Missing the Point

© Ross Cochrane – Gambling with Forgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35 – HOW TO INVEST IN WHAT TRULY MATTERS – The Parable of a Rogue Trader

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Monday.  ANOTHER ROGUE TRADER SQUANDERS MILLIONS.

Another rogue trader is back in the headlines after Compassion Bank’s Owner and Managing Director revealed that “unauthorised trading” by Michael Heartless has cost the bank millions of dollars.

The losses had surprisingly little impact on the market generally, due to Bank reserves and profits, which fortunately dwarfed the rogue trader’s activities. “This will not even touch the bank’s massive resources for the Kingdom our bank serves,” said Managing Director, J.C. Davidson, who also rules the dominion of World Kingdom Enterprises, “but it is disappointing.”

Michael Heartless had it all, authority in the banking arena, great wealth and honour. Living in a huge house, he was chauffeur driven in a magnificent limousine. He wore designer clothes and a Rolex watch. A wheeler and dealer and now an exposed ruthless rogue trader, he was the Senior Trader of Compassion Bank’s massive company.

Heartless worked his way up in the company from the position of Assistant Accountant to Senior Accountant and then Senior Trader, and was entrusted with borrowing from his employer’s Worldwide Banking Corporation to make huge business deals and investments. Traders said he expressed a love for working for his boss, as a trusted long-time employee.

After a lucrative career, Mr. Heartless began to get careless, making a series of questionable deals and fraudulent choices which inevitably lost millions of company dollars. Because he had worked in Compliance, he became adept at hiding his losses and bypassing checks.

Never thinking he would be discovered, and always thinking he could pay back the company if given time, he added to his fraud by siphoning off enough funds to keep on living his extravagant lifestyle. He bought luxury goods and property at over inflated prices, spending millions in a number of waterfront apartments. He was sure his next big deal would pay back the money he owed.

The Managing Director and owner, J C Davidson, had given his employer an incredible amount of leeway, allowing him to make choices for the good of Kingdom Enterprises. Perhaps his fraud would not have been discovered for some time except an immediate audit was underway and J.C. Davidson wanted to bring His accounts up to date with all His Banking Traders who had borrowed money from Him.

One auditor said “It was an unpayable debt. Some countries could be run on what Mr Heartless owed. His debt was so immense that at first we thought it was beyond estimation. The interest alone on such a debt would be enormous.”

The audit revealed the massive losses and fraud and Mr. Heartless was summoned to appear before the Managing Director and Auditors. Although Heartless respected J.C. Davidson, he lacked the integrity of his boss and did not want to face up to his debt. A fellow trader said, “He refused to come at first but when a limousine arrived with two rather large messengers, he knew he had no choice.”

Subsequently, J.C. Davidson exercised His sovereign authority and demanded that Heartless repay the money lost. Heartless was unable to pay the debt, so according to court transcripts, Davidson ordered everything he owned to be sold.

Heartless, along with his family members, who were co-conspirators, were ordered to be placed under an enforced work order to recover the debt. This amounted to hard labour and community service for the rest of their lives. The conviction was immediately appealed by Heartless who tried desperately to work out a deal with Davidson.

One of the auditors told our reporter that Heartless literally collapsed and begged Davidson for more time. “He was totally unrealistic. He asked for patience and he would repay the whole debt. It was laughable. At least he acknowledged that the debt was his to pay, but trying to propose some kind of time based repayment scheme was ridiculous … His mistake was thinking that he could operate and manage finance apart from being accountable to J.C.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Tuesday. ROGUE BANKER WALKS FREE.

The world was left reeling today in hearing that the Rogue trader, Michael Heartless, walked away from paying a single cent. Bankers are questioning the way J.C. Davidson exercises His extensive sovereignty over Kingdom Enterprises.

An auditor for Kingdom Enterprises said, “What I found to be unbelievable is that J.C. Davidson had pity on him, released him and forgave his debt entirely, withdrawing all charges, and personally covered the money owed.” …

J.C. Davidson later made a statement. “You must understand that Compassion Bank is run not only on a set of legal principles of building business relationships. It is run on the invisible relationship principles of love, forgiveness and grace which cannot be legislated. Legal compliance without a heart to do what is right is fruitless. I encourage my employees to regard relationships of forgiveness and compassion with each-other as being incredibly important. The example of forgiveness I have shown to Mr. Heartless is more important than the money he owes Me. I am willing to pay the price for him.”

The banking world was astounded at the enormous debt forgiven and the apparent lack of justice and business sense. Bankers all over the world have accused Davidson of taking part in the fraud, but so far His business dealings by countless independent auditors have proved to be beyond reproach.

