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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Narabeen Lagoon

Narrabeen Lagoon 3

Saturday 10 June 2017

Choice of two walks. See wildlife, cultural heritage and historical sites. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (9.00am). Return by 4pm.

Walk: 1 Ingleside to Narrabeen is medium grade (8km)
Walk 2: Narrabeen Lagoon is easy grade (7km)

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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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

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Saturday 13 May 2017

Choice of two walks. Great views of the Grose Valley, Mt Banks and Sydney. Exposed track on plateau. Transport (mini bus) available from North Ryde (7.45am). Return by 7pm.

Grade : Walk 1 (Mt Hay Road to Lockley Pylon & return) is Medium (7km)
Walk 2 Mt Hay Road to Perrys Lookdown is Hard (9km, 650m descent and ascent)

Leader : George Hawke 0422 659 589

Sydney Christian Bushwalkers

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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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Change

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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True worship

worship 400pxWhat is “true worship”? You may think that worship is limited to a church meeting or the singing in such a meeting. But it’s much more than that!

In Romans Paul shows that worship is an important part of our Christian lives. After 11 chapters on doctrine (what we believe about what God has done for us), he turns to practice (how we should live in view of what God has done for us).

This turning point in the book of Romans begins, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1NIV)

Christians are urged to do something here. It says that our actions, conduct and behavior should flow from an appreciation of what God has done from us.

He says, “I urge you”. It’s not a command from a dictator, but an appeal from a friend. God is urging us to live in fellowship with Him.

This appeal is in view of “God’s mercy”. All that God has done for us and given us is described in the previous 11 chapters. This includes: salvation, forgiveness, justification, grace, redemption, righteousness, peace, hope, love, reconciliation, a spiritual life, the Holy Spirit, being released from the law of Moses, and being children of God, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ. It’s so amazing that Paul concludes this section with a doxology expressing awe and wonder at what God has done and continues to do though Jesus (Rom. 11:33-36). That’s the basis of why we should live for God.

Paul says “offer your bodies” to God as a living sacrifice. This means to offer our whole lives to God, like sacrifices were offered in the ancient world. It’s our whole body, soul and spirit and all we do, not just in a meeting at church. It’s a total commitment.

It’s a “living sacrifice”. Like animals were sacrificed daily to God in the Old Testament, we are to be the sacrifice. We give up our rights and obey God.

Our sacrifice is to be “holy”. Exclusively for God. Like in marriage.

It’s also to be “pleasing to God”. We are to live to please God.

This is “true and proper worship”. It’s what worship is! It’s offering ourselves to God because of all He’s done for us. It’s our logical and reasonable response to God.

We have seen that Romans 12:1 describes what worship is for each believer. It’s a way of life. It’s individual worship. This worship is not just a church meeting or singing, but the whole of our lives.

So according to the Bible, worship is a part of our response to God’s revelation. It is an attitude and an action. The attitude is offering adoration, respect and honour to God (Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 5:14). And the action is showing this respect by a life of service, obeying God (Rom. 12:1). Everyone worships something or someone. It’s evident in how we spend our time and money.

But God also calls us to collective worship (1 Cor. 11: 23-33). That’s how our individual worship can be combined and expressed corporately. It’s an opportunity to express our adoration, respect and honour of the Lord collectively. Corporate worship is focused on what the Lord has done in dying for us. That’s one of the purposes of the Lord’s Supper. Like individual worship, this should engage our minds, wills and emotions.

Let’s worship the Lord “in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-24).

George Hawke

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To serve and to give

give-3-400px“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” Exodus 23:14. NIV.

Living in an entertainment culture, we are coached to receive or to be entertained. We are prone to expect the same from a church. We go to church to hear a sermon, that hopefully is not too troubling to our conscience, one with a few laughs and memorable stories. We want our children to be minded and kept happy and the morning tea to be well stocked with fresh biscuits and be served the best coffee in town.

It is dreadful that today’s Christianity has turned away from the example of our Lord who “came not to be served but to serve and give Himself as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).  We should come to church with the attitude that we are there to give not get, to serve and not to be served. We should enter the door looking for opportunities to worship, to fellowship and to meet the needs of others.

When people think worship services are boring, dull, and unconnected to the modern view of religious experiences, we sometimes have to wonder if it is because of the service or the worshipper. In the Old testament Israelites were instructed not to turn up in front of God “empty handed.” This required personal consecration, a setting aside of self-interest and needs to prepare to give and serve.

What does that mean for us today?

  1. We can prepare for worship on The Lord’s Day (Sunday) by spending time at least the day before in God’s word, prayer, meditation, and personal worship. (this may mean not staying out late on Saturday nights).
  2. From daily personal devotion notes we can be ready to bring an offering of service on Sunday, perhaps a song of praise or a word of encouragement or a prayer.
  3. Daily personal worship makes us ready to say “Amen” to the prayers offered by others, the benediction or the sermon.
  4. When we spend time during the week to read the Bible, pray and worship, the Worship Service becomes a celebration of our personal worship experienced throughout the week.
  5. When we come to our community worship we are able to sing from our hearts to the Lord and join in since He has been close to our heart all week long.

When I bring an offering of a full heart to the Worship Service and give it to God I take with me a heart full of blessing far exceeding what I brought.

The picture I want to leave with you is the picture of Mary in John Chapter 12 who poured expensive perfume that cost her over a year’s wages on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.  The Bible says the fragrance of the perfume filled the house.

I want to encourage you to fill the house every Sunday morning with the perfumes you have prepared and brought.

George Mathew

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Heathcote National Park

Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 10 September 2016

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Kiama Coast Walk

Walk with Sydney Christian Bushwalkers on 18 June 2016

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