Job 40:6-14 – PLEADING THE FIFTH 

Zipper lips. Pleading the Fifth. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFile.com, Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Zipper lips. Pleading the Fifth. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFile.com, Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Job has argued his case with his so-called friends and called on God to hear his defence. Now, when he has his opportunity to put his case before God, he pleads the Fifth!! (The US Fifth Amendment and it’s many forms around the world protects a person from being forced to incriminate themselves). All Job can say is “I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:4-5 NLT).

If the truth shall set you free, what is it with the Fifth Amendment?

Job is probably thinking, “I have the right to remain silent because whatever I say will probably be stupid.” But in Job 40:6-8 (NLT) “…the Lord answers Job from the whirlwind: “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and YOU MUST ANSWER THEM. “Will you discredit My justice and condemn Me just to prove you are right?”

Job is pleading the Fifth, but God, in His grace, gives Job the opportunity to come to a point where he can admit that he is wrong. God’s law doesn’t include the Fifth. It would be meaningless to an omniscient Judge. As God continues to speak to Job I wonder what Job is thinking. God’s words to him suggest it is something like this…

Job: Why is God mistreating me? It is unfair to single me out in this way. The wicked seem to go unpunished but I am being judged. I have served God faithfully throughout my life. I don’t deserve this. If I were you God… How could a loving God… But Lord, surely somebody should speak up and do something!

God: Are you as strong as Me? Can you thunder with a voice like Mine? (Job 40:9 NLT).

Job: OK Lord. I am weak. I admit it. And in Your presence I can barely speak let alone bellow. I know I have said too much already, let alone thunder out my demands. If I speak, anything I say might be used against me. And when I speak, things don’t simply come into being as they do when You speak. But that’s the point. If I were You I would change a few things in this world. Surely someone with some authority has to act.

God: All right, put on your glory and splendour, your honour and majesty. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you (Job 40:10-14 NLT). 

Job: Not me, Lord. I didn’t mean me! Don’t put me in charge! Lord, I am dressed in my circumstances, clothed in the condition of despair. I have no glory, only grievances; no splendour, only scoured sores; no honour, only agony; no majesty only a lack of power to really cope with my world, let alone explain it or change it. When I look at all the wickedness in the world I cannot judge impartially. I have no strength to save anyone, not even me. 

Paul, sitting in a Roman prison feels like Job, weak and helpless. He suffers insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles. The difference is that he realises that God doesn’t always take our pain away, obliterate the wicked, or give us fame and fortune in exchange for believing. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) God speaks to us in our weakness… “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness….” 

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT) says “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” 

The invitation is to be part of the solution rather than rail against God as if He were the problem. When I am faced with the character of God I am prompted towards more than simply pleading the Fifth. So I admit it. I’m wrong.

God knows what He is doing. I don’t always understand it but I can trust Him. I can make a difference because of Him. I can declare with confidence that He loves me and respond to that unconditional love. I can affirm that He is absolutely fair, that He knows more than I do, is more powerful than I can imagine, and He will never leave me or forsake me. He is eternal and my understanding is temporal. He is absolutely righteous and in grace He allows people the opportunity to discover who He is and to get their lives right with Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. His Word is truth. He is the unchangeable, unwavering, sovereign God and I can trust Him. 

Romans 5:6 (NLT) says “When we were UTTERLY HELPLESS, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” He is the only One who has come for us and who is able to save us. I plead an amendment to the Fifth. I have the right to SPEAK UP, admit that I am wrong and believe in Christ. Anything I say will be used in evidence FOR me because God is for me not against me. There is therefore no incrimination for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  

Pastor Ross

Job 40:1-8 – GOD’S CRITIC? SERIOUSLY?

Dust Portrait. By Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Dust Portrait. By Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

It seems that God pauses a moment. Then as the storm still rages around us He continues to speak. No gale winds could come close to the impact of God speaking. He speaks to me through His Word, and His Truth batters against the defences of my soul.

He communicates with me and I am confronted by who I am in relation to His overwhelming presence. The God of the universe wants relationship with me. He continues to talk despite my railings against Him; despite my unfiltered thoughts and complaints. Despite my reckless rantings He speaks to me until I come to that place where I know that if He were to stop, I would die. This is the place where answers are no longer important and connection with God is more essential than existence; more defining than all the droning delusions of my demands (Job 40:1).

