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The Journal

The great promise-keeper

Dear Friends,
It is not an over statement to say that the Bible drives forward on the basis of promises. God makes promises and again and again we see that He keeps them. In
Genesis 21:1-7 the narrator states that God visited Sarah as He promised He would. The promises of God are the basis of faith. In 2 Peter 1:3-4 Peter speaks of the divine promises given to us so we can participate in the divine nature. The promises of God are given and by faith we are encouraged to take hold of them. Notice in Genesis 21:2 that God kept His promise at the time he had said. We also notice that Abraham was 100 years old and so he has been waiting more than 20 years for this promise to be fulfilled. As you read through the Bible God is looking for people who will depend on God’s word and not what they see with their eyes. Faith as Hebrews 11:1-2. There will be many times in our Christian life when we will be tested to trust the Lord and not let our circumstances be the determination of our outlook. The true reality of life is God’s promises and how God sees the world. The trap and temptation for us is to trust what our eyes see and not what the Lord sees and how He defines reality in His Word. In fact God promises to save the world and He makes the promise to Abraham to bless the world whole world through His descendants. This heir comes through the promise in an impossible situation. Even more remarkably God fulfils this promise in another impossible situation where a virgin is promised that she will bear the Saviour of the world and she does. The Christian journey is always a journey of faith and we will continually be placed in situations where we have a choice to either trust God and His promises or ourselves ! In Genesis 21:8-21 we see the difficulties which Abraham and Sarah’s sin have brought. But we also see that God is gracious and shows kindness to Hagar and Ishmael. God loves people who belong to His covenant people and He also loves those outside. This is the impetus for evangelism - we tell people about Jesus because He loves them and died for them. AT 5pm we will look at Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus sends His disciples out to make disciples and teach them everything He has taught them. God calls us to help people become disciples who are willing to move forward in faith. God calls us to help people become lifelong learners who keep growing in faith and then help others become followers. God’s Blessing David O’Mara 

 

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Salvation is a always a gift

Dear Friends,
As we read
Genesis 20 we think to ourselves hasn’t this happened before. In Genesis 12 Abraham was deceptive and pretended that Sarai was his sister and this provided the opportunity for Pharaoh to take her as his wife. The Lord inflicted serious diseases upon Pharaoh and his household as a warning to Pharaoh. It worked and Pharaoh showed himself to be more concerned for doing what was right than Abraham. Now again in chapter 20 Abraham employed the same approach to protect himself and this time God sends Abimelek a dream to warn him that he has made a mistake to take Sarah as his wife. He heeds God’s warning and calls Abraham in to explain. So we see the recurring inconsistence of God’s servants. Abraham is once again deceptive but God is gracious and kind. This is a stark reminder that we don’t get into the kingdom of God because of our righteousness. Salvation is a always a gift. Abraham’s faith fails. Abraham hadn’t stopped believing but his faith was not affecting his daily practise. We also learn a very important truth about sin. In 20:6 God describes Abimelek’s sin as sin against himself. We have to learn that when we sin against another person it is ultimately sin against God. The great hope of this passage is God’s vigilance to watch over his plans and proposes. God would not allow His purposes for the world and salvation to be destroyed and He intervened. This should build a confidence in us that God’s purposes can’t be thwarted. Trusting that God is sovereign is one of the great comforts of Scripture and particularly knowing that despite the weakness of the church God will preserve His church just like he preserved Abraham - see Matthew 16:18. At tonight’s service we look at Psalm 6. One of the wonderful things about the Psalms is that we can express our feelings honestly with God and He listens and cares. The Psalmist who is David is able to be honest and say that he is withering. The great encouragement for us is that because of Jesus we have access to God and we can be confident that His purposes for us are good - Ephesians 2:18 and we can be honest with God and be confident He will listen. God’s Blessing David O’Mara

 

