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The Journal

Walking by faith

Dear Friends,
It has been very interesting to follow the life of Abram as he learns what it means to live and walk by faith. In Genesis 17:1-27 God comes to Abram and institutes the covenant of circumcision. The relationship with Abram has already been established by God’s call in Genesis 12 and then in Genesis 15 this call is reinforced by God reassuring Abram through a promise and a covenant ceremony where the Lord takes responsibility and will pay the cost to ensure that the covenant is kept. Importantly Abram believes the Lord and is credited as being righteous. Faith in God’s promises is the basis of being right with God. Now in Genesis 17 God reveals more of Himself to Abram and His purposes for Abram and also his responsibilities. IN 17:1 God uses a new name for Himself which is God Almighty. This revelation reveals His power and ability to make the covenant happen. God confirms the original promise that He will greatly increase Abram’s descendants and his name is changed from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of multitudes). Sarai which means princess is changed to Sarah which also means princess and these new names are appropriate because God promises that kings will be numbered amongst their descendants - 17:6. God then tells Abraham that He expects obedience and that every male in Abraham’s family will be circumcised. This is a sign of the covenant and it is interesting that it involves blood.The importance of blood for our entrance into the covenant is a huge and central theme which develops in the Bible. We see the need for the sacrificial system in Israel which climaxes in Jesus’ death and shed blood. Abraham immediately obeys the Lord. The covenant of circumcision was a sign that Abraham and his family belong to God. We know that in the New Testament Paul says that the sign of the covenant of circumcision is fulfilled in the circumcision of the heart - see Romans 2:29. This is what the message of Jesus’ death for our sins does as the Spirit works in us and as we respond in faith. Our hearts are set apart for the Lord and by faith we obey Him as His saved children. The sequence of Genesis is important and it teaches us that God’s promise of salvation comes first and that obedience is a response of faith. At the 5pm service we continue our series on 1John (tonight 1 Jon 1:5-2:2) and John teaches that those who are God’s children walk in the light of God’s Word and truth. It is expected that as we follow Jesus He will expose areas of sinfulness and we are to bring these to Jesus and repent of them and seek His forgiveness and cleansing. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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It's all about God, not us

Dear Friends,
In Genesis 15:7-21
we have a strange story (at least to our ears) of Abram being told by the Lord to bring different animals and cut them into 2 except the birds and lay them on the ground. Abram then falls into a deep sleep and God spoke to him about the future captivity of Abram’s descendants in Egypt and God’s promise to bring them back to the land promised to Abram. After this God made a covenant or an agreement with Abram confirming the promises as a smoking firepot travelled between the pieces of animals. In the ancient world when a covenant was made the cutting of the animals was symbolic of the fact that if one of the parties fails to keep this promise then what happened to the animals will happen to the person who fails to keep the covenant. But what is interesting is that this covenant is one sided in the sense that God promises that he will ensure that this covenant is kept and if it isn’t God himself will pay the price through death. As far as we can ascertain Abram is asleep so the covenant is totally binding upon the Lord to keep it. It is breathtaking that God is saying that He is willing to take the curse of the covenant if Abram or his descendants don’t keep it. That is how much God is committed to us and His promises. He is willing to die to ensure that His promises are upheld. That is what Jesus did. He died to ensure that the covenant is kept and He paid the price for our failure. That is amazing grace. Praise Him. We also see that the Lord doesn’t hide the difficult bits from His servants. With the Lord there are no hidden agendas or secret clauses. He expects obedience and provides the promises and encouragement and strength to follow through even as we face hardship ! At the 5pm service we conclude our final message on people who met Jesus. Tonight we meet a man with leprosy Luke 5:12-16 who falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Jesus to make him clean. This man shows great faith by saying “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus responds to the man’s request and heals him. There is a deeper truth here because leprosy was a sign of being unclean and Jesus’ healing of this man points to the fact that He can make unclean people clean. That is the great blessing of faith in Jesus and His death on the Cross. We who are unclean because of sin are made clean through Jesus’ blood. That is amazing grace. Praise Him. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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God's great gift to us is himself

