Job 15 – TAKING OUT YOUR OWN WITH FRIENDLY FIRE

Job 15 - Friendly Fire © Ross Cochrane

Job 15 – Friendly Fire © Ross Cochrane

We engaged the insurgents from high ground, looking down on the village from behind a hummock and inside an eroded gully.

By the second day Operation Headway was running into some serious opposition from the enemy, who were firing from the crumbling ruins of an old stone wall in the village, the stuttering sound of their AK-47’s and the breath of sniper bullets all to close for comfort. We had no success in making any ground and were frustrated by their defence at each attempt.

I climbed to higher ground behind us to radio for support from the Tactical Operations Centre (TOC) and suddenly heard aircraft scream by our position, one so low that I could almost smell the pilot’s deodorant. The Fire Support Officer (FSO) explained that the aircraft were ours, but they were completing a bombing raid several miles away.

As I watched, the aircraft completed their first bombing run and then circled around for a second pass. This time, as they made their final approach, one plane peeled off, peppering our position with 20mm cannon fire.

I screamed into the microphone to the FSO, telling him we were under friendly fire, but in the rush for cover, the radio had been damaged by Shrapnel. The casing of the set had been ripped away, saving my life in the process. I felt the heat of the bomb blast that followed (Mk-20s) before I passed out, only to wake up in an Evac camp with some serious injuries. (Fictional story based on actual events).

Friendly fire occurs when there is intent to do harm to the enemy, but injury is caused to your own side. Eliphaz is treating Job as the enemy and his friendly fire is relentless.

A good friend will cheer you up when you are in hospital and experiencing incredible pain and suffering. Not Eliphaz the Temanite! When Job seeks to explain to Him that he does not know why God has a heavy hand upon him, you can hear the chatter of an M16 as Eliphaz says, in a loving way (not!), “A wise man wouldn’t answer with such empty talk! You are nothing but a windbag. The wise don’t engage in empty chatter. What good are such words?” (Job 15:2 NLT). Perhaps Eliphaz should apply his words to himself. A wise person will stop the debate at this point and start praying for the poor guy instead of trying to take him out with accusations about his sin.

But Eliphaz isn’t finished. He throws a grenade and calls Job a liar. He says, “Your sins are telling your mouth what to say. Your words are based on clever deception. Your own mouth condemns you, not I. Your own lips testify against you.” (Job 15:5,6 NLT). Perhaps you’ve experienced a person who condemns you by projecting their own weaknesses on you. Eliphaz is the one who is deceived, not Job!

Eliphaz is under the deception that he is giving Job cover fire, comforting words of encouragement instead of words designed to detonate the explosive force of accusation and judgment (Job 15:11).

Eliphaz says in Job 15:12 (NLT)What has taken away your reason? What has weakened your vision, that you turn against God and say all these evil things?” If Eliphaz were speaking about people in general, his questions might have a great deal of impact. Listen to what he has to say, … “Can any mortal be pure? Can anyone born of a woman be just? Look, God does not even trust the angels. Even the heavens are not absolutely pure in His sight (He knew his theology and that there was a spiritual battle taking place). How much less pure is a corrupt and sinful person with a thirst for wickedness!”

The Bible says Romans 3:23 (NLT) “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” so what Eliphaz is saying is right, but he applies it to the wrong person. Job has already admitted that he has sinned in the past and that he is not aware of any sin in his life now. He says that if there is sin in his life now he has asked God to reveal it. Job has his life right with God. Sin is not the issue here!

But Eliphaz has a one track mind. Unfortunately, his aerial reconnaissance mistakes Job as one of the enemy troops. He implies that the similarities are obvious,

“The wicked writhe in pain throughout their lives. … They know their day of destruction is near. … They live in distress and anguish, … For they shake their fists at God, defying the Almighty. … Their riches will not last, and their wealth will not endure. … For the godless are barren. Their homes, enriched through bribery, will burn. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil.”

Job can’t refute that he is in pain, distress and anguish, that his wealth is gone and that he’s in trouble. But will somebody just pray for him instead of trying to take him out with accusations based on assumption?

What about me?

  • Do my friends back away because of the presumptions I apply wrongly to their lives due to my own rigid thinking?
  • Do they say to themselves “He misuses the Bible because he uses it’s words as a club instead of as a means of comfort.”
  • Am I projecting my own weaknesses onto others in order to appear to be better than they are? Am I treating them as the enemy and using friendly fire to injure them?
  • Am I so concerned with proving a point sometimes that I miss the opportunity to really listen and have something of value to give?
  • Is my motivation to get people to agree with me or bring healing to their lives?
  • Do I really listen to what they are saying and then try to grasp what God would have me do to help?
  • Does Eliphaz need to apply his own words to himself?

If Eliphaz is flying a mission in a Jet fighter then he is dropping bombs over his own base. He is trying to take out the wrong man with “friendly fire”. Intending to take out the enemy he is causing injury to his friend. Eliphaz has mistaken Job for the enemy!

The invitation of Job 15 is simply to be careful with your words. Let’s not take out our own with friendly fire.

Pastor Ross

Job 13-14 – WHAT IF THE PAIN WON’T STOP?

What happens when the pain won't stop © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile.org

What happens when the pain won’t stop © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile.org

My grandson, who is almost 4 years old (2010), wants to play Spiderman, and his mother is more interested in him eating his evening meal. A conflict arises and voices are raised while mouthfuls of food are being intentionally shovelled into his mouth. He is in a situation he doesn’t like, and so he complains and argues his case before his mother in between the mouthfuls and sometimes during.

