Archive for May, 2012

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – DESERT DIARY – A Parable

U-Turn permitted.

DIARY ENTRY – MONDAY – DAY 1: It is all a MIRAGE! I can see that now. Up until now I have been travelling with this huge throng of people without even considering the inhospitable wasteland around us. We are in a DESERT! Unless we reach a waterhole soon, all of us will die!

TUESDAY – DAY 2: I know that we have plenty of provisions but our water supplies will not last forever and I am surprised that even our leaders don’t seem to know where we are going. When I ask one of them about what lies ahead, he says “Eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity and don’t think about tomorrow.” Another took me aside today and assured me that he knows what is best for us. He placed his hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Don’t cause any trouble or you may regret it!”

Fortunately most of our community leaders are more democratic and inclusive. I am drawn to a man who has a very charismatic, inspirational and likeable character. He is studying the mirages and has written a book on how they relate to our lives. It’s a fascinating book, but somehow I doubt that this will get us very far.

WEDNESDAY – DAY 3: We eat, sleep and travel in community and over time all kinds of leaders are emerging. I met a man today who is very task oriented, and he has achieved great success and fame by his accomplishments. Others have set the culture of our community by focusing on our values, building our worldviews through consensus over time. But still, there are no ABSOLUTES. No real direction! We are still living in this desolate place.

THURSDAY – DAY 4: At School today I was taught survival techniques for desert life, and how to be cross-culturally relevant and politically correct because all of us are on the same road. That is true. We never deviate from highway 666. The direction is set and no one questions where we are headed. Perhaps it’s because life is tough enough to bear without asking the big questions.

FRIDAY – DAY 5: No-one really wants to CHANGE! We have gifted leaders who are creative, problem solving, improvement oriented, innovative change agents, but we are still in the desert and our resources are running out. No matter how visionary they are, none of them have any really clear view of what is happening and how to get to a waterhole. We are on a highway to hell, abandoned by common sense in this austere environment. Today I saw some vultures circling above.

SATURDAY – DAY 6: I am feeling so INSECURE today. Not that we don’t have people who are here to serve and protect us. We have our own security force, armed men and women who are always planning strategies to keep wild animals away and how to deal with the riots of those who are running out of provisions.

SUNDAY – DAY 7: Some religious leaders practise meditation to empty their minds, others pray. Some organise provisions, buying and selling. Some help the poor and do good works. But it is all a MIRAGE! I have never really seen this before and I am secretly looking for a way to escape. I think about it all the time.

I think about the big picture. What will happen to us? We need to find an oasis, a way to life. Maybe if I can find it then I can show others the way. What are the signs? Is it only me that sees that we are lost in this forsaken place, travelling down a road leading to nowhere but destruction? I am so motivated to find a way out, but so few people are convinced and they think I’m strange. I met a leader today who said that if I continue to speak like I do I will be rejected and ostracised as a fanatic. I am in the minority.

MONDAY – DAY 8: Today it happened! I found the pages of an ancient book beside a creosote bush on the side of the road. I read from a book called Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Just there, where I found the book, I also found footprints leading away from the road we are travelling on, indications of another path. It is barren and difficult, narrow and dangerous, but perhaps this is what I have been looking for and I have decided to leave the community and set off, following the footprints of whoever it is who has travelled the path before me. Today is the day! I am intent on my quest. Today I begin my journey.

TUESDAY – DAY 9: It involved persistence to find the trail, but leaving everything behind me today I entered a difficult narrow gorge and into the whistling canyons of the way. Somehow I know that this path will lead to life. It’s not something I would normally do. It’s just that I finally see the truth that I have been lost in the crowd, going nowhere fast. I had to do something. There is always a choice and I have found the way of life and I have chosen to take it!

