Archive for January, 2011

Matthew 13:1-23 – Part 6 – DUNGEONS AND MANSIONS?

Dungeons and Mansions

She is not deaf but her heart is a fortress, cold, hard, defensive. The gates are huge, old and impenetrable, bolted with fear and pride that slide across into their iron brackets at the mention of Christ. She sits in a dungeon of her own making, alone, critical of the world, of God, of life. This morning as I approach her to say “Good morning, Margaret”, she waves me off, saying “Go away! I don’t want anything to do with you! I don’t believe in that religious nonsense! Go away! I don’t want to talk to you!” I retreat from her and give her the distance she demands. So does God. He will not force her to believe. Maybe Margaret is the FOOTPATH person described in Matthew 13:4,18-23.

The concrete footpaths and hallways of the Shalom Aged Care Centre are closed off and if I were a resident I could walk around the fenced garden area in relative safety and eventually arrive back where I started or face a locked door. In Matthew 13:19 Jesus speaks of the pathways of our lives, of CONCRETE HEARTS and closed minds that go nowhere spiritually. I see this parable all around me being lived out in the people I meet everyday.

George and Bill (not their real names), are talking at the door after the Church celebration. I hear Bill say, “I’ll get baptized today if you will”. So that day a millionaire and a politician are baptized in the river after the service by full immersion.  

I guess George’s life seems complete. , money, a wife, kids, a luxury yacht parked at his jetty on the river. He is named among the rich and famous. He speaks at various functions and lives a celebrity lifestyle, available to an exclusive few, travelling extensively around the world staying in places of luxury. He is a millionaire afterall. He even has religion now that he is baptized. His life looks like the fertile soil Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13. He says the right things and does the right things.

The real trouble I have with the thorns in my garden is an underlying root system that is almost impossible to trace, and if I let them grow, they will take over and choke the life out of other plants. If you look closely, very closely, what appears to be genuine growth in George is being choked by the trappings of his lifestyle of wealth and fame. The roots of this thorny ground are growing alongside the seeds of Jesus’ message and it is clear which lifestyle is taking precedent. Jesus isn’t so much Lord of his life but an optional extra. Is George’s heart THORNY GROUND, choked by a whole range of distractions in the world? His affair and divorce are the fruit of something deeply disturbing in his life. The deceptive tentacles continue to strangle his life. Don’t misunderstand me. Having money is not the issue. It’s what I treasure. Jesus says in Matthew 6:21 (NLT) “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Whether I live in a DUNGEON or MILLION DOLLAR mansion I can still be stupid about what really matters in life.

Somehow Bella’s heart has remained soft as she tells me that she could not have worked her way through the grief of that time without God. She confides how she had prayed that her teenage daughter would be healed of cancer. But her lovely daughter had died and she was devastated. In anguish she had looked towards heaven and asked “Why?” but she does not reject God or blame Him.

Why is it that some people, in the face of tragedy, push God away and allow their hearts to rebel and become hardened to Him? And yet others like Bella, in the midst of their heartache seek to hear His voice and trust Him to help them find their way through the pain? Perhaps Bella is the FERTILE SOIL person of Matthew 13:23?

The invitation Jesus gives is to LISTEN with intentionality – a faithful, diligent perseverance to understand (fertile ground), not with a closed heart (hard ground), or half-heartedness (shallow ground), or with a heart that is easily distacted (thorny ground). 

God bless you as you respond to Jesus. It seems that “he who has ears to hear” is the person who has accepted that Christ died for our sins and has come under His authority, not in just in the CRISIS of a moment, but in the PROCESS of a lifetime. Only as His message takes root in my heart will I be able to connect the dots (“the secrets of the Kingdom”) and start to make sense of what Jesus is telling me concerning my life.

Pastor Ross

Advertisements

Matthew 13:20-21 – Part 5 – SWIMMING AT THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL?

