The Creator who entered His creation

Children playing with LegoOur children and grandchildren spent many hours playing with Lego. They used their imagination and creativity to build many things. In Genesis we are told that in the beginning of time God created the universe and all that is in it. This was greater than creating with Lego – He didn’t just assemble ready-made components, He made the atoms and molecules of all the components. And He made living creatures, which do a lot more then Lego technic or Lego robots. Living creatures make their own decisions and don’t just follow a computer code. And they can communicate with each other.

But can an ant communicate with a human being? Or vice-versa? No, not unless an ant becomes a human or a human becomes an ant. That’s absurd and ridiculous! It’s like a transformer toy. At least they would need to know the other’s language.

Can the creator God communicate with human beings? This gap is greater than between an ant and a human because we are inside time and space and God is outside time and space. For this to happen, either the Creator comes down to our level or we, the creatures, move up to His level.

How would you feel about becoming an ant? Imagine the only way to save them was for you to become an ant and show them how to live right. Would you do so knowing that the same ants you were trying to save would turn on you and kill you? Would you do it if you knew you would have to remain an ant forever?

In Old Testament times God sent important messages to His people via an audible voice (Gen. 3:8-19; Ex. 19:3-6; Dt. 4:12; Acts 9:4-6; 10:13, 15), prophets, angels, and dreams and visions. Also, it seems as though God appeared physically sometimes as “the angel of the Lord”. This was a foretaste of what happened in the New Testament where God did more than that. The New Testament says that God the Son came down to our level. We remembered this at Christmas. God doesn’t need anything from us, and we have no intrinsic value that didn’t come from Him. Yet, God chose to become a human being knowing fully well that we would kill Him and He would have to remain a man forever (1 Tim. 2:5). The God of the universe experienced the nature of humanity.

Jesus had to be a man so that He could die for us. If He wasn’t a human being, He couldn’t have died and paid the price for our sins. Jesus was still human, but with a glorified body, after He rose from the dead and when He ascended back to heaven (1 Tim. 2:5). A glorified body is a transformation that all believers look forward to.

Prayer

Father God, we thank you for the miracle of creation. Thanks for creating us in your image so we can have a special relationship with you and be indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

And we thank you for sending Jesus in our image to die in our place so that our sins might be put away forever. That’s the greatest example of love that we can imagine.

We marvel that Jesus entered His creation and is now connected to it forever. And that as the unique God-man, He continues to mediate and intercede between us and God.

So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus. In Christ’s name, Amen.

G Hawke

God’s ultimate destination for you

With love from heaven - God's ultimate destination for youWhat is your ultimate holiday destination? Dream big, imagine you have no limit on your budget or time. Are you a chalet in the Alps, sitting by a wood fire drinking cognac kind of person? A New Zealand extreme sports adventurer? A culture vulture visiting the galleries of Italy? Or would you prefer a tropical island with massages, snorkelling, and endless feasts? There are so many beautiful places and experiences to be had if you have the money and time for them.

However, if the promises of the Bible are true there is a place even better than you can imagine available to you whatever your financial position or time constraints. This place is beautiful beyond anything you’ve ever known. Squeeze together all the beautiful places you’ve seen, all the delicious tastes you’ve tasted, all the deepest joy and love and sense of belonging you’ve ever felt, and you get a pale preview of what heaven will be like for those who trust Jesus.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is a rather cryptic, confusing, albeit vivid, account of the end of the world, judgement day and the new creation. Many people have fought over various interpretations of Revelation’s message. Yet it contains a promise that is crystal clear and profoundly captivating. God’s people, all those who have entrusted their lives to Jesus, will be blissfully united with their tender loving God.

Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4

The details of what heaven will be like compared to now, how much it will resemble this world, what will and won’t be different, are a bit on the blurry side. However, what is clear is that all that is difficult and painful in this life will not be there. It will be a place filled with God’s spotless beauty and God’s perfect embracing love. God wants you there with Him, in never ending love and joy. Jesus Christ died to pay for your way there. Will you accept His invitation to this ultimate destination?

