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Matthew 19:7-11 – EMAILS TO JESUS – About Marriage and Divorce – Part 2

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We are offended and insulted. You don’t seem to realize that Your words are the source of misunderstanding and can significantly damage our standing in this community. You have impugned our character with Your accusations and implied that we have flagrantly disobeyed the law concerning divorce. This amounts to hate speech and Your public ridicule amounts to defamation. We take offence and have no intention of turning the other cheek. Your slanderous, libelous or defamatory comments have caused us to consider legal action.  

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Man Who Has Considered Divorce Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I have seriously been considering divorcing my wife for a younger woman I am interested in. You got my attention today when You said ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

As a potter, I was reminded of a deep brown clay and a light yellow clay I mixed together recently to make a pot. After it was fired, my customer dropped it on the way out and it broke in half. Although it was broken in two, the 2 halves will never be the brown and yellow clay again, but each half will always retain the substance of the other. The image has disturbed me since You spoke.

I guess that’s why I was interested in how you responded to what the Pharisees said to You concerning divorce.  They asked You, “… why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?”  

I was hoping you would say something which would back up what I intended to do, to show me a way to make it a little easier to divorce my wife. But You were more concerned with keeping the marriage relationship strong. I must admit, You masterfully cut across the attack of the Pharisees and that’s why I am writing this letter. 

I thought the Pharisees had You cornered when they spoke about what Moses said, but you didn’t flinch. You replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.”  

You also made me think when You said rather forcefully, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

You made Your point crystal clear and went a lot further than I was willing to hear. You didn’t allow any leeway. I had never really considered directly what God intended for my marriage and, like the Pharisees, I was more interested in what Moses the lawgiver said about concessions for a divorce. 

When they tried to imply that You were setting Yourself above Moses, You kept bringing what God originally intended into the argument. This didn’t sit well with me at first but when I think of what God originally intended then I can see that God believes in my marriage more than I do. The master potter has mixed the clay and fired the pot to last a lifetime, … if well cared for.

So if God wants marriages to succeed, then He doesn’t want me to be looking for loopholes in the law to accommodate my failures in working on my marriage. I can see that He wants me to look for ways to normalize a strong marriage. He doesn’t want me to look for the exemptions to accommodate my sexual fantasies, but to find ways to enhance my faithfulness.

You have given me perspective. Lot’s to think about. All this time I have been blaming my wife for our marriage difficulties rather than addressing my own hard-hearted attitudes. 

When we married I never contemplated that one day I would consider divorce, but I have incrementally edged us towards the precipice, and deliberately tried to make her life miserable to justify my sinfulness. 

During one argument with my wife, I warned her of my intention to divorce her. It caused her such pain, and I can see why divorce is not what God originally intended. 

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that you have messed with my thinking. It’s too soon to give up on us yet. It’s better to just go with what God wants and see what happens, even when it would be easier to simply write her a letter of divorce.

Lord, thankyou for softening my heart. I’ve got a long way to go, but thankyou for helping me to look for the incremental changes that will bring healing grace and restore trust to my marriage.

A convicted follower

 

Divorced Wife of a Pharisee writes to Jesus  

Dear Jesus,

I was in the crowd today and heard what You said about divorce and adultery, but you didn’t go far enough!

Leviticus 20:10 (NLT) says “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.” That’s what you should be saying! Re-marriage wouldn’t be a problem. Further adultery wouldn’t be an issue then.  ‘Til death do us part.

The Scriptures clearly say that the penalty for adultery is the death penalty, but You ignored this. I know that since this was written, God seems to break His own rules and offers grace to those who deserve death, but why?

Why should grace be given to my scoundrel husband? Why should it be so easy for him to leave me? Moses wrote it clearly enough in the commandments, “You shall NOT commit adultery or covet your neighbor’s wife”. So why is it that my husband should get away with adultery and with leaving me for my neighbor’s wife simply by writing me a notice of divorce? You didn’t give any answers for this!

I’d be the one throwing the first stone at both of them. He doesn’t deserve God’s grace. Something inside me had died. Why should he live?

I overheard your disciples say, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”  I agree! Finally some sense. It’s not worth the pain.

If my husband wasn’t ready for the commitment, he shouldn’t have married me in the first place. It’s meant to last a lifetime, through the good and bad. Even You said that. And I agree. It’s a spiritual commitment. A gift from God that shouldn’t be split apart.

