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The Journal

God Provides Support

Dear Friends,

Imagine if you were told by an angel that you were going to carry the Saviour of the world in your womb. Who would you tell ? This type of news would be very isolating because it would be hard for people to believe it from a human perspective. But of course we know that nothing is impossible for God - Luke 1:37. God created the whole world and holds it together so it is not beyond Him to cause new life to grow in a woman’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Mary receives the news about becoming pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit she goes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who has become pregnant through God’s power also - see 1:36. She goes to see Elizabeth because the angel has also informed her that Elizabeth has also had the seemingly impossible happen to her - becoming pregnant at an old age. God’s plan is operating on many levels. God provides support for Mary in the person of Elizabeth who understands that what has happened to Mary is true. This is God’s gracious provision.  

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His Spiritual Family

Dear Friends,

The Christian faith is based on the external historical work of Jesus in coming to earth, dying on the Cross for our sin and then rising from the dead. Regardless of how we feel what Christ has done stands. But the Christian faith is also personal and experiential. In 1 Peter 2:3 Peter recognises that we can “taste” that the Lord is good. We can personally experience the goodness of God. He loved us enough to die for our sins. There is no sin or evil in Him. He is kind and gracious to us ! Further in v4 Peter invites us to come to Jesus.  

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Holy Christian Growth

Dear Friends,

In 1 Peter 1:13-25 Peter reminds the Christians of God’s purpose for their lives. God wants us to be holy. That doesn’t mean that we will be perfect. To be holy means to be set apart from sin and set apart for God. The basis for this goal to be holy is the fact that our God is holy. When we come to faith in Jesus He gives us His Spirit and His Spirit works in us to change us so we become more like Jesus. Over time He begins to grow a hunger for God and His Word in our lives and a hatred of sin.  

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Stand Firm in Your Faith

Dear Friends,

This week in the morning service we begin a new series on the book of 1 Peter. Peter is writing to Christians who are scattered throughout what is today known as northern and western Turkey. In 1:6 Peter acknowledges that these Christians have had to suffer grief through various trials. At this stage it doesn’t seem that these trials have led to martyrdom. However there is slander and being excluded or insulted or abused because of the name of Jesus - see 2:18, 4:3-4,14. We know that the Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the fire which he started in Rome. Peter, like Jesus is giving a realistic picture of what it means to follow God. Jesus ensured that we understood that if we follow Him there would be persecution - John 15:20 and Paul says to Timothy that everyone who wants to follow Jesus and live a godly life will be persecuted - 2 Timothy 3:12.  

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God's Covenant with Abraham

Dear Friends,

One of the most important lessons for understanding the Bible is to look at the context of the passage. After Genesis chapter 9 and the story of Noah and the ark we have a list of the table of nations which is the account of Noah’s sons who spread out across the world. Then in chapter 11 we have the epic fail of the tower of Babel where people tried to build an identity without God. After 11:9 there is no general list of nations. From 11:10 to 32 there is a genealogical list but this is focused on the line of Seth and specifically how it leads to Abraham.  

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Our Power to Protect

Dear Friends,

Last year at Synod there was a significant discussion about Domestic Violence and the need to ensure that our church families are safe place for husbands and wives and children. I am currently involved in a committee formed as a result of this discussion which is seeking to make recommendations about how to respond to the problem of domestic violence within the church. God’s Word teaches us to use power to protect, nurture and care for others, especially those who are vulnerable. The Bible not only teaches how to respond to difficult situations it also teaches how to work at prevention and build healthy family and community life which also embraces single people. 

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The Towel of Babel and Cultural Diversity

Dear Friends,

The problem at heart of the tower of Babel is people trying to assert independence from God. In 11:4 the people want to build a tower to reach to the heavens and make a name for themselves. They want to find their identity in their own achievements. It is the sin of the garden of Eden repeated - to be like God and run their own show. This is expressed in v4 come let us build a city. They fear being scattered over the earth. What is the problem with remaining in the one place ? After the flood God had commanded Noah and his family to increase in number and multiply on earth - 9:7. Further in 10:31 (it is not chronological) we are told that Noah’s descendants spread out throughout the earth. Cultural diversity through filling the whole earth is God’s plan for humanity. 

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Hidden Treasures

Dear Friends,

The Parables of the Hidden treasure can be viewed in 2 ways. In the first view the man is going about his normal daily life and stumbles accidentally onto treasure. He wasn’t looking for it. Some people are like that. They are not looking for God and then suddenly they come face to face with God and open their lives. The 2nd parable describes a pearl merchant who knows what he wants and goes for it. He finds a pearly of great value and so the merchant sells everything he has to gain it.  

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God's Eternal Covenant

Dear Friends,

Our God is a covenant making God. That is He takes the initiative and builds a relationship with us based on His Word which is His promise. In Genesis 8 & 9 God promises Noah that He will never destroy the earth again. Then in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 God promises Abraham that He will grant him land and make his name great and all nations will be blessed through his descendants. This is an unconditional promise which is guaranteed by God’s Word and excitingly we see this Word fulfilled initially in Israel becoming a great nation and being given the land of Canaan. Ultimately this promise is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus whose Gospel of salvation blesses the whole world. At Mount Sinai God promises that they will be a great nation if they obey His commands. This is a conditional promise and we see in the history of Israel that they failed continually. We also have the Davidic covenant with King David in 2 Samuel 7 where God promises to grant that David’s descendants will always sit on the throne. This promise is fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus who is a descendant of David. Later in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 God recognizes Israel’s failure and promises that He will put His law in His people’s heart so they desire to serve Him. This promise points to the Gospel of Jesus and His death for our sin which brings forgiveness of sin and gives us a new heart. Jesus himself affirmed that He himself would inaugurate this new covenant through His blood – Luke 22. Understanding God’s covenant is exciting because we see that God is totally committed to us and blesses us with all He has. We are beneficiaries of His kindness and grace. 

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A Sacrifice for Sin

Dear Friends,

This week we look at Chapters 8 & 9. The flood has come and Noah and his family and the animals are in the ark. The central verse of these chapters is 8:1:- God remembered Noah. Whilst Noah was safe from the flood waters he and his family were still very vulnerable. This can be our experience as we live in a violent and unstable world. We wonder has God forgotten me ? Does God care ? This passage reminds us that the answer to those questions is a big Yes. Further God remembering Noah and us assumes that He makes a movement toward us to help us. He does that with Noah by bringing him safely through the flood waters and He does that with us by sending Jesus. 

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