Sunday January 1, 2023
Service for Swansea & Charlestown Presbyterian Church
Welcome & Prayer
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or
you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” That’s how the writer of
Psalm 90 begins his song. Looking back. He says, when I look back, God has been with me from the
beginning. And because of that God is worth of our praise. As we end 2022, we can say the same thing.
God has been good to us. And that is a good enough reason to come and worship him this morning.
But the writer ends his Psalm by looking forward. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish
the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” He asks that God and his favour would
rest on him & that God would continue to do his work within us. And that is something we can ask as well
as we start 2023. May your favour rest on us. Complete the good work that you have started in our lives.
And that would also would be another good reason to come to worship God this morning. To ask that he
would be with us in the days to come. So, worship and prayer. Thanks, and supplication. Singing and
reflection. All things God is calling us to do as we meet together in person or in spirit, this day. Let’s us pray.
Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Thank you for that. We praise you that
you are completely rock solid. Not changing in love, justice, compassion, judgement or holiness. Help us to
learn more about you as we meet together today. We ask that your favour would rest upon us today. That
you would work in us through your Holy Spirit, as we listen to your word, as we open ourselves up to you
in prayer, as we admit that we are again sinners in your midst, as we have fellowship with our brothers and
sisters in Christ. Forgive us. Change us. Mould us. Make us. So that we can be the people of God in this
place going forward. And we ask this in Jesus’ name.
Song – Hallelujah to the King of Kings
1. Maker of the heavens and earth 2. Praise the Lord you servants of God
Exalted by the roar of a multitude: All who fear him come, whether small or great
“Salvation and glory and power Fall before his throne in awe
Belong to our God”. And worship him
The cry of hallelujah resounds Blessed are those who will feast
The fullness of time shows his victory At the glorious banquet of God himself;
Justice and truth are revealed The wedding of the Lamb has come
His wisdom adored. His bride is now here
Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of Kings
Hallelujah the Almighty reigns
Let us all rejoice and give him
all our praise, our praise.
Bible Reading – Psalm 139:1-12 (NIV)
1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Focus for January – Rest & Refresh. At the start of the year, you don’t want to hurry around like you did
prior to Christmas, you instead want to take some time to stop, to rest, to relax and refresh. So how can
we do that? Why don’t we start with prayer. Trying to find extra times this week to spend time with God.
Thanking him for the good things of 2022, praying for the issues that worry you the most and committing
yourself to him for 2023. Could you find a time every day this week for example for 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes
just to pray? For if we can be refreshed spiritually that will go a long way to help us be ready for all the
twists and turns the new year will bring us.
Regular Activities of our Church will be in recess until NSW public schools back on Friday 27th January. Our
hope is that you will come each Sunday for worship (and help out where needed) and enjoy a rest from
church activities for the rest of the week.
Kids Church over the School Holidays. As per bulletin for Sunday 18th December
TEAR Fund. During the Christmas services we had a retiring offering for the work of TEAR Fund. As a
Church we believe that Christmas is a great time to think about those less fortunate than ourselves. There
is still chance to contribute, if so pick up a brochure from the front table.
Vanuatu Short Term Mission. A team of seven of our young (and not so young) people are heading to
Vanuatu from Wednesday 11th January to Saturday 21st January. They will be working on two projects
(painting the Church at Walaha & helping build extra accommodation on the Hog Harbour Presbyterian
Church site) They will also be encouraging the locals through personal relationships as well as running kids
and youth nights, teaching on discipleship and leadership, preaching at Sunday and midweek services and
strengthening the strategic partnership that we have with these two communities that has been going for
the last 6 years. Please pray for them.
CHURCH CAMP. 3-5th March 2023.
Kids and Families Worker (approx. 8-10 hours a week). With Suzie leaving our position in January this
year, we will be advertising and interviewing prospective candidates for her replacement in Feb/March this
year. For more details please see Jon or Stephen.