WEDNESDAY – DAY 10: Today I found other pages from the ancient book as I travelled. They tell me that the footprints I follow belong to a man called Jesus. His words in John 14:6 (NLT) call to me as He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” In Luke 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” Acts 4:12 (NLT) speaks into my heart and tells me that “There is salvation in NO ONE else! God has given no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

THURSDAY – DAY 11: What have I learned so far? I have discovered that to be a follower of Christ involves turning around and going against the flow. I need to follow His footprints in the sand and His Word. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). And yes it involves discipline, commitment, determination, self-control, and self-denial. It’s not always an easy road, but today it led me to an oasis! I drank for the first time the water of life, living water (John 4:10) and this wonderful adventure in life will last forever. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

FRIDAY – DAY 12: My community continues to choose the wide road where there are no obstacles, plain path, easy going. The freeway is wide, many lanes, no potholes. The highway to hell is not a bumpy road, but smooth sailing. It’s easy, level ground, great to travel on. Easy to get caught in the traffic and enjoy the trip. No toll-ways, no price to pay. All traffic accepted (all philosophies, beliefs, lifestyles, all accepted). But today I am putting up SIGNS along this road. U-turns and warning signs. One sign I got from Proverbs 14:12 (NLT). It says “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

I still carry that ancient book with me. I have all the pages now. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT), “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Jesus is giving the same invitation to you today.

Pastor Ross


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My wife Julie

Matthew 7:12THE GOLDEN RULE AND THE TREASURE OF MY LIFE

She is selfless and giving. Yesterday, knowing that my son and his family are all sick, she cooked them a casserole, travelled to see them in another part of Sydney, and encouraged them to go to the park with her. They had a great time basking in the sun and enjoying each others company. Ever since I have known her my wife Julie has been generous with the people around her, not only her family. She acts without expecting anything in return. She is practical and sensitive to the needs of others.

She loves the unlovely and those who don’t particularly deserve it, like me. She is very much a treasure in my life, a gift from God. She lives out the Golden Rule not so much by intention but as a natural outworking of her relationship with God. It’s a part of her life. She seems to see opportunities to “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). This rule of life, verbalised by Jesus so long ago, has been activated in Julie’s life in the most beautiful of ways.

It fascinates me that versions of the “GOLDEN RULE” existed even before Christ? Commentaries say that it is found in the Rabbinic writings, Hinduism and Buddhism, even Confucius had a version. The difference, according to John Macarthur and other scholars, is that all of them cast the rule as a NEGATIVE command. Rabbi Hillel’s version, for example, said “What is hateful to yourself do not (do) to someone else.” In other words I just have to make sure I don’t do negative things to others. But these negative versions exclude and EXCUSE me from doing anything positive.

Jesus puts this command in the POSITIVE, and says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” I am to be actively and INTENTIONALLY doing something positive and not simply AVOIDING doing what is wrong or hurtful to others. The Golden Rule turns these other versions around and confronts me with what I so often omit to do for others.

The Golden Rule doesn’t make me DEPENDENT on others. My wife, Julie, didn’t wait to send a meal to our sick family members. She wasn’t returning a favour. The Golden Rule doesn’t tie me to unrealistic EXPECTATIONS of obligation, but frees me to express love to others without the prospect of anything in return. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NLT)

Given that our selfishness will always tend to manipulate others, this law suspends selfishness and gives us a compass and invitation for living generously. It has the capacity to change the heart of dictators who instigate civil unrest by their greed by breaking the chains of injustice, deceit and manipulation. It heals marriages and disharmony in families. Most of all it changes ME, my perspective about others and cuts across my selfishness. It reaches out to others, like Julie does, and seeks to make a difference. The Golden Rule and the treasure of my life.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:12 – YOU OWE ME! or STOP FOLLOWING ME!

Stop Following Me!

I was looking at Instagram photographs recently. On the most popular photographs, so many people made comments such as “I will like you 5 times if you like me”. It was as blatant as that (and as pathetic). They scream “Make me popular, too!” I will follow your blog so that you will follow mine! You may feel OBLIGATED because I have shown interest in your blog, but you have no way of knowing what my motivation might be. How many people want followers due to their low self-esteem or competitiveness. I recently saw a sign which said “Don’t follow me! I’m lost too!”