My grandson has raised his voice of complaint to the point of exasperating his mother with his disobedience. He knows that in a while he will be in big trouble! He does not want to hear his Mother being angry with him.

Too late! Or is it? Just as his mother begins to outline the impending consequences of his disobedience, half way through his mother’s sentence, he interrupts. He is not willing to hear those words and before she is finished saying them, he says in a loud voice “STOP, MUM!”

His reasoning is – if his Mum stops everything she is about to say, then he will have time to explain his case further. “Time out”. Ever feel that way when you are under pressure – “Stop the world, I need time to think! I need time out!”

Job is totally exasperated with his friends and their accusations. You keep saying that God is judging me because of my sin, but I am innocent. “Are you defending God with lies? … Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defence is as fragile as a clay pot. “Be silent now and leave me alone” (Job 13:7,12-13 NLT). Time out!

He says to God in effect “Stop Lord! If you just give me a little parole from my pain, I would be able to pray to You and present to you my side of things”.

Unlike my grandson, Job is not being disobedient. He just wants relief while he prays.

God are you holding out on me. What have I done to deserve the agony I am in. I can’t think of anything that may have caused it. Is there something I have done of which I am unaware. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as Your enemy? … I waste away like rotting wood, like a moth-eaten coat” (Job 13:23-24, 28 NLT).

Always a good idea to ask God these questions. You’ll be surprised what comes to mind when you ask Him “What have I done wrong?” For Job, the second question was important too, Why do you turn away from me?” because he knew it had nothing to do with his sin. He feels as if he’s being treated like God’s enemy. God can still seem far away from me at times and it’s not particularly because I have sinned. The real question is “Am I prepared for the answers that God may give?”

When I don’t know all the facts, am I still willing to trust God? What if I don’t get well? What if the pain doesn’t subside? I can’t hope to know the “what ifs”.

Job makes some astounding comments in Job 14 about life and death. “I wish You would hide me in the grave and forget me there until Your anger has passed” (Job 14:13 – NLT). I am happy to be raised up again when it’s all over. That would be better than going through what I have to bear. Kind of time out in the bunker while the atmosphere loses it’s toxicity.

What would have happened if Christ had by-passed the suffering? The cross tells me that even pain can be used for God’s purposes.

SO OFTEN I WANT TO BYPASS THE PAIN FOR THE PEACE.

Heard it all before? No pain, no gain? Easy to say, if you are not Job. Nevertheless true, no matter who you are! Pain is a furnace from which is wrought the most amazing of strengths in the human character, but it is also capable of revealing the most potentially destructive of our weaknesses.

Job expresses it this way – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15 KJV).

Job 14:1,2,5,10, (NLT) says “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! … We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. … You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. …” 

Lord, when I cannot fathom what is happening to me, I understand that I am in Your hands and You are working out Your purposes in and through my life.

Pastor Ross. 

If this message has been meaningful to you, please pass it on to 2 or 3 other people, and I would love to hear any responses or thoughts you have.

God bless,

Ross.

Job 13 – BRUTALLY HONEST OR JUST BRUTAL?

JOB THE LION-HEARTED © Ross Cochrane Scroll-sawing.

JOB THE LION-HEARTED © Ross Cochrane Scroll-sawing.

There is a small rippling tremor in his side with the next spasm of pain, as he lies, flattened in the grass, ears back, eyes wide with concentration and fear. His breathing is shallow and life ebbs red from the entrance of the broken spear that has pierced his lungs. His flanks, torn and wet, are heaving with the loss of blood, but his eyes are intent, muscles tense and controlled, claws clinging to these last ounces of life which redden the earth, ready for a final unleashing of power. His ears twitch ever so slightly as voices on the breeze give even greater focus for the rush.

They say a wounded lion is more of a threat than a healthy one. Hungry and driven to rage by its wounds, it can become extremely defensive and dangerous. Job is that lion, attacked by his friends.

They thrust their words at him, sharp and opinionated with judgment. Proverbs 26:1 says “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” but the lion-hearted Job is in need of physicians for friends, not hunters. He is direct and meets the challenge of their words with brutal honesty “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless … If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do” … Job 13:3-5 (NLT).

I like Job’s honesty. Abandoned and lying in the dust, with life ebbing away, the wounded lion attacks as a last act of defiance. When you have come to the end of your rope, you become brutally honest with your friends and with God. That can’t be a bad thing, and his friends would have felt the force of his words.

Yet I notice that although Job is frank, he does not say things that he will later regret. A question worth asking is “When I am being brutally honest, am I more brutal than honest?” Job does not use the viciously cruel words of his friends, but he is direct and truthful.

Wounded physically and emotionally drained, as he challenges his friends, Job is also caught in a spiritual battle,

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) says “… For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

As the next spasm of pain comes, his quiet, warm, rumbling voice carries softly in the breeze. Suddenly like the release of a coiled spring, he charges from the grass toward the evil one, clawing the earth with righteous indignation. With the strength of God pulsing through his body he knows, despite his injuries, despite the wounds of lies and accusations, that Victory roars with the voice of Truth.

Pastor Ross

Job 12 – I NEED YOUR SUPPORT NOT YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

I NEED YOUR SUPPORT, NOT YOUR ASSUMPTIONS © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and ipad apps.

I NEED YOUR SUPPORT, NOT YOUR ASSUMPTIONS © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and ipad apps.