Giving. Would you like to give regularly to the work of the church so that our ministries can be sustained or
even grow? If so the easiest way is by setting up a direct debit from your bank account. You just decide you
much you would like to give on a weekly basis and then organise that amount to go to our Church each
week. If you would like help to set it up then please speak to Letitia. Otherwise, the Church Bank details
are Charlestown Eastlakes Presbyterian BSB 062-829 Account 10194850
Studies in Discipleship: In 2023 we are starting a weekly home group focused on discipleship for Christians
of any age. If you would like to know more please chat with Stephen Taylor or John and Miranda Harris.
Bible Reading – Psalm 139:13-24 (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Pastoral Prayer Points
A prayer by John Owen: Loving Father, may we see you as love, not with anxious and doubtful thoughts,
nor questioning your good-will and kindness, but seeing in your heart the fountain of all goodness. May we
not look on you as a frowning father, but a Father who is most kind and tender.
Pray for Appleby’s: Pray for Ruth’s second operation in early Feb and planning for radiotherapy. Please
pray for Lydia’s schooling as its disrupted being in Australia, and for wisdom for Gilbert and Ruth through
Pray for North Korea: Pray for the Almighty God to deliver a nation long-enslaved by a brutal regime. Pray
for the Church to persevere and multiply amid horrific persecution. Pray for Truth to reign and liberate the
nation from the regime's indoctrination and lies.
Song – Search me O God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYVMuuXlTAE
1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today
Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray
See if there be some wicked way in me
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free
2. Search me, O God, and know my heart today
Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray
Listen, see if there be some wicked way in me
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free
3. Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide
Sermon – A Searching Psalm! - Stephen T
One of my favourite records when I was in my late teens was the soundtrack to the radio series called War
of the Worlds. This soundtrack was an adaptation of HG Wells classic novel and it started with these
haunting words from Richard Burton.
“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that human affairs was being
watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's; that as men busied themselves about their
various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a
microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Minds
immeasurably greater than ours, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly but surely they drew
their plans against us.“
“No one would have believed that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater
than man.” Well, how true are those words. We are being watched by one who is so much greater than
we. But not by alien beings ready to come and conquer, not by a heavenly being who in Bette Midler’s
words is watching us from a distance. But by an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful and all holy Heavenly
Yes, most of us carry on our everyday lives in complacency, unaware that everything we do is being
watched. But Psalm 139 challenges us to stop and think about our God. To ponder what he sees us do & to
respond by reordering our lives so that not only are we doing the very things that God would want us to do
but living a life that leads to the way everlasting.
1. (For) God knows (Verses 1-6)
1 “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my
thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you
lay your hand upon me.”
The first thing we notice about this Psalm is that in it, King David is describing an all-knowing God. A God
who searches and knows, who perceives, discerns and is familiar with all David’s ways. For God knows
David’s character, because he knows him, he knows all about him. God knows his conduct because he
knows his going out (his public life) and his lying down (his private life). God even knows his conversations,
even the ones he just has in his own head.
Wow. Nothing about King David escapes God’s notice. But it is not just King David who can say this Psalm,
it is for the director of music, so it is a psalm that anyone can say as well. Which is even more amazing. So
even though there are around 7 billion people in the world today, it is true that each one of them is known
by God as well. When they rise. When they sit. When they go out and when they stay in. God lays His hand
upon them as well.
For God is all knowing. But it is even better than that because God doesn’t just know about all things, God
knows all about me. How amazing is that? He knows not just about my outward actions, what I do, but he
also knows my thoughts as well, why I do those things. It is said that we have over 10,000 thoughts a day
but God knows them all. But he knows more than just my thoughts, he can peel away my insecurities and
confidences and truly know the real me, the core of whom I am, a knowledge that even I struggle at times
God then is the supreme psychiatrist. When you have a problem, you don’t have to lie down on the
psychiatrist’s couch and tell him everything. Get down on your knees instead and talk to Him and tell Him
everything. You might as well tell Him because He knows all about you anyway. The psychiatrist still won’t
know everything about you even after you have told him everything you can think of. But God knows
everything before a word is even on your lips.
