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Faith

The scars that can sing

by Arielle Ong | 19 October 2017, 5:51 PM

23 April, 2011 is a day I will never forget. It was the day that marked the end of my mum’s four-year-long battle against breast cancer. She was 59 years old that year.

It was a battle that didn’t quite have a happy ending. I still don’t understand why it happened, but at the very least it allowed for Mum to receive Christ as her personal Lord and Saviour. More importantly, it is the battle that taught me what it means to live in total abandonment and obedience to the Lord’s sovereignty.

I use the word “battle”, because it aptly describes what the four years journeying with her through her cancer journey were like. Ever since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2006, I prayed every single day that the Lord would heal her completely.

From initially interceding that her condition would not be terminal before her official diagnosis, to praying against a relapse – I faithfully prayed every single day.

 

I grew up wondering if Jesus would save my mum, because she used to always scold Him. She used to tell me that if I ever went to church, she would disown me and never let me come home. She used to turn up the TV’s volume whenever people from church came to our house to share the gospel with her.

She finally accepted Christ in 2007 after the Lord saved her from a life-threatening viral attack during her first bout of chemotherapy. The attack was so serious it confined her 11 days at the hospital.

But God graciously saved her. She was touched by the Holy Spirit when my cousins shared the Gospel with her at the hospital. I wasn’t around, but my cousins told me that my Mum cried like a baby, and then they led her in the Sinner’s Prayer.

After she was discharged, she said she would like to go to church. It was a 180º change. On Easter 2009, she got baptised together with my Dad.

But I still feared she would relapse. Despite my anxiety, I continued to pray every single day for the Lord’s complete healing to come upon my Mum.

Unfortunately, my Mum really did fall prey to relapse. My nightmare came true on 16 October, 2010, when Mum was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer as her cancer cells had metastasised to her lungs, liver, brain and bones.

I remember it so clearly because we got the news one day before her birthday. She was so composed, but I broke down. I couldn’t stop crying as I scolded her for not taking care of herself better to prevent the relapse.

Deep inside I wasn’t angry with her, I was simply devastated by grief. Mum chided me for crying and said there is nothing to be upset about. She said that because she came to know the Lord, she had been blessed with 3 good years.

It totally put me to shame. I had been a Christian for much longer than her. Though she was suffering and dying, she still gave thanks to the Lord.

In fact, I never saw her shed a single tear after she learnt of the bad news. Sometimes I wonder if she cried herself to sleep, when no one was watching. But to my knowledge, I never saw her cry, not even at her deathbed.

My mum was admitted to the hospital just before she passed on during Easter weekend in 2011. In those three days at the hospital, she was surrounded by loved ones.

I’ve heard of people saying that Christians do not fear death, and that death can be a joyful thing. I think my mum was a great example. Not only did she bravely not cry, she even told us not to be upset. She was even cracking jokes and making all of us laugh.

The good humour was in part due to her jovial nature, and also the fact that she was no longer lucid as her body was intoxicated by her failing liver. Looking back, that was an aspect of God’s grace. It would have been so much tougher for us all if she was sobbing and weeping.

In the early morning of 23 April, when the sky was still dark, she asked if it was morning already. Mum remarked that it was “so bright” and that she could hear Somebody calling her name. I knew that was the Lord calling her Home by name. It was a Saturday.

I asked the Lord why He hadn’t brought her home on Easter Sunday itself. He led me to a specific verse that matched the date – 23/4.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Reading this verse, it brought to mind my mum’s peace and faith, instead of fear, even to the point of death. It was His way of assuring and comforting me that she was safe with Him in Heaven.

Yet, deep inside me, I have to be honest that there was period where I resented God for taking my mum away so soon. Her passing left me in a rut as I struggled to understand and accept her death: Why didn’t divine healing happen, even though I’d prayed for it every single day?

It has been more than six years since her passing. Sometimes, all I can do is to trust and have faith that the Lord has His purpose for it all because I can’t deny His goodness and presence through it all. Many divine moments marked my mum’s faith journey, so many that I was even able to write a book on them.

But the grief resurfaced twice, first when my dad had a heart attack in 2015, and again during his surgical procedure in 2017. I was worried about him, but it was the grief I hadn’t dealt with when Mum passed that felt overwhelming.