When Davidson was asked again why He let Heartless and his family walk free, He simply said, No amount of sacrifice on his part or enforced work programmes for his family could possibly re-pay their debt. He admitted his crime and I forgave his debt. That’s the end of the matter.” This approach would not be tolerated in normal banking practices in other countries. Heartless has refused an interview and has not been seen since his release.

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Wednesday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS LIVES UP TO HIS NAME.

It seems the story of the rogue trader, Michael Heartless is far from finished. It has recently come to light that when Heartless left his boss, after being completely forgiven of his multi-million dollar debt, that he immediately went to a fellow banking trader who owed him a few thousand dollars.

Heartless lived up to his name. Despite being forgiven so great a debt himself, it was confirmed by reliable sources and witnesses that he demanded payment and assaulted his debtor.

His fellow trader owed him a tiny debt in comparison to the millions of dollars that Heartless had been forgiven. A witness said that his fellow trader, who can’t be named “… begged for a little more time to pay, but Heartless kept on demanding immediate payment and wouldn’t listen.” It is alleged that Heartless pressed charges against the man, and had him arrested and thrown into prison.

A witness said “You would think that this guy Heartless would be over the top joyful about being forgiven his unpayable debt? But no. He uses violence to demand his fellow trader to pay a tiny debt in comparison. Unbelievable!”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Thursday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS FINALLY IN JAIL.

Michael Heartless finally faces a jail sentence. Fellow traders are whistleblowers as to Heartless’ lack of compassion and J.C. Davidson steps in.

Charges have been laid and Heartless is now in prison but for the most surprising of reasons. J.C. Davidson, presiding over His own court, described Heartless as “… an evil man.” He said, in summing up his sentence, “You acted within the law but sooner or later evil men are brought to account for their evil acts. This is your time to be called to account for your unforgiveness and lack of compassion. In this court, your unforgiveness is a greater crime than the original debt which I forgave. Your crime is your lack of compassion. You will remain in custody until you have shown forgiveness to your fellow trader and until that time you will bear the torture you have brought on yourself.”

The world stands dumbfounded by his charge. Apparently Michael Heartless receives justice for his heartless pursuit of a fellow debtor. He is a prisoner because of his own bitterness and lack of compassion. His punishment is self-imposed. His unforgiveness has placed him in prison and because of his bitter and vindictive actions towards another fellow trader, he will not be free until he takes the example of his boss, and learns to forgive.

An employer who was at the court told said, “The world may not agree with how the Managing Director of Compassion Bank and Kingdom Enterprises exercises His sovereign authority over His country, but perhaps we could all learn to be a little more compassionate in the light of our own indebtedness towards God.”

Warren Wiersbe says “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are only imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Friday. JESUS SERVANTS FORGIVE DEBTORS.

The prayer Jesus taught His disciples includes the words “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV and NLT).

In the parable in Matthew 18:23-35, the king is the Lord Jesus Christ. The servants are anyone who calls Him their King. The Kingdom refers to the sphere of His authority to rule over us as our King, and His ability to bring us to account. Romans 14:11-13 (NLT) says, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” 

The context of this parable is forgiveness between two people who are followers of Christ. Jesus says that we are people who offer forgiveness continually without trying to count the number of times or measure the size of the debt (Matthew 18:21-22).

The currency in this parable is the extensive, unmeasurable amount of forgiveness we have received from God compared to the meagre amount of forgiveness we will ever have opportunity to give to others who sin against us. True compassion, therefore, arises out of a deep-seated understanding of our own forgiveness and prompts in us the capacity to forgive others.

God offers us mercy because of the death of Christ on the Cross who paid the penalty for our sin and not because of some misplaced idea of us being able to pay the debt. It is not surprising then that Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The parable has further explanation through the words of Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) which says “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” 

Pastor Ross

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The Power of Forgiveness © Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:18-20 – TWO SISTERS AND THE POWER OF AGREEMENT

He was dying and wanted most of all to see his daughters together again. Graeme (not his real name) had two daughters who were estranged from each other. He longed to see them reconciled.

One sister, a follower of Christ, arrived first. She was concerned. “My sister is on her way and she is a professed atheist. I know that when we meet it will only end up in unnecessary conflict”. I encouraged her to wait and see what would happen.

When the other sister arrived they both went in to see their father in a coma and the stress of years of estrangement melted as conversation ensued in their common grief. How would they communicate with their Dad now? “He is still able to hear you,” I said, “and I am sure that he is pleased that you are both here. I encourage you to spend time alone with your Dad and express your love to him in whatever way you are able.”

When I offered to pray for their dad, they both accepted. I spoke to Graeme first. “Graeme, it is a beautiful day and your daughters have both arrived to see you. I’d like to pray for all of you.” I touched his hand “Graeme, you are surrounded by people who love and care for you and you are loved by God. I encourage you to reach out your hand to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust your life into His hands for the next part of your journey.” I prayed a prayer of commitment and allowed the sisters to spend time with their father.