Some time ago my sciatic nerve was pinched and I experienced excruciating pain radiating from my lower back to below the knee. My wife Julie prayed for me and took me to outpatients at the hospital! After hours of waiting, a simple but effective painkiller was administered and I was grateful for the next few hours of relief.

I can only imagine what it was like for Job in constant pain and suffering to the point of death. Job’s friends make no attempt at praying for him! Their verbal tirade only adds to his misery.

Their verbal assault is the last thing Job really needs. He cries out for their support, not their assumptions. Everybody seems to have their simplistic formulas as to why he isn’t healed – he doesn’t have enough faith, he has sinned and God is punishing him, his time is up, etc. Logic is the beginning of knowledge, not necessarily wisdom. Divorced of love, their ill-conceived assumptions, based on faulty logic, provide Job will little to no support and even less, if that is possible, compassion.

Zophar accuses Job, “Should I remain silent while you babble on? When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed?” He says if Job doesn’t repent of his sin then he’s in more trouble with God, in Job 11:20, “…the wicked will be blinded. They will have no escape. Their only hope is death.” Mark Twain said it’s the things we know for certain, but which are not true, that get us into trouble.

I like Job’s response to his friends. For the record, “You people really know everything, don’t you? And when you die, wisdom will die with you! Well, I know a few things myself— and you’re no better than I am. Who doesn’t know these things you’ve been saying?” (Job 12:2 NLT). It’s not that I am mocking God It’s that you are mocking me.

Unlike his friends, Job thinks God has inflicted this suffering upon him despite the fact that he is a right living man. Job wants to abandon his counsellor friends and go to God directly to find out why. A wise choice, but how sad is this; to have a hurting friend want to abandon you because of your lack of compassion concerning his suffering?

In Job 12:4 he says “… my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer. I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me, … my disaster has come from the hand of the Lord. For the life of every living thing is in His hand, and the breath of every human being. Yes, strength and wisdom are His; deceivers and deceived are both in His power. He leads counsellors away, stripped of good judgment; wise judges become fools (that seems to be a very cutting reference to his friends).”

Job virtually says God’s sovereign decisions are seen in nature, culture, religion and national affairs. With such all-encompassing sovereign autonomy it’s quite possible that He can also allow good people to suffer. God does what He likes and I am at a loss to understand it. That’s why I want to go directly to Him (Job 12:10-25 NLT).

Job 12 is an invitation to gather around a hurting friend and ask God to bring healing to their lives. It is not a time to offer a string of unsubstantiated opinions as facts as to what they should or shouldn’t do? Mother Teresa said “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Suffering is an opportunity to express Christ’s love and lead them to Him, not simply to my theological assumptions?

Pastor Ross

Job 11 – I NEED AN AMBULANCE, NOT A DUMP TRUCK!

I NEED AN AMBULANCE NOT A DUMP TRUCK

I NEED AN AMBULANCE NOT A DUMP TRUCK

He turns the ignition key to his truck. The engine roars with the sudden injection of fuel and rumbles into life with powerful and ominous intention. Zophar the Naamathite is driving an old, rusted out, open-box bed dump truck, hinged at the back and with leaking hydraulics to lift the front.

His friends carelessly climb on board to ride with him without wearing the required safety belts and shoulder harnesses. They urge him on during his dumping operations.

With a full load, Zophar does not deviate from his task. Today he is not dumping a truckload of sand, gravel, crushed rock, or coal. Today, he will not be conducting any tests to analyse the nature, weight, quantity and quality of his words. Today he disregards any standards of compassion, ruthlessly driving the unregistered, unregulated vehicle of his arguments.

Zophar engages the reverse gear without thinking that lives could be severely injured by the load he intends discharging. He is not exercising any caution. As he backs towards Job, his theology is, Your sins are seen by God and that’s why you’re suffering, so repent or you’ll die! “…the wicked will be blinded. They will have no escape. Their only hope is death.” (Job 11:20 NLT).

Job tries to tell him he doesn’t have any great sin in his life. He is innocent! Zophar keeps revving his engine, not willing to listen. “Should I remain silent while you babble on? When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed? … Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” (Job 11:3-4 NLT). Subtle as a rusted out dump truck! He almost goes as far to say that Job is empty headed and has no hope of understanding (Job 11:12).  

Dumping operations are potentially dangerous. The terrain he traverses is uneven and exceptionally muddy, an uncertain foundation at best, but he does not consider that his truck may roll over at any time. He is making a lot of false assumptions about Job. In Zophar’s thinking, no-one is allowed to question God or express how they truly feel. “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens— and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld— what do you know?” (Job 11:7-8 NLT) 

Without checking for Overhead clearance, he releases the tailgate, blundering backwards towards Job, lining him up in his rear vision display. The reverse warning signal has been deliberately disabled. When he pulls the lever and the crank turns to tilt the truck body to the desired angle, it is a truckload of toxic judgments that is dumped all over Job.

I NEED AN AMBULANCE NOT A DUMPTRUCK

Instead of an ambulance, Zophar drives a dump truck. A better approach surely would be to come alongside Job and ask him how he could help, but instead Job receives a constant barrage of toxic words about how sinful he must be to be suffering so much.

Zophar is driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence. He is a know-it-all, a religious, pompous Pharisee who thinks he knows the road rules for life but has little experience. He is more concerned with big-noting himself with his fancy air horns; his so-called wisdom, than listening to someone else. He refuses to acknowledge he may be wrong and is indignant at anyone else who might have an opinion or another point of view, no matter how Godly the person may be.

I want friends who are willing to keep me accountable for what I believe, but Zophar has stepped over the line! He is driving a heavy load with no qualifications. He is committing a great sin himself and he can’t see it!