Now in some ways this is scary, very scary. I remember reading the novel 1984 by George Orwell about Big
Brother watching you and how you can’t escape his all-knowing presence. But what made that novel scary
was that Big Brother wanted to control you, contain you, mould you into his sinister plans.
But God is no Big Brother figure, no he is our loving heavenly father. He made us. He loves us. He wants the
best for us. He doesn’t want to squeeze the life out of us in order that he can remain in control. He made
us to give us life and life to the full. And it is this God who knows all about our lives, from top to bottom,
from outward to inward.
So how do we react to this sort of knowledge? Well David says in verse 6, “This knowledge is too wonderful
for me, too lofty to obtain.” He acknowledges God’s greatness and says really this blows my brain, it is
beyond my comprehension, it really is awesome. That he really does know everything about you. I wonder
if we could spend sometime today meditating on that fact. God knows you completely. God knows you
even better than you know yourself.
But do you know Him? Do you know what God is like? Do you know what His character is like? Do you understand His make-up, three but one? Have you pondered His dealings with His people, have you studied his fingerprints in creation, are you aware of His promises to His world? He knows everything about you but what do you know about God?
If you were to pick up the Westminster Confession of Faith, the basis of what we in the Presbyterian
Church believe about God, you would read this paragraph. “There is but one only, living and true God, who
is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions, immutable,
immense, incomprehensible, eternal, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; most
loving, gracious, merciful, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression
and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him and yet most just and terrible in His judgements,
hating all sin and who will by no means clear the guilty.” Well despite that being a mouthful if we were to
study those words and traced up the Scriptures where they come from that would help us to know more
about the God who knows everything about us.
2. God knows and God goes. (Verses 7-12)
7 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are
there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far
side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
You see God is not just all knowing but all present. For there is nowhere in the world that we can go that
will escape God’s presence. If David was to go up in to the heavens, God would be there. If he goes to the
world of the dead, God is there, if he goes to the dawn, to the east or if he goes across the sea, to the west,
even then he can’t escape. Remember Jonah found that one out. Even the darkness could not hide David
from God’s presence. Even the belly of the big fish couldn’t hide Jonah. For God is everywhere!
He is omnipresent. The Lord our God is everywhere at once. Author, Paul Little states that “God is not a
substance spread out in a thin layer all over the earth - all of Him is in Chicago, in Calcutta, in Cairo, and in
Caracas, at once and the same time.” So, there is no where you can go to escape God. He’s there at work.
He’s there at the beach. He there on your overseas trip. He’s there in the lounge room as you watch the
TV. God is ever present, whether we believe in His presence or not.
In the early days of space travel, one of the Russian cosmonauts returned from orbiting the earth and
announced that when he had looked out of his space capsule, he had not seen God anywhere. To which
someone replied, “If he had taken off his space suit for just one second, he would have seen God pretty
Now this is an amazing doctrine to ponder. I remember when I was a young man, I backpacked around
Europe for 3 months and got myself into some real difficulties getting hold of my money in Greece. And I
spent a night or two on a park bench, with little food, no company and I remember thinking to myself, no
one in the whole world knows where I am right now. And if someone were to knock me off and take my
wallet and back pack, there would almost be no way to work out who I am.
But that was not entirely correct. No one knew where I was, except God. He knew what was happening. He
had my itinerary always before Him. Now in those circumstances that was incredible comforting. I really
don’t have to be ever alone, because I can always talk to Him and I can always be in his presence.
But God being ever present, should also motivate me to live as if he is watching me. I know that if I’m
driving along the highway and I see that police car is behind, that motivates me not to speed. You know
that if the boss is watching what you are doing on your computer, you won’t waste your time playing
computer games or checking your Facebook feed. And so if I know that God is in my presence, it should
make me think how I speak to my kids, how I treat that stranger, how I react to that harsh word, how I
cope with that problem at work.
Knowing that God is ever present, should not make me want to escape from his presence but instead enjoy
his presence. You might have heard of Brother Lawrence’s book called, “Practicing the Presence of God.”
For 15 years, his responsibility was to wash the greasy pots and pans in the monastery - a job he greatly
disliked. Practicing the presence of God transformed what he considered a chore into an exciting privilege.
