Category Archives: Haydn’s Church Devotions & Bible Studies

Haydn’s Bible Studies on Hebrews

In August of 2017, I began taking my church through the New Testament book of Hebrews.  It’s a letter that is often considered to be one of the most complicated books of the Bible, and is one of the most frequently avoided as a consequence.  I love getting through the more challenging texts of the Bible, and I decided to take my church through it because I found Hebrews to be a very important influence on myself since I came to Christ in 1998. 

I decided to take my church through this book because its meaning is too valuable to miss.  As with the church written to in Hebrews, the church I am leading is very much in need of similar revival.  How will revival arrive?  According to Hebrews, that will only occur when we strengthen what is weak to walk in holiness with Jesus as intimately as possible.  We cannot get sloppy and merely rest on our predestined salvation to get to the end of our journey: we are to grow in Christ-likeness and share in God’s holiness (10:11). 

Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it – Hebrews 4:1 (ESV)

Much has happened since we began this Bible study, but as of this week we have finished the series on this wonderful epistle.  I wrote all the Bible studies myself, and I have published them here for others to use.  They include: 

  • Questions about the passage;
  • A reflection on the implications of the passage for us;
  • A prayer that uses the themes of each passage to pray for ourselves;
  • Finally, notes to help users to understand what the questions are getting at.

Hebrews Bible Studies Introduction

Hebrews 1. 1-4 Bible Study

Hebrews 1.5 – 2.4 Bible Study

Hebrews 2.5-18 Bible Study

Hebrews 3 Bible Study

Hebrews 4.1-13 Bible Study

Hebrews 4.14 – 5.10 Bible Study

Hebrews 5.11 – 6.12 Bible Study

Hebrews 6.13 – 7.10 Bible Study

Hebrews 7.11-28 Bible Study

Hebrews 8 Bible Study

Hebrews 9 Bible Study

Hebrews 10.1-18 Bible Study

Hebrews 10.19-39 Bible Study

Hebrews 11 Bible Study

Hebrews 12.1-17 Bible Study

Hebrews 12.18-29 Bible Study

Hebrews 13.1-16 Bible Study

Hebrews 13.17-25 Bible Study

Here are the prayers that I wrote for the Hebrews Bible study that have been assembled in one file –  Extra – Hebrews Bible Studies Prayers.

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Advertisements

How can we dwell with God? (Psalm 15 Bible study)

To live with God is something that most people in the world are fixated upon (whether their god is the right one or not).  We are all created to worship something bigger than ourselves, and were were made by the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible to live with Him, and He with us.  So how is that possible?  Is it simply a matter of just believing in Jesus Christ: what else are we meant to do?  Here is my Psalm 15 Bible Study about this topic

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

 

Getting past distress and doubt in thankful prayer (Psalm 77)

No life goes smoothly, not even for God’s children; in many ways, their woes seem to get bigger once they do follow God because Satan, the enemy, is on their case.  But no matter how deep we get into distress and doubt, we can bring it to God in prayer and get out of it by remembering God’s kindnesses towards us, both cosmic (e.g. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) and the smaller, everyday ones (e.g. living in affluence and having access to clean drinking water).  Here is my Bible study on a passage on this – Psalm 77 Bible Study

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

 

I asked the Lord that I might grow

In faith and love and every grace,

Might more of His salvation know

And more earnestly seek His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,

And He, I trust, has answered prayer;

But it has been in such a way

As almost drove me to despair.

I thought that in some favoured hour

At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power,

Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of that, He made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart,

And bade the angry powers of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

Nay more, with His own hand He seemed

Intent to aggravate my woe.

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?”, I trembling cried.

“Wilt Thou pursue this worm to death?”

“This is the way”, the Lord replied,

“I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ

From self and sin to set thee free,

And cross thy schemes of earthly joy

That thou might’st find all thy in Me”.

–  pp. 23-24 of Spiritual Maturity by Oswald Sanders (Moody Publishers: Chicago), 1994.

.

Jesus Christ & our fear of abandonment (Psalm 22 Bible study)

Abandonment is one thing that human beings are absolutely terrified of, and that’s because we are made in God’s image, and therefore designed for relationship with Him and one another.  It can occur when a parent leaves home, a death happens, or a divorce.  It can result in work-a-holism, obsessive behaviour, addiction, fearful attachment, and anger.  God understands that, and Jesus does too.

Jesus Christ experienced abandonment on the cross when God the Father put all His wrath for sin on Jesus.  Why?  Because every man, woman, and child has rebelled against God – and therefore deserves His anger for that disobedience.  That consequence is Hell, where people are abandoned by God forever.  Yet Jesus experienced abandonment on the cross 2,000 years ago so that those who trust in Him will not experience Hell, but have friendship with God forever.  It also means that when Christians experience sorrow, betrayal, and abandonment, that Jesus Christ completely sympathises.  Here is a Bible study that I went through with my church today on this subject, based on Psalm 22 and Matthew 27-28: Psalm 22 Bible Study

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Anger, Reflection, Calm, and Peaceful Sleep (Psalm 4 Bible Study)

Anger is a secondary emotion – it usually comes from a deep sense of hurt and injustice.  It’s a cry of unresolved pain that seeks justice and comfort.  Yet if we ignore it, suppress it, and try to shove it away it still stays there before it oozes out in ways that harm others in aggression.  Aggression doesn’t need to be ‘hot’ and violent – it can manifest in passive ways such as brooding silence.

But is anger a sin?  Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t say that.  Our world insists that it is, especially in the West, and tells people to hide it all away and just ‘try to be nice’, but Psalm 4 won’t let us get away with that.  Because we are made in the image of God (who Himself has emotions, such as grief, anger, love, and joy), we have emotions too.  So what are we to do with our anger?  Here, I have written a Bible study on Psalm 4 which explored all this.  When we have safe ways to get out anger, we can be calm, sleep well, experience God’s presence, and go on to love others.  Here is the Bible study: Psalm 4 Bible Study.

God bless, Pastor Haydn.  

Should Christians pray for divine vengeance? (Psalm 109 Bible study)

Many people today, even Christians, may think that asking God for divine vengeance upon enemies is an ‘unloving thing’ to do.  They reason that because God wants “everyone” to be saved and no one to perish that therefore divine punishment is a horrible idea on the basis of texts like Ezekiel 18:32 and John 3:16.  And since Jesus commanded His followers to love enemies and not seek retaliation, how is it even possible for Christians to plea for God to punish His enemies and those who harm His children?  So how exactly does a love for mercy sit alongside the understandable demand for divine justice (which we see in places like Revelation 6:10 and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)? In Psalm 109, King David asks for such a thing, and many find it a hard prayer to digest and even to pray; even the famous CS Lewis had difficulty with it.   It seems to me that we in the West struggle with this because Christians here have not (yet) had to stand for their faith to the point of bloodshed.  Nonetheless this prayer is in the Bible for a purpose and it has much to say about the role of anger and how we can take it to God so that He can settle all scores.

Here I have written a Bible study on this Psalm.  I have also translated the passage and provided notes.  I have also written in some suggested prayers on how to bring anger to God, and some practical advice on how to process anger with Him.  May it bless, encourage, and instruct you: Psalm 109 Bible Study.

God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Self-Loathing (25th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Self-Loathing

punchinello Christian author Max Lucardo once wrote a powerful children’s book named You Are Special about these imaginary people called Wemmicks.  These Wemmicks are little wooden people that were crafted by a loving carpenter named Eli, who lives on a hill close by.  One Wemmick named Punchinello (pictured left), however, is going through an enormous struggle: people keep putting stickers on him.  Some are stars which have messages on them like “You are so clever”, while others are ugly round dots which say, “You are boring” and “Nobody loves someone like you”.  Punchinello tries to get stars, but more often than not be gets the round dots.  Worse, some of the stars get ripped off him altogether as people take back their words. 

            For Punchinello, those ugly green stickers erode his resilience.  They cause him so much suffering because deep inside he listens to their hideous voices and starts to undermine and attack himself. I’m sure many of you have had the same thing, where the hurtful, damaging voices of others causes you to hate yourself.  “If others said I am garbage, then they must be right”, you reason.  “Perhaps they see something revolting about myself that I cannot even see, so perhaps I am as bad as they say I am.  I am disgusting, loathsome and unlovable”.  The Australian movie from the 1990s, Muriel’s Wedding, is an excellent example of this, as she tries to get married so that someone will want her and she’ll be special to someone (anyone)!  But it horribly backfires when she realises that the love of no other person will fill the void in her heart. 

            Self-loathing is a terrible thing because you will often sabotage yourself before you attempt anything.  You’re constantly in defeat mode and no matter what others say to you about how valuable and loved you are, you will not believe it.  Many victims of abuse feel like this all the time. The problem is when you and I choose not to believe it because you really do think yourself unworthy of love, blessing, and respect.  It also blocks you from going to God because you think yourself unwanted, and that you “must be good enough” to approach Him.  But you’ll never be good enough, and so you never go.  It leads to sin and addictive, self-destructing behaviour because you think you’re a piece of dirt.  You treat others like dirt because that’s what you think you are.  It’s a vicious cycle.

            King Saul was a selfish narcissist who lost the kingship to David because he thought himself small – or insignificant – in his own eyes (1 Samuel 15:17).  He privately was very self-loathing, but tried to cover it up by controlling others, breaking God’s law, and going off on his own winsome adventures.  There was pride, of course, in his heart but that fed on self-loathing and self-pity.  Judas probably loathed himself so much after betraying Jesus that he ended his life in self-destruction.

            Jesus never self-loathed.  He was strong in Himself because He knew that God loved and approved of Him.  As a consequence, He never sinned and attacked anyone else.  He even helped unworthy, sinful people like us to boldly approach God’s throne (Romans 5:6-8, Hebrews 4:16).  Paul didn’t self-loath because he knew his position as an apostle and refused to let others undermine his sense of self-worth (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).  The Bible speaks to the wound of self-loathing by reminding us that having put us right with God, Jesus now makes us temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  We are so loved by Him that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39)!  Let these words speak to self-loathing in your heart, that God’s love will overwhelm your pain. 

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, please heal me of self-loathing and the scars that I have been carrying.  The people who did that to me, whose names I bring to You now, put these lies in my heart.  Please forgive them, help me to forgive them, and heal them by the blood of Jesus.  Forgive me for the times when I have treated others as insignificant out of my own wounds.  Help them to forgive me. I now surrender to You the lies in my heart that have produced self loathing; I renounce them in Jesus Christ’s name, and speak Your truth over myself that I am loved by You and a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to love myself as You love me.   I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Anger (18th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Anger

We look at the news and see how anger is all through our world.  Yet often we’re rightfully angry about things – it was revealed this week that our deputy prime minister in Australia (Barnaby Joyce) has had an affair with a staffer, got her pregnant, and is now leaving his family to be with this new woman.  We keep being told that the whole issue a private affair and not a matter for public discussion; yet the more we hear that, the more outraged we seem to feel. If we cannot trust a government leader about his private life, what can he be trusted with?

            We can also be angry about more mundane and day-to-day things too, like the slowness of traffic.  These things upset us in the present, but do we ever stop to think why some of these things bother us so much?  Perhaps you feel angry about the government cutting the pension payment, and yet open displays of racism hardly affect you at all.  Why do you get ropable about some things, but could casually care less about other matters?

            I have been thinking this concerning myself, and what I have noticed is that what I feel upset about now in the present has some connection to my childhood past.  For instance, I feel irate whenever I feel nagged by someone, since my childhood is littered with memories when my father would rush me in all that I attempted to do – and then cursed me when I failed to do things ‘quick enough’ to the standard that he demanded.  Racism doesn’t affect me like it would somebody else, for instance, because I wasn’t personally a target of it when I was a child. 

