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The Journal

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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Seek and you will find

Dear Friends,
One of the great themes of the Bible is that God goes looking for us to find us. Take for example the shepherds. They were minding their own business looking after sheep out in the cold. Suddenly angels sent by God appeared to them announcing great news of the birth of a Saviour, the Lord Jesus. The good news of Jesus brings great joy that God has come to this world to save us from our sins. In Luke 2:11 Jesus is identified as Saviour and Christ and Lord. As Saviour He rescues us from sin and judgement. As Christ He is God’s King who was promised in the Old Testament and has come into the world. As Lord He is the one who commands our obedience and is worthy of our worship. In 2:14 the angels give glory to God because it is incredible that He has left the glory of heaven and come to share our humanity and save us from our sin. It is too easy to take this message of Jesus birth for granted. This is huge. God has come to us ! After the angels have the left the shepherds decide to go and see this event. Many people have experiences of God but they don’t follow through or act on these and so the experiences are unproductive. The shepherds go and find the Christ and then they spread the word concerning Jesus. God’s message is so good that when it is properly understood and grasped it naturally spreads because those who experience the joy of the Lord want others to also experience this. In v19 Mary also responded to all these events not least the birth of Jesus but also including the shepherds and what they said. Mary treasured and pondered these things in her heart. Our life is incredibly busy and we need to spend time reflecting on Bible truths and seeking to understand them for ourselves and what they mean and apply them to our lives. Christian growth requires that we treasure and ponder and reflect so that God’s truth goes deep into our lives and brings life change ! At our evening service we have the story of the wise men. In particular we learn that their observation of the stars brought limited wisdom. They had a general knowledge about this King of the Jews and this bought them to Jerusalem the capital which is where they would expect a king to be born. The turning point for them finding Jesus was when Herod responded to the wise men’s request and asked his own religious leaders and they referred to the Old Testament and the book of Micah which states that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. They then went on their way guided miraculously by the star. God met them at their point of need and they saw Jesus for themselves and worshipped Him. The Scriptures were critical then and they are still today. Through reading God’s Word we find Jesus.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

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Wise people still seek Jesus

Dear Friends,
As we celebrate the baptism of Angus and Mathilde McGrath today our passage directs us to another child :- the birth of our Lord Jesus and the reaction of the wise men to His birth.
Our passage today is Matthew 2:1-12 and retells the story of the wise men from the East who came seeking Jesus, the King of Jews. From their star gazing they believed that there would be a special King born to the Jews. Whilst they had some general sense of where this special king being would be born they needed to travel to the capital and ask King Herod more details. Herod asked his advisors where this would happen and they referred to the Old Testament Scriptures in the book of Micah written in the 8th C BC. There was a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. This was a surprise because it was a small town. The significance of the wise men is that they represent great wisdom and learning and they bow down before Jesus acknowledging His greatness. In a sense they represent the best wisdom the world has to offer and they recognise one who is much greater than they. The gifts they give are very valuable and are fitting for a King. In the background of this passage we see King Herod who seems to want to know about this King so he can worship him. But the wise men are warned to not return to him. King Herod cannot be trusted. We know from history that Herod was intensely jealous and murdered his own wife and sons because he was worried about protecting his own power. The wise men show the proper response which is to bow down and worship Jesus and give Him honour. Today at this baptism we recognise that all wisdom is found in Christ and like the wise men God calls us to lay our life before Him and give Him everything. Only in Christ will we truly be satisfied because He is the source of all wisdom. Tonight we look at the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-15. There is a lot happening in this passage but generally we are being instructed by Jesus that life is a gift and we need to be good stewards. IN fact we need to take care of what God gives us including both material and spiritual blessings and be generous towards others. When we do this we will have displayed God’s wisdom because He is generous. God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Being found by Jesus

