HEARING GOD THROUGH SABBATH REST (Series 2)

Part 3 of 3

As Jim (my husband) and I travel we are privileged in this season to sit and listen. Our community has become our sisters and brothers serving around the world.  I sit back in amazement as to how God has orchestrated and discipled us to bring us to where we are. As we sit and allow the Holy Spirit to mesh hearts with those whom we connect with, the doors are open to hear one God-story after another of how JESUS is discipling them. We find we can relate on many levels. Only the true God can bring people together as if they have been together forever or pick up right where we left off.  The Scripture says the purpose of a man’s heart is deep waters but a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5) Jim and I are always delighted to see how the Holy Spirit allows others to trust us enough to share their deepest heart issues. Truly a gift from God and we don’t take it lightly.  

As much as we enjoy these exposures, we get tired like any other person. We need to take time away to rest, regroup, and remember by focusing in on Jesus, involving family and local community, not just on a daily basis but working toward more extended times, weekly. We are continually a work in progress.  Can you relate to that continuum…?

As we continue with part 3 of 3 of Pastor Neil Olcott’s message of Sept. 17, 2017, preached at Compass Point : “What did God intend for His people to hear in the Old Testament when He commanded for them to take a Sabbath?”    

So far what have you heard and learned from Jesus through Pastor Neil?  

Part 1 GOD TAKES A REST: God who never sleeps, who is all-powerful and ever-present, decides to take the day of rest on the Seventh day.  

REST TO GOD IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Part 2 REST IS A COMMAND

GOD ‘BLESSED” AND “SET ASIDE” THE SEVENTH DAY: A special kind of Rest focused on Him.

THE SABBATH REST ALLOWS GOD TO SPEAK TO US FROM HIS CREATION.

Part 3:  In this blog we will see from Pastor Neill message:

TAKING TIME TO SABBATH CONTINUALLY SPEAKS TO US OF GOD”S SALVATION:  Focusing on God as the source of our salvation.

THE SABBATH REST ALLOWS GOD TO SPEAK TO US OF HIS WORK IN OUR LIVES: Focusing on God as the source of all of our provisions, and blessings.

And SABBATH REST IS TO BE GOOD NEWS: Focusing on God who is the source of all of our joy.

As we know the only way to have a more fruitful and abundant life is through Jesus and spending time in relationship with Him first but how much more fitting when we take Sabbath Rests?  This may mean reevaluating your life’s rhythm(s) or finding ways to change your mindset in the midst of those seasons of life when you feel you are just surviving.

“THE SABBATH CONTINUALLY SPEAKS TO US OF GOD”S SALVATION

by Pastor Neil Olcott

Deuteronomy 5:15 “You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”

The mighty hand and the outstretched arm of God were not wearied by the work of creation. They are full of strength. God’s rest was not for recuperation, but for exultation. Now the same God has shown his power not just to create but also to save. So the focus of the sabbath is on God not only as the source of creation, but also as the source of salvation.

“Your God brought you up out of the land of Egypt . . . THEREFORE he commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” One day of rest in every seven, kept holy to the Lord, reminds us and shows the world that GOD is our creator and our deliverer—we did not make ourselves, we cannot sustain or save ourselves without his grace. “Be still and know that he is God so that He will be exalted among the nations” Psalm 46:10.

 

THE SABBATH REST ALLOWS GOD TO SPEAK TO US OF HIS WORK IN OUR LIVES. 

What did the Lord say at the exodus from Egypt? (Ex. 31;12-13)

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.

Exodus 31:12–13 stresses again the truth that the sabbath signifies our utter reliance on God’s grace.

“And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.”

The sabbath is a sign. It points to a truth that we are never to forget. The truth is that God (and not we ourselves) has sanctified us. He has chosen us and set us apart and worked to make us distinct among the peoples of the earth.

In Summary Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 and Exodus 31:13 teach that the sabbath is a way of remembering and expressing the truth that God is our creator and deliverer and sanctifier. We are dependent on him for all we have in the world, for our deliverance from enemies, and for our holiness. He has indeed designed that we work. But our work neither creates, nor saves, nor sanctifies. For these we depend on the blessing of God. All things are from him and through him and to him. Lest we ever forget this and begin to take our strength and thought and work too seriously, we should keep one day in seven to cease from our labors and focus on God as the source of all blessing.

SABBATH REST IS TO BE GOOD NEWS 

It is a shame that for so many people, sabbath keeping is thought of solely in terms of what you can’t do. Its original intention was certainly intended to be good news not bad news. The sabbath command is in fact a command to experience joy.