There’s a shop on the corner of OBLIGATION STREET and RECIPROCITY. It advertises free tickets, scratch-its, gifts, invitations, free samples, biros, key-rings, 2 for one. All designed to make me feel OBLIGATED to give or buy or comply or compromise in some way when I may not really be interested in doing so. Mafia-like, our society is built on such laws of OBLIGATION. A young man buys a girl dinner, an expensive gift and a concert ticket. Later, she is made to feel obligated to sleep with him in return. After all, he has been so nice. The LAW OF RECIPROCITY at it’s ugly best. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You OWE me! “I owe, I owe… until beserk I go!”

We are all controlled by this rule in some way. It’s influence is all pervasive, an invisible net that is all-encompassing and we feel trapped. We do not always want to comply, but we are often caught up in it’s web, where we feel that defiance of it’s authority is useless. We succumb to it’s embrace in all kinds of situations. It is a law that governs our responses and we feel helpless to resist. We feel compelled to obey because it seems like we OWE it to others.

Jesus writes a great one sentence blog that calls me to BREAK FREE from the Law of Reciprocity and it’s manipulating grip (He is well worth following). He says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” The GOLDEN RULE vs RECIPROCITY. At first they look the same but they are not? Don’t be fooled!

The “GOLDEN RULE” by-passes obligation and self interest. It is NOT about treating others according to HOW THEY TREAT ME or how I EXPECT them to treat me, or to treat them so they will OWE ME something, but it is treating others how I would LIKE to be treated WHETHER THEY TREAT ME THAT WAY OR NOT! Unless you have a deathwish or want to do self harm this one sentence statement has world changing implications. The “GOLDEN RULE” cuts right across the LAW OF RECIPROCITY.

The “GOLDEN RULE” is NOT simply exchanging things with others for MUTUAL BENEFIT. It involves giving WITHOUT the expectation that I will receive anything back! It involves generosity without it merely being a tax break!

Neither is it about EARNING POINTS with God on earth so that He is obligated to get me into heaven. The Bible invites me to believe in what Christ has ALREADY DONE for me on the Cross when He died for my sins. Heaven is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) not something I can earn. The Golden Rule far surpasses the law of Reciprocity and what I think I OWE. It goes the extra mile. It shows UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

It is NOT just loving those who are lovely, or for that matter getting revenge on those who treat me badly. It is about undeserved love. The “GOLDEN RULE” is NOT simply putting myself in someone elses shoes, thinking as someone else would think, but it is asking for God’s thoughts to pervade my thinking so that I see others the way He sees them.

The “GOLDEN RULE” is based on the “GREAT COMMANDMENT”. The invitation is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others unconditionally as Christ did. The GOLDEN RULE is genuine, not the FOOLS GOLD of RECIPROCATION that will inevitably leave you bankrupt.

The “GOLDEN RULE” cuts me off from my selfishness and manipulation, of expecting others to feather my nest, and invites me to give generously, love unconditionally, and allow Christ to change my motivations completely. Jesus Christ alone shows me what it looks like to live a life of unconditional love and not be bound by obligation. The invitation is to Exchange RECIPROCATION for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE by responding to Christ today. A sign I read recently said “STOP FOLLOWING ME! FOLLOW JESUS!”

Pastor Ross

PS If this blog has helped you in any way to apply the life-changing truths of the Bible, please feel free to pass it on to others or make a comment or follow me (Well, not me exactly, but … you know what I mean. No obligation).

Matthew 7:7-11 – SYNC IN PROGRESS …

Sync in Progress

My computer is now IN SYNC with my i-pad 2. My portable Wi-fi is also in sync with all my Wi-fi capable devices. The ongoing cost of all these devices is incredible. I spent $100 in just one month downloading 6 GB of data using my Wi-fi account, thinking it would last a year. Oh, the COST of being in sync!

I’d like to think that my prayers are always in sync with God, but that is not always true. I don’t always get what I want or what I think I need immediately? Why did Phil’s daughter die of cancer, an agonising death, when she was only 6 years old, though a Church load of people prayed? Why wasn’t she healed?

There’s a COST to being in sync with God, and it means that I transfer management rights of my life to Him. It is beyond my ability to see why He does not intervene at times or to see His purpose in everything I pray about, but I have come to trust Him. If I were in charge then … things would be an absolute mess, and so the more I get to know Him the more impact my prayers have to accomplish His purposes on the earth. My responsibility is to pray in sync with Him. His is to answer in His way and with His perfectly co-ordinated timing, according to His Character.

