Archive for September, 2018

ELAINE-044

Photo by Anabel Litchfield (see http://anabel.com.au/about)

Psalm 5:8-11 – WHAT I LEARNED FROM A RECENT FAMILY CRISIS  

I’ve been reading Psalm 5 and have been trying to understand something of King David’s prayer, not expecting to see an example of it in my family.  

It takes faith to believe that God will grant us victory over everyday difficulties, but it takes greater faith to trust God when we go through suffering and loss. Victory comes, but often in ways we don’t expect. Our family recently reminded me that…. 

  1. WITH GREAT FAITH COMES GREAT SACRIFICE 

I know that God often answers our prayers in the ways we desire, but I know also that He allows that some of His people will suffer.  

David can’t put words to the crisis he faces when he says in Psalm 5:1 (NLT), “O Lord, … pay attention to my groaning…”  

Our daughter, Rachel (River) and Son-in-law, Joel, travelled home from Africa after preaching the gospel to countless crowds, only to discover that Joel’s Mum, Elaine, had collapsed and was now on life support. As they rushed to the hospital, their prayer was that she be restored to full health. I walked and talked with Joel at the hospital and he knew that it would take even greater faith to refine that prayer and make a decision to take her off life support.  

God invites us to have that kind of faith, to trust Him, even when we go through various trials. At first, not everything we might desire is in His purposes for us, but as we align our desires with His purposes, there is victory. 

  1. KEEP MOVING AND TRUSTING

As we spoke to Joel, he said he didn’t want to face his Mum’s funeral. It was all too big. But at the funeral, he spoke about how the Bennett family doesn’t back away from difficult situations.  

He has a path for us to take. We don’t stand still. Psalm 5:8,12 (NLT) invites God’s direction and protection in a crisis.  He finds a way where there is no way. It says “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make Your way plain for me to follow …. For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.”  

King David, but also the Bennett family reminds me that in a crisis, it is not always easy to see the way ahead. Jesus directs us when all around is perilous. He’s there, ahead of us, encouraging us to keep moving and trusting.   

When my heart is following God then it may be difficult, and there are circumstances that may cause me pain, but He gives perspective and it will be plain, simple, straightforward for me to follow the right path. There is heartache but at least there is no confusion when God is leading.  

When I pull away from Him it can become very confusing and difficult and I am defeated. Life gets complicated when I am not in that place of relationship with God, dependent upon His guidance. My only responsibility is to move forward in dependence on His grace, not back away. 

  1. GRIEF IS THE PRICE OF LOVE. 

As members of the family and many of the Church family gathered around Elaine’s bed at the hospital, communion was shared. My Son-in-law and other family members spoke. Joel’s Dad said Elaine breathed her last breath just as the service concluded. The Pastor at the funeral service said that grief is the sacrifice we make when we love someone.  

The well-worn words of Romans 8:28 (NLT) come to mind, “… we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”   

Later, at the funeral, Joel was the last member of the family to speak and he wrapped up all that needed to be said, simply and beautifully. Among other things, he said,  

  1. PRAISE GIVES YOU HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

ELAINE-027

Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In the midst of a crisis, David was able to pray, “Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house; I will worship at Your Temple with deepest awe” (Psalm 5:7 NLT).  

The funeral service was amazing. A celebration of life with beautiful praise music and worship. We were proud of Joel, of our daughter Rachel who stood beside him, and of our grandchildren who took part in the service.  

At the end of his tribute, Joel expressed how his Mum would have wanted, above all else, that people come to know Jesus.   

In the light of sadness and loss, I see such strength of character developing. Even in the midst of pain, there is a maturity that emerges.  

  1. THERE ARE STILL OPPORTUNITIES FOR JOY

I am reminded that for the Bennetts, and particularly my grandchildren, as they learn to navigate the paths of victory in the midst of pain, that the words of Romans 5:3-4 (NLT) will accompany them through life… “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”  

Psalm 5:11 (NLT) says “But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.”  

I look back at the photos from the funeral, beautiful photos taken by a sensitive friend, Bel Litchfield, and I see Joel and his family singing and praising together.   

Julie and I have always encouraged Joel and our grandchildren to take refuge in God. In doing so, even in the midst of pain, the paradox is that they will find joy and natural praise will overflow.  

  1. LET GOD TAKE THE FORCE OF THE BLOW

 

ELAINE-0731.png

Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In some photos I see Joel and Rachel with their arms protectively around their family, shielding them but also helping them to face the challenges of grief.  

Psalm 5:12 (NLT) says “For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.” 

Once more I am reminded that Christ protects me and there is security and joy in Him. Challenges still come but I am in His hands. When I am dislocated from a relationship with God I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life.   

