THE REAL TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS © by Ross Cochrane

MARCELLE: Let’s all sing the Twelve Days of Christmas for the Christmas service.

ROSS: I’ve been looking at The Twelve Days of Christmas song and it doesn’t really relate very well to the Christmas story except with the idea of giving gifts. And it didn’t happen over 12 days.

LYN: I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we change the words to fit in with the Christmas story. Let’s keep the same rhythm and rhyme but change the words. The 12 days can represent 12 important aspects of Christmas.

For example Instead of On the first day of Christmas my true-love sent to me, we could start our version by singing about God’s true love for me given to us at Christmas time.

On the first day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

Not a partridge in a pear tree, but …

A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

After all John 3:16 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.”

1 John 4:8 says, “He who does not love does not know God, for GOD IS LOVE.”

ROSS: OK let’s sing. You start.

LYN: On the first day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

ROSS: On the second day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

Two turtle doves, … White Doves represent peace I suppose, but Turtle Doves are not white. Not Two Turtle doves,… but what about…

TRUTH FROM ABOVE

The Truth about Jesus is important at Christmas. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and TRUTH.” So TRUTH FROM ABOVE.

MARCELLE:Yes, and Jesus said “I am the way, THE TRUTH and the life”

ROSS: OK, So On the second day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

MARCELLE: On the third day of Christmas God’s true love sent to me

Three French hens. No not Three French Hens. Mary and Joseph did have some foreign visitors however. Not 3 French Hens but what about…

3 WISE MEN

There were at least 3. Matthew 2:1 says, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some WISE MEN from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too!”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

So On the third day of Christmas God’s true love sent to me

3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

On the 4th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

4 calling birds, No. Not 4 CALLING BIRDS. What about…

MORE RESTORING WORDS

I know that Zechariah’s Prophecy at the birth of Christ in Luke 1:68 says, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,     because He has visited and redeemed His people. Jesus brings spiritual restoration to people’s lives.

ROSS: He even brought physical restoration. Do you remember how Jesus RESTORED THE SIGHT TO THE BLIND and healed the sick.

LYN: Yes, and I think most importantly,Jesus came to restore our broken relationship with God.

Romans 5:10 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 On the 4th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

ROSS: On the 5th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

5 gold rings. I suppose one of the gifts from the wise men was Gold but not five gold rings. What about…

5 FORETOLD THINGS

I know that when the Angel appeared to Mary he foretold 5 very specific things about Jesus. He said,

  1. You will conceive and give birth to a son
  2. You will name Him Jesus
  3. He will be very great
  4. He will be called the Son of the Most High
  5. The Lord will give Him the throne of His ancestor David and …His kingdom will never end.

MARCELLE: Yes. Zechariah recognised that Jesus birth had been foretold. He saidGod … has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David,  just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago….

There are so many prophecies about the coming of Christ in the Bible. Micah 5:2 foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and would be a great king“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” Micah lived in the 8th century BC so how could he know?

LYN:Yes and Isaiah 7:14 foretold that Jesus would be conceived by a virgin. He says – “…the Lord Himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’”

ROSS: So many prophets foretold the birth of Christ. Isaiah 9:6-7 also foretold things about Jesus. It says,

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on His shoulders. These will be His royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!”

The prophet Isaiah lived in Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C. so how could he have known, except that God told him.

So On the 5th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

MARCELLE: On the 6th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

6 geese a-laying, No. There were no geese in the stable laying eggs. Can you imagine the noise. No there was quiet on that Holy night. Not 6 GEESE A LAYING. What about ….

HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

In Luke 1:78, Zechariah says, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and TO GUIDE US TO THE PATH OF PEACE.”

ROSS: Yes HIS PEACE DISPLAYING In Luke 2:14 the angels from Heaven say, “Glory to God in highest heaven, AND PEACE ON EARTH to those with whom God is pleased.”