The night before my dad’s surgery, I felt the Lord asking me: What if the worst happens to your dad, what would you do? Would you abandon your faith in Me altogether?

I told God I would certainly be upset if I lost my father. But I also said that I could never abandon Him because He has been so real to me. After all He’s done for me, I told Him I trusted Him the most.

In that moment, I found peace.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it is that some things are just not meant for us to fully comprehend. It’s a horrible cliché, but that really is when faith matters: To be able to trust in God’s sovereignty through it all, though you do not understand the whole of it. And maybe never will on this side of eternity.

Is it normal then to doubt and question? Yes, the Bible is filled with a lot of characters who did, even the most holy of prophets! Questioning and doubting doesn’t make you any less of a Christian – not unless you decide to walk away from your faith altogether. But does walking away really change anything?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Though I have my occasional struggles with sorrow and faith, a part of me believes that the Lord is preparing me for something. These two quotes from the book The Colour of Grace really spoke to me:

“Nothing can hurt you if you can understand that whatever you are going through is your invitation to participate in the redemption of the world.”
Father Thomas Keating

“If scars could sing, their songs would be of triumph.”
Bethany Haley Williams

My mother’s journey remains a story to be told. Her passing has certainly enlarged my capacity to love and allowed me to journey with people who are going through similar trials of trauma and grief – something that I never thought that I’d be able to do in the past.

God sent His boats when I was stuck on the shore of my grief, disappointments and pain. I can imagine Mum smiling at me from Heaven; I know she would want me to continue living life to the fullest for Him.

These scars of mine will continue to sing with triumph, because my dear mother has found eternal life in the arms of Jesus.

“All that I am, or every hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
Abraham Lincoln


The author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

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“Stop window-shopping, it’s time to pay the price”: Will you be the one?

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 6:25 PM

He was speaking to a crowd of over 300 young people from more than 80 churches – gathered in an auditorium on a Thursday afternoon at the FOPx conference for youths – but there was someone specific Pastor Tan Seow How was looking for and speaking to.

“I’m not speaking to the 300 of you. I came here to preach to the one man, one woman who is God-ready. Ready to pay the price of surrender. Ready to rise up to change the world.”

Affectionately known at Heart of God Church as Pastor How, he reminded the congregation of something God said to Adam in Genesis 3:9, where He asked: “Where are you?”

“God isn’t really asking where we are. Don’t you think He knows?” said Pastor How. It wasn’t a matter of physical location. God’s question to Adam was one about willingness of heart – was Adam’s heart in the right place, and would he come to God? Where are you spiritually? Are you present? Are you ready?

And the reply He is looking for is: “Here I am! Send me!”

“Perhaps there are only 2, 5 or even just 10 in our midst,” he said, acknowledging that not everyone was going to be respond that way.

Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?

“It’s like window shopping,” said Pastor How. “You see something that you like in the store and it looks good. So what’s the next thing that you do? You reach for the item and you look at the price tag.”

He then drew the parallel between window shopping and surrender: There is a price tag, and not everyone will be willing to pay the price.

“It’s easy to come to a conference or hear a good message and get all excited, but it’s what you do after the conference that counts.

“Surrender is hard work – to serve God you might have to sleep less, be left out of the fun others are having, read the Bible, actively live a holy life …

“Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?”

Drawing reference from The Message version of Psalm 53:2, he asked the crowd again, “Who will be that one God-expectant man, that one God-ready woman?”

For God is looking for the one who is willing to stop window-shopping and pay the full price of surrender. The one willing to till the ground and usher in revival for the generation.


FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!

Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 5:19 PM

“When God tells you to do something, He’s not asking you to figure out how to do it. It’s up to you to obey. It’s up to God to do it.”

Ben Fitzgerald, leader of Awakening Europe and GODfest Ministries, opened this year’s FOPx Conference – themed “Surrender” – with a simple question: Whose wisdom are we going to live by?

“As a Christian, you’re supposed to be filled with God and His wisdom. It may look irrational to you, but God is not irrational – He is trans-rational. His thoughts transcend your thoughts.

