Until Jesus comes again

We believe that the most important event in the world’s history is the death of Jesus Christ. At the Lord’s supper we remember why Christ did what He did.

In 1 Corinthians Paul describes what happened at the last supper where Jesus told His disciples to eat the bead and drink from the cup in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Then Paul says,

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26NIV).

“For” shows a reason we repeat the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. This is new revelation beyond the Gospels. The reason is to “proclaim the Lord’s death”. The Greek verb “kataggello” (Strongs #2605) means to proclaim, announce, or declare. It’s in the present active indicative showing that the declaring is an ongoing process. It’s a proclamation of a physical death that provides forgiveness. It took the physical death of the body of Christ to save our souls. Participation in the Lord’s Supper is like a visible sermon where we proclaim the Lord’s death to one another.

“Whenever” shows we repeat the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.  The Greek adverb “hosakis” (Strongs #3740) means as often as, as many times as or whenever. It seems clear from Paul’s visit to Troas in Acts 20:7 that the practice of the early church was to meet on the first day of the week to remember the Lord. But this was not just for the early church as the church is said to do it until Jesus Christ returns. That’s what we do it each Sunday morning. It’s a good way to start the week.

“You eat this bread and drink this cup”, describes the two visual aids used in the Lord’s Supper to “proclaim the Lord’s death”. The bread symbolizes His body and the cup of wine symbolizes His blood (death). The bread represents the person of Christ, and the blood the work of Christ.

“Until He comes” says how long we are to repeat the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. The Lord’s Supper is more than a memorial celebration of Christ’s body and blood (death); it’s an anticipation of seeing Him again. We are to do it until He comes again to take us to heaven. In the meantime we repeat the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis and wait for Christ’s return.

When we take the bread and wine we are declaring the importance of Christ’s death. It’s important because God saves people only by means of Christ’s death (1 Cor. 1:18). We are proclaiming that Christ’s sacrificial death provides forgiveness and peace with God. We recall His suffering and death and the blessings and benefits which come from His death and resurrection. And we offer thanks and praise for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

George Hawke

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Heaven’s even better

The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland has 37,000 gigantic, geometrically perfect polygon columns. Have you been there? They’re extraordinary. But back before photographs, television and the Internet, it was hard to believe in and imagine far off places. “Surely you’re exaggerating about those columns?” “Surely they were made from concrete moulds?” Or else, “They don’t really exist and you’re making it all up!”

It’s a bit like that with heaven. Because we haven’t been there we’re tempted to doubt it’s goodness or wonder if it even exists. Think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen. It might be a place in the mountains or at the beach. Maybe you’ve been to some exotic location like a tropical island. It could be something you’ve seen while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Maybe it’s a magnificent forest or a field of flowers. You may have visited the Grand Canyon or the Alps. Imagine the difficulty of describing this to someone without the aid of photographs or video footage. You want them to feel what you felt and see what you saw but you just can’t come up with words that do an adequate job. It would be frustrating for you and for the person trying to understand what you experienced. But heaven is even more wonderful and more indescribable than these places.

So, the right response to wonderful things in this world is to see them as pointers to even greater things in the next. The great missionary of the Bible, Paul, wrote about this in a letter to Christians in the city of Corinth. He said, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

But if you’re a Christian, then you’ve already seen this. When we had no hope, God sent Jesus to give us the hope of friendship with Him and forgiveness of our sins. Who of us could have predicted that through Jesus Christ, God would draw us so close that He would call us sons and daughters?

Further on in that same letter, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to focus on the most exciting prospect of heaven – being in the very presence of God Himself.
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Cor. 13:12).

In heaven, the Bible says, there will be even be ‘no more death or sorrow’ (Revelation 2:4). These are exciting promises. Now it’s hard to wait!

Prayer: Dear God, thank you that the wonders of this creation point to even greater things in the age to come.

Bible verse: 1 Corinthians 2:9 “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love Him

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves

The media in Australia and other community gatekeepers treat abortion as a settled question. As a consequence, that’s how most Australians view the issue. We’re encouraged to think that, in the past, an important victory was won for women. And now, instead of being bullied to bear and care for children they never wanted, women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies – because, ultimately, abortion is a woman’s issue.

But abortion is not and never will be a settled question.

Firstly, it is not just a women’s issue. It’s fundamentally a community issue. When you live in a community you belong to that community – whether you’re a man, a woman or a child. So mothers aren’t allowed to kill their children after they’re born on the basis that they came from their body. The community would rightly punish that. And the argument that a woman has ‘a right to decide what happens with her body’ is scientifically flawed. At conception, a new body with its own, unique DNA is formed. Why doesn’t that special, growing human have its own rights?