Isaiah 58:13-14 (NIV)

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God’s purpose for us on the sabbath is that we experience the highest and most intense joy that can be experienced, namely, that we “take delight in the Lord.” And yet what he finds again and again is professing Christians who prefer little human-sized pleasures from things that have no close relation to God at all.

If you worked seven days a week in the hot sun to keep life and limb together, with scarcely any time for leisure and reflection, would you consider it burdensome if your God came to you with omnipotent authority and said, “I don’t want you to have to work so much. I want you to have a day to rest and enjoy what really counts in life. I promise to meet your needs with just six days of work”? That is not a cruel command. It is a gracious gift.

WHY SO MANY PEOPLE THINK OF THE SABBATH AS A BURDEN

The reason that so many people feel it as a burden is partly that we have so much leisure, we don’t feel the need for the sabbath rest; but more important, I think, is the fact that not many people really enjoy what God intended us to enjoy on the sabbath, namely, Himself. Many professing Christians enjoy sports and television and secular books and magazines and recreation and hobbies and games far more than they enjoy direct interaction with God in his Word or in worship or in reading Christian books or in meditative strolls.

Therefore, inevitably people whose hearts are set more on the pleasures of the world than on the enjoyment of God will feel the sabbath command as a burden not a blessing. This is what John says in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

The measure of your love for God is the measure of the joy you get in focusing on him on the day of rest.

It invites us to enjoy what we don’t enjoy and therefore shows us the evil of hearts, and our need to repent and be changed.

IN CONCLUSION: 

Imagine your life with a regular sabbath rest. What do you do with those twenty-four hours if God forbids work? Nap in a hammock. Swing on a porch swing, sipping lemonade. Talk with friends. Catch crawfish in the creek with the kids.” Sit at his feet and enjoy him? 

“The Bible tells us that the sabbath is a foretaste of the kingdom of God, where children play in the streets and everyone sits in the shade of their own vineyard. Imagine: God wants such a life for us! An endless summer afternoon, spent in the company of people we love.” Hopefully God Himself, as well. “God says, Why wait for heaven? Start doing it now.”(refer to Pastor Neil Olcott of Compass Point Church )  

What are you hearing from God for what He intended for the Sabbath rest ? 

PERSONAL REFLECTION:  How should you put into practice these truths you are hearing? How are you experiencing God’s blessing’s once you make room for a Sabbath Rest? What mindset(s) do you need to change or have changed to make it happen?  Would love to see your thoughts in the comment session of Hearing God through Sabbath Rest (series 2/Part 3 of 3).

From One Pilgrim to another together on the journey,

along with Pastor Neil Olcott of Compass Point Church

”Consider how you may spur one another on towards love and good deeds….. encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

“ Intentionally journaling alongside of mission minded women in order to encourage them to see God in their story, moving them closer to Jesus, and to discover their place in God’s Kingdom so God will be worshipped among the nations” 

HEARING GOD SPEAK THROUGH SABBATH REST (Series 2)

PART 2 of 3

You say why so much talk on Sabbath Rest?  In today’s world there is so much info, so much busyness and business hype it feels like if “you snooze you lose”. Yet, more than ever, we see so much stress related health issues today, burnouts, depression, and broken relationships. Something has to give. So how does sabbath rest fit in? Does it help that God says it is a command and we aren’t taking it serious?  

We are going to look at more thoughts, along with some of mine, from Pastor Neil Olcott’s message preached on September 17, 2017  “What did God intend for His people to hear in the Old Testament when He commanded for them to take a Sabbath?” (Part 2 )

Last week we looked at:

GOD HIMSELF TAKES A REST: The God who never sleeps, who is all-powerful and ever-present, decides to take the day of rest on the Seventh day.  

REST TO GOD IS SERIOUS BUSINESS: A sabbath rest gives us a chance to become conscious of the eternity in our time,and  to live mindful of the presence of God.

And now we will see:  SABBATH REST IS A COMMAND, GOD “BLESSED” AND “SET ASIDE” THE SEVENTH DAY and THE SABBATH REST ALLOWS GOD TO SPEAK TO US FROM HIS CREATION.

