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The Journal

Being found by Jesus

Dear Friends,
We thank the Lord for our UTS students who have come to our parish on Mission. It is wonderful to have them in the Parish again. I am also thankful to the Lord for our Carols event yesterday. To be able to serve together and declare God’s love to our local community is so important and I am grateful for people serving in this important ministry. I am sure there are many are testimonies of thankfulness as the students have given testimony at our Healing service, Thursday morning Bible study, Taverners Hill Anglicare Aged accomodation, Lewisham Nursing home and AllKids. Our passage this morning is from Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of the 10 men who were healed of leprosy. Jesus commented on the importance of faith in accessing healing but interestingly spoke about the need to thank the Lord for our blessings. Only one of the 10 lepers who were healed returned to thank Jesus. Interestingly it is to him that Jesus said that your faith has healed you. What does that mean ? It is more than physical healing. This one leper returned because he understood that the source of healing was Jesus and that it is right and appropriate to thank Him for every good and perfect gift we have - see James 1:17. The society we live in encourages us to think that we are the masters of our own fate and the source of blessing. We see that our society is more and more ungrateful and takes God’s blessing for granted. True healing comes when we are reconciled to Jesus and give Him the thanks and the honour which He deserves. In the passage tonight we are looking at Luke 15:1-10 the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. This parable gives us more reasons to thank the Lord. These parables teach us that God like the shepherd and the woman is seeking something which is lost. That which is lost is us. We are lost because of sin. It is wonderful to see that God comes looking for us and His attitude to us when we are found, that is when we return to Him is that He celebrates with heaven. How wonderful to have a God who rejoices when we are found and that even more than us He wants us to be reconciled with Him. This is something huge for which we can thank the Lord.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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New hope from God

Dear Friends,
Today we conclude out short series on Isaiah 6-12. Chapter 12 is bursting with praise because of God’s graciousness in bringing new life to the people of God through the coming Messiah who is both a descendant of the tribe of Judah and also the one who is the source of Judah. This person is both God and human. God comes himself and creates a new community of peace and righteousness. So chapter 12 is a natural celebration of God’s goodness for this new society which Jesus will inaugurate. Obviously this society has not yet been fully consummated but as people come to faith in Christ and begin to live out their faith within the context of the church and the world we see glimpses of heaven and we have a foretaste of all that the Lord is doing ! The primary reason for praise is that God’s anger at our sin has been turned away 12:1. This means that we can enjoy the comfort of the Lord. Isaiah develops this theme and informs us that it is the servant of the Lord who is a tender shoot and root Isaiah 53:1-2 and who carried our infirmities and took the punishment for our sins - 53:4-6. This is of course is fulfilled in Jesus who has taken the punishment for our sin instead of us and this means we can enjoy a relationship with God through Christ. In Isaiah 12:2 the prophet uses the personal pronoun to speak of my salvation and my strength and my song. God has done this work of salvation but each of us needs to ensure that we have personally owned for ourselves 
personally received Christ. In Isaiah 12:2b it is a direct quote from Exodus 15:2 which tells of God’s victory over His enemies in setting the people of God free from Egypt. So the story of the Exodus is the backdrop for this Isaiah 12 and as God led the people out of Egypt he refreshed them with water along the way. It is the same with us - God refreshes us along the journey of faith so that we can draw deep from the wells of salvation. For the Christian we are refreshed when we repent of sin Acts 3:19 and also through the fellowship of God’s people 1 Cor 16:18. Christ also refreshes us through the work of His Spirit because out of Jesus flows springs of living water - John 7:37-39. Notice that this blessing we have received from the Lord is so that we will look outward and declare His glory to other people Isaiah 12:4-5 so that they may also enjoy the goodness of the Lord. At the 5pm service we continue our series on the parables and look at Luke 13:18-21 - the parable of the mustard seed and yeast. Often the work of God seems insignificant but God is powerfully at work in this world through the preaching of HIs Word. Don’t be discouraged when things seem small because God is powerfully at work & that will be evident when Jesus returns.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Church Council and Minister’s Report November 2017

