares for his church, his people, and for my family. I slow down and have good meals, good conversation, and good connections with friends.

For you though what helps you mark a day as special?

 

Discussion Questions:

Adult Discussion Questions: What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? What makes you feel really rested? How have you felt – when you didn’t rest? What about this sermon inspires you to take time? When can you take a moment to rest and truly “Sabbath”?

Questions for Young Families: Rather than talking about Sabbath take one with your kids. Talk to them how you are going to put away work and be present with them for the day. Share with them why its important and then do it together.

Challenge for the Week: Take a Sabbath

Speaking New Things Into Being…

While out for lunch with someone the other day, I simply shared a few thoughts about where they were at. I was trying to simply understand their space, and maybe give some words to what they were feeling. When this happened it was like an understanding or world opened up for them. They said, “that’s it exactly”. It’s as if words opened up space for understanding, acceptance, and new meaning.

I’ve often pondered over Genesis 1. God creates with words. I’ve often wondered how his words have so much power, or how he could create something through speech. I no longer wonder about this.

Words have power. And when you listen, share, and speak something into someone else’s life it can breathe life – literally. Words have the power to create, to open up new understanding, new worlds, and new life. Sitting at a table drinking coffee and talking a few days ago confirmed that to me. The simple act of sharing deep conversation opened up new possibilities. In the Bible James teaches us about the tongue and how words can be used to hurt, and harm. But the flipside is true too. Words can be used to create hope and health.

So the question then is what are your words doing? Creating life, heath, and hope? Because words have power.

So today listen, and share deeply. Use your words to create, give life, and in this way follow the model of God in Genesis 1. Speak new life into being for someone today, and see what happens…