Secondly, abortion is dehumanising. We don’t think twice about describing an unwanted pregnancy as an, ‘accident’ (a consequence of devaluing and ‘casualising’ sex). Then, to deal with the ‘accident’, babies that would be viable and treasured outside the womb are depersonalized with terms and phrases like ‘foetus’, ‘products of conception (POC), ‘clump of tissue’ or ‘uterine debris’. When the medical community are asked (or required) to perform abortions they’re placed in a terrible bind. Since ancient times doctors have pledged to ‘do no harm’. Now they must harden themselves in order to dismember beautiful, growing, living, precious beings. Afterwards, countless women are left with feelings of guilt and regret. Many spend the rest of their lives asking, “What if…?”

Thirdly, abortion is at odds with Australia’s egalitarian spirit and our defence of the underdog. Every day our media encourages us to feel compassion for the oppressed or those with no voice or those denied rights. Regularly, we’re asked to feel sympathy for the poorly treated in nursing homes or the cause of asylum seekers, or endangered animals. Yet, our media has nothing to say in defence of the unborn human. Instead, we’re offered expedient justifications. We’re told young mothers shouldn’t pay a life-long price for an early mistake. But since when have ‘two wrongs made a right’? And why should the child suffer for the poor choices of the parents? We’re told the community must not be burdened by deformity. But who are we to say that a child with a birth defect would prefer not to live? Or, that such a life has no value? Or, that the community won’t find great joy in this new life?

The statistics are staggering and so desperately sad. If data provided by Right To Life Australia is correct, there are in Australia, 80-90,000 abortions each year… or 250 per day… or 1 for every 2.8 live births… which translates to 1 in 3 Australian women having an abortion at some point in their life.

Unfortunately, many Australian Christians seem to have joined the settled majority. Perhaps bearing the media’s stigma of ‘hard right’ or ‘religious fanatic’ is too uncomfortable? Why is it that the most vocal critic of abortion in this country is a secular organisation? (Right To Life Australia) What’s stopping us from speaking loudly and vigorously? Is it just too easy to get on with the joy of living our own lives? After all, a foetus has no name or face.

Yes, we must be compassionate and sensitive towards women who’ve had abortions. But if sensitivity stops us from speaking out then, ironically, we’ll never see a decrease in sad, regretful women or abortions. Meanwhile, every year, nearly an entire Melbourne Cricket ground’s worth of Australians citizens are killed.

Have we Christians forgotten our heritage? In ancient Rome we spoke up against infanticide until it was outlawed. Why? … because the Bible challenges us to speak. Here’s what it says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8).

Prayer: Dear God, please give me the courage to be both bold and gracious as I speak against abortion in Australia and elsewhere.

Bible verse: Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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What stops you being with God forever?

Here’s a challenge from Outreach Media.

I used to smoke a lot of marijuana. But the first time I got stoned after becoming a Christian I felt embarrassed in God’s presence. I discovered that dope made it hard for me to control silly thoughts and treat God with reverence. It was awkward and I felt ashamed. So I stopped smoking marijuana and haven’t touched it since. That was thirty-five years ago.

When I stopped smoking dope I gave up something from this world so I could be sure of having life in the age to come. You might think it was no loss. And besides, Christians should obey the law anyway. Well, to that I say, ‘Yes, we should obey the law’ (and I would have acted on that I’m sure), but as for ‘no loss’? Well, that’s simplistic. People smoke dope because they have interesting experiences. I certainly felt a sense of loss in giving it up.

I think I was living out what Jesus meant when He said, “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

This world offers all kinds of experiences. Many of them are connected to wealth and power. So was Jesus speaking against money and power? Was He saying only the destitute and feeble can ever know God and win eternal life? No. It’s not wrong to own money or possessions nor have power over others. History records many emperors, kings, politicians and public servants who have been devoted to God.

Jesus’s point is that there’s nothing in this life worth having … if the having of it… means you can’t worship God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. I couldn’t do that smoking dope.

This experience of choosing God over something in the world has continued. In the early years of my working life there were situations where I could have cheated and deceived people for financial gain. Indeed, my stubborn refusal was a frustration to an early employer.

As the years have rolled on, the challenges have changed. These days they’re more likely to be internal. For example, with a particular decision I need to make sure I’m not putting personal pleasure ahead of the needs of others.

