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The Journal

Rev Hugh Isaacs preaches from Mathew's Gospel

Dear Friends,
Today we welcome Rev Hugh Isaacs to our morning service. He is the executive assistant to our Bishop. Hugh has kindly agreed to preach on a series about God’s Kingdom from Matthew’s Gospel. The first message today is from Matthew 13:1-23. In Mark 4:13 Jesus identifies the parable of the sower as an interpretive key to understanding other parables. This parable is about spiritual growth of the Kingdom and the key ingredient is the word of God. Jesus describes the seed as the Word of God 13:19-20. The seed falls on different types of soil or people’s hearts respond differently. When God’s Word doesn’t produce spiritual fruit in the lives of some people it is not a failure of the Word of God or the sower. People are responsible for how they respond to God’s message. In fact God’s Word always works because when some don’t respond the Word of God confirms people in the hardness of their hearts Matthew 13:11-15. In this sense the Word of God is always powerful and effective and exposes where people are really at spiritually. We should have confidence in God’s Word and the parable accordingly encourages us to keep sowing or telling other people about the Lord and about His love and death. We are encouraged that even though many reject God’s Word there will be some who hear and respond and their lives are changed forever. We must maintain a confident stance because the power for the Kingdom to grow in our lives is in the Word of God and not in ourselves. If we are discouraged we may neglect the important task of telling others about Jesus. Faith in God means that we trust Him with the results. At our service tonight Anton Triyanto who is Daisy Hong’s brother will be preaching on Philippians 1:21-30. Anton works for AFES seeking to reach students with the Gospel of Jesus on university campuses. Our church has just commenced supporting him financially and praying for him. He will share about student work in Qld and will also teach us from God’s Word about Paul’s testimony. In this section Paul who is a prisoner under palace guard is not discouraged by his circumstances but recognises that the Lord is in control of his life and in fact looks forward to the time when the Lord will take him home to heaven. In the meantime Paul seeks to encourage the Christians at Philippi that not only has God granted them faith and salvation but also the privilege of suffering for Him. May God strengthens us with this truth. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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All of us want a life which counts

Dear Friends,
All of us want a life which counts and which has meaning and we invest great resources and energy and time to achieving this. God wants to give us significance as a gift. In Genesis 11 in the story of the tower of Babel as sin spreads throughout the world it reaches a new “pinnacle” as people want to make a name for themselves by leaving God out of the picture and resisting God’s call at creation to go further into the world and be stewards of the whole earth. The people try to make a name for themselves and in effect misunderstand God and His purposes. The great and fundamental sin revealed in Genesis 3 and now repeated in Genesis 11 is to be our own masters and live independently of God. In contrast God calls Abraham in Genesis 12 and promises to bless him and make his name great. What people strived for and failed to attain by their own efforts God gives to people as a gift within the context of developing a friendship with Himself. Our names can be great because God is interested in us and wants a relationship with us and this is what gives meaning and significance in life. The story of Abraham is the story of God’s response to the downward spiral of sin from Genesis 3-11 being God’s plan to rescue the world and reverse the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve and the curse. God called Abraham to leave his country, his people and his father’s household Genesis 12:1 and to go to land he will show Abraham. Faith for Abraham means trusting God for the future and His bare Word that He is good and has Abraham’s best interests at heart. God then promises to make Abraham into a great nation and to make His name great and for all people’s on earth to be blessed through Abraham and his decedents. Paul interprets this in Galatians 3:16 and says that the promises to Abraham were to his seed and the seed is Jesus. The NT teaches that the promises to Abraham are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ who brings blessing to all people through His death on the Cross for our sin. We noticed in 12:4 that Abraham travelled throughout the land of Canaan to claim it symbolically. Abraham is an amazing man of faith because the main promise he saw was that God gave him a son to whom his name could be passed on. The promise of the land and nation and a great name would be fulfilled much later long after Abraham’s death in the person of Jesus. Abraham had to be patient and wait for God’s timing and trust him.This is still the same for us today. At the 5pm service we are looking at the people who met Jesus and tonight is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume - Matthew 26:3-13. She honoured Jesus by anointing him for burial and Jesus recognises that she has done a beautiful thing in honouring Him. May God help us do the same. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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A new beginning with Jesus

