Read the Bible through

Person reading the BibleI supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit and miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third!);
Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs—
Yes, I thought I knew the Word!
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.

Oh, the massive, mighty volume!
Oh, the treasures manifold!
Oh, the beauty of the wisdom
And the grace it proved to hold!
As the story of the Hebrews
Swept in majesty along,
As it leaped in waves prophetic,
As it burst to sacred song,
As it gleamed with Christly omens,
The Old Testament was new,
Strong with cumulative power,
When I read the Bible through.

Ah! Imperial Jeremiah,
With his keen, sparkling mind;
And the blunt old Nehemiah,
And Ezekiel refined!
Newly came the Minor Prophets
Each with his distinctive robe,
Newly came the Song idyllic,
And the tragedy of Job;
Deuteronomy, the regal,
To a towering mountain grew,
With its comrade peaks around it,
When I read the Bible through.

What a radiant procession
As the pages rise and fall,
James the sturdy, John the tender
O the myriad-minded Paul!
Vast apocalyptic glories
Wheel and thunder, flash and flame,
While the church triumphant raises
One incomparable Name.
Ah, the story of the Saviour
Never glows supremely true
Till you read it whole and swiftly,
Till you read the Bible through.

You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn thro’ a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book—
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look—
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through!

by Amos Russel Wells (1862-1933)

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Memory loss

Did you forget some thing?Do you ever forget where you put your keys, phone or glasses? Have you ever gone into another room at home and wondered what you went in there for? We all forget some things and forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. We get memory lapses. Our brain doesn’t function as well as it used to.

Mary couldn’t find her car keys. She looked on the hook just inside the front door. They weren’t there. She searched in her purse. No luck. Finally, she found them on her desk. Yesterday, she forgot her neighbor’s name. She decided to see her doctor. After a complete check-up, her doctor said that Mary was fine. Her forgetfulness was just a normal part of getting older. The doctor suggested that Mary take a class, play cards with friends, or help out at the local school to help her memory.

Israel forgets

The worst kind of forgetfulness is to forget God and what He has done. The Israelites forgot God during the exodus from Egypt. When they got to the Red Sea they forgot God’s kindness in releasing them from slavery (Ex. 14:10-12; Ps. 106:7). So, they rebelled against Moses. Three months later, they came to Mount Sinai where they received the ten commandments (Ex. 19:1). Then while Moses went up the mountain for 40 days (Ex. 24:12-18), they forgot the exodus and the ten commandments and made a gold idol in the shape of a calf and worshipped it (Ex. 32:1-8). Because they forgot God, the Israelites complained to Moses. Later they were told to never forget the exodus (Dt. 6:12; 8:2) and to never forget the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt so they could settle in Canaan (Dt. 8:11,14).

In the times of the judges, the Israelites “forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Jud. 3:7). They worshipped idols instead of the true God. And after Gideon’s death, the Israelites set up an idol as a god “and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side” (Jud. 8:34).

In Psalm 103, David said to never forget the good things God has done (v.2-5). For a believer this includes forgiveness. And whenever we are healed, it’s because of God’s mercy and how He designed our bodies. He protects us from many dangers, accidents and tragedies. We also receive God’s love and compassion. And He satisfies our longing as we live for Him.

In the seventh century BC, the book of the Pentateuch (law) was discarded or lost during the reign of the ungodly kings Manasseh and Amon. No one had read God’s Word for at least 40 years! But in about 622BC, it was found in the temple during the reign of king Josiah (2 Ki. 22:8; 2 Chr. 34:14-15).

Israel reminded

God told the Israelites, “do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them”(Dt. 4:9).

And the Passover and Unleavened Bread festivals and the consecration of the firstborn were God-given reminders of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Ex. 13:8-9, 14-16).

So, teaching Scripture and continuing to do what God had commanded them was the antidote to their forgetfulness.

Are you in danger of forgetting God's Word (the Bible)?What about us?

Like the Israelites, we are also forgetful. When we are self-centered, we forget God. The cure for self-centeredness is to remember what God has done (Ps. 77). And God has given us resources to combat our forgetfulness. We have Scripture [the Bible] which is a record of what God has done and what He has commanded. We also have prayer and the Holy Spirit to remind and strengthen us.