So how is Jesus challenging you? Are you being honest with yourself… and God? Have you prayed? Is there something you need to give up so that you can have God for all eternity? If there is, then take action.

Prayer: Dear God, give me a fierce honesty to make sure nothing in this world keeps me from being with you forever.

Bible verse: Mark 8:36 Jesus: “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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Jesus gives life to the full

There are so many wonderful things in life. The joy of love, family, satisfaction in hard work, the thrill of the race, or the game, admiring the astonishing beauty of nature, the prospect of a new adventure. It is truly a remarkable world.

Yet in all of these things, there’s always a blemish. And the blemish lies in us and in each thing we experience. For example our own cynicism and doubts prevent us properly enjoying goodness in love and work and family. And, as for the objects of our joy and desire – they always let us down in some measure. So, families fracture and fall out. Children forget their parents and live selfish lives. We chase a project with all our energy only to find it wasn’t worth the chasing.

In every part of life there’s always dissatisfaction. Any number of things can intervene to undermine success… from accidents, to mismanagement, to petty politics, injustice, corruption… even our own boredom, or doubts, or distractions.

The greatest enemy to fulfillment in this life is the knowledge that death awaits. It means that whatever we pursue is futile. Nothing can escape it… even the material universe. Everything must pass away.

If only there were a thread of hope dangling down for us from eternity. In the song, ‘Into my arms’, Nick Cave, the Australian songwriter, speaks of an, ‘interventionist God’ who might prevent his beloved from being harmed. Yet he can’t bring himself to believe that such a good God might exist.

But such a good God does exist and the Bible describes His character and ‘interventions’ in human history in great detail. As creator of the world He made us so that we might relate to Him closely. But since creation we’ve resisted this purpose. Yet no matter how hard we resist, He still loves us and wants us to be with Him. The Bible says that God has ‘planted eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Clearly, He meant us to spend it with Him.

When our purpose is eternity with God. How did we ever think we could find it in movies or architecture or holidays or skin cream? Whatever we do apart from God is doomed and destined for disgruntlement.

So give way. Give yourself to God’s ambassador, Jesus Christ, whose mighty intervention on your behalf at the cross means you can have life with God forever. Accept Jesus and the immortal words He offers all people.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  

Prayer: Dear God, I pray that I may have life to the full with You through Jesus.

Bible verse: John 10:10 Jesus: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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Northern beaches coastal walk

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Saturday 10 August 2019

Explore the headlands from Newport to Barrenjoey. Coastal landscape – cliffs and beaches. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (8.45am) and Chatswood (9.00am). Return by 4pm.

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Grade : Medium (8 km)

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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Regular praise and thanksgiving

Kids Camp starts in the Blue Mountains next Sunday. One of the stories that will be told there is the healing of Namaan in 2 Kings 5. Namaan was a commander in the Syrian army who was healed of an incurable skin disease like leprosy when he followed instructions given by the prophet Elisha. It’s an illustration of the gospel (good news about Jesus). The disease is like sin (our main problem). The healing is like having one’s sin forgiven and peace with God. Namaan received God’s blessing even though he was a Gentile and not an Israelite. He changed from being an enemy of Israel to worshipping their God. The good news about Jesus is that sinners can have their sins forgiven and live forever with God.

It’s interesting to see Namaan’s response to being healed. The Bible says,
Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God [Elisha]. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant” (2 Sam. 5:15NIV).

Namaan acknowledged the one true God. And offered Elisha a gift that he refuses.
Elisha didn’t want to accept payment for what God had done. Also, it illustrates that salvation is free. Then Namaan asked for some soil from Israel that he could take back to Syria to use when he sacrificed to the God of Israel. In ancient times each nation had their own gods and maybe it was thought that a deity could be worshipped only on the soil of the nation to which it was bound. Or maybe the soil was used to make an earthen altar as the Israelites were commanded (Ex. 20:24). Anyhow, it showed his allegiance to the God of Israel.

After he was healed, Naaman changed from worshipping idols to worshipping the true God. He offered thanks and praise to the God who delivered him from a major problem.
Namaan was grateful and thankful. Do we as believers regularly thank and praise God for delivering us from the penalty of our sin?

There are other examples in the New Testament of Gentiles (non-Jews) praising God. When Jesus healed ten lepers, one returned “praising God on a loud voice” (Lk. 17:15-16). He was a Samaritan. And Cornelius and his family praised God after they believed in Peter’s message about the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 10:34-46).