As you read see what you are hearing from God when it comes to God’s Sabbath Rest in your life. (more…)

HEARING GOD SPEAK THROUGH SABBATH REST (Series 2)

Pastor Neil Olcott's Sermon September 17, 2017 Part 1 of 3

Exodus 31:17 (NIV) It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”

I love the way God works. Here we have been discussing Sabbatical Rest and this Sunday my pastor, Pastor Neil Olcott preached on: “Hearing God Speak Through Sabbath Rest”  

I asked him if I could edit it and use it for you. It is a great follow up from the last blog by Dr. Jim O’Neill who wrote “God on Sabbath.”

GOD RESTED ON THE 7th DAY AND IT WAS CONSIDERED HOLY.

GOD TALKS ABOUT A CERTAIN KIND OF SABBATH REST.

This blog series by Pastor Neil will be in 3 parts

Part 1: Introduction

He started off reminding us, God speaks to us in many ways: through nature, other people, His Word, and the Scriptures. We are created in His image, to have a relationship with him and to live in community. Unfortunately, we find that we, too often isolate ourselves and shut ourselves off from others due to a fear that we don’t have time or they might overwhelm us with their personal problems and issues. The danger of this is we are unknowingly cutting off the very important way in which God speaks into our lives. We diminish this avenue of communication from God to us and to others.

Even though our tendency is to isolate and protect ourselves, in truth, the opposite is true as well. We often fail to truly stop from our busyness, and schedules, long enough to enjoy any form of a Sabbath rest.

Or may I (Sterling O’Neill) add, too, as workers for God’s Kingdom we often give to others at the expense of not taking time for ourselves. I cannot count on my hands how many times I hear God’s people, who are in ministry in response to my question “How are you?”.

Their answer “I am busy and tired but there is great joy. Or “I feel a little overwhelmed but God is good” and pass over how they are really feeling or doing. Are we really being honest with each other? Or giving ourselves permission to rest and allow our emotions or energy to catch up to where we are. or has busyness become so normal we feel if we aren’t busy or tired we aren’t really doing something for God? Eventually it will get the best of us one way or another.  

With all the changes and transitions that Mission/Ministry Workers experience along with Spiritual Warfare it can be exhausting and lonely. Busyness and isolation has almost become normal and we feel lazy if we aren’t doing something.  

I for one often feel guilty personally if I am resting. To be truthful I am guilty of not sharing how I really feel for fear of being judged, or not understood. Because maybe I shouldn’t be feeling this way, or something is wrong with my walk with God. Every entertain these thoughts?  

Taking a Sabbath rest is a great way to reconnect to God in the midst of these unsettled times and see our need for Him and others in our lives. A time to slow down and get eternal perspective.  

Neil continues to say, that the Sabbath rest, instituted and practiced by God Himself is supposed to be a part of every Christians life and yet we fail to practice a Sabbath rest. To be honest, we don’t really understand it or we simply ignore it.  

Where are you on the continuum?

 

What are we doing when we aren’t honest or don’t understand it or even ignore it? We are hurting ourselves and our relationship with God and our ability to hear Him speak into our lives as a result of our neglect to connect with Him through Sabbath Rest that He commanded of us.  

Most of us have a difficult time imagining a day devoted to rest. We admire people who work hard and play hard. We have weekend projects, maintaining home or yard or garden. We travel or watch television. We have ball games and family obligations and hobbies. There is too much to do and too little time, and anyway, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right?

Sure, sometimes we feel the stress of busyness. We know we need a break, and we say that we should stop and smell the roses so to speak. But there never seems to be enough time for rest. We make distinctions between regular time and “quality time.” We know the consequences of such stress: high blood pressure, heart attacks, broken relationships, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and so on. Yet even knowing these things we still push on and refuse to take a Sabbath rest.

 

YET GOD RESTED

 

How strange! A God who never sleeps, who is all-powerful and ever-present, decides to take the day of rest! And because God rested, God directs God’s people to rest

Exodus 31:17 (NIV) It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”

 

REST IS SERIOUS BUSINESS

 

The word sabbath actually comes from the Hebrew verb for “he rested.” God instructs his people to keep the sabbath holy as a perpetual sign of the covenant between God and Israel. In fact, God takes the day of rest so seriously that the community should put to death “everyone who profanes” the sabbath.  

Exodus 31:14 (NIV) “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. Rest is serious business! Serious enough that God rested.

The truth is we all die, regardless of how we spend our time. When we die we will leave behind unfolded laundry, unchecked items on our to-do lists, unkept appointments on our calendars. Our business will not be finished. Staring at our calendar we realize our entire schedules should be written in pencil, because it all depends on the second-by-second beating of our hearts, tentative, subject to change at a moment’s notice.

