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Dear Friends,
In Ephesians 4:1-16 Paul is encouraging the christians at Ephesus that God wants them to grow in maturity in faith 4:16. To achieve this end God gives gifts to his church such as teachers and pastors and evangelists to prepare God’s people for works of service 4:11-12. Our society has developed great expertise at escapism whether it is a novel which takes us to a far distant land or a situation or whether it the latest movie or advent of holidays for the masses. What is happening with our society ? Are we bored and struggling to cope with reality ? God understands that we all have a need to have purpose and meaning in life. Not only does He save us to Himself but He places us in His people, the church to be involved in serving one another. It is interesting that one aspect of our maturity in faith is that we grow in unity with other Christians in the church. God doesn’t want anyone left behind ! In fact the way that this letter is structured is that a vital ingredient of maturity is being concerned for others that they will also grow in faith. It is not enough that we will grow in faith ourselves but that we will encourage others to grow in faith. In v14 Paul warns of the great danger of failing to be committed to growth in faith. If we don’t grow in faith we will be more susceptible to being tossed about by the many false teachings that prevail in our society. To put it another way if we are not growing in faith we are more susceptible to being deceived by false teaching and our Christian life will lack confidence and stability. Do not underestimate how deceitful people will try to lead you away from faithful Christian teaching and the truth of the Gospel. That is why we need to speak the truth in love to one another 4:15. It is easy to adopt a wrong thought or attitude or behaviour which is contrary to the Gospel and we need the loving support and truthful words of others to stay on track ! Real spiritual growth comes as each person see that they have something valuable to contribute to the whole 4:16. The direction of growth is into Christ who is the head of the church and that happens as we all grow in faith ! The passage for 5pm, Matthew 9:1-17 looks at the mission of Jesus. His mission is focused on bringing forgiveness of sins because that is our greatest need. It is interesting that to understand this mission we need to see that sin is a spiritual disease which we have all been infected with and Jesus is the only one who can heal us. Rev David O’Mara

 

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Don't look down, look up

Dear Friends,
Thank God for Thomas. Thomas didn’t see Jesus when He first appeared to the disciples the previous week - see John 20:19-31. Thomas wants evidence that Jesus truly has risen from dead. It is beautiful how Jesus meets Thomas at His point of need. Thomas had a unique role in the early church. He was an apostle and the key qualification of the apostles was that they were eyewitnesses of the resurrection see Acts 1:20-26. So Thomas had to see Jesus to be an apostle. The Gospels are written to present solid historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and we can be confident of this because many people saw Him. We know that Jesus had at least 10 resurrection appearances and at one time He appeared to over 500 people at one time - see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The evidence for resurrection of Jesus is compelling. In John 1:29 Jesus tells Thomas that “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus expects a leap of blind faith. No faith is based on rock solid evidence.The evidence is the testimony of the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus and whose testimony is written down by the apostles and their associates. People are blessed who come to faith in Jesus today and after He rose from the dead because they can experience the same power and love of Jesus now even though Jesus is not here. We can experience Jesus now and personally because the Holy Spirit comes and works in our lives as the Cross is preached. Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive now and that means we can talk to Him now and love Him and allow Him to love us. In John 20:31 we learn that John wrote the Gospel that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that by believing they may have life in His name. Faith in Jesus is based on evidence and this faith is personal and involves a relationship with Jesus. At the 5pm service we have another resurrection appearance of Jesus in Luke 24:13-35. It is interesting that these disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead and at first didn’t recognise Him. The text says that their hearts burned inside. Faith in the risen Jesus affects us personally! Rev David O’Mara

 

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A different type of king

Dear Friends,
Palm Sunday reminds us that God’s King is coming. But as we look at the crowds they were expecting a different type of king to Jesus. The use of Palm branches and the singing of Psalm 118 was the same as what happened about 100 years earlier when Judas Maccabaeus, a Jewish hero drove out the Greeks from the temple. Palms were the symbol on the coin of the second Maccabean revolt. Just as the great heroes of the past had challenged Greek power so there was hope that this Jesus would challenge the power of Rome. You can understand how exceptions about Jesus were building as he healed people and raised Lazarus from the dead and had fed the 5000 and earlier had thrown out the money changers from the temple. But the great problem then and today is that people don’t really understand the type of King that Jesus has come to be. The crowd cry out Hosanna which means Save us and they see that Jesus comes in the name of the Lord and is the promised King but their expectations are very different to the reality of how Jesus has come.
In John12:14-15 we are told that Jesus rode a donkey and then there is a quote from Zechariah 9:9 that speaks of God’s King coming to his people but this King comes in gentleness which could appear as weak to people. It is no