LYN: And Jesus is called the PRINCE OF PEACE

MARCELLE: So, On the 6th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

On the seventh day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

7 swans a-swimming No. There were no swans in the stable swimming in the water trough. Not 7 SWANS A-SWIMMING. What about….

HEAVENS SONGS A-SINGING

There was a lot of praise happening on that night out in the fields. In Luke 2:8 it says, That night, just after the birth of Christ, there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 SUDDENLY, THE ANGEL WAS JOINED BY A VAST HOST OF OTHERS—THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN—PRAISING GOD AND SAYING,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” HEAVENS SONGS A-SINGING!

So On the seventh day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

HEAVENS SONGS A SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

ROSS: On the 8th day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

8 maids a-milking…There were probably Cows in the Stable but Not 8 maids milking them. MAID rymes with PAID. What about…

GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

Mark 10:45  (NLT) says, “For even the Son of Man (JESUS) came not to be served but to serve others and to GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.” Spiritually speaking I was a hostage in the slave market of sin but Jesus paid the ransom price. His sacrifice was the key.

So On the 8th day of Christmas God’s true love HELD THE KEY, and

GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

LYN: HEAVENS SONGS A-SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

MARCELLE: On the 9th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

9 ladies dancing No, no. There was only ONE Lady in the stable and that was Mary. Not Nine Ladies Dancing. What rhymes with Nine. I know. What about

DIVINE BABY LYING

Jesus was found lying in a manger.

Luke 2:15 says, “When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. AND THERE WAS THE BABY, LYING IN THE MANGER.”

DIVINE BABY, LYING IN A MANGER.

17 After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

So On the 9th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

DIVINE BABY LYING

ROSS: GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

LYN: HEAVENS SONGS A SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

On the 10th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me…

10 lords a-leaping. No, not 10 LORDS. There was only ONE LORD in the stable and that was Jesus. LORDS. What does that Ryme with? WHAT ABOUT CORDS.

SIN’S CORDS ARE SEVERED

Matthew 1:20 says, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”

SIN’S CORDS ARE SEVERED!

So On the 10th Day of Christmas God’s true love SET ME FREE…

SIN’S CORDS ARE SEVERED

MARCELLE: DIVINE BABY LYING

ROSS: GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

LYN: HEAVENS SONGS A SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

ROSS: On the 11th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

Not 11 pipers piping, There aren’t any Pipes in the story about Christ. No PIPES. But PIPES rhymes with STRIPES. What about  ….

HIS STRIPES FOR HEALING

You see, Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin and one day that would mean that He would die on a Cross.

Isaiah prophecied a long time before Jesus was even born

In Isaiah 53:3-6  (NIV) he spoke about Jesus. He said “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
AND BY HIS STRIPES (OR WOUNDS) WE ARE HEALED.

HIS STRIPES FOR HEALING.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.”

JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO DIE FOR OUR SINS. When we believe in Him, we are healed spiritually, forgiven and restored. HIS STRIPES FOR OUR HEALING.

So On the 11th Day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

HIS STRIPES FOR HEALING

LYN: SIN’S CORDS ARE SEVERED

MARCELLE: DIVINE BABY LYING

ROSS: GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

LYN: HEAVENS SONGS A SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

LYN: And A HEART RICH IN CARE FOR ME

MARCELLE: On the Twelfth day of Christmas God’s true love gave to me

12 drummers drumming. No, the stable was a quiet and humble place. There was no great drumroll to announce Jesus birth. Not even a drummer boy. No, not DRUM. What about AMONG. ….

HE WHO DWELLS AMONG US

It says in John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So Jesus is called The Word.

10 He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. 11 He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. 12 But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 SO THE WORD BECAME HUMAN AND DWELLED AMONG US OR MADE HIS HOME AMONG US.

HE DWELLS AMONG US

He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

 17 … God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But (Jesus), the unique One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”

ROSS: Jesus is also called Emmanuel which literally means God with us.

MARCELLE: So, I think we’ve done it. Come on, let’s all sing the REAL 12 Days of Christmas ….