It seems it is pointless trying to contend with God, when even the slightest breath of His judgment could crush us in our arguments and our arrogance. God’s critic? Seriously? Who am I to become God’s critic, seeking to judge the merits of His Will and His Word with the limitations of distorted perspectives. Who am I to be a commentator of His conduct, monitor of His motivations, reviewer of His reputation?

When truly I meet with God I realise I am naked before Him and cannot presume to be the appraiser of the Almighty, an analyst of the Ancient of Days, parading as one who can evaluate the Eternal and arbitrate His actions.

How can I judge His justice? Am I the professional proof reader of God’s purposes, giving my opinions and assessments of the works of the One who deserves my worship? I bear the guilt of gambling with His grace.

When He speaks I am humbled and silenced. When given the chance to answer, there are no words. When I truly hear the voice of God, there is nothing to say. The encrusted barnacles of my pathetic complaints are exposed and scraped away, and there is only a raw soul left sitting in repentant silence (Job 40:2).

Romans 9:20 (NLT) says “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God?…” Romans 11:34 (NLT) continues “For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice?…” Isaiah 40:14 (NLT) asks me “Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? 

Job finally talks after listening carefully to God. He has argued his case with his so-called friends. He had called on God in Job 13:22 (NLT) “Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to You, and You reply.” Now he has his opportunity, as he wished, to put his case before God. All he can say is “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:4-5 NLT). In God’s presence I am nothing and have nothing to say. Even humility and submission lay prostrate before God.

Why a whirlwind, I wonder? God answers Job from the whirlwind. Job responds from the dust (Job 40:6). A whirlwind is a two way conversation between unseen authority and helpless objects. Job, like dust, is swept up in a swirling correspondence between Sovereign power and his abandoned defense.

Psalms 50:3-4 (NLT) says “Our God approaches, and He is not silent. … A great storm rages around Him. He calls on the heavens above and earth below to witness the judgment of His people.”

Job is completely justified in defending himself against the false accusations of his so-called friends, but not in accusing God of being unjust. In the whirlwind Job submits to His Saviour.

“Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” God says. How can you brace yourself in a whirlwind as God’s questions demand you to answer? What can you say when your bravado has been stripped away and even the elements are called to bear witness to your incoherent stuttering.

The invitation of the incomparable grace of God is to listen to His voice and give an answer, to converse with the unmatched majesty of the Creator long enough to realise that you do not have the answers and He does, and bowing in His presence you humbly repent and receive the gift of life. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:24-27 – FISHING FOR A MIRACLE

Coin Fish. Created by Ross Cochrane.

Coin Fish. Created by Ross Cochrane.

There will always be those who confront you with their questioning cynicism to test your faith. They will cast a baited hook of guilt into the lake of obligation. They will seek to get a bite by putting a tariff on your beliefs and haul you in to support their cause, taxing the sacred parts of your soul with their questions and political manipulation.

Somehow Jesus always anticipates them. He knows ahead of time what they are thinking and asks questions that give perspective to the real matters of the heart.

The Tax Collectors come to the door and ask Peter if Jesus intends to pay His Temple tax. They are testing Him.

Peter says spontaneously “Yes, of course” but he wonders if God is taxed! Peter goes into the house to speak to Jesus about this but before he has a chance, Jesus asks him a question which takes him by surprise. Had Jesus somehow heard the conversation at the door? Are the Tax Collectors still there, listening to His response… ?

“What do you think, Simon?” He asks. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?” (Matthew 17:25 NIV). What has this got to do with Kings? Why did Jesus ask this question? 

“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replies. 

“Well, then,” Jesus says, “the sons are free!”  

Applying this argument to the Temple tax goes something like this: God is the King of the Temple. God as King doesn’t charge His Son Temple Tax? Jesus, as God’s Son, is exempt from the tax (Matthew 17:26).

That makes sense. There is no obligation for Jesus to give us anything. But Jesus wants to go an extra mile. Surprisingly, despite being the Son of the King, in grace He offers to pay, for us. It is not because of obligation that He offers to pay, but from a place of freedom that God provides. This is the principle of grace.

