Archive for January, 2020

Before the Doors and Wheels Fall off © created by Ross Cochrane as a 3d computer image using Blender 2.8 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10 – Psalm 10:4-6 – HUMAN HUNTING – Before the Doors and the Wheels fall off? – Part 4

Introduction: Australia burns. My heart is breaking for the country and the people I love.

In Psalm 10, David speaks of the spiritual fires of destruction that can also devastate a society. Although this is a sobering picture (Psalm 10 paints a gloomy picture), you will also find David holds on to something positive to offer us also by way of hope. I have sought to grapple with my own thoughts on how to apply this part of the Bible.

The Newspapers today reflect Psalm 10. 

  • Terrorists killing innocent people. 
  • A Politician doing the wrong thing gets away with it on a technicality, 
  • Teenagers at a train station beat up an old man. 
  • In the middle of huge bushfires, a man is accused of lighting a fire deliberately. It is believed many others are also lighting fires deliberately. Others are looting. 
  • Designer drugs at concerts are so commonplace there are more lenient laws introduced in the hope to regulate too many deaths. 
  • A young truck driver is arrested recently for human trafficking. 
  • Ivan Milat a mass murderer, goes to his grave recently but refuses even on his deathbed to let families know of where the bodies are. He is defiant until death, glorying in the power he has to withhold this information and unwilling to be constrained by authority. 
  • Governments make bad decisions, and protesters turn into lawless mobs who loot shops and other businesses, and destroy property. 
  • A Football player loses his career for quoting a verse in the Bible that speaks about being accountable to God. An article declares how Christians utter hate speech by expressing anything from the Bible that is confronting. 

HOW THEN WILL I LIVE AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST?

How then will I live as a follower of Christ? Like David, I find myself praying for God’s protection (Psalm 10:12). Like David, I know that God thinks that we matter (Psalm 10:14). I’m probably a little less passionate in describing how I would like God to deal with arrogant people who go out of their way to ridicule belief in God or with those who lack common decency in the way Christ followers are treated, or with those who are just plain wicked in their dealings with others in our world, but I do pray for God’s justice in our wayward world, (Psalm 10:15) and I do call upon God to intervene. 

I will continue to question God but hopefully it will be like David, without the pride of thinking I could do better or know all the answers. God is not accountable to me. He is not obliged to answer my prayers in my way. He does promise justice in His time, not mine. 

THE LOVE OF CHRIST

I am called to be an instrument of His love in an unloving world, not just someone who gripes about the world. Loving your enemies is not agreeing with their behaviour. Turning the other cheek is not being a doormat but taking a choice not to allow evil to think that it is winning. How do I intervene with God’s love in an evil world?

Psalm 10:3-4 (NLT) says, “For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord. The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.”

Is it pride and independence from God that feed evil desires? Why would you be too proud to even seek God? One man recently said to me, “I don’t need some divine spirit telling me what to do.” This, of course, is his choice. A commentary sums up this sentiment, however. “Pride says, “I don’t need God or anyone else. I know it all. I have arrived. Pride is impatient with a rival. It hates a superior and cannot endure a master. Pride spurns law and authority and seeks “self-authority.”” Accountability is a questionable concept apparently.

Isaiah 53:6 (NLT2) says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him (Jesus) the sins of us all.”

For David, there is a lawlessness in his society where open violence, robbery, and murder are all too common. Self-authority taken to its logical conclusion. David doesn’t over or under expose the photograph of his culture. Strange how it still looks so much like ours. 

Who are the victims? “the innocent”; “the helpless”; “the poor” (Psalm 10:2, 8 NLT). Certainly not the Wicked. David is all for breaking the arms of the wicked (Psalm 10:15). This of course is poetic language. He doesn’t ask the Lord to kill them, but he does want God to break their arms ie to render them powerless in carrying out their evil desires.