On the Twelfth day of Christmas God’s true love CAME to me.

HE DWELLS AMONG US

ROSS: HIS STRIPES FOR HEALING

LYN: SIN’S CORDS ARE SEVERED

MARCELLE: DIVINE BABY LYING

ROSS: GRACE PAID MY RANSOM

LYN: HEAVENS SONGS A SINGING

MARCELLE: HIS PEACE DISPLAYING

ROSS: 5 FORETOLD THINGS

LYN: MORE RESTORING WORDS

MARCELLE: 3 WISE MEN

ROSS: TRUTH FROM ABOVE

TOGETHER: And… A… HEART… RICH… IN… CARE… FOR… ME

ROSS: The message of Christmas is that God loves you. He loved you so much, He became flesh and dwelled among us, totally human and yet totally God. He came to pay the price for your sin and mine. You and I are healed spiritually when we place our trust in Christ and come under His authority for our lives. Heaven celebrated the possibility of humanity experiencing inward peace with God. Wise men still seek Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life.

Do you know Jesus? Personally? Do you know that you can have peace with God by giving your life to Him this Christmas?

If you would like to receive Christ right now, pray and ask Him to be a part of your life, maybe a prayer like this one…

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for loving me enough to come to save me from my sins. Thankyou for paying the ransom price by dying for me on the Cross. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thankyou for the inward peace you provide as I trust in You. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

In Jesus Name I pray,

Amen

Psalm 9 in context © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:15-17 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 6

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. In this series I have placed words in David’s mouth but sought to remain true to what Psalm 9 and the Bible actually says about God. I hope this last episode will add to your understanding of a loving and just God.

DAVID: “The needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.”    

SKEPTIC: OK. I get that, but what I am talking about is that you pray that God will destroy your enemies. What has that got to do with the poor and needy?

DAVID: What I am saying is that God never forgets those who suffer because of evil, cruel, intolerant, violent and unjust people, people with the very characteristics that you ascribe to God. The poor and needy are destitute directly because of wicked people. They are emotionally defeated because they have been beaten down by evildoers. Justice, however, will eventually be served. 

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

DAVID: “Arise, O Lord! Do not let mere mortals defy you! Judge the nations! Make them tremble in fear, O Lord. Let the nations know they are merely human. Interlude” (Psalm 9:18 NLT)   

SKEPTIC: Do you really think it is right to ask God to judge nations? 

DAVID: Yes. One day God will judge the world, but I pray that He will intervene into the present with His justice now. Innocent people are dying at the hands of my enemies.

I pray that people will fear God while there is still opportunity. God is a universally just judge. He is also a merciful Father, with whom we can have a loving relationship with joy and praise if we but realise that we are merely human and need Him in our lives. 

The nations have fallen into the pit they dug for others. Their own feet have been caught in the trap they set. The Lord is known for his justice. The wicked are trapped by their own deeds. Quiet Interlude   (Psalm 9:15, 16 NLT)  

SKEPTIC: Now you say that it’s not God’s fault that the nations are destroyed, but their own? Isn’t this shifting the blame? After all, God destroyed them, according to your Psalm.

DAVID: The Bible speaks about reaping what we sow. Those who sow violence against God and His people reap judgement. They experience the natural consequences of their choices sooner or later. 

In Aussie (Australian) terms, it’s the “boomerang” principle. It is true that God executes judgment, and also true that people are responsible for the consequences of the choices they make. Both principles are woven together to form the truth. It’s worth pondering.

Some people will never know God’s love and will never know Him as the God of salvation; they will only know Him as the God of judgment because of their choices.

Other people will come to know God personally because of a consideration of His judgment. They run to His offer of salvation (see POSB commentary) and come to know His love personally.

“The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.” (Psalm 9:17, NLT)

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. Not only the wicked but anyone who doesn’t believe, dies.