“But so that we may not offend them, …” He says. Not yet anyway. Soon offence would come but not now. Romans 9:33 (NASB) says that Jesus would become “a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 

“… so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” (Matthew 17:27 NIV). 

Is Jesus simply exaggerating a point and asking Peter to go fishing for a couple of days and pay the tax from the proceeds of the catch? I don’t think so. In an act of faith the Temple tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins (Exodus 30:13-20), so that Israelis could enter the Temple pardoned and accepted by God; a new, fresh start. But here God pays the price for our sins.

This a miracle from a fishing expedition that speaks of God’s grace in paying the price for our purification? The coin is a picture of what Jesus would do in dying for our sins.

Jesus tells Peter to go fishing. Strange fishing expedition. Is He serious? Go fishing? I wonder if Peter invited the tax collectors to go fishing with him. They don’t seem to be standing at the door waiting. Why go to all this trouble to get tax from a fish? A large silver coin in a fish.

Jesus said He would make them fishermen of men, not of coins to pay their tax, yet this story for Matthew, the ex-tax collector is bursting with significance. He knew the power of grace and provision from Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This story pictured once again his own journey in finding God’s grace.

Peter baits the hook, and the line is cast. With unusual patience Peter waits. A group of tax collectors, who have curiously followed at a distance are confused and amazed, because, when the line is suddenly taut and he hauls in a fish, they can see the silver coin as the fish gasps for air.

The fish is prepared for eating, the coin is given to the astonished tax collectors and a lesson in grace is forever imprinted on Matthew’s heart as the story is recounted. Jesus pays Peter’s debt in full. He would soon pay Peter’s eternal debt on a cross.

The other disciples go fishing that day. Any excuse to go fishing. Is this an offshore tax haven? They decide to take a net. But not one coin is retrieved from any fish for a net return on the tax they had paid.  But they eat well that day and reflect on the marvellous provision and forgiveness of God. God invites you to go fishing for such a miracle as this.  

Pastor Ross

MATTHEW 17:24 – JESUS AND TAXES

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Because of His nomadic lifestyle, the request is made after He arrives at Capernaum. Strange that He should be asked to give. But then every male over twenty is expected to contribute about two days pay per year (half a shekel, a Greek slater, a Roman denarius). Only once, in the days of Nehemiah the Builder, when the people were poor, has it been one third of a shekel (Nehemiah 10:32).

Perhaps it is because Matthew’s background was as a tax collector that this story stays in his mind. By the time he writes his gospel the emperor Vespasian had destroyed the Temple (AD 70) and defiled this sacred offering by using it to rebuild the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.

But on this day you can still hear the religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, arguing in the streets as to whether the payment of this silver coin was voluntary or compulsory. It didn’t matter much because as the announcement is made in all the towns of Israel; tax collectors asking for the payment, it is with a sense of nationalistic duty that each man gives to support the running of the Sanctuary.

Like a subscription or a membership fee that enables them to appropriate the use of the Great Temple, it pays for animals, incense, wine, flour and oil and priests. It pays for the sacrifices made each night and morning and is given freely, salted with that sense of historical obligation. Exodus 30:13-20 (NLT) says it is to be given in silver “… as a sacred offering to the Lord. … to purify your lives, making you right with Him, … ransom money … for the care of the Tabernacle.” 

It is not unusual that “the collectors of the Temple tax” make enquiries as to Jesus paying. That is their responsibility after all (Matthew 17:24). It brings into the temple treasury a lot of money. But why are they reluctant to go directly to Jesus? Instead they come to Peter and ask him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” Are they trying to accuse Jesus of being a Temple-tax-evader?

In an act of faith the tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins, so that they could enter the Temple forgiven and accepted by God; a new, fresh start.

Why would Jesus need to pay? Jesus had no sin for which He needed forgiveness. The Temple tax payment is a picture of what He would do for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”   

As the treasurer of the group (John 13:29), it is expected that Judas be responsible for paying the tax for all of them. This year Jesus chooses a different approach.

Soon Judas would throw 30 pieces of silver down in the Temple (Matthew 27:5) trying to retract his treachery, enough to pay for a lifetime of Temple Taxes, but he would hang himself before being purified by the sacrifice of Jesus.