This is what he writes: “My day-to-day life consists of giving God my simple, loving attention. If I’m
distracted, He calls me back in tones that are supernaturally beautiful. The most holy and necessary
practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine
company, speaking humbly and lovingly with Him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the
conversation in any way.”
3. God knows, God goes & thirdly God grows (Verses 13-18).
You see God is not just all knowing & all present, he is also all powerful. For he is the one who created us in
the beginning & he is the one who is behind our growth from conception to death. 13 “For you created my
inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully &
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from
you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your
eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them
came to be”
Did you know for example that 50,000 of the cells in your body will die and be replaced with new cells; all
while you have been listening to this sentence! Did you know that in one hour, your heart works hard
enough to produce the equivalent energy to raise almost 1 ton of weight 1 metre off the ground. That in 1
square inch of skin there lies 4 metres of nerve fibres, 1300 nerve cells, 100 sweat glands, 3 million cells,
and 3 metres of blood vessels. That in a year, a person's heart beats 40,000,000 times. And that your
stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks otherwise it will digest itself.
Amazing, isn't it? What a wonder you are! I love this quote from St. Augustine, "People travel to wonder at
the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long course of rivers, and they pass by
themselves without wondering."
We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made. We were woven together by an amazing God, in our
mother’s wombs. Even before we had a relationship with our mothers, God was watching our unformed
bodies. He was working with his hands in our lives. So we have value to God not because of what we do in
this life. We have value to God because of whom we are, God’s child, God’s handiwork, God’s creature.
Now if I was to open my wallet and take out a $20 note and offer it to you with no strings attached, I’m
sure most of you would take it. Even if I was to tear it or squash it up, to stamp on it. It still retains its
value. It’s valuable because the Australia government says that it is worth $20.
And yet we are so much more valuable that a piece of currency. And so whether we are crumbled,
crushed, frayed around the edges, dirty, tired, old, it doesn’t matter. Our value is not in our outward
appearances, our value is in what God says about us. And we are his children. We are his creation. He
started our life off and he will end it when all his days for us are at an end. These truths are incredibly
important as we consider whether we are pro-life or pro-choice. For God is both. He is pro-life because
created your life and wants you to join him in eternal life. And he is pro-choice in that he choose to give
you life. And that means we should keep our lives in his hands not try and give that power to anyone else.
4. God knows, God goes, God grows and fourthly God ‘s foes. (Verses 19-24)
For the Psalm now takes an unexpected twist. As King David reflects upon the attributes of God,
undoubtedly, he began to think about both the holiness of God and the justice of God. If God knows
everything and sees everyone and can do anything then why doesn’t he do something about the evil in the
world? Why doesn’t he just get rid of all his enemies?
19” If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 20 They speak of you
with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and
abhor those who are in rebellion against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my
David says, I will not side with the ones who are doing evil. I am not going to spend time in the company of
the wicked. I want to have nothing to do with them. I want to separate myself from them. I want to be on
God’s side. For if God knows me and goes with me and has grown me then one day, he will judge me.
Actually, he will judge everyone. So, God why don’t you do that now so that we can get rid of all these
troublemakers that surround us.
And then David catches himself. Wait a second, wait a second, there is sin in me as well. There is evil intent
inside of me that God can see all to well. There are times when I am in rebellion with the Lord and God can
perceive that. I also hate others and I have misused God’s name. At times I too am wicked. Oh dear. I could
well end up in the firing line as well. You see there’s sin in me. And if I’m calling for the downfall of the
enemies of God, why do I think my end would be different from theirs, should God be so pleased to bring
So, 23 ”Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any
offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Search me O God. Because you know me full well, I want you to audit my life from top to bottom. And test
me. So all my weaknesses are made known to me. And correct me, show me my faults. And lead me in the
way everlasting. Hold nothing back Lord. Tell it like it is. Be completely honest with me. And then help me
to go in a different direction. Change me into the person you want me to be. Lead me, hold my hand, I
can’t do this without your help.