DAVID: Yes, sooner or later. Death in the Bible always speaks of separation or being cut off. Physical death is separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of a person from fulfilling the purposes of God and from a relationship with God, because of our sin. 

You can be alive physically but dead spiritually (separated from God). Many have died physically but are alive spiritually (in relationship with God in heaven). Many have died physically and are dead spiritually (and remain separated from God) because of their own choices. Which is why God is patient. 

PASTOR ROSS: 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.”

This is still true. God’s righteous character does not ignore sin as if it didn’t exist. His justice requires a price for sin. In order that His justice could be satisfied and we could be forgiven, God gave His Son as the sacrifice for our sin.

The POSB commentary expresses this well, “God’s redemption is available to all, but it is effective only for those who repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.”

Pastor Ross 

Is God just…? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:11 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 5

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Psalm 9:11 (NLT) says, “Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about His unforgettable deeds.”  

SKEPTIC: Unforgettable alright. You pray and He annihilates your enemies.

DAVID: I pray to God who will not forget the cry of those who my enemies have annihilated. God alone knows the details of the crimes of my enemies and He is just. 

In the meantime I will encourage the oppressed to sing songs of praises to God who has not forgotten them.

SKEPTIC: So you declare the destruction of people you call your enemies as a good thing? You even sing songs about it.

DAVID: I declare the salvation of the Lord for those who believe in Him. I declare that God does not forget those who are oppressed. 

My enemies are not merely objects of God’s annihilation, but I call all people to share in the blessing of knowing God personally, and I celebrate both God’s love and His justice. My Psalm says in verses 12-13 “For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer. Lord, have mercy on me. See how my enemies torment me. Snatch me back from the jaws of death.”   

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. You say God is your Avenger.

DAVID: Are you really criticising me for asking God to deliver me from persecution and death? 

SKEPTIC: No, but I am saying God is like an assassin that you have personally hired to do your work.

DAVID: How God avenges the murder of my people by ruthless and evil people, is best left to Him. I am asking for God’s mercy on me. He alone is just and fair. 

I do not deserve God’s mercy, but by grace, He has given it to me as a gift. Should I remain alive, it will only give me more incentive to declare God’s grace and mercy and salvation to those who trust in Him. That’s why I prayed in verse 14 “Save me so I can praise You publicly at Jerusalem’s gates, so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.” 

PASTOR ROSS: This is still the basis of the gospel cry, “Save me, Lord, not because I deserve it but because of Your grace.” 

The Bible says all have sinned and deserve to pay the price of spiritual separation from God, but Jesus died a cruel death on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He is the only One who came to save us. He offers us the free gift of Eternal Life to those who will accept it. 

God says in Isaiah 43:11-12 (NLT), “I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.”

To be continued… Read Part 6

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:9-10 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 4

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Did you read all of my Psalm. Verse 9-10 reads, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. ”    

I thank God that He shields and protects me when I am oppressed and that He is my refuge when I go through times of trouble. He cares for me. He is my safest refuge, above all others, when my extremity of circumstances meets His Sovereignty.

SKEPTIC: He shelters you perhaps, but you are saying that He destroys others.

DAVID: What I am saying is that God is a shelter to anyone who trusts in Him. The word I have used here which you translate as Shelter literally means High place: a place where enemies cannot reach, or see or attack. I am imagining a high cave concealed in a mountain. I am secure in my relationship with God. 

Like any believer of your age, I can be secure from anxious thoughts or insecurities, secure from past and future sinfulness because of what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross. That’s why I wrote in verse 10, “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for You.”

SKEPTIC: So your trust grows when you escape from your enemies or whenever God annihilates them?

DAVID: Knowing God’s Name means, in your language, means “learning about God’s Character by seeing Him at work in our lives”. The more my faith grows, the more I experience Him at work in my life. Perhaps I simply notice He has been at work in my life all along. I always experience His love even when, at times, I see His righteous acts of justice over my enemies. 

SKEPTIC: Are you saying that when God wipes out a nation that He is expressing His love?