Prayer: Dear God, I long for the never ending experience of love and joy and perfection that the Bible describes as being with you in heaven. I accept your invitation. Please forgive me for wrongs and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf. Help me now to live as one destined to be embraced by your perfect love. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2023

Recognizing major events

The football World Cup is a major event - but it has no eternal consequencesJesus was born into the world like any other baby. Two people recognized that His coming was a major event.

First, an elderly man Simeon was waiting for the promised Jewish Messiah to come and rescue Israel from the Romans and restore them as a nation (Lk. 2:25-35NLT). He went to the Jewish temple when Jesus was there as a 40-day old baby and declared that He was the Messiah that they were waiting for. The Bible says that on “that day the Spirit led him to the Temple”. Simeon praised God for keeping His promise and he told Mary that the baby “has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result …  a sword will pierce your very soul”. This is a reference to Christ’s suffering and death.

Second, the elderly widow named Anna received divine revelations and spoke for God in a time period between the two testaments when scripture was silent (Lk. 2:36-38). “She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer”. She continued to serve God in her old age.  When she saw Jesus “She began praising God” and from this time she “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem”.

Simeon and Anna recognized that this was a major event. But how could a child of poor parents be important (Lk. 2:24)? Of course, we know that this was no ordinary child, and we know about the rest of His life.

How can we recognize an important event? We could ask, are there any eternal consequences? Using this criterion, the football World Cup is not important. It has no eternal consequences. But each birth and death has lasting importance for that person. They both have eternal consequences. And the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus has lasting importance for everyone. It’s more important than the World Cup! The birth was the precursor to the most important events in Christianity, which are the death and resurrection of Jesus. One’s response to this determines their eternal destiny.

Simeon and Anna showed up when Jesus visited the temple. Like Simeon and Anna showed up and recognized Christ’s birth, do we show up at church to recognize and remember His death?

Prayer

Father, we thank you for faithful people like Simeon and Anna who follow the Holy Spirit to recognize significant events that have an everlasting impact. Help us to be more like them.

And we thank you for sending Jesus to die so that our sins might be put away forever. Thanks for keeping your promises when He came to earth, and we expect more of your promises to be fulfilled when He returns.

So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

G Hawke

This Christmas gift didn’t get lost in the mail

This Christmas gift didn't get lost in the mailIt’s particularly upsetting when a Christmas gift gets lost in the post – one that you’ve carefully chosen and wrapped and sent with love to that special someone you can’t be with over Christmas. With Australia Post making over 2 million deliveries a day it’s no wonder some Christmas parcels go missing. Such as the fruitcake that 3 year old Beau baked with his grandma and sent to his great grandparents. That lovingly made fruitcake only had to travel 150 km and should have taken about a week to get to Beau’s great grandparents. But because of an old barcode left on the re-used parcel box, Beau’s fruitcake travelled approximately 7,000 km and took almost two months to arrive.

Whatever parcels you have received, sent, lost or even found in your life, the original Christmas delivery can not be lost. The Bible tells us that God chose and sent His precious son, Jesus Christ, to us because of His great love. God chose and sent His precious son, Jesus Christ, to us as the gift of divine forgiveness, the gift of salvation, the gift of reconciliation with God. Jesus was sent from heaven to us to show us God’s love and take the consequences of our wrong doing on Himself when He died on the cross.

“This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17NLT).

This original Christmas gift is a strange and wonderful one. It was delivered perfectly on time by God Himself, it doesn’t have a use by date, it can’t break or deteriorate and it is available to all who will receive it. The question is have you received it?

Prayer: Dear God, You really love me. You love me so much you sent your precious son Jesus to suffer the consequences of my sin and bring me forgiveness and reconciliation with you. Thank you. I receive this everlasting gift with joy. Please help me from now on to live in peace with you. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2022

Two reasons to praise God

God's power and loveGod deserves our praise and worship because He created the universe and everything in it (Rev. 4:11). This should be obvious (Rom. 1:19-20). Creation is huge and complicated. Scientists will never understand it all. It looks like it’s been designed. And God not only created matter and energy, He also created the laws of science and mathematics. So, He’s the source of everything that’s good.

But people’s rebellion against God spoilt His original perfect creation. So, we live in a flawed world that can be cruel. And because we all rebel against the holy God, everyone will face God’s judgment and deserves to go to hell forever.