I know that King David got away with adultery because God was gracious to him.  He deserved death. Why is God so gracious? And Solomon was even worse. And don’t bring up Hosea and how he forgave his harlot wife, or talk to me about forgiving my husband. I won’t! I can be just as hard-hearted as him. I’m through with my husband, with Moses, and God and You too!

As far as I am concerned, God is far too gracious to adulterers and that’s all I have to say.

An Angry Divorced Wife

 

Divorced Wife of Pharisee writes to Jesus Again

PS  I’ve been meeting with some women who are all divorced. One of them is a young woman who once felt like me, but she has not remained bitter since becoming a follower of You. I envy her peace and even her faith. She was the one who encouraged me to write to You. Perhaps I’ll stay with her for a while, but don’t get the idea that I agree with the kind of mercy You are peddling to hard-hearted sinners like my husband.  

The truth is, I don’t really want him to die. I wish he would repent, but it seems I will now remain single for the rest of my life. You said some remain single. As You say, “Not everyone can accept this statementOnly those whom God helps.  My friend is praying that God will help me. …  

Dear Jesus,

After the explosive email I sent to You the other day, I thought I had better write to You and apologise. It was my hurt speaking. Somehow I know that you will forgive me. Something struck me about what you said about those who remain single all their lives. You said, “Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”  

For the moment I choose not to marry again, even though, according to the principles you have taught, I am able to remarry. You see, even as I write, I have decided to become one of Your followers, something I thought I would never do.

And I have chosen not to seek marriage again. Like those who remain unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, I have chosen to come under Your authority as my Lord and King; to serve the purposes You have set for my life. This is a radical but welcome change that has occurred in my life.  

I’ve been talking about my husband not repenting of his sins against me but not realising I needed to repent of my own sins towards God and that all of us need God’s grace if we are to be saved. 

Single for The Sake of the Kingdom

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Matthew 19:1-2 – E-MAILS TO JESUS

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We didn’t realize You were coming into our area but now that You have arrived we notice You are attracting large crowds. Proselytising is strongly discouraged in our community. 

We, the Pharisee Investigative Group Surveillance, will be on hand and will see to it that you and your followers are scrutinized with the appropriate checks and balances of all you say and do.

We ask that you comply with the following

  • Do not speak against religious and government authorities, local customs and laws.
  • Do not share heretical teaching, or engage in defiling acts such as healing or associating with undesirable people such as sinners and those with leprosy or Gentile dogs, especially on the Sabbath.
  • Do not throw furniture or act violently in and around the temple or synagogues.
  • Do not leave food scraps around after meal times
    • Do not refuse to answer the questions of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance group or hesitate in asking for any further legal advice.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

1 You finished teaching in Galilee today and You said You are going down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds have been following You there and You have been healing their sick. I just wanted You to know that I am going with them.

It is difficult to make the adjustment of leaving, but I know that I must move on. One painful season of my life has finished. 

I almost left it too late. Making the right move depends on making sure you make the right choices. It’s not always easy, is it? I knew I had to go from here but I wanted so much to put it off. That’s partly why I am writing this letter.

Unlike me, You always understand the right time to go. When You finish saying what You want to say, You just move on, so resolute for some reason to move ever closer to Jerusalem. I am not sure why.

Jesus, I have noticed that You never stop people like me from following You. Even though I am all alone and have no right to expect anything from You, somehow I know that when You welcome the crowds, You are welcoming me too.

In fact, I have discovered that believing what You say for my life is a continual journey of following You, Lord. You say You still want to heal people like me on the inside and make me whole.

I feel safe with You. You will never turn me away or leave me to face the journey of life alone, but neither will You compel or coerce me to obey and follow You.

I am praying that God will help me in the next part of the journey but I know it will not necessarily be easy.

Jesus, You simply invite me to come, and in coming, I know that I must turn from all else, from the directions I could take to the directions You want for me to take. You say we have all gone astray from God and that You are the only way back.

I have found that this is what faith is all about. Simply turning around and following You, instead of trusting in the direction I wanted to go without You.

I just wanted to thank You.

Yours,

A follower.  

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Jesus,

We warned you about associating with sinners, the sick, proselytizing and teaching about culturally sensitive issues. You will now be subject to the public questioning of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Woman Follower Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

3 Today, some Pharisees came and tried to trap You with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 

They seem intent on wanting to trap You, to set You up and discredit what You teach. They want to see You fail. You can speak freely but only if You agree with their point of view.