I have noticed that there have been times when I am capable of projecting my own sins upon others and there’s a blind spot in the mirror to what is going on in my own life? Anyone of us is capable of being a Pharisee reversing a dump truck of legalism. He seems incapable of taking his own advice,

“Offload your sins, and dump all iniquity behind you. Then your load will feel the lightness of innocence. You’ll feel the power of an engine which is strong and free of fear. It will be like emptying your load of misery in the river and watching it flow away. Your life will be brighter than fog lights and you’ll drive right through the darkness until the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. The road will be safe and You will be protected and you will rest in safety. When it comes to your break time, you will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you to help them” (Job 11:14-19 Truckers version).

Nothing wrong with offloading sins. We all deal with things we have to bring before God concerning sinful behaviours. But simplistic theology won’t help Job. Zophar is wrong about Job and wrong about God. In this case, God allowed unpredictable and seemingly unfair suffering in the life of a person whose relationship with God was in order. All we know is that God has purposes that we don’t fully understand. The answer for Job and for us is not simply to repent but to trust.

When Jesus died, He had a truckload of condemnation as our sins were dumped upon Him. He understands suffering. The invitation of Job 11 is to drive an ambulance not a dump truck; to bring the perspective, compassion, healing, hope and love of Christ to those in the midst of difficult, complex and confusing circumstances.

Pastor Ross

Job 9-10 – ADAM GOODES, JOB AND THE FAIRNESS OF GOD

Hornett's nest © Ross Cochrane

Hornett’s nest © Ross Cochrane

When a 13-year-old girl calls indigenous player Adam Goodes an “ape” in a football game, he points her out to officials and complains of “racism”. She is taken from the field and questioned by police. She apologises and he doesn’t lay charges.

Now Adam Goodes, dual Brownlow Medallist and former Australian of the year, is constantly booed by the crowd, disliked by a large proportion of the football community with each new game he plays. A war dance in defiance of the crowd did nothing to help.

Any criticism he receives from the crowd or the press is regarded by his supporters and the AFL as racism. Politicians say he is being racially vilified. A lawyer says that the booing is a form of workplace bullying. “He’s become a target.” “It’s unfair.” Tried unjustly by a jeering crowd.

Many think he is a whinger with a victim mentality rather than a role model for the indigenous community of Australia. Because of the constant booing at every game, Goodes has asked for time off and may consider retiring from football altogether.

Is Adam the innocent one and is the crowd wickedly expressing it’s racism? Innocent or guilty, he is badly in need of someone who can objectively mediate and defuse the situation so that he can once again play the game.

If anyone has a right to think “It’s not fair!” it is Job. Despite his life-threatening illness, Job has also become unpopular with his friends and they regale him with their disapproval. His only hope is to turn to God for help but is that the face of God in the crowd, taunting him as well? It seems that even God is against him. “What do You gain by oppressing me? Why do You reject me, the work of Your own hands, while smiling on the schemes of the wicked? (Job 10:3 NLT). “It’s not fair!”

Supporters can be fickle and callous, but what really disturbs Job is the nagging thought that God may be just as unfair as his friends.

Job can see that, to his knowledge, he has done everything to keep his relationship with God right, but somehow he thinks he’s missed something. If he could bring God into a courtroom, he would say “Don’t simply condemn me— tell me the charge You are bringing against me” (Job 10:2 NLT).

Grief-stricken, suffering, desperate, longing for death, abandoned and falsely accused by his so-called friends, Job endures each agonising blow and longs for God to intervene, but he is not sure of the outcome. “I could only plead for mercy… Even if I summoned Him and He responded, I’m not sure He would listen to me” (Job 9:15-32).

I guess there are times when I wonder what God is doing. I know He is a loving God but sometimes, life is just not fair.

I wonder how would I feel if I were Adam Goodes, judged by a booing crowd. Or how would I feel if I were in Job’s shoes? Suffering extreme pain and on the edge of death, but not dying? Having friends around me who don’t have a clue what is going on, but who criticise me and try to give me simple solutions that just don’t fit the complex problems I have?

WHAT’S THE USE OF TRYING?

If the only way to prove my integrity is to take God to court, it’s all pointless, Job thinks. “Who has ever challenged Him successfully?” (Job 9:3-4 NLT). As a defendant I may put on a brave face in the witness stand but “Whatever happens, I will be found guilty. So what’s the use of trying?” (Job 9:29 NLT, Job 9:30-31). I might as well not play the game.

I cannot defend myself before God (Job 9:9-12, 15-16, 19). “… Who am I, that I should try to answer God or even reason with Him?” (Job 9:14 NLT). He realises that the creator God can’t go on trial any more than God can be accused of being guilty of a crime?

IS GOD FAIR?

Have you ever found yourself asking these questions…

Is God being fair? Does my innocence matter to Him? (Job 9:22). Does God care about me? Does He care about anyone? (Job 9:23). Do I want to serve a God who either causes agony or simply watches and lets bad things happen to good people? If I could stop someone from all this agony, I would. Why doesn’t God intervene into my circumstances? Is God angry at me for no particular reason? (Job 9:5-9, 13). Is the Creator of the Universe bullying me just because He can? (Job 9:17-18). Is God punishing me? O God, how is this fair? Is God fair? (Job 9:21-22 NLT). These are such good questions. In this life, we certainly don’t have all the answers we long for. Neither does Job.