“We only have to surrender and say yes.”

Referring to John the Baptist, Pastor Ben, who used to serve at Bethel Church, Redding, exhorted the 300 young participants of the National Youth Conference to faithfully obey as God calls, to prepare the way of the Lord.

“If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

“John had nothing naturally in him that anyone should have listened to him, but he had a yes in his spirit. He had zero – zero resources, zero qualifications – but he was close to the One.

“He simply bent his knee and allowed the Son of God to step across into His destiny. And you and I have the same call on our lives.”

He reiterated his point on this importance of submitting our humanly wisdom to the wisdom of God with the example of King David, who continually turned to God to ask Him how He wanted things done.

And because he always consulted in God’s rationality above his own, King David was able to surrender himself wholly and walk in God’s way throughout his years of kingship.

If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

Pastor Ben ended his sermon with a personal testimony of putting God’s wisdom above his own. During a trip to France, where he was due to speak in a local Church, he encountered a woman in a wheelchair on his way to service.

It was just 5 minutes till the service started and he had just enough time to walk to the Church, but something stirred in his spirit to stop and pray for the woman’s healing.

“I heard God tell me that He wanted to heal this woman, but I really didn’t want to be late for my speaking appointment – I almost wanted to tell Him to go ahead and do it Himself!” He said to a laughing crowd.

“But I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom to not be late, or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart. So I stopped and approached her.”

Although the woman spoke no English, her husband who was pushing her wheelchair did. His wife was suffering from a debilitating muscular disease and was no longer mobile. He allowed Pastor Ben to pray for her, but did not offer to translate.

I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart.

Pastor Ben went on to share that as he prayed, the woman began to writhe, but as he persisted in prayer, she suddenly went limp, as though something had left her body.

Speaking in rapid French to her husband, he explained that she was confounded by how the chronic pain in her back and legs had disappeared. She could move again! Overjoyed, she leapt up and embraced Pastor Ben.

That night, as the couple attended the service Pastor Ben was preaching at, they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. What’s more, the woman prayed for another lady in the congregation who was suffering from the same disease, and she too was healed on the spot.

“Imagine if I’d obeyed my watch instead of the watch of the Lord,” Pastor Ben said. “Your rationality should never get in the way of the wisdom of God.

“Whose wisdom are you going to live by?”


FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!

Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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White shoes dirty souls

by | 22 November 2017, 4:21 PM

My brand-new white shoes got dirtied within the span of just a few days. But of course, right? I know it sounds trivial – and I should have seen this coming when I bought them – but I was still really frustrated.

I really tried to keep them clean this time! But it’s as though white shoes are dirt magnets just for being white. It’s nearly impossible to keep them pristine as we walk around outside.

This got me thinking about something Jesus famously said to his disciples about their feet during the Last Supper.

SOLE SEARCHING

On the night He was about to be betrayed, Jesus, knowing what lay ahead for Him, decided to wash His disciples’ feet. Back then, when people walked long dusty distances in sandals and had their feet covered in all sorts of dirt and animal dung, this was the job of servants.

Peter, ever the expressive one, immediately refused – how can! – to which Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).

Hearing this, Peter probably panicked, requesting to have his head and hands washed too. Very Singaporean. But Jesus then responded, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean.” (John 13:10-11).

He was talking about the difference between justification and sanctification.

Justification is being restored to right standing before God. As sinners, we have no right to be reconciled to Him who is holy, but because of Jesus, who died for us, we are washed clean from sin by His blood, from the inside out. We are made righteous the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lordmy soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10)

But justification isn’t the end of the journey. As we walk through this world in our new white robes of righteousness, it’s really just like walking through a dusty land in white shoes. Our souls may be forever washed clean, but our soles are not!

Yes, Jesus has broken our chains and we are no longer slaves to Sin as believers (Romans 8:2) – we are justified once and for all! We don’t need to keep repeating the Sinner’s Prayer. But sinning is very much a reality in our lives because we still live in a sinful world (Romans 7:16-17). 

That’s why sanctification – the daily washing of feet – needs to happen.

