Responding to external problems

What keeps you awake at night? According to the World Economic Forum, the biggest risks facing our world in 2019 are climate change, natural disasters, large-scale conflicts and cyber attacks. And many people struggle with poverty. David wrote many psalms in the Bible and it seems as though he spent many sleepless nights. One of the biggest problems he faced was that king Saul wanted to kill him. During this time period, David lived as a fugitive, seeking refuge in various places and moving around to avoid Saul and his men (1 Sam. 18-30). He feared for his life. Also, the Philistines were a perennial enemy of Israel and David faced them in battles. The best known of these is his victory over Goliath.

25 of the psalms are prayers by David for God’s help against his enemies. But most of these (84%) end up praising God and with an assurance that God has heard his prayer and will answer it. And only 8% have no praise or assurance. For example, in Psalm 54 David prays for deliverance from enemies (Saul’s supporters) who are trying to kill him (v.1-5). The Ziphites betrayed David by revealing his location to Saul (1 Sam. 23:19-20). So David writes:

Save me (from enemies), O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.
Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
people without regard for God.
Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.

David is in a desperate situation. But he knows that God can help him. So he doesn’t cry out in despair or give up in self-pity. The psalm ends with praise and thanksgiving because he is confident that his prayer has been heard (v. 6-7).

I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.
You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

The promise to praise the Lord is written from the perspective that God has already answered the prayer (David has been delivered from his enemies), even if the actual answer has not yet come. The freewill offering is a voluntary expression of thanksgiving.

We all have external things, circumstances or people that can cause us anxiety and worry. Like work, or education, or family, or relationships, or social media, or peer pressure, or even the weather. How do we respond to such external problems? Let’s be like David and not be ruled by our external circumstances. He was a man of prayer and praise. Then our external circumstances won’t stop us remembering what God has done or stop us praising God.

The psalms were songs the Jews used for corporate worship. Can we block out our external problems from Sunday morning? Today we sang “Here I am to worship”. Are we always here to worship or do these things take us away? Is anything else more important than worshipping God?

George Hawke

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Responding to personal problems

chemotherapy 3 400pxMy parents in-law are going through tough times with weakness because of chemotherapy and confusion because of dementia. We can all experience such internal problems, which can be physical or mental. After all, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33).

Twelve of the psalms are prayers for God’s help for illness or depression (Ps 6, 13, 16, 30, 38, 41, 42, 43, 71, 88, 102, 116). In these lament psalms the psalmist brings their problems to God. But most of them (83%) end with praise to God. For example, Psalm 13 describes David’s suffering:

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts [he was depressed]
and day after day have sorrow in my heart [soul, spirit]?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes [restore me], or I will sleep in death [he feared death],
and my enemy [perhaps Saul] will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

He feels as though God is distant, that God has forgotten him, and that God is inactive in not punishing evil. And he suffered the constant humiliation of being on the losing side. But it ends with David’s joy as he anticipates God’s love and deliverance:

5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for He has been good to me.

He is confident in God’s protection because of his past experience that God has been good to him. He feels assured that the prayer will be or has been heard.

How do we respond to personal problems? Let’s be like David and not be ruled by our personal circumstances. He was a man of prayer and praise who remembered God’s love and God’s deliverance. When we look to God to help us see beyond our troubles, they won’t dominate our perspective. Then our personal  circumstances won’t stop us remembering what God has done or stop us praising God. And our feelings won’t stop us remembering what God has done or stop us praising God. So let’s remember God’s love and God’s salvation in all situations.

The Jews had to travel to Jerusalem three times a year for corporate praise and worship (Ex. 23:14-17; Dt. 16:16-17). We don’t have to travel that far, but the pattern set for corporate praise and worship in the New Testament for the Christian church is weekly. Let’s attend church regularly so we can offer praise and worship to God together and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And don’t stay away because of our feelings or personal problems. It’s only through God that we can see these in proper perspective.

George Hawke

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God’s good news

Good news 5 400pxThe news in the daily news media is usually bad news. It’s often about disasters and tragedies like accidents, fires, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. Fortunately in a world where bad news dominates, God has given us good news.

When Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth, he addressed those who denied the possibility of the resurrection of the body after death. He corrected them by saying that Jesus died and was resurrected: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

And because Christ lived and died, we can infer that He was also born (the incarnation). The reason He came to earth was because humanity was separated from God and under God’s judgment. This problem was caused because people rebelled against the God who made them in the beginning.

Paul said, “Christ died for our sins”. He died to pay the penalty that our sins deserved. After Jesus was raised back to life He ascended back to heaven. And He promised to return and resurrect all those who believed that He died for their sins.

Putting all this together we have God’s good news story. Paul says it’s the most important news for us to know.

God made a perfect world. But people rebelled against their Maker and came under His judgment. Since then they suffer from broken relationships, they put other people down, they lack peace, and they are enslaved to their idols. So God sent Jesus to pay the penalty that our sins deserved. Jesus died, was buried and rose back to life in a resurrected body. He ascended back to heaven and has promised to return and resurrect those who have trusted in Him and take them to heaven. God’s followers are reconciled with God, delivered from their sinful ways, adopted into His family, find their identity and freedom in Jesus Christ, and have peace with God. Jesus is the hero in this historical story. He is the person we are to know, love and worship.

In our celebrations, let’s not forget to remember and celebrate God’s good news.

George Hawke

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Experiencing God through Worship

Metropolitan club 1 400pxBeing in the presence of someone more accomplished than yourself can be very intimidating. In 2010, I was invited to speak at a conference in the Metropolitan Club in New York. Men are required to wear jackets and ties at all times. Mobile phones or laptops are to be used only in designated rooms in the building.

My invite didn’t mention a dress code and so I turned up in business casuals. I neither had a suit nor a tie. Thankfully I wasn’t sent away but was directed at the gate to get a tie and coat from the cloak room. Embarrassed and waiting at the counter, I was immediately noticed as an outsider as someone not meeting the standard of the etiquette set for the venue.

I finished my talk, stayed for couple of other talks and decided to leave at around 5 pm. To my horror all the exits of the hall I was in were blocked by the US secret service. You could tell, they couldn’t be messed around with as they were tall solidly built men with sharp eyes, wired to the core and loaded with weapons and ammunition underneath their jackets.

I was escorted almost by hand out to a passage to another agent who led me down the stairs. I was told that a VIP was coming over to speak that evening at the venue, they were polite about the inconvenience caused to me. When I turned to look very quickly, from a distance I saw Joe Biden, the former US Vice President, being escorted to another room. He was the VIP.

Imagine being in the presence of a powerful and influential person. Imagine being asked to perform a craft in front of a person who knows all about your trade and more. Imagine you are in the presence of someone who knows everything about you. Peter felt like that in Luke 5. When Simon Peter saw this (the catch of fish, and Peter’s failure at being a fisherman), he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:8-11).

Peter felt imperfect, afraid, and lonely even though he was surrounded by people he knew and circumstances he was accustomed to. But the Lord takes Peter’s insecurities, fear and inadequacies and turns it into something beautiful, from catching fish to catching people.

Not much later in Luke 17, we read of the 10 lepers who were healed of leprosy. If Peter’s was a spiritual transformation, theirs was a physical transformation. This meant in their day, reconciliation and acceptance in the society they were ostracised from. Yet only one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17: 15–17).

God deserves our worship for who He is. But returning to God in worship without fear or intimidation knowing that He has a keen interest in us and that He changes us is special. Whenever we turn to God in worship, we are thankful for what Jesus has done for us. Worship that stems from a sense of failure, emptiness, brokenness, gratitude and thankfulness always finds a hearty reception from God and a deep life changing connection to the Creator. Do you experience this connection with the life-giver Himself? May be its time for you to return to God in worship.

George Mathew

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Bread and wine

breaking bread 2 400pxIn our time of corporate worship we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). This was instituted by Jesus at the Passover just before His crucifixion. The Jewish Passover was a symbolic reminder of an historical event. It was an annual celebration to remember God’s act of passing over the firstborn of Israel and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus took two symbols associated with the Passover, bread and wine, and gave them a new meaning. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration to remember the death of Jesus just like the Passover celebration was to remember God’s passing over the Israelites.