Like Namaan’s sacrifices to the God of Israel, believers are to offer thanks and praise for all that God has done for them through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us [believers] continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips [words] that openly profess His name” (Heb. 13:15). And believers are to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20) and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th. 5:18). Do we praise God regularly, or only occasionally? It’s a personal sacrifice to praise God in difficult times. Paul and Silas praised God when they were imprisoned (Acts 16:23-25). Their praise wasn’t limited by their circumstances. Do we praise God when we don’t feel like praising Him?

George Hawke

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Sin is not as much fun as you think

June-19_Sin-NotAsMuchFun_JPG 400pxWhy do we sin? Because it’s a chore – of course not! Actually, we do the wrong thing because it’s fun, satisfying or seems too difficult to resist. Why would we bother if it weren’t any of those things? Lowering the car window and letting rip at the stupid person blocking our way… how good did that feel? Revealing that choice morsel of information … everyone in the office deserves to know what happened! Mostly, our sin reveals a lot about the kind of person we really are.

Some years back a newspaper article named seven high profile males (mostly politicians) found to be adulterers. Collectively they had fathered 24 children. The article pondered the damage caused to those 24 lives and the sad ending to public careers.

Why did those men behave so destructively? It’s tempting to excuse their actions by finding fault with sexless or unsatisfying marriages. But let’s not forget the ‘fun’ part. They gave in to what the Bible calls ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:25). And even if their marriages were rocky and difficult, was adultery the solution? Had they worked hard, with counsellors, to make their marriages work? Unlikely. But now there was a social stigma to be borne. And not just by them. Wives and children are always caught up as well. Life after sin can be an eternity of regret.

There’s another more important answer to the question, ‘Why do we sin?’ And it’s this. We haven’t taught ourselves to hate what is evil. Are we feeling downcast about sin because we’ve been caught out? There needs to be a better reason. We need to hate evil because it’s evil. And we need to care about pleasing God. If that’s our mindset then, when temptation presents, we’ll feel alarmed, even nauseous at the prospect of betraying God.

There’s a letter in the Bible written by the missionary, Paul of Tarsus to Christians in the city of Rome. It contains a great challenge.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

A little later on in his letter Paul writes:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong [evil]. Hold tightly to what is good (Romans 12:9).

None of us have the strength to do this perfectly. We need God’s help. Let’s pray to Him about this.

Prayer: Dear God, give me the strength to say, ‘No’ to temptation so that I can honour you and protect both myself and those around me.

Bible verse: Romans 12:9 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong [evil]. Hold tightly to what is good“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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5 Lands Walk

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Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 15 June 2019

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Don’t let Christians put you off Jesus

Don't let Chrsitians put you off JesusSuppose there’s a man in an Australian country town with a history of shady business practices and fraudulent dealings. He also happens to be a regular church-goer.

Many people where he lives know the man to be shonky and would say they’ve been ‘ripped off’ as would people in other parts of Australia. What’s terrible is that some people where the man lives say, ‘If that man is a Christian, then I don’t want any part of Christianity’. And, at one level, their reaction is understandable.

The story raises questions about what it means to be a genuine Christian and what churches and other Christians should do when people say they are Christian but their actions clearly aren’t. You can imagine that the answers aren’t always easy.

Certainly the Bible says that those people whose lives are grossly hypocritical and who refuse to change ought to be excluded from church. But what if they keep calling themselves Christian in the community? Or they just move to another church and start again?

Or what if a church or a whole movement of people begin to do things in the name of Jesus that are just plainly at odds with the Bible? History is full of appalling things done in the name of Jesus. Some are well known: the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, people burning each other at stakes. Thankfully, it’s simply not possible to justify these kinds of things from the Bible.

So where does the problem lie? Not with God. The very reason Jesus came to earth was because we’ve got a major issue. It’s called sin. And sin is in every person. We all think, say and do things that we should rightly be ashamed of.

Jesus said this about His coming into the world: God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil (John 3:19).

What we mustn’t do is use the bad example of some ‘Christians’ as an excuse for not worshipping Jesus and coming into the light ourselves. That’s because the only people who can join the Christian movement are sinners willing to repent. So any person in church will always be a moral failure. Including you!

So yes, Christians should be people who try to live changed lives full of joy and good deeds. All of them will struggle in doing this. And yes, occasionally you’ll find some that seem to be really just pretending. But don’t let Christians put you off Jesus.

Bible verse: John 3:19 “God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

Prayer: Dear God, please help me to leave behind evil works and worship you in the light.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

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