Launching out into the deep

He stays at the shallow end of the pool for a long time, refusing invitations to come out into the deeper water, even with his dad. But after a long time considering it, my grandson Zion Brave Bennett launches himself into the pool, swimming underwater and then dog-paddling across the deep end to the far edge. It took a while but he does it and the results are spectacular. He has the time of his life in the pool from that point on. He is an OVERCOMER!

Many of those who respond to the message of Christ have thrust themselves into the deep end of the pool and will be enfolded into the life of our Church and grow in their newfound faith. Some will even go through the Bible College. Yet it is also true that no matter how hardhitting and inspiring and deep the message is on Sunday, many stay at the shallow end and won’t continue with the faith that they profess. They are not so much the HARD SOIL Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13, but the SHALLOW SOIL.

She says that she is a Christian, but she hasn’t made any commitment to Christ other than an occasional prayer. Edna (not her real name) has no desire to let Christ lead her life, read her Bible or grow spiritually. I would never be able to tell that she is a Christian by listening to her speak or by how she responds to life. There is no discernable difference between her and anyone else. She looks, speaks and acts as any other person. Then again, how can you tell what faith LOOKS LIKE in someone’s life?

In Matthew 13:20-21 (NLT) Jesus gives us a PICTURE of what Edna looks like spiritually. He says “The seed on the rocky soil (shallow soil with underlying rocks) represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” 

Shallow soil. They don’t have “deep roots”. They don’t last long? If they “HEAR” and “RECEIVE it with joy” how can I tell that it is not deep faith? How can I tell what faith LOOKS LIKE in your life? The answer to that question seems to be based on how you respond to your CIRCUMSTANCES. Do your circumstances determine the level of their faith? Do you fall away when “PROBLEMS” or “PERSECUTION” come? (see Matthew 13:20). Does your faith produce ENDURANCE or PERSEVERENCE.

I can have an emotional high at Church (yes, even at Church. We had Louie Giglio speak this week), but nothing to ground my faith in. The real test takes place when the first problem comes along. Does it become a TEMPTATION instead of an OPPORTUNITY to overcome? Does it become faith DESTROYING rather than faith CONSOLIDATING? Do I find my STABILITY for living in Christ? When I base my life on CIRCUMSTANCES if any problem applies too much pressure I will simply burn in the sun, wither and die in my faith, unless I have genuinely responded to Christ.

If you were to describe what your faith LOOKED LIKE, what kind of picture comes to mind? What has the deepest roots in your life – your problems or your faith in Christ? What dictates how you respond to life? Are you swimming at the shallow end of the pool or diving into the deep end when it comes to faith in Christ?

God bless you as you respond to Christ and allow His message to penetrate deeply. The invitation Christ gives me is not only to receive His message in a shallow, makes-no-difference-to-my-life kind of way, but to receive HIM and allow HIM to change my life radically and completely.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:18-23 – A JACKHAMMER AND A CONCRETE HEART! – Part 4

The Jackhammer and the Concrete Heart.

Two men have impacted my life. Both of them died of cancer. For many years one of these men allowed his CIRCUMSTANCES to harden him towards those in his family and towards God. I thought my dad was about as far away from God as he could be.

He seemed to be represented by the footpath in the parable of the sower that Jesus relates in Matthew 13:4,19. Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God.

The other man also had cancer. Before he died, Bill (not his real name) said to me, “I’m an atheist and I intend to stay that way!” INTENTIONALLY RESISTANT to considering that the message of Christ might have had any relevance. He was also like the footpath in the parable but it seems to me that he had allowed the cancer to be like a PNEUMATIC SOIL COMPACTER and His heart had set like concrete.

When my dad got CANCER and it was clear that he was going to die. I think he could have responded to God in one of 2 ways. He could have allowed the cancer to harden his heart even further towards God like Bill, the atheist. Instead, he allowed the cancer to be a like a PNEUMATIC JACKHAMMER. Yes, it shook him up but it also broke up the hard places of his heart and enabled God to get through to him. Everyone of us has that choice.