Dear Friends,
One of the joys of Genesis 15:1-6 is that it reminds us that God has always been concerned about the need for faith. The need for and importance of faith is often seen as a New Testament requirement for salvation. But Abram believes God’s promise and is declared righteous. Abram’s faith access God’s acceptance. It is interesting that it is not until chapter 17 when Abram is 99 that he is circumcised. Abram is right before God and it is not because of circumcision nor is it because of the law. In Romans 4:1-3 Paul takes up the case of Abram who is right before God because of God’s grace. That is Abram’s right status before God is not based on his works nor even being religious. It is simply trusting in God’s promises. Of course saving faith leads to obedience to God and the Bible again and again shows us that obedience is the product of God’s grace and faith. In Romans 1:5 Paul tells us obedience comes from faith. Obedience to God is a response to having already been rescued by the Lord. That is the case today with the baptism of young Hugo. Baptism is a sign of God’s work on the Cross through Jesus. Hugo is made a spiritual member of God’s family as a gift. He doesn’t earn it and it is the same with salvation - it is a gift. In chapter 14 Abram has just been engaged in a battle with the local power brokers and through God’s help has defeated them and rescued Lot. Further he has shown exclusive allegiance to God by refusing to take money from the King of Sodom. Then in 15:1 God’s Word says “After this” and God comes to Abram in a vision to reassure him. He reminds Abram that He himself is His shield. That is God will protect him and the second promise is even more incredible. The promise is that God is your great reward. Friends salvation is not just that we make it to heaven. Salvation is that the Lord himself is our reward. The greatest gift which the Lord gives us is Himself and a personal relationship with Him. This is what the Lord has offered Hugo and His family today - a personal relationship with Him. It is the greatest and most precious treasure you can ever have. Tonight at the 5pm service we will look at Luke 5:1-11 and the title is people who met Jesus. This time the disciples meet Jesus and there is a miraculous provision of fish and Peter on seeing this realises how sinful he is and asks Jesus to go away from him. Jesus reassures him and says Don’t be afraid. This is a word of acceptance and forgiveness which propels him into mission to go and catch people for God’s kingdom. The Christian faith is firstly and primarily about what the Lord does for you. We see that in the story of Abram and in the story of Peter. But the Lord expects a response of obedience ! Romans 1:5 is right - obedience comes from faith. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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God keeps on keeping on his promises

Dear Friends,
One of the keys to understanding the Bible is that God makes promises and He keeps His promises. Therefore as we read the Bible we need to keep in mind Bible promises and see how God fulfils them in Christ. God has promised Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 that he will bless him and make him into a great nation and make his name great and all peoples will be blessed through him. The power brokers of the era led by King Kedorlaomer from modern day Iran attack the kingdoms in the Jordan Valley and defeat them. They carry off Abram’s nephew Lot and when Abram hears this news he is catapulted into action. We can’t understand Genesis 14 and Abram’s rescue of Lot without reference to God’s promises. Abram is a hero and this is God’s blessing on him because his military victory is spectacular. God’s blessing on Abram brings blessing to the Kingdoms which were subject to Kedorlaomer’s power and especially Lot. We also see Abram’s name is made great as the mysterious appearance of the person of Melchizedek blesses Abram and honours him. So Abram is honoured by this servant of God and he gives credit to God. But the person of Melchizedek is also interesting because he entwined with Abram through whom the whole world will be blessed. This Melchizedek like Abram points to the coming of one who is greater than both. In Psalm 110:1,4 David speaks of one greater than him who would come and be a priest in the order of Melchizedek and then in Hebrews 5-8 we learn that Melchizedek foreshadows and point to Jesus being a priest and king appointed by God himself. The passage in Genesis 14 also shows Abram giving allegiance to God and not compromising by refusing to take the spoils of war which the King of Sodom urges him to.take. Abram shows us that as we follow God there will be temptations to compromise and the key to not compromising are the promises of God understanding that God is calling us to follow Him and leave other gods or idols. At 5pm Jesus in John 9 heals a man born blind and exposes the blindness of the pharisees. In fact we are all spiritually blind and only the Gospel of Jesus can open our eyes so we understand the Gospel of Jesus. Like the blind man may we believe in Jesus and see our eyes opened ! The blind man then worshipped Jesus as God showing his eyes have been truly opened !God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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With God there is no FOMO