To be sanctified is to be continually conformed to the image of Christ. The Bible says that the Spirit lives in the children of God and testifies that they belong to Christ (Romans 8:14, 16). Galatians 5:22-23 sums up the attributes of a believer truly living in accord with the Holy Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Sanctification is an ongoing process, a daily work. It’s like being curled out of our old ways and into a new way of living – the way of Jesus Christ. And just like paper that’s been curled for too long, we’re so used to the old postures of life that we’re prone to keep bouncing back even after we’ve been set free from our bondage to Sin and straightened out.

There are still times when I gossip, think badly of others, and lose my temper – among other things. Every day is a battle against these older tendencies to conform to– to intentionally comply to and choose – a higher way.

WASHED BY THE WORD

It is this part of salvation that I have to work out and live out continually, and it will only be completed when Jesus comes back for us again (Philippians 2:12; 1:6).

Like white shoes, we are dirtied to some extent every single day we spend in this world. You might have them defiled by getting stepped on by others, you might stumble into a puddle of muddy water.

Whatever it is, we have to continually work at washing the layers of grime off so that the white canvas may remain spotless.

“… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

Just as Peter let Jesus wash his feet, we have to be humble in coming to Him in our Quiet Time and letting Him sanctify us daily too.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

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Hope for the suffering Christian

by | 22 November 2017, 2:34 PM

Recently, I learnt from a cell group member that someone in our young adults ministry requires a serious operation due to the presence of a benign tumour. She’d sent a message to several chat groups, telling us to “remember our friend in prayer, and drop her a prayer and note of encouragement” if we could.

I found myself perplexed – what could anyone say to someone in this situation? It didn’t help that the doctor said that there was a possible chance of future recurrence.

Faced with such a situation, was there anything to be said that would make things better? Words seemed like mere platitudes, even hypocritical.

It is difficult to grapple with the notion that Christians may be “perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8) – pain is real and difficult to bear, hence despair seems to be the natural reaction, not its opposite, hope.

SUFFERING IS REAL

Physical death came into the world as Adam’s punishment for disobeying God’s command (Gen 3:19), and has also been passed down to Adam’s descendants (Romans 5:12) – all of us.

Likewise, sickness occurs as part and parcel of a fallen world – a consequence of Man’s collective rebellion against God. It does not discriminate among individuals (John 9:1-3); no one in this world has a get-out-of-suffering card.

Hence, it is important to note that suffering is valid and we should never downplay the tragedy of it.

As believers in the Greatest Hope, we may not feel permitted to be sad in the midst of trials and suffering; to not see them as such. On the contrary, the Bible tells us God’s people – Joseph in the book of Genesis, Naomi in the book of Ruth, King David, Job, the apostle Paul, among others – faced many trials!

Prophets wept. People of God cried out. Throughout the ages, good people have faced the scourge of suffering. We need to acknowledge that some parts of life truly hurt – and that’s okay because we’re not alone (1 Peter 5:9).

IS THERE PURPOSE IN SUFFERING?

Romans 8:28 tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” – the all-inclusive nature of this statement means God is working to use our circumstances to conform us into Christlikeness, even in suffering (Romans 8:29).

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to trust in God’s strength in the midst of their weaknesses – God used his suffering to strengthen the faith of other believers (2 Corinthians 1:6, 7). Paul concedes to be so utterly burdened beyond his strength that he “despaired of life itself”.

Yet, he also acknowledges the purpose in his suffering – to rely not on himself but on God (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9).

We can rejoice because God can, and will, conform us into Christlikeness in all circumstances, including tough times.

In the midst of suffering, we remember that God sent his Son into the world to suffer more than any man ever will. We cry out for help and comfort to a God who fully understands the pain of suffering and never forsakes us even in the fallenness of life.

It is because of this that Paul is able to rejoice even in prison because he knows that when God comes through for him, he will get to experience the same resurrection, saving power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead (Philippians 3:11).

REJOICE IN SUFFERING?

In Romans 5:3, we are told to rejoice in suffering. This sounds both counterintuitive and cruel at first glance. Yet, reading in context, we see why this is worth it – not that we remain happy in difficult circumstances themselves, but to rejoice in the fruit of suffering.