In Matthew 13:19 Jesus says, “The seed that fell on the FOOTPATH represents those who HEAR the message about the Kingdom and DON’T UNDERSTAND it. Then the evil one comes and SNATCHES AWAY the seed that was planted in their hearts.”

Jesus says His message is planted in their hearts but there’s an AUTHORITY issue here. Two KINGDOMS in conflict. What King Jesus wants to GIVE, Satan wants to STEAL. The “message about the Kingdom” speaks of the RULERSHIP of Christ. The degree that things grow in my life is determined by who has AUTHORITY over my ears and my heart.

Acts 28:27 (NLT) says “For the hearts of these people are hardened, … so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'”

FOOTPATH PEOPLE! Off to the side, hanging around the edges of the crowd watching people’s lives changed but always sitting at the back, unwilling to participate, paying no real attention, uninterested, hear but don’t understand, SURFACE people. NO SPIRITUAL DEPTH. Unwilling to change or grow.

The Pharisees – HARD HEARTED religious people, remind me that I have an opportunity to process what Jesus says but if I let it LIE ON THE SURFACE of my life it will never take root. If I have no real interest it’s really no wonder that what is said by Christ is snatched away. Footpath people don’t think they need it anyway.

When my Dad discovered he had cancer something broke within him and he allowed that cancer to be a Jackhammer. Yes, it hurt! But his heart became fertile soil and he received Christ as his Lord and Saviour.

The invitation Christ gives us is examine our hearts to see if we are ready to receive what He offers. God bless you today as you allow your circumstances to keep you soft towards to the things of God, responsive to the voice of Christ.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 4 – Part 1 – “HOW CAN I KNOW THAT I AM ACCEPTED?”

Unacceptable!

They had behaved badly in class but they were equally disruptive in the detention room, swearing, acting tough and defying anything I said with a smart comment. Unacceptable behaviour. I have never really had a problem with anger, but the closest I came was in that classroom. Teaching in a highschool can be stressful at times, and I was being hooked into their GAME.

It was a game that is commonly played in a classroom and if you could give it a name it would be “Make me!” or “I don’t care and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

If these guys had been in the garden of Eden and told not to eat the fruit they would have said to God “You can’t make me do anything! I’ll do what I like and I don’t care what you think!”

In Genesis 4 Cain reminds me of those guys, because he is playing a REBELLIOUS GAME with God, only things get way out of hand and he ends up killing his brother Abel. It hasn’t taken very long for the first murder to be committed, only one generation away from Adam and Eve. Cold blooded, reckless, callous, uncaring and unacceptable.

It’s interesting that Cain and Abel BOTH bring an offering to the Lord. Why? God didn’t tell them to do it. There’s no law that says they MUST do it. They just did. Abel’s offering was ACCEPTED and Cain’s offering was not.

Why is Cain’s offering UNACCEPTABLE? Does he bring rotten fruit and veges in defiant rebellion against God rather than bringing the best of the crop? Or is this a sin offering where he needs animals for SACRIFICE? We are not told, but we are told that God considers that Cain has not done the right thing and his attitude is also out of line.

Why does he come in the first place? It beats me! Why do some people come to Church when it is clear that their lives are up the creek and they don’t really have any relationship with God, nor desire one? I don’t know! To gain points with God? Maybe.

Whatever reason Cain has, it doesn’t go down well with God. Nobody can expect to come to God with their own agenda, their own works, efforts, fruits, ways, religion, or ritual. It doesn’t work that way. You have to come to God on His terms, not by trying to impress Him with our imperfect thoughts and ways.

A woman I visited yesterday in hospital asked me “How do I know that I am ACCEPTED BY GOD?” It seems that God establishes something with Cain and Abel that’s important. He will never accept you apart from the SHEDDING OF BLOOD of substitutionary innocent sacrifice. The BLOOD OF CHRIST Himself is shed so that you can be accepted by God, and He is the perfect and only substitutionary sacrifice necessary.