David says, “Let them be caught in their own traps” (Psalm 10:2 NLT). There are examples of this in the Bible. Haman tried to hang Mordecai on a gallows and Haman ended up being hung upon it. Those who  tried to destroy Daniel in the lion’s den ended up being thrown in the lion’s den themselves. 

HOW DOES EVIL PERPETRATE A SOCIETY.

It starts off as an evil desire, divorced from any authority but its own. Such desires once brought the judgment of God in the form of a world-wide Flood. Genesis 6:5-6 (NLT2) says, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart.” This verse helps us with anthropopathisms (ascribing human emotions to God) in order to understand as best we can about God’s response to wickedness. Notice that the best way to describe God’s response in human terms is a regret and a broken heart. But even a world-wide flood won’t do it. It merely stays the hand of God for another time when He came into the world as a human being to deal once and for all with our sin.

Romans chapter 1 speaks of the road to wickedness and once again God’s response:

… because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, … 

Does God get His revenge? Does God immediately judge? No. God still allows us to choose and to go our own way to give us time to repent. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” 

It’s easy to ascribe these characteristics to other countries but aren’t all these characteristics readily apparent in our own society where-ever you go, from domestic violence in the home, to abuse on the internet, to the glorification of human hunting in the movie theatres, to the millions of abortions in our world each year, people choosing who is qualified to live? 

A PERSON, NOT A SET OF RULES

All of this is very easily justified, but without an absolute gauge there is only Nihilism.  For a Christ follower the gauge is not a set of rules and regulations either, but a person. Jesus Christ.

David describes the wicked as predators; human hunters (Psalm 10:2). He speaks about how God’s warnings of judgment are ridiculed (Psalm 10:5-6, 11, 13,). How do I live as a Christian? Not sit around while the doors and wheels fall off? I can let God examine my own life for egotism and arrogance and conceit, pretentiousness, smugness and pride, insincerity, and deception. These things are not part of my relationship with Christ. They are throwbacks to “self-authority” that no longer has a place in my life. This year, this decade (2020) all I know is that I can trust God to work out His purposes in a sin-torn world, and the closer I am to Him, the more my life will align with His purposes for me and I will make a difference for Him, before the wheels fall off.

Philippians 1:20-26 (NLT) expresses it well for me. “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.” 

Pastor Ross

Living on Empty © Image created by Ross Cochrane with Blender 2.8 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:4-6 – HUMAN HUNTING – God Hunting – Part 3

Introduction: I looked at Australia burning on the News the other day. So many lives and such devastation. My heart is breaking for the country and the people I love.

In Psalm 10, David speaks of the spiritual fires of destruction that can also devastate a society. Although this is a sobering picture (Psalm 10 paints a gloomy picture), you will also find David holds on to something positive to offer us also by way of hope. I have sought to grapple with my own thoughts on how to apply this part of the Bible. It is in several parts.

David, in Psalm 10 says in effect that evil people are a law unto themselves, accept no boundaries, especially anything that speaks of coming under the authority of God or the principles of the Bible. He says,…

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.

Psalm 10 reminded me of Nietzche and Nihilism. I wondered what David would say if he were speaking to a modern day Nihilist. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this…

NIHILIST: God is dead!

DAVID: Is He dead or are you too proud to seek God?

NIHILIST: Modern science has effectively killed your God. We are a secular society today and we don’t find the basis for meaning and value in the West in your God. 

DAVID: Then where do you find the basis for meaning and value?

NIHILIST: That’s just it. Nothing has any inherent importance and there is no purpose, meaning or value in life. Your belief in God just provides you with a sense of value and purpose and you seek to anchor yourself to a set of rules to orient yourself to the world. But you have invented these rules and they only serve to control you.

DAVID: So let me get this straight. You don’t believe in any guiding principles? You don’t believe in morals or meaning or absolute truth? That sounds like a crisis waiting to happen. 