But the Bible says that God also deserves our praise and worship because the death of Jesus Christ satisfied God’s demands for payment for our rebellion against Him (Rev.5:9-10). He took our hell so we could have His heaven and reign in His kingdom. So, He is the Saviour (or rescuer or liberator) of those who accept His salvation.

How do we remember people? How do we remember Queen Elizabeth? Often by photos or by remembering how they looked. Photos of the person who died are usually shown at funeral services. We also remember occasions by taking photos. But we can’t remember Jesus that way because He lived before cameras were invented!

Jesus asked His followers to remember Him in a particular way – in the Lord’s Supper, which involved sharing a simple meal – bread and wine, which was the most common food and drink at that time. It was interactive and corporate, not static and individual like a cross or a crucifix, or a photo.

Prayer

Father, we admire your power shown in creation and your love shown by Jesus that fuels our praise and worship. You are indeed the source and the Saviour.

We thank you for sending Jesus to die so that our sins might be put away forever. So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

G Hawke

Todays’ weather brought to you by God

Todays' weather brought to you by GodTsunamis, floods, and bush fires are no joke. In 2021 it was estimated by Deloitte that natural disasters cost Australia over $38 billion a year and this will nearly double by 2060. The real cost, however, is more than a financial one, many people and animals lose their homes and even their lives when a major disaster strikes.

So what should we think about the weather? Is God really in control? Most of us are comfortable asking God for good weather for our next sports game or outdoor event – we may even thank God for a perfect sunny day. But when it comes to bad weather, who’s to blame – infamous weather systems like El nina or God? And who can we go to about these disasters?

The Bible is full of stories where God uses natural disasters as a judgement for human sin. The flood account in Genesis is one well known example (Genesis 6:5-9:19). God is the rightful judge of the world, and as creator, able to control any aspect of the weather for His purposes. Jeremiah 10:12-13 puts it this way,

“the Lord made the earth by His power, and He preserves it by His wisdom. With His own understanding He stretched out the heavens. When He speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from His storehouses”

So if God is in control of the weather, the question remains, is today’s good or bad weather a daily judgement from God? The answer is both yes and no. In His limitless wisdom God uses the weather both to provide for humanity and to call them back to trusting in Him. Natural disasters remind us how terrifying and unpredictable life in this world can be. They remind us of the reality of death and destruction. They are another symptom of the presence of sin in this world. It is not that those suffering the effects of a natural disaster specifically sinned in a way that meant they should suffer more than others. Rather, because humans have collectively rebelled against God, we have all been exiled from the perfect paradise God intended us to live in and we continue to long for. So whatever the weather today, remember who it comes from. If it has brought you pain and suffering perhaps this is a time to call out to God for mercy. If it has brought you joy perhaps this is the day to give Him thanks.

Prayer: Dear God, I acknowledge you as the creator and sustainer of all things. I acknowledge that I am not as in control as I’d like to be and that I don’t always like what you choose to give me. Forgive me for my rebellion against you. Help me to trust your wisdom in all that you do. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2022

God saved the Queen

God saved the Queen“God Save the Queen” has been the anthem of Britain for the last 70 years; the phrase used as an expression of patriotism and royal support. But what did the Queen need saving from? Did she need saving from republicanism, from the decline of the Commonwealth, from foreign invasion, or the collapse of her own family? In her own words, Queen Elizabeth II explained she needed saving from something far more insidious and universal than outside enemies. “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves—from our recklessness or our greed,” Queen Elizabeth said during her Christmas message in 2011. This remarkable woman, who has since her passing been described as dutiful, faithful, servanthearted, forgiving and stable, recognised that she still needed saving from her own sin.

We see our own and others’ sins everyday – in snarky comments and cold shoulders, in fights over parking spots and the need to lock our doors, in our addictions and our distractions, when we hear another story of abuse, murder and corruption. Yet, perhaps because we see it so often and in so many places, we seem oblivious to how ugly and painful sin really is. How much we really need to be saved from sin’s dirty destructive grip. But we do. And so, as Queen Elizabeth II continues in her Christmas message, “God sent into the world a unique Person—neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Savior, with the power to forgive. …”

God saved the Queen from her sin because of her faith in Jesus Christ to forgive her. As the Bible says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9NLT).