You are healing the sick but they are more concerned about a theological issue concerning divorce. Go figure.

I felt as if they were looking at me. Why did they choose this question? One of them looked at me with derision. Do they know my secrets, a Christ-follower who is divorced? I shrank back into the crowd. But I don’t feel rejection from You, Lord, only respect.

I think I know what the Pharisees are doing. That’s the reason for this letter. There is more to their question than meets the eye. Their question has political overtones.

That’s why I am warning You, Lord, but already it seems too late. I know You are not concerned for political games but I also know that Your forthright views won’t endear You to the Pharisees. The truth is that the Pharisees don’t only want to trap You, Lord, but they want to get You into trouble with King Herod. Herod does not tolerate those who say anything against divorce.

I was a friend to Herod’s wife, Phasaelis. King Herod has divorced her. I tried to warn her about Herod’s affair with his own niece, Herodias, and it was me who helped her escape to her father, Aretas, king of Arabia.

When my husband found out I had helped Phasaelis, he was furious. He did not want to be associated with me for fear of King Herod’s wrath, so he divorced me, and threw me out of the house. He threatened to turn me in to the authorities.

And that’s why I am hesitant to follow You now that you are moving closer to Herod. 

King Aretas has put a contract out on King Herod’s life for the shameful way he has treated his daughter. He has declared war on Herod and there is a bitter battle taking place on the Northern border.

And Lord, it’s not only Herod You should be concerned about. You should know that Herodias, Herod’s niece, and lover, is just as dangerous as Herod himself. She caused Your friend, John the Baptist, to be murdered.

When Herod arrested John the Baptist, Herodias sought to justify her relationship with Herod, but John the Baptist denounced her “marriage” saying that it was against God’s law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). John was just like You, anything but politically correct.

Herodias didn’t like anyone exposing her sinfulness. Her conscience was seared with a life of excess, and she had the political backing to get her way. With a heart as black as the dungeon wall in which John the Baptist was imprisoned, Herodias tried to rid herself of what she considered to be an irritation, this badly dressed and ill-spoken man, … and she succeeded.

Herod granted her request. It was quite a table that had been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sat together at the king’s table that night as John’s head was brought in on a platter. You see, it doesn’t pay to say anything about God’s views on the marriage relationship. It is considered to be hate speech.

I know You are not intimidated by the dangerous question the Pharisees asked. But Lord, they are trapping You into speaking against Herod’s incestuous, adulterous marriage, even indirectly, and this could get You into a lot of trouble and I don’t want this to lead to Your death, too.

I would recommend that You leave this place as soon as possible,

Yours,

A Concerned Follower

 

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Jesus!

How dare you question our theological understanding! Your narrow views about the Scriptures are not wanted here. Not once did you mention the views of our esteemed Scholars and experts, Shammai and particularly Hillel, who have interpreted the Scriptures to be more culturally appropriate? This matter will not end here.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I’ve been thinking about the way You answered the Pharisees when they asked You about divorce. You answered their question. 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” You replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 

They wanted to argue and impose their thinking upon You, not read the Scriptures in order to understand what God was saying to them.

You cut across the plans of the Pharisaical social engineers, beyond all the popular opinions of the Romans and Jews, beyond all their justifications and You went back to what God has already declared in the Bible. I love the way You said, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?”

The simplicity of Your statement struck me. You said that God created them male and female for the purpose of marriage. I am a Roman woman and I am so aware that we Romans practice polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, incest, keeping of concubines, prostitution, and divorce. But you made it clear that the original blueprint God made for marriage involves one man, one woman, who become one in Marriage.

5 You said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 

I’ve been thinking about this Oneness. You seem to be suggesting more than just the physical union but a oneness like a spiritual glue that God uses to bond us together as a husband and wife and this eventually leads to us to become a mother and father ourselves.

My husband and I had a son. You said a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. But Your words only remind me of the pain I feel.

When my husband divorced me, he took our son. Our son, the miracle of the oneness of our marriage, torn from me. 

You expressed it well. 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

My divorce at first left me with less than I started out with. I felt bereft in every way, split apart from the oneness I experienced with my husband and torn apart from the expression of our oneness – our only son. I miss my son with an unbearable pain and all I can do is ask God to protect him.

Yet, despite the devastation and pain, my relationship with You has somehow made me whole. If only my marriage had the oneness I experience spiritually as I trust in You. If only my husband knew that it was God who joined us together.

