Archive for August, 2017

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Dispatch bag – adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:2 – I ADVISE YOUR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

The High Commander dictated the letter for immediate despatch. Not wanting to be misunderstood, his words were measured and strong.

To The Commanding General of the Opposing Army

Based on the spirit of grace, I have the authority to present this note to you advising you to surrender unconditionally.

My concern is for your Army, which now stands isolated from any reinforcements, and remains therefore unaided.

You have many fierce and gallant men and officers; all fine warriors in their own right. It would be of no benefit to continue plying them with false hopes of victory or seeking to undermine our reputation as a worthy enemy. How long can you continue?

The implementation of our strategies in this war has already sealed the fate of your forces, and a continuation of hostilities would only serve to decimate your Army.

I expect that you, accepting my advice, will give up this meaningless and desperate attempt to gain victory and promptly order the entire front to cease hostilities.

If on the contrary you should reject my advice and present an escalation of hostilities I shall be obliged, though reluctantly, to order my army to attack and defeat your forces with no quarter given.

Expecting your reply within the hour

Signing and sealing the letter, he placed it carefully in a leather dispatch bag and after signaling for safe passage for the messenger across enemy lines, it was transported to the general of the opposing forces.

The purpose of a letter of surrender?

TO OFFER TIME TO RECONSIDER

Obviously, David has enemies. His own son, Absalom, has turned once trusted associates against him. This is a time of rebellion against him and against God.

This Psalm could virtually be used as a message to the opposing army advising them to reconsider the serious nature of what they were doing. David is giving Absalom and his henchmen time to reassess their position and repent.

“How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” (Psalm 4:2 NLT)

When first I read this verse from Psalm 4:2, I wondered who was speaking. Was it David or God? As God declares David innocent (Psalm 4:1), David declares his opposition guilty.

It seems David and God speak in unison.

Reading the newspaper today reminds me that there are many in the world who oppose Biblical standards and the values of Jesus. I find myself asking, “Do I have a reputation for being someone who honors God and His Word? Is it confronting to those in this generation, enough for them to pay attention? Does what I stand for matter to anyone particularly? Does the impact of my reputation and influence make a difference in the world?”

The Answer is “Yes”. Imperceptible in the scheme of things, maybe. It may not survive to be written in books or make front-page news, perhaps. But it makes a difference because it reflects God’s purposes. It is stamped with God’s character in light, and so it will only add to the godly glow of generations of believers gone before and hopefully provide a well-lit path for those to come.

It occurs to me that David mirrors the sentiments of his descendant, Jesus. Such words could easily have been spoken to the religious leaders; the High Priest or the Sanhedrin. How long do you think you will be able to continue with such wickedness?

And I believe God is asking this question to this generation; to those who don’t follow Christ, but unfortunately also to many who do. How long will you continue …?

It continues to amaze me how many people who claim to be followers of Christ are willing to abandon or ignore Biblical principles and values. God is asking educators and politicians and religious leaders who inflict their distorted values upon others .., “How long will you people ruin My reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies?”

I find myself translating David’s words into our culture. David writes words to his own son and to any who are willing to ask, “How long will I continue to speak with amoral deceitfulness, an anesthetized conscience, and ill-considered agendas? How long will I continue to destroy the reputation of those who seek the absolutes of God’s Word with my ridicule, accusations, and lies? How long will I continue to be unwilling to reconsider what I am doing and look beyond my own selfish ambitions and schemes?”

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT) speaks of those who have tasted the goodness of Christ but in the end have denied him authority in their lives and … “by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame.” How long?

After opening the dispatch and reading the letter, the Commanding General breathed a sigh of relief and wrote back …

To the High Commander

Having reconsidered my position and the precarious nature of my circumstances, I am proposing the capitulation and submission of my forces. I am willing to enter into terms of unconditional surrender if such can still be attained.

I thankyou for the grace with which you have offered this course of action to me. I propose an immediate cessation of hostilities for the purpose of discussing how best to proceed.

Signed by the Commanding General

Christ has written a letter asking for unconditional surrender. The question remains, “How long?” How long will it take for a world gone crazy to respond to His gracious invitation, to reconsider their precarious position and surrender their lives to Christ?