Our sins bring us condemnation but Jesus brings forgiveness and salvation to all who trust Him. Though the end of Queen Elizabeth’s long reign may be a somber occasion, God truly has saved the Queen. With faith in Jesus He can save you too.

Prayer: Dear God, Please save me from my sin. Please forgive me for my sin. I believe in Jesus to bring me forgiveness and salvation. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2022

Be who were born to be, a child of God

Be who were born to be, a child of GodWhat would your ideal parent be like? This question may feel a bit awkward or even painful to answer, but I invite you to consider it for a moment. If you’re anything like me, your character list of the ideal parent might go something like… caring, gentle, wise, compassionate, capable, stable, fun. Then, if I was really going all out with a wish list I might add powerful, rich and well respected.

Who our parents are has a profound and life long impact on who we are. Putting aside the genetic influence they have over our lives such as skin colour, physical abilities, predispositions to particular health issues, personality etc, who our parents are
and how they have treated us is carried with us long after childhood. If your father has been outed as a womaniser you can’t help but absorb some of that shame. If your mother is known as a hero in your community you can’t deny a feeling of pride. If your father always spoke words of encouragement and love to you you will probably have a deep sense of value. If your mother gave you up as a baby it may be hard not to feel rejected.

But whoever your parents are, you can still have the perfect parent. The Bible says whoever has faith in Jesus Christ becomes a beloved child of God.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

Now let me tell you about this Heavenly Father who can be yours through Jesus – He is kinder than the kindest person you’ve ever met; He is wiser than the most enlightened person you know, He is more patient and compassionate than Mother Theresa, He is richer than Elon Musk, more powerful than Vladimir Putin and more forgiving than Nelson Mandela.

Now can you imagine this perfect parent wants you to be their child? Really! He gave up His precious son Jesus to pay for your rebellious ways, so, when you trust His son, you too become His precious child. He loves you so much He not only calls you to be His child He transforms you to be like Him.

Call on the truly perfect, compassionate, wise, powerful and loving parent and become His child today.

Prayer: Dear heavenly father, I want to be your precious child. I really want you as my perfect parent. Please forgive my rebellion against you. Help me to trust your son Jesus. And make me more like you. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2022

Lord’s Supper rebuke

Chest pain is the most common warning sign of a heart attackPain is part of our body’s warning system. If you touch something hot, it hurts so you automatically pull away before it does much damage. And chest pain (angina) is the most common warning sign of a heart attack. Pain is an alarm and warning signal to the body. It indicates that something needs our attention.

In 1 Corinthians 11 there is a description of the Lord’s Supper (v.23-26), followed by a rebuke (v.27-32).

The description gives two reasons for celebrating it – one internal (for us) and one external (for others). The first reason was to remember what Jesus has done for us. The second reason was to “proclaim the Lord’s death” to others. As we partake of the bread and wine, we are declaring the importance of the Lord’s death. That Christ’s death on our behalf provides eternal forgiveness of our sin. And it says we are to carry out this remembrance and proclamation “until He (Jesus) comes” again and all believers will be with the Lord forever.

The rebuke begins with a warning about how not to celebrate the Lord’s Supper – not in an unworthy manner (v.27). Then there is a command that addresses the warning, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (v.28NIV). The self-examination being asked for here was to reveal their sins (like wrong attitudes and wrong relationships) and to repent by getting right with God and getting right with one another.

Then there is another warning, “For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honouring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself” (v. 29NLT). This is like the warning in verse 27 that malpractice at the Lord’s Supper leads to God’s judgment. Verse 27 said that disrespecting the meaning of the Lord’s Supper brings the guilt of disrespecting the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. As verse 29 mentions the body of Christ, but not the blood it seems to indicate disrespecting other believers in the church. For example, there was a lack of unity at Corinth.