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A heart for the lost

Dear Friends,
Last week in the first half of chapter 18 we learnt about God’s friendship with Abraham and Abraham’s boldness through exercising faith to take hold of this opportunity. Now in Genesis 18:16-33 we see how the friendship between Abraham and God develops further. As the Lord leaves Abraham he says within his hearing that he should not hide from Abraham what he is about to do. God reminds Abraham of the call on his life to become a great nation and to direct his children and family in the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just 18:19. The Lord is inviting Abraham to express this willingness to do what is right and just by interceding for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham approaches the Lord 18:23 which is a word used for him bringing a legal case. Essentially he asks the Lord if he will destroy the city if there are 50 righteous people, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20 and then even 10. What is amazing in this encounter is that Abraham is asking the Lord to preserve the city for the sake of righteous people. He doesn’t mention his nephew Lot. Abraham is engaging in theological exploration to discover the extent of God’s justice and mercy. When Abraham seeks the Lord’s mercy for 10 righteous people he stops. We know that in the NT that through Jesus God will preserve the unrighteous for just one righteous person and that one person is Jesus. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus died for the unrighteous - see 1 Peter 3:18. Is Abraham concerned for the righteous or is he also concerned for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah that a righteous person may intervene on their behalf so judgement doesn’t fall on them. . Abraham is God’s friend - James 2:23 and this involves growing in understanding what concerns the Lord. Christian maturity is more than following rules. Rather in our relationship with the Lord as we grow we learn what He is concerned about and this becomes our concern also. We should not be surprised at this because in Ezekiel 36:24-27 the Lord promises His people a new heart and this is a heart which is soft and compassionate and is concerned for the Lord and His priorities and concerns. Abraham is concerned for the people who live in Sodom and Gomorrah. Let us pray that the Lord will give us a heart for the people of the inner west that leads us to intercession. Tonight at 5pm we continue our series in 1 John 2:18-27 & 4:1-6. John is building confidence in the Christians that their knowledge based on the teaching of the apostles is the truth. In particular the key issue about knowing truth and being able to discern error is clarified by your view about Jesus and who you think he is. Biblical faith believes that Jesus is the Christ and has come in the flesh. To counter this view is to be liar and have the spirit of the anti-Christ. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Friendship with God

Dear Friends,
In Genesis 18:1-15 the Lord appears to Abraham and sits down and has a meal with him. It is an extraordinary encounter. In the first 8 verses it is unclear about what the Lord’s purpose is except to hang out and that is the point. The Lord takes an interest in Abraham. In James 2:23 Abraham is called the friend of God. Jesus in John 15:15 explains to his disciples that he calls them friends. This theme of friendship is connected to a meal. We see that in the NT Jesus celebrated many meals with his disciples and especially the last supper. He left us the last supper as a reminder of what His death achieves for us. The death of Jesus as symbolised by the last supper brings forgiveness of sin but also is a picture of our friendship with the Lord. In Luke 14 we are told that in heaven there is a great banquet which we are invited to. Heaven is a place of celebration and friendship. Abraham’s meal with the Lord is fulfilled in Christ and the meal and friendship He offers us. This friendship with Abraham also extends to Sarah his wife. In Genesis 17 God reaffirmed his promise to Abraham to bless him with an heir and now he also visits Sarah to help her believe the promise. She is struggling to believe and laughs at the promise and God gently rebukes her. It is very encouraging that the Lord meet us where we are at and helps us to believe -see Philippians 2:13. We should be encouraged that when we are struggling in our faith God comes to us through

Honouring our faithful saints who have passed away: Dulcie Jones - this year we received a generous gift from her estate for the work of All Souls.

His word to build faith because faith comes from hearing the word of God - Romans 10:17. I am very struck by Abraham’s boldness to seize this opportunity. In 18:3 he begged the Lord and his visitors to not pass by. So often we shrink back in faith and don’t reach out for the blessings which the Lord wants to give us. We need to be bold. The blood of Jesus has opened access and dealt with our sin and we need to take hold of the blessings of faith boldly. So much of our society encourages us to be victims and to allow fear and discouragement to take hold. We are quick to catastrophise. whereas what is needed is that throw off fear and discouragement and cling to God’s promises and keep serving the Lord. Tonight we continue our series in 1 John 2:3-17. This speaks of the need for our fellowship and walking in the light to be expressed in obedience. John speaks repeatedly about “knowing”. He is dealing with false teachers who thought they knew better than anyone else

about faith ie the gnostics. But the gnostics disconnected faith from obedience which is an expression of love. In 2:15-17 we see the pressure of the world which includes our cravings and our boastings which lead us away from Jesus. We do well to guard against these false paths to true knowledge and friendship. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Walking by faith