Yours,

A Reflective Follower

Tweaked

Rainbow © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 9 – Part 1 – RAINBOWS AND EMPTY ROOMS

We saw the colours of a rainbow reflected on the wall yesterday. A rainbow is a uniquely Biblical symbol. A rainbow. There, like a mysterious portent of blessing, defying the mist of rain and piercing the imagination with its multiplicity of colours, the heart with its beauty, and I smile, as often I do when I see a rainbow.

I’ve always felt that way about rainbows.

If the altar was Noah’s expression of his commitment to God, the rainbow is God’s expression of his commitment to Noah and ultimately to me. Thanks Lord, I’m still touched and inspired by your watercolours.

In Genesis 9:8-10 (NASB95) it says, “Then God told Noah and his sons, “I hereby confirm My covenant with you…” but He doesn’t stop there. He says 3 more significant words full of hope and promise for me – “and your descendants,” THAT’S ME! He includes me in the promise He made to Noah. Now that is cool!

He even includes the animals. “and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth.”

Why did God worry about the animals? Because God promised Adam and Eve that they would rule over the earth and the animal kingdom. The rainbow speaks of being good stewards of the earth. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES!

The word “COVENANT” appears 8 times in a very short space in the next few verses. So it must be important.

WHAT IS A COVENANT? It’s an agreement, a promise. God says, “Yes, I am confirming My covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.” 

“Where do we go from here?” Noah would say, “TRUST IN THE PROMISES OF GOD.” Look for the covenant promises. Make sure you have entered into a covenant relationship with Jesus, not based on my promises to God but on His promises to me (It’s much more reliable that way).

“Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of My covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed MY RAINBOW IN THE CLOUDS. It is the SIGN OF MY COVENANT with you and with all the earth.”

A RAINBOW IS A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF CHRIST. Jesus is called the light of the world. A rainbow has 3 primary colours, red, green and purple. RED SPEAKS OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST – His sacrifice on the cross for me. Genesis 8:21 says “The intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth;” Jesus paid the price for my sin. “The blood of Christ”, the Bible says, cleanses from all sin.” Now that’s good to know. Isaiah 1:18 puts it this way “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

GREEN SPEAKS OF NEW LIFE after the storm. Genesis 8:11 (NASB95) says, “The dove came to him (Noah) toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth.” The olive leaf was a picture of new life after the storm. Jesus said “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly” Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

PURPLE IS THE COLOUR OF KINGS. When Jesus was being tried, they mocked Him and dressed Him in purple. He is called King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus knew what it was like to go through a storm. He is still my King of kings and my Lord of lords.

The Rainbow declares to me today and perhaps to you too, “If I have been through a storm, then God still has a future for me.” In fact, you can’t have a rainbow, without having a storm or at least rain.

Where did I start all this. Oh yes, with a rainbow. Beautiful. Makes me smile. Just after the rain subsided – a rainbow in the sky from heaven touching earth. In Europe the rainbow is called “the bridge of the Holy Spiritand as I sit with my computer on a card table in the middle of a mostly empty study (gave away my beautiful desk), the Holy Spirit is here right now.

“WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE, LORD?”

Like Noah of old, He says to me “It’s time to trust in Me, as always”. So I build an altar, – surrender my life afresh to Christ as an act of worship. And I offer up my worship to my Lord and Saviour who loves me with an indescribable love, intercede on behalf of my community with a fervency and expectation of Gods miraculous intervention into the circumstances of our everyday lives, renew my dependence on Him, believe in the power of a rainbow, and let the covenant relationship with my Lord wash over me with it’s colours by trusting in His promises.

“Lord You do everything in your time. Thankyou for continuing to complete the work You have begun in my life and in Julie’s life and in my family and Church. Father, when the storms abate and the floods recede, I am washed by Your promises and stand clean before You, and as I’m looking out this window into the garden beyond, I’m almost expecting to see a rainbow again. It’s there in my heart.

Thankyou Lord Jesus for taking the full force of the storm when you died on the cross, that the ground is now dry for me to walk upon with You.

Holy Spirit, continue to speak with me and guide me. I don’t want to stay huddled up with the security of Your past guidance and afraid to move with Your most recent guidance.

Help me Lord, today, to act upon what You are saying, now. I choose to be obedient today and take the risk of faith.