DAVID: Justice exercised without love is not really justice. It really would be, as you describe it, cruel. And you or I are not capable of such love to be able to judge with that kind of absolute fairness. 

All I know is that from my point of view, God will not abandon me and I seek Him with all my heart. I may go through some tough times but He will never leave me nor forsake me. 

SKEPTIC: So even though you have tough times, you still think God is a God of love? Even though He doesn’t protect you from trouble you still think He loves you?

DAVID: I agree with Paul in your New Testament who says in Romans 8:35-39, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To be continued…

Is God cruel, unjust, intolerant and violent? Stay with me, and read Part 5

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 3

Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) says, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; You have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: So, according to you, your enemies are annihilated forever by God. You just pray and they die.

DAVID: No, not at all. There is more to it than that. My words in Psalm 9:4 (NLT) say “For You have judged in my favor; from Your throne You have judged with fairness.”   

I am humbled when the Lord judges in my favour. He does not always do that. When He does, it indicates that my thoughts are lining up with His thoughts. This is not always so. I find myself praying, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

I ask Him to give me His perspective, from His Word, not my often twisted version of the way things should be based upon flawed social and cultural norms.

I hope He will also give me the grace to disagree with others firmly when I need to, without being a jerk or desiring their destruction. My Psalm is not simply talking about those who have a disagreement with me, but those who are trying to kill me and my people.

SKEPTIC: Aren’t you concerned that this Psalm will give a wrong impression of you? 

DAVID: Let me be less concerned with what others misunderstand about me, or whether others treat me fairly or not, or even whether they exclude me or not, and more concerned about what God thinks is fair. I want to portray God for who He is – not only loving, but just. Let me be more concerned about what He says than what others say. 

I am like Paul in your New Testament Bible. In Galatians 1:10 (NLT), Paul says, Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Save me from self-pity, and wanting to get back at people who seek to mistreat me for what I believe and who I believe in. I leave that in God’s hands. He knows how to fight His own battles without my sin getting in the way, so I pray that He will give me the right words when I need them and the respect for others who disagree. I pray that He will help me know when to stand up and be counted without being self-righteous. 

Only He knows what is right and just. It’s not so much that He is on my side, but I give thanks for the privilege of allowing me to be on His.

SKEPTIC: But your words in Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) are so severe when you speak about God. You say, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.” 

PASTOR ROSS: I can only agree with the Skeptic. David’s words are severe when speaking about the justice and the severe judgment of God. His words are shocking. Too few people find them shocking enough to take them seriously.

Psalm 9 makes me concerned for the direction our own country is going. We seem to be making some wicked decisions and placing them in law, laws that contradict God’s Word. My heart cries out to God to prompt us to turn our country towards Him rather than this continual movement away from God. 

I pray that He will rebuke and erase the wickedness from our country and that we would respond in repentance. I pray that He will protect the generation of my grandchildren from the consequences of any wicked lawmakers or social engineers who choose to continually erode the principles of the Bible. 

I pray that He would help me not to be involved in destroying our society with such wicked intent, but actively involved in His loving, fair and just purposes. I don’t want to be deceived by clever words and deception that ultimately applauds what is evil and deplores what is right and just and valuable.  

My prayer is that God will bring His salvation to our lost generation. May we not be erased in the pages of history because of our defiance of God; so insignificant that we don’t deserve more than a passing reference to our demise.

Even before David’s time as King, so many of the nations, once real people who made real choices and a wicked name for themselves, were destroyed so utterly that in the aftermath of such destruction, we cannot even dig up the remnants of one city. Yes, their cities were destroyed, but more tragically, those who chose to stand against God were utterly wiped out to the point of being entirely forgotten by history itself. 

