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The Journal

Don't be scared of death

Facing death & wisdom Ecclesiastes 7:1-25 It is sometimes amazing the wonderful things you hear about people at funerals. A good eulogy helps us to understand a person’s life. But death is still a taboo topic for many. We will talk about sex but not death. The writer says it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. He is teaching us that as we think about death and face death it teaches us things about life and our mortality which will help us learn to be wise in this world. In 7:1 we are taught that the day of death is better than the day of birth. When a baby is born there is great wonder and celebration about the huge potential for the child but it is when we die there is fulfilment. In the NT Paul teaches us that to die is gain - see Philippians 1:21,23. At death we are freed from the trials of this world and can enjoy the Lord’s presence. Facing death is not just about going to heaven because there are lessons to learn now as we face death and these lessons teach us about what is important in life and our priorities. Relationships are most vital. When we face death we are reminded again at how short life is and we don’t want to waste it. As we face death we are encouraged to pursue wisdom 7:19 but we also recognise that our wisdom is limited and true wisdom always leads to trust in God and His purposes - 7:13-14. We are to consider God and trust that He is good. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Stop talking and listen carefully

Stop talking and listen carefully In chapter 4 a foolish king is one who would not listen to advice or warnings and now the teacher gives the ordinary person some wise direction also. Just like the King the ordinary worshipper needs to listen to God. In the previous chapter (4) a depressing scene has been painted where there is oppression and envy and loneliness and failure of leadership. As one surveys this world and what it offers it would be easy to lose hope. But God gives us good advice that all is not lost because we can turn to God and seek Him. However with God we need to go to listen to Him. Obviously this involves using our ears but it is more than just hearing words. Our lives can be so frantic or anxious that there is not space to receive what the Lord has to say to us. In 5:3 the writer speaks about how with many cares come dreams and so we need to come before God and stand in awe of His greatness and see the lessons that this book has been teaching us. He is big and we are tiny. This is encouraging because the Lord is much bigger than our problems. That means He has the power to deal with them. In particular the teacher warns us against making hasty vows lest we can’t fulfil our vows. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves we can be full of ideas which distract us from what is most important which is to seek the Lord. Today the place where we listen to God is through His Word the Bible as we fellowship with His people. One day one of Jesus’ disciples, Mary Matthew 10 decided to leave kitchen duties to others so she could listen to Jesus. Jesus commended her for choosing what was best. There are always many things we could be doing but we need to choose what is best. Listening to Jesus through His Word and standing in awe of Him is our greatest need. It is Jesus’ Word which strengthens us and gives us peace and direction in life. God’s Word is the most important advice in life. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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It is not all about me

IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT ME In Ecclesiastes 4 the teacher examines our hearts very carefully to see what they are like. He comes up with some disturbing evidence as he looks at various things which occur amongst humans. He encounters :- 4:1-3 oppression between people, 4:4-6 envy which impacts why and how people engage in work, loneliness 4:7-12 which is not God’s plan for us and finally 4:13-16 the limitations of political leaders. God set this world up with blessing that we would go forth and multiply and be good stewards of this world but sadly ever since our disobedience in the garden (Gen 3) we have failed to not only obey God but we have also hurt one another. The 2 great commandments instruct us to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbours as ourselves but we have failed to do this. When we see our spiritual bankruptcy evidenced by the way we treat each other our hearts cry out to God for help. We can’t solve the problem of sin by political solutions nor by our own ingenuity. It is true that we need a revolution and we need the Lord’s power to come and heal our hearts of sin. The glorious Gospel of Jesus not only brings forgiveness of sins but also heals our broken hearts so we learn to love our neighbour and care for one another. One of the symptoms of our broken world is loneliness and as the Gospel of Jesus’ death for our sins is preached He deals with this loneliness by bringing reconciliation with God and with each other. His purpose in salvation is to create a new people who can love and support one another and declare His goodness to the world. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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God is in control

GOD IS IN CONTROL This famous passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 reminds us that there are seasons of life that are outside of our control. Of course we need to make good and wise choices now but only what God does endures forever - 3:14. God has put eternity in our hearts 3:11 and this reminds us that there is something better than than life just under the sun. God’s whole purpose in the various seasons of life we encounter is to humble us that we may fear Him and give Him the honour He deserves 3:14. In the second section the teacher speaks about injustice and how there is corruption in the place of power 3:16. We are created in the image of God and one of the qualities which comes from this is our concern for justice. Indeed this is at the heart of God who wants us to treat one another justly. God promises us that He will bring judgement in his time. The judgement of God gives us great hope because we know that everyone will have to give an account of their life and evil will be dealt with. Our decisions now to stand up for justice and to treat people with dignity carry significance and count and also when we have been denied justice by others we know that God has heard our cry and one day we will be vindicated. This concern for justice on the part of the teacher points us to the Cross where justice was done and our sin was punished with Jesus taking our place. God is totally just and judgement fell on Jesus that mercy may fall on us. This cry for justice by Jesus gives us confidence to face God when Jesus returns to judge all people. We must all be ready for the return of Jesus if we want to escape judgement and this means that we fear God which means to trust Him and recognise that He is in control not us. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Finding true contentment

Finding True contentment 

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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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