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The Journal

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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Weak yet strong

Dear Friends
T
he church at Philadelphia was a church which was weak which probably means that it was small and yet we see that this is not a barrier to obedience and serving the Lord because the church is commended for being faithful 3:8. This is a great encouragement to us that the smallness of a church doesn’t precluded God’s commendation and blessing. Of course we want to grow and see more people converted but our first and highest priority is to be faithful to Jesus. It is the pattern of Biblical teaching that God always reminds us of who He is and His power. So for example in the message to this church Jesus is identified as Holy and true. Jesus is pure and there is no sin in Him and His word can be relied upon. As we reflect on our situation both individually and corporately it is good to remember that the Lord Jesus is powerful and won’t let us down. Further He holds the keys of David pointing to the fact that He is the promised Messiah who has come to save us from sin and also that nothing can happen without His permission - He holds the keys. This should build great courage meaning we don’t have to fear tomorrow and people and we can live boldly for the Lord now ! The message to this church about enduring patiently 3:10 is also our message. Much of the Christian life involves faithfulness and pressing on and not being discouraged. Finally the last church to receive a letter is Laodicea. This was a city renowned for its banking and clothing made from black wool as well as its famous medical skill. In 3:17 the church is aware of its material wealth but Jesus’ assessment is that it is poor and blind and pitiful. There is a link in this passage between independence and wealth and being spiritually luke warm. It is not an automatic link but it is a warning that dependance on wealth can lead to us saying like the christians at this church “that I do not need a thing” which must include not needing God. We see the Lord’s heart in all this that His rebuke come because He loves us and is willing to say hard things to us 3:19. Repentance combined with faith is one of the greatest gifts which God gives us because repentance calls us to let go of rubbish in our lives so we receive God’s Blessings. It is difficult to receive God’s blessings if we hang not unhealthy things in our lives. IN 3:20 we have some of the most quoted verses of Scripture which indicate that God’s attitude to us is gracious. Jesus says to the church He wants to be in their life and eat with them. To offer to eat with someone is an indication of friendship and intimacy and that is what the Lord offers us. May we accept His kind and gracious offer in 2018. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Being victorious

Dear Friends,
As Jesus continues to speak to His churches He emphasises the theme of being victorious. In 2:20 to the church at Thyatira and in 3:5 to the church at Sardis Jesus encourages His people to overcome the temptations which inevitably await us as Christians. The Bible is very realistic about the fact that the Christian life involves suffering and trials. In James 1:2 we are encouraged to consider it a joy when trials come because these strengthen our faith. In 2:13-14 James recognises that there are temptations because our sinful nature wants to resist God and His purposes. However Jesus’ letter to the churches in Asia Minor or modern Turkey encourages us to fight the good fight and to overcome sin. When God calls us to do something such as live a godly life we must also remember that He provides the resources to do so. To the church in Thyatira Jesus reminds them of the fact that He has eyes like blazing fire which refers back to the vision of 1:12-18. This means that Jesus sees everything and so our life is lived before His eyes. This strengthens us to be obedient and also means that He sees sin and evil and with legs which are like bronze He has the power to crush evil. These letters also remind us that Jesus is powerful and His final judgement will not close to the end of the age and so as Christians we need to remain faithful as we wait for His return. This letter also speaks of a false teacher named Jezebel. This name in Bible history was synonymous with wickedness. We must remember that one of the great threats to godly faith and living is 
false teaching. When people don’t teach the Bible faithfully we can be led away from knowing God as He truly is and also false teaching contains no power for Christian living. It is interesting that the Lord makes a distinction amongst the people of Thyatira - some have been led astray and others haven’t. Whenever we hear preaching we must test it against God’s Word to see if it is faithful to the Word of God !. As these letters continue we see that Jesus is a spiritual doctor who discerns the true health of the churches. To the church in Sardis He recognises that their reputation doesn’t match their reality. May the Lord grant us a true understanding of our spiritual state as a church and as individuals. We note in 3:3 that the key to having an accurate spiritual assessment of oneself is to remember what we have received and heard from Jesus and obey it and where we have failed to do so we should repent. Our spiritual health requires continual check ups with the Lord and His Word. This happens within the context of God’s people the church. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Resisting opposition

Dear Friends,
The modern sports brandname, Nike is a derivation of the Greek goddess Nico who was the goddess of victory. Jesus speaks to us of the victory He offers us. He wants us to be overcomes who defeat sin, the world and the devil. This is a major theme in the first 3 letters written to Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum. For example in 2:7, 11,17 Jesus expects us to be victorious. If we are going to be victorious in our Christian life we need to recognise that we are in a spiritual battle and that Satan is in opposition to us (see 2:9,13) and will try to discourage us. Jesus warns His church that there is opposition so that we are not surprised. But He encourages us by reminding us that He walks amongst the church 2:1 and within this passages He provides us with promises of blessing to encourage us to see that the Christian faith is worth it. These promises speak of a God who is not only with us but is powerful to help us in our time of need. The other theme which occurs in the 3 letters is the need to hear what the Spirit is saying to the 
churches - 2:7,11,17. In fact that is the secret of living a victorious Christian life ! To be strong and overcome temptation and spiritual opposition we need to listen to the Lord speak to us.The primary way that He speaks to us is through His Word. In fact the way to be strong in Christ is to abide in Jesus John 15:1-5 , allowing His Word to dwell in us and to take hold of the divine promises 2 Peter 1:3-4. This is also the key to ensuring that we don’t lose our first love. Losing our first love is not primarily about how we feel about God but it is about loving Him so that we obey Him as He deserves - John 15:9-10. If we have lost our first love for the Lord how do we regain this ? We come back to Jesus and remember Him, who is the source of our salvation and the one who loves us 2:4-5 and where we have taken Him for granted or been spiritually lazy we repent of that and then do the things which we did at first which is to live for the Lord and not for ourselves ! Be encouraged that God sheds abroad His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Romans 5:5. May I encourage you that 4 aspects of retaining our first love for the Lord is to make fellowship a priority, make reading His Word a priority and make prayer a priority and engage in corporate worship of the Lord because this refreshes our spirits and uplifts us with His joy ! God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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A big vision