I take the words of this Psalm to heart. Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says, “But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne…”   Long after this generation perishes, He will reign. Long after this Government is out of office, He will still exercise His authority.  “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”   

Paul expresses this idea when He speaks to the Athenians about who God is in Acts 17:24-31

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, … He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need… He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist… ‘We are His offspring.’ … “God … commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him. For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man He has appointed (ie Christ), and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

To be continued… 

IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? You decide as we look at some other parts of this Psalm. Read Part 4

Psalm 9:7-8 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 2

Is God Cruel and Unfair? © Image by Julie Cochrane

Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says,But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: What gives your God the right to judge anyone? He’s supposed to support you, not execute judgment on people.

DAVID: I am a little confused here. Are you really saying that God Most High, higher than any authority on earth should not “judge the world in righteousness; that He should not execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (verse 8)? 

SKEPTIC: I am simply questioning a God who would destroy people. 

DAVID: No, you are questioning God’s authority to make righteous decisions based on His perfect character. You Are you saying that God Most High must have your values, your ideas of right and wrong, your standards? Must He do as you want Him to do, as your personal flunky? 

Let me ask you the questions that you are asking of God. “Are God’s plans higher than your plans, and if He is God Most High, then does He have the right of sovereign choice rather than simply obeying you and always agreeing with you, as a Houseboy Creator, Flunky God, Slave almighty. Are you responsible to God Most High or is He responsible to you?”

SKEPTIC: Strange, that’s what I am saying about you. It seems to me that God is responsible to you. You are the one praying that God will kill your enemies.

DAVID: Just as you can’t see that I am asking God to respond with Justice concerning my enemies, I can’t see why you demand of God Most High that He not judge people for going their own way, without reference to Him? 

My Psalm says God is absolutely just, in which case it is disastrous to stand against Him or His purposes?

SKEPTIC: He seems like a harsh God to me.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not known His love. I know Him as a God of Love AND a God of Justice. His purposes are designed for life to be lived to the full. In your New Testament Bible, John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

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.”

I admit, I am biased towards God after all these years as His follower. I don’t fully understand those who defy God Most High in their hearts, words and actions. I would rather do life with God than without Him. 

I regard life as a precious gift from God and I am here but a moment. I thank God that in that moment I can serve His purposes and stand in awe in His presence, and have a choice to live life to the full. Physical life is His gift and spiritual life is a gift and a choice. 

I choose life. 

SKEPTIC: But you don’t choose life for your enemies.

DAVID: I do not enforce my standards on my enemies. My Psalm says that the intimidating adversaries of spirituality continue to retreat in God’s presence. I believe that anyone and anything that seeks to steal the valuable resources for living spiritual life based on God’s Word will ultimately withdraw, give way, recoil, run and  fail. 

I have been invited to live life as an overcomer in a world that increasingly rejects and repudiates the claims of the Bible. I claim the words of your New Testament Bible which says in Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT), … For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

SKEPTICS: Well, we don’t have enemies trying to kill us today.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not been looking at your world. Does the author of this blog have anything to say on this.

PASTOR ROSS: According to https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/rita-panahi/christianity-is-the-most-persecuted-religion-in-the-world/news-story/fccadd1f30733117c2d9dd338a27e7cc Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth at the moment. I can’t help but think that the enemies of Christianity today are not so much the Skeptics like yourself, who are at least willing to consider the case for Christ, but the social engineers in our Governments, Universities and Schools seeking to eradicate any semblance of our Christian heritage from our society. Those who see the Bible as hate speech. This is a startling change of values in our society which I believe will lead to disastrous consequences, perhaps for generations to come. 

I love speaking with genuine skeptics, but increasingly, the social engineers of our society,  with an evangelical zeal, berate Christianity today, preferring followers of Christ to be seen and not heard, silenced from any platform that may challenge their agenda. 

It is no wonder that Romans 12:1-3 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you … Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but 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.”

Faith that is personal is also faith that it lived out in public. I pray that the Lord would help me to continue to develop my personal faith. Hopefully, without arrogance, I will privately and publicly respond to the principles of the Bible with confidence. May my faith in Christ be a witness in the public square and a gauge for others to consider the claims of Christ and that others will truly understand the awesome character of God. 