wonder in 12:16 the disciples don’t understand all this. They didn’t understand the significance of this until after Jesus was glorified - that is died on the Cross. Throughout this

extended teaching Jesus is trying to communicate that the central reason why He has come is for

the hour of His glorification 12:23 which is His death. The great mystery of this king is that His power and life is released in weakness and humility and gentleness. The metaphor of the seed of wheat falling to the ground and dying speaks of His death bringing life to others. In fact this is also the pattern for the disciples that they too must learn to die to self and follow Jesus. Jesus explains this in 12:25-26 that we need to lose our life for Christ’s sake meaning that we put HIs Word and HIs purposes and His priorities above our own. At our 5pm service we are looking at 1 John 3:1-20 and the fact that we are a loved image. In v1 John speaks of Jesus lavishing his love on us to make us His children and this love is most fully expressed in Jesus laying down His life for us - 3:16. May the Lord reveal His love to us in Christ and may we enjoy this love. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Praying for love

Dear Friends,
Paul’s prayer in
Ephesians 3:14-21 is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible it. It is a prayer that seeks God’s power to strengthen our inner being. So often as Christians we pray for our circumstances to change or for healing but not for spiritual strength to face our problems. We need spiritual strength so we can face doubts and fears and the pressure of the devil to turn away from God. We are strengthened by Christ dwelling us through faith. This is an amazing prayer because these people are already Christians. Why does Paul pray for these Christians that Christ may dwell in our hearts. Paul is concerned for Christian growth. This prayer for power is focused on God helping us to know the love of Christ more deeply. Paul uses 2 images, one from the agricultural world and the other from the building world. Paul is praying that our lives will be rooted in Christ’s love. That is that there will be depth in our relationship with and experience of Christ and His love. The second image speaks of being established meaning that we have our lives founded on Jesus and His love. This of course is revealed to us through the power of the Cross. In v18 Paul’s prayer recognises the importance of other Christians in the process of growing in faith. This has been the consistent message in Ephesians. You can’t grow in love by yourself. This growth comes within the context of the church. We need each other to grow in faith. Paul prays that we grasp this love. That is that God’s love takes hold of us. Ashley Null a renowned theologian who is an expert on Thomas Cranmer one of the English reformers says that Cranmer recognises that reformed faith is a faith of the heart. This is not synonymous with emotions. The heart includes mind and will and our affections. Our affections are what we love. Let me share a quote from Null. “According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants. “The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways. Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation. AT 5pm we will look at Matthew 8:18-34 and it contains one of the saddest responses to Jesus in the Bible. The people saw the demon possessed men set free by Jesus and in their right mind and they begged Jesus to leave. They rejected Him despite seeing his power. This is shocking and still happens today. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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God's multicoloured wisdom

Dear Friends,
In Ephesians 3:1 Paul says that he is a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles as Ephesus. The church must be incredibly valuable to God because He sent His servant Paul to serve the church and be willing to suffer for the church. Paul counts it a privilege to suffer for the church in prison or at least be under house arrest because of faith in the Lord. In v3-6 Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ. Now we have to understand that the Biblical term mystery is different to our modern understanding of mystery. We are all familiar with crime shows which propose a mystery at the beginning of the show which is then solved by the end of the show. This mystery in the Bible is something which was hidden but now is revealed. The mystery is that the Gentiles are now joint heirs and members of of the same body and sharers in God’s promises through Christ. This mystery has been revealed through the proclamation of the Gospel that God accepts both Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus to be part of His family. Many of the New Testament letters deal with the ensuing issues and practicalities of how Jews and Gentiles can get on with one another now they have become members of God’s church together through Christ. Paul has a very high view of the importance and centrality of the church, for in 3:10 he speaks of how the manifold wisdom of God has been made known to authorities in the heavenly realm through the church. Paul concludes this section 3:12 by encouraging both Jews and Gentiles that they both have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Jesus. Paul tells the Christians 3:14 to not lose heart over his sufferings because God is using these for His glory. Paul recognises that the sufferings have come because of his desire to bring Christ to people and that despite the hardships God will be shown to be great and glorious through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel and the love shown. Tonight at 5pm the passage is Romans 3:21-26 and we are reflecting on God’s image in people which has been marred. Paul has built an argument that in Romans 1-3 that because all of us have sinned we are corrupted and not the people we should be. We need God’s image to be restored in HIs image and in our relationship with God. Through God’s grace Jesus has come and died for us so that we are forgiven and right with God and then God works in us to restore His image in us ! This work of Christ reveals His righteousness so that now we are counted as right before God and forgiven and we can enjoy access to God through Christ. We have much to thank God for and to celebrate !  

