Archive for March, 2012

Matthew 7:1 – NEGATIVITY VULTURES!

Negativity Vultures

FAULTFINDING is the “VENOM OF THE SOUL” (Ray Pritchard). It verbalises defeat. It destroys joy, and vulture-like rips away at our hope and potential.

The PHARISEES are the religious leaders and they continually gather, like vultures, to communicate negativity to Jesus. NEGATIVITY VULTURES are scavenging people of prey, Condors of criticism, feeding on the carcasses of the wrongs of others. These sad individuals thrive on all that is negative, on what they see as the mistakes and sins of their victims. They hover over the social environment, keeping a close eye out for the dead, rotting flesh of the failures of others. They are SCAVENGERS OF SCANDAL. These RUTHLESS RAPTORS can smell defilement from a mile away and with their derisive cries they gather to the hunt in ever diminishing circles of flight until they land to tear the flesh off anyone with a flaw.

A group of Pharisees are very much like a WAKE of vultures. A WAKE is a ceremony associated with death and they speak WORDS OF DEATH. The only friends of a negative person are other negativity vultures who gather for nit-picking the rotting flesh of lost potential.

And by the way, not all of them are bald-headed old world vultures. They are found in every generation. The faultfinder feeds on the flaws of others and then, as vultures do, they vomit it up for their young so that the next generation learns their negativity. Unfortunately they are not an endangered species.  

My Pastor, Brian Houston, says negativity magnifies anxiety and distorts truth. It makes harsh judgments and sweeping, unfair statements. It sabotages potential. It turns molehills into mountains.

No wonder that Jesus says “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1 NLT). He’s not speaking against their discernment, but against their UNCONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, and their inability to discern their own shortcomings. He is warning them that JUDGMENT BITES BACK.

Tom Attridge shot his own plane down in 1956 when the velocity and trajectory of the rounds he fired decayed, and ultimately crossed paths with the plane’s shallow dive forcing Attridge to crash-land the aircraft. Destructive Negativity inevitably catches up with us and we SHOOT OURSELVES DOWN.

What is the spirit behind and the motivation of my judgments? Jesus commands me not to be hypercritical and negative and faultfinding towards others. He is saying stop being so annoying, petty and trivial! Stop being so objectionable, obnoxious and critical! Stop being so disapproving and disparaging! Stop being so scathing and severe! There is a spiritual gift of encouragement but there is no such gift as the gift of negativity.

What disturbs me is that I hear this verse used as if it is advocating that I ACCEPT any kind of lifestyle and teaching no matter what God’s Word has to say about it, and if I don’t then I am “not being very Christian”. Our culture cries out with insistent declarations against followers of Christ – “Do not judge! Do not make moral evaluations! Do not condemn anything!” Wrong! That is not what Jesus is commanding. He is not trying to water down evil in the world. He is not trying to excuse our sin. That’s NOT the emphasis of this passage at all. In fact to read it that way misses the whole point of what Jesus is trying to say. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR OTHERS DOESN’T MEAN UNCONDITIONAL APPROVAL OF OTHERS! You know the saying “Jesus loves me as a sinner but He doesn’t love my sin. He loves me too much to have me stay the way I am.” John 16:8 (NLT) says that the Holy Spirit comes to “…convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”

Without Christ we are already condemned. The fact is that Jesus Christ is the only One who has come to save us from certain judgment. Conviction of sin, confession of our inability to save ourselves, commitment to Christ alone as Saviour = no condemnation. Jesus paid the price for me when He died for my sin. John 3:17-18 (NLT) says “God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, but to SAVE the world through Him. There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son…”

The invitation for us before diving in for the kill with our negative judgments of others is to ask “Am I being a NEGATIVITY VULTURE feeding on the faults of others or an INSTRUMENT OF GOD’S MERCY revealing God’s grace and patience? Is my aim to condemn or to express the love of Christ? Is my aim TO JUDGE OR TO SAVE.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 3 – WHEN THE APPLE BITES BACK?

When the 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”. If it was an apple then this apple 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.

The question God is asking you today is “Where are you?” Behind that question 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

Genesis 2 – NOT GARDENING!

Gardening!

There’s an ugly looking weed that persists in growing in our garden and we are enemies. It has thorns. I have weed killer with a trigger that spurts out poison so I don’t even have to get near it.

I have always hated (my grandson says you shouldn’t say “hate”)…. I have always DETESTED gardening. Love the natural look but my wife doesn’t agree. Apparently God doesn’t either.

“Early in the first light of Saturday morning a man appeared, lying naked in the dust. His form is perfect in every way except there is no movement to animate his strong arms and legs, or smile to please his handsome face. Around him in every direction the sounds and smells of the forest in early spring fill the air with life, but here they fall upon senses that remain untouched.