I claim the truth of Romans 1:16 (NLT) when it declares, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

To be continued…

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? If a believer prays will he automatically be able to curse his or her enemies with death? Read Part 3.

Pastor Ross

Is God cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 1

Psalm 9:3 (NLT) says, “My enemies retreated; they staggered and died when You (God Most High) appeared.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: I have to wonder – is this how people see God when they are reading my Psalm? Is this what people think about God? If it is, then perhaps you have misunderstood me altogether.

SKEPTIC: I don’t think I have misunderstood you. You say your enemies staggered and died in the presence of God (verse 3), that He rebukes and judges people (verse 5), completely erasing them from the earth (verse 6), that this is the fate of all nations who ignore God (verse 17). You actually ask God to judge them (verse 19). 

DAVID: Strange. You have not looked at the full context of my Psalm to see what I am really trying to express about God?

I notice that you have conveniently forgotten that I describe God as One who is a shelter for the oppressed (verse 9), does not abandon people (verse 10), cares for the helpless (verse 12), saves and rescues (verse 14), and has mercy (verse 13). He does marvelous things (verse 1), and reigns forever (verse 7), In fact, He is the only One truly able to judge nations with justice and fairness (verse 4), yet there are some mere mortals who have chosen to defy Him (verse 19-20). 

SKEPTIC: Yet you can just pray to God and ask Him to wipe out people with complete impunity? How can you believe in a God like that.

DAVID: I find great joy in my relationship with God (verse 2) and so I began my Psalm with praise. God is not just anyone. He is God Most High (verse 2), higher in authority than anyone we may encounter on earth.

Impunity hardly applies to a just and fair God. It is not God that needs our impunity. Nowhere in my Psalm do I indicate that God is cruel, violent, intolerant and unjust, as you describe Him. 

My Psalm describes a God who is perfectly Just, not stupid or oblivious to what is going on around Him and He is only One who can respond appropriately in His own way and His own time, always doing what is right. 

Clearly my Psalm indicates that any person is free to defy God, but why would they think that putting their heads in the spiritual sand will somehow mean that a just and fair God will simply stand by. There are consequences for any of our choices, not only with other people but also with God. 

SKEPTIC: So you are OK with Him wiping out your enemies completely?

DAVID: I would prefer that I didn’t have enemies, but I do. By the way, my enemies are characterised by all the things that you attribute to God – cruelty, violence, intolerance and injustice. 

In this Psalm you can obviously see that my enemies are described as wicked (verse 5), oppressive (verse 9), cause trouble (verse 9), hate people (verse 13), appear to be flaunting any form of justice (verse 16), forget the needy (verse 18), destroy hope in people and afflict them (verse 18, 12). My enemies want me, and anyone who follows God, dead. The equivalent in your time is perhaps Isis or the Taliban.

SKEPTIC: So you pray that God will destroy them?

DAVID: I recognise that anyone who tries to stand against God Most High will fail. And yes, I pray for justice to prevail. 

I do pray to God. With all my heart (verse 1). But my prayer is a prayer of praise, not just an anxious cry for help. I am not seeking to be an arrogant man wanting to cause death and destruction to all who disagree with me. 

SKEPTIC: But you clearly think that God is on your side?

DAVID: No. Just the opposite. God is not my servant, like some Genie in a bottle. I am God’s servant. God judges with fairness (verse 4,8) and I do not anticipate God will simply stand aside while my enemies come to annihilate His servants. 

To be continued….

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? What gives Him the right to think He can demand things of me? What gives Him the right to judge me? Read part 2.

Pastor Ross

Hi Everyone,

Password – baptistcare33233

BaptistCare is celebrating 75 years of service to the community. My Artwork in a short film was nominated to kick things off at the first of a number of meetings around the state. It was my privilege to exhibit 14 of my Portraits of the residents of Shalom in the foyer of the huge Conference Room at Rydges, Norwest Sydney. Many people attended.