This time the tax is given miraculously as an act of grace, a picture of Forgiveness. Jesus is the price; not earned or worked for and totally undeserved. He gives voluntarily in every way to pay for our sins. Jesus will pay the full price and He is the once and for all sacrifice. He will contribute His life for them. And for you. Grace unearned. 

Pastor Ross

Galatians 3:28-29 – FREEDOM FROM THE ENEMY WITHIN

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

He is a little man with an enormous smile and such wise, almond shaped, sad eyes. His unkempt hair makes him Einstein-like in appearance. His beard troubles his face, defining his features making this fragile soul appear more secure.

As a cadet in 1939 Raoul was subjected to anti-semitism in Poland. His discouragement and hurt went deep and he made a decision never to call himself Polish again. He joined a youth Zionist organization.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says Jesus was familiar with discrimination and rejection. “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” In Luke 22:37 (NLT) says that prophetically “He was counted among the rebels.” 

As World War 2 loomed, Jews were placed in an internment camp. But Raoul escaped. Many of his friends who remained would die during the holocaust as the German army advanced. Thinking he was safe after liberation on 22 January 1945, and still refusing to call himself Polish, Raoul was again imprisoned for saying he was a Jew, this time by the Russians.

Now Raoul, at the age of 91, resides in an Aged Care Facility. He has dementia. Once again there are locked doors which remind him of the internment camps during WW2 and he dreams of escaping, just as he escaped the holocaust. He says that in the internment camps at least he had hope of freedom and now he refuses to resign himself to a life behind locked doors.

In our conversation always seems to revolve around his imprisonment. I try to help Raoul accept his accommodation as his home. One day as we were talking about being imprisoned, I told Raoul that it appeared to me that he was truly imprisoned, but not because of the locked doors. When he inquired as to how this could be, I said that he was not free on the inside. He had real difficulty with the concept of inner freedom.

Jesus spoke of imprisonment and freedom on the inside to a Jewish audience in John 8:32-47 (NLT). He said “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Romans 8:2 (NLT) says “And because you belong to Him (Jesus), the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Knowing the power of forgiveness and inward freedom from the tyranny of sin, when Paul spent time in a Roman prison he was able to say, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB). In Philippians 4:11-13 (NASB) he says “… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

True freedom is not freedom from authority. It comes when we change allegiances to the One who has designed us. 1 Peter 2:16 (NLT) says “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” Romans 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.”

Raoul and I often talk about the differences between Jews and Gentiles, but for followers of Christ “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” Galatians 3:28-29 (NLT). Colossians 3:11 (NLT) says “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” 

In Acts 26:22-23 (NLT) it is clear that this message of the Messiah is extended to all who will receive Him. “I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to JEWS AND GENTILES alike.” 

In Acts 3:12-26 (NLT) at Pentecost Peter addressed a crowd of people who have gathered in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world, “… Repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. … For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants ALL the families on earth will be blessed….’” Acts 4:11-12 (NLT) goes on to say “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:22-23 – THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY… 

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

Chains of the Enemy. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb).

Recently (2014) the media has exposed the sinful and cowardly beheadings and crucifixions of innocent people by an extremist Muslim group called Islamic State. These barbaric acts have disgusted the world and the Islamic State has been condemned as the enemy of true freedom. Even previous enemies have formed a coalition to stop their murderous advance.

The Bible associates people who commit such violent acts in the name of any religion as those who have given themselves over to demonic influences. Satan, the Great Enemy (1 Peter 5:8) is described as the Prince of Demons (Matthew 12:24), whose followers pursue his evil ideologies; accusation and blame against others (Revelation 12:10), murder of innocent people (John 8:44), pride in their blasphemous actions (Isaiah 14:12-20), and temptation of others to join them in sin (Genesis 3:1-7). They are fierce (Luke 8:29) and powerful (Ephesians 2:2) but cowardly (James 4:7). They are shrewd and intelligent (2 Corinthians 11:3) but blind, deceived (2 Corinthians 4:4) and ensnared by evil (Genesis 3:1-7). John 8:44 (NLT) calls them the children of their father the devil, who “love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

Jesus tells His disciples that “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of HIS ENEMIES. He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples are filled with grief (Matthew 17:22-23 NLT). They will remember His words at His empty tomb, when angels will draw their attention back to this conversation. In Luke 24:6-8 (NLT) they say “…Remember what He told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of SINFUL MEN and be crucified, and that He would rise again on the third day.” Enemies and Sinful people murder the Messiah.

