Spend Time in Renewing Relationships

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Dependent on God
Resting is a way of humbling ourselves before God and saying, “I know you're the one who's in control.” In Leviticus 25, God instructed his people to allow there to be a rhythm of rest even with the land. On every seventh year, they were to let the land rest in this agricultural society, where they were completely dependent upon the ground to live. But God told them that would take care of them and provide during this seventh year. He had built this into creation, but they had to honor him in that seventh year in order to experience his blessings from the previous years.  One way to view this is to start thinking of resting the way you think about giving. You give because you trust God, and you know that, even though it's counterintuitive to give the way that God has commanded you to give, you do it because you've experienced his faithfulness. You know that what he says is true. So, to apply that same kind of faith to rest. It's the same kind of dependent faith that shows God that you trust what he says, and you are going to be dependent on him. And if you do that, you're going to experience his blessing. He's going do more for you when you rest and honor him with these rhythms than what you could accomplish on your own by working through it, by pushing through it, and by not having this rest in your life. We sometimes think if we just go a little bit faster or if we just push a little bit harder, then we will be pleasing our Heavenly Father. But instead, what you find is that God, the creator, is very serious about you living with this rhythm of rest and renewal.  DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: In what areas of life do you find it most difficult to be dependent from God and release your own (perceived) control? What are some small ways you can start being more faithful to God in these areas?
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Weekly Sabbath
Many of us think if we have some time to rest, whether that's an afternoon or a day of the week, the best way to spend it is on the couch scrolling through our phones or binging a show on the television. But when we do that what we're really doing is becoming tired in a different way. These activities don't do a lot to renew us physically, emotionally, or spiritually. In fact, they often leave us feeling more anxious and distracted than we were before.  God knew this, and so he would have his people take one day a week, the Sabbath, to rest. God built this rhythm in to our lives because he loves us as a creator, and he knows what's best for us. The people in the old Testament we're also required to keep yearly rhythms, in addition to the daily and weekly rhythms. These were holy days or celebrations that could last a week or more. There were feasts like the feast of Purim or Passover, and these yearly rhythms were built into the calendar to be times to focus on community and celebration. Wayne Mueller in his book on the Sabbath says that if we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness can become our Sabbath. Our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us. We have some opportunities, when we have no choice but to rest, to experience God differently, to be reminded of our dependence on him. Rest is a time to be, it's not a time to do. It's not so much about habits and best practices. It's more about being creation. It's understanding that God is creator and he is shepherd. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Do you take rest as seriously as you should, given what Scripture tells us about God's view of it? If not, what are some ways that you can start prioritizing it, both daily and weekly?
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Reflection and Gratitude
Built into the Israelites’ daily rhythms were designated times to stop and think about God's faithfulness and provision. These times that were built in for God's people were when they woke up, when they went to bed, and before each meal. They also had certain prayers that they would pray during these times.  Challenge yourself to have some intentional rhythms in your daily life that are committed to expressing gratitude and thanks to God for his provision, as the Israelities did. A great time to do this, just like God's people did, would be in the morning when you first wake up, just take four or five minutes to thank God for his provision and blessings. Then at night before you go to bed, look back on your day and express gratitude to God for the way he works things together for good. During this time, you can express your trust in him, and tell him things that you're anxious about for the next day. One of the best ways to build these spiritual disciplines into your life is to find something that you already do consistently, like driving to work or having meals, and then stack the habit of prayer on top of these consistent things that you already do. But while there are some things for us to grab a hold of when it comes to changing our habits, what really slows us down and gets in our way more than anything is a misunderstanding of who God is and what God is looking for. In our lives, when we really understand who God is, then it allows us to be free to be who he's made us to be. It’s a matter of gaining a better understanding that God is creator and God is our shepherd. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: What are some ways that you could attempt to “habit stack” this week, where you add prayers of gratitude into your schedule by adding them to things you already consistently do each day?
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Poetic Rhythm
We consistently read in Genesis 1 that “it was evening and it was morning, and it was good.” We see both rhythm and consistency throughout these verses. We are also told that God rested on the seventh day. Knowing this, it is interesting to see how the Israelites would base their daily schedule on the creation account. They would look at what God did in creation, even though there isn't a ton of information there, and they would build their daily rhythms upon the creation story. The Israelites would actually start their day at 6:00 PM, which is quite different than what we are used to when we think of planning out our day. The time from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM each evening was committed to be a time of connecting with people; a time of relationship, friendships, and community. Then from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM was a time committed to work and productivity, with the hours in-between being for sleep. They would do this for six days, and then on the seventh day they would rest from their work.  Think about the mental shift of what would happen if you thought of your day as starting when you came home from work or class. Most of us think of our day as coming to an end at this point, and we're likely tired. We don't necessarily see that as a time to begin things, but as a time to be drawing things to an end. What if at 6:00 PM you started thinking your day is just beginning? Think about how you want be intentional and give your best to the people closest to you during the beginning of your day. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: Set your alarm for 5:45 PM this week and try to shift your mind to see 6:00 PM as the start of your day. How does this change or effect things & relationships throughout the week?