GUILTY

Job thinks, God is wise, unchallengeable and strong. He makes decisions without consultation or warning (Job 9:4-10. Compared to God’s character, my innocence seems so insignificant. Even the most upright person on earth cannot be justified in His presence. “… How can a person be declared innocent in God’s sight?” (Job 9:2 NLT).

Interesting. The Bible says there is a way to be declared forgiven but I can’t recall we are ever declared to be innocent.

Job realises that he cannot demand anything but mercy from a righteous and just God (Job 9:15). Even his outward blamelessness would pale in significance when compared to the holiness of God (Job 9:20-21). He would not stand a chance… “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NLT). Isaiah 64:6 (NLT) says “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”

THE PERFECT MEDIATOR

He is fed up with living at all. God seems to laugh at innocent people who are struggling in life, standing up for what is right, and seems to be blind to the fact that wicked people get away with things they do and say. God is unfair!

Job thinks, “If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” (Job 9:33 NLT). If only God was a man, then I could reason with Him.

What Job needs is someone on his side to present his case before a holy and just God. A man who knows what it is like to be reviled by the crowd, treated unfairly, accused of a crime and condemned to a painful death, but who is not only innocent of outward blame but inwardly perfect and pure. He longs for a mediator to stand between him and God (Job 9:33-35). His friends are neither willing nor able. Who can stand before God and speak on his behalf?

How prophetic is that?

The New Testament says “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 NLT).

“The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of His punishment. Then I could speak to Him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength” (Job 9:34,35 NLT).

Like countless thousands over the years, Job entertains the idea of God being unfair. If God is not responsible, who is? He has no understanding that Satan has brought about his dire circumstances or that his faith is being tested in adversity. Even God is unfairly presumed to be guilty.

Job anticipates the cry of the human heart throughout history for a mediator; the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Mediator between God and man, the only one who can interpret God’s heart to man and man’s heart to God. Deeply embedded in our soul is a longing to be reconciled with God. No one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Here is where the Justice, Fairness and Love of God meet – at the Cross and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ smashes the distorted justice-hall-of-mirrors and we see a true image of ourselves reflected in His eyes. The maze of false and confusing, and sometimes frightening images of our lives reflected in the booing crowd, finds a truer perspective as we wait in the shadow of the Cross.

God has a way of resurrecting that which we think has died, of finding purpose in that which we see of no use, in finding the way when there is no way, in finding truth when all we have is uncertainty, in finding life and salvation when we can not possibly save ourselves.

Will Adam Goodes be willing to play again for the Swans? Perhaps a more all-encompassing and important question in the light of the book of Job is, are we willing to reconciled to God through Christ?

Pastor Ross

JOB 9 – 10 – SELECTIVE PERCEPTION

SUFFERING LOSS

Selective Perception - Three or Four © Ross Cochrane

Selective Perception – Three or Four © Ross Cochrane

A successful, well-respected businessman, an involved father and husband, he doesn’t expect his world turned upside down by the sudden loss of his children. He doesn’t expect the disasters and the grief that follows to crush dreams and hopes with such choking intensity.

Numbed with the dysfunction of sorrow, unable to fathom his loss, he is still reeling when the “takeover bid” of a corrupt foreign company leaves him in economic ruin. A fire destroys what little he has left.

When tests indicate he is dying of cancer he is disturbingly detached for a time, but already the ulcerated lesions have begun to form all over his body and the pain is unbearable (Job 1-2).

LABELS AND FILTERS

Friends from his business come to visit. They are horrified by his suffering but assume his suffering is the result of some bad lifestyle choices (Job 3). There is little to no compassion in their words.

Although he is blameless in his business and personal life, his friends begin to question his integrity. This kangaroo court of three, convened of would-be lawyers, judges and theologians, direct blame, innuendo and accusations against him.

Refusing to be convinced otherwise, they urge him to confess to his “criminal” activity. Their focus is filtered through sullied lenses, and Job is labelled as guilty. Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Once you label me you negate me.”

With an overwhelming urge to clear his name and set the record straight, he submits sworn statements denying the accusations with great specificity, but to no avail. He is struggling to prove his innocence. This hardly seems fair.

Throughout his ordeals, Job refuses to allow false accusations to define him. Accusation is not proof, and reasoning with those who have made up their minds and assumed his guilt becomes a circular conversation.

SELECTIVE HEARING AND VISION.

Wearing theological glasses, his friends selectively filter out all insight that falls outside the range of their fixed thinking and accept only the wavelengths of their particular persuasions, the colours of their judgements. The remaining colours of truth and grace are blocked.

With their polarized sunglasses, the truth is modified with subtle changes that affect what they see. The bright colours of Job’s character are rendered as very dark.

DECLARATIONS

Today I refuse to fit the filters of accusation or to see through the lens of judgment and blame. I refuse to project my own biases through the filters of false assumptions and religious legalism. I will not block out the colours of compassion, understanding and love or filter out truth with the monocle of deception.

Taking off the sunglasses of my biases places me in the uncomfortably bright light of loving others and sensitively caring for them. That’s a challenge at first until the eyes of my heart adjust to see others as God sees them. There may be tears.

Without filters I see the light, the laughter, the warmth of restored trust dispelling the dark places of impossible circumstances. At the Cross the filters of a defeated attitude are broken and I can choose to look for life-changing victory over hopelessness.

The invitation of Job 9 is to take off the lens of your bias and you will come to those like Job with love and bring compassion. Come with Words of life and you will encourage faith. Come with prayerfulness and you will usher in peace and hope. Come with the Lord Jesus Christ and you bring truth, direction and life. See others through the eyes of the Cross and you will see past their sin to their redemptive potential, and to what God has intended for them all along, in Christ.

