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The Journal

Weak yet strong

Dear Friends
T
he church at Philadelphia was a church which was weak which probably means that it was small and yet we see that this is not a barrier to obedience and serving the Lord because the church is commended for being faithful 3:8. This is a great encouragement to us that the smallness of a church doesn’t precluded God’s commendation and blessing. Of course we want to grow and see more people converted but our first and highest priority is to be faithful to Jesus. It is the pattern of Biblical teaching that God always reminds us of who He is and His power. So for example in the message to this church Jesus is identified as Holy and true. Jesus is pure and there is no sin in Him and His word can be relied upon. As we reflect on our situation both individually and corporately it is good to remember that the Lord Jesus is powerful and won’t let us down. Further He holds the keys of David pointing to the fact that He is the promised Messiah who has come to save us from sin and also that nothing can happen without His permission - He holds the keys. This should build great courage meaning we don’t have to fear tomorrow and people and we can live boldly for the Lord now ! The message to this church about enduring patiently 3:10 is also our message. Much of the Christian life involves faithfulness and pressing on and not being discouraged. Finally the last church to receive a letter is Laodicea. This was a city renowned for its banking and clothing made from black wool as well as its famous medical skill. In 3:17 the church is aware of its material wealth but Jesus’ assessment is that it is poor and blind and pitiful. There is a link in this passage between independence and wealth and being spiritually luke warm. It is not an automatic link but it is a warning that dependance on wealth can lead to us saying like the christians at this church “that I do not need a thing” which must include not needing God. We see the Lord’s heart in all this that His rebuke come because He loves us and is willing to say hard things to us 3:19. Repentance combined with faith is one of the greatest gifts which God gives us because repentance calls us to let go of rubbish in our lives so we receive God’s Blessings. It is difficult to receive God’s blessings if we hang not unhealthy things in our lives. IN 3:20 we have some of the most quoted verses of Scripture which indicate that God’s attitude to us is gracious. Jesus says to the church He wants to be in their life and eat with them. To offer to eat with someone is an indication of friendship and intimacy and that is what the Lord offers us. May we accept His kind and gracious offer in 2018. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Being victorious

Dear Friends,
As Jesus continues to speak to His churches He emphasises the theme of being victorious. In 2:20 to the church at Thyatira and in 3:5 to the church at Sardis Jesus encourages His people to overcome the temptations which inevitably await us as Christians. The Bible is very realistic about the fact that the Christian life involves suffering and trials. In James 1:2 we are encouraged to consider it a joy when trials come because these strengthen our faith. In 2:13-14 James recognises that there are temptations because our sinful nature wants to resist God and His purposes. However Jesus’ letter to the churches in Asia Minor or modern Turkey encourages us to fight the good fight and to overcome sin. When God calls us to do something such as live a godly life we must also remember that He provides the resources to do so. To the church in Thyatira Jesus reminds them of the fact that He has eyes like blazing fire which refers back to the vision of 1:12-18. This means that Jesus sees everything and so our life is lived before His eyes. This strengthens us to be obedient and also means that He sees sin and evil and with legs which are like bronze He has the power to crush evil. These letters also remind us that Jesus is powerful and His final judgement will not close to the end of the age and so as Christians we need to remain faithful as we wait for His return. This letter also speaks of a false teacher named Jezebel. This name in Bible history was synonymous with wickedness. We must remember that one of the great threats to godly faith and living is 
false teaching. When people don’t teach the Bible faithfully we can be led away from knowing God as He truly is and also false teaching contains no power for Christian living. It is interesting that the Lord makes a distinction amongst the people of Thyatira - some have been led astray and others haven’t. Whenever we hear preaching we must test it against God’s Word to see if it is faithful to the Word of God !. As these letters continue we see that Jesus is a spiritual doctor who discerns the true health of the churches. To the church in Sardis He recognises that their reputation doesn’t match their reality. May the Lord grant us a true understanding of our spiritual state as a church and as individuals. We note in 3:3 that the key to having an accurate spiritual assessment of oneself is to remember what we have received and heard from Jesus and obey it and where we have failed to do so we should repent. Our spiritual health requires continual check ups with the Lord and His Word. This happens within the context of God’s people the church. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Resisting opposition

