Still social distancing from God?

Still social distancing from God? Get close to God today. It’s something you took for granted isn’t it? To hug someone hello. To shake a congratulatory hand. To hold that fresh new baby at that birthday barbecue or slap a mate on the back. It feels wrong to sidestep strangers, least of all a relative.

Since COVID-19, there are people who have left this earth in solitude and babies who have been born into the arms of parents, yet haven’t seen another face. They left the doors of the hospital and have never been passed around their village of friends and family.

The absence of such simple human connections has made a work day feel so empty and the unknown stretch of time ahead of us feel so long; but this is not new to God.

He knew about social distancing long before it became an everyday part of our 2020
vocabulary. He knew the pain of distance and separation. He knew the anguish when
His only Son Jesus died on the cross, and He knows the grief of separation from His children. Proverbs 8:17 says: “I love those who love me. And those who seek me diligently will find me.” God gives the lonely and hurting refuge. He gives comfort to those who know His voice and nothing, not even the stresses and pains of all that 2020 brought us is too much for His love.

Are you still social distancing from the ultimate relationship? Our world has had to distance itself from each other, but you can get close to God today.

Bible verse: Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me”.

Prayer: Dear God, thank for being our loving, faithful Father in heaven that understands our joys and griefs. Thank you for always hearing us when we come to you in prayer. Help us to seek you through the good times and the bad.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2021

Posted, April 2021

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Hanging Rock, Blackheath

Hanging Rock, Blackheath

Saturday 17 April 2021

Walk along fire trail to Baltzer Lookout. Views of the Grose Valley and Hanging Rock – a large spire of sandstone precariously hanging out from the cliff. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (8.15am) and Strathfield (8.30am). Return by 6pm.

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Grade : Medium (11 km)

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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Life saving blood

The work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was to save the life and dignity of everyone, everywhereThroughout history, there has been a growing understanding of the remarkable properties of blood. In 1628, a physician named William Harvey published his theory on the circulation of blood – it was amazingly accurate. Soon after, the first blood transfusion was attempted. It was discovered that blood could save lives!

About 200 years later, the ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’ was founded by Henri Dunant in Switzerland. Henri had witnessed wounded and dying soldiers left to suffer without medical care on a battlefield in Italy. He started a campaign to reduce the suffering and casualties of war regardless of which side they belonged to.

But it took a long time for medical experiments to refine the process of storing and transferring blood between humans. Successful blood transfusions became more common during the Second World War. Since then, the Red Cross has become known for collecting and storing blood to save lives in peacetime and war.

Many of us, like Henri, value human life highly, and we will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve it. God’s son, Jesus, valued human life even more than we can understand. He understood that every single human life is precious and that is why He paid the ultimate price.

Christians speak about Jesus’ blood and what Jesus has done for them, and sometimes that might be hard to understand. It’s because He shed His blood, He lost His life, He sacrificed Himself so that He could take the punishment of everyone who trusts in Him. As though He stood in our place and took responsibility for all the times we’ve messed up and done wrong. It’s why Christians make such a big deal about Easter, because being forgiven for your sins changes everything.

The task of the Red Cross, under international law, is to protect the life and dignity of the victims of war. The work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was to save the life and dignity of everyone, everywhere.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the enormous sacrifice that your son, Jesus, made for us at Easter. Thank you for the gift of new life and the freedom from guilt we can enjoy as your children.

Bible verse: Ephesians 1:7 “He [God] is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins”.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2021

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Everyone praising and worshipping

Man kneeling: "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth"Philippians 2 is about the humility and exaltation of Jesus Christ. It says that He went from the highest place (equality with God the Father), to the lowest place (death as a criminal) and back to the highest place (the right hand of God the Father). After describing Christ’s incarnation and death, Paul writes,

“Therefore God exalted Him [Jesus] to the highest place
and gave Him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11NIV).

The word “every” occurs three times in this passage.

  1. Every name

Because of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension, God “exalted Him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name”. This exaltation was predicted in the Old Testament (Isa. 52:13; 53:12; Dan. 7:14) and confirmed in the New Testament (Acts 2:33; Heb. 2:9; Eph. 1:20-21). The word “name” is equivalent to character. Christ’s character is above that of all others. Above all people and all angels. His character is unique. Jesus is supreme. According to the book of Hebrews, He is superior to the angels, to Moses and the law, to the Jewish priesthood, and to the Jewish sacrificial system. He’s the ultimate hero. The One above all others.

  1. Every knee

God exalted Jesus so that “every knee should bow” before Him. This means to “bow down in worship” (Ps. 95:6). In the future all creatures will be compelled to worship Him – people and angels and demons. This was not a new idea because it was known about 750 years earlier (Isa. 45:22-24).

This will happen when He will be revealed in great power and glory at the second coming of Christ and into His following Millennial reign. Although submission to God is optional now, it will be mandatory then.

Christ’s the one to be praised and worshipped. True worship needs content. Emotion alone is not sufficient. We need to worship the Lord for Christ’s sacrificial death for us.

  1. Every tongue

And God exalted Jesus so that “every tongue (will) acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Paul repeats this in Romans (Rom. 14:11). This is public acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord of all. When we acknowledge the lordship of Christ, we glorify God the Father because it was His plan to save us from sin. And it means that Jesus has the right to absolute rule over our lives.

If we acknowledge it now while we are still alive, then there is salvation from our sin (Rom. 10:9-10). But if we die or Christ returns before we do, then we will be forced to do so when we are judged by God for our sins (Rev. 20:11-15). So timing is important. Don’t delay!

So let‘s choose now to bow our knees (or hearts) in worship and engage our tongues in praise to acknowledge the name above all names before everyone will be compelled to do this.

George Hawke

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King size bed

King size bed - Manger and strawBeing a celebrity definitely comes with its perks, one of which is the capacity to make outrageous demands. If Jennifer Lopez travels, she reportedly asks for her hotel rooms to be completely white; everything from the walls, to the furniture, to the white candles. In order to ensure she’s properly rested, the sheets must be of minimum two hundred and fifty ‘thread count’ Egyptian cotton and the room temperature a precise and constant 25.5 Degrees C.

When famous celebrities like ‘J Lo’ come to Australia, we’re often so concerned that they ‘like Australia’. And to help that outcome we show them the sights and interview them endlessly until they finally tell us how much they do in fact ‘like Australia’.

Yet when the greatest celebrity of all visited, God, we had very little interest. Although He promised He’d come, we weren’t ready. And even though He looked after us tenderly by healing and teaching us and finally offering His life to pay for our sin, we were hostile and suspicious and treated Him with contempt.

The Bible records that when God’s Son came to earth, incarnate in human form, He made no demands for comfort of any kind. When it was time for the virgin Mary to give birth to Jesus in the small town of Bethlehem, there was no royal reception, no soft bed or interior decoration. In fact, there wasn’t even a room left at the inn that Mary so desperately needed for her labour. Instead, when He was born, the infant Jesus was put in a ‘manger’ or cattle feed trough. Hardly a place fit for the King of creation, the one who is: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16).

When Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor who sentenced Jesus to death, was interviewing Jesus, he asked him whether He really was a king. Jesus replied: “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:37).

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for sending your Son Jesus. Lord, I pray now that You would be King over my life.

Bible verse: Revelation 19:16 “On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”

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

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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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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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