My portraits were presented beautifully and the film represented my heart for the residents perfectly. The password is baptistcare33233

I am presently painting portraits of people who are over the age of 100 years old. You can see some of them and other artworks at my Instagram account below…

https://www.instagram.com/ross.cochrane.artspace/

Pastor Ross

I just discovered that my Kindle book on the book of Job “Above the Storm” is now on the Best Sellers List at Amazon.com rated at #2,668,129 (That’s popularity not sales).

This indicates that I have a little way to go to be in the top #20 and I would love it if you could help me in my quest.

“Above the Storm” is a book of short creative fictional and non-fictional stories used to illustrate the truths of each chapter of the book of Job. It was a lot of fun to write over a period of years and reading over some of the chapters still makes me smile and reflect on valuable lessons from the Book of Job.

Hope you can help me in my quest to break into the top #20 of Kindle books by purchasing a copy. I am confident that you will think that it is worth the more than reasonable purchase price.

Above the Storm is an exploration of the book of Job for the creative mind. Job sought to explore the untraveled path of grief because his life had catastrophically changed.

Above the Storm is willing to address the tired, age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but be prepared for unexpected answers.

Within this book, you will find an Elephant and a Termite, a man called Misery, a Hitman, a Dump Truck driver and many others who answer that question and beyond. Each article is brief enabling you to explore specific sections of the whole book of Job, a commentary like no other. You will also find beautiful and creative illustrations, artworks and photographs to enhance your journey.

With each page, you will come across parables and illustrations that creatively bring home the depth of the message of Job with relevance and challenge. Be prepared. You may even find yourself revising your own assumptions about God because of a man called Job.

Joy Kennedy, (Counsellor, Chaplain and proofreader), says, “… Ross, I am in awe of your gift for writing and give God praise that I have been so privileged to be enabled to spend some quality time reading your work and reflecting on your thoughts. Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy your creative ideas!

It occurs to me that this work holds much merit as a potential textbook for people studying Christian Counselling and for students in Christian schools, to assist them to gain a fuller understanding of the need to gain greater skill in the “art of listening” and in overcoming any tendency to need to have all the answers. I too have learned a lot from your work! …”

Pastor Ross

Higher Flight © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:1-2 – HIGHER FLIGHT – Part 3

In Psalm 9:1-2, King David says “I will” four times in relation to praising God, “I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of You. I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Notice, David ends verse 2 with one of the names of God. ELYON – MOST HIGH. 

I praise Him, not because He needs my praise, but because I recognise that He is Most High (Elyon). Supreme. Over all. David emphasises that God is Most High. Not just high, but Most High. Higher than anything earthly.

I love the poem by the pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr called High Flight. It is almost a poem of worship.

High Flight

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

This poem for me encapsulates something of that sense of exhilaration and extreme height of flying and sensing the presence of God. God most High is so much higher still.

In considering this Name of God Most High, The POSB commentary prompted me to pray this prayer.

Prayer: You are higher than my unsolvable problems and my anxious thoughts. You are higher than the financial struggles I may face. You are higher than my times of depression or the lies I may have about myself. You are higher than any temptation I may face and any spiritual enemy. You are higher than my doubts, because I know instinctively that I can trust You completely and utterly. I trust You today. 

Nothing can come against You or Your purposes, Lord. What about all those aspirations of influential people who continue to wreak havoc against Your kingdom principles? I can trust that You are higher than even the many culturally accepted but spiritually corrupt principles that infiltrate and pollute our world. Even those that are beautifully socially engineered, yet still in opposition to Your Word. 

I can trust that You are higher than cancer and strokes and heart disease and diabetes and every sickness that we may face on this earth. You are higher, Lord Jesus, than death itself. 

Knowing You, Father, gives me a deep-seated joy. Today, I pray that You would help me as I willingly take the opportunity to praise Your Name and honour the Lord Jesus Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Most High God. 

Pastor Ross