 Cover me Lord with the rainbow of Your protection and grace. Thank You for establishing Your covenant with me. I commit myself and my family, my Church and my friends to you. Help us make a difference in this world.”

Genesis 9 invites you to marvel at the colours of a rainbow and make this your prayer too. … And thanks for sharing my quietime with me.

Pastor Ross

Mountain Island in mist Final

Peace © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Psalm 4:6-8 – CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF THIS?

“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.” (Psalm 4:6-7 NLT)

The everyday person today is asking the same question that is asked in this Psalm “Can anything good come out of this? We want something better than this. Who will show us better times?” We ask it of Politicians, Educators and the Social Engineers and so often the decisions they make are not satisfying and at times disturbing. It is a question born out of discouragement with what we see happening in our world. It’s not asking for the good old days. The good old days are so often fuelled by a bad memory and a good imagination. No, it’s not living in the past. It’s asking for better times, here and now, but not based on imposed popularist worldviews or socially engineered political agendas, but on something far more secure.

Someone said, “When the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence, water the grass on your side.” That seems like good advice, but David’s choice for better times is not fed by comparison. David is praying that he will live in such a way as to make God smile, no matter what the grass is like on his side of the fence. Having better times independent of God’s favor is meaningless to David. Better times and indifference to God’s purposes would be absurd in his thinking.

I read an article a friend sent to me recently written by Greg Sheriton in The Australian newspaper, entitled, “Is God dead? The West has much to lose in banishing Christianity.”

He quotes George Orwell, 1944 “One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realizes how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.”

Sheridon says, “In abandoning God, we are about to embark on one of the most radical social experiments in Western history. It is nothing short of the reordering of human nature. Short of war, nothing is as consequential.”

JOY

Sheridon quotes A.N. Wilson The Book of the People, 2016, “Materialism, the most boring as well as the least accurate way of experiencing the world and recording experience, is the dominant mindset of the Western intelligentsia in our day.”

Things haven’t changed since the times of King David. Many people were satisfied with the joy of good harvests and plenty of livestock, but David understood that Joy is not the product of an abundant harvest. Joy is the harvest of God’s abundant favor. The wind rippling its way through a wheat field ready for harvesting does not compare to the wind of the spirit rippling with joy through the soul.

Romans 15:13 (NLT) says “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

PEACE

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:8 NLT).

Surrounded by the danger of a rebel army led by his own son, Absalom, you would expect David to experience some anxiety. Yet David is obviously inwardly secure and he expresses trust in God for each day. The battle is not yet won, but spiritually David has victory.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than the absence of conflict. It carries with it the ideas of adequacy for life, confidence and fullness of life.” (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) declares in prayer, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

The invitation of Psalm 4 is to experience incredible joy and peace even in the midst of trouble. It is as if David is speaking in harmony with Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT), “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

When Nathanael heard that Jesus came from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip simply said, “Come and see for yourself” (John 1:46).

What good can come from all of this? What good can come from what this world offers? Philip invites us to find a deep and satisfying peace with God through trust in Christ instead of trusting in a Godless materialism. Come and see for yourself.

Psalm 4 reminds me of the blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT) which I pass on to you today, “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”  

Pastor Ross

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Anger © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:4-5 – EXAMINE WHAT CONTROLS YOUR LIFE

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude” (Psalm 4:4 NLT).

I wondered who David was addressing in this part of Psalm 4. Is he talking to himself, his own followers or his enemies? Is he trying to protect himself against the sin of being controlled by anger rather than, as he has said in the previous verse, be set apart as a godly man? Or is this the Lord speaking and answering David’s prayer? Then I realized that these words are relevant to all parties no matter who said them or to whom they are addressed.

Ephesians 4:21-27 (NLT) gives us similar instruction to those who believe in Christ. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, … let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. … And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

My take on Psalm 4:4 is, “If you think you have a reason to be angry, don’t let that anger make you think you have a right to act independently of God. Consider this deeply before taking any action. Sleep on it rather than do something you’ll regret.” The idea is the intention for reflection which leads to repentance.

Psalm 4:4 gives me a choice to examine myself. I can make choices that can change the way I respond to life’s circumstances. I don’t have to be controlled by my emotions. I can, as Psalm 4:5 (NLT) says, “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.”

1 Samuel 15:12 speaks about Absalom offering sacrifices to impress people. When religious rituals become an excuse for power-plays then it has nothing to do with trusting in God and it is hypocritical. Religious rituals and laws are never enough to replace the right spirit and relationship of dependence to God.

