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The Journal

The way down is the way up

The way down is the way up Matthew 5:1-12 is known as the Beatitudes and speaks of the qualities of the Christian life. The first 4 beatitudes focus on our relationship with God and the next 4 focus on our relationship with each other. The first beatitude in v3 and the last beatitude in v10 ends with the same reward which is the Kingdom of heaven. So these verses focus on life in the kingdom of heaven and the qualities which God grows in us. Some of the translations use the word happy instead of blessed. Jesus is not declaring how people feel but rather he is making an objective statement about what God thinks of them. Blessed means that people have God’s favour on their lives. So being blessed is the pronouncement of what we are - approved. Blessed indicates that the smile of God is upon us. These beatitudes are not something we achieve through our own strength and power. Like all obedience and growth in godliness it is brought about by faith in God and His promises and is the fruit of His Spirit. This is why the first beatitude about being poor in spirit is absolutely critical to the rest. Being poor in spirit means that we see our spiritual poverty and this is when we are open to depending on God and not on ourselves. Progress in the Christian life begins by humbling ourselves and seeing that we are spiritually needy. The second beatitude is about mourning or crying over our sin with the promise of being comforted. As we see our sin God promises to comfort us as we mourn over our sin. He comforts us by providing forgiveness of sins and granting us peace - Romans 5:1 and removing condemnation from us Romans 8:1. Each of these beatitudes build on one another and they are all a work of God’s grace in us ! Jesus speaks about the importance of being poor in spirit in another way - For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted - Luke 18:14 God’s Blessing - Rev David O’Mara 

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Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene John 20:1-18 is packed with spiritual encouragement. In v2 Mary is not expecting that Jesus is risen. Her first reaction is to go and tell the disciples that someone has taken Jesus body. Later on she is crying and upset at what has happened to the body of Jesus and she sees 2 angels who ask her why she is crying v13. For some reason she suddenly turns around. Perhaps the angels looked behind her. Jesus appears before her but she doesn’t recognise Jesus v14 and He asks Mary who she is looking for ? v15 Again we learn that Mary thought this person is someone other than Jesus perhaps a gardener but when Jesus calls her name :- Mary recognises Him. Earlier in John 10:16 Jesus indicates that His sheep, that is those who are His children listen to His voice. Mary is demonstrating that she is one of His children. People will often say in regard to Christianity that seeing is believing. It is interesting that when Mary first sees Jesus see she doesn’t recognise Him. There is deep truth here that without God revealing Himself to us we can’t truly see Jesus. To put it another way that unless our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit we are unable to recognise Jesus. Later in John 20:30-31 John explains that the purpose of writing the Gospel is that we may hear God’s Word and believe. Faith opens our eyes. The early disciples saw the risen Christ and this was important because they are the eyewitnesses so that our faith is based on evidence as it forms God’s Word. Even Thomas is painted as an anti type. He says unless I see I won’t believe but Jesus says in 20:29 about Thomas - Because you have seen me you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. The pathway or route to saving faith is now to hear the message. Many people saw Jesus and walked with Him and talked with Him but didn’t believe. Seeing Jesus physically doesn’t guarantee belief because our hearts are hard. Only a miracle can open our hard hearts and that is what the power of the Gospel does. Jesus is revealed to us as the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection is preached. Believing is seeing ! God’s Blessing and Happy Easter - Rev David O’Mara 

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The full extent of Jesus' love

God serves us & empowers us to serve us John 13:1-17 – the setting for the washing of the disciples’  feet is the Passover Feast. The passover feast commemorated the time in Israel’s history when God  rescued them from slavery. The Passover is about God saving His people and so what Jesus does when He washes the feet of His disciples points to a new saving work. When Jesus  washes the disciples feet He is teaching them that the full extent of His love is revealed in the Cross - see 13:1. The washing of feet is a symbolic act which points to His death. To be a Christian involves allowing Jesus to serve us by accepting His death and allowing God to work in our lives. In fact the encounter with Peter teaches us that unless Jesus serves us through the Cross we are not part of His family and are also unable to truly serve others. Foot washing was the task of the lowest servant and so Jesus by washing the disciple’s feet is teaching them that He is willing to take on the lowliest task for their sake and because of His love for them. Jesus’ love is not motivated by what He can get out of the disciples. His own source of love is the basis for His love not what they can do for Him. In this passage we also see Peter misunderstanding what Jesus is doing but right at the end of the Gospel Jesus restored Peter after His failures and begins to change Him. God both expects and enables transformation of our lives through the power of the Cross and the work of the Spirit in our lives. In this short passage we see another individual who is highlighted. Judas is identified as the one who would betray Jesus and who has allowed the devil to enter him. Judas is a shocking example because he was one of the disciples and lived closely with Jesus seeing His example day after day for 3 years. Yet he falls away because he doesn’t have faith. Judas is a warning to us that we can be close to the Christian faith without actually ever accepting the Lord Jesus. We must ensure that we have come to know the Lord and submitted to Him. Jesus final command is that we are blessed if we obey Him. Obedience brings blessing and is the key to transformation through faith in God’s power. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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An affectionate reverence !

Fear God and Obey His commands
Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 the writer now brings his teaching to a conclusion. He says that the whole duty of people is to fear God and obey His commands. Charles Bridge says that the fear of the Lord is that affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law. When the power of the Gospel is at work in our lives God through the preaching of the cross and the work of His Spirit captures our heart so that a fear of the Lord grows in our life and this leads to a desire to obey the commands of the Lord. The teacher expects that his teaching is more than information. It is transformative. Our primary sense organ is the ear. We are to focus on listening to the Lord. In the New Testament our Lord Jesus reveals Himself as the Word of God
John 1:1 and so He is 
a speaking and teaching God. We also learn that the Word of God is powerful Hebrews 4:12 and can penetrate our lives and reveal truths about ourselves and about God. The Word of God also corrects and rebukes 2 Tim 3:16-17 and can equip us to know the Lord and do His work. The teacher has studied life under the sun and he says that all this knowledge is meant to bring us 4 things. God blesses us with pleasure. In 12:10 the teacher describes God words as words of delight and truth. God’s pleasure can’t be separated from His truth. This is a reminder that people will often try to find pleasure apart from the Lord and this will not bring satisfaction. The key to this is that we delight in things which are beautiful and good and true. In Psalm 27:4 the Psalmist wants to dwell in the temple of the Lord so that he may gaze on the beauty of the Lord. Seeing the beauty God in the face of Jesus Christ brings us the greatest joy and delight. Secondly God bring us an unexpected gift which is pain. He uses the picture of a shepherd with a goad embedded with nails. Shepherds used these staffs with nails to keep sheep on the right path. God will allow pain into our life that we may not turn away from Him. This is a very hard lesson but we must not forget that God himself fully understands how pain can be used to bring joy and salvation - Jesus death on the Cross for our sin. His third observation is that God gives us a perspective that the totality of life is to fear God and obey Him. Finally the teacher instructs us to prepare to meet God for we are all accountable and good will bring his good and right just so that evil is dealt with and wrongs are righted. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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