Dear Friends,
Genesis 13:5-18
is so encouraging because we see that Abram has learnt some lessons from his failure when he went down to Egypt and put both his wife and the promises of God at risk. There are problems between Lot and Abram’s herdsmen because the land is not able to support both groups of people and their livestock. Abram who has the right of decision as the older man foregoes his right and gives Lot the choice. Before Abram was fearful for his future but now he is trusting that God’s promises are powerful and that the Lord is in charge. When we trust God’s promises we recognise that we are not in control and if we have let this truth sink in we are not driven by fear or striving and grasping and we avoid FOMO. Abram is demonstrating the life as portrayed in the New Testament. Hebrews 11:16 recognises that people of faith see that their true home is in heaven because they a longing for a better country and this means that what they get or don’t get things in this world it may but be disappointing but it is not critical. Abram is wise with his wealth but he sees that the promises of God are much more precious. In contrast Lot is focused on transitory values of wealth now but fails to see the value of eternal promises. It is short sighted. In todays world one of the great resources which we have and which is a gift from God is time. We need to ensure that we don’t waste time but use it for our spiritual growth. It is good to reflect and ask am I using the time the Lord has given me to grow spiritually or am I wasting time on things which lead no where. At the 5pm service we are looking at people who met Jesus and tonight we encounter the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is no accident that Jesus meets this woman because John 4:4 says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. It is not the direct route but Jesus is calling this woman to God. The conversation revolves around Jesus asking the woman for a drink and then Jesus talks about the thirst which we all have. We are thirsty for the Lord. The great tragedy of life is that people run after other things thinking that these will satisfy their thirst for love, or security or acceptance. Only Jesus can satisfy your deepest thirst which is to know God and to know His love. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Everyday pictures

Dear Friends 

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You can’t be neutral with Jesus

Dear Friends
It seems that as Jesus nears Jerusalem to die on the Cross His parables become more pointed at the hardness of hearts of the religious leaders. In Matthew 21:28-46 Jesus teaches us 2 parables both of which focus on His mission. In the first parable about 2 sons both sons are asked to work in the field. The first son agrees but doesn’t go and the second son said no but later changed his mind and obeyed. Jesus applies this and says that the sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes are like the second son. They initially resist God but many have changed their mind & repented and are following God. This is in contrast to people like the first son which refers to Jews and especially the religious leaders. They said they would obey God but didn’t. Jesus is looking for people who will by faith listen to Him and obey him. In the second parable about tenants in a vineyard Jesus speaks about how he provided everything for the tenants. He was generous in His provision. In 21:34 the owner of the vineyard sent His servants to collect the harvest but the tenants beat one, killed another and stoned a third. He decided to send His son thinking they will respect him but they killed him. In 21:45 the chief priests and the pharisees knew that the parable was directed at them. Jesus teaches them that He is the cornerstone and that what people do with him is critical. People can either believe and accept or not believe and reject. You can’t be neutral with Jesus. In 21:43-44 Jesus raises the prospect of judgement and that those who reject Him will be crushed. God is generous to us and this is most fully seen in sending Jesus. God has been generous and provided everything we need for salvation - Jesus. We have no excuse because Jesus has come to earth and died on the cross for our sins. Other parables such as John 15 and the vine and the branches speak of the fact that God provides us with the power and resources to be fruitful. We have no excuse. May our faith lead us to be obedient and fruitful in knowing and serving Jesus. In the passage at 5pm we look at John 4:43-54 and Jesus comments that a prophet is not honoured in his own country. Jesus goes to Cana in Galilee and the people welcomed him. John is making the point that outsiders ie people from Galilee welcome Jesus whereas those from Jerusalem don’t. The royal official teaches us what true faith is :- v50 the man took Jesus at his word and departed. He trusted Jesus’ Word before he saw the results. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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The great hope of Jesus power

Dear Friends,
In Matthew 20:1-16 the clue to unlocking this parable is in the literary markers or bookends. This passage is framed by a similar phrase in 19:30 and 20:16 that act as bookends which mark it off as a unit. The verse which is repeated is :- But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. This parable is about reversal. In chapter 19 Jesus has encountered the rich young man who comes to him and asks “What must do to inherit eternal life ? 19:16. This man finds it difficult to accept Jesus instructions to go and sell his possessions and he goes away sad. The response of the disciples is instructive - 19:25 Who then can be saved ?” When they see that the rich young man who was privileged in his society they are shocked because they believe that someone of his status must be close to God yet walks away from Jesus. In response they wonder what hope they themselves have in knowing and following God. Jesus reassures them with God all things are possible. Jesus then introduces the parable of the vineyard workers who get hired at different times of the day and yet each one received a days wage (the same). Those who were hired first protest at this and consider it is unfair because they have born the heat of the day. This parable is quite pointed as Jesus is close to Jerusalem and he is teaching that the Jews who had the great privilege of the Law and Moses are in a dangerous position spiritually because they have rejected Him and questioned the Gospel being offered to outcasts. The religious leaders reject the generosity of God to offer the kingdom to those who are considered last or least such as tax collectors and sinners. Throughout church history there has often been resentment from various people when the Gospel is offered to those who are outsiders. This was the big issue the early church faced in learning to accept that the Gospel is also offered to Gentiles. There is another possible application :- in response to Peter’s statement that they have left everything to follow Jesus 19:27 Jesus is assuring them that God is generous and will provide for them. We must be wary of resenting and envying the generosity of God through Christ to offer salvation to all. The passage for the 5pm is John 11:1-47 which contains the great hope of Jesus power to defeat death and sin. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this ? 11:25-26 God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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The compassion of Jesus