Later, I came across the sister who believed in God. She said, “My father has died but we both spent time with him individually and together and expressed our feelings to him.”

“We could tell that Dad’s breathing was becoming weaker and my ‘atheist’ sister suddenly suggested that we pray the Lord’s prayer together. I was shocked. We cried as we prayed and the distance between us vanished. In forgiveness and agreement we stood either side of the bed, believer and so called atheist, holding hands with each other as the strife of the years fell away and we were reunited in relationship with each other, with God and with our dad. ”

“Our Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ….Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us … Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen”.

“Then the most amazing thing happened. As we said that final Amen, we heard my Dad speak clearly out from the haze of his coma, ‘Amen’, in agreement with us, and then he died.”

My wife’s response to this story expresses it beautifully. She said, “An amazing story of reconciliation, brought about by a father’s love for his daughters – reflecting Jesus’ amazing ministry of reconciliation brought about by another Father’s love for His children.”

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says, “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. Being in Agreement with God and with each other heals relationships. Agreement speaks of harmony and unity among followers of Christ crafted delicately through prayer and forgiveness and carries great authority.

Jesus had already told Peter in Matthew 16:19 (NLT) “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Then in Matthew 18:18 (NLT) Jesus is speaking to all His disciples about restoring broken relationships. He says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” So the same authority given to Peter to begin building the Church at Pentecost is also granted to all the disciples in sustaining the unity of relationships with each other and God.

The invitation is to respond to the forgiveness of Christ and understand how immeasurable and vast it is in restoring us into a relationship with God. To experience such love and forgiveness as this, changes us on the inside. We begin to see that relationships are of higher value than arguments and in humility we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:18-20 – FORGIVENESS AND A TORN $10 NOTE

It was at Mt Austin Primary School before I was a teenager that I discovered that I was skilled in drawing and painting. It was 1966 and I decided to make a copy of the new decimal currency, a $10 note. What can say? I was young. I didn’t know it was illegal and I had no intention of using it as currency, only as an Artwork.

Meticulously, I worked for hours on my $10 note until I was fairly sure that I had a respectable representation and took it to School the next day.

One of the better artists in the class happened to see it and was impressed. He wanted to show some of his friends and so foolishly, I let him take it away. He promised to return it, which he did … in two pieces; torn down the centre. Hours of hard work. He apologised sincerely. He said it was an accident. I forgave him and took my torn emotions and artwork home. Sticky-tape just didn’t work for me. It had been destroyed, but it had been an accident. What can you do? Move on.

Not to be deterred I decided to make an even better representation of the $10 note using all the newly discovered techniques I had mastered from the last one. Once again it took me hours to make and I hesitated on taking it to school but eventually decided I could make my artist friend feel a little better in the light of my replica.

On showing it around at School, once again my artist rival wanted to show it around to his friends and I said I would rather he didn’t, but he said he would keep it safe. Surely he would be careful this time, and my trusting nature gave way.

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice but my artwork came back torn in half once again and once again my friend was apologetic. I was heartbroken about my artwork and less concerned about my careless friend. I forgave him once again. To this day, I don’t know if it was his jealousy that caused the ruined artworks or his carelessness. How many times do you forgive?

Forgiving a torn artwork is trivial. What happens when the sin sears its way into your soul and brings devastation to your heart? All I know is that I have been forgiven more than I could hope for in my life and have been tested with offenses where only God’s help enabled me to forgive.

Peter once came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone (Greek my brother) who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 NLT).

Good question. Is forgiveness limited? Are there circumstances when I can’t or should not forgive? Do I only forgive the small things?

Adam Clarke says “It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice (three times) Peter raises that by more than a half, but Jesus multiplies forgiveness into an eternal value. Perhaps nothing is more difficult than to forgive.

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replies, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22 NLT). Jesus says, in effect, that forgiveness is uncountable, unlimited.

Trying to count how many times I have forgiven someone in itself shows an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness has an eternal quality and gives us a picture of the spirit of Christ. It defies counting because it comes from the heart. It’s not some scientific calculation, and it will demand grace, not reciprocity.

Can you measure how much a person has been loved or forgiven? Impossible. We can count offenses easily, but forgiveness involves leaving the offence behind, so we cannot count mercy.

To understand what Christ has accomplished in forgiving us for sins beyond count is to appreciate how much we need to forgive others without counting.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) says “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The invitation is to forgive and not carry around the burden of bitterness. Do everything you can to restore the relationship.

