Archive for January, 2010

Genesis 9 – Part 1 – RAINBOWS AND EMPTY ROOMS

Rainbows and Empty rooms

A couple of days ago, I saw a rainbow. It was just over there – a few houses away. If only they knew. There, like a mysterious portent of blessing, defying the mist of rain and piercing the imagination with it’s multiplicity of colours, the heart with it’s beauty, and I smiled, as often I do when I see a rainbow. “Look Mum, there’s a rainbow. Isn’t it beautiful?” – I’ve always felt that way about rainbows since I was little.

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. 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 Spirit” and 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.

Thankyou 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.”

God bless you Church as you marvel at the colours of a rainbow and make this your prayer too. And thanks for sharing my quietime with me.

Pastor Ross

 Genesis 8 – Part 3 – REMOVAL VAN PRAYER.

Well, Julie and I have got a house full of boxes and a quietness amidst the echoes, as we see the final things accomplished before our move to Sydney – a trailerload of Church-related archives in a cupboard, and a list of people we need to see before we go – especially Dot Hamilton who is old and unable to come to Church now. And the question that people have asked through the ages still finds its way from my stomach to my lips “Where do we go to from here”.

The removal van people said they would be here a day later than they originally said. You wouldn’t believe what repercussions that has for us. So many phonecalls to rearrange things. Julie is amazing. She just does it all despite the frustration. That’s what made me call this “Removal Van Prayer.”

This morning I am looking at how Noah handled the move. I know his move was a little different (he had cats on board), but essentially when he got off the removal van and unloaded the furniture and pets, he was faced with that same question as he looked toward a whole new beginning. He did what we all do with a new beginning – prayed to God.

Worship is so important when your heart is heavy about leaving but excited about what is ahead – it’s the only way to handle such Schizophrenic emotions. As he gets off the Ark (Great name for a removal van), Noah did something that I almost missed – he prayed for us! Just as well really, but I didn’t expect that.

On Tuesday night, we went around to Jeremy’s place with a group of young leaders to share with them some insights – you know, from the vast accumulated wisdom of our years (Just joking – more like from the mistakes we have made). They did something so precious to us – they gathered around at the end of the night and they prayed and even washed our feet. We were so humbled by the honour they gave us so freely. God wants me to be like that – to pray into peoples lives and give voice to deep things that need expression in the very throneroom of our God.

God not only wants my heart, but He wants my prayers. If Noah was here today, he would say “If you want to know where to go from here, then intercede (ask on somebody’s behalf) for God’s blessings.” Noah prayed for the generations to come as only a man who understands what it means to be saved can pray. You won’t find the prayer there in Genesis 8 but you do find God’s response.

Why did Noah build an altar and offer these animal sacrifices? Was it a sin offering? I’m sure every sacrifice is. But there’s something more. The bible says Noah was a righteous man. Sure, he, like everyone who believes in Christ today, was sinner saved by grace, but it wasn’t only a sacrifice for sins. There’s more to it than that.

I believe there was something else that also inspired Noah to sacrifice those animals? Verse 21 gives us a clue. Don’t drive by too fast or you’ll miss it. To find the clue you need to look at God’s response – “and the lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice”. Now this is more than just God being pleased with the smell of a good barbeque. In this case, the aroma drew God’s favour. That’s not always the case in the Bible. Sometimes, like in Leviticus 26:31, and Amos 5:22, God refuses to smell the sacrifice. And that means divine disapproval and rejection. When the sacrifice rises, if God is pleased with the smell, that means He’s pleased with the heart and prayers of the worshiper. If it displeases Him, then He’s not pleased with the heart or prayers of the worshiper.

What about my worship? I want so much for it to be a sweet smelling aroma to God. A sweet smelling aroma was a way of saying God heard Noah’s prayer. He was pleased with Noah’s heart. You get an idea of what Noah prayed for as God hears and says to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things.” That makes me think that Noah probably prayed “Lord, protect my family. Have mercy on future generations Lord. Have mercy upon the human race” He looked around at a devastated world and his heart cried out for us! God waited to hear that prayer. The only reason you and I are here is because the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) “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.”

It is time to pray – yes, I need to pray for Julie and myself and our needs, but God calls me to pray for more than just that – pray for my children and my grandchildren, pray for our Church, (I’m still Pastor of an incredible Church for at least 3 days and my prayers for you will continue), pray for the Whitsundays, pray for Queensland, Australia, the world, that God will have mercy upon us and usher in a time of harvest – amen?