You want to bring something to God? Try to bring the fruit of your own good works and it won’t cut muster with God. First go to the Cross and accept the sacrifice that was made for you. Then instead of trying to impress God with your good works you will serve God because you see yourself for who you really are, a sinner saved by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

The “POSB Commentary” says “The clearest explanation as to why Abel offered an animal sacrifice and was approved by God is that God did institute salvation by animal sacrifice with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were bound to have taught their sons to approach God through animal sacrifice. But only Abel approached God properly. Cain, as so many down through history, rebelled and did not.”

God bless you Church as you realize you can know for certain that you can be ACCEPTED by God! My acceptance is based on what Christ has done for me, not on my own good works.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:10-17 – HOW TO GUAGE YOUR SPIRITUAL APATHY – Part 3

Hard Hearted Towards God

We visited the Opera House in Sydney not long ago. Thousands of people on foot! I am reminded that there is a spiritual INDIFFERENCE that walks the concrete footpaths of my city and what Christ has to say is often swept away or trampled by UNRESPONSIVE and negligent attitudes. The sounds of the city snatches away our attention and the persistent voice of Christ’s love fights to be heard above the collective sighs of our APATHY. Just like the parable of the Sower and the Soils.

It seems to me that the parables of Matthew 13 are directed to my city – especially to those not intentional in listening to Jesus, in order to give them perspective on what they are doing and opportunity for them to repent and believe and become fully alive to the things of God. They are a mirror and guage for me to see how I respond to spiritual truth.

Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God. He speaks of others with SHALLOW hearts, and superficial faith, and of those so PREOCCUPIED and busy that they miss their opportunity to discover what life is about. Then there are those who have RECEPTIVE hearts to the message He gives. They are like fertile soil, producing a crop worth harvesting. Yet even some of them produce in a LIMITED way, giving only 30% and 60% returns.

His disciples are intrigued by the story, but they see a whole lot of people in the crowd like those I saw in the streets of Sydney who don’t understand what He is trying to say, so they ask Him why He uses parables.

What Jesus says is astounding!

In Matthew 13:11 He says “You are PERMITTED to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are NOT. He is about to invest something by way of the resources of heaven into people’s lives, but some are NOT PERMITTED to understand? What does He mean that some are NOT PERMITTED?

It seems clear that in this passage they are NOT PERMITTED TO UNDERSTAND and it is FOOLISHNESS to them because they REFUSE TO LISTEN, not because God has put earplugs in their ears. A negative response to Jesus and His message means they are refused the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven. God won’t FORCE me to listen, and equally when I refuse to listen, then He won’t PERMIT me to understand. I’m either receptive or left ignorant. If I slam the door so deliberately on God, then He also deliberately allows me the CONSEQUENCES of that choice.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is FOOLISH to those who are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” Are they headed for destruction WITHOUT A CHOICE of faith? I don’t think we can read that from the context of this passage. The choice is evidently there but they have refused to LISTEN. As a result even what they understand becomes foolishness to them and they are HEADED FOR DESTRUCTION because of their deliberate rejection of Christ and His message.

When the message of Jesus is treated as being ridiculous, unreasonable, unbelievable, over simple, uninspiring and those who share His message are treated with the same contempt, then it is obvious that the seed falls on hard, shallow and thorny ground.

Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 13:12 (NLT) “To those who LISTEN to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are NOT LISTENING, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” 

God bless your eyes and ears today. The invitation He gives to us is to SEE and HEAR with the eyes and ears of faith. May Jesus be able to say of you today “… blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16 NLT)

Pastor Ross 

Matthew 13:1-17 – A BACKHOE WOULDN’T GO ASTRAY! – Part 2

A Backhoe wouldn't go astray!