“Oh God, He’s … dead!”

“No, not dead.” My senses rush at the sound of His strong clear voice and I am suddenly alert to every sound. “He has never been alive and he is not dead.”

The forest becomes silent as if in anticipation, and you draw back. Creation seems to be waiting for something momentous to take place. I can feel my face draining of colour. The world around me fades. His Breath floods through the trees and encompasses the strange figure in the dust with it’s touch.

My mind is still reeling with the first rays of understanding as Adam’s eyes open to the One who gives him life. His first moment is wrapped in the glory, love and spendour of His Maker. His first touch – the embrace of heaven’s welcome. The first words he speaks are those of worship and praise. And now the heavens respond with angelic voices echoing their shouts of pure joy that shakes the whole of creation with a tumultuous roar. At least, that’s how I think it might have happened. I wasn’t there, but reading about it stirs my imagination.

No sooner is he breathing and looking around and he is given a PURPOSE. Even before he is created from the dust of the ground, it says,

“no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was NO MAN TO WORK THE GROUND,” (Genesis 2:5 NLT)

He enters into the purposes of God. And I also have a purpose on this earth. It is clear from Genesis 1 and this passage that I am created to REPRESENT GOD on the earth – in His image (1:27), to EXERCISE RULERSHIP over God’s creation (1:28), TO SERVE AND WORK where God has placed me (2:8), to have a personal relationship with God and LISTEN AND OBEY what He has to say (2:16,17). I am also created with a need for COMPANIONSHIP (2:18-25). DISTINCTIVES of the Christian life. Things that give my life significance and identity. Things that Christ my Creator intended from the beginning, but which have been thrown out as religious wimp rubbish. Things like worship, companionship, discipleship, ministry. It is all here!

What does God do?…Adam and Eve are made RESPONSIBLE from day one of their existence. They are to “keep” (shamar) the Garden. This word means to watch over, to guard, to keep, to look after, to take care of.

No escaping it. I am created to be responsible – personally responsible – for the World in which I live and the way in which I live. Even the perfect, beautiful Garden of Eden has to be looked after and cared for. Adam and his helper Eve were…to cultivate the land and keep the garden from growing out of control (1:5), to feed and provide for themselves (1:16), to look after and care for the animals (1:19), to worship God and obey His commands (2:15), to share companionship and have children (1:28) and that’s an awesome responsibility in itself.

One thing is sure…God has given me a PURPOSE in life to fulfill. I am not made to be inactive and lazy. And somehow it relates well to gardening, as unfortunate as I may think that is.

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” (Romans 12:11 NLT).

“Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.””  (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NLT).

The invitation is here for you choose to live in His purposes today. Like Adam and Eve, to have every need met by God physically and spiritually, to respond positively to Him and serve Him. To receive what He offers, to reject what He withholds or bear the consequences. An incredible opportunity to respond, worship, love and come under the authority of Christ. Chosen for a purpose (Now I’m starting to sound like the Blues Brothers – on a mission from God!). OK, OK, and to mow the lawn and keep the garden looking nice.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 14:34-36 – THE FREEDOM FIGHTER

If I Could Touch the Hem of His Garment – Photo by Ross Cochrane

She is in bed most of the time now, unable to do the most basic of things. 96 years old ANGIE (not her real name) was once a FREEDOM FIGHTER in Czechoslovakia. Her speech is slow but her conversation reveals her intelligence and she surprises me with the laughter in her eyes and her faith in God. She has learned to use the computer, send e-mails, play music etc, but muscular degeneration means her fingers don’t work as well now. She struggles now just to lift her hands a few inches and there is pain. She cannot feed herself or hold a cup in her hands. I pray for healing for this faith-filled freedom fighter.

After they cross the lake, Jesus and His disciples land at Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34). Jesus has had contact with those from this region before and soon people are “bringing all their sick to be healed” (Matthew 14:35). They come expecting miracles to the One they recognise could and would heal them. They beg Him to let the sick touch “at least the fringe of His robe”, and ALL who touch Him are healed (Matthew 14:36).

Imagine if it was Angie that day in Gennesaret being brought up through the crowd behind Jesus and touching the fringe of His robe. Imagine Jesus turning around, seeing her there and saying, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.”

MIRACLES OF HEALING are not impossibilities conceived in the hearts of people who are fools, as Ingersoll, the faith terrorist, once suggested. They are not unthinkable to the thinking person who is open to the possibility of truth beyond the senses; to a system of perception called faith.