When I face the battles of life, I am protected as I take refuge in God. He is my refuge, my shield, and He takes the force of the blows.

Bennetts, Julie and I are so proud of you. We love you. 

Pastor Ross

Risk and Reward

What and who God hates!? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:4-6 – WHAT AND WHO GOD HATES!?

Psalm 5 gives great principles of how to pray when I am overwhelmed, but in the midst of it, we are confronted by what David says about what and who God hates. So far Psalm 5 encourages me to…

  1. EXPRESS MYSELF IN WORDS AND/OR EMOTIONS “… groaning.”
  2. RECOGNISE GOD’S AUTHORITY OVER MY LIFE “… my King”.
  3. BOLDLY ASK FOR GOD’S FAVOUR “Listen to my cry for help”.
  4. BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER “Each morning…” 
  5. WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR HIM TO ANSWER, rather than get discouraged.

And then I am encouraged to…

     6. SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

This next part of Psalm 5 is where I am confronted by WHAT GOD HATES AND WHO GOD HATES.  Firstly WHAT GOD HATES…

“O God, You take no pleasure in wickedness; You cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked” (Psalm 5:4 (NLT).

Habakkuk 1:13 (NLT) mirrors this when it says, “But You are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.”  

So, if God hates evil, then those who follow Christ also hate evil. Those who love Him LOVE WHAT HE LOVES but they also HATE WHAT HE HATES. Psalm 97:10 says “You who love the Lord, hate evil!…” Romans 12:9 (NLT) says, “… Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”

So far so good. But the following verses disturb our comfortable view about God.

If you are overwhelmed by the difficulties of life, this Psalm goes on to say,

     7. BE WILLING TO HUMBLE MYSELF BEFORE GOD

“Therefore, THE PROUD may not stand in Your presence,…” (Psalm 5:5 NLT).

Who is the PROUD person?

In the context of this passage, a “PROUD” person is someone who thinks they can disregard the authority of God in their lives and live their own way.

What does it mean that they will NOT STAND IN GOD’S PRESENCE? 

Standing in God’s presence speaks of RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

When I ignore God, He will NOT FORCE me into relationship with Him, but the consequence is that I will not come to know Him or His purposes for my life. I will also face an eternity without Him.

The Bible speaks often of GOD’S LOVE FOR PEOPLE. 1 John 4:16 says “We know how much GOD LOVES US, and we have PUT OUR TRUST IN HIS LOVE. GOD IS LOVE, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

BUT IS THERE ANYONE THAT GOD HATES?

The answer is YES, and a sobering truth, when I am overwhelmed by life’s difficulties, is that Psalm 5 invites me to ….

     8. RECOGNISE THAT I AM ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD   

Psalm 5 gives us further insight into God’s character. These next verses are expressed very strongly. They talk about WHAT AND WHO GOD HATES. 

We know He hates things like DECEPTION AND IMMORALITY and MURDER but Psalm 5 goes further… 

In Psalm 5, King David talks about God’s HATRED of SOME PEOPLE… 

He says “… for You HATE all who DO EVIL. You will DESTROY those who TELL LIES. The Lord DETESTS MURDERERS AND DECEIVERS” Psalm 5:5-6 (NLT).

From deceivers to murderers is a big jump and God HATES THEM ALL!?

Now, remember that the person writing these verses is KING DAVID.

King David did some things God HATES. He COMMITTED ADULTERY with Bathsheba and then DECEIVED AND MURDERED her husband, Uriah the Hittite.

King David might as well be saying that God hates him. 

But then in the next breath, David talks about God’s LOVE. Psalm 5:7 (NLT) says “Because of Your UNFAILING LOVE, I can enter Your house;…” 

IF KING DAVID HAS DONE THE EVIL THINGS THAT HE SAYS GOD HATES, THEN HOW CAN HE TALK OF GOD’S UNFAILING LOVE FOR HIM?

Look down to Psalm 5:10 (NLT). It says “O God, DECLARE THEM GUILTY. Let them be CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN TRAPS. DRIVE THEM AWAY because of their MANY SINS, for they have REBELLED AGAINST YOU.” (Psalm 5:10 NLT)

That’s what happened to David! David was declared GUILTY by Nathan the Prophet. He was CAUGHT IN HIS OWN TRAP. He had REBELLED AGAINST GOD and almost driven away because of his many sins.

Romans 1:18 (NLT) says, “But God SHOWS HIS ANGER from heaven against ALL SINFUL, WICKED PEOPLE WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS.” 

The trouble is that the Bible says we are ALL SINFUL PEOPLE. Romans 3:23 (NLT) “For EVERYONE HAS SINNED; we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

IS EVERYONE HATED BY GOD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?

We all like to quote John 3:16, 18a (NLT) which says, “For this is how God LOVED THE WORLD: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life… There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. 

