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The Journal

Armed and ready for the Lord

Dear Friends,
Someone once said it is not hard to believe in the devil because he advertises. The person meant that it is easy to see the effects of evil at work in this world. We see lives destroyed by drugs and relationships broken by unforgiveness and people and governments abuse power and exploit vulnerable people. We can see the devil at work in individual relationships and across nations. To grow spiritually as a Christian we need to recognise the devil is real and we need to resist his schemes against us. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about the origin of the devil except that he was a fallen angel who is in rebellion to God - see Isaiah 14:12-15. Paul recognises in Ephesians 6:10-20 that we are engaged in a spiritual battle and that just as we cannot save ourselves by our own power we also need God’s power to resist the devil. Paul says that we are to be strong in the Lord 6:10. The greek means to be strengthened. The devil he tempts us to doubt God’s goodness and Word just as he did in the garden with Adam and Eve. Jesus faced the devil’s temptations and had to resist him and so do we. The devil is described as having schemes which can also mean strategies to discourage us in our faith. Paul was in chains for his faith and he uses the picture of a soldier who before he went into battle would put on his armour. Our armour is the Gospel of Jesus. The emphasis is to be so full of God’s Word and truth in our lives so that there is no room for the devil’s lies. Accordingly the first piece of armour described is the belt of truth which is of course God’s truth in His Word. Jesus himself declared that He is the truth John 14:6 and so we need to progressively grow in our understanding of God’s Word so we can spot the lies and deceptions of the devil. These pieces of armour progressively describe what the Gospel does for us. For example the breastplate of righteousness speaks of the fact that through faith in Christ we are declared righteous before God - see also Philippians 3:8-9. To compliment these pieces of armour we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions for our fellow Christians. One of the great lies of the devil in our age is to discourage /tempt us to be regular in fellowship by distracting us with other activities and engagements. Regular Christian fellowship is vital for Christian growth in faith and helps in the process of being strong in the Lord. At our 5pm service we continue our series on people who met Jesus and in Luke 8:40-56 we meet Jairus and a woman suffering from bleeding. They were desperate and so were open to receive from Jesus. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Confidence about what is right and wrong.

Dear Friends,
The world we live in is morally confused and has lost confidence about what is right and wrong. This moral vacuum and confusion is a difficult environment not only for adults to navigate but also for our children. Today we look at Ephesians 6:1-9 and we see that God is concerned for every area of our life and has practical wisdom to help us in this task of parenting. In 6:1-3 Paul mentions children and in effect is addressing them within the life of the church. Children were considered a vital part of the church community. This teaching of Paul reflects what Jesus said - Let the little children come to me for to such as these belongs the kingdom of God. Paul is instructing children and helping parents to see that it is right and proper for children to obey and honour their parents. His first reason is that “for this is right”. By this he means that it is part of the natural order and expectation of society. We see in most societies that children are taught to respect and obey their parents. But notice that the obedience required is qualified by “in the Lord.” God doesn’t expect obedience from children which contradicts God’s Word. Paul also gives instructions to fathers in v4. We remember that in the Roman world fathers had absolute power in the family and could be a law unto themselves. Paul is warning fathers and by implication also mothers to not exasperate their children. To exasperate a child was to unfairly frustrate or cause anger with unnecessary or unreasonable instructions. That is why Paul teaches that training which is effectively discipline must be kept in balance with instruction which carries the idea of counsel and support. Our human nature has a tendency to go to extremes and so we can over discipline or under discipline or even over counsel or under counsel. Paul keeps these 2 directions in balance. The goal is to bring children up in the Lord. What is going to help your children most is to know the Lord and to be both corrected and encouraged in His teaching. One practical application is that a good place to do this is at the family meal table where families eat and then at the end of the meal the Bible is read and discussed and then family members pray together. May the Lord not only bless our marriages but also strengthen our parents ! At the evening service we are beginning a new series on people Jesus met. The first person we look at is Levi in Luke 5:27-32. Jesus called Levi who was a tax collector to follow Him and we read that he left everything. He must have been observing Jesus and made a decision that what Jesus offered was more attractive than his old life. It is still the same today. The truth is that what Jesus offers is more attractive than what others or the world offer ! This is the deal you have to take ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Biblical Marriage

Dear Friends,
In this last year we have been through a revolution in terms of our societies understanding of marriage. This has left many people confused about marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s plan for the healthy development of children and the enjoyment of intimate companionship. Today we are looking at Ephesians 5:22-33 which speaks of the different roles of a husband and a wife. At the end of this passage in 5:32-33 Paul teaches us that a Christian marriage points us to the relationship of Jesus with His bride, the church. Good marriages remind us that Christ loves his church and laid down his life for her and and that He wants His people to enjoy a close and intimate relationship with Him. There are many pressures on marriages and one of them is busyness which results in couples not communicating regularly. At our church we do the Alpha Marriage Course and the Alpha Marriage Preparation Course. One of the key aspects of this course is the need to set aside each week “date nights” where a husband and a wife spend time sharing about their day and listening to one another. Paul quotes from Genesis 1 that a husband and a wife become one flesh. This speaks of sexual union but it is much more. It speaks of spiritual, emotional and psychological union also. We are united as a team. Paul teaches that the husband needs to serve and nurture his wife. He makes the point that husbands should care for their wives and the argument for this is that just as a husband cares for his own body so he should care for his wife. If we neglect our wives or hurt them we end up hurting ourselves. Domestic violence is a huge problem in our society and from a Christian point of view it is wrong because it goes against the teaching of Ephesians 5 and is an abuse of power. It is never acceptable. In this passage the wife is taught to submit to her husband. God wants order in our relationships and wants us heading in the same direction. A wife should respect the leadership of her husband and when he is following God’s instructions to serve and build up his wife then this is a joy for her. At our evening service we are looking at Matthew 10:16-42 which speaks of the inevitability of persecution for a Christian. Persecution in some countries in the world takes the form of violent opposition but it can also be ridicule and as we are now seeing in Australia Christians are being vilified their view of marriage as between a man and a woman. In this passage Jesus is preparing his disciples for persecution by teaching that if they persecuted Him (Jesus) they will persecute his followers. We should not be discouraged because Jesus reminds us that the very hairs of our head are numbered. We are valuable to God. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara

 

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Copy God

Dear Friends,
Just as children copy their parents so we are called to copy God - Ephesians 5:1. Of course with our parents we can both imitate their good and bad qualities which is very humbling especially when you become a parent and see your own blindspots. But with God it is totally different because Jesus lived a holy and perfect life. The copying of God focuses on living a life of love and this involves giving ourselves to God and then to others 5:2. Our world is self focused but living a life of love involves being Christ focused. When we love others we don’t necessarily do everything they want but do what is right and good for them according to the Bible. It is God who defines what is good and right in His Word. So far in our reflection on the book of Ephesians we have recognised that we can only copy God because He has made us new people who are alive to God - Ephesians 2:4-6. So living life of love is possible because we have a new identity in Christ and the power of God is at work in us. This is the same power which raised Jesus from the dead. Our new identity therefore involves having different standards and values. In particular our attitude to sex is very different to the standards we see around us in the world. Sex is not dirty, rather people treat it as dirty. Sex is a gift from God for the procreation of children and the enjoyment of God given pleasure. An important aspect of sex involves being intimate with another person and so wisely God requires that the proper place for the expression of sex is within a committed married relationship where both husband wife are safe and can be vulnerable. It is a tragedy in a marriage when a person doesn’t feel safe. Further in 5:4 we are instructed that the way we use our mouths is important. Our mouths should not be foul. As Christians we believe that the Word of God is powerful and life changing. God’s speaks Words which bring life and so as imitators of God we should use our mouths for building others up not cheapening God’s gifts and others. In 5:8 Paul reminds us what motivates us. We do all this because we were once darkness but now through Christ we are light and so we behave in line with our new identity which consists of goodness, righteousness and truth. We live godly lives not so we can become Christians but because we have already been saved by God. Paul continues that we shouldn’t waste time but rather make use of the gift of time we have so as to know His will, understand what pleases Him and serve Him 5:15-17. In Matthew 9:35-10:15 at 5pm we see Jesus’ compassion for a lost world. Jesus instructs us that we are to pray for the Lord to send out labourers for the harvest. The problem is not a lack of people who are open to God but there is a lack of people ready to take the message to a lost world. Pray for the Lord to raise up labourers for the harvest. Rev David O’Mara

 

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A clean and joyful life

Dear Friends,
In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul helps us to understand the natural outworking of the Gospel for those who have come to faith in Christ. Commands and exhortations for obedience to God are based on the fact that we are His children through faith in Jesus. We don’t obey God to get in the family. We obey God because we are already in the family. In 4:17 Paul urges and uses the word “insist” that the Christians must not live like the Gentiles or how they were. Without Christ our thinking is darkened because we are separated from God and in fact our lives are “futile” because we have no purpose. Paul says that this type of thinking and behaviour is because without Christ our hearts are hardened which means they are not responsive to Christ and we don’t understand the Gospel and our need of Jesus. In fact Paul says that our behaviour is “sense” driven. There is no quality control over our thoughts and actions but rather without Christ we are driven by our desires which are impure. Paul says that things are different for the Christians at Ephesus because they have heard the Gospel 4:21 and so they have power to put off their old life and put on the new self. This passage carries the idea that we must continually put off the old self and put on the new self. This new self is created to be like God in holiness and righteousness. When we are converted we are instantly right with God but then we need to work at growing in godliness and this involves a daily repentance from sin. Paul gives some practical applications of how our new identity in Christ will affect us. Our new identity in Christ will change our attitude to speech so we speak truthfully to one another 4:25 and will mean that when we are angry with someone we will seek to reconcile immediately with that person. Our Christian faith also affects our attitude to property in that we won’t steal but rather use our hands and abilities to work honestly and share with those in need. In particular Paul speaks about the need to forgive as Christ forgave us. When we understand how kind and gracious Jesus has been to forgive us even though we don’t deserve it we see that we can’t withhold forgiveness from others. In the 5pm passage from Matthew 9:18-34 we see in the encounters of Jesus with the dead girl’s father and with the sick woman as well as the blind and mute man that Jesus’ word is trustworthy.This is central to building faith that we know that God’s Word can be relied upon & when Jesus speaks He delivers. Contrary to what the Pharisees say the miracles that Jesus performs are because His power comes from God and Hs is God’s Son. Rev David O’Mara

 

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An International community

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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