Dear Friends,
During the month of January we commence a short series on the first 3 chapters of Revelation which look at the the 7 churches of Asia Minor. The first chapter reminds us that this is Jesus’ church and He is the Lord of His church and these are His letters to His churches. Jesus gives this vision to John, the apostle and He sends them to the 7 churches which are real churches but they are also messages to churches today. In Biblical terms the fact that there are 7 churches is symbolic of a completeness and so these messages are for the whole church. The opening chapter gives preeminence to Jesus who has purchased His people to serve Him 1:5-6. This is a powerful truth that our lives are not our own but are to be at God’s disposal. This Jesus is the ruler of the Kings of the earth and is our ruler and so we owe Him our allegiance. Almost immediately we are reminded that Jesus will be coming back 1:7 and it will be a day of judgement for those who have ignored the Lord Jesus. Indeed we are informed that people will mourn because of Him and this points to the fact that there will be great grief and regret for those who have disregarded Him. In 1:12-18 the vision which John receives of Jesus is of one who is powerful with white hair symbolising one from ancient times and His eyes are like blazing fire. He sees everything and nothing can escape His gaze. Though He is one like the son of man His description also points to the fact that He is God who is the First and the Last and holds the keys of hades and death which is a description of God 
Himself. In 1:17 John’s response to the vision of Jesus is to fall down as though dead. His only hope is the word of consolation which Jesus offers which is Do not be afraid. Jesus can offer this word of hope because He has dealt with our sin and indeed has freed us from our sin. This is the great hope of the Gospel that even though we see our great sinfulness we are encouraged by the fact that Jesus has dealt with this through His death and we can now stand in God’s presence confident that we are His beloved children. We know that this vision was given to the early church at a time when persecution was taking place and this was to encourage the church to remain faithful 1:1-3 by showing His servants what must soon take place. It is a great encouragement that though we do not know the future God does and He prepares and strengthens us for what is ahead. As we begin this new year of 2018 we can be confident that God has prepared us for what lies ahead and has also been strengthening us in faith. His purpose for us is that we will be a kingdom of priests whose purpose and task is to declare the goodness and glory of God in the Gospel and to call people to repentance and faith. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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He is with us !

Dear Friends,
The Christmas story is both ordinary and extraordinary. God takes an ordinary young girl and bestows on her an incredible privilege, namely to carry the Son of God in her womb. But equally he takes an ordinary young man, Joseph to be the one who cares for her. God uses Joseph extraordinarily also. Matthew’s account (1:18-25) focuses on how God helps Joseph to understand what is happening with Mary’s pregnancy. It was difficult for him to grasp. What is quite beautiful is that even though he couldn’t understand what had happened he didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace. We learn that Joseph was a righteous man meaning that he was seeking to honour God and be godly in the way he related to other people. This righteousness of Joseph is expressed in being gracious to Mary.The Lord sent Joseph a dream explaining that the child will be born through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. It is all about God’s grace. As I reflect on this last year it seems to me that there is a growing harshness in the public sphere in the way people address one another and treat one another. Of course wrong doing must not be hidden and must be exposed so that justice is done and victims can get closure but it does seem that our society has lost the ability to be gracious and merciful and forgiving. As we think about Christmas we see Joseph who is gracious to Mary and we see our God who is gracious and merciful to us - humanity. He comes to us and meets us at our point of need to bring hope and forgiveness. All of us are beset with sin. The birth narratives focus on the fact that Jesus’ name and indeed His mission is to save people from their sins and this is our greatest need. We need grace. We need forgiveness and we need a fresh start with God and with people. My hope and prayer is that the person of Jesus will so impact us and change us that His forgiveness of our sins and filling with His Spirit will result in us being gracious to other people. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with other people over every matter. Being gracious means treating people with respect and with dignity because they are created in the image of God. It means facing them with difficult truths and doing so in love. This world needs grace because without God we do become very harsh and unforgiving and mean spirited and that is where our society is heading. In the Matthew reading it is also highlighted that the baby conceived in Mary’s womb didn’t involve human agents but was totally the work of God through His Holy Spirit. This is very important because this means that Jesus is without sin and so He can die for our sins as a pure offering and so achieve salvation. Truly Jesus is God with us, Emmanuel and this changes everything because God is with us and we are not alone and this means we have hope. May we rejoice in the goodness of the Lord this Christmas and praise Him for His grace and love shown to us by coming to earth and dying for our sin. Thank you for your support and friendship and may God grant you a holy and peaceful and joyful Christmas.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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