Dear Friends,
The miracles of Jesus are displays of God’s Kingdom or rule coming in power. In Luke 18:35-43 a blind beggar cries out to Jesus : Son of David have mercy on me. This is an extraordinary proclamation because He understands that Jesus is God’s long awaited Messiah or king. This is more than just an account of physical eyesight restored. Jesus power to heal the eyes of this man shows that Jesus can also help people to see spiritually or understand the things of God. All of us are spiritually blind and just as Jesus has power to heal physical eyes he can also heal us spiritually. Before this incident Jesus has told the disciples about His need to suffer and to die for them and rise again. The key to having our eyes opened spiritually is the death of Jesus and His resurrection. When the message of Jesus is proclaimed God opens people’s eyes. In many ways the service of baptism is a testimony of God opening the eyes of people to see Jesus. In the baptism of Luka Wrege it is all about God’s grace and initiative and power to help Luka (and his family) understand Jesus’ love as he grows up. Before Jesus met this blind man he had an encounter with a rich man. The rich man didn’t understand how the Kingdom of God operated. He asked Jesus a question in 18:18 Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life ? Firstly if something is an inheritance you can’t do anything to earn it rather you just receive it as a gift. The rich man is contrast to the blind man. One is rich and though his eyesight is good he leaves Jesus sad and spiritually blind and the blind man though poor leaves Jesus with able to see and spiritually rich. It is interesting that Jesus asks the man in 18:41 What do you want me to do for you ? This may seem a strange question because the obvious answer is that he wants to see. But we must remember that this man had earned his living as a beggar and the healing of Jesus is going to change his life forever. Often people don’t want to leave their problems behind because they have learn to function on problems. This man was healed by Jesus and we learn he followed Jesus immediately and praised God for Jesus. He embraced the new life of Jesus. When the Lord blesses us the natural response is that you want to get to know Him. The baptism today it is about a new beginning with Jesus and there is so much more to learn. What about you - What do you want from Jesus ? At 5pm we are continuing our series in the Parables and we look at Luke 15:11-32 and the prodigal son. It is a beautiful picture of the father welcoming him home. This is what grace is all about - God gives us what we don’t deserve : love and forgiveness ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Zacchaeus’ new priority

Dear Friends,
We have just finished our series on the book of Ephesians and next week we commence a new series on Genesis 12-25. However there will be an interlude of 6 sermons (while I am away) from Rev Hugh Isaacs (the Executive Assistant to the Bishop) on the parables of the Kingdom . I will also do a one off sermon on Christians and work as this wasn’t covered in our last series on Ephesians. Please be praying for these various series that the Lord will bless both the reading and preaching of His Word. The passage today is also a one off sermon from Daniel 9:1-19 looking at the prayer of Daniel. I have been very encouraged that people within our church have supported the monthly prayer meeting as well as the occasional prayer and fasting days we have held. People are also using the weekly prayer points on the back of the pastor’s blog. Our prayer ministry during our weekly services and at our monthly healing service has seen a growing commitment to prayer. Praying for our personal needs builds love and support across the church but today the prayer of Daniel puts our focus on praying for God’s big purposes. Daniel is in exile in Babylon and in response to His searching of the Scriptures He sees that God has promised that God’s people would be in exile for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-14) and then return. In Dan 9:1 the first year of the reign of Darius as ruler over Babylon is a marker that these 70 years of exile have been completed. Notice how the word of God leads Daniel to pray for God’s purposes. As we grow in our understanding and knowledge of God’s Word we will start to see God’s big plan and this will impact the content and focus of our prayer. In fact for Daniel the great priority for his prayers which is even greater than returning from exile is that God’s name will be honoured 9:19. Daniel’s prayer life is driven by a concern that the Lord will be honoured. How should that Biblical concern affect our prayers ? Accordingly we focus our prayers so that the Lord’s name is honoured within the community of Leichhardt and the way that will happen is as we live godly lives and people who don’t know Christ repent and stop ignoring God and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Pray for this and for people to share Christ. At the 5pm service we meet Zaccheaus in Luke 19:1-10. Jesus found him and this changed his life radically. God not money became Zacchaeus’ new priority ! Jesus desire to share a meal with Zacchaeus is also a picture of acceptance and Jesus is willing to have his name associated with sinners. That is why we honour Jesus’ name because He loves the unlikely and the unlovely ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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True Satisfaction