NIHILIST: Yes, it is a crisis and I am the master of my crisis. Morals are constantly being invented like all the other rules of society. But there is no evil or good. That died with God. Western society now makes it up as they go along. Nihilism destroys all such myths in order to find freedom from the oppression of any outward authority. 

DAVID: It would seem to me that you do not value life itself. By disrespecting those in authority, you will end up hurting those who need help the most. 

NIHILIST: Life has no meaning. You followers of God and the Bible go on about being created in God’s image. You rail against abortion and euthenasia and assisted suicide but anarchy and death are with us. 

You say we have an obligation to look after the poor but so what if people die in poverty. Life is meaningless. Our Nihilist society will continue to challenge your beliefs. Society has already dismantled your beliefs of traditional marriage and even your understanding of gender. It will destabilise your authority to make pronouncements on morality. I will continue to curse your God and your fanciful faith. Nilihism is very much part of our society. We will destroy these fancifully invented boundaries.

DAVID: So your guiding principle is destruction? 

NIHILIST: Yes to destruction, but there is no guiding principle, just power and freedom necessitated by destruction. My power, your weakness.

DAVID:  You “brag about your evil desires;… and curse the Lord.

Is it merely arrogance and pride that feeds your evil desires? Why do you want to curse the Lord?

NIHILIST: I advocate a social arrangement based on power and materialism with individual freedom as the highest goal. I denounce your God and the religious authority you have had because it is antithetical to freedom. Nothing is certain and I denounce all traditional truths as unjustifiable opinions.

We will destroy all existing political, social, and religious order because it is a prerequisite for any future improvement. I reject the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Good and evil don’t exist. Life has no intrinsic meaning or value. Achieving individual freedom is my only law, and the state, which necessarily imperils my freedom, must be destroyed. 

DAVID: Such attitudes make you a mere terrorist with no regard for human life.

NIHILIST: Every belief, everything you consider to be true is baseless. There is simply no truth in the world and because of this I repudiate all God’s imposed values and meaning. All of that deserves to perish and so I will be involved in destroying it. I will ridicule all your cherished beliefs and sacrosanct truths because they are symptoms of your defective myths about meaning and relevance and purpose. If that makes me a terrorist, so be it.  

DAVID:You succeed in everything you do for the moment. You do not see Your punishment awaiting You. Such arrogance and disregard of God and others has consequences. 

NIHILIST: I sneer at all my enemies, including God. And now you bring up the myth of a promise of divine punishment. Nothing bad will ever happen to me! There is no bad or good, only struggle against these myths. I am free and I will remain free of trouble forever!” 

DAVID: Your so called “trouble-free” living only causes trouble to everyone else. If you prove to be victorious (and you won’t), our world would become “a cold, inhuman world” where “nothingness, incoherence, and absurdity” would triumph.

NIHILIST: It already is. In our absurd world there are absolutely no guidelines, and any course of action, I admit, is problematic. 

DAVID: I pity you. Choosing to believe in Nothingness involves a high price and it’s result is certainly not freedom. I have found that the boundaries of my Maker give me more freedom than I imagined, real freedom. You are ever fighting against boundaries and in effect continue to create your own, in an ongoing battle. You accept life but say No to the Creator of life. Beyond your Nothingness and emptiness, there is still One greater than your philosophy. In imagining that life is meaningless and that God is dead, you have nothing but an empty lie. But God is patient, even with you, giving you time to repent and believe.

Acts 17:24-28 (NLT2) says, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. …He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need. … “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist. …”

The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross

Who’s Steering the Ship © Image created by Ross Cochrane with Blender 2.81 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:3-4 – HUMAN HUNTING – Control Issues – Part 2

David has no trouble identifying evil people in Psalm 10. They seem to enjoy terrorising those who are deemed as devalued. There is an arrogant power game enacted. They are an authority unto themselves and anyone challenging that kind of authority are seen as threats, including God. Evil people have control issues. It’s about who’s steering the ship.