Pastor Ross

GOD’S PHOTO BOOK OF ENID FLORENCE SHEDDEN

IMG_1472Julie produces a photo book every year. She writes so beautifully about the journey of our family and as the year is captured through her eyes and words I always see and read of the intertwining stories of the generations. Perhaps it is most obvious when Julie visits her Mum with our grandchildren in the Donald Coburn centre, an aged care facility in Sydney.

I have read some well-crafted fragments beautifully woven together from the fabric of our lives in her books, and now our grief will also be shepherded gently into the pages. Enid, my mother-in-law, Julie’s Mum, our children’s Nan and grandchildren’s great nan went home to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, peacefully slipping away in her sleep.

She valued the book Julie made about her husband Colin. She loved looking at his face on the cover and the treasury of photos within became a source of reminiscing of days gone by.

Enid and Colin’s love story, in fact, was like a beautifully crafted novel, but for us it now seems like the last page has been turned, and although we worked out what would happen, the ending still took us by surprise. Perhaps that’s because the story is not quite complete. The Author expects us to capture the moments and write the end of the story.

This week has been trying to find a fitting way to fill the empty pages, and so we, by way of a eulogy and what we share in conversations, create some kind of conclusion to a story that encapsulates Enid’s life in the words we say and the memories we have of her.

IMG_3224For me what is written in my memory is a woman who didn’t like me much when she first met me. My hair was too long and I was too quiet. Still, almost imperceptively, I remember times in the little country town of Tumut, there in her kitchen, opening up to her as she cooked.

Mostly we talked about the Bible, faith and family. She loved Colin so much and I have never seen a couple more in love with each other or more dedicated to their relationship with Christ.

Her faith in Christ was genuine and she had an assurance that she would one day be with the Lord in heaven – “absent from the body, present with the Lord”.

I had never known that such a family existed and wanted to know more. She came to love me as her favourite son-in-law. I know it’s written differently in the memory of the other son-in-laws, but that’s how I felt. Loved. I value that gift.

GOD WRITES A DIARY

God also writes. He has an ongoing diary, especially of our grief. He sees more significance in our sorrow than we do, perhaps because our attention is drawn to eternity.

Psalm 56:7-9 says “You Lord, keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have RECORDED EACH ONE IN YOUR BOOK.”

I was thinking of the way God writes last night, about how God has written a generational diary called the BOOK OF TRUTH, the Bible, and the BOOK OF LIFE where the names of those who believe in Christ as their Saviour are written.

His Book of Truth made such a difference in Enid and Colin’s life and it inspired them to make an investment in the lives of many people. I remember the string of missionaries they supported and the way they were always willing to help us on our journey in life.

Psalm 139:13 speaks of yet another book, a DIARY. It says that “You (God) saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was RECORDED IN YOUR BOOK. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Our life before God really is an open book.

LOVE STORY

IMG_9576When God wrote Enid’s life, perhaps it was an historic novel, a long book to depict the 87 years of a full and fruitful life. Many chapters.

Somehow I think God had a love story in mind, a romance novel, love for Colin, love for her children and their spouses, love for her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, but undergirding all that was her love for Christ.

The Holy Spirit wrote into Mum’s marriage words such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit characterised their life together. It is expressed best by the words of the verse Julie chose to characterise her Mum. She had “… the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV).

THE DEDICATION PAGE

IMG_2730The dedication page of a book always catches my attention. The Romance novel of Enid’s life includes a dedication page. As you would expect it is dedicated to the Lord, to Colin and her family.

She leaves behind the pages of a legacy of faith and love for us, as her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She prayed for every one of us to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Enid and Colin would pray every day for us.

THE LAST PAGE

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t wait to finish but when you got to the last page it was missing? I once read a version of The Pilgrims Progress and the last few pages had been torn out. It was years later that I finally discovered the ending.

From our point of view, that’s what Enid’s book looks like. We have read only the first part of the book. God holds the other pages for the next chapters of her life. He has totally restored the book, crafted to last for eternity.

THE FIRST EDITION

We have only the first edition copy. It’s way out of date, constantly being revised. The rest of the book will never be finished for us, but God is a prolific writer. There is no ending, no tears, no more crying in eternity for Enid and Colin.

PLAGIARISING

I don’t think that Mum would mind if we plagiarise some of the material for our own lives, especially her faith in Christ. What God writes on the remaining pages of our lives has now become of vital importance and significance as we step up.

I wonder what Julie’s Photobook diary will say about our family this year. Perhaps more significant is – I wonder what it is, in the way we live out this year, that will move God’s hand to write another page of the heritage we share.

Pastor Ross – son-in-law to Enid and Colin

Job 8 – PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

Playing the Blame Game © Ross Cochrane

Playing the Blame Game © Ross Cochrane

Some childhood memories are vivid. This time my Mum blames me for something I have not done. Mostly I deserve it what I get, but not this time. She is so sure that I am the culprit. In the end, there is nothing I can say or do to convince her that I have not committed the act. (I don’t even know what it was now. All I remember are the false accusations of wrongdoing and being helpless to defend myself. Strange when you try to dodge the verbal blows of those you love as they assure you it is for your own good to confess. What can I say? I was innocent for once).

My father-in-law always said that Bildad the Shuhite was the smallest man in the Bible except for the man who stood on his watch. Bildad, with his “expired use-by date”, insensitive and small minded thinking, falsely accuses Job. There is nothing Job can say to convince Bildad the Blamer that he is wrong.