And that will require me to renew my dependence upon Christ. Just because I’ve weathered some storms and found God’s favour, doesn’t mean that I am now strong enough to face whatever comes my way. Don’t kid yourself, Ross.

Storms leave me vulnerable. Blessings leave me thinking somehow I deserve it (How fickle my heart can be). What I really need to understand is that all my time here in the Whitsundays, the storms and the fair weather times leave me even more in need of Jesus. Someone said, “The flood didn’t neutralise the influence of the serpent. The Cross defeated the serpent.” (I may have said that, but I’m not sure. It sounds too profound for me). God bless you Church as you learn the power and value of prayer that reaches out past yourself to others – your children, your grandchildren, your Church, to Julie and Ross (just thought I’d add that in), to our community and ultimately our World.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 8 – Part 2 – SAVE OUR ANIMALS! ARK OR ALTAR?

Julie and I move to Sydney on Monday night. We’ve done all the packing and I still need to pack away the last vestiges of files from my study, a never ending process. We are looking forward to getting to Sydney after a couple of days journey in the car. 26 hours driving time, so I can put on the timer and I won’t have to ask “Are we there yet!” I am looking forward to getting out of that car already at the other end and sorting out what we will be doing.

Noah stepped out of the ark to a whole new world. Now don’t get the wrong view of this. When Noah stepped off the boat, it wasn’t like I have seen in the picture books and children’s stories – all sunshine and a big rainbow, and the animals are all smiling. And there’s trees and there’s rivers and there’s green grass everywhere. I am sure that wasn’t what they saw.

They came off that ark, and there was death everywhere and desolation, and a landscape devastated by flood – incredible erosion and upheaval. I’m sure there was plant life, but it probably wasn’t profuse. It still had to develop and grow again. It certainly wasn’t like Eden. It would have been the opposite of that. It was a destroyed planet.

And when they walked off, maybe the first thing that they saw were carcasses and dry bones. Massive evidence of death and destruction, the aftermath of judgment.

I bet one of the questions Noah had was “Well lord, where do we go from here?”

That’s the question all of us ask when we’ve had the faith and trust to put your life into God’s hands, and Noah answers that question.

Genesis 8:20 (NIV) says “then Noah built an altar to the lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.”  

The first thing Noah did in verse 20 was build an altar. Where do you go when the world you knew has been ripped apart, and all you see is the aftermath of the storm – when you really come to grips with what life would be like without God.

Noah says to me and you, “Build an altar – totally surrender your life to Christ in an act of worship”

Genesis 8:20 (NIV) says “then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.”  

God didn’t command him to do that. It was a freewill offering. By the way, some people think that there were only 2 of every animal in the ark, but Noah was told to take 2 of every unclean animal and 7 of every clean animal (or domesticated animals) into the ark. (Genesis 7:2-3)

Noah’s reputation with the Animal Rights movement was good until this time, but in the Bible, a burnt offering is primarily a recognition of total devotion to the lord. There were some offerings where you put it on the altar and burned some of it and you ate some of it. But a burnt offering was totally consumed in the fire, and it was a picture of total devotion, total dedication to the Lord. You gave everything to the lord. You didn’t keep anything back for yourself. You just gave your all.  

If you just got off the Ark you would say, that is very generous offering. Remember, it’s not as if there’s a lot of animals around. In fact there was an animal shortage! Nevertheless, he didn’t say “Look, we don’t have a lot of animals here to populate the whole world, so I’m just going to hold back a little on the offering side of things. Things are tight at the moment. We have a severe animal shortage. He didn’t do that! He took from every clean animal and every clean bird he had, slaughtered them, and burnt them all totally on the altar, as an act of unrestrained worship. When it came to giving worship to God He didn’t hold back.

By this time the animal rights groups would have notified the authorities. As they held up their placards saying “SAVE OUR ANIMALS FROM EXTINCTION” Noah would have been fined thousands of dollars. Fortunately for Noah, it was the animal rights group that had become extinct!

If you just survived a worldwide flood, would you be giving up your livelihood by giving God the best of all you had. What did Noah need the most? The domesticated animals and he gave one seventh of his livestock to God, as a sacrifice.