Just as well He didn’t come to HOLLYWOOD. I can see some of his key people pushing back the fans who crowd in and just want to get close enough to touch the edge of his coat or get His AUTOGRAPH. The PAPARAZZI are out in force and the CRITICS are out to get Him. TV channels want exclusive INTERVIEWS. He is on the cover of TIME magazine. There’s a wax statue of Him in Madame Tussauds and He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. OPRAH wants Him on her show and little ACTION FIGURES of Him are already appearing in the shops. He has big business SPONSORS with a shoe company that makes sandals and there’s a clothing line. Eastern style is in. A BIOGRAPHY of His life and miracles is being written by 4 different authors and He has a MOVIE CONTRACT. There’s even a PERFUME brand called Nard which costs the earth with His picture on the bottle.

Wait a minute! No, this is not about “15 minutes of fame”. It’s about “sowing and reaping” longterm. It’s not “The Farmer wants a wife”. It’s the FARMER WANTS A CROP. Jesus may have achieved CELEBRITY STATUS but He is not interested in walking out on the water to IMPRESS the crowd! He is here to stir them to LISTEN to a simple message that will IMPACT their lives.

He goes and sits by the lake as people gather. How big is the crowd? I don’t know but soon it is so big that He decides to teach them from a boat. It’s no auditorium with special lighting effects, fancy sound system and huge screens to display His Bible references, but it will do.

He has already had a busy day, but now the master story teller begins and the crowd get’s quiet. The first story is pretty basic, nothing particularly riveting here. He weaves the facets of His story around a farmer who sows a crop on four different soil types with limited success. In our day it translates to a businessman who makes some bad investments and one good investment.

You know the story – a “farmer” scatters his seed in his field. Some seed falls on the HARD GROUND and birds eat it. Other seed grows in ROCKY soil, and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Some seed grows in a THORN infested area and the thorns choke the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). And some grows in “FERTILE SOIL” and produces a crop.

Is it only me or does anybody else in this crowd think that this farmer is fairly IRRESPONSIBLE with the way he goes about sowing his crop? I mean he hasn’t PREPARED his field very well. There’s still rocks, shallow soil and thorns, as well as some good soil. You’d think he’d clear the weeds and remove the rocks and plow the field before he sows the seed. What kind of farmer does this?

This farmer doesn’t seem all that concerned about getting rid of the OBSTACLES TO GROWTH first. He just absently scatters the seed on an UNPREPARED field. Seems like a weird thing to do. He needs to have a methodical plan if he wants to get a return. A wheelbarrow, a shovel and a pickaxe, and a backhoe wouldn’t go astray of course, but all he is interested in is scattering seed. How irresponsible and WASTEFUL is this?

Someone said “The QUALITY OF THE FIELD – determines the QUALITY OF THE YIELD.” Is he looking to sowing a crop for a harvest or feeding the birds?

The fact is that this farmer isn’t about to FORCE the soil types to do anything. He accepts me as I am but He doesn’t want me to stay that way. It seems this is a co-operative farm and by the time He sows He has already allowed ample opportunity for me to respond to the backhoe, crowbar and pickaxe. John the Baptist puts it this ways “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” … ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”   (Matthew 3:2-3 NLT)

Let’s face it – unless I change, then I’m not going to be able to RECEIVE what He is offering. It’s pretty obvious that the dirt He is talking about is me, and this is about as down to earth as you can get when it comes to describing my spiritual state. The question is have I already responded to the REPENTANCE SHOVEL until the ROCKS are removed, some HEALING SOIL SOFTENER to aerate the HARDNESS of my heart, to the pulling out of the WEEDS of bitterness until I have a receptive attitude. Jesus says in effect “I’ll do the sowing and the growing. You do the believing and receiving.”

God bless you as you allow repentance to turn the hardened, shallow and distracted parts of your heart in order to receive all that God intends for you and make your life fruitful. For me, a spiritual backhoe and crowbar wouldn’t go astray at times!