Because of a stroke and his emotions, Gerard (not his real name) finds it difficult to talk. My friend gives voice to his suffering. “It broke something inside me and I have never believed in God since. I don’t want anything to do with someone who is powerful enough to spare my wife from dying and yet ignores my prayers for her.” I can only listen as this old man, once a brilliant communicator, now stumbles over his words to explain that cancer has taken the woman he loved. “I prayed like I had never prayed before. I begged God to spare her life, but she died anyway. If there is a God, how could He let this happen?”

Intimately acquainted with grief, Job has also experienced the loss of his family in tragic circumstances but instead of pushing God away, he runs to Him for healing. He can’t understand his extreme suffering. Satan is given full reign in wreaking havoc on Job’s family and health and Job is barely alive (Job 1:12 and 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his ulcerated body (Job 7:5).

Job has tried as best as he can to give voice to his suffering, but Bildad is not listening. “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT). With no idea of how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) Bildad’s own blustering words only serve to increase the pain. He gives an insensitive rendition of God’s justice, devoid of love and compassion, a canned response based on his own false theories about God.

As I visit my old friend and listen to his stinging words of rage towards God, there is no canned response. It is not the time to try to answer his questions and prove somehow that he is wrong about God. He is not ready to hear and I don’t have a full understanding myself. Sometimes the best friendship I can provide is my presence and willingness to listen. I do not have all the answers. I may never understand some of the things I or others experience.

I would like my words to be like a refreshing breeze that brushes across the dying embers of his faith. Perhaps they will rekindle a flame. Or will I be a “blustering wind” like Bildad the Shuhite and extinguish what little is there? I pray that I will be able to give him time to breath and sigh and express his pain, and then perhaps, if he is willing, try to share God’s words of life and love?

Pastor Ross

JOB 8 – THE HITMAN

HITMAN BY ROSS COCHRANE

JOB 8 – THE HITMAN

A tall, silver-haired, brown-eyed, no-nonsense man, wearing a suit with a black tie and black leather gloves has received instructions for a mission.

THE SETUP

In the hotel room, he decodes the secret message and destroys it immediately. He is surprised and a little confused at first by the assignment. Things have obviously changed dramatically since he has been away. He can hardly believe that agent Job has turned rogue and has become a double agent. With cold-blooded determination, he decides to pay him a visit. What agent Bildad Shuhite doesn’t realise is that his brief is a setup. The information he has concerning Job is false and his mission will only serve Lucifers purposes.

THE CONSPIRATOR

A brilliant but dangerous individual, agent Lucifer was ostracized from Headquarters for his insubordination and radical theories on mind manipulation. He continues his experiments, however, in a sophisticated hidden lab deep in the earth. The consummate megalomaniac, agent Lucifer attempted to get Job to become a double agent, but Lucifer underestimated how far agent Job had advanced in loyalty and integrity to the Governing Operations Director (G.O.D.), and all Lucifer managed to do was spread seeds of doubt among Job’s fellow agents.

THE MISSION

Unlike Job, agent Shuhite is the textbook hired gun personality type, highly intelligent, ruthless, dispassionate and well trained in the traditions of the past. In fact, Bildad Shuhite comes from a long line of agents. He has traced their history and gleaned from their experience, and believes that the customs and beliefs of the past, evolved over the generations of the Agency’s history have been transmitted into his safekeeping for such an occasion as this. With his false brief, agent Shuhite will become the perfect character assassin, a reputational hitman. He is convinced that his mission is to eliminate the threat posed by Job, to interrogate, with mental torture if necessary, to obtain a confession.

THE TARGET

Already wounded, agent Job’s life is now in even more danger. A recent mission has gone badly for Job. He carried out his orders from Above with precision and integrity but somehow the enemy took his family as hostages and slaughtered them brutally in order to get at him. Agent Lucifer tried to implicate the Director. His plan did not work and Job has not turned rogue.

Grappling with grief at the tragic loss of his family, in the crossfire, agent Job was badly wounded and beaten, and is now fighting for his life. The bullet came close to Job’s heart. He tries to contact Headquarters by activating a backup signal, secreted in a device in his shoe, but it seems he has been abandoned. He is left in agonizing pain. He has no appetite, can’t sleep, and is hallucinating. He is barely alive (Job 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his lacerated body (Job 7:5).

Agent Shuhite believes that double agents like Job and his family deserve all they get. He has tracked Job’s signal easily to a half burnt-out warehouse, and after a week’s careful surveillance (Job 2:13), he is shocked to discover Job’s injuries. He goes in.

THE INTERROGATION

At first Job thinks agent Shuhite is there to help. He outlines the misery of his situation. He tries as best as he can to give voice to his suffering. He tells agent Shuhite that his life is but a breath (Job 7:7) but Bildad Shuhite hears Job’s words as the noise of conceit blowing in a squall, going nowhere, no restraints, responsible to no-one and causing indiscriminate damage to himself and others. He dispels Job’s expression of misery with his rudeness – “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT).

Job is stunned as agent Shuhite begins his interrogation. Trained well in traditional methods, agent Shuhite proceeds with his precise character assassination. His weapons are words and he is out to make his target confess to his crimes. He will intimidate Job until he gains access to the Job’s supposed briefing by the enemy. Job is tied to a chair and interrogated for hours on end. “Just tell us what we want to know, Job, and we’ll get you to a hospital.”

With the spotlight trained on him, Job tries to explain that he is innocent (Job 7:3-7). He is not a double agent! He has done nothing wrong, but after a time he is reeling by the cruel callous words of agent Shuhite, who is no longer playing Mr Niceguy.