Was it Judas who betrayed Jesus? Was Jesus really referring to the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin and the Romans as being His enemies? Afterall their deceit and barbaric acts resemble the Islamic State atrocities.

Romans 5:9-11 (NLT) confronts us with a stark truth! It was not only Judas, Jews and Romans who killed Jesus! The list of murderers is much wider than those who directly sent Him to the Cross. It says “Since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son WHILE WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. …” 

The men who Crucified Jesus were the Romans but it was OUR sin that held the hammer that nailed His hands to the Cross. Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver, but it was OUR sin that greeted Him with a betrayers kiss in the garden. The Romans beat Him and scourged him and abused him, but it was OUR sin that placed the crown of thorns on His head.

It was OUR SIN that brought Him to the Cross. WE were His enemies! WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE! Somehow retrospectively, our sin (that which identifies with Satan’s purposes) caused His death and when He died He died prospectively for that sin. Romans 5:8 (NLT) says “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.” We were the ones for whom He died, while we were His enemies.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. John 3:16-19 (NLT) says “…God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” In John 10:10 (NLT) Jesus says “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…”

We are all enemies of God, in darkness, associated with evil, betrayers and accusers. All that we despise about the worst of us is exposed by the death of Jesus. Yet Jesus is the only One able to restore purpose to our lives. John 10:10 goes on to say My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 1:12-13 says “But to ALL WHO BELIEVED HIM and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 3:16 (NLT) echoes these words and says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (Arabian Proverb). I was an enemy of Jesus because of my sin. Evil was also my enemy because Sin was destroying my life. Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and defeated the power of sin and death. He is the only One who has come to save me and you. 

Jesus is the enemy of my enemy and if I choose His invitation to believe in Him, then I am able to see His love for me and respond to Him as friend and Saviour. His invitation is extended to anyone who places their trust in Him. Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-20 – HOW TO ADJUST YOUR FOCUS

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Recorded in brilliant failure, Matthew 17:16 is a digital snapshot the disciples would rather have erased from the memory card. The colours are too dark, and there are no finely focused images of a miracle, just the indistinct madness of an ill-conceived attempt. When the disciples can’t cast out a demon from a boy, Jesus tells them that they “don’t have enough FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT). In Mark 9:28-29 (NLT) Jesus adds “This kind can be cast out only by PRAYER.” 

Faith and prayer, like the interplay between field of focus and the aperture, are both needed to obtain the right exposure to God’s light for a healing miracle to occur. The disciples depth of faith was far too shallow, much too close to the Scribes, focused on their arguments, accentuating their negativity and blurring the little boy’s needs into the background.

They had needed more light that day. They did not allow God to adjust the aperture of faith to even the size of a mustard seed to obtain enough light to expose this little boy to the love of Jesus. Their image was far from perfect. 

DEPTH OF FAITH

As Jesus came down from the mountain He framed a different picture of all that was happening in a deep depth of faith. Everything was in focus, the argument with the Scribes, the crowd, the failure of the disciples, the faith of the father and the boy who needed healing. He saw the scene with absolute clarity.

The paparazzi crowd zoomed in on Jesus and away from the negative image of the argument, focusing their lenses on the celebrity of Jesus. The Son is the best light source of all. Rich and warm, His light brings out the best colours in everyone, but also highlights the strong shadows of darkness in the scribes and boy; the demonic shapes, long and sinister. The contrast is striking.

Then darkness suddenly flees as the demon is fully exposed to a blinding flash of light! Abruptly the shadows vanish and the image of a bright little boy appears, alive and well for all to see. The crowd is in awe at the picture of health they see. What had looked obscure and shadowy is now a beautifully balanced image of a boy, correctly exposed to the saving power of Jesus. Miracles are all about light. They marvel in the presence of Jesus, Master of Light and Life.

THE APERTURE (Faith)

Each person is a lens with their own maximum and minimum aperture setting (faith). Jesus invites me to use the widest aperture to let in as much of the light from God’s Word as possible. Otherwise, I will experience an underexposed life. 

