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The Journal

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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