And no, I have never drawn a $10 note again, but the skills I gained from the experience were invaluable. A torn $10 note is not worth a torn relationship. Forgiveness in a relationship transcends an enumeration of our faults?

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© Letting Harry Loose. Created with FilterForge.org by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – LETTING HARRY LOOSE! A Parable.

He comes into the concert hall late, dishevelled, unshaven, and a little drunk, stumbles his way to the stage and pushes his way up the stairs to the little ensemble.

“Where have you been? We are almost about to start” says one of the other musicians, obviously annoyed. Harry does not answer. His breath is stale and he tries to tune his violin in the last few minutes, but fails.

The other musicians have no idea how much their role in unifying the string quartet, setting the tempo and shaping the sound of the ensemble will be severely challenged. This music especially created for the Ballet tonight is called the “Symphony of Agreement.”

Fortunately the other musicians start the piece with sounds like a gentle stream over the pebbles with crystal clear chords resounding throughout the concert hall.

Just then a glorious backdrop is lit and what looks like a golden ray of sunlight courses its way through the painted trees and rests on a stream. Ballet dancers appear from the wings, their movements choreographed with the musical harmonies of the string ensemble.

That’s when Harry begins to play. It is a discordant melody which rises over the other harmonies like fingernails scratching their way down a board. The audience flinches to its sound, recoiling from its intrusion. The dancers are confused momentarily but bravely continue.

Susan, one of the other musicians, plays a note as crisp and clear as a bell, to call the ensemble back to play the music as written, a pure and beautiful sound, and then a magnificent melody to invite the audience to forgive and respond.

But once again Harry’s out-of-tune notes rise like a wailing dog to destroy her attempt and none of the musicians can continue to play. The acrimonious wail echoes through the hall with jarring intensity interfering with all hopes of saving the moment.

“Will you stop playing!” Susan forcefully whispers. “You are destroying the arrangement entirely! Your contribution to this ensemble is an offense” But Harry plays on, oblivious to her pleas. Someone in the audience cries out in protest and with that Nathan, another member of the group stops playing, rips the violin away from Harry and asks him to leave. The ensemble seeks to salvage the rest of the performance.

Afterwards, the member’s of the stringed quartet are ready to string Harry up. They come with accusing fingers and strong words, offended by Harry’s actions tonight. “How could you do this to us, they say. We’ve practised for months and you go and get drunk.” Harry stands before them, tears running down his face and tries to apologise in between their angry words.

What action can they take concerning Harry?

Matthew 18:15 (NLT) says, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” 

In the ensuing conversation, it is discovered that Harry has been keeping the wrong company, lost a lot of money gambling and with the pressure of the concert was foolishly persuaded to “drown his sorrows” at the pub with a so-called friend. After too many beers Harry suddenly remembered the String Ensemble he was meant to be leading that night.

When anger subsides, his friends gather around him, help him home, sober him up, and most importantly, as he expresses his shame, they forgive him and pray for him. It seems that harmony between Christian friends is even more important than harmony in their Stringed Quartet, despite the poor reviews.

“If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, (Greek gather together in My Name) I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 NLT)

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says “If two of you agree…” What Jesus is saying is personal and relational not simply organisational and legalistic. Agreement speaks of harmony; moving together, being in accord with eachother like a co-written piece of music played by a group of musicians who know eachother well.

It is not Harry’s raucus, disconnected and discordant notes of half-hearted, unsynchronised relationships, but a well-orchestrated piece of music in which souls play together, hear eachother and act in unity.

Jesus says if a relationship is restored with a person who has sinned against you then you are once again in agreement (in harmony) and that agreement has heaven’s approval. It is the idea of the Lord’s prayer to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

It’s not so much a matter of knowing how best to confront the sin, but how best to restore harmony to a relationship without disregarding the discordant nature of the sin. And it is about declaring forgiveness and restoration. If this is not possible, it is about recognising an irreconcilable fracture of a relationship where forgiveness is inappropriate due to the stubbornness of the other person. Not easy.

This is not God being our genie in a bottle, and coming to do whatever we ask when we agree on something. Neither was the last part ever intended to be a favourite quote when there is poor attendance at a prayer meeting. “Well, Lord, there’s just a few here tonight but thankyou Lord, You promised where two or three are gathered in Your Name, You will be here.” NO! It’s two or three gathered together in harmony after restoring a rift in a relationship due to someone doing the wrong thing. That’s when God’s forgiveness is there personally in the midst of us along with His presence.

Matthew 18:18 (NLT) says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid (Or bind, or lock) on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit (Or loose, or open) on earth will be permitted in heaven. Can we simply disregard the context? No! Binding or forbidding is a reference to the penalty of forbidding them forgiveness because of their stubbornness, while loosing or permitting is restoring someone through forgiveness to a relationship of unity.

