Rebooting ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

Confession and repentance

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

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

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

George Hawke

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When death was arrested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Hawke

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Victoria Falls, Blue Mountains National Park

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Choice of two walks with great views of the Grose Valley.
Walk 1 Victoria Falls to Pierces Pass. Includes fording the Grose River.
Walk 2 Victoria Cascades and Walls Lookout.

Transport (minibus) available from North Ryde (7.45am). Return by 8pm.

Date: Saturday 14 April

Walk 1
Hard – 10 km
Walk 2 Medium- 5 km

Leader: George Hawke 9878 1974 or 0422 659 589

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Worship in Revelation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Hawke

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Garigal National Park

Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 23 September 2017

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The Hallel psalms – Part 2

After Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples, the Bible says that they finished by singing a hymn (Mt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26). This hymn was probably Psalm 118, the last of the Jewish Hallel (praise) psalms (Ps. 113-118). Here’s the highlights of this psalm.

Psalm 118

It begins and ends with a call to praise, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (v.1, 29NIV). The theme is to thank God for deliverance from enemies. He answered their call for help. The Israelites give thanks for deliverance and victory over their enemies (v.5-21). They repeat “God has become my salvation (or deliverer)” (v. 14, 21). God rescued them from their enemies. And they respond with rejoicing (v.22-27).

CornerstoneThey sing, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 22). This probably referred to the king who was now exalted instead of being rejected. It’s a metaphor that describes his changed circumstances. He was like a stone which was discarded by the builders as useless, but now he is important to God like the cornerstone of a building. Imagine Jesus singing “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” on the night before He was rejected and crucified! The Bible applies this verse to Jesus. We can also apply it to Jesus. Let’s exalt Him in a world that rejects Him.

They also sing, “This is the day the Lord has brought about, we will be happy and rejoice in it” (v.24NET). They were rejoicing on the day of their victory and deliverance. Imagine Jesus singing “This is the day the Lord has brought about we will be happy and rejoice in it” on the night before He was crucified! We can also apply it to Jesus. He brought about a great victory and deliverance that we can be happy about and rejoice in.

They also sing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (v.26). This probably refers to the one who with God’s help has defeated the enemies. The crowds shouted these words during Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13). Imagine Jesus singing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” four days after the crowds had shouted it to Him and knowing that they were about to reject Him! We can also apply it to Jesus. He indeed was sent by God the Father.

The psalm ends with, “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you” (v. 28). And “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever”. Likewise, let’s praise and exalt God for His goodness and love shown through Jesus.

Psalm 118 may also be sung at the second coming of Christ by those who believe in Him during the tribulation. In this case it will celebrate God’s final victory over evil.

Like the Jews recalled psalm 118 after the Passover meal, we can also thank God for His eternal love in delivering us from the penalty of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. That was a great victory for which we should be grateful, thankful, and joyful.

George Hawke

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The Jewish Hallel psalms – Part 1

Hallelujah 1 400pxThe Lord’s Supper was instituted at the last supper when Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples on the night before He was crucified. The Biblical account finishes, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26). The hymn they sang was probably one of the Jewish Hallel (praise) psalms (Ps. 113-118). Apparently, Psalms 113-114 were sung before the Passover meal and Psalms 115-118 after the meal. The Hebrew word “halal” means to praise, celebrate, glory or boast. And Hallelujah (hallel-Yah) means to praise Yahweh (the Hebrew word for God).

Here’s a summary of the first two Hallel psalms.

Psalm 113

The theme is to praise God because He is great and gracious. To be gracious is to be kind and generous. He is great because He is matchless and omniscient (all knowing). He is gracious because He helped the needy then and He helps us in our spiritual need. So the Jews praised God because of His attributes and His actions. This psalm begins and ends with “Praise the Lord” (or “hallelujah” in Hebrew). We can also praise God for who He is and what He does. He is still great and His kindness is shown in the salvation He offers us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Psalm 114

The theme is to respect God’s awesome power shown in the Exodus. His power was evident in crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan River. And in the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai that caused the Israelites to tremble in fear (Ex. 19:16-18). And providing water from a rock. We can also respect God’s awesome power shown in the miraculous resurrection of Jesus.

Lessons for us

Like the Jews recalled psalms 113 -114 before the Passover meal, we can praise God when we recall:
– God’s greatness and kindness shown in the salvation He offers us through the sacrifice of Jesus, and
– God’s awesome power shown in the miraculous resurrection of Jesus.

So, let’s praise the Lord – “Now and for evermore” and “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets” (Ps. 113:2-3). That means continually and everywhere! That’s what the Jews did in the Hallel and what Christians did in the early church (Acts 2:46-47).

George Hawke

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Lockley Pylon & Blue Gum Forest

Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 13 May 2017

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Proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes back

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” – 1 Corinthians 11:26

Until He comes 4 400pxYou may wonder why the eating of the bread and the drinking from the cup are important part of our Sunday service?  We do this every week as the first Christians did because Jesus Himself instituted it on the night He was betrayed. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” Jesus said in Luke 22:19. The first breaking of bread (Lord’s Supper) was done on Passover night, which was a Jewish commemoration of the angel of death passing over the house of Israelites in Egypt saving their lives.