I would not give my grandson a loaded gun just because he asks for it, but when Rome says “I’m hungry” (which is often the first thing that he will say when coming into our house) then he knows that I will feed him. Matthew 7:9 (NLT) says “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

1 John 5:14-15 (NLT) speaks of being in sync with God when it says “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.” James 4:2-3 (NLT) says – “… Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because YOUR MOTIVES ARE ALL WRONG—you want only what will give you pleasure.”

Matthew 7:11 (NLT) “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” NO RELUNCTANCE on God’s side. He is not disinterested and unconcerned. Like a father — He loves and cares for me. He’s NOT DEAF. He hears me. He DOESN’T HESITATE or GIVE GRUDGINGLY. He WON’T REBUKE me for asking (James 1:5).

And His answers are NOT POOR QUALITY. He gives “GOOD GIFTS” (Matthew 7:11). Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think.” Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have FAITH, you will receive it.”

The answer is mine, RIGHT NOW, by faith in God who answers prayer, even BEFORE I see it? The only condition – being IN SYNC with God; operating in unison, in agreement, co-ordinated to harmonise my life with His in such a way that my actions in time, space and purpose produce the maximum impact for Him. He expresses it this way “But if you REMAIN IN ME AND MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU, you may ask for ANYTHING YOU WANT, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7 NLT).

Elijah called down fire from heaven, and yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were protected from flames. Prayer has parted the Red Sea for Moses, brought down the walls of Jericho for Joshua, brought victory in battle for David, imparted wisdom for Solomon, closed the mouths of lions for Daniel, even extended the hours in the day without the use of daylight savings for someone who I can’t quite remember at the moment – was it Isaiah? Yes, (Isaiah 38:8).

The power of synchronised prayer can cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead. It encourages trust, deals with sin, accesses heavens throne-room, and changes my circumstances. It enables me never to give up, to keep on reaching beyond what I can achieve, to keep asking for the impossible, seeking for the unsolvable, and knocking on the doors of heaven for the answers I need on earth. It is the conversation of dependent children with their all-sufficient Father, and that’s when we will see extraordinary things take place in the ordinary everyday situations of life. SYNC IN PROGRESS … !

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:7-8 – SPIRITUAL CPR

Spiritual CPR. Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net.

I’ve been praying that the Lord would heal a persistent cough I have had for the last month and nothing appears to be happening? Am I to continue to pray even when I don’t see any results? Why do I pray for my friend who is dying? She is unable to move because she is so weak? Am I to persevere in asking for healing until she dies?

Matthew 7:7 (NLT) says “KEEP ON ASKING, … KEEP ON SEEKING, … KEEP ON KNOCKING, …” If God answers my prayers, what’s with the “KEEP ON” requirement? Doesn’t He hear the first time? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) says “NEVER STOP PRAYING.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” PERSISTENT PRAYER breathes life back into my circumstances and revives me.

Jesus uses the ASK method of CPR to breathe life back into a dead situation. Ask, Seek, Knock. ASK – Check to see if there a spiritual PULSE? Is the situation or person spiritually dead and needing emergency attention! SEEK – Check for Spiritual BREATHING. Ask the Holy Spirit to breathe life into this situation, to give spiritual respiration. Nothing artificial about this at all. Jesus said “I am the truth and life.” KNOCK – Giving Truth Compressions. Keep speaking Words of Life to keep the spiritual BLOOD FLOW to the heart. REPEAT THE PROCESS – Matthew 7:7 (NLT) says “KEEP ON ASKING, … KEEP ON SEEKING, … KEEP ON KNOCKING, …”

Is prayer just a way to deal with the pressures of life and doesn’t really have anything to do with answers, or do I have to keep asking until I learn the difference between praying for what I WANT and praying for what I NEED before the answers come? Is PERSEVERANCE AND DILIGENCE in prayer the means of learning ENDURANCE AND DISCIPLINE in life? PERSIST. PERSEVERE in prayer. 30 spiritual heart compressions (going to Church regularly) or a life support machine (growing up in a family that follows Jesus) is not enough. I will still need the DEFIBRILLATOR of personal belief and trust in Christ.