Pastor Ross

Part 1 – Genesis 14 – BUZZ LIKEYOU TO THE RESCUE!

Buzz LikeYou to the Rescue!

My grandson hits the ground running in the morning. He will come in at 5am while I am having my quietime and startle me by saying “Pa, you be Zurg!” and thrust into my hands an action figure with horns, piercing eyes and cape. My grandson plays the part of BUZZ LIKEYOU (I think the name is supposed to be Buzz Lightyear, but I kind of like the idea of Buzz having the name “Likeyou” so I have given up trying to correct this – imagine an action figure that actually likes you). Of course Buzz doesn’t have horns. I am always cast as the bad guy, THE EVIL EMPEROR ZURG. Zurg has the fire power of a small army attached to his arm but it makes no difference. I am always defeated by Buzz Likeyou who likes everyone except the evil emporer Zurg. I suppose that’s a good thing, but not at 5am. “Zion Brave”, I say, “go back to bed until the sun comes up at least.” He goes in to our bedroom and Nanny tells him stories of Bible heroes or he goes back to sleep beside her until it gets light.

IN GENESIS 14:1-24 WAR BREAKS OUT! This is the first war mentioned in the Bible and Lot is in the middle of it. Now there’s an interesting name. Lot by name and he wanted a lot by nature. He’s the nephew of Abram and he’s camped near Sodom and Gomorrah with his family, a lot of livestock, lot’s of servants – the lot (I know. I couldn’t help it. Who names their child “Lot”?). Anyway, that’s the reason he get’s caught up in the battle (not because of his name but because of his position. Position myself beside Sodom and Gomorrah’s kind of wickedness and I am inviting unnecessary trouble.)

It all looks good and the land is fertile and lush, but you don’t want to be in Sodom when Kedorlaomer comes (the evil emporer Zurg). You see SODOM IS A VASSAL CITY (servant city) of King Kedorlaomer. They have probably been forced by their suzerain overlord, Kedorlaomer, to pay tribute money (usually 10%. Tithing to kings was common in the ancient world), and they have refused and rebelled. Even evil people rebel against tithing.

King Kedorlaomer decides to assert his authority and brings his army to lay waste to the city and bring it back under his control. Genesis 14:10 (NLT) says, “as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits,” (I presume that means their chariots got stuck or swallowed by these tar pits. What a way to go! Was it hot tar? Uggh. Maybe they just fell into these pits in order to hide), “while the rest escaped into the mountains. The victorious invaders then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and headed for home, taking with them all the spoils of war and the food supplies. They also captured Lot-Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom-and carried off everything he owned.” (Genesis 14:11-12 NLT)They took the lot. Lot was left with nothing. There are consequences to choosing to get too close to wickedness. Slavery! Wickedness always enslaves.

NOW “BUZZ LIKEYOU” COMES TO THE RESCUE! Abram is no wimp. He quickly mobilizes “318 trained men who had been born into his household.” (Genesis 14:14). The fact that they were trained means that Abram was always prepared for battle. I need to have that kind of readiness in the spiritual battles I face as a Christian – A PREPAREDNESS – ahead of time for what I may face.

It also shows how many people were in Abram’s entourage. He catches up with Kedorlaomer’s army at Dan, divides up his men and attacks during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army don’t know what hit them and they run for their lives. Abram recovers all the goods that had been taken, and brings back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives.

How does this apply to me Lord?

BE PREPARED SPIRITUALLY, because the battles will come.

BE ALERT TO THE OPPORTUNITIES around me to help someone who needs my help, especially if they need to be set free from the slavery of their old life, and find freedom to live by serving Christ. The truth is we will be serving something or someone. I choose to serve Christ and my God who created me and has the best plan for my life.

BE ALIGNED WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF PEOPLE. Abram aligned himself with people who could help when things got tough. He even trained them. I went to a prayer meeting this morning with about 40 other people. I choose to align myself with God’s warriors in prayer.