Now that’s the sort of prayer that God loves to answer. He doesn’t just want to heal Uncle Jim’s prostrate
and keep Aunty Maude safe on her holidays. He wants to change the direction of our lives, he wants to
chip away at our bad character traits, he wants to heal our emotional scars and he wants us to live the life
that he put us together for.
That’s what he wants us to do. But is that what we want to do as well? Do we want God to search us and
know us or do we want to hide for Him? Do we want to enjoy the presence of our God or do we want to
run away and live our own lives? Do we want marvel at the way he has been deeply involved in our lives
from conception or do we want to live independently of our creator? And do we want to get God to clean
up our lives or will we try and clean it up ourselves?
5. God knows, God goes, God grows, God’s foes and lastly God shows.
For this Psalm ends with David desiring God to do something to him in order that he might receive life
everlasting & as the Bible unfolds, we find out how God does this. You see this Psalm, like every passage in
the OT points us to Jesus. He is the answer to David’s questions, he is the solution to David’s problems, he
is the one that we need to now consider.
Think about it this way. God knows David and he knows us intimately but he especially knows Jesus. In
Matthew 11:27 Jesus says these words, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one
knows the Son, except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son & those whom the Son
chooses to reveal him.” This relationship between the Father & the Son is a relationship where they know
each other perfectly. Which is amazing because those of us who are in Christ, get to be a part of that
relationship. How amazing!
And think about this, there was nowhere that Jesus went that God did not go with him. So as Jesus dwelt in
the land of deep darkness, as he was overtaken by the shadow of death on the cross, even then he could
be confident that God would watch over him. He even then he knew that the power of God would bring
him through the sleep of death into the resurrection life. And those of us in Christ can have that same
You see nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, neither death nor life,
angels nor demons, the present or the future, height nor depth. Nothing. Absolutely nothing can separate
us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord
And in the same way that God created us, he also put his Son together in Mary’s womb. There was no
human father, no sexual relations so God did it all. The greatest miracle in human history. The incarnate
Son of God being knitted together, prepared for a life of faith by his heavenly father. And his days were
ordained by Him as well. For it was not going to be a long life but a perfect life. A life that would defeat
God’s foes when he died on the cross.
For really only Jesus can deal with God’s enemies – sin, Satan, death. He slays them. He triumphs over
them. And he leads his followers toward the way everlasting. Because Jesus is the Way, Jesus is the Truth.
And Jesus is the Life. Friends this could only happen because God the father searched out the Son. He
tested the Son. He tried the son. And he found no offensive way in Him. So the way everlasting is found in
Him and in Him alone. For Jesus too knows us, Jesus too goes with us. Jesus will also be the one who grows
us as well.
Toward the end of his book Things Hidden, Richard Rohr tells a story of two parents bringing home a
newly-born baby. Their four-year-old daughter insists on speaking to her new sibling--alone, all alone. The
amused parents leave, but stand at the doorway for easy eavesdropping. Their daughter gets close to the
infant and urgently whispers: "Quick! Tell me where we came from and why we're here. I'm beginning to
Friends as we get older in the faith, we too can begin to forget where we came from and why we are here.
But King David in Psalm wants to remind us. It is God who has made you, saved you and remains close to
you. And Jesus wants to press that message even closer to your heart. He is the way that God will change
you. So, friends, don’t forget. Ponder Him, enjoy His presence, be cleansed by Him and allow him to lead
you to the way everlasting.
Song – Take my Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdtDnVMqJo0
1. Take my life and let it be 4. Take my silver and my gold
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Not a mite would I withhold
Take my moments and my days, Take my intellect and use
Let them flow in endless praise. Every power as Thou shalt choose
2. Take my hands and let them move 5. Take my will and make it Thine
At the impulse of Thy love. It shall be no longer mine
Take my feet and let them be Take my heart, it is Thine own
Swift and beautiful for Thee. It shall be Thy royal throne
3. Take my voice and let me sing, 6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
Always, only for my King. At thy feet its treasure store
Take my lips and let them be Take myself and I will be
Filled with messages from Thee. Ever only all for Thee.
Closing. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)