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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Rebooting ourselves

Reboot 7 400pxRecently when I had a problem with my phone, I was advised to do a reboot (restart). I’d forgotten that many computer problems are fixed by a restart. Turning your computer off and on again fixes a lot of problems because you’re removing the junk that’s accumulated and starting over again fresh.

When too many programs and processes are operating they hog system resources like RAM and cause problems like slow operation, programs won’t open and error messages. A restart closes every program and process and wipes away the current state of the software. This includes any code that’s stuck in a misbehaving state. Once your computer starts back up again, it’s not clogged up and is often a faster, better working computer. Most computers need to be restarted at least every few days. Very few are designed to run continuously.

Jesus often prayed alone in the morning (Mk. 1:35) or during the night (Lk. 6:12). It was like He was getting a fresh start each day. And He prayed whenever an important decision was to be made or a crisis was near. It was like He was getting a fresh start at important times in His life.

And I think that the Lord’s Supper is like getting a fresh start each week. Like computers we get busy and our mind gets occupied with what we’ve been doing. The Lord’s Supper is a good way to clear our minds and get them working how God designed them to work. We dump the junk that’s accumulated during the week when we focus on all that God has done for us. It seems that the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper once per week (Acts 20:6-7).

So how can we do a restart at the Lord’s Supper? When the Corinthians were treating each other poorly by discriminating amongst themselves and not respecting each other, Paul told them how to put things right before they took part in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34NIV). In particular he said, “anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup”. (v.27-28). The Bible says that they were to “examine” themselves before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. They were to practice self-examination before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We are to be honest about sin in our lives in order to maintain a dynamic fellowship with the Lord. This can mean dealing with unconfessed sin by confession and repentance.

Confession and repentance

To confess is to acknowledge our sin to God and to those we have sinned against (Jas. 5:16). The Bible says, “if we confess our sins to Him (God), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 Jn. 1:9NLT). Confession should lead to repentance. To repent is to change our direction away from a sinful way of behavior towards obeying God instead. It’s turning around to follow God (Acts 3:19). It involves action by reversing our direction and going opposite to the way of sin. For the Corinthians it meant to stop discriminating amongst themselves and to start sharing things amongst themselves and so respecting each other (1 Cor. 11:33-34). Confession and repentance help us to sustain our loving relationship with God.

We all struggle with sin. Let’s examine our motives. Are we self-centered? Are we carelessness towards sin because God “forgives” us when we sin?

Like a restart often cleans up our computer so that it can work again, confession and repentance of our sins cleanses us from all wickedness. We restart when we confess our sins. We are told to confess our sins before we take part in the Lord’s supper. So let’s confess our sins and remember that they can be forgiven because of what God has done for us through Christ’s death.

George Hawke

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When death was arrested

Death arrested 4 400pxAt Easter we celebrate what Jesus did for us. Jesus came to die, He defeated death and rose again to set us free from sin. He conquered death for anyone who puts their faith and hope in Him. The Bible says, “and only by dying could He (Jesus) break the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14NLT). God broke the power of death in Christ’s resurrection. It’s like death was arrested.

Although He has saved us from the eternal consequences of our sin, we still die. But like Jesus, in a coming day at the rapture those who die in Christ will be resurrected back to new life. The Bible describes this victorious resurrection as, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). God defeats death when believers receive their glorified bodies.

In the meantime, it’s like death is arrested like in the words of this song by North Point InsideOut (© 2015 Seems Like Music).

Alone in my sorrow and dead in my sin
Lost without hope with no place to begin
Your love made a way to let mercy come in
When death was arrested and my life began

Released from my chains I’m a prisoner no more
My shame was a ransom He faithfully bore
He cancelled my debt and He called me His friend
When death was arrested and my life began

Our Saviour displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That’s when death was arrested and my life began

Can you say, “Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57)? We can have victory over death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:25). Christians need not fear death because it is the doorway that leads to their eternal inheritance and being present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; 1 Pt. 1:3-5).

George Hawke

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Worship in Revelation

Worship 3 400pxWhat is worship? The Greek verb to worship proskuneo (Strongs #4352) occurs 60 times in the New Testament and 24 (40%) of these are in the book of Revelation. It’s the main book about worship in the New Testament. In this way, the book of Revelation is like the book of Psalms. In Revelation, worship describes homage or reverence towards God, or a person or an idol or an angel or demon.

This shows that if we don’t worship God, then we will worship someone else or something else. Who will we worship? The true God or Satan who is the power behind all false gods?
By being at church, we are choosing to worship the true God.

What can we learn about worshipping God from the book of Revelation? We learn about what worship is like in heaven. And it’s mostly corporate, not individual. Here’s three examples of this worship.

First, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11). So, let’s praise and worship our God as the great Creator.

Second, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).

And at this time the angels said, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Rev. 5:12)!

So, let’s praise and worship Jesus as the great Redeemer/Saviour/Rescuer. His death and resurrection enabled people from around the world to have their sins forgiven so they could be reconciled with God.

Third, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:3-4).

The context of this passage is God’s judgement of the ungodly. So, let’s praise and worship God as Judge of all. He is pure, holy and just. He’s the one who will right all the wrongs. He judges rebels and rewards His servants. And He is to be praised for His righteous judgements.

The book of Revelation is full of corporate praise and worship like, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory” (Rev. 19:6-7)!

So, let’s worship the true God and not false gods. Today we are declaring who the true God is. Let’s worship Him based on the patterns of heavenly worship depicted Revelation. He’s the great creator, the great redeemer and the great judge.

George Hawke

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