In the New Testament believers are told to teach others about the good news of Jesus Christ (Mt. 28:19-20; 1 Pt. 3:15). And they are told to remember Him by celebrating the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Are we spreading the good news to others? Are we celebrating the Lord’s Supper regularly?

Forgetting God is worse than COVID-19. Let’s remember God’s deliverance and provision for us. Don’t be like the Israelites and forget to remember God. Don’t be a spiritual COVID casualty.

George Hawke

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There is no racism in heaven

Poster: There is no racism in heavenBookworm Claudette Colvin had two dreams when she was young. The first was to marry a baseball player. The second was to become President of the United States. Lofty dreams indeed for a teenager from the poor side of town, but she was an A-grade student and determined to make something of her life.

The thwack of a curveball rocketing over a baseball diamond or the patriotic stirrings of a big brass band on the lawns of the White House must have seemed impossible that one Friday in March, when the smart and pretty 15-year-old was hauled into a courthouse. She’d been yelled at by students, kicked three times by police and then taken across town crying and humiliated in a patrol car by the same officers, who made lewd comments about her appearance.

Her crime? Riding the bus.

Claudette was black. She’d refused to give up her seat for a white man. And in 1955, before Martin Luther King shared his dream, the law in Montgomery, Alabama, forced black passengers to give up their seats for whites. However, this young girl did the unthinkable and said, “No”.

In heaven, there are no restricted seats. In fact, everyone is welcome to sit and eat at the same table as the God of creation (Revelation 5:9). Imagine that. In all His glory, majesty and power, the Lord wants us to celebrate with Him in heaven, regardless of colour, culture or country. All we have to do is answer the invitation to join Him.

Meanwhile, our hearts must mirror His. While the world might judge according to colour, God doesn’t. He sees His children, who He loves equally. And He expects us to share the same love for our neighbour.

Racism devalues people, divides people and sets people against each other. Heaven is the complete opposite. All people who accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour are united as one before God. As the Bible says about God, “All nations will come and worship You” (Psalm 86:9; Revelation 15:4).

People from other cultures might be different, but God made them this way so their unique gifts could glorify Him forever. So if you’re trusting in Jesus and want to be part of His Kingdom then banish animosity, feuds and ill feeling towards those who are different. And if you’re being mistreated, then hang in there, things are going to change!

Prayer: Dear God, teach me to love my neighbour as I love myself, and to welcome the stranger, just as you welcomed me when I was a stranger. Help me to wait for heaven when racism will vanish.

Bible verse: Revelation 5:9 God saves people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” through faith in the death of Christ to forgive sins.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2020

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Blue Mountains National Park – Springwood

Martins Falls 1 800px
Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 15 August 2020

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Sydney Christian Bushwalkers (opens in a new window)

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There is hope

The COVID-19 pandemic is an extreme situation facing the whole world at the same timeThe headline didn’t shout. It didn’t need to. This wasn’t a slow news day. It read, ‘In one week 10% of Australia’s workforce have lost their jobs’. In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people were given four hours notice to lock down inside their homes for 21 days. People found outside afterwards were subsequently beaten.

Always, in the world somewhere, there’s an extreme situation – a flood, a famine, a war. Less frequent, though, are situations involving the whole world. The COVID-19 pandemic is such a time.

Perhaps, for Australians, the shock has been greater than for those who live with poverty and uncertainty each day. Now, we share that experience … anxious about what happens if we catch the virus or whether we’ll have a job or even if society will hold together. So far, our government has met these fears with hope – with a program of social isolation and the ‘JobKeeper’ and ‘JobSeeker’ packages.

But it would be a mistake to put all our ‘hope eggs’ in the government basket. Australians, indeed all people, need a hope that transcends the weakness of governments. We need a hope that lasts beyond death. And the only hope worth having is in Jesus.

In His famous, ‘Sermon on the mount’, Jesus said,

“… I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

In the West, death is something that happens mostly in nursing homes to people we don’t spend much time with. But COVID-19 confronts us with our mortality … reminding us that all must face God eventually.