Our part is to act in a just and loving way in our relationships to do everything we can to get things right. We have authority based on God’s Word to act in His name concerning these issues, heaven’s stamp of approval when we are seeking to forgive.

Jesus is NOT giving us a pattern for Church Discipline as many call it, but a pattern for returning harmony and agreement to a discordant relationship. And He is there in the midst when that happens.

To His disciples, Jesus says in John 20:23 (NLT) “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

In the end, this can only happen because of the Cross. It is only when I am confronted by the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross that I can come to a point of acknowledging my sin. It is only when I know real forgiveness that I can in turn truly forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) invites us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The next night Harry leads the Stringed quartet with great humility and with a passion for recompense. The harmony is perfect. The unique melody on this night is a gift from God, and it almost seems that He has taken over Harry’s violin.

The Ballet dancers move in choreographed splendour to the voices of the instruments and keep perfectly in time with Harry’s rhythm and tempo, tones and timbres. He whispers into the ears of the audience with the soft notes and builds up the crescendos to crash upon the shores of their hearts.

God is there at the beginning and there at the finale. The Maestro and the maestro at work, playing a Symphony of Agreement, loosed in the corridors of heaven and brought to earth. The Ballet and orchestra receive a standing ovation that night and I think it was accompanied with the cheers of heaven.

Christ prompts you and me in our relationships. When we respond to Christ, admit our sin, we find forgiveness and harmony with Him and with eachother.

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to save me. I admit that I have been out of tune with You and out of sync. I believe that You died for my sins and I want my life to be more than just about me. I hear the sound of God’s symphony of agreement and love and I accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour. Make my life Your instrument. Make me the person You designed me to be; to live my life in Harmony with You and others. Thankyou for saving me.

Pastor Ross

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© Don’t Cross Me – created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – CROSS ME AND YOU’LL REGRET IT?

She came to me, tears streaming down her face and in obvious distress. It was Sunday and I was walking across from our house to our small Church building to take the service. The morning was beautiful, her confession was not.

For around three years she had been the bursar of the Christian School that our Church had started and that morning she blurted out that she had stolen money on a number of occasions and was not able to pay it back. She knew that eventually it would be discovered.

Thanking her for her courage in telling me, I encouraged her to wait until I was able to speak to our leaders and I went to the Sunday Service with my mind spinning and a heavy heart.

Jesus speaks about the importance of keeping Church relationships healthy in Matthew 18:15. He says “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  

If our bursar had sinned against me the matter would have been easy to solve but the criminal act she had committed affected the whole Church. Matthew 18:15 encourages us to limit the interaction with only those involved in the offense.

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses(Matthew 18:16 NLT).  

Our leader’s meeting that week was awash with prayer and a genuine desire to deal with the situation well. Could this matter that affected our whole Church be kept in-house and dealt with by the leaders alone? Would the whole Church in some way need to be involved? Did we need to let the police know? She would be charged and have a police record for the rest of her life. There are times when this is totally appropriate. Was this one of those times? What did the Bible say? …

Luke 17:3-4 (NLT) says “So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Galatians 6:1 (NLT) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”  

It seems that the Bible regards repairing a relationship with a person who has wronged you as being even more important than their sinful actions. Confront the person without malice with the view to repentance, forgiveness and a new start. There may be restitution and other consequences but restoring the broken relationship is the most important. It’s not “Cross me and you’ll regret it! That’s a barbed wire threat that damages relationships. It’s The Cross allows room for me to forgive!” Jesus with hands reached out said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT).

If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector(Matthew 18:17 NLT).  

This sounds so prescriptive and legalistic at first. But to treat a person as someone who is not a follower of Christ is still an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. Fortunately for us, the person hadn’t refused to listen. Just the opposite. She had admitted to me privately of a public sin. If it had just been against the leaders we could have dealt with the matter in-house, but we needed to deal with this as a Church.

As I remember it, the Church service the next week gave followers of Christ a reminder of the guts of forgiveness. We began our service with worship and praise but I informed our Church that we had a difficult situation to work through.

I had previously encouraged the lady to come and share with the Church, with my help, what had happened. I was amazed at her bravery.

That day we had an opportunity to show hard-hearted malice and unforgiveness, but as I remember it, each member came forward personally and putting their arms around her said, “I forgive you.” Each person expressed their love for her. There were many tears that day as we prayed for her and we knew the presence and approval of God. Followers of Christ have a responsibility to reconcile but it’s nice to see it in action. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Many could have withdrawn from this lady who stole money from us, gossipped to others about the wrong things she had done, or even tried to get revenge. Instead, because of her genuine admission and contrition for the wrong she had done against us as a Church, we took up an offering that morning for her. She had lost her job because of her theft and needed all the help she could get to re-establish herself.