A sabbath rest gives us a chance to become conscious of the eternal in our time, to live mindful of the presence of God.

Our time here is too precious not to take a sabbath rest. If God took time to rest and commanded we rest too as a sign of His covenant with His people,, we should see it as serious business too.  For each person and family it will look different and may change with each season of life. 

What are you hearing from God for what He intended for the Sabbath rest?  

Next blog…. will continue Pastor Neil’s thoughts on, Hearing God Speak through Sabbath Rest” Part 2

Personal Reflection:  When you think of God taking a rest what are you hearing?  How serious is sabbath rest to you today? How can the Sabbath Rest give you a chance to become conscious of the eternal and to live mindful of God’s Presence in your life? We would all love to hear your thoughts in the comment section of “ Hearing God Speak Through Sabbath Rest”

From One Pilgrim to another together on the journey,

”Consider how you may spur one another on towards love and good deeds….. encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

“ Intentionally journaling alongside of mission minded women in order to encourage them to see God in their story, moving them closer to Jesus, and to discover their place in God’s Kingdom so God will be worshipped among the nations” 

THE LOST ART OF THE SABBATICAL REST SERIES 1

God on Sabbath (Part 3 of 3)


“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

By Guest Writer Dr. Jim O’Neill, Author of “Teaming up with God

God did the unthinkable; He rested on the 7th day. After 6 creating filled days with minutes, hours and days full of bringing the universe out of nothing. He concluded the week with a rest. This would be called the Sabbath…the rest. This would become so important that God would call it ‘holy’. Rest is holy? Yes!

Does rest work? We humans cannot function well without rest, both nightly and weekly. When the Communists took control of Russia in 1917 within a short period of time Vladimir Lenin and their leaders sought to remove all vestiges of Christian influence including the 7 day work/rest sequence. They created a 2-week cycle for work and animal care. Within months their animals could not sustain this much work without rest as this new pattern was destroying their economy. When their animals and humans functional rhythms disintegrated, the leaders had to admit there was something to this Christian idea of rest. They had to go back to the 7-day cycle or risk of destroying the social order. (more…)

THE LOST ART OF THE SABBATICAL REST SERIES 1

5 Practices to Jump Start your Sabbath (Part 2 of 3)


(Psalms 42:7)  “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me”  

(Guest writer with Sterling is Dr. Jim O’Neill)

Wayne Miller notes in “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and delight in our busy lives” that we are driven by three values, “consumption, speed, and productivity consumption have become the most valued human commodities.” These values hinder us from giving careful attention to our souls.

What I would like to suggest is 5 practices to help jump start us forward in attending to our souls and push back against these cultural trends.

  1.  IMPORTANCE OF LOCATION:

Find a place isolated from unnecessary noise. If possible a venue with no or little computer or cell service. A place that is beautiful and meaningful to you. The correlation between the physical space outdoors and meeting with God seems to be evident throughout Scripture.

Jim and I love the beach or the mountains. Sometimes it might just be a free place provided to just get away from the familiar. Last year right before we resigned from our last ministry assignment, a ministry couple, friends from college, happened to come through to visit. After our sweet time, they offered their place at the beach for us to use anytime. God knew, but we didn’t, we would be in need of asking our friends, one month later, for their place.

When you think of a sabbath, how important do you think the location is for you? What spot might be meaningful, beautiful and/or free from unnecessary noise for you? (more…)

The Lost Art of the Sabbatical Rest Series 1

Making The Case For Sabbath Rest (Part 1 of 3)

 Blog entry written by both Jim and Sterling O’Neill

About Dr. Jim O’Neill: Husband of Sterling O’Neill.  Been married now almost 37 years. Degrees in Pastoral, Missiology and Anthropology. Served in the Philippines for 13 years and in missions work for over 36 years. Leader, Speaker, and Author of “Teaming up with God: Theology of Pre-Evangelism”.

” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… (Matthew 11:28)

 

Why did it take us, so long to pursue a sabbath rest for our own souls? We love the Lord and we love ministry but we had definite seasons where we were serving on empty in our spiritual tank. We did not grow up in a ministry context where we valued rest for the soul.

After one busy ministry season one pastor graciously asked, “Have you taken time to rest?  

Sure,” we said, “We take times off for dates,vacations, extra study and think tank times. We think we do pretty good in these areas. It just has been a busy season. ”  

He said “How about times where you are unplugging from your computer or cell phones?”