While the pandemic is at distance, we should take the time to get our hopes into proper shape. The promises of government and medical technology can only ever be temporary. But the Bible speaks of ‘new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). That’s an ongoing and exciting hope where death is not the last word but a portal into a close and complete existence with our heavenly Father.

So, “… put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world” (1 Peter 1:13).

Prayer: Dear God please help me to put my hope fully in Jesus.

Bible verse: 1 Peter 1:13 “put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2020

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Calming our fears at a time like this

The Lord is sufficient for us at all times, even in times of troubleI know there is so much going on out there. Opinions are divided yet there is no shortage of advice on COVID-19. Everyone is speaking. I took a step back to listen to what God might have to say in the matter. A favourite scripture came to mind.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” 2 Timothy 1:7 

In Christ, there is no fear. Why you might ask. Think of the epidemic of serpents in wilderness, the plagues in Egypt, or the shepherd’s valley of death. There is fear everywhere else but not where God is welcomed. God gives us calm even in surreal circumstances. If Jesus were physically with us today He would say as He did many times: “Do not be afraid”. Jesus being eternal is right in the middle of it with us as the disciples realised in the middle of a raging storm. There are three things we can do though.

First, we need to tap into the power that the world does not have, the power that God’s spirit gives us. This is a promise that only those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation have. We are empowered to be bold, courageous, and steadfast in that God is able. To be strong and courageous is a command, especially to leaders (Joshua 1:9).

Secondly, times like this present an opportunity to love people unconditionally. Show kindness, lead the world in love, people are vulnerable and respond to acts of love in times like this. There is no better time to think of others more than ourselves. Times like this reveal character, it brings the best in us and unfortunately, the worst in us. Love and cherish what we have and not what we don’t have.

Thirdly, if we never had self-discipline, this is a good time to start. Heed sound advice but start with God’s word first, seek His face and His counsel for times like this. Practice hygiene, practice what the scripture has taught us in regards to praying for leaders, following the law of the land, loving our neighbour and doing things that are sensible, of common sense and of common good. Some translations use the phrase  “sound mind” in the place of “self-discipline”. God’s spirit will give us the mental health we need at this time. He has the resources to help us overcome worry, anxiety and stress. Surrendering our lives to Him allows His spirit to control our thinking and our mind, but only if we allow Him.

Finally, Nahum 1:7 says “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him”.  Will you trust Him to care for you? Will you go to Him as your refuge?  The Lord is good. He is sufficient for us at all times, even in times of trouble.

George Mathew

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Catherine Hill Bay to Caves Beach

Caves Beach, NSW Australia

Saturday 4 April 2020

Coastal views from headlands and beaches. Sea caves, rock platforms, and conglomerate rock. Sandy and rocky track. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (8am) and Hornsby (8.25am).  Return by 6pm.

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Grade : Medium (9 km)

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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Remembering Jesus

Remembering Bob - stories and memories about an ex-Australian Prime MinisterAt our family Christmas party, my Christmas present was a book titled, “Remembering Bob” (Pieters-Hawke, 2019). It’s a collection of stories and memories about Bob Hawke, who was the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President in 1969-1980 and the Australian Prime Minister in 1883-1991.

They say he was an outstanding leader and a great storyteller. His achievements included:
– preserving the Antarctic for peace and science
– contributing to the end of Apartheid in South Africa
– significantly raising the high school completing rate,
– strengthening healthcare, education, work life, and housing, and
– elevating environmental issues in political decision-making

But he regretted failing to deliver a treaty with Indigenous Australians.

His greatest achievement

This book reminded me of Jesus. The gospels are a collection of stories and memories about three years in the ministry of Jesus Christ. His greatest achievement was providing salvation for sinners. Paul summarized it: “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. 15:3-4NIV).

We sing:
“You lived, You died,
You rose again in high
You opened the way
for the world to live again (with eternal life)
Hallelujah, for all You’ve done” (Morgan, 2004).