            Anger is an emotion that is powerful in the present because, if it is not expressed in safe ways (like writing a letter, shouting under water, or hitting rocks with a stick in the middle of nowhere) then it will eke out in destructive ways and hurt the people who love you.  Anger comes out with snide words, hurtful jokes, rude glances, cynicism, impatient sighs, or brooding silences that you can cut with a knife.  It actually hurts us too because our bodies can suffer somatic pain and illness as a result of its build-up.  And since our world discourages any expressions of anger and tells us just to shove it all down and pretend like everything’s OK, we wonder why people are so angry these days.  Yet trying to curb our anger in the present without having reckoned with its roots in the past will be like putting cracking icebergs with a toothpick.

            Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us something very revolutionary about anger: Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (NKJV).  Notice Paul does not say “Do not be angry; that’s not Christian”.  He says it’s OK to be angry, but not to start the next day having ‘done business’, keeping short accounts with God and others by forgiving. 

The question is for you and I is: how many suns have set on our anger?  It’s OK to feel angry when others have hurt us in the present, but where does that have its hooks in the past?  Have you safe ways to express your anger at what happened in the past, so that you can forgive those who’ve hurt you from deep inside your heart?  Have you taken responsibility for the hurtful things that you’ve done to others and said sorry?  May we start today and take our anger and wounds to God, so that He can restore us.  Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that I have so often been angry.  I have been hurt by others and I have hurt others out of my own pain.  My anger has eked out in ungodly ways, and that has hurt me too.  Forgive me, Heavenly Father.  Show me where my anger comes from in the past, so that I may forgive those who wounded me both in the past and in the present.  Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me, so that You may forgive me as I forgive them.  Forgive me for shutting out my feelings; help me to accept my humanity (including my emotions) and to be honest about my anger, so that I can be set free from it.  Thank You for being patient with me, and please liberate me to love others from the bottom of my heart. 

I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Humourlessness (11th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

Overcoming Humourlessness

grumpycat In the last few years, the culture that we’re living in has becoming increasingly hostile to Christian voices.  As a result, many Christians have decided to hit back in these “culture wars” and to “reclaim territory lost” by assertively and often aggressively advocating the Christian worldview.  In many ways this has won certain victories and brought about biblical clarity on issues of contention.  The problem though when you’re constantly in fighting mode is that there’s not much space for joy and mirth.  In your mind, there’s always a battle to be fought, and you can become an angry Keyboard Ninja on the computer, never getting sleep and always going on the offensive.  Such people tend to laugh only in moments of cynicism and ridicule.

This can happen too with people – Christian or no – who are carrying with them the scars of unresolved trauma and abuse.  If that happened to you when you were a kid, then you learned quickly to stop laughing.  Why laugh when your needs weren’t being met?  What’s there to laugh at when no one understands your loneliness, fears, aches, and longings?  When the adults in your childhood weren’t being responsible in the ways that they were supposed to (and thought that was amusing somehow), then you had to grow up too fast and be more mature than the “grown ups”.  In those circumstances, humour seemed strangely out of place and even inappropriate.  Maybe you developed a dark sense of humour about adults, like the plotlines in books by Roald Dahl, and can no longer laugh at little things – or yourself. 

I was like that myself, until I began going on a journey of healing with God to undo many of my own childhood traumas.  When healing began, I was astonished at how I began to not only laugh at things, but actually saw the light and fun side of life.  Gary Larsson’s Far Side comics made me laugh myself sore, and what a relief it was.  I could even laugh at myself, and with others. 

Jesus actually had a very cutting sense of humour that penetrated His enemies’ attacks.  The book The Humour of Christ by Elton Trueblood shows how our Lord used laughable word pictures to expose hypocrisy with statements like, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5).  You’re supposed to imagine, for instance, an overweight fitness instructor picking holes in your fitness routine.

Yet it wasn’t just Jesus in the Bible who was funny.  The book of Judges recalls the king of Moab, who was so enormously fat that when the left-handed assassin Ehud stabbed the king, his fat rolled over the sword hilt (3:21-22).  The book of Esther has pagan authorities issuing edicts that are verbose and bombastic to show how vapid worldly authority is.  Abigail, the woman who eventually married David, is originally married to a man called Nabal, whose name in Hebrew means fool, or skin bottle (bladder, 1 Samuel 25).  We’re meant to laugh because our Heavenly Father is a God of joy, who wants us to be joyful and not weighed down by fear and anger.