Dear Friends,
In Matthew 18:10-14,21-35 we see the compassion of Jesus. In the first parable Jesus teaches about the initiative of the shepherd who goes looking for his lost sheep. Throughout the Bible we learn that it is God who makes the first move towards us. God’s grace is expressed in God in seeking us even before we think about him. This initiative of God to seek us and find us is what gives us security ! One of the most well known verses in the Bible - John 3:16 For God’s so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life speaks of God’s initiative and the motivation of God. God seeks us because He loves us. He does this because He sees that we are sinners and under judgement and lost and that our only way to get out of our mess is by God’s grace. He does this because He wants to see our relationship with us restores and for that to happen our sin must be dealt with. Jesus out of compassion deals with our sin by dying on the Cross and taking the judgement for it instead of us. Remembering the compassion of Jesus or his grace is what refreshes us. We all need to know that we are loved by someone who knows us at our worst and still loves us us and has power to deal with our greatest problem - our sin. This gives us courage to face sin and pain and be willing to grow and change. In the second parable we learn about the merciful master who forgives a huge debt of his servant. This debt cannot be repaid by the servant and he begs for mercy. The master is merciful and cancels the debt. What happens next is that the servant who is forgiven encounters a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller debt. Despite his experience of incredible grace his response to his fellow servant is harsh. The master when he hears of this is angry because He expects that our experience of His compassion to us will in turn empower us to be gracious to others. A failure to forgive others is a failure to understand God’s grace and kindness to us. God expects that on the journey of faith we will through the work of the Spirit begin to resemble Jesus and especially grow in being compassionate and merciful to other people. At the 5pm service the passage set is Ephesians 5:1-21 which encourages us to be imitators of God. Paul reminds the Christians that we are dearly loved by God and so we should live a life of love. When we sin against God and against people we are not loving them and in fact are rebelling against God and His good purposes and failing to treat people with dignity and respect based on their creation in the image of God and redemption through the blood of Jesus. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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The parables of the weeds and the net

Dear Friends,
In Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 & 47-52
Jesus teaches about God’s Kingdom through the parables of the weeds and the net. In first parables we learn that there is a time of waiting until the final harvest but judgement will finally come. In the parable of the weeds we learn in 13:25 that an enemy of kingdom came and sowed bad seed and this brought growth of weeds. The lesson is that when people listen to the lies of the devil this produces unhealthy spiritual growth. The wheat and the weeds grow together and servants of the King ask if they should go and pull out the weeds immediately. He says that they are to wait till the harvest and then the weeds will be separated from the wheat, collected and burned. Jesus is speaking about the fact that there is an end time judgement when people will be excluded from God’s kingdom. The same theme appears again in the parable of the net. This parable is about God’s Kingdom in that it teaches us how God’s Kingdom works and what are the essential elements. Jesus is teaching us that judgement is not immediate but a final judgement will come at His return when the righteous will be separated from the wicked. In both parables we learn that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (13:42,50). When Jesus returns and people have to give an account of their lives there will be a realisation that the rejection of Jesus in this lifetime has eternal consequences. There will be regret and frustration because people have missed out on eternal life and will go to hell. Hell is characterised by eternal frustration and regret and anguish. Jesus warns us because He loves us and says in 13:43 that we must listen carefully and seek to understand this 13:51. IT is important to note that the separation of the righteous from the wicked and the good from the bad is not primarily based on moral character but on people’s response to Jesus in this lifetime. None of us get into the Kingdom of God because we are better than others. Salvation is a gift and we enter by faith or trust in Jesus and what He has done on the cross. Nevertheless those who put their faith in Jesus will over time see a growing obedience to God (Romans 1:5) and that their character will increasingly grow to be like Jesus (Galatians 5:22-26). In the passage for the 5pm service John 5:1-15 a lame man meets Jesus and Jesus asks him a question:- Do you want to get well ? This is an important question because sometimes people would rather keep their problems than change. It seems that the man’s faith is small but that is enough for Jesus and He heals him. Jesus told him to stop sinning. Jesus recognised that sin can destroy us now as well as result in us missing out on eternal life. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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