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A new society

Dear Friends,
Conversion to Christ leads to a love of God’s people the church. Not only did the blood of Jesus bring reconciliation with God but the blood of Jesus also brings reconciliation with other people as God creates a new humanity. In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prays that we would know the power of God at work in our lives. This prayer of Paul is answered as Jesus’ power brings us from spiritual deadness to spiritual life 2:1-10. In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul continues to show how powerful this Gospel is because the Gospel also reconciles both Jew and Gentile. This was one of the great miracles of the early church that Jew and Gentile could be united in Christ. Paul speaks of God creating a single new humanity. When God brings us to faith in Christ he joins us with other Christians who are very different. There is great hostility in the world between different ethnicities but this hostility can also be expressed between different socioeconomic groups. Invariably when the Gospel is at work in church we will find that there are very different people with whom we would not normally mix. God is creating an alternative community which is united because we all share Jesus and His love and the Spirit. Further at times people will come to a church and find it hard to make friends because they see the people are so different. This is the very point at which the Lord is seeking to stretch us to learn to build relationships with people who are different and with whom in normal circumstances we would not mix. We are encouraged that this is not beyond us because God is building us into His church which is a holy temple where Christ dwells through His Spirit. Paul also uses the metaphors of citizenship and household to show that God creates a strong sense of belonging. Please pray that you will realise this and practise this. In the evening service we are commencing a new sermon series on Matthew 8-10. Tonight we will look at the authority of Jesus in Matthew 8:1-17. In this passage we see the authority of Jesus to heal and to deliver people from demonic oppression. It is very exciting that the Centurion understands Jesus authority because he recognises that Jesus has been sent by the Father. Jesus commends the centurion for great faith because He sees the source of Jesus authority is God. This is a wonderful passage for Katie’s commissioning because she goes forth to teach SRE in the authority of Jesus. Katie is teaching the approved SRE curriculum which is based on the word of God and which has an inherent authority from God. As Katie communicates the curriculum pray that God’s love is manifested as students reflect and engage with the material. Pray for Katie that she can serve the students and the staff at Leichhardt and Balmain. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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We are God's beautiful poem

Dear Friends, 

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A new community of hope

Dear Friends,
The great theme of Ephesians is that through Christ God is creating a new 
community which is His church - see Ephesians 5:32. For Christians today the centre of God’s activity is in His church. One of the church’s main tasks is the proclamation of the Gospel to both itself and the world and the response which God is looking for is that not only will people yield to Jesus as Lord and Saviour but they will also recognise that Jesus places them in His body the church. It is hard to be a Christian if you are not connected with God’s people the church. Christian growth comes in the context of both giving and receiving from His people the church. Paul has shown us in Ephesians 1:1-14 that through Christ we have every spiritual blessing and then in 1:15-23 he prays for the Christians at Ephesus to be able to grasp and take hold of these blessings. Too often Christians live as spiritual paupers who fail to appropriate all the blessings we have in Christ. So his prayer in 1:15-16 recognises that the priority of the Christian life is first of all faith in Jesus and this leads to love. Faith involves what we believe about God. The critical way to grow in faith is to let your faith be continually informed by what the Bible , God’s Word says about who Jesus is. In our society today many people have confused ideas about what God is truly like because they have formed a picture of him from their own minds. So Paul thanks the Lord for the faith of the Christians which reminds us that this is a gift from God. He then launches into praying for them to know Christ better 1:17. We recognise that to grow in our knowledge of Christ we need the work of the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of God includes understanding but is more than information. Knowledge of God includes a personal experience of God through Jesus. Paul’s prayer continues v18-20 that we may know our inheritance and the power of God. This hope and power is our calling to follow Jesus and to be holy and blameless in our life. Further as Christ’s power has defeated sin and death so we will share in this victory and see our lives changed to become more like Jesus. Please be at prayer for one another because praying to God sees His power released as He delights to answer our prayers. The passage tonight is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. It shows the true faith which is needed. The irony is that Luke 18:9 teaches us that the occasion this parable was the fact that some including those who were religious were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else. True faith recognises that only God is holy and that we are all this sinners. This leads us to humble ourselves and call out for mercy. May we have faith like this. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Jam packed with goodies

