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The Journal

Christian Character Grows from Faith in Jesus

Dear Friends,

Simeon and Anna are 2 of the most beautiful people in the Bible. They have aged well as they continue to seek the Lord and His purposes in the world. Simeon is described as righteous and devout. He is righteous which means that he is well behaved towards people. True Christian faith affects the way you treat other people. But notice how this “righteous” aspect of His character is linked to his other quality - devout. To be devout is to be careful about religious duties and service to God. Simeon is not casual or lazy or neglectful of his need to seek the Lord and honour the Lord. We know that Romans 1:5 says that obedience flows from faith. Christian character grows from faith in Jesus and this faith in Jesus accesses God’s power. He is looking for the consolation of Israel  

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A Good Place to Start

Dear Friends,

We are at the beginning of a New Year. The book of Proverbs is a good place to seek the Lord for this New Year because one of the central commands and accompanying promises is to seek the Lord’s will for the way ahead confident that God will bless us. In the odd verses we see the ethical promises required by God. We must always remember that within the whole flow of the Bible that God first of all provides the promises and grace which are the springboard to obedience.  

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The Heart of Sin

Dear Friends,

At Christmas we remember the coming of the prince of peace and then wonder why the world seems such a dark place where there is war between nations and even “war” within families. We see carnage in Syria, Berlin and even in Australia where domestic violence is destroying families. The reality is that when Jesus came the first Christmas he came to deal with the heart of sin. If He had come the first time to wipe out all sin and darkness the reality is that all of us would have been wiped out because we all have sin in our hearts. The centre and cause of the darkness in this world is the sin in our hearts which leads humans to ignore God and hate and attack one another. However, Christmas also reminds us that God loves us deeply and is at work to deal with this darkness of sin. Jesus willingly accepted the vulnerability and weakness of living in this dark world as a baby and growing up experiencing hate and rejection. His willingness to embrace weakness and vulnerability was directed to dealing with the heart of sin. He came to earth so He could die on the Cross for our sinful and disobedient hearts. He suffered and was punished instead of us so our sins could be forgiven and we could have peace with God ! 

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God Provides Support

Dear Friends,

Imagine if you were told by an angel that you were going to carry the Saviour of the world in your womb. Who would you tell ? This type of news would be very isolating because it would be hard for people to believe it from a human perspective. But of course we know that nothing is impossible for God - Luke 1:37. God created the whole world and holds it together so it is not beyond Him to cause new life to grow in a woman’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Mary receives the news about becoming pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit she goes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who has become pregnant through God’s power also - see 1:36. She goes to see Elizabeth because the angel has also informed her that Elizabeth has also had the seemingly impossible happen to her - becoming pregnant at an old age. God’s plan is operating on many levels. God provides support for Mary in the person of Elizabeth who understands that what has happened to Mary is true. This is God’s gracious provision.  

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His Spiritual Family

Dear Friends,

The Christian faith is based on the external historical work of Jesus in coming to earth, dying on the Cross for our sin and then rising from the dead. Regardless of how we feel what Christ has done stands. But the Christian faith is also personal and experiential. In 1 Peter 2:3 Peter recognises that we can “taste” that the Lord is good. We can personally experience the goodness of God. He loved us enough to die for our sins. There is no sin or evil in Him. He is kind and gracious to us ! Further in v4 Peter invites us to come to Jesus.  

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Holy Christian Growth

Dear Friends,

In 1 Peter 1:13-25 Peter reminds the Christians of God’s purpose for their lives. God wants us to be holy. That doesn’t mean that we will be perfect. To be holy means to be set apart from sin and set apart for God. The basis for this goal to be holy is the fact that our God is holy. When we come to faith in Jesus He gives us His Spirit and His Spirit works in us to change us so we become more like Jesus. Over time He begins to grow a hunger for God and His Word in our lives and a hatred of sin.  

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Stand Firm in Your Faith

Dear Friends,

This week in the morning service we begin a new series on the book of 1 Peter. Peter is writing to Christians who are scattered throughout what is today known as northern and western Turkey. In 1:6 Peter acknowledges that these Christians have had to suffer grief through various trials. At this stage it doesn’t seem that these trials have led to martyrdom. However there is slander and being excluded or insulted or abused because of the name of Jesus - see 2:18, 4:3-4,14. We know that the Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire which he started in Rome. Peter, like Jesus is giving a realistic picture of what it means to follow God. Jesus ensured that we understood that if we follow Him there would be persecution - John 15:20 and Paul says to Timothy that everyone who wants to follow Jesus and live a godly life will be persecuted - 2 Timothy 3:12.  

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God's Covenant with Abraham

Dear Friends,

One of the most important lessons for understanding the Bible is to look at the context of the passage. After Genesis chapter 9 and the story of Noah and the ark we have a list of the table of nations which is the account of Noah’s sons who spread out across the world. Then in chapter 11 we have the epic fail of the tower of Babel where people tried to build an identity without God. After 11:9 there is no general list of nations. From 11:10 to 32 there is a genealogical list but this is focused on the line of Seth and specifically how it leads to Abraham.  

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Our Power to Protect

Dear Friends,

Last year at Synod there was a significant discussion about Domestic Violence and the need to ensure that our church families are safe place for husbands and wives and children. I am currently involved in a committee formed as a result of this discussion which is seeking to make recommendations about how to respond to the problem of domestic violence within the church. God’s Word teaches us to use power to protect, nurture and care for others, especially those who are vulnerable. The Bible not only teaches how to respond to difficult situations it also teaches how to work at prevention and build healthy family and community life which also embraces single people. 

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The Towel of Babel and Cultural Diversity

Dear Friends,

The problem at heart of the tower of Babel is people trying to assert independence from God. In 11:4 the people want to build a tower to reach to the heavens and make a name for themselves. They want to find their identity in their own achievements. It is the sin of the garden of Eden repeated - to be like God and run their own show. This is expressed in v4 come let us build a city. They fear being scattered over the earth. What is the problem with remaining in the one place ? After the flood God had commanded Noah and his family to increase in number and multiply on earth - 9:7. Further in 10:31 (it is not chronological) we are told that Noah’s descendants spread out throughout the earth. Cultural diversity through filling the whole earth is God’s plan for humanity. 

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