This wasn’t just a tithe. Like one woman said to her pastor, “Pastor, I can’t afford a tenth of my income. I’ll have to give you a seventh instead!”

It requires faith to give to God and risk. If the storm is a financial storm, it doesn’t make sense to give.

There is a choice involved in obeying God, and building an Ark. And there is a choice involved in worshiping God and building an altar. No ark, no altar. You won’t know what it’s like to worship, until you appreciate what it’s like to be saved, and then your worship will never be something trivial. It will be a wholehearted expression of thanksgiving.

This is the first mention in the bible of an altar. Cain and abel gave an offering, but there’s no indication about an altar. This is the first time an altar is used for the purpose of sacrifice.

You may be asking like Noah, “Where do I go from here?” Here and now is your opportunity to build an altar, to totally dedicate your life to Christ.  

Romans 12:1 (NASB) says Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

So the altar is a picture of total devotion, total dedication to the Lord, where you give everything to the Lord. You don’t keep anything back. You just give all of yourself to the Lord.

God bless you Church as you declare “I’ve been saved in order to serve unreservedly, total commitment. It’s no longer ark building time. It’s altar building time!” It’s time to give sacrificially! Of time and talent and yes, of treasure. Worship for me must never be just being there on Sunday. It involves sacrifice, giving of myself completely to Christ. He want’s my heart.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 8 – Part 1 – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I feel as if a flood of memories from the last 10 years is sweeping over me, and like Noah I would like to hear the voice of God say “come into the ark” where you’ll be safe. Instead, He is saying “GO OUT OF THE ARK” and face whatever is out there. It will be a new beginning. God has lifted me up and brought me safely through some stormy times, and when the fountains of the deep burst open God closed the door of His protection and shielded me. But now it’s time to move on.

You can’t stay in the ark forever or it becomes a comfort zone. It was never intended to be a permanent dwelling place, just a temporary safe haven, but that hasn’t stopped me from asking “Lord, I want to know where to go to from here.” Noah gives me some good advice for this new year.

Noah is one of the greatest men who ever lived and he knew how to please God. In fact that’s why he was great. I imagine him as an old man, face weathered, hands boney, pure white hair and beard, older than any man I’ve ever seen, although sometimes I look in the mirror and catch glimse of such a man.

I’m a little seasick, like the first time I went out in a boat in the Whitsundays, but I want to know WHERE TO GO FROM HERE. If Noah was here he would say, “Where you go from here will be determined by your faith and your faith will be tested by what remains after the storm.”

Noah would say, “Let God close the door on your past.” It’s no use carrying around the baggage of my past. Christ died to forgive me. I accept that forgiveness and find a new future by trusting in Him.

Noah would say, “Wait for God’s timing. Sometimes His timing isn’t ours, which means we have to wait. But waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. Make good use of today.” Noah prepared for the future, even while he was in the ark. He sent out a raven, then a dove and then removed the covering. When opportunity comes it’s too late to prepare. I need to prepare ahead of time. I can always ask God what I need to do to prepare for your future.

Noah would say “Don’t stay in the ark.” It’s easy to stay in that place where God has met me in the past and never progress beyond that point. God wants my testimony to be up to date.

What interests me is Genesis 8:15-16 (NLT) “Then God said to Noah, “leave the boat, all of you-you and your wife, and your sons and their wives.” The last time Noah heard the Lord speak was when the Lord said, “Come in to the Ark” and then he doesn’t hear anything for a long time – for a year and nearly a month. And then God says, “Go out!” I notice that Noah didn’t ask any questions. I’m sure he was glad to obey! When God has just destroyed the world as you knew it completely, you do as He says, no questions asked.

God bless you Church as you let go of the past and step out in faith and obedience to God this year.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 5 – Part 20 – YOU THINK YOU’RE SO PERFECT!

Jesus says “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What is that supposed to mean? Like, that’s impossible, right?

In fact there are a number of contradictions in this section of the Bible, until you look further. For instance, Jesus speaks of loving your enemies. I’ve always thought that to be contradiction because if you love someone they are no longer your enemy, but of course, He is saying that although you may love them, they still don’t love you. The enemy bit is theirs not ours.