Prayer breathes life back into dead circumstances. It shocks my heart into life so it operates as it was intended. It confronts me with the Cross and with it’s rhythmic harmonies it allows God to have His finger on the pulse of my life. It allows my heart to beat in time with His. It reminds me that I am dependent on Him, to pray often, with diligent passion and active intention. I ask with dependence, seek with drive and knock with determination on heaven’s door so that earths doors will be opened. I am born again.

What is God saying in all this? Do I keep on knocking on the same door or do I seek any door that looks like it might open? “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” What about earth’s doors? It’s not always the one that opens that has the answers. What am I opening myself up to? When I knock on heaven’s door He seems to open the right earthly doors.

John 15:7 (NLT) says “But if you REMAIN IN ME AND MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU, you may ask for ANYTHING YOU WANT, and it will be granted!” 1 John 3:21-22 (NLT) says “… we will receive from Him whatever we ask BECAUSE WE OBEY HIM AND DO THE THINGS THAT PLEASE HIM.” Matthew 6:33 (NLT) says “Seek the Kingdom of God ABOVE ALL ELSE, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you NEED.”

Spurgeon speaks of how the old doors had a NAILHEAD onto which a knocker was dropped and people would strike it so heavily that the saying arose “AS DEAD AS A DOOR-NAIL”. Jesus speaks of that kind of INTENSITY in prayer, praying so persistently that it outlives the door-nail. It may seem pointless to keep bashing on something that’s as dead-as-a-doornail, but there is LIFE on the other side of the door! CPR for the spiritual heart. That kind of prayer breathes life into dead situations.

The invitation is to pray OFTEN, with DILIGENT PASSION and with ACTIVE INTENSION. Be DEPENDENT on God, PASSIONATE about seeking Him, DETERMINED to find the solutions to life. A consistent prayerlife humbles me to receive God’s grace. “Asking” suggests DEPENDENCE; “seeking” suggests DRIVE; “knocking” suggests DETERMINATION. Prayer teaches me about FAITH to accomplish the purposes of God. SPIRITUAL CPR.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 4 – Part 1 – THE ANGER GAME

Cain

I have never really had a problem with anger, but the closest I have come was in a classroom. Teaching in a highschool can be very stressful, and I had put some guys on detention and was supervising them. They had behaved badly in class but were equally disruptive in the detention room, swearing, acting tough and defying anything I said with a smart comment. It was a game and I fell for it hook, line and sinker, getting madder by the minute. The ANGER GAME 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 they 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!” If they had a vehicle to drive it would have been a MOTORBIKE and they would have worn the Hell’s angels insignias on the back of their leathers. I almost lost it. I wanted to slap them around and I was yelling. Everyone of us is capable of murder. I didn’t want to kill them, just rough them up a little.

In Genesis 4 Cain kills his brother Abel. It didn’t take long for the first murder to happen, only one generation away from Adam and Eve.

It’s interesting that Cain and Abel 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 was Cain’s offering unacceptable? Did he bring rotten fruit and veges in defiant rebellion against God rather than bringing the best of the crop? Or was this a sin offering where he needed animals for sacrifice? We are not told, but we are told that God considered that Cain had not done the right thing and his attitude was also out of line. Why did 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 had, it didn’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.

It seems that God established something with Cain and Abel that’s important. He will never accept you apart from the shedding of blood. The blood of Christ Himself was shed so that you could be accepted by God, the perfect and only sacrifice necessary. You want to bring something to God? First go to the Cross and accept the sacrifice that was made for you. Then instead of bringing something, leave it at the Cross. Try to bring the fruit of your own good works and it won’t cut muster with God. 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.”

There are two verses thus far in Genesis where animals are sacrificed.

  1. Animals were sacrificed to clothe Adam and Eve. After they had sinned by disobeying God, it seems God clothes them with animal skins. Even then their sins were paid for by the sacrifice of another.
  2. In the second example, animal life is sacrificed as an act of worship.

The “Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – 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.”

As a follower of Christ, I am accepted by God? My acceptance is based on what Christ has done for me, not on my own good works.

Pastor Ross