Dear Friends,
The modern sports brandname, Nike is a derivation of the Greek goddess Nico who was the goddess of victory. Jesus speaks to us of the victory He offers us. He wants us to be overcomes who defeat sin, the world and the devil. This is a major theme in the first 3 letters written to Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum. For example in 2:7, 11,17 Jesus expects us to be victorious. If we are going to be victorious in our Christian life we need to recognise that we are in a spiritual battle and that Satan is in opposition to us (see 2:9,13) and will try to discourage us. Jesus warns His church that there is opposition so that we are not surprised. But He encourages us by reminding us that He walks amongst the church 2:1 and within this passages He provides us with promises of blessing to encourage us to see that the Christian faith is worth it. These promises speak of a God who is not only with us but is powerful to help us in our time of need. The other theme which occurs in the 3 letters is the need to hear what the Spirit is saying to the 
churches - 2:7,11,17. In fact that is the secret of living a victorious Christian life ! To be strong and overcome temptation and spiritual opposition we need to listen to the Lord speak to us.The primary way that He speaks to us is through His Word. In fact the way to be strong in Christ is to abide in Jesus John 15:1-5 , allowing His Word to dwell in us and to take hold of the divine promises 2 Peter 1:3-4. This is also the key to ensuring that we don’t lose our first love. Losing our first love is not primarily about how we feel about God but it is about loving Him so that we obey Him as He deserves - John 15:9-10. If we have lost our first love for the Lord how do we regain this ? We come back to Jesus and remember Him, who is the source of our salvation and the one who loves us 2:4-5 and where we have taken Him for granted or been spiritually lazy we repent of that and then do the things which we did at first which is to live for the Lord and not for ourselves ! Be encouraged that God sheds abroad His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Romans 5:5. May I encourage you that 4 aspects of retaining our first love for the Lord is to make fellowship a priority, make reading His Word a priority and make prayer a priority and engage in corporate worship of the Lord because this refreshes our spirits and uplifts us with His joy ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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A big vision

Dear Friends,
During the month of January we commence a short series on the first 3 chapters of Revelation which look at the the 7 churches of Asia Minor. The first chapter reminds us that this is Jesus’ church and He is the Lord of His church and these are His letters to His churches. Jesus gives this vision to John, the apostle and He sends them to the 7 churches which are real churches but they are also messages to churches today. In Biblical terms the fact that there are 7 churches is symbolic of a completeness and so these messages are for the whole church. The opening chapter gives preeminence to Jesus who has purchased His people to serve Him 1:5-6. This is a powerful truth that our lives are not our own but are to be at God’s disposal. This Jesus is the ruler of the Kings of the earth and is our ruler and so we owe Him our allegiance. Almost immediately we are reminded that Jesus will be coming back 1:7 and it will be a day of judgement for those who have ignored the Lord Jesus. Indeed we are informed that people will mourn because of Him and this points to the fact that there will be great grief and regret for those who have disregarded Him. In 1:12-18 the vision which John receives of Jesus is of one who is powerful with white hair symbolising one from ancient times and His eyes are like blazing fire. He sees everything and nothing can escape His gaze. Though He is one like the son of man His description also points to the fact that He is God who is the First and the Last and holds the keys of hades and death which is a description of God 
Himself. In 1:17 John’s response to the vision of Jesus is to fall down as though dead. His only hope is the word of consolation which Jesus offers which is Do not be afraid. Jesus can offer this word of hope because He has dealt with our sin and indeed has freed us from our sin. This is the great hope of the Gospel that even though we see our great sinfulness we are encouraged by the fact that Jesus has dealt with this through His death and we can now stand in God’s presence confident that we are His beloved children. We know that this vision was given to the early church at a time when persecution was taking place and this was to encourage the church to remain faithful 1:1-3 by showing His servants what must soon take place. It is a great encouragement that though we do not know the future God does and He prepares and strengthens us for what is ahead. As we begin this new year of 2018 we can be confident that God has prepared us for what lies ahead and has also been strengthening us in faith. His purpose for us is that we will be a kingdom of priests whose purpose and task is to declare the goodness and glory of God in the Gospel and to call people to repentance and faith. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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