At the first Passover, a lamb without blemish was killed for its blood that marked every house. Years later Jesus became the Passover lamb when His blood (death) paid for the penalty of all humanity. Today death passes over anyone who believes in the redemptive work of Jesus. If the first Passover saved people from physical death, Jesus’ death delivers us from spiritual death thus giving a new meaning for the Passover, and a new life to those who believe. So the breaking of bread is a remembrance of Jesus’ death but also a celebration of new life.

One day we will stop breaking bread and drinking wine. That is when Jesus returns. Every time we break bread we are in a sense punctuating history between His death and His return. As much as there is a looking backward to Calvary, there is also a looking forward to Jesus’ return. Each week we are getting closer to His coming back.

Our worship in the future according to the vision John saw in Revelations is one where Jesus would be in the midst of believers. Jesus Himself will take the place of the emblems (the bread and wine). After the first Passover, God met His children in the Tent of meeting (Exodus 33:7) and the tabernacle (Exodus 25) in the wilderness. When the temple was built, people were drawn to the temple (1 Kings 5) to worship God. After Jesus changed the meaning of Passover, believers come together around the emblems, and one day will personally gather around Him.

What does the breaking of bread (Lord’s Supper) means for us today?
– When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup we are declaring Jesus’ death until He comes.
– We are celebrating life through Jesus, looking to His return, following His desire that we remember Him this way.
– The breaking of bread is meaningful only to a believer who has tasted new life in Jesus. It is the relationship with Jesus that makes it meaningful.
– Taking part in the Lord’s Supper does not impart spiritual powers or make one holy.

So today if you believe that Jesus died personally for you and that He is the reason for your sins being washed away, then by all means enjoy this remembrance with the rest of us. If you are not taking part of the bread and wine, because you are unsure of your relationship that is fine too. But we would encourage you to keep seeking a relationship with Jesus because it is worth it.

George Mathew

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A friend of mine recently told me that he chooses to not use the word “change” to avoid the fear that seems to attach itself when change is mentioned. Instead he prefers to term change as “making adjustments”.

Looking ahead to 2017 another friend of mine broadcasted this statement “This year, I’d rather fail in faith than miss an opportunity in fear” In preparing a sermon to set the scene for our church this year and encourage people around the changes they were about to encounter I found this statement embodying what God had been preparing in my heart in the weeks earlier.

When we talk about change, particularly in a community church setting, barriers go up, fear sets in and then we tend to look to the past as a way of doing things and rationalize the future through one of these lenses, if not all three.

Such was the case for the Israelites who at times embraced the change from slavery in Egypt and at other times grumbled and longed for the old days. The unwillingness to change came to a head when they were getting ready to step into the promised land for the first time. Remember, they had seen God work powerfully in bringing them out of Egypt, witnessing the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea before showing them His glory at Mount Sinai. Despite this witness, when the spies came back from their scouting mission of the promised land, the verdict of ten was it was too difficult to take the land, God’s chosen people missed an opportunity in fear that would see them stuck in a holding pattern until those pockets of unwillingness to progress had been removed.

In my life, as I look back, I can pin point many times where out of fear, insecurity and lack of faith I have found myself in the regret of missed opportunity.

Change and the challenge it brings is nothing new, it happens to us from the second we are born. We are always progressing, adapting, growing or as my friend puts it “making adjustments”, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. It’s the same right through the narrative of scripture as we see God patiently moving humanity through His process according to His will. The question is, are we aligning ourselves through faith to His process, or stuck in the holding pattern of fear and unwillingness to move forward?

When change is upon us and fear sets in be encouraged! I believe that these feelings and apprehensions are a sure sign that you are indeed exercising your faith and heeding the call of God on your life.

In John 20:19-29 we see perhaps one of the most uncomfortable and challenging times Jesus’ disciples faced in their ministry. We find them hiding and locked away in a holding pattern of fear and uncertainty, no doubt wondering where their promised Messiah was, or if He’d turn up at all. This was a the turning point for humanity and their role, was to step out of that room in faith that God might align them to His purpose for them and their part in establishing this change, that today we know as the church.

We as the church are also called to step out in faith, embracing change the same way the disciples did. Be encouraged for the same Jesus that broke down their barriers to meet them where they were, offered them His peace breathing His life on them and offering the Holy Spirit is the same resurrected Jesus at work in and among believers today.

God in the business of changing lives, changing eternities and changing the world. If you’re a Christian, God has and is changing you from glory to glory into the likeness and image of His precious son. Hebrew 10:14 says that we are being made holy. That word being indicates a process. Likewise, Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”, also indicating a process. So with all this change going on, the question is, are you willing to embrace it?

Josh Groenestyn

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