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The Journal

The King has Come

Dear Friends,
Last week I was talking with our Bishop and I asked him about the issues which are going to impact ministry in the inner city in the next few years. Interestingly he has said that our city including the inner west is going to see greater immigration coming from Asia esp. China and Hong Kong. This means that the surrounding community will become even more multicultural than it is now and we need to be ready to meet this challenge. One of our visions for the last 3 years has been to become more multicultural and this is happening. Further we can see from our booming primary schools that younger families have moved into the area and it seems they will stay longer rather than moving when their family grows. About 5 years ago All Souls Parish and the Diocese engaged a church growth expert from America. Paul Borden conducted a consultation and produced a report. He indicated that a key driver for growth is children’s ministry. Over the last 3 years we have sought to act on this and employed a part time children’s ministry worker, Shion and established a kid’s after school club and sought to strengthen our Sunday school. Last Sunday we had a meeting with parents discussing children’s ministry and seeking feedback. We have much more to do and ask for your prayers for God’s guidance as are committed to ongoing evaluation and improvement.

We decided at our meeting to rename the creche ministry as Little Souls and develop this as a transition point to Sunday school. We are also working on the development of our Playtime Cafe to be more evangelistic. We are seeking to see all our ministries develop pathways that bring people to faith in Christ and fellowship in the church and this includes our children. This is relevant because as we look at Matthew 1:1-17 which discusses the genealogy of Jesus we see that He is descended from the royal line of David because He is a son of David. Matthew is effectively teaching us the the true King of the world has come. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commissions His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples Matthew 28:16-20. We do this because Jesus is the rightful King of this world and calls all people to yield and submit to His Kingship. That is what Christmas is all about. Our King enters our world and dies to save us from our sin and calls us to submit to Him as Lord and Saviour. At our 5pm service we look again at the book of Jude and this time focus on understanding what false teachers look like and how to spot their deception and remain faithful. At our children’s ministry meeting we also discussed how we plan to develop a pathway for our Year 6 kids entering high school by commencing a fortnightly youth Bible study and games afternoon in the second half of next year. We will continue our monthly Friday night youth group but pray and work for this new group to create a pathway to engage our emerging youth in the evening church and help our young people to engage in being disciples and love and own their church. God’s Blessing David O'Mara 

 

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Knowing great truths of the Bible

Dear Friends,
Today we welcome Anton Triyanto and Ahn and their son Angus. Anton is a staff worker with AFES in Brisbane working in University Ministry. University Ministry is a very important ministry in seeking to win people for Christ as they think about their lives and what the future holds. Last week at our baptism service we read the Apostle’s Creed. This ancient document is a summary of the essentials of the Christian faith. Often the doubts or discouragements which we experience in our faith are because we have an atomistic approach to the Bible. We know bits of it but when something happens in our life we can become disappointed with God because lack a thorough grasp of the whole story. In effect our approach to the Bible needs to be comprehensive where the great truths as outlined in the Creed are well understood by us so that when a trial comes we have Biblical resources to 
draw on and so can gain strength from God’s Word. In the morning Anton will be looking at Philippians 2:1-11 which is a wonderful summary of the incarnation and identity of Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent call on people to submit to Him as Lord and Saviour. Jesus is Lord and Saviour because His being is very nature God. He came to earth as a servant emptying himself of His glory ! In the evening we are looking at the book of Jude and in particular v3 encourages us to contend for the faith. This takes up the idea of wrestling for our faith. Interestingly our faith is described as “the faith” meaning that even at this early stage in the life of the church it is seen as a body of teaching which has come down from the apostles - see Acts 2:42, Ephesians 2:20. Jude is warning against false teachers who had come into the church. Jude warns us to not be led astray and so we need to both know the great truths of the Bible well and also build ourselves up in our holy faith. God’s Blessing David O’Mara

 

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The Word who takes away all your words