Dear Friends,
It has been very interesting to follow the life of Abram as he learns what it means to live and walk by faith. In Genesis 17:1-27 God comes to Abram and institutes the covenant of circumcision. The relationship with Abram has already been established by God’s call in Genesis 12 and then in Genesis 15 this call is reinforced by God reassuring Abram through a promise and a covenant ceremony where the Lord takes responsibility and will pay the cost to ensure that the covenant is kept. Importantly Abram believes the Lord and is credited as being righteous. Faith in God’s promises is the basis of being right with God. Now in Genesis 17 God reveals more of Himself to Abram and His purposes for Abram and also his responsibilities. IN 17:1 God uses a new name for Himself which is God Almighty. This revelation reveals His power and ability to make the covenant happen. God confirms the original promise that He will greatly increase Abram’s descendants and his name is changed from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of multitudes). Sarai which means princess is changed to Sarah which also means princess and these new names are appropriate because God promises that kings will be numbered amongst their descendants - 17:6. God then tells Abraham that He expects obedience and that every male in Abraham’s family will be circumcised. This is a sign of the covenant and it is interesting that it involves blood.The importance of blood for our entrance into the covenant is a huge and central theme which develops in the Bible. We see the need for the sacrificial system in Israel which climaxes in Jesus’ death and shed blood. Abraham immediately obeys the Lord. The covenant of circumcision was a sign that Abraham and his family belong to God. We know that in the New Testament Paul says that the sign of the covenant of circumcision is fulfilled in the circumcision of the heart - see Romans 2:29. This is what the message of Jesus’ death for our sins does as the Spirit works in us and as we respond in faith. Our hearts are set apart for the Lord and by faith we obey Him as His saved children. The sequence of Genesis is important and it teaches us that God’s promise of salvation comes first and that obedience is a response of faith. At the 5pm service we continue our series on 1John (tonight 1 Jon 1:5-2:2) and John teaches that those who are God’s children walk in the light of God’s Word and truth. It is expected that as we follow Jesus He will expose areas of sinfulness and we are to bring these to Jesus and repent of them and seek His forgiveness and cleansing. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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It's all about God, not us

Dear Friends,
In Genesis 15:7-21
we have a strange story (at least to our ears) of Abram being told by the Lord to bring different animals and cut them into 2 except the birds and lay them on the ground. Abram then falls into a deep sleep and God spoke to him about the future captivity of Abram’s descendants in Egypt and God’s promise to bring them back to the land promised to Abram. After this God made a covenant or an agreement with Abram confirming the promises as a smoking firepot travelled between the pieces of animals. In the ancient world when a covenant was made the cutting of the animals was symbolic of the fact that if one of the parties fails to keep this promise then what happened to the animals will happen to the person who fails to keep the covenant. But what is interesting is that this covenant is one sided in the sense that God promises that he will ensure that this covenant is kept and if it isn’t God himself will pay the price through death. As far as we can ascertain Abram is asleep so the covenant is totally binding upon the Lord to keep it. It is breathtaking that God is saying that He is willing to take the curse of the covenant if Abram or his descendants don’t keep it. That is how much God is committed to us and His promises. He is willing to die to ensure that His promises are upheld. That is what Jesus did. He died to ensure that the covenant is kept and He paid the price for our failure. That is amazing grace. Praise Him. We also see that the Lord doesn’t hide the difficult bits from His servants. With the Lord there are no hidden agendas or secret clauses. He expects obedience and provides the promises and encouragement and strength to follow through even as we face hardship ! At the 5pm service we conclude our final message on people who met Jesus. Tonight we meet a man with leprosy Luke 5:12-16 who falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Jesus to make him clean. This man shows great faith by saying “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus responds to the man’s request and heals him. There is a deeper truth here because leprosy was a sign of being unclean and Jesus’ healing of this man points to the fact that He can make unclean people clean. That is the great blessing of faith in Jesus and His death on the Cross. We who are unclean because of sin are made clean through Jesus’ blood. That is amazing grace. Praise Him. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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God's great gift to us is himself

Dear Friends,
One of the joys of Genesis 15:1-6 is that it reminds us that God has always been concerned about the need for faith. The need for and importance of faith is often seen as a New Testament requirement for salvation. But Abram believes God’s promise and is declared righteous. Abram’s faith access God’s acceptance. It is interesting that it is not until chapter 17 when Abram is 99 that he is circumcised. Abram is right before God and it is not because of circumcision nor is it because of the law. In Romans 4:1-3 Paul takes up the case of Abram who is right before God because of God’s grace. That is Abram’s right status before God is not based on his works nor even being religious. It is simply trusting in God’s promises. Of course saving faith leads to obedience to God and the Bible again and again shows us that obedience is the product of God’s grace and faith. In Romans 1:5 Paul tells us obedience comes from faith. Obedience to God is a response to having already been rescued by the Lord. That is the case today with the baptism of young Hugo. Baptism is a sign of God’s work on the Cross through Jesus. Hugo is made a spiritual member of God’s family as a gift. He doesn’t earn it and it is the same with salvation - it is a gift. In chapter 14 Abram has just been engaged in a battle with the local power brokers and through God’s help has defeated them and rescued Lot. Further he has shown exclusive allegiance to God by refusing to take money from the King of Sodom. Then in 15:1 God’s Word says “After this” and God comes to Abram in a vision to reassure him. He reminds Abram that He himself is His shield. That is God will protect him and the second promise is even more incredible. The promise is that God is your great reward. Friends salvation is not just that we make it to heaven. Salvation is that the Lord himself is our reward. The greatest gift which the Lord gives us is Himself and a personal relationship with Him. This is what the Lord has offered Hugo and His family today - a personal relationship with Him. It is the greatest and most precious treasure you can ever have. Tonight at the 5pm service we will look at Luke 5:1-11 and the title is people who met Jesus. This time the disciples meet Jesus and there is a miraculous provision of fish and Peter on seeing this realises how sinful he is and asks Jesus to go away from him. Jesus reassures him and says Don’t be afraid. This is a word of acceptance and forgiveness which propels him into mission to go and catch people for God’s kingdom. The Christian faith is firstly and primarily about what the Lord does for you. We see that in the story of Abram and in the story of Peter. But the Lord expects a response of obedience ! Romans 1:5 is right - obedience comes from faith. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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God keeps on keeping on his promises