Then there is an observation, “That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died” (v.30NLT). Because of this persistent sin many were weak and sick and some died. We may minimize the seriousness of sin, but God doesn’t. God has the right to discipline believers (Heb. 12:5-11). It’s a physical judgement like a parent disciples a child; not a spiritual death. God knows that pain gets our attention and often makes us stop and think. So the Lord’s Supper is a solemn and serious affair. It should bring confession, repentance and unity.

The Corinthians were careless, selfish, and indifferent to the needs of others. They were going through the motions of the Lord’s Supper as a routine, but living as though the death of Jesus meant nothing to them. They were self-centered, not Christ-centered. They had divisions and not unity. They were coming together mainly to eat and drink. They had ignored their sins and continued in them. Pagan culture had infiltrated into the church at Corinth.

If Paul was here, would he give us a rebuke for how we practice the Lord’s Supper? Are we living like a follower of Jesus Christ? Are we coming to the Lord’s Supper reverently and humbly and with the right heart? Don’t be a hypocrite like the believers in Corinth. They took part in the Lord’s Supper and continued to be sinful. They didn’t consider themselves “to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Their conduct didn’t match their position in Christ (Col. 3:3, 5-11).

Then there is a summary of the rebuke, “But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world” (v.31-32NLT). The purpose of divine discipline is correction, not punishment. If we judge ourselves by taking corrective action by confessing and repenting our sins, then God will not have to judge us. But if we don’t take corrective action, God’s discipline is evidence that we are a believer. If we are not disciplined when we are sinful and unrepentant, then we are probably not a child of God.

Let’s attend the Lord’s Supper regularly to remember the Lord, having examined ourselves and with love for others. But don’t take the emblems unless you are a follower of Christ. And be sure you’re up to date with God regarding any unconfessed sins.

Prayer

Father, we know we are prone to sin and that this separates us from you and from each other. That’s what happened at Corinth and it happens to us as well. Help us be aware of this so we can confess and repent of our sins. Also, when we strike difficulties in life help us remember that the pain may be to remind us to get back on the right track with you.

We thank you for sending Jesus to die so that our sins might be put away forever. We share the emblems together in remembrance of His death and resurrection. Declaring that it provides eternal forgiveness of our sin. So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

G Hawke

Strangest thing – Jesus will come again

Strangest thing - Jesus will come againThe day of reckoning – it’s an exciting moment in the movie or TV show we’re watching. Finally the wrongdoers get exposed, the evil monster is overpowered and defeated, justice is served. It appears to be a universal longing played out in film and television across cultures and time. We also hope for a judgement day in the real world as we watch televised court cases about abusers, big corporations causing harm in the interest of making money, corrupt politicians using their power for personal gain and the actions of despotic dictators. But when it comes to a universal, ultimate day of reckoning we’re not so keen. The Christian doctrine of a final judgement day is often seen as archaic, incompatible with a loving God or just plain laughable.

Just before His arrest the Bible records Jesus telling His eleven closest friends and followers (though somewhat obscurely) that it’s time for him to die, be resurrected and return to heaven (John 13:31-33). But He also reassures His dear friends –

I will come back.” John 14:3

This second coming of Jesus is described as a world-wide final day of reckoning when all human secrets, hidden (and not so hidden) wrongdoing will be exposed and judged with perfect justice. Doesn’t that sound like a moment when we can all stand up out of our seats and applaud? Or perhaps not. Perhaps we are scared of our own secret wrongs being judged. Perhaps we’re not sure if we’ve done enough good or are good enough.

But here’s the plot twist, when Jesus tells His disciples He’s coming back He tells them as a
reassurance. Jesus said He was going to die on the cross, rise from the dead, and return to heaven to make a way for His followers to join Him there. And that’s what He did. By dying and rising again Jesus takes on the judgement and punishment of all so that any who want to receive forgiveness can follow Him into heaven.

The Bible assures us that a day of reckoning is coming. Year after year passes by – seemingly without end. Corruption and abuse continues often without consequence. But Jesus will return. He will judge and punish all wrong with perfect justice. And He will take any who trust Him with Him into eternal peace and glory. Will you be cheering or cowering on that day?

Prayer: Dear God, I confess I have done wrong. I know I can’t stand before your perfect judgement. Please forgive me because of what Jesus has done. I want to be with you in perfection forever. Amen.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2022

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