How long will it take for you to accept such an invitation, to acknowledge and build your life on the Way, the Truth and the Life and the absolutes of His Word?

Pastor Ross

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Psalm 4:1 – HOW DO I BREATHE WHEN LIFE BEGINS TO STRANGLE ME?

I do not like confined spaces but I have no choice as the walls seem to press inward and the cave seems narrower, and so my only option is to continue. My feet are sore and the air is dank. I can smell my own acrid fear drawing the walls even closer in my mind as I crawl through another narrow corridor. The light of my torch is still flickering and my eyes are even wider as I realize I have reached a dead end.

With nowhere to go, I touch the wall of rock and notice some small holes in the wall off to the side. I can see one of them leads nowhere but the other one holds a vague promise of a way ahead. I am exhausted but adrenaline courses through my veins as I begin to wriggle my way through this tiny crevice, knowing there is very little possibility of return.

At one point it is so startlingly small I can only inch my way forward, desperately grasping for a wider place. And then I am crawling, sliding and falling hard but elated that I have come into yet another wider section of the cave. My light goes out and I am left in absolute darkness, gasping for breath but crying out to God …

Psalm 4:1 (NLT) says “Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”  

David prays also from a constricted place. That word “trouble” has the idea of being in distress, in a tight, narrow place. When I find it difficult to breathe because of the stress I am feeling, then I can call upon God to loosen the bands that constrict and tighten themselves around me. I can find freedom from those things that seek to stifle, restrict and smother my life.

  1. He frees me from being strangled by difficult circumstances

In Psalm 4:1 (NLT) David cries to God. He says “Free me from my troubles.”

David gives me a challenging example of the response of a believer to a crisis situation. I may feel that I am innocent but that does not mean I avoid the consequences of living in a sinful world where bad things happen to good people. Ann Landers once said, “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life.…”

Psalm 46:1 (NLT) declares that God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

So how do I find peace from constricting circumstances?

  1. He hears and answers my prayers

“Answer me when I call to you, O God … “ (Psalm 4:1 NLT).

It may at times come with tears, but prayer is God’s appointed way of me verbalizing my needs and giving expression to my trust in Him. It is not presumptuous to cry to God when I need answers. It is a recognition that I do not have the answers and I am declaring my dependence on Him.

  1. He declares me to be forgiven

I love the way David speaks of God as the One “… who declares me innocent.”  How does God declare Him innocent? Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) says, …  “No one is righteous— not even one. … They don’t know where to find peace.”  So how did David find peace with God?

For David, God’s declaration of his innocence came through prayer, prophets and through sacrifices, all of which pointed to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. For us, God is the only One who can declare us to be innocent in the light of Christ dying for our sins.

Romans 3:10-31 (NLT) goes on to say “… But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him … We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. … God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.” 

Sometimes, like David, I have to remind myself in prayer that I am forgiven. I am at times overwhelmed at communion services as I eat the bread and drink the wine, as I revisit the evidence that it is God who declares I am innocent because of what Christ has done for me on the Cross. His innocence became mine when I believed in him. Almost impossible to understand and a very humbling realization. He paid the price for my sins. I am remarkably forgiven.

  1. He offers you His undeserved favor

Psalm 4:1 (NLT) goes on to say, “Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”

David is obviously going through the constricted cave of circumstances and wants a wider place to stand, so he cries out for God to hear him. David understands mercy. He has already been a recipient of God’s undeserved intervention of favor into his circumstances throughout his life.

Psalm 4 invites me to be honest with God about my troubling, narrowed circumstances, and finding real peace from those troubles will involve having a relationship with God.

How would you describe your relationship with the Lord at this time in your life? Do you love the Lord and know His love for you? Do you feel the weight of sinfulness at times when you pray closing in on you like the walls of a narrow cave? Are you grateful for the Cross and the forgiveness that you have through believing in Christ? Are you humbled in the presence of God and by His faithfulness and undeserved favor? Are you seeking to find a wide field in which to enjoy freedom and light?

As you read through Psalm 4:1 and the excerpts from Romans 3:10-31 above, are you included in those who have been declared innocent and made right with God? I invite you to read through the verses above again and turn them into a prayer as you express your dependence and trust in Christ.

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross