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The Journal

Dying well so you can live well

Learning to die well so we can live well. Today we embark on a new series on the book of Ecclesiastes. In 1:1 we are told that these are the words of Qoheleth which is teacher or leader of the assembly. This book is from the wisdom tradition and at times reads like Proverbs. Some people see this book as a book which shows us what it is like to live without God and then in chapter 12 we are told to fear the Lord. The conclusion is correct but the teacher is trying to get us to really examine life and how it works because he says that life is meaningless or a better translation is life is like a breath or vapour. He is not saying that life is futile but that life ultimately can’t be controlled by us. It passes so quickly. This writer is not depressed nor cynical rather he is teaching us that there is an inevitability of life that we must face - that we all die. As we face our mortality God is wanting to produce in us a humility to see our need of Him. All of us want our lives to count and to have significance but there is something frustrating about trying to “gain” 1:3 in this world and make our mark because death humbles all of us and we are forgotten. In Matthew 16:26 Jesus uses this idea of gain when he warns us of running after things in the world at the cost of losing our soul. The teacher is taking us on a journey to look at the patterns and rhythms of life so we can live realistic and fruitful lives now and be ready to face the Lord. Living well is not just about avoiding worldly pursuits but rather the uncertainties of life are faced by all people Christian and non Christian and to live well which is one of the purposes of wisdom literature requires us to learn the lessons of life we see God teaching us through this book. Too often as Christians we learn Bible truths but this wisdom from God doesn’t penetrate our values and our attitudes. Ecclesiastes is a book which will get under our skin and give us the opportunity to grow in faith as we seek the Lord and apply His Wisdom to our lives and our values and attitudes are changed and affect our behaviour. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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The greatest miracle !

The best harvest ! In Luke 5:1-11 the disciples caught more than a boat load of fish. The obvious miracle is the catching of the fish especially as they had already been fishing and the fish were not around. Jesus asks them to put out into deep water and let down their nets. Simon speaks up on behalf of the group and is reticent to do so. Fortunately he obeys Jesus’ Word and experiences a great catch but the greater miracle is that Simon sees his sinfulness. When he sees the catch he asks Jesus to go away from him because he realises that he is a sinful man. Why does he suddenly see his sinfulness ? The miracle of the fish caught reveals the power and glory of Jesus. When we see God’s power and greatness at work His perfection reveals how far short we fall of God’s goodness. We are exposed as sinners. This is the greatest miracle in the story. Without this miracle we will never make progress in the Christian life. This miracle is also followed by another great miracle. Jesus says to Simon - Don’t be afraid. Simon is afraid because he realises his sinfulness and wonders how he can stand before a holy God. This is the greatest miracle that Jesus is able to say to sinners Don’t be afraid. This means that our sins have been dealt with and forgiven and we can be friends with God. This is what the death of Jesus has done for us - We don’t have to be afraid of judgement. Jesus takes Simon a step further after forgiveness. He says to him that He is going to use him (and others) to bring people into the Kingdom of God. We all crave purpose in life and God gives us a wonderful task to help bring other people to faith in Jesus. May the Lord help us catch people. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara
 

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Do you want to get well ?

Do you want to get well ? In John 5:1-15 Jesus encounters a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He was lying at the Bethesda pool in Jerusalem which was renowned for its miraculous powers when the water was stirred, presumably supernaturally. Jesus after learning that this man had been in this condition for a long time asked : Do you want to get well ? John 15:6. It seems an extraordinary question because one would think his whole purpose was to get well. However, sometimes we can learn to function on our disabilities and even find some sort of security in them. This is a great question and it is helping the man to face his illness and also focuses his attention on Jesus who is intimating that He has the power to help. Jesus doesn’t use the miraculous powers of the water but speaks words - Get up. Pick up your mat and walk. The man was cured and we would expect that everyone who saw him and realised his healing would be overjoyed. But this is not the case with the Jews (leaders). When they saw the man walking they told him that it is not lawful to carry his mat on the Sabbath. This healing brings the man into conflict with the religious authorities. We see that this man didn’t know who Jesus was and so when Jesus seeks him out he urges him to stop sinning or something worse may happen. We learn that God’s blessings are not ends in themselves. When we receive God’s grace and kindness God expects obedience. Rev David O'Mara

 

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Testing develops faith!

Testing develops faith! Today we explore Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus has just been baptised and confirmed by God as His Son who is the suffering Messiah & servant. He is then led by the Spirit into the desert to be tested. It is important to see that despite the attack of the devil God is in control and uses this difficulty to test Jesus. The purpose is not to cause Jesus to fail but to strengthen Him. We know that God’s purpose in trials for His children is to strengthen and grow faith. There is a pattern to Jesus’ experience. In chapter 3 at the baptism He experiences a powerful and wonderful revelation of God and His purposes for Jesus and then He is thrust into a great trial. We should not be surprised that there are often times of great trial and struggle following spiritual breakthrough. We see throughout the Gospels that as the Kingdom advances and Jesus proclaims God’s rule so the devil seeks to counteract. The same is typical of our Christian life and the life of a church. The devil’s attack is to pressure Jesus to deny His Sonship which is characterised by obedience to God and His plans. In particular by offering to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world He is encouraging Jesus to not go to the cross. We also notice that the way that Jesus defends Himself against the assaults of the devil is through the Word of God. He is quoting Deuteronomy 6-8. These recalls the trials which Israel went through in the wilderness and failed. In this regard Jesus is being presented as the new Israel see Matthew 2:5 who will not fail God in the desert but will be obedient to God’s call on His life. The obedience of Jesus confirms that He is qualified to be God’s King and Suffering servant. What is quite deceptive about the devil’s attacks is that he misuses the Word of God. There is a great need for us to grow in the skill of handling the word of God. Jesus was able to resist the devil’s lies because He was saturated with God’s Word. May that be so of us in 2019. Rev David O'Mara 

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Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? This is the big question which is asked throughout the Bible. We have had the Christmas stories in Matthew 1-2 and now in Matthew 3:13-17 John baptises Jesus. At first John doesn’t want to baptise Jesus because He knows that Jesus is righteous and John himself says that Jesus should baptise him because he is unworthy. However Jesus insists because all righteousness must be fulfilled. What does this mean ? We know from Isaiah 53 that God’s servant would come in righteousness and so Jesus is the righteous servant who would also carry the sins of people. So for Jesus to die for the sins of the world He must identify with people who are sinners and baptism is a picture of that identification. Further after Jesus was baptised the Spirit of God descended on him and this also is confirmation that Jesus is the servant of the Lord - see Isaiah 42. But wait there is more. Then God speaks from heaven and identifies Jesus as His son whom he loves. This is also a reference to Psalm 2 where God installs His son as king. So here we have 3 pictures of Jesus as Son of God and King and suffering servant. The Jews could understand God’s Son coming as King but not also as a suffering servant. This suffering servant saves us from sin though his weakness on the Cross. It is truly beautiful and because of this we are counted as worthy. We all want value in our life and the good news is that because of the death of Jesus and His obedience God says to us I am pleased with you. What a wonderful way to commence 2019 that through faith in what Jesus has done on the Cross we please God. This is uplifting and empowering and will bring great blessing to us on 2019. May the Lord Bless you. Rev David O'Mara 

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Finding joy in submission to God

Dear Friends,
Thank you to everyone who helped with the Carols event on Saturday 8 December. We truly had a wonderful time with the Credo Team and I was greatly encouraged by the effort of you, our church family. We had a good crowd at the family service with many visitors from Playtime and from AllKids. Today we look at the tragic circumstances of the killing of male boys under 2 at Bethlehem upon the orders of Herod after the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Herod was renowned for his cruelty having murdered 2 of his sons and his favourite wife. When he hears the news of this birth of the King of the Jews from the wise men he is disturbed as is all Jerusalem with him. Jesus is presented as a rival King and more than that He is the true King of the world. We notice in Matthew 2:13-23 that God watches over His plan and protects Jesus by directing Jospeh and Mary to escape to Egypt and then also directing them through a dream to return to Israel when Herod dies. In this passage there are 3 OT quotes referring to God’s promises as applied to Jesus that He is a true son of Israel see 2:15 and that He will return just like Israel went into exile and then returned because God brought them back home but this child will bring new hope and salvation upon His return see 2:18 and finally he will grow up in obscurity which is a general theme in the Bible that God’s Messiah will come from humble and unexpected beginnings. So often it seems that the “little Herods” of this world are winning as they try to restrict or deny the Christian faith but the story of Christmas reminds us that nothing can stop God’s plan for a Saviour. At the 5pm Service we have the joy of baptising Angus and Allen Miller. Their mother attends the 5pm service and also plays at our Friendship Service. The passage for the 5pm Service is Luke 1:26-38 which is the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she will have a son through the power of the Holy Spirit. What is quite amazing is that Mary is a model of how a disciple should respond. She says I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said. May God so bless us this Christmas that we respond in faith like Mary in submission to Jesus. Obedience to God brings blessings ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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The King has Come

Dear Friends,
Last week I was talking with our Bishop and I asked him about the issues which are going to impact ministry in the inner city in the next few years. Interestingly he has said that our city including the inner west is going to see greater immigration coming from Asia esp. China and Hong Kong. This means that the surrounding community will become even more multicultural than it is now and we need to be ready to meet this challenge. One of our visions for the last 3 years has been to become more multicultural and this is happening. Further we can see from our booming primary schools that younger families have moved into the area and it seems they will stay longer rather than moving when their family grows. About 5 years ago All Souls Parish and the Diocese engaged a church growth expert from America. Paul Borden conducted a consultation and produced a report. He indicated that a key driver for growth is children’s ministry. Over the last 3 years we have sought to act on this and employed a part time children’s ministry worker, Shion and established a kid’s after school club and sought to strengthen our Sunday school. Last Sunday we had a meeting with parents discussing children’s ministry and seeking feedback. We have much more to do and ask for your prayers for God’s guidance as are committed to ongoing evaluation and improvement.

We decided at our meeting to rename the creche ministry as Little Souls and develop this as a transition point to Sunday school. We are also working on the development of our Playtime Cafe to be more evangelistic. We are seeking to see all our ministries develop pathways that bring people to faith in Christ and fellowship in the church and this includes our children. This is relevant because as we look at Matthew 1:1-17 which discusses the genealogy of Jesus we see that He is descended from the royal line of David because He is a son of David. Matthew is effectively teaching us the the true King of the world has come. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commissions His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples Matthew 28:16-20. We do this because Jesus is the rightful King of this world and calls all people to yield and submit to His Kingship. That is what Christmas is all about. Our King enters our world and dies to save us from our sin and calls us to submit to Him as Lord and Saviour. At our 5pm service we look again at the book of Jude and this time focus on understanding what false teachers look like and how to spot their deception and remain faithful. At our children’s ministry meeting we also discussed how we plan to develop a pathway for our Year 6 kids entering high school by commencing a fortnightly youth Bible study and games afternoon in the second half of next year. We will continue our monthly Friday night youth group but pray and work for this new group to create a pathway to engage our emerging youth in the evening church and help our young people to engage in being disciples and love and own their church. God’s Blessing David O'Mara 

 

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Knowing great truths of the Bible

Dear Friends,
Today we welcome Anton Triyanto and Ahn and their son Angus. Anton is a staff worker with AFES in Brisbane working in University Ministry. University Ministry is a very important ministry in seeking to win people for Christ as they think about their lives and what the future holds. Last week at our baptism service we read the Apostle’s Creed. This ancient document is a summary of the essentials of the Christian faith. Often the doubts or discouragements which we experience in our faith are because we have an atomistic approach to the Bible. We know bits of it but when something happens in our life we can become disappointed with God because lack a thorough grasp of the whole story. In effect our approach to the Bible needs to be comprehensive where the great truths as outlined in the Creed are well understood by us so that when a trial comes we have Biblical resources to 
draw on and so can gain strength from God’s Word. In the morning Anton will be looking at Philippians 2:1-11 which is a wonderful summary of the incarnation and identity of Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent call on people to submit to Him as Lord and Saviour. Jesus is Lord and Saviour because His being is very nature God. He came to earth as a servant emptying himself of His glory ! In the evening we are looking at the book of Jude and in particular v3 encourages us to contend for the faith. This takes up the idea of wrestling for our faith. Interestingly our faith is described as “the faith” meaning that even at this early stage in the life of the church it is seen as a body of teaching which has come down from the apostles - see Acts 2:42, Ephesians 2:20. Jude is warning against false teachers who had come into the church. Jude warns us to not be led astray and so we need to both know the great truths of the Bible well and also build ourselves up in our holy faith. God’s Blessing David O’Mara

 

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The Word who takes away all your words

Dear Friends,
John intentionally uses the Greek word “logos” to describe Jesus. In its original setting “logos” described a life principle which gave meaning to life and was the desire of all to align with. John has taken this philosophical term and enlarged and enriched its meaning. Jesus is the “logos” who is personal and has come to earth and who can be known. In the first section 1:1-4 John explains that this Word was with God and is God and always existed. The Word is divine. Further John explains that all things were made through this Word and that He gives life to all men. The Word is our creator and so we owe him our allegiance because our life is a gift from Him. In the second section 1:5-11 we learn that despite the witness of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as the true light people rejected Him. In v5 the word “understood” or “overcome” is intentionally ambiguous and carries the sense that people are ignorant of 
this Word who gives life and this is also the result of their rebellion against God. This rebellion is the reason why people also want to overcome Him or control Him. Incredibly this Word came to earth and came to the Jewish people and was rejected by them. It is a reminder that people can see God and yet still reject Him. But in the final section 1:12-14 the good news is that despite this rejection this Word offers us the right to become children of God. This is a gift which we cannot earn or inherit through human effort. Indeed it is the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1:14 this Word became flesh and so is identified as Jesus. He lived amongst us and came from God and reveals the glory of God. The glory of God is the heaviness or weight of His goodness and love and power and purity and grace. Jesus is the true light and unless we know Him we walk in darkness 1:5. Pray for the Lord to give us a revelation of His love and goodness and glory. At the 5pm service we conclude our series on John’s letter. In 3 John John writes to his dear friend Gaius. He is praying for him and in fact John says what motivates him is to hear that believers are walking in the truth. John’s heart is for the health of the church. Despite the good things happening in the church community John mentions that Diotrephes wouldn’t welcome believers. This person is a leader and he is also involved in spread malicious nonsense as well as ejecting true believers from the church community. There are enemies of the Gospel even in church and we have to exercise godly discipline to encourage them to repent. God’s Blessing David O’Mara

 

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Hope beyond death - it was ok anyway