The Church paid for her debt. Justice had been accomplished through forgiveness. I was humbled and grateful to God. The invitation of this passage is to restore lost relationships. Not “Don’t Cross me or you’ll regret it!” but “Because of the Cross, there is room for me to forgive.”

Pastor Ross

AWAKENING FROM A DREAM

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Dreams
Tags: ,

AWAKENING FROM A DREAM

Wait, not yet! A scurrying, hurrying rush, a flittering of featherwings through pockets in air to hide in clouds, and then all that was so crystal clear a moment before is disappearing into a blur of nonsense. I am sad to see it go.

I had found a mysterious place forgotten, and gradually began remapping my historical connection with it and in the process discovering so much that made sense. But it’s truth, like butterfly wings against my face flickers briefly in wakefulness and becomes only an illusion of reality. Shadows linger but cannot connect themselves permanently to the light of day.

Sad, not to be wandering in the boundless imaginings, timeless halls of unreasoned stories which touch the edges of my waking world, and though frantically I tried to hold them, they are gone.

© Ross Cochrane – 2016

WHO KICKED JESUS OUT OF POLITICS? Theocracy and Democracy.

DEMOCRACY

We get what we ask for, but for Australia it seems we don’t really know what that is. Australia voted and it seems no-one really likes any particular party.

The common definition of democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” That means free and fair elections, the people get to vote, human rights are respected and we live with the consequences equally. It is not the freedom to elect our own dictators.

It’s been around since at least the 5th century BC.

THEOCRACY

The simple definition of Theocracy is “Government by God through His Word”. For example God’s Word is the GPS by which followers of Christ navigate a pathway in this world. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

God is recognised as the Supreme Leader and the government system is run according to the guidance of God through His Word.

Today Theocracy is not a desired form of government by most Western countries. In historical terms we remember those who tried to impose their form of Theocracy on others such as Oliver Cromwell or Bloody Mary in England and more recently Isis and the many countries where exercising free speech is suppressed by the religious political leaders.

Yet Jesus spoke of a Theocracy; a new kind of Theocracy. In John 18:36 (NLT) Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep Me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Today, His politics are too dangerous; His Theocracy too risky. We don’t vote for Him because His rulership is not based on the wishes of a majority, but on individuals making a life-changing choice to serve Him no matter what party you vote for. It is not established by passing policies through parliament, but by followers of Christ choosing to love God wholeheartedly and seeking to make the love of Christ known to others no matter who governs. The Kingdom of God is extended as Christians live as God intends. Not policies but purpose in life.

Today the neglect of the Bible and of God in society is evident. The separation of Church and state was originally designed to protect both Church and state, but is now used to subjugate any influence of God in politics?

To many in society, to share the love of Christ is outrageously dangerous. We must no longer say the Lords prayer in Schools, swear on the Bible in a court of law, use the name of Jesus, Christmas, or espouse the values and standards of the Bible in public for fear of … well, for fear of … I don’t know. Apparently Biblical principles of loving your neighbour, and loving God are intolerable for many who consider a more secularist and popularist saviour in a particular political party.

Aligned with Democracy are those who are involved in socially engineering their own agendas. Politically correct secularists systematically impose their far from neutral morality system on society and seek to presume it to be enforced. It is promoted with autocratic zeal incessantly. Anyone who disagrees is labelled and belittled. But Colossians 2:8 (NLT) says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

In a Theocracy only God is able to judge right and wrong with absolute justice. If we are sinful people as the Bible indicates, then we are not able to implement Biblical laws in a just way? No-one is. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” So for a follower of Christ, their heart-change will always be more important than a policy change. A genuinely changed life is the greatest influence of all in family, a community, a city, a nation.

Therefore, a follower of Christ can exist under any kind of government system because they are ultimately under the authority of God. Christ followers seek to apply Biblical principles rather than simply politically popularist and secularist views. They pray for their national leaders so that laws will not prevent followers of Christ from living as God intends. 1 Timothy 2:2 (NLT) says “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us to pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy. MAY YOUR KINGDOM COME SOON. MAY YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. The Message Bible says, “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who You are. SET THE WORLD RIGHT; DO WHAT’S BEST— AS ABOVE, SO BELOW.”  

Followers of Christ speak of Jesus as Lord, meaning the Lord, above all other rulers. He is the King of kings. Jesus makes it clear by saying in John 14:6 (NLT) “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Universities with the motto “the truth shall make you free” apply this quote to secularist teachings but John 8:31-32 (NLT) gives the context “Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

But His is a very different Theocracy. If you want to come under the authority of Christ as King of kings, then Jesus says “… you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). Matthew 23:11-36 (NLT) says, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”

Those who disagreed with Jesus, violently tried to impose their kind of Theocratic dictatorship upon Him by crucifying Him. Similarly, Western thought rejects the Theocracy of the Servant Leadership of Christ, handing over their authority to scientism and democracy to rule. Unfortunately there are ever increasing restrictions on those who follow Christ.