Dear Friends,
We thank the Lord for our UTS students who have come to our parish on Mission. It is wonderful to have them in the Parish again. I am also thankful to the Lord for our Carols event yesterday. To be able to serve together and declare God’s love to our local community is so important and I am grateful for people serving in this important ministry. I am sure there are many are testimonies of thankfulness as the students have given testimony at our Healing service, Thursday morning Bible study, Taverners Hill Anglicare Aged accomodation, Lewisham Nursing home and AllKids. Our passage this morning is from Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of the 10 men who were healed of leprosy. Jesus commented on the importance of faith in accessing healing but interestingly spoke about the need to thank the Lord for our blessings. Only one of the 10 lepers who were healed returned to thank Jesus. Interestingly it is to him that Jesus said that your faith has healed you. What does that mean ? It is more than physical healing. This one leper returned because he understood that the source of healing was Jesus and that it is right and appropriate to thank Him for every good and perfect gift we have - see James 1:17. The society we live in encourages us to think that we are the masters of our own fate and the source of blessing. We see that our society is more and more ungrateful and takes God’s blessing for granted. True healing comes when we are reconciled to Jesus and give Him the thanks and the honour which He deserves. In the passage tonight we are looking at Luke 15:1-10 the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. This parable gives us more reasons to thank the Lord. These parables teach us that God like the shepherd and the woman is seeking something which is lost. That which is lost is us. We are lost because of sin. It is wonderful to see that God comes looking for us and His attitude to us when we are found, that is when we return to Him is that He celebrates with heaven. How wonderful to have a God who rejoices when we are found and that even more than us He wants us to be reconciled with Him. This is something huge for which we can thank the Lord.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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New hope from God

Dear Friends,
Today we conclude out short series on Isaiah 6-12. Chapter 12 is bursting with praise because of God’s graciousness in bringing new life to the people of God through the coming Messiah who is both a descendant of the tribe of Judah and also the one who is the source of Judah. This person is both God and human. God comes himself and creates a new community of peace and righteousness. So chapter 12 is a natural celebration of God’s goodness for this new society which Jesus will inaugurate. Obviously this society has not yet been fully consummated but as people come to faith in Christ and begin to live out their faith within the context of the church and the world we see glimpses of heaven and we have a foretaste of all that the Lord is doing ! The primary reason for praise is that God’s anger at our sin has been turned away 12:1. This means that we can enjoy the comfort of the Lord. Isaiah develops this theme and informs us that it is the servant of the Lord who is a tender shoot and root Isaiah 53:1-2 and who carried our infirmities and took the punishment for our sins - 53:4-6. This is of course is fulfilled in Jesus who has taken the punishment for our sin instead of us and this means we can enjoy a relationship with God through Christ. In Isaiah 12:2 the prophet uses the personal pronoun to speak of my salvation and my strength and my song. God has done this work of salvation but each of us needs to ensure that we have personally owned for ourselves 
personally received Christ. In Isaiah 12:2b it is a direct quote from Exodus 15:2 which tells of God’s victory over His enemies in setting the people of God free from Egypt. So the story of the Exodus is the backdrop for this Isaiah 12 and as God led the people out of Egypt he refreshed them with water along the way. It is the same with us - God refreshes us along the journey of faith so that we can draw deep from the wells of salvation. For the Christian we are refreshed when we repent of sin Acts 3:19 and also through the fellowship of God’s people 1 Cor 16:18. Christ also refreshes us through the work of His Spirit because out of Jesus flows springs of living water - John 7:37-39. Notice that this blessing we have received from the Lord is so that we will look outward and declare His glory to other people Isaiah 12:4-5 so that they may also enjoy the goodness of the Lord. At the 5pm service we continue our series on the parables and look at Luke 13:18-21 - the parable of the mustard seed and yeast. Often the work of God seems insignificant but God is powerfully at work in this world through the preaching of HIs Word. Don’t be discouraged when things seem small because God is powerfully at work & that will be evident when Jesus returns.
God’s Blessing Rev David O’Mara 

 

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Church Council and Minister’s Report November 2017