But what about the rest of John 3:18 (NLT), … But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

HOW CAN DAVID TALK OF GOD’S LOVE FOR HIM? 

The only reason I can find is that David REPENTED OF HIS SIN AND GOD FORGAVE HIM. He also paid the heavy consequences of his actions (2 Samuel 12).

For us, God’s love and hatred are connected to the Cross. God found a way to love those He hates.

So we cannot look at Psalm 5 without seeing it through the eyes of the Cross.

     9. UNDERSTAND THAT WITHOUT CHRIST, WE ARE ALL ENEMIES OF GOD, AND WE ALL NEED GOD’S FORGIVENESS

Romans 5:6-21 (NLT) says that before we started following Christ we were ALL SINNERS AND ENEMIES OF GOD.

It says, “God showed HIS GREAT LOVE for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly SAVE US from GOD’S CONDEMNATION. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son WHILE WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us FRIENDS OF GOD….”

So, here’s what I have discovered so far about Psalm 5 and what and who God hates.

  • The Bible says that ALL PEOPLE HAVE SINNED
  • It also says GOD HATES SINFUL PEOPLE.
  • WE WERE ALL ENEMIES OF GOD
  • God takes no pleasure in us being His ENEMIES because of our sin.
  • God wants to express His LOVE to us, not His HATRED.
  • God sent Christ into the world to SAVE HIS ENEMIES – US so that we could be recipients of His LOVE.
  • Christ tells His disciples to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES just as He did.
  • Christ PAID THE PENALTY for our sins and when we trust in what He has done for us, we are NO LONGER GOD’S ENEMIES but FRIENDS OF GOD and recipients of His LOVE.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord … does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants EVERYONE TO REPENT.” 

David is able to pray confidently, Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house; I will worship at Your Temple with deepest awe” (Psalm 5:7 NLT).

With Christ in my life, my response to God’s unfailing love is worship with a deep sense of awe and expectation. God loves me and I know that I can stand confidently in His presence. His invitation extends to all who trust in Him.

When I say, “God loves the sinner but not the sin”, it is a little too simplistic. He hates us being His enemies and sent Christ to restore a broken and deadly relationship.

For followers of Christ, the invitation of Psalm 5 is to enter into God’s presence in prayer,  and we can do so because of His unfailing love. That environment of God’s unfailing love invites us to find our destiny. That environment of God’s unfailing love enables us to stand firm in the battles of life.

Pastor Ross

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

How do I pray when I am overwhelmed? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5  HOW DO I PRAY WHEN I AM OVERWHELMED?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from Australia was recently ousted from leadership. In revealing speeches, he spoke about bullying and intimidation.

“The reality is that a minority in the party room … have sought to bully [and] intimidate others into making this change of leadership.”

“… if people do want to conduct an internal insurgency, then, you know, that — they’re very hard to stop.

Welcome to Australian Politics.

King David also faced an insurgency. Absalom’s strategy to dethrone his own father was a war of words. His flattering words and false rumours served to destabilise David’s kingdom. David found that the best defence against those who lie like the devil is to pray like a saint.

If a telephone call can be likened to David’s morning prayer, then it is a conference call and all of us are privy to his words down through the centuries …

HOW DO YOU PRAY WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED BY LIFE’S CIRCUMSTANCES?

  1. EXPRESS YOURSELF IN WORDS AND EMOTIONS

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

Romans 8:26-27 says that when we don’t have the words to pray that “… the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You” (Psalm 5:1-2 NLT).

     2. RECOGNISE GOD’S AUTHORITY

“O Lord,.. my King”. 

David, the king of Israel calls God LORD AND KING. He recognises the highest authority. If He is my Lord and my King then He has authority over me and my circumstances and therefore I can come humbly before Him when I need help.

David says he prays to no one but You (God)”. He’s not relying on people or his own abilities and thinking, or other gods, but seeks help from God alone.

     3. BOLDLY ASK FOR UNDESERVED FAVOUR

David cries, “Listen to my cry for help”.

For followers of Christ, we have the assurance that God hears our prayers. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says that Jesus “… understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. 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.”

     4. BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER 

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to You... (Psalm 5:3 NLT).

Each morning – Notice David makes it a habit to pray each day. Beginning each day in prayer shows a consistent lifestyle of prayer and dependence in God.

     5. WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR HIM TO ANSWER

“… I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3 NLT).

If I trust in God then I will have a capacity to wait expectantly for the answers I need in life.

By myself, I can become very discouraged, but when I trust in God there is a healthy expectation that God wants the best for me and rather than get depressed by the events of my life, I look for the answers.

But there is more to this prayer and some of David’s words you may find disturbing. (Read my next post)

Pastor Ross