Dear Friends,
John intentionally uses the Greek word “logos” to describe Jesus. In its original setting “logos” described a life principle which gave meaning to life and was the desire of all to align with. John has taken this philosophical term and enlarged and enriched its meaning. Jesus is the “logos” who is personal and has come to earth and who can be known. In the first section 1:1-4 John explains that this Word was with God and is God and always existed. The Word is divine. Further John explains that all things were made through this Word and that He gives life to all men. The Word is our creator and so we owe him our allegiance because our life is a gift from Him. In the second section 1:5-11 we learn that despite the witness of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as the true light people rejected Him. In v5 the word “understood” or “overcome” is intentionally ambiguous and carries the sense that people are ignorant of 
this Word who gives life and this is also the result of their rebellion against God. This rebellion is the reason why people also want to overcome Him or control Him. Incredibly this Word came to earth and came to the Jewish people and was rejected by them. It is a reminder that people can see God and yet still reject Him. But in the final section 1:12-14 the good news is that despite this rejection this Word offers us the right to become children of God. This is a gift which we cannot earn or inherit through human effort. Indeed it is the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1:14 this Word became flesh and so is identified as Jesus. He lived amongst us and came from God and reveals the glory of God. The glory of God is the heaviness or weight of His goodness and love and power and purity and grace. Jesus is the true light and unless we know Him we walk in darkness 1:5. Pray for the Lord to give us a revelation of His love and goodness and glory. At the 5pm service we conclude our series on John’s letter. In 3 John John writes to his dear friend Gaius. He is praying for him and in fact John says what motivates him is to hear that believers are walking in the truth. John’s heart is for the health of the church. Despite the good things happening in the church community John mentions that Diotrephes wouldn’t welcome believers. This person is a leader and he is also involved in spread malicious nonsense as well as ejecting true believers from the church community. There are enemies of the Gospel even in church and we have to exercise godly discipline to encourage them to repent. God’s Blessing David O’Mara

 

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Hope beyond death - it was ok anyway

Grief and heading home

Dear Friends,
As we have been journeying through Genesis we see that Abraham is a man of great faith who was tested in Genesis 22 and trusted God. He passed the test but now in Genesis 23 he faces another great trial which is the death of his beloved wife. They had been married for over 100 years. Following God doesn’t mean that you are protected from facing grief. The death of a loved one is difficult and it is a reminder that things are not right in this world because death came into the world as a the result of sin - Genesis 1-3. However we can find God’s strength in the midst of problems and trials. In 4 we are reminded that Abraham is a sojourner and foreigner. This picture is taken up in Hebrews 11:9-10 when we are told that Abraham was looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God. He know that even with the promise of land Canaan was not his real home. This truth and reality keeps us going when life is hard because we realise that this world cannot deliver all that we need. We look to Jesus for His grace and help to strengthen us on the journey. Understanding this eternal perspective gives us a right and healthy perspective about the issues we face in life. But we do see that Abraham bought the land to bury his wife Sarah. It was as if he is getting the downpayment of the promise of land. He now has a “footprint” in the land and so we are seeking God’s promises coming to fruition. The unfolding of God’s promises is a slow process and so that means we need to be patient and trust the Lord. As we face trials we are not alone because we have God’s people the church to encourage us and we have the wonderful promise of God that in the midst of various difficulties and trials His good purposes will be achieved - Romans 8:28. At the 5pm service we look at 1 John 3:19-24 and 4:13-18. God wants us to have confidence in our faith so we can approach God boldly and pray boldly. We can have confidence because we have believed in Jesus 3:23, 4:15 and He dwells in us through the Holy Spirit and His Spirit produces an assurance and a new power to love people. God’s Blessing David O’Mara 

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Faith takes risks

Dear Friends,
It is true that sometimes we don’t understand why God does something or why he allows something to happen. One writer has titled this “faith faces the perplexity of God.” We know that God’s people were warned as they entered the promised land to be different to the surrounding nations. For example in Leviticus 18:21 they are told to not sacrifice their children to Molek - the Canaanite false God because this profanes the name of God. So at first glance we are confused as to why God asks Abraham to sacrifice His only son. It seems to go against all God’s purposes and promises leading up to this event. But we know the outcome of the story that God was testing Abraham to see if he would hold back his only son.
We notice that in 22:3-18 Abraham obeys God’s Word. The text doesn’t indicate that Abraham questioned God. Hebrews 11:19 interprets this event that Abraham considered that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. It is extraordinary faith to keep going and not hold anything back from the Lord. It is a relief to see that God provided a lamb instead of Isaac. The story is unique in the sense that God was testing Abraham to see how deep His faith went and if there was anything he would hold back. Abraham is unique in many ways but there are still lessons for us. It is possible to see Isaac as a type of Christ but it is perhaps better to see Isaac as representing Israel because in the end Isaac is not sacrificed because a ram is substituted and that is what happens with us. We all hang under God’s judgement and the good news is that just like Isaac God has provided a substitute for us and He is the Lord Jesus. Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. At our 5pm service we are looking at a number of passages from 1 John 3 & 4 which are connected by the theme of love. In 3:11-18 John speaks of the message from the beginning which is to love one another. He cites the example of Cain who murdered his own brother. Hate is such a destructive force. Hate destroys relationships and John is saying that hate is on a continuum with murder. The chief motivation for love is that Jesus laid down His life for us and that is why we do the same for others. The death of Jesus is a sacrifice for sins which brings forgiveness and is also both the model and the power for us to love others. God’s Blessing David O’Mara 

 

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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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