Psalm 4:4-5 invites me to a life of integrity and trust in Christ. He became a sacrifice for sin once and for all and trusting in Him alone brings forgiveness and a right spirit. I am not to live a life controlled by my emotions, but as Romans 12:3 (NLT) says, “… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Pastor Ross

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Chosen © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Psalm 4:3 – CALLING VS SELF-ESTEEM

“You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him.” (Psalm 4:3 NLT)

BE CONFIDENT OF YOUR CALLING AND AUTHORITY

Confident of his calling as King, assured that he is innocent of the charges against him, certain that he is set apart for God’s purposes, David declares that the Lord will answer him.

David isn’t a product of the Self-Esteem Movement, trying to prop himself up with undue praise, while pandering to his egotism with self-talk. This is a confidence born from his calling, despite his brokenness.

Kingship isn’t a trophy handed out to everyone like a “You are special” ribbon in the team just so we can feel better about ourselves. It is a responsibility demanding submission to God and the careful application of His wisdom in order to represent His authority over His people.

Why am I making a distinction about confidence in God’s Calling and Self-Esteem?

When rigorous studies were finally conducted and evaluated on Self-Esteem some years ago by Roy Baumeister, a Professor of Social Psychology at Florida State University, after the all-pervasive social program in Self-Esteem had already infiltrated every aspect of education, they suggested that young people with very high self-esteem are more likely than others to hold racist attitudes, reject social pressures from adults and peers and engage in physically risky or even unlawful pursuits. This was not at all what was expected.

It was discovered that Low self-esteem could actually be a motivating influence towards achievement while high self-esteem could lead to arrogant, conceited, self-satisfied behavior. It was too late. The Self-Esteem Movement probably thought his research was Hate Speech and thus it has been largely ignored.

King David knows the inward reality of his calling that does not require a feel-good pat on the back by his parents, educators, coaches or psychiatrists to build up a sense of Self Esteem from a social engineering endeavor.

In all their blustering bravado and outward self-esteem, the opposing army has only caused God, unlike the teachers of the Self-Esteem Movement, to use a red pencil to circle their evil schemes and call them to repent, not hand them a ribbon of encouragement to help them feel better about ignoring their blatant failures.

David invites me to re-examine the certainty of my relationship with God and be able to declare to those who oppose the principles and values of the Word of God, “I am confident in Christ who has called me to represent Him and His purposes on the earth?”

Such confidence is birthed from a desire to discover and submit to His Holy Spirit, His will, His ways, His word, His purposes, His calling, His correction and His direction for our lives. Esteem for God. Confidence in God. God loves, calls and empowers broken people.

Proverbs 3:5-7 (NLT) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil”

Ephesians 4:1 invites you who have believed in Christ, who died for your sins, to “… lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Pastor Ross

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Dispatch bag – adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:2 – I ADVISE YOUR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

The High Commander dictated the letter for immediate despatch. Not wanting to be misunderstood, his words were measured and strong.

To The Commanding General of the Opposing Army

Based on the spirit of grace, I have the authority to present this note to you advising you to surrender unconditionally.

My concern is for your Army, which now stands isolated from any reinforcements, and remains therefore unaided.

You have many fierce and gallant men and officers; all fine warriors in their own right. It would be of no benefit to continue plying them with false hopes of victory or seeking to undermine our reputation as a worthy enemy. How long can you continue?

The implementation of our strategies in this war has already sealed the fate of your forces, and a continuation of hostilities would only serve to decimate your Army.

I expect that you, accepting my advice, will give up this meaningless and desperate attempt to gain victory and promptly order the entire front to cease hostilities.

If on the contrary you should reject my advice and present an escalation of hostilities I shall be obliged, though reluctantly, to order my army to attack and defeat your forces with no quarter given.

Expecting your reply within the hour

Signing and sealing the letter, he placed it carefully in a leather dispatch bag and after signaling for safe passage for the messenger across enemy lines, it was transported to the general of the opposing forces.

The purpose of a letter of surrender?

TO OFFER TIME TO RECONSIDER

Obviously, David has enemies. His own son, Absalom, has turned once trusted associates against him. This is a time of rebellion against him and against God.

This Psalm could virtually be used as a message to the opposing army advising them to reconsider the serious nature of what they were doing. David is giving Absalom and his henchmen time to reassess their position and repent.

