Archive for June, 2012

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

My dementia lifted today like mist from a mountain. The haze that has been my life has cleared enough for me to look in the mirror and see that I have grown old. Very old. As to where I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. But the diary I hold in my hands claims my name on the cover.

DIARY ENTRY – DAY 1- I am able to walk with the help of a walking device. A Care Worker attended to me today, and when I asked her where I was, she said “You are in a safe place. Don’t worry about anything. You can eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity without having to think about tomorrow.”

When I began to object another attendant took me aside and assured me that she knows what is best for me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Please don’t complain. You have a beautiful place to live and everything is done for you!”

DAY 2 – Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! The guards interrogate my family and me for information constantly, keeping records everyday. It is not for my eyes, but it must be a fascinating file, because so much time is spent writing in it. I can’t go to the toilet without it being noted. This seems like an extraordinary invasion of privacy.

What crime have I committed? I asked a guard if he could check my records and see the length of my sentence and my release date, but he sat me down to watch television. Perhaps, like many around here, he is hard of hearing. What bothers me is that it will take several tries for me to get out of this chair again.

DAY 3 – I have exchanged my friends and family with inmates and guards. The inmates are all very old. The guards all very young. Different generation, different cultures, paid to be friendly. I still shudder to think that young women take me to the toilet and shower and dress me in the morning. My son says I have no choice.

Day 4 – My family has visiting rights occasionally, but it seems they think I deserve a life sentence and have abandoned trying to advocate for my release. Today I cried when they left. I learned that my beautiful four bedroom home where I have lived for the last 30 years is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a tennis court for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting.

I hear the family say “Is he asleep? He might as well be dead.” I still have my hearing. I am a burden to my family. Inheritance draining. Thoughts of suicide today. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.

DAY 5 – Discovered today that I have no money to spend. A successful business, millions earned over a lifetime, money to burn in the bank but I am broke. My son told me that he is now my power of attorney and he will pay for everything. Enforced poverty.

I said somewhat foolishly “Have more respect! Don’t you realise who I am?” Has he forgotten? Have I forgotten who I am? A doctor, an army officer, Prisoner of war, a Businessman, a Mayor! Was I the Mayor? Who am I? No-one seems to care who I am anymore. I am just a grain of sand on the beach, a tiny ripple in an ocean. “Don’t laugh at me!”

DAY 6 – Drugged everyday. Surviving but not living. I have been issued a walker to get around, but there is nowhere to go, no challenges to face, no future to plan, no contribution to make, nothing truly meaningful that I can do in terms of work. Closed doors. Imposed routines. I have come to consider a cup of coffee as one of the most important events in life.

DAY 7 – I was so pleased when one guard said she would take me home today, but she simply proceeded to take me back to my one room prison cell. Is she mad! Am I mad!

DAY 8 – Insecure. Guards are there to serve and protect me, men and women armed with their paperwork who are always planning strategies to keep me from experiencing any real challenges in life. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. Biggest challenge today – going to breakfast! I have to look both ways just to walk down the hallway. If I fall, a monstrous piece of machinery turns up to pluck me from the floor and place me on the bed. It seems the worst enemy around here is gravity.

DAY 9 – Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Jesus loves me. This I know. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

DAY 10 – Chaplain says God doesn’t have a band-aid for the wounds I have on the inside, or a drawer full of pills to help me cope, but God does offer His total healing, forgiveness, friendship and direction in life and in eternity. He can be trusted to keep His promises. He will never leave me or forsake me. He can set me free on the inside.

The Chaplain read from 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.” That’d be right. Even the road to heaven is too narrow for wheelchair access and dangerous. Better take my walker and hope for the best.

Seriously though, perhaps it’s not that I am in a prison. It is that the prison is in me. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” His death on the Cross for my sins has set me free. Thought about this all day.

DAY 11 – So I have swapped the wide road with it’s wheelchair access, lack of obstacles and easy smooth path and chose to embark on the adventure of faith, with it’s challenges and potholes and narrow roads. My faith is still a bit bumpy and it is a challenge everyday. But today I choose life.

DAY 12 – My dementia descends today like mist on a mountain. The haze that has been my life has cleared enough for me to look in the mirror but not to recognise the old man who stares back at me. As to who I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. All I have is this diary and my faith. O God, You who promised never to leave me or forsake me, …help me today….

Pastor Ross

Chaplain of Shalom

Matthew 7:15-20 – CHARACTER VS REPUTATION – A Parable

“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow” (Lincoln).

When the light peeked over the mountain and shone down upon the forest glade, there in the faint mist of early morning stood a beautiful fruit tree and its shadow. The shadow would dance gracefully in the mist and as the mist cleared it stretched out upon the earth, full length. It boasted to the tree of how extensive it was but by midday and on rainy days it was humbled again. The tree pointed out to the shadow. “You are only a shadow. You have a distorted view of yourself. Without the light I would not grow and without me you would not grow and recede each day. Don’t think more highly or lowly of yourself than you should. Remember that you represent me but you are not me.”

The shadow did not understand and was insulted by what the tree was trying to say. It was not content to merely “represent” the tree. It wanted more. In the morning when the shadow stretched full length it said, “I am more important to you than you may think. Without me your influence would not be extended to the far corners of the glade. Without me many would not know that you exist! I make you known and give you credibility.”

The tree was concerned about the shadow’s sense of self-importance. It replied “You can certainly stretch the truth about me to others, but you cater to the textures of the personality of all that you are with. Tainted and painted by what you are projected upon, you will always depend on others to shape you, taking on their preconceived ideas. In the end your influence is immaterial when describing my character. Your influence has no substance.”

The shadow began to pout. It found some of the lowest, darkest and most secret of corners and began gossiping and whispering unkind tales about the tree. There was no substance to what the shadow said but others gave the far-fetched tales substance. It was cold and lonely in the shadow of the tree for a time and during the winter months the shadows edges were more and more faded, blurred and indistinct.

As winter became spring the light around the tree defined the shape of the shadow in more truthful terms, but the shadow still did not shed any light at all upon the real character of the tree. Those who spent time on the dark side of the tree were intimidated. “Why are you so arrogant, so black and white in your attitudes” they said to the tree.

“You will never discover anything about me when you listen to stories of those who lack light and who walk in darkness” said the tree. “Walk in the light and look up into my branches and you will have a much more accurate assessment of who I really am. Your views at present are shaded, dappled, two-dimensional silhouettes, mere projections, and only an inadequate outline of what I offer.”

One day in the early stirrings of spring, the glade was suddenly washed in light as God looked down upon the tree. He had recently painted the tree with autumn colours, golden ochers, burnt umbers and raw siennas, a spectrum of brilliance, and with the gentle breath of His Spirit it’s leaves were scattered in the breeze, only to be replaced in the Spring with luscious buds. Unseen in the heart of the tree, far beneath the textured surface of the bark, He fashioned and formed another growth ring. He spoke gently to the tree “Some will pass by and walk within your shadow and see only a dark outline of who you are but I have looked upon your heart. I see that when the winter seasons have left you bare and barren, that deep inside of you there is the dream of Springtime fruit.”

And with these words, soon the tree was heavy with sweet, tender fruit, brilliant in ripe colours, flaring in the light in contrast to the thick deep greenery of its newly formed leaves. And God said “Yes, just as you can identify the character of a tree by its fruit, so you can identify the character of people by their actions. Walk in the light as I am in the light” (See Matthew 7:20 and 1 John 1:7)

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:15-20 – FERAL OR FRUITFUL?

Feral or Fruitful?

A few days ago, I saw various bikie club members, police detectives, prosecutors, and victims of bikie gang crime interviewed on a TV programme called “INSIGHT”. Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, NSW Gangs Squad spoke about the FALSE FRONT of outlaw motorcycle gangs. He said “Look it’s a nice marketing ploy … as if they are a bunch of social club motor cycle riders who get together on weekends, ride around and contribute to charity. My experience as the head of the gang squad shows – that’s NOT the case.” He spoke of organised crime, arrests for serious assaults (and murder), thousands of charges laid, hundreds of firearms and a whole host of drugs from heroin to anabolic steroids seized recently.

Can a Church operate like a gang of thugs on the fringe of society? Are there Church business meetings that bring out the vicious and selfish nature of it’s members, the loudest autocratic voices being raised against eachother in disharmony, a pack mentality towards other Churches and sometimes their Pastor, members hoarding money and property as if it belonged to them individually, displays of unforgiveness, fault-finding, gossiping and negative attitudes? Not to mention condoning twisted sexual practises, pride and arrogance. Do leaders boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage? Do they divide others rather than unite? Jesus warns against false prophets in Matthew 7:16 NLT. He says “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from THORNBUSHES, or figs from THISTLES?”

INTRODUCED PESTS like CANE TOADS in Australia kill native animals with their deadly toxins. Recently scientists found that CANE TOAD tadpoles are attracted to venom collected from adult cane toads. They think it is a foodsource. They are destroyed by the very poison that they would have grown to produce. Jude 1:10-19 (NIV) says that FALSE TEACHERS “… speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! …”

Foxes, rabbits, camels, brumbys, feral goats, cats, pigs, donkeys, and water buffalo. Plague proportions, running wild, feral animals that cause tremendous damage and generally cost the Australian nation millions of dollars every year in eradication programmes that don’t work. Recently in NSW the Premier granted licenses to hunt feral animals in the National Parks. The only way to deal with feral animals is trap them, bait them, shoot them, and place bounties on them. 2 Peter 2:12 (NLT) describes false teachers as feral animals. “These false teachers are LIKE UNTHINKING ANIMALS, CREATURES OF INSTINCT, BORN TO BE CAUGHT AND DESTROYED.” These words are severe. He is saying they are LIKE animals, FERAL BUT NOT FRUITFUL, destructive to others and to themselves.

How do I recognise a false teacher? Luke 6:43-45 (NLT) “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree CAN’T PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT. A tree is IDENTIFIED BY ITS FRUIT. Figs never grow on THORNBUSHES, nor grapes on BRAMBLE BUSHES. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the TREASURY OF AN EVIL HEART. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Matthew 3:8 (NLT) says “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” That’s how I will know.

We were not created to be like FERAL ANIMALS, but like a FRUITFUL VINE. In John 15:4-5 (NLT) Jesus says “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The invitation Christ gives to me today is to come under His authority and rulership over my life. He died for my sins and will enable my life to line up with God’s Word, to bear good fruit from the treasury of good heart, to love God and love others, to know Christ and make Him known, to make a difference for Him in my actions, words and fruitfulness. FERAL OR FRUITFUL?

Pastor Ross


Matthew 7:15 – HOW TO KEEP THE WOLVES FROM YOUR DOOR

Wolf at the Door!

“The spine-tingling howl was both compellingly beautiful and terrifyingly close. My nerves sung with alarm and the sheep moved restlessly. Was this a lone wolf or would we face a pack of hungry animals.

The other shepherds, with their woollen coats, hoods pulled up over their faces to protect them from the cold, were steering the flock in the darkness, whistling and speaking in comforting tones. All of a sudden a dominant male voice was shouting out orders and I realised that they were not shepherds but thieves! A wolf pack of men! The blow to the back of my head took me completely by surprise.”

In Matthew 7:15 (NASB) Jesus says “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

John MacArthur has an interesting explanation of Wolves in “SHEEP’S CLOTHING.” He says that shepherds wore woollen clothing to keep warm when they tended their sheep, “sheep’s clothing.” That means that false prophets do not deceive the flock by IMPERSONATING SHEEP but by IMPERSONATING THE SHEPHERD!

False shepherds disguise themselves as true shepherds. They claim to teach the truth but their words deceive, mislead, and, inevitably, cause harm to God’s people. In their greed, they impersonate the shepherd. It’s the perfect disguise, but they are out for personal gain, and not the benefit of the flock. RAVENOUS WOLVES! They are in it to fill their own appetite for fame, prestige, position, recognition. They come with their OWN AGENDAS AND PURPOSES for success at the expense of others.

Pastor Brian Houston this Sunday @Hillsong Church delivered an excellent message on Highs and Lows in the Christian Life. He said how most people in Australia believe in God, but He is devalued to a lower place in their lives. When reason, science, culture, money, recognition, etc are not subservient to Christ, they dominate and distort the way we live. Self rules. There’s a bank ad on TV at the moment that proclaims “I am king. I have control”. 2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT) “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!”

Are some of our prominent Church leaders False Teachers today? The evidence would say yes! And they are anything but harmless. 2 Timothy 3:13-17 (NLT) says “…. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.” In Galatians 1:6-9 (NLT) Paul says “I am shocked that you … are being fooled by those who deliberately TWIST THE TRUTH concerning Christ …”

Unfortunately, the reason they succeed is because they also fulfil the selfish needs of those who follow them. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT) says “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”

With a worldview which doesn’t include Christ, false teachers neglect to preach about Jesus dying for our sins. 1 John 4 goes on to say “… But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God … You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them.”

Working in a High Care Facility for the elderly, I am often asked by a family to officiate in a funeral service. Occasionally a family will say, “We don’t want anything religious.” My reply is that I am a follower of Christ and that the service will reflect who I am, and that I would not be offended if they wanted someone else to take the service. I cannot be false to who I am and my message will clearly be from a Christian perspective.

The invitation Christ gives comes through His warning. Don’t be pressured to live according to a culture that doesn’t include Christ or His claims on our lives. The invitation is to acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that He died for our sins and offers us eternal life. Keep the wolves from the door by not feeding them.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:15 – HOW TO STOP OTHERS SHIPWRECKING YOUR LIFE!

Shipwrecked!

They must have seen the cyclone winding its way down the coast of Queensland. But seeing the storm on television and not doing anything about it led to devastating consequences. Being moored outside the harbour left their vessels vulnerable to the punishing winds and wayward currents and tides. It’s no use just watching out for a storm!

I walked along the shore afterwards and the wasted pieces of debris were scattered for as far as the eye could see. Large vessels lay beached in sad shapes of upheaval as if summoned and thrown about by huge cruel fingers and left crumpled and injured upon the mud and rocks. One couple suffered the loss of a million dollar yacht now strewn in pieces of wreckage along the coastline. The warnings went unheeded with disastrous consequences.

In Matthew 7:15 (NLT) Jesus says “BEWARE of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” False Prophets can obviously cause harm or Jesus wouldn’t have said “BEWARE”. The word is emphatic so this warning is strong and direct. In the original language of the New Testament, it means “hold toward or before” It has the idea of holding your mind to something, taking heed, paying close attention, to continually watch out for and be on your guard against the danger of their deception. It’s not just noticing the possibility of danger but actively guarding against it.

The wide expanses of water look very attractive and easy to navigate when it comes to truth. False teachers do not think they will need any navigational equipment. But such a course leads nowhere except destruction on the reefs of false beliefs that lurk beneath the still waters. Isaiah 9:15-16 (NLT) speaks about false teachers. He says “… They have led them down the path of destruction.”

False prophets lead people into dangerous waters and teach something quite different to what the Bible proclaims. They say, “Heaven and hell is a myth.” They say, “God is a God of love and so won’t permit anyone to be punished for eternity,” They say, “Satan is a myth.” They say “Jesus didn’t die for our sin.” They say “We are not responsible for our sins. The blame lies with our parents or our environment.” (Kistemaker)

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NLT) makes it clear that “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.” God is a God of love, but because He is, He makes it clear that there is only one way to be saved (John 3:16-17). John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus makes it clear when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” Acts 16:31 makes it clear when it says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” 

Truth is a narrow way that leads to life and is not necessarily an easy channel. The unpredictable depths of the narrow passage requires a Captain to take precautions as he sails through, taking soundings from his navigational equipment and consulting the charts. It takes effort, determination and perseverance to take that path and a Captain who knows what He is doing. We have such a Captain.

How do I safeguard myself against false teaching? One way is to read and study the navigational charts of the Word of God, praying that the Holy Spirit will fill me and lead me into His Truth. The Bible will always be the DEPTH SOUNDER for the truth, the NAVIGATIONAL STANDARD by which we can measure our lives. Psalms 119:105 (NLT) says “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” John 16:13-15 (NLT) says “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. …”

2 Timothy 3:13-17 (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 invitation God gives is to take heed, guard, watch carefully and take adequate precautions when it comes to who you allow to speak into your life. Am I more interested in being entertained while rocks are ripping a gash in my life because of a faulty belief system? Or am I willing to chart a course under the direction of a Captain who knows the passage that will achieve His purposes and put my life on a true course for the future? Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…”  

Pastor Ross