Then He shocks us again! He says that when we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we do it “in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”. So does that mean that if I don’t love my enemies, I can’t be a child of God anymore? No, I don’t think that’s what He’s trying to get across. What He is saying is that God loved me when I was His enemy, and so if I am a true child of God, then I’ll behave in the same way. I am to be my Father’s Son. I am to see things the way God sees things. When I do that I am doing all that God calls me to do.

But then Jesus goes on to say something ludicrous to me. Or at least at first glance it is ludicrous. Lord, you go on to say “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. That’s going TOO FAR! I’M NOT PERFECT, Lord. You know that I fall short of this. So what are you trying to say? Your standard is way too high for me.

But then when I think about it, God couldn’t have very well said to me, “Just do your best, and I’ll accept that.” A perfect God doesn’t give me an imperfect standard to live by. HE DOESN’T LOWER HIS STANDARDS JUST TO ACCOMMODATE ME.

I guess when I love my enemies, then I participate in something that is part of God’s perfect character. I do something perfect in His strength, but I still don’t get to that kind of standard in the everyday part of my life. I still get it wrong at times.

 “PERFECTION” in the original Greek has the idea of COMPLETE” ie “capable of doing everything that God calls us to do”

Colossians 2:10 (NLT) says “So you also are COMPLETE (or “perfect”) through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” 

PERFECT (teleios from télos = goal, purpose) means “one who has accomplished the intended goal (telos).” If something accomplishes what it is designed to do, it is said to be perfect (teleios). A child is imperfect in the sense that they have not yet grown to full maturity. So telios is often translated as mature”. When something is fully developed then it is said to be perfect. So Telios has the idea of being complete.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.:”  

When I trust in what Jesus did for me on the Cross, then I am complete. God sees me as righteous, ie in right relationship with Him, as perfect and complete, as forgiven of all my sins. Instead of seeing me, He sees what Jesus did for me, and so I stand before Him AS PERFECT.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to be perfect in my everyday relationships. I’m never going to be perfect in that way. I get it wrong all the time. But as the Lord works through me, I live out the kind of life He wants me to live. I am complete. I am doing all that God has called me to do, and in that sense it is PERFECT and I live in a way that is HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. It is a journey of perfection that I am taking. I need to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” Ephesians 5:18) in order to do this.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) spells it out better than I can. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. 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.” 

1 Peter 1:14-16 (NLT) says “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 

Philippians 3:12-16 (NLT) explains it further,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.” 

The Bible is my perfect standard for life and faith, and as I live it out then I display glimpses of the perfection of God in my life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” The Kings James Version says “That the man of God may be PERFECT, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  

God bless you Church as you live a perfect life (ie complete everything God has called you to do).

Pastor Ross

 

Matthew 5 – Part 18 – SO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING IS THAT GOD CAN’T MAKE UP HIS MIND?

Occasionally I meet Christians who say “God is telling me to go and do this or that” and then the next minute God seems to have changed His mind. I remember one guy who made God look like He didn’t know how to make up His mind at all! One day it was “God wants me to do this.” and the next day it was something totally different. That’s not the unchangeable God I know and read about in the Bible.

So what I really want to talk about is OATHS AND SWEARING!

Jesus chooses to teach some radical principles to His disciples up on the mountain. Who can question that He knew what He was doing. And so far, I’ve got to admit, it is all applicable to me as a Christian leader. Jesus spoke about Oaths and Swearing. He says in Matthew 5:33-37 (NLT) “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is His footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

He says don’t go making promises and assurances that you may not be able to keep or being profane in your language by bringing God’s name into it. Just let your yes be yes.

So let me get this straight – Don’t make promises but keep them anyway. Have the character to do the right thing anyway and speak in a way that is straightforward.

I guess Jesus is thinking of the 3rd commandment as He teaches this principle. Exodus 20:7 (NLT) says, “You must not misuse the Name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse His Name.” Leviticus 19:12 (NLT) makes this even clearer – “Do not bring shame on the Name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord.”

Now these passages from the Old Testament don’t say “DON’T MAKE AN OATH” but they do encourage us not to make an oath and not keep it. Numbers 30:2 (NLT) says “A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.” but Jesus says “DON’T MAKE OATHS AT ALL!” What, doesn’t Jesus trust us? What happens if I go to court and have to swear on the Bible to tell the whole truth? Somehow I think Jesus knows that I am capable of stretching the truth, of exaggerating and just plain lying at times.