Perhaps you, like me, have wounds that have prevented you from seeing the bright side of life and the funny things about ourselves.  We need to bring this to God and ask Him to liberate us from joylessness and humourlessness.  God can do this in our lives, so that we can enjoy life to the full (John 10:10). Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I find it hard to laugh and enjoy the lighter side of life.  Forgive me and help me to not take life so seriously, to take time out to do things that are fun and delightful, and to enjoy Your creation.  You are joyful and laugh (Psalm 16:11), and I want to be like You.  Please heal me in the places where I am hurt, in those areas of my heart where I have shut out laughter.  Forgive me where I have used my laughter to mock and deride others; help me to laugh at myself in good ways.   Please be my laughter and joy, and come to laugh with me.  I pray this in the name and authority of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.

Pastor Haydn’s Devotion – Overcoming Perfectionism (4th of February 2018)

Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –

“Overcoming Perfectionism”

perfectionism

You may know of someone who has a tendency towards perfectionism – or you may in fact be like that yourself.  You might see some flaw in something, or someone else, and you find it almost impossible to resist trying to fix it.  When you think about it, all human beings have this tendency in some small measure: if youwere the groomsman at a wedding, you would floss your teeth and brush your hair and do a million other things to look your best.  But what happens when this tendency is overwhelming and everything you do every day must be like appearing on a wedding day?  Like any tendency that becomes too prominent, it becomes a tyrant.

Perfectionism begins to take over when you feel like things must be done a certain way before anything else can go ahead – and only you can fix it.  You get a business report from a junior in rank, and you must fix every little mistake.  And not just the big ones, but the little ones like the size of the font and whether or not a border just gets outside a margin or not.  And you won’t ask anyone else to do it.  You end up becoming a workaholic, and constantly tired.  You’ll blame others for it, because you’ve become hyper-critical.  Others may respect you in public, but inwardly they’ll be afraid of you and eventually you’ll find yourself friendless.  What most people don’t know is that you’re hardest on yourself, unable to look yourself in the mirror knowing how flawed you are, and how hopeless you are to change yourself in your own strength. 

Perfectionism, sadly, is about feeling out of control and seeking to craft the world in your own image.  That is a sinful response, but tellingly perfectionism often comes out from deep inner emotional wounds.  Perhaps as a child, you were made to feel dirty in some way because of some abuse, or because people were hyper-critical of you.  The world became dark, scary, and you felt sickeningly out of control.  That’s what you fear the most, and you will do everything in your power to get back control, and so you try (in the present) to get back power over the things that you can manage in your own world.  It puts major barriers between you and God, because you will believe Satan’s lies that you ‘must’ be ‘perfect’ before you come to God, rather than just coming as you are.

The good news in all this is that you don’t need to try to be in control, because God is.  No amount of perfectionism in the present can change what happened to you in the past.  You need to get in touch with your past pain, in safety, and take it to God; weep it out.  Look to Jesus, who had very imperfect friends – and yet still died on the Cross for them.  You can let go and let God to do His work in you, so you don’t try to change yourself, because the more you try to fix yourself, the worse you’ll get.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again – but neither could Humpty! You have permission to be you before God, and others (warts and all) and as God takes control of things in your life, you can learn to be patient with yourself, others, and even God. 

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me for trying to gain back control over my life through perfectionism.  I’m not in control, not even of my own life – only You are.  Yet You are good and You love me.  Please help me to surrender to You, to accept myself and others for who they are (warts and all) and to be patient.  Things in this world may not be going the way I want them to, but help me to accept Your lordship over all things, even when they don’t seem right to me.  Help me to approach You boldly as I am (Ephesians 3:12), rather than thinking that I must be ‘perfect’ before I can come to You.  Please heal those wounds in me which have taken me to perfectionism and those who hurt me so much.  Please heal my body, spirit, and soul, in the name and authority of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.