BE RESPONSIBLE for others in terms of care. Abram didn’t have to help, but he did. When someone is enslaved by their sin, drugs, immorality, we have a responsibility to help them.

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

BE STRATEGIC. Abram planned the rescue of Lot. If we are going to rescue those who are lost and don’t know Christ, then we need a strategy.

BE INVOLVED PERSONALLY. Not just train people and send them out with a plan, but be involved personally.

BE GENEROUS. Abram returned everyone and everything to Sodom that was taken. He didn’t have to. He was generous and unselfish towards non-Christians

Micah 6:8 (NLT) puts it this way “… the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  

What happens next is intriguing but it will have to wait for another time.

God bless you Church as you are prepared, alert, aligned, strategic, responsible, involved and generous.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:1-17 – MAYBE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED FOR A CHANGE! – Part 1

Ears to hear?

In the middle of an argument, my Mum would say something like this – “Maybe if you LISTENED for a change, you would understand what I am trying to tell you!” So often I am not so much LISTENING but simply waiting for the other person to finish so that I can get across my point of view. Not really a very teachable position to be in. Ears to hear but unwilling to listen.

Joan is 99 years old and she feels that her world is so isolated. Even with hearing aids, she has to listen carefully to pick up anything I am saying. Ears that don’t hear well but more than willing to listen.

In Matthew 13 Jesus says “LISTEN!” with even greater authority than my Mum and with a voice that even Joan can understand. He addresses this problem of how different people are responding to Him. I can get caught up in all the arguments, but the real issue is to do with LISTENING. MAYBE IF I LISTENED…

Just a simple story. Jesus is obviously speaking about something important, but as I read, it doesn’t seem all that significant. The question is “Am I going to miss what He is trying to tell me because of my preconceived ideas about Him or because I insist on my own points of view?” Maybe if I listened….

It’s been a BUSY DAY for Jesus. He has been doing some amazing miracles and teaching with incredible authority. He has been bombarded with a steady barrage of artillery from the Pharisees by way of insults and challenges. It’s usually the religious people who criticize Jesus the most. He does not allow this to distract Him and encourages others to stay on track and LISTEN. Ears to hear.

He says in effect that listening is like a “farmer” who has seeds to plant and he goes into the field and scatters them. The seed that falls on the “FOOTPATH” is eaten by the “birds”. Other seed grows in “SHALLOW SOIL” with “UNDERLYING ROCK” and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Other seeds grew too, but they grew in a THORN infested area. They grew up and the thorns choked the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). We’ve got some thorny weeds in our garden like that.

It seems that this farmer does have some “FERTILE SOIL” in his field and it is the only ground that produces a crop worth harvesting. Even then he doesn’t get a very good crop in terms of his overall investment in seed. The crop he does receive from the fertile soil doesn’t all give him a 100% return. Some of it only yields 30%, and some 60%.

Just a simple story without explanation. In fact Jesus doesn’t seem as if He is going to give me an explanation at first.

But He goes on to tell me that anyone with EARS TO HEAR should listen and understand (Matthew 13:9). So this is not meant to be just a nice story. It has significant meaning and implications that are worthwhile for me to understand and apply. Is that the FIRST CLUE to being FERTILE SOIL – having EARS TO HEAR?

Is He talking about faith when He says “He who has ears to hear”? I don’t know yet. One thing is clear. There are those who don’t hear and don’t understand (Matthew 13:11-17). Apparently it takes an INTENTIONAL HEARING if I am to understand anything Jesus says. Or, like the Pharisees, I can remain far too intentional about not listening to anything He says.

So the invitation Jesus gives me is “Listen!” God bless you today as you respond to Jesus by saying “What would my world look like if I listened to what Jesus is saying here and spent time intentionally seeking to understand how it applies to my life today.”