For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

Evil people brag about their evil desires, and in doing so, ridicule anyone who disagrees. David says in effect that we can’t expect an evil person to have a conscience or to apologise for their actions. They feel no remorse and admit no wrong. They brag about their evil. They do not take responsibility for their cruelty. They have no moral standards by which to live but their own, and even those change as is deemed necessary.

HATE SPEECH OR GOOD NEWS?

I notice those who seek to live in relationship with Christ and uphold what the Bible teaches are increasingly silenced, ridiculed and excluded. Recently, one prominent community leader defined the Bible as “hate speech”. (Rugby chief suggests quoting Bible is hate speech.) 

Is the trend now that Christians have once again become the hunted, the bigots, bearers of hate. Are they the ones deemed as cruel and wicked? How did the gospel; the good news about God’s love, justice, peace with God, love for your neighbour and salvation from spiritual death, become bad news? 

At one point, Jesus called out people who sought to ridicule and malign His name. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus addressed the Pharisees. He said, You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say”. Is this hate speech or has He got a point?

One popular columnist and self-professed atheist in Australia uses language to describe Christianity as “absurd,” “brainless,” “infantile,” “embarrassing,” “transparent nonsense,” “deserving of simple mockery.” 

This atheist and others like to use the ridicule tactic. He uses a common atheist quote about Christ being “… a cosmic Jewish zombie…” which ends with “… eating fruit from a magical tree by a talking snake.” On first reading it seemed obvious to me who is the talking snake. Apparently, we are meant to immediately believe what he pontificates about Jesus, while accepting him as our guru on everything spiritual, so that he can remove the evil of believing in Christ from our souls. In Matthew 12:34 (NLT) Peter FitzSimons ridicules Christians in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance

I admit, the Atheist’s ridiculous article annoyed me. I acknowledge the creative cynicism and invective. Very clever. He has gone out of his way to deliberately misrepresent the Biblical narrative of Christ. It is such a sad commentary on the delusion and arrogance of this Atheist and others who use their obvious talents to try to discredit Jesus. Yet Jesus changed the world and continues to do so. 

With the devout fervour of their diatribe, many people today seek to denounce and silence those who believe in Christ, but Christ and His followers will not go away. 

David, in Psalm 10 says in effect that evil people are a law unto themselves, accept no boundaries, especially anything that speaks of coming under the authority of God or the principles of the Bible. He says,…

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.

The Atheist celebrity in the article mentioned above, believes anyone, especially Christians it seems, have a right to hold religious views, but they must not express them in public. Why? Because it “hurts” the current views of our society. 

Of course, in his mind, all those Australians who disagree with his illogical point of view must not challenge him. He is saying, “Stop sharing your message of faith but don’t stop listening to my message of “unbiased” reason.” ??? Is this arrogance at its ugliest? Is he the norm or the exception? Unfortunately, there are all too many who agree with his approach. 

At its worst, this kind of social engineering was Hitler’s approach – to dictate what was good for society? Silence the dissenting voices? In contrast, Jesus certainly gave people a choice to believe or not. Thousands responded positively and millions still do.

David has his gripe to God about those who seemingly get away with evil. I guess I have done this also in this article in seeking to relate this scripture to our times and to my life personally. But David’s Psalm goes well beyond griping about the world He lives in. 

I love the quote by Jack Kerouac. He’s not specifically speaking of Christians in our era, but they too are now labelled as crazy, misfits, rebels, troublemakers, not fond of the new rules of society. He says, 

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The rounds pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do, is ignore them, because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 

Jesus fits this quote well. He was and is a misfit, a rebel and troubled a lot of people. Still does. He didn’t automatically go along with the social engineers and leaders of his day. He was disbelieved and vilified, and eventually crucified, but He is still changing the world, still transforming lives, still making a difference, still bringing spiritual healing to a wounded world. 