God can building something beautiful in our lives

Dear Friends,
In Isaiah 10:5-34 Isaiah has prophesied that God will chop Assyria down like a tree is chopped down by an ax. God gives this prophecy to Judah to show that God will use Assyria to bring judgement on his disobedient people but Assyria in turn will experience judgment for overreaching their hand and being arrogant. Indeed Judah will be devastated by Assyria but not wiped out completely. Isaiah 11 teaches us that even though Judah is humbled or cut down and a stump is left there will be a shoot of Jesse that will come up. By mentioning Jesse Isaiah is speaking of the Messianic King who will come. This King will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and will bring justice and unlike King Ahaz in chapter 7 who judged by what he saw and heard this King will be guided by the fear of the Lord and see things from God’s perspective. We live in an age where fear and anxiety is rampant because we live by sight only. We have lost the ability to see things from God’s perspective and trust that God is in control. When we live by faith and not by our circumstances this both builds courage and calms our anxiety. This coming King will be concerned to bring justice for the poor. This prophecy is of course a long way ahead in the future and God’s people had to be patient and wait for this righteous and good King to come. As we approach Christmas we do remember that our Messiah King Jesus identified with the poor by being born in a stable and He did not neglect the poor but brought them good news. Through God’s power Jesus will so transform people and the whole of creation that a wolf will lie down with a lamb and a child will play near a cobra and not be harmed ! This picture of the new creation gives us courage to live well now with confidence because our future is secure ! Luke 6:46-49 which is the passage at the 5pm service reminds us that if our foundation in life is solid then we can face whatever crisis comes and still thrive. In particular the crisis of the flood waters speaks of a coming judgement when God will put things right and if we have trusted in Jesus’ Word as our foundation then we will have confidence to face God when we die and be assured of entering into heaven. This heaven which Isaiah describes to us is worth the wait ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Don't play games with God

Dear Friends,
We continue our series on Isaiah 6-12 looking at
God’s judgement on Assyria in 10:5-34. Last week we reflected on Isaiah’s preaching about Israel which was for the benefit of Judah so they would take the warning that just as judgement will fall on Israel it will also fall on Judah if they do not heed God’s warning. This time God is teaching His people how He uses nations for His big purposes. In particular Assyria will be an instrument of judgement to refine His people. We know that Assyria invaded and deported the people of the northern Kingdom in 722 BC so that this kingdom ceased to exist. We learn that God is in charge of the nations and what they do. But this doesn’t mean that God is responsible for their evil or the source of their evil. Rather God is absolutely sovereign or in control of the nations but they are also morally culpable for what they do. Unless you understand and trust in God’s total control then to think otherwise is a recipe for anxiety to grow. We can sleep at night because whether in in our personal circumstances or in the big issues happening across the world God has a purpose. God points out that Assyria thinks that it’s victories have been achieved by their own power and might 10:13-14. God explains that Assyria is like an axe in God’s hand. It has no power in itself ! God’s purpose with this particular nation is that His people,. the remnant will learn to rely on Him 10:20 and that they will return to Him or repent of sin 10:21. We learn that the havoc which the Assyrians have been wreaking amongst the nations will come to an end 10:24-26. God’s people not the nations are the centre of God’s purposes in the world and He works so that His people are refined and learn to turn from sin and depend on Him - 1 Peter 1:7. At the 5pm service we continue our series on Jesus’ parables. The parable tonight in Luke 14:15-24 reminds us that heaven is pictured as a great banquet where people have been invited. This parable is a warning to the people of Israel who have been invited to the feast but have refused His offer. The master of the banquet tells his servants to go out and invite other people but some people make excuses but some respond and accept. Eternal life and entrance to it is an invitation. It is a gracious offer. May the Lord strengthen us to resist the temptation to be distracted and make other priorities. A relationship with Jesus is what is most precious in life and most valuable.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Don't ignore the Lord

Dear Friends,
In Isaiah 9:8-22 & 10:1-4 the focus is on God’s judgement against Israel which are the northern tribes. Isaiah 6:1-13 was called as prophet to Judah, the southern Kingdom and now he shows Judah what happens when people reject God’s Word. Their hearts are hardened and God’s judgement falls. We see this lived out in what is happening to Israel :- despite the signs of deterioration in the land evident in natural disasters and invasions by traditional enemies the people still believe they can overcome their problems by their own efforts. For example in 9:10 the people say that even though the bricks have fallen they will rebuild and even though the fig trees have fallen down they will replant. The attitude of the people is arrogant and proud 9:9. These people are pushing on in life without reference to God. We must remember that God had sent prophet after prophet to urge his people to turn back to him but He has pronounced that judgement will fall 10:4 on Israel. This is a warning to Judah who are heading down the same road. Today God calls us to hold out grace for people but there will come a time when it will be too late for people and judgement will fall and people will receive the fruit of their disobedience. It seems that one aspect of the judgement which falls is that God withdraws his restraining hand of evil. In Romans 1:24 God’s Word says that the Lord gave people over to their sinful desires. One aspect of the judgement which comes on people in this age is that God gives them over to what they want and they find that this destroys them. Sin is never good for us. The great remedy which God brings is the Cross and this is accompanied by the call to repent of sin - Acts 2:38-39. Repentance of sin and the power of the Gospel brings freedom sin and peace and joy. At the 5pm we have embarked on a short series on the parables. Tonight we look at Luke 12:12-21 and the Parable of the rich fool. It is very interesting how this parable opens :- a man is asking Jesus for arbitration over a dispute with his brother. It looks like a call for justice but Jesus uses this as a warning to guard against greed. In the parable the rich fool looks to his own counsel and believes that he has achieved all he has. He is greatly mistaken because all he has is a gift from God and he has failed to be rich towards God. The great temptation of greed is preceded by forgetting God and deceiving ourselves that we are the masters of our own lives. We will all give an account to the Lord - 2 Cor 5:12. May we be ready !
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Jesus is the great light and shines today.

Dear Friends, 

One of the great truths of the Bible is that God never leaves you without hope.As we have been reading through Isaiah we have learnt that God sent Isaiah to bring a message of judgement because of the hardness of the people’s hearts - see Isaiah 6:1-13. In chapter 8:22 we learn that there will be gloom and darkness and distress because the people of God have turned away from the Lord and have consulted mediums and spiritists. God’s people have effectively turned their back on God. There is no doubt that they deserve judgement but chapter 9 reminds us that with God there is always hope. We learn that God has a future when gloom will be removed and the people who walk in darkness will see a great light 9:1-2. This great light who dispels darkness is a child who is also mighty God 9:6. This is a picture of the Lord Jesus. Isaiah was writing in the 8th C BC and so God expects that in the meantime His people will hang onto the promise of God as the means to sustain them and build resilience. Nothing has changed. God expects that we will still learn to live by faith - 2 Corinthians 5:7. Of course forus the promise is more certain because Jesus has come and has died for our sin. But we like our OT brothers and sisters are waiting for the Lord’s return when God will cast evil away forever. In the meantime we can rejoice and celebrate because Jesus has loved us and forgiven our sins and give us a foretaste of heaven. Today we have Erin with us who is being sent out by CMS to Asia to bring the light and hope of Christ to people. She takes a powerful message of God’s love to people and our prayer is that she will see people respond and rejoice in God’s love. In our evening passage we look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. This parable reminds us that at the heart of the Law is to show compassion to our neighbours. They are whoever God brings into our life regardless of their ethnic or social or sexual diversity. Loving people doesn’t mean we automatically agree with them but it does mean that we treat them with dignity and respect because they are created in the image of God. We can only have this type of love when we allow the power of the Gospel of Jesus’ death to soften our hard hearts as His Spirit is shed abroad in our hearts - Romans 5:5
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Jesus with no added extras

Dear Friends, 
Today is our last in our series on the Reformation and the focus is on Christ alone. The writer to Hebrews helps the readers to see how the Jewish sacrificial system and all the Law is fulfilled in Jesus who is the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In our passage today Hebrews 9:11-28 we are encouraged that Jesus’ death cleanses our consciences from guilt 9:14. People can experience false guilt whereby they experience guilt for things which they have wrongly interpreted as being their fault. However, there is true guilt which we all experience. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of Christ Romans 3:23 and we experience guilt because we have not lived up to God’s standards. The good news of the Gospel is that through Christ’s death our guilt is removed. This guilt and its accompanying shame is dealt with and cleansed based on the fact that Jesus’ death has satisfied God’s just anger at our sin. God’s anger is no longer directed at us because God’s anger and judgement has fallen on Jesus instead of us. This means we can approach God with confidence and enjoy Him and serve Him. In this passage there are 3 other phrases which capture the essence of what Jesus has done and achieved for us. In 9:15 Jesus is identified as our mediator meaning that He is the one who represents us to God. As our high priest he takes up the role of the OT priest who would make a sacrifice on behalf of the people for their sin. Jesus is qualified to be our mediator because He is sinless and also willingly offers His life as a sacrifice for our sin. Secondly we learn of the power of the blood of Jesus 9:22. Theblood of Jesus refers to His life - see Leviticus 17:11. Jesus’ blood means that Jesus has given His life and takes the punishment we deserve so we could be forgiven. Jesus’ blood shed is consistent with the OT teaching that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin 9:22. Thirdly we learn that Jesus’ death is once for all 9:28. In the OT the High Priest had to repeat the sacrifices each year because these sacrifices were not an end in themselves but pointed to the need of a perfect sacrifice that Jesus would bring. The sacrifice of Jesus is powerful and effective because He sat down at the right hand side of God Hebrews 12:2. This is a very important truth because we are reminded that nothing can be added to the death of Jesus. Indeed at the cross Jesus called out It is finished John 19:30 meaning that He had completed the work of salvation. God encourages us to rest in what He has done not what we do. The death of Jesus means that you are justified before God. The reformers also taught that there is something else wonderful which the Lord does. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are joined to Christ through faith in His death. The Holy Spirit applies the work of the Cross to our lives and so we experience Jesus as the lover of our soul. This work of Christ leads to an intimate relationship and rejoicing in God’s goodness and kindness. 

God’s Blessing 
Rev David O'Mara 

 

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Scripture alone

Dear Friends,
This is our third talk on the reformation and focuses on the Bible alone. Alister McGrath, noted theologian says that the reformation dethroned the pope as the ultimate authority and enthroned the Bible. In Europe in the 16th Century the church and the Pope were the ultimate authorities for the interpretation of Scripture. Erasmus in 1517 translated the Greek New Testament and this reflected a movement in society to go back to original sources. As people went back to the original sources they saw that some of the translations of the Vulgate, which was the Latin translation of the Bible were wrong. For example in Matthew 4:17 the Vulgate translation said “From that time on Jesus began to preach ,”Do penance for the kingdom of heaven is near.” But the original Greek word was to do with repentance which is a radical turn from sin and turn to God. Penance embraced the idea of what we do to get right with God but the Gospel taught that it is what Christ has done and our role is to respond and receive what Christ has done. Another problematic translation was Luke 1:28 which the Vulgate described Mary as full of grace. But the original Greek indicates that she is a favoured one. This means that Mary is not a source of grace but a recipient of grace. On the basis of the Vulgate some Christians developed a false view of praying to Mary for help. In 2 Timothy 3:15 we learn that the Scriptures, that is God’s Word can make us wise for salvation. Paul states that all of God’s Word is inspired by God 3:16 and so we can have confidence that as we listen to the Word of God , God himself speaks to us through this word. In fact God’s Word has a transformative power to correct and train us in righteousness. Friends all the resources needed for Christian growth are contained within God’s Word. We also learn that in 3:17 that God’s Word trains us and directs us to do good works. The purpose of the Bible is to help us know the Lord and learn how to walk with Him and serve Him. The passage for the evening service is 2 Peter 1:12-21. Peter believes that 1:14-15 that it won’t be long before he leaves this world and goes to be with the Lord. Christian tradition says that Peter was put to death during the Nero persecutions before AD 65. He is seeking to strengthen the Christians that he writes to and the basis for this is to remind them 1:16 that what the apostles are teaching is not made up. Rather God’s Word comes from eyewitnesses who saw Jesus who guided them to proclaim the truth and ensured His Word was kept from error. Indeed Peter was one of them. In 1:20-21 Peter encourages them that the Words they have delivered are from God and can therefore be relied upon for our Christian lives. 

God’s Blessing
Rev David O’Mara 

 

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God’s kindness all the way

Dear Friends,
We continue our series on the reformation and this week we are looking at the topic of grace alone. Our morning passage is Ephesians 2:1-10. Paul has just prayed a prayer in Ephesians 1:15-22 that the Christians would know God better. Paul recognises that this spiritual insight only comes through the work of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel.Growing in your faith and understanding of God involves God’s power as He brings new life. In 2:1-3 Paul reminds us that before Christ came into our lives we were spiritually dead and disobedient. Recognising our hopeless situation that we can’t save ourselves Paul brings a message of hope that what we can’t do God has done in Christ. The whole reason that Jesus saves us is not based on anything we do or any merit in our lives. It is totally a work of God which is based on His love and an expression of His grace. The word grace is about God’s love and help towards us even though we don’t deserve it. Unless we understand how incredibly lost and dead we are without Christ we won’t appreciate the depth of God’s great love in Christ. In 2:8-10 Paul teaches us that whilst Christ has done everything necessary for salvation it needs to be received personally by faith. Notice that the whole basis for doing good works is a response to the grace and salvation we have already received. This is very important because many people are trapped in a belief that to get close to God they must do good works. This passage shows us that we can’t do good works without God’s grace received by faith. The great hope is that God saves us and gives us good works to do. God has a purpose for your life. The key purpose is to know Him and then this leads to serving Him within the church and within the world ! Our evening passage is Luke 18:9-14. It is the famous parable of the tax collector and the pharisee. It is also a story about God’s grace. The Pharisee seeks to justify himself by saying how he is better than other people whereas the tax collector knows that he has failed God and calls out to God for mercy. Humbling yourself and knowing you deserve nothing from God is a beautiful place to be. Jesus says that it was the tax collector who went home justified before God. He was justified , meaning that he was accepted and acquitted of judgement by God because he humbled himself and depended on God’s mercy alone. That is grace alone ! John Calvin, 16th C reformer says that faith brings a person empty to God. Depending on God’s grace alone builds confidence and security because you look to what Jesus has done not what you do yourself. 

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