Ouch! “Noooo! Not really. Great question!” Guilty!
(more…)

If WE HAD YIELDED TO A RAT

Cultureshock

Psalms 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (NIV) 

Jim, myself and the singing group of young people arrived in Bohol, Philippines on June of 1982.We were exhausted from a long trip but excited at the same time.  After a few days the group would go back to the USA and we would stay behind on Bohol making this our home for the next four years.

The next day we headed off on a bus, stopping at various churches or towns outside the city, to minister and share Christ.  

CultureShock #1:  Riding on the roads of Bohol in a bus was interesting to say the least.  Rounding the curves at high speed made you feel like your life was over.  It was scary but somehow we all made it. The Filipino drivers seem to know every inch of that road and got us to where we needed to be every time in one piece.  

James 4:14 “Life is but a vapor it appears for a little while but vanishes away.” Everyday, after those bus trips,  this verse seemed to become a reality and an opportunity to realize our lives are definitely in the hands of God and not our own. :}

CultureShock #2:  After a week of setting up and taking down equipment you could sense that everyone was feeling tired and ready for their trip to end. The outskirts of Bohol was definitely not your 5 star hotel like in Manila, where we had stayed the weeks before.   (more…)

Summer 2016

Living with a Thankful Heart

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Psalm 27:4-5 says “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”

There are Seasons of Life where it seems when it rains it pours. Is the same God on the throne during those times as He is when all is good? Is God good? Often when going through hard times we question God. Nothing wrong with that but use it as an opportunity to lean into God rather than run from Him knowing that He is God! He can handle it.

Find things to be thankful for in the midst of these hard times is crucial.  

This summer 2016 was one of those seasons for me. It isn’t the first and I am sure it will not be the last. However, this one was hard in the midst of so much grieving. But I can say as I look back on it, it was one of the most rewarding.     (more…)

WHAT STORY ARE YOU DYING TO TELL?

The importance of writing down your stories

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I John 1:4-5, “4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

What excuses are you making for not writing down your stories? We share our stories but we often don’t write them down. Can you say God is working in your life? How much more could God be praised by others reading about what Jesus is doing in your daily stories?

A Few Examples of Excuses 

     1. Sterling’s personal story: 

I have a learning disability.  I often get my words mixed up. I have to say things in my head first before I say them out loud or they come out backwards. I often struggle through saying big words with 3 or more syllabus.

You could say like me, “I don’t see myself as a writer”. I know if I want others to tell their stories, I have to do it too.  I want to set the example that God can work through someone even like me who has trouble speaking sometimes. If I had used this as an excuse you wouldn’t be hearing my stories; this blog would never have happened.

So what do I do? I have friends and various people who like what I have to say and are willing to take their gift of editing and correct my work so it is readable for you. I didn’t say perfect, but readable. :}

     2. Moses’ story, in the Bible: 

We have the stories of Moses and are encouraged by them.  Exodus 4 tells us that Moses had trouble with his speech. What did God do? God gave him Aaron to speak for him but eventually Moses learned to speak himself.

The more we do something the better we get at it. Take time to read his story and maybe like me you will be encouraged.

Why Write Down Your Stories?

(more…)

LIFE CAN BE HARD

Put your Hope in God

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“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23.  

Life Sucks” as our son often remarked when younger. I don’t know about you but some days just feels that way. God has been reminding me lately again that His mercies are new each morning and His love is steadfast and never ceasing. God is faithful!

He is not only faithful but gentle!  If He can be gentle with me I can be gentle with myself.    

I’ve been wondering how many of us have quoted Lamentations 3:22 and 23, yet never taken time to look at the verses around it?

My pastor sometime back walked us through this passage and now these words have taken on new meaning. Just what is the context of which these verses were written, and why were they written?  

A story of a man named Jeremiah author of Lamentations 3, tells us that God’s mercies are new each day and His steadfast love never ceases, yet he had great trials, and was currently going through great affliction. If anyone could say “life sucks” it would be Jeremiah.   

The whole chapter leading up to Lamentations 3:22 and 23 tells us that Jeremiah experienced a bleak life of darkness, where he was often left to die. He found himself in all kinds of tribulations becoming even bitter at life. He would, at those moments, often cry out to God, yet feeling as if God was ignoring him and didn’t hear him.    

Maybe you feel (or have felt) that God isn’t answering your prayers? Maybe life is bleak and dark right now and you have no answers? (more…)