Bread as a metaphor

The Scriptures about the Lord’s Supper use the word “bread” in a figurative sense. The figure of speech is called a metaphor, where something is described by something else that is considered to possess similar characteristics. It’s like saying, “You are my sunshine” or “The Lord is my shepherd”. Jesus told His disciples to eat the bread because, “This [bread] is my body, which is given for you; do this [eat it] in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19NIV; 1 Cor. 11:24). He meant that the broken bread was to be a symbol of His body. The broken bread represents Christ’s suffering body when He died. When they ate it they were to remember Christ’s death for their sins. Likewise, when we eat the broken bread we are to remember Christ’s death for our sins.

Cup as a metonymy

The Scriptures about the Lord’s Supper use the word “cup” in a figurative sense. The figure of speech is called a metonymy, where something is described by something else that is associated with it. Like, “can you give me a hand?” or “the team needs some new blood”.

Then Jesus told His disciples to drink the wine. Paul calls it to “drink this cup” and he mentions someone who “drinks the cup of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:26-27). But we drink the contents, not the cup. In this case, the container is substituted for the contents. The cup stands for its contents. Like “God so loved the world”, which  means the people who inhabit the earth. What were the contents of the cup? Matthew says that it was “from the fruit of the vine”, which was wine (Mt. 26:29, Mk. 14:25). So in this context, “cup” means “wine” (or grape juice).

Jesus said that the disciples were to drink the wine “in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25). The wine represents Christ’s death. When they drank it they were to remember Christ’s death for their sins. Likewise, when we drink the wine (or grape juice) we are to remember Christ’s death for our sins.

Cup as a metaphor

But “cup” also has another figurative sense in the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus gave the disciples the cup of wine, He said “This is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:28)”. Or: “This cup is the new covenant in [through] my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk. 22:20).

So the cup (wine) is said to be “ my blood” and “the new covenant”. That’s what it symbolizes. These are more metaphors. In this context, the poured out wine is a symbol of the shedding of blood, which indicates a violent death. But it was one that established a new covenant. So the cup of wine represents both Christ’s death and the new covenant. When they drank it they were to remember Christ’s death for their sins and the new relationship it brought with God. Likewise, when we drink the wine (or grape juice) we are to remember Christ’s death for our sins and the new relationship we can have with God.

Discussion

Christ’s death and resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. Like the Passover, it’s when God delivered us from sin. “For He [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves [Jesus], in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

In His death, Jesus is “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). Jesus commanded His followers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper regularly as a reminder of this fact. By doing this together, we are proclaiming the core of the gospel to each other (1 Cor. 11:26). As the Passover recalled the defining moment in the history of the Israelites, so the Lord’s Supper recalls the defining moment in our history.

Summary

In the Lord’s Supper we remember what Christ did for us and we celebrate what we receive as a result of His sacrifice. It’s about the gospel. How Jesus sacrificed Himself so we could have a new relationship with God. Let’s celebrate it weekly (Acts 20:7) and recall our spiritual blessings at this time.

George Hawke

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Jesus is like royalty

Duchess of Sussex 2 400pxWhen Megan Markle married Prince Harry, she was given the royal title (Her Royal Highness) the Duchess of Sussex. Did you know that Jesus Christ is given royal titles in the Bible like “Lord”, “King”, “Lord of lords” and “King of kings”?

In the New Testament, the Greek noun kurios (Strongs #2962) is translated “Lord” when it is used for deity. It is a title of God the Father (Mt. 1:20; 9:38; 11:25; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:11) and of Jesus Christ (Lk. 2:11; Jn. 20:28; Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:11; Jas. 2:1; Rev. 19:16). And in some instances, it is uncertain as to whether God Father or God the Son is meant (Acts 9:31; 13:10-12; 20:19). Likewise, in the Bible, the title “Lord of lords” is given to God the Father (Dt. 10:17; Ps. 136:3; 1 Ti. 6:15) and to Jesus Christ (Rev. 17:14; 19:16). It refers to someone who has absolute dominion over all their realm. A supreme ruler.