Jesus looks to me as He speaks to the crowd in Matthew 13:9 (NLT) and says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND.” “OK Lord, You’ve got my attention. I’m listening?”

Pastor Ross

2010 in review

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 68 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 117 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 48mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 12th with 70 views. The most popular post that day was Part 3 – Genesis 22:1-11 – WHEN IT COMES TO THE CRUNCH….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, stumbleupon.com, and sermoncentral.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for paid in full, ross cochrane, outback australia, music is my soul, and pastor ross cochrane.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Part 3 – Genesis 22:1-11 – WHEN IT COMES TO THE CRUNCH… December 2010
1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Part 3 – Matthew 11:7-11 – THE GREATEST ROADWORKER WHO EVER LIVED! June 2010

3

About Pastor Ross Cochrane January 2010

4

Part 2 – Matthew 12:5-7 – DOES SCOTT RUSH DESERVE MERCY? September 2010

5

John 3:16 – PARABLE OF THE LOST MINERS October 2010

Genesis 3 – WHEN THE APPLE BITES BACK!

This Apple Bites Back!

My sister was a great story teller. She still is. She would tell a story so convincingly that I would believe it. A number of times her stories would trick me into giving her my pocket money and at other times she would bring me to the edge of tears with a story that was just pure lies. One Christmas, just when I had begun to question the existence of Santa, she looked out the window quizzically and swore that she saw flying reindeers leaving our house. She had heard their hoofs on our roof. So convincing was her story that I believed in Santa for at least another year. In fact I still do (just joking). I must admit, I loved my sister’s stories because I wanted to believe they were true, though sometimes they got me into trouble.

Eve was as big a sucker as I was as a kid. She was taken in by Satan’s lies as easily as I was beguiled to believe in Santa, only the stakes of the game she gambled with were much higher and the consequences of losing would affect the whole world. Something new and unknown up until that time entered into the world with the first bite of that piece of fruit. We may not know what fruit it was. The passage doesn’t tell us, though I’m sure my sister could convince me that it was an orange. We do know the word for the new and unholy thing that stained the whole human race from that moment – “sin”. This apple, orange or whatever fruit it is bites back and it’s reptilian bite is poisonous!

I find myself wondering whether the snake in the garden had legs until he was cursed to crawl in the dust. I know it has nothing to do with the story but I still wonder about it. Whether he had legs or not, he took on the form of a serpent and told such a convincing story to Eve that she was taken in. The result, as we know, was Spiritual Death for both Adam and Eve. John 8:44 (NLT) tells us that Satan was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

We won’t get into the details. You already know the story, but what intrigues me is that God asked them a question which He continues to ask down through the ages. “Where are you?” He wasn’t asking them because He didn’t know. He confronts us with that question because answering it is of such importance “Where are you in relation to Me?” He says with His clear strong, loving and holy voice. And as He asks us this question all of a sudden we realise that there is no place to hide. Psalm 139:1-12 says “I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence!”

“Did you disobey Me” He asks us like He asked Adam and Eve. “What have you done!” He knows what we have done. We’ve sinned. The wonderful thing with God is that He gives us the opportunity to confess. Repentance is the key issue and we are so often relunctant to admit that we are tainted by our sin. God in His grace comes to us and does all He can do to get us to admit what we have done, bring it to the Cross and receive the forgiveness available in Christ. We are so often more content to play the blame game, but if we do we’ll be locked out from the blessings of God and relationship with Him, just as Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of Eden.

Whose voice will you believe? The voice of deception from the master of all lies, or the voice of grace that invites you to stop hiding from God? God’s voice can be the voice of Judgment or the voice of grace depending on the answer you give to the question “Where are you in relation to Me?” In Adam we all die but in Christ we have eternal life.

God bless you Church as you answer the question God is asking you today, “Where are you?” He is saying “I want you to be aware of Me and honest and open with Me rather than hide from Me today.”

Pastor Ross