With the sensitivity of a sledgehammer agent Shuhite says, “Your children must have sinned against GOD, so their punishment was well deserved” (Job 8:4 NLT). They died because of their involvement in your duplicity. He infers that Job also deserves what he gets. Not exactly comforting words to a man who has just lost his family.

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

For agent Shuhite, the traditional canned response is inviolable; the Governing Operations Director (G.O.D.) could never be unjust and punish a loyal agent (Job 8:1-7; 8:20). Agents only suffer if they turn rogue (Job 8:8-10) “So agent Job, you must have turned rogue because you are obviously being targeted. The wages of sin is death (Job 8:11-19, Romans 6:23). After all, it’s all about cause and effect (Job 8:11-22). Job, you need to own up and tell us what you know or pay the consequences (Job 8:20-22). Simple!” In Bildad’s limited mindset, this is how it has always been.

What he fails to realize is that the GOD has recognised Job’s integrity on countless occasions (Job 1:8, Job 2:3). Agent Shuhite is big on understanding the Director’s justice but devoid of understanding His grace (Job 8:3). He doesn’t come alongside Job or go to GOD to discover the truth, but continues to interrogate him, battering him with his accusations, his rudeness and insensitivity. His is a boxed response, steeped in the traditions of his generational heritage, devoid of compassion, and based on false assumptions.

THE FALSE INTELLIGENCE

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it,” wrote George Santayana, but I learn from Bildad the Shuhite that Those who interpret the past incorrectly are condemned to learning a new set of mistakes. There must be objective Truth from GOD Himself. Truth can never be muddied by the imperfections of the traditions of sinful men. In Matthew 15:3 (NLT) Jesus said, “… why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?”

THE INSIGNIA

By the way, GOD is a God of Justice, but He never deals out only His Justice to wicked people. His character is not only that of a judge. If anything we wonder how He could be so merciful at times (Nehemiah 9:16-17).

Once GOD the Father sent His only Son on a mission of suffering and now the insignia of Headquarters is the Cross. GOD finds ways to exercise His Grace despite our sin and the arms of the Cross are a focal point where His justice and love meet to provide us with forgiveness and Salvation.

Now, let me interrogate you a little with some questions.

Can someone live a life of integrity and purity and still suffer (Job 8:5,6)?
Do we make presumptions of guilt, assuming the worst about those who appear to us as deserving of what they get?
Does God give us what we deserve?
Is it always a matter of “Obey and prosper. Disobey and suffer!”
Does the devil sometimes deceptively give us the wrong briefing based more on the Traditions of Men than on God’s Word?
Do we need to be careful in getting our facts straight before going in with both guns blazing?

PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

Some childhood memories are vivid. I can picture a time when my Mum blames me for something I have not done. Mostly I deserve what I get, but not this time. She is so sure that I am the culprit. In the end there is nothing I can say or do to convince her that I have not committed the act. (I don’t even know what it was now. All I remember are the false accusations of wrongdoing and being helpless to defend myself. Strange when you try to dodge the verbal blows of those you love as they assure you it is for your own good to confess. What can I say? I was innocent for once).

My father-in-law always said that Bildad the Shuhite was the smallest man in the Bible except for the man who stood in his watch. Bildad, with his “expired use-by date”, insensitive and small minded thinking, falsely accuses Job. There is nothing Job can say to convince Bildad the Blamer that he is wrong.

Because of a stroke and his emotions, Gerard (not his real name) finds it difficult to talk. My friend gives voice to his suffering. “It broke something inside me and I have never believed in God since. I don’t want anything to do with someone who is powerful enough to spare my wife from dying and yet ignores my prayers for her.” I can only listen as this old man, once a brilliant communicator, now stumbles over his words to explain that cancer has taken the woman he loved. “I prayed like I had never prayed before. I begged God to spare her life, but she died anyway. If there is a God, how could He let this happen?”

Intimately acquainted with grief, Job has also experienced the loss of his family in tragic circumstances but instead of pushing God away, he runs to Him in an effort to understand his extreme suffering. Job is not aware that Satan is given full reign in wreaking havoc on Job’s family and health and Job is barely alive (Job 1:12 and 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his ulcerated body (Job 7:5).

Job has tried as best as he can to give voice to his suffering, but Bildad is not listening. “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT). With no idea of how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) Bildad’s own blustering words only serve to increase the pain. He gives an insensitive rendition of God’s justice, devoid of love and compassion, a canned response based on his own false theories about God.

As I visit my old friend and listen to his stinging words of rage towards God, there is no canned response. It is not the time to try to answer his questions and prove somehow that he is wrong about God. He is not ready to hear and I don’t have a full understanding myself. Sometimes the best friendship I can provide is my presence and willingness to listen. I do not have all the answers. I may never understand some of the things I or others experience.

I would like my words to be like a refreshing breeze that brushes across the dying embers of his faith. Perhaps they will rekindle a flame. Or will my words be the sharp “blustering wind” of the bullets of accusation, judgment and assumptions, like Bildad the Shuhite, which extinguish what little is there?

I pray that I will be able to give him time to breath and sigh and express his pain, and then perhaps, if he is willing, try to share God’s words of life and love?

The invitation of Job 8 is for me to refuse to adjust the focus of my gun sights with my judgments, assumptions and accusations, but discard my weapons and adjust my focus by seeing others through the eyes of the Cross and with the Compassion and Love of Christ.

Then I will be able to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Pastor Ross

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