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the greatest example of humility (Phil. 2:5-8). When He came to earth, “He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8NLT). Because of this achievement, God has exalted the Lord Jesus Christ to the highest place in heaven (Phil. 2:9; Acts 7:55; Heb. 1:3).

He had no regrets

Because He fulfilled His mission, Jesus Christ had no regrets. Before He died Jesus said “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). When He prayed Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (Jn. 17:4). He’d finished preaching about the kingdom of God, finished doing miracles, and finished obtaining eternal salvation for those who trust in Him. The penalty had been paid for the sin of all humanity. He did exactly what He set out to do. To save sinners like us (1 Tim. 1:15).

“Remembering Bob” was written 30-40 years after Bob Hawke was prime minister and 40-50 years after he was President of the ACTU. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were written no more than 27 years after Christ’s death (Appendix). And the gospel of John was written by 37-50 years after Christ’s death (Appendix).

As the stories and memories about Bob Hawke are accurate (they are consistent with my memory of those times), so the stories and memories about Jesus Christ in the Bible are also accurate. There is a similar time lapse between the events and when they were recorded.

If the Lord hasn’t returned by then, in 50 years time, people will have forgotten about Bob Hawke’s achievements. But after almost 2,000 years we are still “Remembering Jesus” and His achievements because they have eternal significance. That’s not surprising because Jesus was God living on earth.

Appendix: When were the gospels written?

Each of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke report that Jesus predicted the destruction of the city of Jerusalem as well as the temple. However, none of these writings records the fulfillment. Since the city and temple were both destroyed in the year AD 70, there is good reason to believe that these three gospels were written before this destruction took place (37 years after Christ’s death). According to J Warner Wallace (2013) they were probably written 12-27 years after Christ’s death.

There is more uncertainty about when the gospel of John was written. John describes the sheep gate as still standing at the time he wrote (Jn. 5:2). As the sheep gate was destroyed in AD 70, this could indicate that John wrote his gospel before the city of Jerusalem was destroyed (37 years after Christ’s death). J Warner Wallace supports this dating because the book doesn’t mention the destruction of the temple and the city. But the early church fathers believed that it was written when John was an old man. Don Carson thinks it was AD 80-85 (about 50 years after Christ’s death).
When the gospels were written - Cold-case Christianity

References

Morgan R , 2004, “My Savior, Redeemer”, Hillsong publishing.
Pieters-Hawke S, 2019, “Remembering Bob”, Allan & Unwin, Sydney.
Wallace J W, 2013, “Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels”, David C Cook Publishing Company, Colorado Springs, USA.

George Hawke

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Unexpected good

It seems cold and unfeeling to make lists of good things in the midst of all this pain – especially while things are fresh and even still happening. But part of making sense of what’s happened and finding meaning in despair is finding the good.

While the bushfires have burned in Australia the media have reported on all sorts of stories of hope and positivity. Which has been enormously encouraging. For example, bush regeneration that’s already begun, the heroism and selflessness of our amazing volunteer firefighters, the brilliant effort to save the rare Wollemi Pine, the fact that more people are now thinking about how to care for the environment and live with an unpredictable climate.

But personal stories have been the most moving. The people saved by a hero in a boat who took them to safety in the nick of time as fire raced to the water’s edge. Selfless neighbours saving other people’s houses whilst their own burned. And out of all the pain, communities that have drawn closer in ways that are rare when times are good.

We really shouldn’t be surprised at this growing list. The Bible promises that it is God’s plan to bring good from evil. For example, through suffering, He refines our faith and moulds our character. But suffering can also restrain us from a wrong course, remind us that we’re frail before our great God or be a punishment when we’re foolish. And have you noticed that when we suffer we’re better able to comfort others in similar situations?

One of the hardest pills to swallow is the assurance that those who love Jesus will be persecuted. Then, when this happens, the Bible tells us that God will use this suffering to show the world that His people’s witness is real. In a world filled with pain and sorrow, suffering can only increase the desire of God’s people to be with their heavenly father in heaven. That’s certainly a good thing.

But the greatest good of all is found at the cross. Jesus is the innocent hero whose painful death took us from judgment into the safe arms of our heavenly Father. In one of the Bible’s four biographies about Jesus, the author, Mark, records this prediction from Jesus:
the Son of Man [Jesus] must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead (Mark 8:31).