Dear Friends,
One of the keys to understanding the Bible is that God makes promises and He keeps His promises. Therefore as we read the Bible we need to keep in mind Bible promises and see how God fulfils them in Christ. God has promised Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 that he will bless him and make him into a great nation and make his name great and all peoples will be blessed through him. The power brokers of the era led by King Kedorlaomer from modern day Iran attack the kingdoms in the Jordan Valley and defeat them. They carry off Abram’s nephew Lot and when Abram hears this news he is catapulted into action. We can’t understand Genesis 14 and Abram’s rescue of Lot without reference to God’s promises. Abram is a hero and this is God’s blessing on him because his military victory is spectacular. God’s blessing on Abram brings blessing to the Kingdoms which were subject to Kedorlaomer’s power and especially Lot. We also see Abram’s name is made great as the mysterious appearance of the person of Melchizedek blesses Abram and honours him. So Abram is honoured by this servant of God and he gives credit to God. But the person of Melchizedek is also interesting because he entwined with Abram through whom the whole world will be blessed. This Melchizedek like Abram points to the coming of one who is greater than both. In Psalm 110:1,4 David speaks of one greater than him who would come and be a priest in the order of Melchizedek and then in Hebrews 5-8 we learn that Melchizedek foreshadows and point to Jesus being a priest and king appointed by God himself. The passage in Genesis 14 also shows Abram giving allegiance to God and not compromising by refusing to take the spoils of war which the King of Sodom urges him to.take. Abram shows us that as we follow God there will be temptations to compromise and the key to not compromising are the promises of God understanding that God is calling us to follow Him and leave other gods or idols. At 5pm Jesus in John 9 heals a man born blind and exposes the blindness of the pharisees. In fact we are all spiritually blind and only the Gospel of Jesus can open our eyes so we understand the Gospel of Jesus. Like the blind man may we believe in Jesus and see our eyes opened ! The blind man then worshipped Jesus as God showing his eyes have been truly opened !God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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With God there is no FOMO

Dear Friends,
Genesis 13:5-18
is so encouraging because we see that Abram has learnt some lessons from his failure when he went down to Egypt and put both his wife and the promises of God at risk. There are problems between Lot and Abram’s herdsmen because the land is not able to support both groups of people and their livestock. Abram who has the right of decision as the older man foregoes his right and gives Lot the choice. Before Abram was fearful for his future but now he is trusting that God’s promises are powerful and that the Lord is in charge. When we trust God’s promises we recognise that we are not in control and if we have let this truth sink in we are not driven by fear or striving and grasping and we avoid FOMO. Abram is demonstrating the life as portrayed in the New Testament. Hebrews 11:16 recognises that people of faith see that their true home is in heaven because they a longing for a better country and this means that what they get or don’t get things in this world it may but be disappointing but it is not critical. Abram is wise with his wealth but he sees that the promises of God are much more precious. In contrast Lot is focused on transitory values of wealth now but fails to see the value of eternal promises. It is short sighted. In todays world one of the great resources which we have and which is a gift from God is time. We need to ensure that we don’t waste time but use it for our spiritual growth. It is good to reflect and ask am I using the time the Lord has given me to grow spiritually or am I wasting time on things which lead no where. At the 5pm service we are looking at people who met Jesus and tonight we encounter the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is no accident that Jesus meets this woman because John 4:4 says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. It is not the direct route but Jesus is calling this woman to God. The conversation revolves around Jesus asking the woman for a drink and then Jesus talks about the thirst which we all have. We are thirsty for the Lord. The great tragedy of life is that people run after other things thinking that these will satisfy their thirst for love, or security or acceptance. Only Jesus can satisfy your deepest thirst which is to know God and to know His love. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Everyday pictures

Dear Friends 

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