Annanias and Sapphira dropped dead after lying to God about giving all their land to the Church. In Acts 5:4 (NLT) Peter says to them “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

Jesus says vows and swearing aren’t necessary. He simplifies the law to the basics.

God is the only one who is really capable of keeping an oath. Hebrews 6:17 (NLT) says “God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.”

Lord, thankyou that I can trust in You to come through with what You have promised. Help me to honour Your Name in the way I speak.

God bless you Church as you “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6 (NIV))

Pastor Ross

Matthew 5 – Part 17 – WHAT IS SO WRONG WITH SWEARING? EVERYONE DOES IT!

Why is the F*** word and the Sh** word used so freely today? Jesus doesn’t directly include this in what He says about oaths in Matthew 5 but it is there by way of application and other passages enlarge on this. Is it a sin to curse (now there’s a quaint, old-fashioned word)? So I am taking a detour.

The spirit of what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:33-37 is “watch how you speak. Don’t use God’s name as a swearword. Why? It is unnecessary and it is so dishonouring to God. In fact, speak and act with integrity.”

My mother speaks of times when her mother would wash her mouth out with soap in an effort to get across the filthiness of the way her children cursed. Imagine the uproar today if a mother “judged” her child in such a way today! I was listening to a group of School-aged children speaking with each other a couple of days ago. They would once have been recipients for a cleaner mouth.

What does the Bible say? Romans 3:10-18 (NLT) says, “As the Scriptures say,…“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. … “Snake venom drips from their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” … “They have no fear of God at all.””

People who constantly say “Oh my God” still make me cringe as they bring God into the conversation amidst a series of expletives, and “Christ” is just a swearword or curse or slang word. I so find that difficult to listen to. It’s like smoking in the room with non-smokers, only worse. It shows a lack of respect for Christ or for anyone who might be a follower of Christ in the same vicinity.

That’s not to say that followers of Christ are not just as crass as those who are not at times. I personally find it difficult to be in the conversation when someone is using language that speaks about the privacy of the sexual act in a such a common way and often in a way that downgrades the status of a woman to an object. I am equally revolted by those who speak about excrement in the foulest of ways. What is the fascination with Sh**! How gross is such language in the midst of a conversation or a movie and I can’t see why it is necessary for everyday speech?

We’ve all heard the old saying that if you took away the swearwords, I wonder what kind of vocabulary would be left. Would some people find it difficult to talk at all? I don’t know but I would like to think that some might find that they can speak more fluently and expressively without their encumbrance.

Of course, you can dismiss this as the ravings of an old man but I would like to think that a value we all hold would be to show consideration to others. And even to consider, if you are a follower of Christ, that your cursing (yes, I’ve used that word again) shows that you may well have a real problem with simply being led by our culture rather than by what is acceptable to God.

Perhaps a question that might be helpful is “Am I being thoughtless, insensitive and selfish to others by the way I speak? Am I unwilling to stand up and be counted when I am called to live as Salt and Light (Jesus speaks about the concept. You might be interested in following it up)? Do I really want to be part of the crowd and blend in with a culture of crude talk?

Does my crass language reveal something about my heart is towards God and am I disregarding what He wants for my life? Is it foolishness and an indication of depraved thinking (especially regarding my attitude to women) that has no place in my life? Am I worth more than this? Cursing (OK – Swearing) certainly doesn’t appear to be a habit that the Bible encourages! Jesus was pretty direct at times but never stooped to speaking about people in sexually explicit ways or refer to them as excrement. He encourages us to be Salt that has not lost its taste. Swearing seems to be more an indication of salt mixed with dirt that has lost all usefulness to God and a good conversation.

Those who have developed a habit of swearing may well write off what I am trying to say as being judgmental! I offer it more as a point of view! I also care enough to say the tough things worthy of consideration even if culturally unacceptable.

James 3:8-9 (NLT) says “but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.”

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me!” I think perhaps we underestimate the power of words to damage our own lives, let alone the lives of others. “Familiarity breeds contempt!” Perhaps that’s more to the point. Husbands and wives can do a lot of damage to a marriage by the way they speak. James is right, “Who can tame the tongue?” For a follower of Christ, the answer to that is that Jesus can tame the tongue, as we respect what He says and live our lives in tune with Him. It might even help to take the invitation that Colossians 4:6 gives us – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The invitation is to assess what kind of seasoning we use in the way we speak. Let me know what you think.