It bears explaining that “rejoicing” is more than being “happy” – even as Paul issues the command to rejoice, it is important to note the object of our rejoicing. On closer reading of Philippians, we realise the object of our rejoicing remains constant and doesn’t change with circumstances – we are able to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1, 4:4).

This contrasts with being happy – an emotional state which fluctuates with life’s circumstances.

We can rejoice because God can, and will, conform us into Christlikeness in all circumstances, including tough times. By looking to Christ’s sufficiency and power when faced with a difficult situation, we avoid giving in to resentment, bitterness and complaining. In this, our faith perseveres and is made stronger.

Furthermore, despite present suffering, we know we can rejoice in suffering because we have hope – we find hope in the person and saving work of Christ (Hebrews 6:19), which provides security and stability for our souls.

In light of this knowledge, this is how I will now respond to my friend’s predicament:

Dear friend,

I’m not sure what I can say – I know my words can’t change your situation. Both you and your family may be feeling scared, possibly also in anticipation of hospital charges and medical bills – which might be hefty. It’s a horrible situation to be in – and it’s not your first time undergoing this operation.

But this is what I hope you’ll remember – God’s love for you doesn’t fluctuate, even though your health does. God is using this for His glory, to grow you in Christlikeness. While that looks different for each person, your friends are encouraged that despite tough circumstances, your faith in God is never lost. I’m sure that pleases God!

We’ll be praying for God’s peace on you and your family.

Love and blessings,
Me

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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The Modern Sabbath: Separating fact from fiction

by | 22 November 2017, 12:07 PM

One of today’s marks of a good Christian is one’s attendance of Church on Sunday morning.

Stay with me on that one. Why is attendance on Sunday even a benchmark of faith? Well, because of the fourth Commandment: Honour the Sabbath and keep it holy (Deuteronomy 5:12).

That means we have to go to Church on Sundays to sing songs, listen to someone talk for a while and throw some loose change into the bag before real life resumes around lunchtime. Penance paid, duties completed. Hey, maybe God will bless me with a bonus or good grades if I keep this up.

If you’re nodding your head – I hope it’s because you like sarcasm.

But seriously speaking, to properly understand the biblical concept of the Sabbath, it’ll be helpful to first consider some of the church’s misconceptions and disagreements over it for the past two millennia.

SABBATH ≠ “WORSHIP DAY”

In Mosaic Law, the Sabbath, or shabbat, was introduced to the Israelites as a holy day on which no work was to be performed following six days of work (Deuteronomy 5, Exodus 16, 31, 35, Nehemiah 13, Jeremiah 17).

In our terms, it actually falls on a Saturday, and till this day it begins on Friday night and ends after nightfall on Saturday. Their “first day” of the week is what we know as Sunday.

There are certain instructions given for a “holy convocation” or gathering to occur on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23), with special rites being performed (Numbers 28). The Sabbath was kept as a sign of God’s sanctification of the Israelites as they journeyed in a foreign land (Exodus 31:13).

However, in this post-captive Israelite community, worship was continually performed by the tribe of Levi, who continually made sacrifices on behalf of the wider community of Israelites. This worship wasn’t just on the Sabbath.

So while the Sabbath could well be an aspect of Jewish worship, they were not entirely the same thing.

For Gentile believers, we do not live by the same covenant. In the New Testament, Christians were recorded meeting in synagogues, not to worship, but to evangelise to the Jews who were gathered there, just as Paul did in Acts 18:4.

Early Christians met often – some every day – to study the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Unlike the Jews who met on the Sabbath, the Bible tells us these Christians met on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7), and were not bound to worship on the Sabbath day.

But even though the early Christians didn’t officially keep the Sabbath, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should follow suit. Discernment is key.

SO WHAT’S UP WITH SUNDAY SERVICE?

The Sunday worship tradition practiced by most churches today honours Christ’s resurrection, which took place on the day after the Sabbath (Matthew 28:1) – remember, the Sabbath falls on our Saturday – and was sealed in tradition by the authority of the Church over centuries.

There’s also a theory that examines the politics of the Roman Empire – some 300 years after Christ. In those days, Egyptian Mithraists set aside Sundays for their worship of the sun-god.