How should I respond? For me, my choice is a relationship with Christ every-time, letting Him steer the course, and I have much to learn about discerning and responding to the spirit of this age. I do note however that Romans 12:2 (NLT) in the Bible, encourages me. It says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross

Psalm 10:1-2 – HUMAN HUNTING – Qualified to Live? – Part 1

Human Hunting © 3D Image created by Ross Cochrane on Blender 2.81 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:1 (NLT) says, O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

David is a journalist, watching what is happening in the society in which he lives and writing a controversial column in the “The Spirit of the Age”. In effect, he is saying, “There is evil being done in our community and people are getting away with murder. Only God can help us now”.

2 The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor.

How interesting and disturbing that King David should speak of Human hunting. Human hunting refers to people being hunted and killed by other people for revenge or even entertainment or sports, and it’s usually the helpless ones. 

In a 2016 report, Daniel Wright, senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Central Lancashire, predicts the hunting of the poor will become a hobby of the super-rich in a future plagued by economic and ecological disasters and overpopulation (Human hunting).

POPULATION REDUCTION

Recently 11,000 climate change scientists published a warning about the climate emergency (This got my attention, but apparently they are not all scientists but simply people from all walks of life interested in Climate Change who had signed a petition in agreement with a much smaller number of scientists. Such names as Professors Dumbledore and Mickey Mouse were included in the list. This did not help the credibility of the document). The document went viral anyway, picked up by media outlets everywhere. The public warning, although not a scientific paper but an opinion piece, argued that the global population  “must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity”. How will this be done? With “bold and drastic . . . population policies,” including the use of “family-planning services”… “the world population must be stabilized” World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency | BioScience

Are they talking about abortion and euthenasia? Maybe a one baby policy like they had in China? Only keep those people who can contribute to society and not those who are a “drain” on society like the disabled or aged or the poor or the displaced? Are 11,000 people really seeking to save the world through more human hunting

Victor Frankl said, “But today’s society … blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What is disturbing about the first few verses in Psalm 10, where “the wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor”, is that it resonates with many of the social attitudes today in our world that regard certain people as less valuable than others. It is the wicked in Psalm 10, who with a smug sense of superiority, arrogantly choose who will live and who will be hunted down. 

ACTION MOVIES AND REALITY

Our society is fascinated by direct and blatant forms of Human Hunting given the number of movies and computer games that depict people hunting people. Do the wicked see the death of the poor as a form of entertainment? I find the focus towards human hunting of those who are devalued in our society disturbing.

I like action movies, too, I admit it.  But it is the real life scenarios enacted around our world that I don’t like. For example, according to Open Doors, a major advocate organisation for persecuted Christians (2019 World Watch List), between November 1, 2017-October 31, 2018, there were:

  • Over 245 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution
  • 4,305 Christians killed for their faith
  • 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.
  • 3,150 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned

Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. In Australia, we rarely see anything about these events on the news.

SOWING AND REAPING

The Bible speaks of reaping what you sow. David prays that the plans of the wicked will be thwarted by this principle of sowing and reaping …

Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.

An evil person is someone who engages in deliberately wicked behaviors. The trouble is – today, wickedness is almost impossible to define because we have blurred and sometimes outwardly changed the distinctions of what is and is not evil. Our measure is more to do with social norms which change each decade.

CONFORM OR TRANSFORM?

For Christian Churches, you would think that the distinctions are less blurred as they supposedly have a standard of morality based on their relationship with Christ and the Bible, but this is no longer a given. As Biblical literacy diminishes and the Bible is regarded as a book we can update, are we saying we don’t need the perspectives God gives concerning the World we live in? Romans 12 still urges Christians not to conform to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

What gives me hope is when I hear about another person giving their life to Christ; living a life based on a relationship with Christ. It is only then, the Bible says, that we have any chance to live as God intends and only then do the principles taught in the Bible come alive for us, and that is life-transforming. 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross