Archive for June, 2017

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Right Wrong © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – CAVEAT ON DEPRAVITY

Immorality no longer lingers in the shadows but openly parades in the streets in the guise of normality. Violence and lawlessness no longer seek to hide around corners but carry knives and guns and bombs shouting out their chanted slogans in the guise of justice.

Looking around our world after I read Genesis 34 in the Bible is disturbing. I see we live in a world that seeks to justify it’s sinful behaviors, labeling them as cultural and religious norms and seeking to impose their aberrant standards with unbending severity on anyone who doesn’t agree.

Christ-followers are often regarded as being out of touch and negative about our world, but they, in turn, regard many in our society as blind to what is evil and good. The principles found in the Bible which form the basic standards of morality and values on which society thrives are ignored all too readily.

Along with the pristine beauty and wonders of parts of our world, I must admit, I do see a darker side in the nature of our society. Politicians pander to the latest sinful fads and religious leaders, like cowered dogs, are unwilling even to debate our changing values. Unchecked in News broadcasts I am fed an ever increasing diet of violence and horror hand-in-hand with a political correctness that seeks to sugar coat our shame and justify our sinful desires.

I find it a challenge to live the life for which I was created. At times I am tempted to water down what the Bible clearly states to be sin as I am confronted by the entanglement of cultural webs of expectation in our world. They are so perplexing and often so sinister it becomes a constant test of discernment to find the ethical way ahead.

Perhaps nothing has really changed for thousands of years since this is also the dilemma of Jacob and his sons in Genesis 34.

Getting away from the greed and control of his uncle Laban, Jacob has learned some lessons about deception, but he is soon to learn that the very worst of his traits in deceptiveness have been passed on to his children. Jacob has moved from Laban’s slow boiling pot of sinful exploitation to an exploding cauldron of immorality and violence in the place where he has settled.

This story makes me wonder how I would respond. It is not a story I particularly like, even though I am grateful that the Bible is brutally truthful. Immoral sexual deviancy and unchecked violence are rampant enough on the News without being confronted by it again in the book of Genesis.

Perhaps that’s why the Bible is an even more important mirror into which I must gaze than social trends. It will enable me perspective to honestly assess the developing tumors of cultural depravity and avoid the quagmires of aberrant behaviors and practices to which I, as a member of humanity, am equally susceptible. I cannot ignore the clear standards of the Bible, but how should I apply these standards?

So I embark on this chapter with an initial response of revulsion, avenging justice and shame by what I see happening. Caveat on depravity.

Pastor Ross

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-7 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 6 – Prayer, Faith and Victory

In Psalm 3, David invites you, through his example, to remind yourself of what the Bible says about God

c. God Answers Your Prayers (Psalm 3:4)

Apparently, the American President Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

In Psalms 3:2, 4 (NLT) David says “So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude … “I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Interlude”  

It seems that David’s enemies, led by his own son and those whom he once trusted, are trying to defame David’s faith and vilify David with denunciations and discouragement and blame, but rather than waste a response on these unrestrained voices of doom, David cries out to the Lord. He is not silenced by the enemy and God is not silenced by their malignant allegations and blasphemous presumptions.

The Ark of the Covenant, where God chose to reveal His presence may still be in Jerusalem’s holy mountain, but David hears heavens voice and experiences the presence of God despite being compelled to flee from his own son’s army into the wilderness. He prays and receives God’s answers while he is running away from those who once gathered with him in supposed worship.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says “… So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

1 John 5:13-15 (NLT) says, “… 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.” 

d. God Watches Over You (Psalm 3:5)

Psalm 3:5 says “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” 

Grace meets my vulnerability as I sleep. Love dispels my fears with His peace. I may choose to be anxious but it’s better to trust that even Jesus asleep in my boat is enough. His presence is all I need to have peace. His trust in the Father is mine (Mark 4:39). He calms the tumultuous waves.

In Matthew 11:28 (NLT) Jesus says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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.”

e. God Gives You Victory Over Impossible Circumstances (Psalm 3:6-7)

Psalm 3:6-7 says “I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from You, O Lord. May You bless Your people. Interlude”  

This is violent teeth breaking language. Those who know the horrors of war are familiar with such terms. He uses common expressions of his day. I need “Slap the enemy in the face” kind of courage to face my circumstances head on and “Shatter the teeth of the wicked” kind of victory against impossible odds.

Those of us who have never faced war back away from such forceful language and prefer less callous dentistry, but David asks for victory using warrior expressions, terms that describe much less than his enemies desire for him. They don’t only want to slap him on the face and break his teeth.

The New Testament describes our spiritual battle and the champion of our faith. 1 John 5:4-5 (NLT) says “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” 

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says, “… For God has said,  “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence,  “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”  

In Mark 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Psalm 3 invites me to remind myself of what I know about God. He is MY SHIELD – taking the brunt of the blows that come against me in life, MY IDENTITY – in Him I find out who I really am, MY FOCUS in times of need – answering my prayers, MY SECURITY – watching over me, MY VICTORY over impossible circumstances, MY BLESSING in life, My PEACE – peace with God means I can experience peace in whatever circumstances I face.

The invitation of Psalm 3 in the light of the New Testament is to come to know real peace despite pressure as we get to know God personally through Christ.

Pastor Ross

Identity Theft - Photo by Rachel Bennett and Ross Cochrane

IDENTITY THEFT – Photo by Rachel Bennett and adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 5

Identity Shield

He needs an Identity Shield, a service that will provide him with total protection to keep his name and identity safe. He needs lost wallet protection and a $1 million plus insurance policy to cover costs incurred due to loss. For David, it needs to be a mobile service because he is presently on the run. Well, maybe David doesn’t need all those optional extra’s but his identity is certainly being threatened by a malicious source.

Well, maybe King David in Psalm 3 doesn’t need all those optional extra’s but his identity is certainly being threatened by a malicious source.

Absalom, David’s own son, is wanting to take over his father’s identity as King; the lot. If he lived today he’d want his private phone number, social security number, address and credit card information, bank account information and medical insurance. He wants to be King, live in the palace, change the photograph and signature on the official passport and have it all; a whole kingdom; wine, women, wealth and worth.

Absalom’s scam was subtle but effective. He began Phishing for information about David’s kingdom, winning people’s hearts and allegiance. He Shoulder Surfed the crowd with deceitful charm, looking to undermine David’s security codes and Skimmed for information useful in orchestrating a successful rebellion and takeover.

Is David grieving over identity theft when He writes Psalm 3?

In Psalm 3:3 (NLT) David He prays and says to God, “You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” The glory of being King of Israel had been ripped away from David when he fled from Jerusalem. His cultural identity had been questioned big time. He feels the grief of his loss deeply.

2 Samuel 15:30 (NLT) says “David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.” 

That doesn’t seem to be much hope. How can he be grieving and then say, “But You, O Lord, are my shield; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high”? (Psalm 3:3).

How can you have peace in times of pressure? 

It seems David has peace despite the loss of the trappings of power and the discouragement of having to leave Jerusalem.

3. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD

It seems that God is all the glory David needs. There is a spiritual battle to be won and God is his shield. He worships the King of glory and he will reign as King by allowing that glory to flow through him, despite his circumstances. It is enough to have Him in his life. His spiritual identity is untouched.

a. God Is My Shield – He takes the blows in the midst of my spiritual battles.

b. God Is My Identity – I find my identity in Christ. He lifts up my head when I lose perspective.

Absalom may look like him, talk like him and masquerade as him but he does not have the identity found in God of a king; the calling of a king, the anointing of a king, the heart of a king. His own identity is blurred and marred by his sin. God lifts David’s head up high when all seems lost outwardly.

When I am cowered by my regrets, worries, difficult circumstances, opposing voices of culture and individuals who seek to devalue my faith in Christ, I remind myself that God lifts up my head. He not only encourages me but He personifies encouragement in me. He not only forgives me. He is my forgiveness. He not only identifies with me. He is my identity.

Absalom tries to masquerade with David’s identity. David may have temporarily been dethroned but God is still on the throne and sovereign. While God is still on the throne then David is still King. While God is still on the throne of my life, then my identity is found in Him.

When I face the pressures of life and my identity is threatened, the invitation of Psalm 3 is to allow God to be the lifter of my head and I am reminded that He knows who I am better than I know myself. Since my identity is found in Christ I can be at peace.

Pastor Ross

P.S By the way, speaking of identity theft, I’ve said before that I’ve been searching through Christ’s mail to source His ID; His statements, offers, distinguishing bits of information, etc. It’s there for all to see. After reading what He posts, I am able to get His personal data. It’s quite a revelation.

I remember that time in my own life when I first came to a knowledge of who Jesus was. I didn’t have to search through His trash. He had none, but I did have to search through mine. In doing so I found out about my own shortcomings and longed to change my identity. It happened on a Christmas day. It was an “Ah Ha!” moment. I discovered identifying evidence of who Jesus is. That revelation changed my life forever. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) says “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.”

An exchange took place that day as I surrendered my old life to Him. I was born again and I took on a new identity. I exchanged my sin for His righteousness. I didn’t work for it, earn it or deserve it in any way. But it was credited to my account. I was living on His credit card.

My malicious software (sin) stole His life when He died on the Cross and grace gave me mine. He paid the price for me. He picked up the tab at the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “… the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17 NLT).

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has CREATED US ANEW in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  1 John 5:11 (NLT) says “… this life is in His Son.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (NLT) says“…He died for everyone so that those who receive HIS NEW LIFE will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 

Barabbas wasn’t the only one who was exchanged for Jesus on the day of His crucifixion. I was too! Jesus paid the punishment for my sin. The innocent Son of God was indicted on my behalf. Jesus died but the exciting thing is that He invites us to exchange His righteousness for our sin. He has given us freely His identity and we have the resources of heaven at our disposal. Ephesians 1:3-5 (NLT) says that God “…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are UNITED WITH CHRIST.” Philippians 1:20-21 (NIV) says “… For to me, TO LIVE IS CHRIST and to die is gain.” IDENTITY THEFT? Not really. Identity exchange. He freely offers us the identity for which we are created. 

Pastor Ross

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The Magain (small round shield to absorb the blows of the sword) © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 4

Some of his friends had joined a terrorist organization and were intent on punishing him because their religion told them that God had abandoned him as an infidel and he didn’t deserve to live. What has changed in our world?

At the time of the writing of Psalm 3, King David is running from his ruthless son Absalom who has gathered an army to defeat him. David writes in his journal,

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

Many people in Israel justified their own betrayal by saying, “God has left King David because he has sinned so badly.” Your friends and your enemies become obvious in times adversity.

David doesn’t try to defend himself. Firstly, David is honest with God about the pressures he faces and about the ridicule from those he once trusted.

But David finds peace in the midst of turmoil. In the light of his past regrets and present adversity, where does he find the resources for peace?

When others abandon you and question your faith or God’s willingness to help you, what is your response? Like David, you can…

  1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GOD

What do you know of God? David’s images are those with which he relates strongly.

a. God Is My Shield

Psalm 3:3 says, “But You, O Lord, are a shield around me; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” 

Nathan prophesied that in 2 Samuel 12:10 (NLT) “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” David is under no delusions. God says that he will always have enemies who will be out to destroy him.

The sword may come against him as a consequence of his moral failure but the Lord will be his shield. God is your shield (Psalm 3:3) when all other shields are inadequate.

Apparently, there are two kinds of shields used by Hebrew warriors. According to the POSB commentary, one was a large rectangular shield which the soldier could hide behind and be covered. The other was a small, hand-held shield which was used to fend off arrows and absorb sword strikes. It is the small, hand-held shield that David is speaking of in Psalm 3.

That means that in Psalm 3, David is saying in effect,“The sword will come against me. That is inevitable. But the Lord is my shield. The Lord will not just protect me from being struck by the sword, but will also personally take the blows intended for me. He will personally absorb the impact.” David knows that this is a spiritual battle that he fights and however inadequate his small round sword may be in the midst of open warfare, God has absorbed the blows of his sins and will shield him from the blows of the evil one. He will face this situation he has brought on himself but will not be robbed of forgiveness.

Isaiah 53 reminds us that the Jesus Christ is our shield. Jesus personally absorbed the blows of sin for us when He died on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief … Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed … the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.

David was face to face with a situation he had brought on himself and Nathan warned him that he would have to live by the sword as a consequence, yet God was intercepting each blow of the spiritual battle and he was at peace.

Like a shield, Christ absorbed the painful blows of my sin. He is my shield in the midst of the spiritual battles I face. What about you? (More about this later).

Pastor Ross