Pastor Ross

See related Article of stats in workplace swearing between generations at Wrike. Swearing in the Workplace: Announcing Part 1 of Wrike’s 2016 Work Management Survey https://www.wrike.com/blog/swearing-workplace-announcing-part-1-wrikes-2016-work-management-survey/ via @Wrike

Matthew 5 – Part 16 – GOD WANTS US TO BE HAPPY, SO WHY DON’T WE GET DIVORCED?

Years ago, Julie and I began to have difficulty in our marriage. I was spending all my time pastoring a small Church and our relationship was being neglected. It suffered to the point where I needed to take time out of ministry and we needed to do some repair work. That was a major decision and we know what it’s like to go through the difficult process, the road less travelled, of restoring that which has been lost, and for me, of learning what it means to be a better husband. It’s horrible at first, but when we made that choice, at the end of the day we are still married and I have an even better relationship with Julie than I had before. God is so good!

I am always disturbed when Christians take the dreadful step of divorce. If Christians can’t make their marriages work, who can? My heart breaks for them because they have usually left it too late before they come for counselling. Christians like to hide the fact that their marriages aren’t working, especially at Church. By the time they do come, they simply want to justify their decision. They tell me things like “God would not want me to live the rest of my life with someone I don’t love, would He?” or “God wouldn’t want me to be so unhappy?” I tell them as best I can that there is more to a marriage than an emotion of self centred well-being, but that doesn’t always go down that well!

Now I know it’s not simply a matter of, as one person put it, “being married but not engaged”. That’s worse still! But when a couple divorces, it is heartbreaking to see the aftermath of hurt and devastation which touches the lives of their children for years to come, and the legal and emotional battles that are fought to break that covenant. By the time you are divorced, you have had to violate a number of very binding promises you have made before God and eachother. That alone has devastating and lasting consequences for us emotionally, socially and spiritually – in every way. It is no wonder that God says “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, … “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,…so guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” (Malachi 2:16 (NLT))

In Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching His disciples some leadership principles on the mountain, preparing them for ministry and all of a sudden He comes up with radical new ways of interpreting the topic of DIVORCE. It is so radical that even many Christians today ignore it! Jesus makes the outrageous claim that “a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32).

Are we to take Him literally? YES!!!

Now notice that Jesus has just finished speaking about ADULTERY and now he speaks about DIVORCE. The two things are so often related. He says Adultery is more than the actual sexual act. He is more concerned about the thought life that gives rise to Adultery and says that lust is already an act of adultery. Then He speaks about the real meaning of divorce.

The horrible thing about adultery is that it breaks the connection between husband and wife. The covenant relationship along with faithfulness, hopes for the future, love for eachother, and trust are all broken. If you are Christians, then the physical, emotional, AND SPIRITUAL connections are broken (Matthew 19:5-6).

So what do we get from all this? First of all God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) Divorce is permitted when Adultery has taken place, but the reason it is permitted is for the protection of the innocent party due to the sin of the other party. Sin always gets in the way of enjoying what God wants for us. Divorce is only permitted because of sin and is not a part of God’s original plan for our marriages.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:8, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended”

Unless there is unfaithfulness in the marriage, as a Christian, God expects that you will have the same attitude toward divorce as He does, and you will see it as a violation of His expressed purpose for your marriage.

Divorce in the case of adultery means that the innocent party no longer has to remain trapped in a hopeless and intolerable situation. Remarriage is permitted for the innocent person, and I use the term “innocent” as referring to the one who has not committed adultery. Jesus may permit divorce in these limited circumstances but never commands divorce. God shows clearly in Hosea 1-3 that a wife who has committed adultery can be forgiven and restored. I presume this applies to a husband as well.

Where a divorce is not because of adultery or because an unbeliever initiates the divorce, the Bible says there can be, and we are to seek, reconciliation, or else remain unmarried. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says, “A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.” When you get a divorce where no adultery took place, then in God’s eyes you are still married. Marrying someone else means that you place yourself in a position of committing adultery, because God doesn’t recognise the validity of the divorce unless adultery took place. That’s how specific the Bible is about marriage and divorce.

Now, let’s get rid of the legal side and speak about hope for marriages.