ISO SPEED (Inner Sensitivity Opportunity)

At its simplest level, the Faith Aperture is an opening in my perception the size of a mustard seed. When God’s illumination passes through that opening, it shines on a light-sensitive heart that absorbs the light and captures the image of the Son of God within. The ISO speed (the Inner Sensitivity Opportunity) controls the sensitivity of my heart. The higher the ISO speed, the more sensitive the heart is to the light of God’s Word and the message of Christ. As these settings are adjusted to different circumstances I can get clarity and focus for perceiving my world through the eyes of God.

FOCUS AND LENS (Perception) 

Life is all about capturing light. It is received in faith. When I manually seek to control my world some circumstances will be in focus, crisp and clear, while others will be out of focus, blurry and confusing. As I allow the light of Christ to fill my life there are many ways that God automatically allows my perception sensors, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to detect, track and adjust my faith focus in the situations that I face each day. His invitation is to bring light and life and focus to your life.

He moves in closer like a big cat, stepping lightly and with careful intent, zooming in on His subject. He wants to capture every detail, the peppered freckles, the curve of the mouth, the twist of hair in the breeze. 

The intersecting lines of the viewfinder are poised and the autofocus is locked onto His subject. Playing with the early light, the background trees splash soft, subdued nuances of colour upon the scene. And in that split second when everything is resolved, His finger instinctively finds the shutter release and presses. The sound of the shutter sings in the silence, and a split second of time digitally replicates itself, irrevocably remembered and beautiful.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-28: DOES GOD STILL HEAL PEOPLE TODAY?

Praying for Angie

Praying for Angie

She had battled with cancer and won. “No-one could help me. It was just me” she said, “No-one could go through it with me. I had to fight it all by myself. I’d like to have faith in God but I don’t have it and so I did it all alone.” Is it positive thinking that brings healing or how much I pray with faith? In Deuteronomy 32:39 (NLT) God says He is the only One who has the power over life and death and the power to wound and heal “I am the One who kills and gives life; I am the One who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from My powerful hand” (see also 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7). Does God still heal the sick today?

Jesus disciples were certainly involved in healing the sick. Back in Matthew 10:8 (NLT) Jesus “gave them AUTHORITY” to go out and Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Seventy two of the wider circle of disciples including the twelve were sent out in Jesus’ Name (with healing ability and authority) and Luke 10:17 (NLT) says “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to Him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use Your name!””

By Matthew 17:14, nine disciples have arrived at the bottom of a mountain, gather a crowd, and get involved in an argument with the religious leaders, the Scribes, and can’t cast a demon from a boy. They ask Jesus why they failed. He said “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT).

When the disciples were originally sent to heal the sick and cast out demons in Matthew 10:14 (NLT) it says “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” Notice, it doesn’t say to STAY AND ARGUE. Negativity is faith-depleting and limits the healing possibilities through faith in Christ. Negativity is doubt-building. Prayer is faith-building.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus said. They didn’t have enough faith themselves because they were drawn into an argument with the Scribes (Mark 9:14). Bad attitudes kill faith. By the time they tried to heal this boy, a mountain of unbelief stood in the way. It seems they were meant to search for those who would listen and respond in faith to the message of God’s grace, not have their faith dragged down to the level of the arguments of men. Faith doesn’t mix well with scepticism and negativity.

When Jesus arrived, He was faced with a mountain of unbelief. He was looking for that which pleases God in the crowd. He didn’t find it in the Scribes. He didn’t find it in His disciples. He didn’t find it in the crowd. He found it in the mustard-seed-faith of a father and moved a mountain for his son. He wanted to have the faith of the boy’s father involved too. Hebrews 11:6 (NLT) says “…it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”

God doesn’t want lone-ranger-super-disciples trying to cast out demons. He wants a community inspired to believe for a miracle and in the only One who has come to save them from their sin. The prayer of faith that can remove demons is the kind of faith that can move a mountain of unbelief. Luke 9:43 (NLT) says “Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power. Everyone was marveling at everything He was doing”. One healing left a crowd of people in awe of what God could do.