Those who want to impose their form of Theocracy, Jesus calls “Hypocrites!” … “Blind guides!” … “Blind fools!” … “For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” … “Snakes! Sons of vipers!” Politically incorrect hate speech or an accurate assessment of many religious leaders in our world today?

The walk of faith is a life under the authority of Christ and directed towards influencing, not imposing our views upon, the people of the world around us to respond to His love, so they can repent of their sin and believe the message of Christ. Unlike the Crusaders of past history and Isis in modern history, Jesus does not impose His rulership on anyone. He is a Servant King.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) says “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”

Every man and woman has become a priest (spiritually sensitive to God) and royal (part of God’s family) when they believe in Christ. His authority is not coercive but very influential. A Biblical Theocracy incorporates individuals from every nation of the world responding to Christ and living free within the boundaries of Christ’s love. Bishop Tom Wright says, “We with the gospels have… a story, but it is a love story, not a power story.”

We are people with a message of great influence. The invitation of God’s Word is to believe in Christ. As we do, Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT). Shine on.

Pastor Ross

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© Lost/Found – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:11-14 – SAVE ME!

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

God lost the human race. God lost their love, worship and friendship. Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All we like sheep have gone astray.

He hasn’t stopped loving us or seeking after us. He sent His Son to save us. But what does that mean? The Bible unfolds that message of being saved …

1. CHRIST CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE ME

Matthew 18:14 (NLT) says, “In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

2. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAME TO SAVE ME

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. No-one else came to save us.

3. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE SINNERS

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT), “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

God loves to forgive. God does not approve of or condone the sin, but He loves the sinner and extends His grace to anyone who becomes positive to the message of Christ.

4. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM MY SINS

In Matthew 1:21 (NLT) an angel spoke to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, “And she (Mary) will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” 

5. CHRIST CAME TO FORGIVE ME

Acts 10:43 (NLT) says “…everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have their SINS FORGIVEN through His Name.”

6. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM JUDGEMENT AND ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD

John 3:17-18 (NLT) “… God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT AGAINST ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

In John 12:46-48 (NLT) Jesus said again “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to SAVE THE WORLD AND NOT TO JUDGE IT. But all who reject Me and My message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” 

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow. The Shepherd searches for them and finds us.

Why does God seek us? Because He does not want us to be lost, devastated. This is an example we can all follow concerning anyone who is positive towards the things of God. This is a prime reason for not looking down on or despising these new followers of Christ. They are loved by God and they have become positive towards Christ, and they have come into relationship with God. They are part of His flock.

Followers of Christ share with God in seeking and protecting people who are positive towards the things of God, not looking down on them or despising them because of their past. The world is full of those who are lost and need to be found. We pursue them because this is the example of God Himself. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.”

John Calvin said, “It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.” John 3:16 (NLT) agrees. It 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 invitation is to believe in Him who came to save us.

Pastor Ross

 

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© Image Created by Ross Cochrane – Lost but Found (Seek and you will find the words Lost and Found)

Matthew 18:11-14 – DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

The owner/shepherd still has the ninety-nine. Does it really matter to lose one sheep? I guess it matters to the lost sheep. Then again sometimes a lost sheep won’t even realise it is lost until it is too late. Sheep can be stupid at times.

But who are those who wander away in this parable? Isaiah 53:6 (NIV) answers that question by saying “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”  What was I saying about being stupid?

In the context of Matthew 18, the Lost Sheep is someone who has become positive to the things of God and is a new follower of Christ. Jesus says not to look down on them or despise them, because they are loved by God. They are part of His flock. They wandered away but now they are found.

It’s not so unusual to think of God as an Owner/Shepherd. The profile fits Him well.

  1. HE IS AWARE OF THOSE WHO ARE LOST

Most owner/shepherds in the time when this was written in Israel knew their sheep by name, so they were aware of which one was missing. They knew each characteristic of their sheep. The sheep also knew the voice of the Shepherd and followed.

  1. HE CARES FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOST

This is a parable. The key theme – God cares for, knows and seeks for His lost sheep. He seeks every person individually, patiently and relentlessly.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord … does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

God loves the world (John 3:16) but He also loves us individually. One sheep in the flock. One face in the crowd. God wants to have a relationship with each one of us. He knows each sheep and seeks each sheep that strays.