“How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” (Psalm 4:2 NLT)

When first I read this verse from Psalm 4:2, I wondered who was speaking. Was it David or God? As God declares David innocent (Psalm 4:1), David declares his opposition guilty.

It seems David and God speak in unison.

Reading the newspaper today reminds me that there are many in the world who oppose Biblical standards and the values of Jesus. I find myself asking, “Do I have a reputation for being someone who honors God and His Word? Is it confronting to those in this generation, enough for them to pay attention? Does what I stand for matter to anyone particularly? Does the impact of my reputation and influence make a difference in the world?”

The Answer is “Yes”. Imperceptible in the scheme of things, maybe. It may not survive to be written in books or make front-page news, perhaps. But it makes a difference because it reflects God’s purposes. It is stamped with God’s character in light, and so it will only add to the godly glow of generations of believers gone before and hopefully provide a well-lit path for those to come.

It occurs to me that David mirrors the sentiments of his descendant, Jesus. Such words could easily have been spoken to the religious leaders; the High Priest or the Sanhedrin. How long do you think you will be able to continue with such wickedness?

And I believe God is asking this question to this generation; to those who don’t follow Christ, but unfortunately also to many who do. How long will you continue …?

It continues to amaze me how many people who claim to be followers of Christ are willing to abandon or ignore Biblical principles and values. God is asking educators and politicians and religious leaders who inflict their distorted values upon others .., “How long will you people ruin My reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies?”

I find myself translating David’s words into our culture. David writes words to his own son and to any who are willing to ask, “How long will I continue to speak with amoral deceitfulness, an anesthetized conscience, and ill-considered agendas? How long will I continue to destroy the reputation of those who seek the absolutes of God’s Word with my ridicule, accusations, and lies? How long will I continue to be unwilling to reconsider what I am doing and look beyond my own selfish ambitions and schemes?”

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT) speaks of those who have tasted the goodness of Christ but in the end have denied him authority in their lives and … “by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame.” How long?

After opening the dispatch and reading the letter, the Commanding General breathed a sigh of relief and wrote back …

To the High Commander

Having reconsidered my position and the precarious nature of my circumstances, I am proposing the capitulation and submission of my forces. I am willing to enter into terms of unconditional surrender if such can still be attained.

I thankyou for the grace with which you have offered this course of action to me. I propose an immediate cessation of hostilities for the purpose of discussing how best to proceed.

Signed by the Commanding General

Christ has written a letter asking for unconditional surrender. The question remains, “How long?” How long will it take for a world gone crazy to respond to His gracious invitation, to reconsider their precarious position and surrender their lives to Christ?

How long will it take for you to accept such an invitation, to acknowledge and build your life on the Way, the Truth and the Life and the absolutes of His Word?

Pastor Ross

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Psalm 4:1 – HOW DO I BREATHE WHEN LIFE BEGINS TO STRANGLE ME?

I do not like confined spaces but I have no choice as the walls seem to press inward and the cave seems narrower, and so my only option is to continue. My feet are sore and the air is dank. I can smell my own acrid fear drawing the walls even closer in my mind as I crawl through another narrow corridor. The light of my torch is still flickering and my eyes are even wider as I realize I have reached a dead end.

With nowhere to go, I touch the wall of rock and notice some small holes in the wall off to the side. I can see one of them leads nowhere but the other one holds a vague promise of a way ahead. I am exhausted but adrenaline courses through my veins as I begin to wriggle my way through this tiny crevice, knowing there is very little possibility of return.

At one point it is so startlingly small I can only inch my way forward, desperately grasping for a wider place. And then I am crawling, sliding and falling hard but elated that I have come into yet another wider section of the cave. My light goes out and I am left in absolute darkness, gasping for breath but crying out to God …

Psalm 4:1 (NLT) says “Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”  

David prays also from a constricted place. That word “trouble” has the idea of being in distress, in a tight, narrow place. When I find it difficult to breathe because of the stress I am feeling, then I can call upon God to loosen the bands that constrict and tighten themselves around me. I can find freedom from those things that seek to stifle, restrict and smother my life.

  1. He frees me from being strangled by difficult circumstances

In Psalm 4:1 (NLT) David cries to God. He says “Free me from my troubles.”