Faith is contagious. Mustard seed faith in a Dad moved a range of mountainous difficulties for his son, but also removed the mountainous influence of unbelief. The way we relate to God is by faith. God not only looked for a spark of faith in the father of the boy when He couldn’t find it in the disciples but He invites you and me to have faith in Christ today.

“Does God still heal the sick today?” Wrong question. “Am I willing to trust in Christ, come under His authority, and pray for God’s healing mercy?” Much better.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:19-20 – WHY DON’T I HAVE ENOUGH FAITH?

Mustard Seed Faith

Mustard Seed Faith

Why are some people healed and others not healed? Is it my faith that is deficient? Jesus is asked a similar question by His disciples when they had not been able to heal a little boy. In Matthew 17:19-20 (NLT) they ask “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” They took the responsibility for it and they were willing to learn.

Jesus goes on to say “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Jesus is clear. YOU don’t have ENOUGH FAITH. No escaping this. They were responsible, and healing the boy was dependent on them having enough faith. They didn’t have it. How can the disciples, who travelled with Jesus and saw so many miracles, not even have mustard seed sized faith? How could their faith be lacking; so scarce, meagre and skimpy; so weak and unequal to the task? What hope do I have? What kind of faith is mustard seed faith?

Whatever kind of faith they had, it didn’t work. Was it faulty faith; flawed and defective? Faith so damaged and inadequate for the task that it couldn’t complete anything it tried; so wanting and insufficient that it did no good?

Jesus faith was overflowing and rich, strong and sufficient to heal the young boy. His was faultless faith, but their faith was band-aid faith at best, cosmetic, feeble faith, impotent to act, incapable of making a difference. Their faith was poor and undernourished, skin and bone faith; anorexic faith. Too weak to be effective? Was it the argument with the Scribes that diseased their faith with sin? Were they in need of healing themselves?

Is faith just optimism draped in impotence? Jesus faith is positive and powerful? Is their faith a bonsai faith, kept small and so stunted that it is inept; dwarfed by the enormity of circumstances that are in need of a miracle? How could this be? Midget faith is not mustard seed faith!

Is faith fatalism wrapped with acquiescence? Someone said “some mountains are moved. Others we just have to climb.” Some things can’t be changed? Jesus faith didn’t accept this. Mustard seed faith is faith that never gives up at the first obstacle. It persists in prayer and trust in God until it sees mountains moved; difficulties decimated, healing realised. Mustard Seed Faith inspires me to persist because it sees heaven’s perfect perspective, and refuses to accept earth’s imperfect problems. Jesus Faith is not dependent on circumstances but circumstances are changed by His faith. He draws on heaven’s resources to change earth’s conditions.

What made the disciples faith try to run on empty? Why was there no spiritual energy left in the tank? Why couldn’t they just gather around in Pentecostal Power and shout until the demon was removed?

For the disciples the dispute with the scribes was a massive stumbling block, the father’s request to cast the demon from his son seemed an enormous mountain. The doubt they experienced was huge. The world was a threatening experience of demons and arguments and a crowd that could be gathering to stone them if they didn’t succeed with a miracle. They were angry, fearful, doubting and helpless.

Jesus appears to be reminding His disciples of an important truth, YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. YOU don’t have enough, but I have more than enough to go around.” Faith is faith because of Him in whom we believe. Our faith is appropriated through relationship with Christ. It is HIS faith and faithfulness that we draw upon. Even when we appropriate a mustard seed sized portion of faith from Jesus it will still move mountains. We can choose our falling-short, feeble, band-aid, bonsai, low tide, empty tank kind of faith, or choose His all-powerful faithfulness.

He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Not OUR system of perception but His. Look at the world through HIS eyes. I-once-was blind-but-now-I-see faith. Lean-not-on-my-own-understanding faith (Proverbs 3:5). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” faith (Galatians 2:20 NASB). 

Mustard seed faith perceives my world from God’s viewpoint and uses that perspective to change my world. He invites me to be an instrument of God for change through faith in Him. 

PS Just received a phonecall to visit a lady who is very sick… She was unable to speak, but I shared the message about faith in Christ and she listened as I prayed for God’s healing grace and invited her to place her trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross

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Posted: September 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
Enter the Portal. Image Created by Ross Cochrane.

Enter the Portal. Image Created by Ross Cochrane.