Sunday. Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

As Christianity grew and became secularised by politics, Church leaders wanted to attract some of these pagans into their ranks, and incorporated some pagan customs into Christian church ceremonies.

To differentiate themselves from Jews and win pagans over, they decided to appropriate the pagan festival of Sunday and turn it into an official Christian and civil holiday.

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping.

Over time, the Catholic church assimilated this practice into their official doctrine, and subsequent generations of believers simply took their word for it.

“The Lord’s Day” soon replaced the concept of Sabbath entirely, reducing it to a kind of personal discipline similar to tithing or fasting. 

So traditions have nothing to do with the biblical concept of the Sabbath. Neither Christ’s death and resurrection, nor the Catholic Church’s convenient strategy should’ve made a difference to God’s original blessing (Mark 2:27).

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping (Romans 6:3-6).

So, since I’m not Jewish, should I even bother about the Sabbath? Hold that thought – but prepare it for the gallows.

THE SABBATH IS NOT JUST A JEWISH THING

The concept of Sabbath actually predates Judaism entirely. Meaning “rest” in Hebrew, Sabbath follows a period of work, as seen from the account of Genesis.

Clues of its origins can be found in various languages worldwide, most of which are unrelated to Hebrew.

In over 100 diverse languages throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa, many unrelated to ancient Hebrew, “Sabbath” refers to Saturday, which was a designated day of rest. For example, in Ancient Babylon – which existed centuries before Abraham and the Hebrew race – the seventh day of the week was called “sa-ba-tu”.

Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. If His likeness is your life’s pursuit, the Sabbath is for you.

Despite the evolution of language over time, the original word for “rest” is still fairly recognisable in modern variants of these tongues.

And if you’re tempted to believe you can read the New Testament without the Old, here’s food for thought: Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself (Luke 6:5) – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. 

Jesus understood the importance of the Sabbath when He customarily read Scripture in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). He even honoured the Sabbath in the grave.

If Jesus is your Lord, and His likeness is your life’s pursuit – the Sabbath is for you.

THE SABBATH IS NOT SIMPLY “ANY DAY”

In the creation story, God rested after six days of work.

Now wait a minute. Why does God even need to rest? Does that imply a certain lack of strength or ability on God’s part? Of course not – that would go against His omnipotent nature.

After seeing that His work was good (Genesis 1:31), God set aside a full day (literal or allegorical) for the purpose of rest, blessing it and calling it holy. On Day Seven, God simply basked in the enjoyment of His creation.

And He still invites us to be a part of that practice.

 The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

This seventh-day Sabbath is what the Jews were called to obey in Scripture as part of their Mosaic covenant. The Bible says it carries the special blessing of God.

Remember the hundred over ancient languages we talked about earlier? Among all the languages which used the word “Sabbath”, none of them designated a rest day apart from the seventh.

Perhaps seventh day rest extends far beyond the timeframe and locality of Jewish culture, given the plethora of cultures which point to the seventh day for rest.

THE SABBATH IS NOT AN OUTDATED RULE

In Mark 2:27, after being rebuked by Pharisees for letting his disciples “break” the Sabbath law, Jesus speaks of how their great king David was no different.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

The Pharisees had missed the point. The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
(Leviticus 19:9-10)

It precisely because of this law that Jesus’ disciples were able to be fed physically. If our practice of the Sabbath prevents us from exercising kindness and compassion, then we also have missed the point.

The Sabbath is intended for our ultimate redemption in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 66:22-23). It is part of God’s blueprint for a joyful, fulfilling and meaningful existence.

When you find yourself running on empty, losing the joy of living, or simply going through the motions of a bleak and meaningless existence – slow down.

Take a deep breath. You could use an injection of some Sabbath essence in your life.

THE SABBATH IS NOT “DOING NOTHING”

Practising the true Sabbath imbues in us a profound sense of responsibility towards ourselves, our fellow humans and the entire world we live in.

It’s more than a day each week – it’s every dayIt’s more than a Jewish thing – it’s for everybodyIt’s not an outdated way of living – it’s past, present, and future reconciled God’s way.

And it’s actually more than making God happy. It’s about trust, gratitude, and true rest expressed through the unforced rhythms of grace.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

/ kenneth@thir.st

Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.

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