A lord is a master, or ruler who has authority, control, or power over others. They are an important person like, a boss, a chief or an owner. After the resurrection, when the apostles said “Jesus is Lord”, they meant “Jesus is God”. Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28). Peter said Jesus was “both Lord and Messiah” and “Lord of all” (Acts 2:36; 10:36).

Today believers have the privilege of voluntarily acknowledging that Jesus is Lord. Each Sunday we praise and worship God corporately for what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. In particular, through Christ’s sacrificial death we can have our sins forgiven by God. There is no other way to heaven and peace with God.

But in the future, everyone else will be compelled to “acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11NIV). It’s much better to avoid this by accepting the good news now and believing that Jesus died for your sins and recognising Him as Lord of your life.

The statement “Jesus is Lord” means that Jesus is God. Like God the Father, He owns everything. If Jesus is Lord, then He owns us; and He has the right to tell us what to do. Are we obedient to the commands given in the Bible to His church?

Reference
Erickson M J (2013) “Christian Theology”, 3rd Ed. Baker Academic, p. 631

George Hawke

 

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Drawing Room Rocks, Berry

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Saturday 16 June 2018

Walk to the top of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Great views of Kangaroo and Lower Shoalhaven Valleys and along the coast to the Pacific Ocean. Sandstone rocks with hard ironstone capping. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (8.00am), Strathfield (8.15am) and Heathcote (9:10am). Return by 7pm.

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Grade : Medium (6 km; 275m ascent and descent)

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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Lest we forget

Lest we foget 8 400pxLast Wednesday was ANZAC Day. Did you know that the phrase “Lest we forget” used to commemorate those who died in warfare came from the Bible? It came via the poem “Recessional” by Rudyard Kipling which was written towards the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1897. These turned into a celebration of the power of the British Empire.

The poem was written to be sung as a hymn at the end of a church service. It acknowledges that God helped establish the British Empire. But all human power is transient and Empires eventually decline and disappear. It warns the English to be humble instead of boasting about their achievements. The main warning is not to forget God. The chorus is:
“Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!”
So the context is God, not those who have died.

The title “Lord of hosts” comes from the KJV of the Bible (1 Sam. 1:3), which can be translated “Lord Almighty” (NIV), “Lord of Armies” (CSB), or “Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (NLT). It means that God is sovereign over all other powers in the universe.

The phrase “Lest we forget” comes from a warning given to the Israelites after they settled in the promised land. It says, “Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Dt. 6:12KJV). Or, “be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt” (NLT). They were not to forget what God had done for them. But we know that the Israelites did forget God and followed idols.

So “Lest we forget”, was a call to not forget God. But this song was also sung at remembrance services for those who died in warfare. And in this context, it was a call to not forget those who had given their lives for their country. The meaning of “ancient sacrifice” in the song changed from Christ’s death to the death of soldiers. This is an example of how words and phrases can change their meaning over time.

Lessons for us

As the Israelites were God’s people in Old Testament times, Christians are God’s people today. And like them, we are not to forget what God had done for us. We too can easily forget God and the ancient sacrifice of Christ for us. He gave up His life so we could have eternal life.

Let’s not be like the Israelites who forgot about God when they followed idols. Anything we can’t live without or must have is an idol that needs to be removed or put back in its place. An idol is anything that we give higher priority than God. Or anything that we think about more than we think about God.

“Lest we forget”. Don’t forget God!

George Hawke

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Figure eight pools, Royal National Park

Saturday 12 May 2018

Walk from Garawarra down to Burning Palms Beach and then along the rock platform to the Figure eight pools. Great coastal views. Care is required walking across rock piles and possible slippery sections. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde at 8.30am. Return by 6pm.

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Grade : Medium (6 km; 275m ascent and descent)

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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Victoria Falls to Pierces Pass, Blue Mountains National Park

Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 14 April 2018

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