When someone receives Christ as their Lord and Saviour, it means you begin a new life. According to John 3 you are born again and in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a genuine Christian has become a “new creature”. It means that it is not only possible but necessary to live out what God has revealed about marriage and divorce from the point of his or her relationship with Christ. Marriage, after all is a beautiful picture of the relationship of Christ and His Church.

 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Someone said “This does not mean that Christ immediately erases painful memories, bad habits or the underlying causes for past marital problems, but that He begins a process of transformation through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. A sign of becoming a Christian will be a willingness to obey what Christ has revealed about marriage and divorce through the Word of God.”

What am I saying in all this?

Seek to honour Christ in your life and in all your relationships and mostly in your marriage. I read somewhere that we need to be careful what you let into our senses–what we see, what we hear, and where we go. Whatever we allow in our minds is going to have a great impact on us. Pray for purity. Avoid potentially tempting situations, like travelling alone, or going to places alone where you will be vulnerable. Stay accountable to your spouse and build your marriage.

God bless you Church as you treasure the marriages you have and as you take the road less travelled to find the answers you need to have a great marriage.

Pastor Ross

Too often when Julie and I watch a movie, I am forced to turn it off or over because of the coarse nature of the movie, particularly relating to the sex scenes. It is taken for granted that sex is a necessary part of most movies. I disagree! I don’t need to watch simulated sex between two people in my living room! I notice that although I make an active choice to turn the channel over or turn the movie off, that there is something inside me that would like to entertain watching a little bit longer. I know it would be wrong, but the desire is there. Jesus is not afraid to confront the big issues of men’s lives, like sex and our thought lives. He verbalizes what we know to be true…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB))

I notice when Jesus confronts me, He goes for the heart. He addresses the core issues that I face in my thought life.

All around me I see that adultery causes such devastation and hurt in a marriage, and so often leads to the end of a marriage, and as a Christian man I agree that I don’t want to be involved in adultery, yet I am amazed at what I am capable of tolerating in my life unless I actively choose to deal with it. I need to be vigilant in this important area.

Jesus tells His disciples at the outset of ministry that purity is essential. He uses language that is forceful and exaggerated to get his point across to a group of fishermen who may well have been used to coarse jokes and lack of boundaries concerning women. He says in Matthew 5:29-30 (NASB) “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

OK, so how gross is this picture? Sure, He’s not being literal but don’t water this down! This is important! Decide ahead of time not to feed lust! Jesus is saying that what we focus on determines our actions. Jokes, movies, and magazines can give our senses permission to feed lust.

Jesus is using what we call graphic hyperbole (obvious and intentional exaggeration) to get His point across. Obviously, Jesus is not advocating self mutilation to deal with lust. That would not actually solve the problem of a man’s thoughts anyway. So what is He saying to me and you? He is saying “Deal with the cause! Focus your attention on other things that don’t feed lust. Take whatever action is necessary so that you don’t stumble in this area. Don’t indulge sinful patterns of thinking. Such thinking inevitably chooses inappropriate behaviour which can lead to the devastating consequences of adultery.

So does this mean if I think of a woman in the wrong way, then I’ll go to hell? Jesus is associating such behaviour and thinking as sin and all sin is deserving of hell and continuing to feed lust is behaviour that belongs to someone who does not have a personal relationship with Christ in the first place.

Jesus isn’t saying sex is sinful or wrong. The Bible speaks about marriage from the beginning and encourages Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” so God invites them to have sex. How do I commit adultery? I mean I know how, but what I’m getting at is that our definition is too restricted. According to Jesus it happens as I look at a woman with lust in my heart, not just the act having sex with someone elses wife. Sex outside marriage is obviously wrong and lustful thoughts, according to Jesus, are already tainted by the sin of adultery!

James 1:14-15 (NASB) says “… each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”  

So how do I win the battle over lust? I do whatever is necessary! It might mean staying away from certain places, or certain people. It might mean refusing certain social functions where I know the conversations will be suggestive. It might mean excusing myself and showing others by example that I don’t approve of suggestive jokes and conversations that lead to lust.

It will be determined by what I focus on. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  

2 Cor. 10:5 says “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

Jesus says what the heart focuses on determines how I will live.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NASB) makes God’s perspective crystal clear.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”  

One final thing – I need to admit to God what happens in my heart when I go wrong, and repent when I find myself drawn into the area of lust.

God bless you Church as you put Galatians 5:16 (NIV) into practise and as you “… live by the Spirit, … you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”