Dear Friends,
Today we begin a new series on Ephesians continuing our theme of being a healthy church. Many theologians divide the book of Ephesians as follows :- chapters 1-3 teach us doctrine about God and people or what Christians believe and then chapters 4-6 teach Christians the implications of this teaching and how to live as Christians. Effectively healthy church follow this pattern by ensuring that the Gospel is preached so that people come to faith in Jesus and then they have God’s power to live the Christian life. If we teach just about behaviour without the connection to Jesus and His saving power then our churches become moralistic and lack power. Healthy churches place an emphasis on the proclamation of Jesus’ death and the power of His death to both save and forgive our sins.
Ephesians 1:1-14 is jam packed with Christian doctrine. In particular we learn that in Christ we have every spiritual blessing. Throughout the chapter the phrase “in Christ” is used repeatedly ensuring that we understand that all spiritual blessings are received through Christ and what He has done. You cannot follow Jesus without encountering Him personally and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s purpose for our lives is that we will be holy and blameless. This makes sense because God adopted us v5 to be his children. Children physically resemble their parents and so God wants us to spiritually resemble Him and so grow in love and joy and many other qualities. We receive all this through believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus 1:13. Through faith in Jesus we have been redeemed 1:7 and this means that Christ has paid for our sin and bought us. We are His and we belong to Him. When we understand that we belong to Christ we recognise that means we have been given a great privilege to know God and to be saved from sin and judgement. Please don’t take Your salvation for granted because it is a great gift. Not only does God save us but He also gives us the Holy Spirit who seals us or protects us and ensures that we will make it to heaven 1:13. All this is received through faith or trusting what God says rather than what we feel. The parable for the evening in Luke 18:1-8 teaches us about the importance of prayer & is linked to not being discouraged. It is easy to be discouraged as a Christian because of the trials we face in the world as well as the awareness of our sin. Prayer is the key to being strengthened in faith because when you you are nourished by God. To pray is to decide to follow Jesus in His strength and not in your own. This parable teaches us about perseverance and trusting that in the midst of all the evils that occur in this world our God is just and will be vindicated. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Suffering for Jesus

Dear Friends,
Today we welcome Michael & Caroline Clark speaking about their work with CMS in Germany. Michael will be speaking on
Revelation 2:8-11 which is Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna. It is interesting that Jesus identifies himself as the First and the Last and the one who was dead and is alive again. He is writing to a church which is about to suffer persecution and some of them will be thrown into prison. The key exhortation is to not fear 2:10. So often we allow fear to dominate our lives. It can be fear of tomorrow or fear of rejection or fear that we won’t cope in a certain situation. The great antidote to fear is that Jesus is the First and the Last. Jesus is in total control because He is Lord. Further He identifies himself as the one who was dead and has come to life 2:8. Jesus has power over death. We are all subject to the fear of death. The great news is that Jesus has faced death and has conquered it by rising from the dead. His conquering of death is more than just being stronger than death. Jesus has dealt with the original cause of death that ushered death into the world. His death has paid the price for our sin so we can be raised from the dead and come into God’s presence free from guilt and condemnation. To conquer fear means to recognise that Jesus is stronger than the issues which we face. We notice also in this passage from Revelation that the devil is involved in the persecution of Christians 2:9-10. This persecution is fuelled by the devil’s hatred of those who belong to Jesus. Friends, there is a spiritual battle and we need not fear this battle because Jesus has won the victory but we do need to engage in the battle resisting the devil and the lies that he trades in. Some of his lies include - if this happens to me it is the end of the world. No it isn’t Jesus is in charge of the world and Jesus has a way through whatever problem you face. Another lie is that I fear that I won’t cope with a situation I am facing or anticipating. That is a lie because God’s grace is sufficient. Stop looking at your problems which generate fear and start looking at Jesus the one who has conquered death and controls everything and you will find that He calms our fears. In the evening passage from Hebrews 9:11-14 we are reminded that the whole Old Testament System of sacrifice was a shadow that pointed to the reality of Jesus sacrifice for our sins through His blood shed. The Old Testament sacrificial system couldn’t remove sin but it reminded us that we needed a sacrifice for sin and with the coming of Jesus we find that His blood is better. That is it is effective because He cleanses our consciences so we may serve Him. Please note that coming into a relationship with God and being forgiven is so you can have a clear conscience and serve God in freedom. Are you doing that and enjoying that ? God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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