Dear Friends,
Today as we celebrate Liam Evans baptism we are praying for the Lord’s blessing on his life. It is exciting to be young and at the start of your life but it is also daunting with many challenges ahead. Liam is in a favoured position to be baptised and to have Christian parents who will encourage him in the Lord and a church family who will pray for and support the whole family. It is God who made Liam and knows what is best for his life. The Word teaches us what is best for us. Today we are looking at Mark 6:30-44 which teaches about the provision of bread and fish for 5000 people in the wilderness. This story has echoes from God leading the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness and providing for their needs. This is intentional because just like God provided for the people in the desert in the time of Moses He does so again because Jesus is the true shepherd who cares for His sheep. Jesus lays down His life for his sheep and indeed there are overtones of this in the passage today because when Jesus takes the bread and fish and gives thanks and breaks them these 2 verbs are picked up in Mark 14:22 when Jesus celebrates the Passover and gives thanks and breaks the bread. There is a pathway from the Exodus and the provision of manna and quail in the desert with Mose and with the feeding of the 5000 miracle to the last supper to the death of Jesus. We know in John 6:35 that Jesus is the bread of life. That means that through His life He gives us life. It is Jesus who gives us eternal life which involves forgiveness of sin. But we also see that after this miracle of feeding 5000 men and most likely many women and children we learn that 12 basketfuls of bread and fish were left over. This shows God’s generous provision and the fact that the people were satisfied teaches us that it is Jesus alone who satisfies our deepest need for love and forgiveness. This takes us back to the reason why Jesus did this miracle. IN 6:34 we learn that he saw the people and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and so he taught them. Jesus is like God because He is God and He is the shepherd who cares for us and looks after our needs. At 5pm we are looking at the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. In particular Mary is commended because she chose to sit at Jesus feet and learn from Him. May the Lord help us to not waste opportunities to learn from Jesus and may we choose what is best. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Armed and ready for the Lord

Dear Friends,
Someone once said it is not hard to believe in the devil because he advertises. The person meant that it is easy to see the effects of evil at work in this world. We see lives destroyed by drugs and relationships broken by unforgiveness and people and governments abuse power and exploit vulnerable people. We can see the devil at work in individual relationships and across nations. To grow spiritually as a Christian we need to recognise the devil is real and we need to resist his schemes against us. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about the origin of the devil except that he was a fallen angel who is in rebellion to God - see Isaiah 14:12-15. Paul recognises in Ephesians 6:10-20 that we are engaged in a spiritual battle and that just as we cannot save ourselves by our own power we also need God’s power to resist the devil. Paul says that we are to be strong in the Lord 6:10. The greek means to be strengthened. The devil he tempts us to doubt God’s goodness and Word just as he did in the garden with Adam and Eve. Jesus faced the devil’s temptations and had to resist him and so do we. The devil is described as having schemes which can also mean strategies to discourage us in our faith. Paul was in chains for his faith and he uses the picture of a soldier who before he went into battle would put on his armour. Our armour is the Gospel of Jesus. The emphasis is to be so full of God’s Word and truth in our lives so that there is no room for the devil’s lies. Accordingly the first piece of armour described is the belt of truth which is of course God’s truth in His Word. Jesus himself declared that He is the truth John 14:6 and so we need to progressively grow in our understanding of God’s Word so we can spot the lies and deceptions of the devil. These pieces of armour progressively describe what the Gospel does for us. For example the breastplate of righteousness speaks of the fact that through faith in Christ we are declared righteous before God - see also Philippians 3:8-9. To compliment these pieces of armour we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions for our fellow Christians. One of the great lies of the devil in our age is to discourage /tempt us to be regular in fellowship by distracting us with other activities and engagements. Regular Christian fellowship is vital for Christian growth in faith and helps in the process of being strong in the Lord. At our 5pm service we continue our series on people who met Jesus and in Luke 8:40-56 we meet Jairus and a woman suffering from bleeding. They were desperate and so were open to receive from Jesus. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Confidence about what is right and wrong.

Dear Friends,
The world we live in is morally confused and has lost confidence about what is right and wrong. This moral vacuum and confusion is a difficult environment not only for adults to navigate but also for our children. Today we look at Ephesians 6:1-9 and we see that God is concerned for every area of our life and has practical wisdom to help us in this task of parenting. In 6:1-3 Paul mentions children and in effect is addressing them within the life of the church. Children were considered a vital part of the church community. This teaching of Paul reflects what Jesus said - Let the little children come to me for to such as these belongs the kingdom of God. Paul is instructing children and helping parents to see that it is right and proper for children to obey and honour their parents. His first reason is that “for this is right”. By this he means that it is part of the natural order and expectation of society. We see in most societies that children are taught to respect and obey their parents. But notice that the obedience required is qualified by “in the Lord.” God doesn’t expect obedience from children which contradicts God’s Word. Paul also gives instructions to fathers in v4. We remember that in the Roman world fathers had absolute power in the family and could be a law unto themselves. Paul is warning fathers and by implication also mothers to not exasperate their children. To exasperate a child was to unfairly frustrate or cause anger with unnecessary or unreasonable instructions. That is why Paul teaches that training which is effectively discipline must be kept in balance with instruction which carries the idea of counsel and support. Our human nature has a tendency to go to extremes and so we can over discipline or under discipline or even over counsel or under counsel. Paul keeps these 2 directions in balance. The goal is to bring children up in the Lord. What is going to help your children most is to know the Lord and to be both corrected and encouraged in His teaching. One practical application is that a good place to do this is at the family meal table where families eat and then at the end of the meal the Bible is read and discussed and then family members pray together. May the Lord not only bless our marriages but also strengthen our parents ! At the evening service we are beginning a new series on people Jesus met. The first person we look at is Levi in Luke 5:27-32. Jesus called Levi who was a tax collector to follow Him and we read that he left everything. He must have been observing Jesus and made a decision that what Jesus offered was more attractive than his old life. It is still the same today. The truth is that what Jesus offers is more attractive than what others or the world offer ! This is the deal you have to take ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Biblical Marriage

Dear Friends,
In this last year we have been through a revolution in terms of our societies understanding of marriage. This has left many people confused about marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s plan for the healthy development of children and the enjoyment of intimate companionship. Today we are looking at Ephesians 5:22-33 which speaks of the different roles of a husband and a wife. At the end of this passage in 5:32-33 Paul teaches us that a Christian marriage points us to the relationship of Jesus with His bride, the church. Good marriages remind us that Christ loves his church and laid down his life for her and and that He wants His people to enjoy a close and intimate relationship with Him. There are many pressures on marriages and one of them is busyness which results in couples not communicating regularly. At our church we do the Alpha Marriage Course and the Alpha Marriage Preparation Course. One of the key aspects of this course is the need to set aside each week “date nights” where a husband and a wife spend time sharing about their day and listening to one another. Paul quotes from Genesis 1 that a husband and a wife become one flesh. This speaks of sexual union but it is much more. It speaks of spiritual, emotional and psychological union also. We are united as a team. Paul teaches that the husband needs to serve and nurture his wife. He makes the point that husbands should care for their wives and the argument for this is that just as a husband cares for his own body so he should care for his wife. If we neglect our wives or hurt them we end up hurting ourselves. Domestic violence is a huge problem in our society and from a Christian point of view it is wrong because it goes against the teaching of Ephesians 5 and is an abuse of power. It is never acceptable. In this passage the wife is taught to submit to her husband. God wants order in our relationships and wants us heading in the same direction. A wife should respect the leadership of her husband and when he is following God’s instructions to serve and build up his wife then this is a joy for her. At our evening service we are looking at Matthew 10:16-42 which speaks of the inevitability of persecution for a Christian. Persecution in some countries in the world takes the form of violent opposition but it can also be ridicule and as we are now seeing in Australia Christians are being vilified their view of marriage as between a man and a woman. In this passage Jesus is preparing his disciples for persecution by teaching that if they persecuted Him (Jesus) they will persecute his followers. We should not be discouraged because Jesus reminds us that the very hairs of our head are numbered. We are valuable to God. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Copy God

Dear Friends,
Just as children copy their parents so we are called to copy God - Ephesians 5:1. Of course with our parents we can both imitate their good and bad qualities which is very humbling especially when you become a parent and see your own blindspots. But with God it is totally different because Jesus lived a holy and perfect life. The copying of God focuses on living a life of love and this involves giving ourselves to God and then to others 5:2. Our world is self focused but living a life of love involves being Christ focused. When we love others we don’t necessarily do everything they want but do what is right and good for them according to the Bible. It is God who defines what is good and right in His Word. So far in our reflection on the book of Ephesians we have recognised that we can only copy God because He has made us new people who are alive to God - Ephesians 2:4-6. So living life of love is possible because we have a new identity in Christ and the power of God is at work in us. This is the same power which raised Jesus from the dead. Our new identity therefore involves having different standards and values. In particular our attitude to sex is very different to the standards we see around us in the world. Sex is not dirty, rather people treat it as dirty. Sex is a gift from God for the procreation of children and the enjoyment of God given pleasure. An important aspect of sex involves being intimate with another person and so wisely God requires that the proper place for the expression of sex is within a committed married relationship where both husband wife are safe and can be vulnerable. It is a tragedy in a marriage when a person doesn’t feel safe. Further in 5:4 we are instructed that the way we use our mouths is important. Our mouths should not be foul. As Christians we believe that the Word of God is powerful and life changing. God’s speaks Words which bring life and so as imitators of God we should use our mouths for building others up not cheapening God’s gifts and others. In 5:8 Paul reminds us what motivates us. We do all this because we were once darkness but now through Christ we are light and so we behave in line with our new identity which consists of goodness, righteousness and truth. We live godly lives not so we can become Christians but because we have already been saved by God. Paul continues that we shouldn’t waste time but rather make use of the gift of time we have so as to know His will, understand what pleases Him and serve Him 5:15-17. In Matthew 9:35-10:15 at 5pm we see Jesus’ compassion for a lost world. Jesus instructs us that we are to pray for the Lord to send out labourers for the harvest. The problem is not a lack of people who are open to God but there is a lack of people ready to take the message to a lost world. Pray for the Lord to raise up labourers for the harvest. Rev David O’Mara

 

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A clean and joyful life

Dear Friends,
In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul helps us to understand the natural outworking of the Gospel for those who have come to faith in Christ. Commands and exhortations for obedience to God are based on the fact that we are His children through faith in Jesus. We don’t obey God to get in the family. We obey God because we are already in the family. In 4:17 Paul urges and uses the word “insist” that the Christians must not live like the Gentiles or how they were. Without Christ our thinking is darkened because we are separated from God and in fact our lives are “futile” because we have no purpose. Paul says that this type of thinking and behaviour is because without Christ our hearts are hardened which means they are not responsive to Christ and we don’t understand the Gospel and our need of Jesus. In fact Paul says that our behaviour is “sense” driven. There is no quality control over our thoughts and actions but rather without Christ we are driven by our desires which are impure. Paul says that things are different for the Christians at Ephesus because they have heard the Gospel 4:21 and so they have power to put off their old life and put on the new self. This passage carries the idea that we must continually put off the old self and put on the new self. This new self is created to be like God in holiness and righteousness. When we are converted we are instantly right with God but then we need to work at growing in godliness and this involves a daily repentance from sin. Paul gives some practical applications of how our new identity in Christ will affect us. Our new identity in Christ will change our attitude to speech so we speak truthfully to one another 4:25 and will mean that when we are angry with someone we will seek to reconcile immediately with that person. Our Christian faith also affects our attitude to property in that we won’t steal but rather use our hands and abilities to work honestly and share with those in need. In particular Paul speaks about the need to forgive as Christ forgave us. When we understand how kind and gracious Jesus has been to forgive us even though we don’t deserve it we see that we can’t withhold forgiveness from others. In the 5pm passage from Matthew 9:18-34 we see in the encounters of Jesus with the dead girl’s father and with the sick woman as well as the blind and mute man that Jesus’ word is trustworthy.This is central to building faith that we know that God’s Word can be relied upon & when Jesus speaks He delivers. Contrary to what the Pharisees say the miracles that Jesus performs are because His power comes from God and Hs is God’s Son. Rev David O’Mara

 

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