Certainty in God’s promises, not ignorance, is the soil in which belief in miracles grows, and if we are honest we do not pretend to think we know the boundaries of possibilities in this world. If we are truthful and sincere we will admit our doubts and spiritual ignorance and say, “Lord, help my unbelief” rather than being content to say “It cannot happen!”

A FREEDOM FIGHTER is dedicated to opposing an invader seeking to enforce compliance and subservience upon us. Afterall, why should we worship our DOUBTS? Why should we prostrate ourselves before the mirror of our own LIMITATIONS and not before the One in whom ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE? Why should we kneel before medical science as our SAVIOUR rather than as our SERVANT, and preach a gospel of rational redemption when the hope of medical miracles won’t change the human heart or forgive human sin? Why should we not fight for the right to look beyond what doctors do, as wonderful as that is, to find the wholeness we need?

In Matthew 21:21-22 (NLT) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” 1 John 5:14-15 (NLT) clarifies this further by saying “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for ANYTHING THAT PLEASES HIM. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.”

Angie, the FREEDOM FIGHTER, appreciates what it is like to be healthy and articulates to God her desire to be well. The possibility of being free from sickness brings her humbly before God, like those from Genessaret, ready to touch even the fringe of His robe to find relief. And it gives me an invitation to fight the battle alongside her as I pray for this wounded warrior to receive the healing grace of God.

Praying for Angie – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Pastor Ross

P.S. Angie died last week. She slipped away into the presence of the Lord. She knew she was loved and she confided in me that she was ready to go home. I hugged her gently and said my goodbyes but before I returned from holidays she was gone. My brave warrior. I will miss her intelligence, her beautiful eyes, her love for God and her friendship with me. Were our prayers answered? Of course.

 

 

P.S. to my last P.S. It has now been some years since Angie died. I recently found Angie’s e-mail address on my computer, although it doesn’t exist anymore. I found myself crying and realised that my grief for her loss still ran deep. So I wrote her an email.

Dearest Angie,

I came across your old e-mail address today and although I know this will just go out into cyberspace somewhere and perhaps return, I thought I would write anyway.

It seems so long ago that you passed this way but I still remember you. You died when I was away on holidays and no one told me. I missed attending your funeral. I am so sorry about that, but I remember our friendship, the many conversations and prayers and your beautiful smile. I remember how you told me you were part of the resistance during the war. I remember you telling me about your accidental meeting with the Pope while you were on holidays in Italy. Even though you were a Protestant they put you in the line to meet the Pope at the Vatican.

I remember when you were able to send emails and use your computer. I remember quiet talks when tears would fall at your frustration about not being able to move your hands and we would laugh at life as well. Motor Neuron Disease took your physical abilities but not your keen mind and sense of humour.

It was a pleasure to be your Chaplain, but most of all I miss you being around as my friend. I miss you. I prayed for your healing but God chose to heal you in a place where there are no more tears or pain. One day, when I no longer shed tears or feel the pain of the loss of a good friend, I will see you again.

God bless

Genesis 1 – What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Genesis 1 speaks of how it all started. In the beginning, not for Him but for us, our awesome God created light and darkness, water and sky, seas and land, vegetation, sun, moon and stars, fish and birds and finally man and animals. All in 6 days. Not bad.

How fulfilling to work on project universe would it have been, perfect from the beginning as is everything that comes from God’s hand. I composed a song recently for Julie in my quietimes and it was so fulfilling after weeks of work to present it to her. I was so excited that I was shaking, and while I worked on it I couldn’t wait to finish and present it to her as a finished product. It seems to me that God couldn’t wait to present the heavens and the earth to man and say “It’s yours. Rule over it. Have kids and bring them up here. This is yours!” Can you imagine that? How cool would that be on that day to be created and wake up to see what God had done! Whohah!! (or however that is pronounced).

And we are created in His image. Later he says “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.” It seems we are the only images that were created. We represent Him and that’s it! Nothing else is to be made in the image of God because it would be totally inadequate. We are it! To me that’s such an awesome thought. It’s as if God says, “I made creation for you. Rule over it. Don’t let it rule over you. Don’t be in submission to created things!

We are so concerned about climate change right now that everything we do can be dominated by our desire to be green. It seems that the rulership God gave us needs God’s help if it is ever going to work. When God rules over us we’ll start getting it right, so that our rulership of the world will bring about something good, not destructive to the next generation, Otherwise all we’ll do is end up worshiping creation above our wonderful God. Let’s get it all back into perspective. The God of the universe who created it and us (and 1 John says that was Jesus Himself) is our only hope for now and eternity.

God bless you as you represent Him as the only acceptable images of the living God today. Created in His image to serve the living God.

Pastor Ross