The Shepherd doesn’t wait for us to be ready to come home. He makes the first move. 1 John 4:19 (KJV) says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”   

  1. HE TRACKS AND PROTECTS LOST SHEEP

In Israel when this parable was told, sheep could easily get lost in the rugged terrain and shepherds became experts at tracking lost sheep, protecting them from wild animals such as wolves or lions, and caring for the wounded wanderers. Each sheep was important.

We were all designed to be part of God’s flock, and having wandered off, it is good to know that there is the potential to be found by Him.

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow, but if you listen, you will hear the voice of the Shepherd.

In John 10:27-30 (NLT) Jesus says, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for my Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

  1. HE DOES NOT PUNISH THOSE WHO ARE FOUND

This shows the difference between Jesus and the spiritual leaders of Israel. The Scribes and Pharisees didn’t care for their people. If someone wandered away spiritually or morally, they were condemned, punished or expelled, rather than brought back into the fold and cared for.

If God’s lost sheep are found, there are no beatings. No punishments. He seeks us out and does everything to bring us back to the fold.

John 3:16 (NLT) says “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” Being lost is a punishment in itself until we are saved.

  1. HE SAVES AND CELEBRATES THOSE WHO ARE FOUND

Matthew 18:14 ends by emphasizing being found. It is not God’s will that anyone be lost but that all who have become positive to God are saved from certain destruction. Being lost carries with it implications of being injured, wounded or of certain disaster if they were not saved, and so it is used to describe death and hell or eternity without God. God cares. Christ saves, and all of heaven celebrates when those who were lost are now found (Luke 15:10).

If there are ninety-nine who are saved, does it really matter that one is lost? It matters to the sheep and fortunately also to the Shepherd. He seeks you and calls your name.

Pastor Ross

 

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© Lost and Found. Image Created by Ross Cochrane (Look for the words Lost, Found)

Matthew 18:11 – THE LOST

Jesus came to save those who are LOST (Matthew 18:11, Luke 19:10) whatever that means. A man in his 90’s recently asked me “Who are those who are lost? Save them from what?” Because whatever lost means, Jesus came to save them from it, so it must be important. It’s a good question.

What does it mean to be lost and for that matter what does it mean to be found?

  1. LOST FRIENDSHIP

I am lost when I do not have a relationship with God. Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) says “For 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. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”  

  1. LOST LIFE

I am lost when I am unable to enjoy what life offers. Jesus said, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

  1. LOST BATTLE

I am lost when I am overcome by the battles of life. 1 John 5:4 (NIV) says “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  

  1. LOST TIME

I am lost when I am wasting time and have no real meaning in my life. Romans 8:28 (NLT) “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity (or redeem the time) in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

  1. LOST SOUL

I am lost when my mind, emotions and will do not line up with God’s purpose for my life. In Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

  1. LOST CAUSE

I am lost when I am fighting for a lost cause without God and clearly need to change allegiances. Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

  1. LOST IN MY OWN WORLD

I am lost when I neglect all other influence in my life; lost in the foci of my own pursuits. The Bible encourages us not to be so absorbed in our own pursuits that we miss God’s purposes for us. Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) says to run the race “by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

  1. LOST IN A CROWD

I am lost when I feel so small in the world that I am unnoticed and my contribution seems insignificant. Jesus wants to show you that you are valued by God and can make an eternal difference. John 3:16 (NLT) “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.” In Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) the Lord says, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

  1. LOST IN A FOG

I am lost when there’s a fog that clouds my thinking and a darkness that makes it hard to find my way in life. In John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” And in John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

  1. LOST GENERATION

I am lost when I am part of a generation that is disillusioned by the world and without hope for the future. Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT) says “we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” In Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) the Lord says, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

  1. LOST AT SEA

I am lost when I have a sense of sinking in life or being overwhelmed. In Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT) God promises to those who believe “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, … your Savior.”

  1. LOST THE RACE

I am lost when I feel I am last in the contest or competition of life’s race. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (NLT) says “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step …”

  1. LOST LIVELIHOOD

I am lost when I am sitting in the ashes of a burnt-out life. In Isaiah 61:3-4 (NLT), God’s promise to His people is that “… He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair …” 

  1. LOST FOOTING

I am lost when I have lost my footing spiritually. Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. … God declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.”

The lost person is described by the Bible as being dead spiritually, separate from God. That person is in danger of being lost to an eternity without God. But that is not what God desires for our lives. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

  1. SURE FOUND-ATION

In the context of Matthew 18 and Luke 19 we are not to look down on them or despise those who have found faith in Christ because God loves them enough to send His own Son to die on a Cross for their sins so that they can be forgiven and live as God intended, here and in eternity. They had lost their footing but now they have a strong found-ation on which to stand in Christ.

Pastor Ross