Those final words about Jesus rising make the suffering of this world bearable. Because we know that, if Jesus rose from the dead, then we, in turn will also. We just need to hang in there.

Prayer: Dear God, please give me the strength to endure this world and to trust in your goodness even when things are difficult.

Bible verse: Mark 8:31 “the Son of Man [Jesus] must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead“.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2020

Post Script on 8 March 2020:

This blogpost on the bush fires titled, “Unexpected good” was posted on 31 January 2020. It included the statement “Dear God, from all this pain, please bring unexpected good”. That prayer has been answered!

In February 2020 heavy rainfall in New South Wales extinguished the persistent bush fires that have devastated the state. Many places in Sydney and the Blue mountains had record or near-record February rainfall (in the 95-100 percentile range).

For example, in the Sydney region: Sydney City 442 mm, Sydney Olympic Park 487 mm
In the region west of Sydney: Warragamba 484 mm, Katoomba 701 mm, Mount Wilson 665 mm.
In the region south of Sydney: Nowra 392 mm, Braidwood 560 mm, Ulladulla 324 mm
In the region north of Sydney: Wyong 524 mm.

And Sydney’s water supply, Warragamba Dam, is at 83% capacity, after being at 43% capacity in January 2020. So in the Month of February 2020, the amount of water stored increased by 40% of the dam’s total capacity.

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Being thankful

Psalm 107: 8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankindPsalm 107 teaches of the need to thank God when we are delivered (saved) from trouble. It praises God for His kindness to his exiled people, beginning with, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (v.1). God is said to be good because His love is eternal.

Then those who have been delivered from their enemies and those who have been regathered from being dispersed are told, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story” (v.2). Other translations say, “Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim” (CSB), and “Let those delivered by the Lord speak out” (NET). They are urged to come together and give thanks to the Lord by saying what He has done.

Then there are four examples of the merciful deliverance of the Lord from a crisis. In each case there is a description of the problem, a prayer for deliverance, and a call for praise for  the deliverance.

First, those who were lost in the desert (v.4-9). Did they take time to thank Him when they were delivered? When they are delivered they are told, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind” (v.8).

Second, those who were enslaved as prisoners (v.10-16). Did they take time to thank Him when they were set free? When they are delivered they are told, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind” (v.15).

Third, those who were seriously ill (v.17-22). Did they take time to thank Him when they were healed? When they are delivered they are told, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind” (v.21).

Fourth, sailors in a terrible storm (v.23-32). But did they take time to thank Him when the storm was calmed? When they are delivered they are told, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind” (v.31). This is the chorus (refrain) of the song (v.8, 15, 21, 31).

We must keep trusting God, and be thankful for His mercies. Most of all He deserves full honour and praise for the greatest of all mercies for sending His Son Jesus to go to the cross and be executed for our sin.

As the Israelites who were redeemed (delivered, rescued, or saved) by the Lord were told to tell their story and not be silent (v.2), we are commanded “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name” (Heb. 13:15).

In Luke 17 as the Lord was travelling along the border between Samaria and Galilee on His way to Jerusalem, He healed ten lepers, nine of which were ungrateful (Lk. 17:11-19). You would have expected all ten men to run back and thank Jesus. How often do we take our blessings for granted?

Too often we are content to enjoy the gift, but we forget the giver. Instead of going to the priest with the other nine, the Samaritan “Came back, praising God in a loud voice” and “he fell with his face to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him” (Lk. 17:15-16 NET). He became a priest himself, because thanksgiving is an act of worship. None of the other nine, who were presumably Israelites, responded with gratitude.

Likewise, we have been healed from the sickness of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our response is to come and bow before Him, giving thanks.

Jesus gave His followers the Lord’s Supper as a way to be thankful. The bread and the wine symbolise His death. It’s called a “cup of thanksgiving” (1 Cor. 10:16).

Let’s give thanks to the LORD, for His unfailing love in suffering and dying for our sins. That’s the story of deliverance that we can proclaim and tell.

Alan Homan

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