David gives me a challenging example of the response of a believer to a crisis situation. I may feel that I am innocent but that does not mean I avoid the consequences of living in a sinful world where bad things happen to good people. Ann Landers once said, “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life.…”

Psalm 46:1 (NLT) declares that God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

So how do I find peace from constricting circumstances?

  1. He hears and answers my prayers

“Answer me when I call to you, O God … “ (Psalm 4:1 NLT).

It may at times come with tears, but prayer is God’s appointed way of me verbalizing my needs and giving expression to my trust in Him. It is not presumptuous to cry to God when I need answers. It is a recognition that I do not have the answers and I am declaring my dependence on Him.

  1. He declares me to be forgiven

I love the way David speaks of God as the One “… who declares me innocent.”  How does God declare Him innocent? Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) says, …  “No one is righteous— not even one. … They don’t know where to find peace.”  So how did David find peace with God?

For David, God’s declaration of his innocence came through prayer, prophets and through sacrifices, all of which pointed to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. For us, God is the only One who can declare us to be innocent in the light of Christ dying for our sins.

Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) goes on to say “… But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him … We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. … God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.” 

Sometimes, like David, I have to remind myself in prayer that I am forgiven. I am at times overwhelmed at communion services as I eat the bread and drink the wine, as I revisit the evidence that it is God who declares I am innocent because of what Christ has done for me on the Cross. His innocence became mine when I believed in him. Almost impossible to understand and a very humbling realization. He paid the price for my sins. I am remarkably forgiven.

  1. He offers you His undeserved favor

Psalm 4:1 (NLT) goes on to say, “Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”

David is obviously going through the constricted cave of circumstances and wants a wider place to stand, so he cries out for God to hear him. David understands mercy. He has already been a recipient of God’s undeserved intervention of favor into his circumstances throughout his life.

Psalm 4 invites me to be honest with God about my troubling, narrowed circumstances, and finding real peace from those troubles will involve having a relationship with God.

How would you describe your relationship with the Lord at this time in your life? Do you love the Lord and know His love for you? Do you feel the weight of sinfulness at times when you pray closing in on you like the walls of a narrow cave? Are you grateful for the Cross and the forgiveness that you have through believing in Christ? Are you humbled in the presence of God and by His faithfulness and undeserved favor? Are you seeking to find a wide field in which to enjoy freedom and light?

As you read through Psalm 4:1 and the excerpts from Romans 3:10-31 above, are you included in those who have been declared innocent and made right with God? I invite you to read through the verses above again and turn them into a prayer as you express your dependence and trust in Christ.

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:18-24 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 1)

  1. ASCENDANCE OF VENGEANCE

Jacob’s sons make a deal with the Shechem and his father Hamor. “If you and all the males in your city are willing to be circumcised, then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves,” they say, “We will live among you and become one people.” They have no intention of doing this.But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her (Dinah, their sister, who has been raped and kidnapped) and be on our way.” (Genesis 34:16 NLT). Concealing their anger deceitfully from Shechem, they are now less concerned about Dinah’s welfare or even with justice, than with vengeance.

Oblivious to the deceit and willing to undergo a little pain to kill three birds with one stone (peaceful relations, trade and intermarriage), “Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal” (Genesis 34:18 NLT). Would Jacob approve of this plan? Where is he in all this?

Shechem wastes no time in acting on this request, “for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family,  and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate” (Genesis 34:19-20 NLT). 

It is likely that Shechem is an autocratic leader, used to getting his own way, and no-one is likely to go against his desires, nevertheless, the formality is followed. They put forward their proposal in the business center and gathering place – the city gate.

“These men are our friends,” they say. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely …” (Genesis 34:21 NLT). 

  1. BLEED FOR GREED

Trade. Shechem and Hamor present the terms of the deal they have made with Jacob to the business leaders. What remains unsaid and perhaps is well known is that Shechem is keeping Dinah, Jacob’s young daughter at his house and that this deal came about because he raped her and now wants a child marriage with her.

“… Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours … they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are.” No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT).

Shechem wants to get this over and done with and circumcision is a small price to pay. Short term pain for long term gain. Bleed for greed. They all agree.

Using this religious veneer, what follows is a shocking example of terrorism which finds expression simply because moral depravity, greed, anger, deception and lawlessness are given free rein in a community, without any reference to God. Nothing has changed (see the next post).

This section of Genesis 34 reminds me that with God’s help I can choose not to allow greed to blind me and divert my attention from real issues of justice and faith. Jesus says, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15 NLT).

Pastor Ross