Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

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Social Engineer (as used in Political Science) © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Morguefile.org

Matthew 19 – SOCIAL ENGINEERING (term as used in Political Science) IS NOW PREVALENT IN AUSTRALIAN CULTURE

The arrogant efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by government educational programmes, media or social activist groups (the Pharisees of our day), in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population can be quite contrary to the original intentions of God. In political science it is called Social Engineering. In the Bible, it is called following people instead of God.

Followers of Christ invite others to respond to the gospel of Christ. Manipulating the social climate, Social Engineers, however, can use deceptive political agendas and critically vilify those with different values as bigots.

  1. DISTORTED VIEWS ABOUT MARRIAGE

In Matthew 19, The Pharisees, the Social Engineers of Jewish culture, were seeking to argue with Jesus over divorcing their wives. Strangely, married parents were determined to come to Jesus for their children to be blessed.

In the midst of distorted views of marriage which the Pharisees were seeking to promote, Jesus gives us the original intentions of God for marriage. And children, a picture of the oneness we share in marriage, born of the union of a man and woman, are embraced and blessed.

It’s difficult today to be accepted if you hold to the views of Jesus concerning marriage being between a man and a woman, and children being raised with the values of the Bible.

  1. DISTORTED VIEWS ABOUT TRAINING CHILDREN

Today in Australia the Government is taking more and more of the responsibilities away from parents, particularly, it seems, parents who believe and follow Christ. This is disconcerting because, according to the Bible, the Government is not responsible for raising Children or shaping their values, but parents are, as they humbly submit themselves to God and His Word.

Recently the Social Engineering programme has culminated in introducing laws which will eventually be used to train up children to accept that marriage is not only between a man and women, and that fluidity of gender is to be accepted and embraced.

  1. FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST RESPOND WITH SECURE TRUST IN CHRIST AND HIS WORD

Loving our neighbors but not necessarily their choices, attitudes, values or lifestyles, followers of Christ are paying the price for their beliefs but stand firm with a secure trust in Christ and the truth of God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 1:20 says “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Romans 12:1-3 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.”

Those who follow Christ respect Government authorities and pray for them to have wisdom in their decisions. When these decisions are contrary to the Bible, Christians continue to believe the Bible and continue to make a difference in the world by sharing the life-changing values of the gospel of Christ. Unlike the Social Engineers of our time, Christ invites us like little children to come in humility and admit that we need His help to live the life for which we were created.

Pastor Ross

 

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Adult and child

MATTHEW 19:13 – WHY WE BROUGHT OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST TO BE BLESSED

As Christian parents, Julie and I decided to bring our children to Christ to be blessed moments after they were born. I remember clearly in that miracle moment following the births of our children, lifting them up to Christ for His blessing. We still bring our children to be blessed in prayer.

Matthew 19:13 says, “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so He could lay His hands on them and pray for them.”

What I love is that children were received by Jesus. He was more than willing to take time and pray for them.

At the very beginning of their lives, the spiritual prayers of righteous people are important for their lives. James 5:16 (NLT) says “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

Laying His hands on these children was a way of identifying with them in order to symbolize the bestowal of blessing from God and dedication to God (Genesis 48:14; Numbers 27:23).

As I was reading the POSB commentary recently on this passage, I was prompted to think of the reasons why we bring our children to Christ to be blessed.These six reasons express the deepest prayers I have for my own children, even though they are now adults with children of their own.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THAT CHRIST IS THE ONLY SAVIOUR OF THIS WORLD, not science or technology or medicines as wonderful as they may be.We believe that their only hope in this world is through relationship with Christ. Jesus made it clear. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but through Me” (John14:6).

1 Timothy 2:5 says “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

We bring our children to Christ because we have personally experienced what it means to become born again into the family of God ourselves and know the reality of Salvation and new life in Him. We want them to be blessed with new life in Christ.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE HE WANTS TO BLESS THEM, then and now. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

 

We refuse to allow them to grow up neglected, ignored, by-passed, and pushed aside, given no direction and left to fend for themselves. We care enough to want the best for them, too.

We want them trained up in the ways of God, not squashed by the world’s values by being left unrestrained to express whatever sinful desires they like and indulged to the point of being totally selfish.

Because they belong to God, He wants the best for them. I want so much for them to look outside themselves and acknowledge that they need the help of God for the challenges they face in life. He wants to bless them with guidance.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST SO THAT THEY WILL HAVE GOD’S PERSPECTIVE CONCERNING THEIR IDENTITY AND FUTURE. He knows them better than they know themselves. They are unique and God has a unique destiny and purpose for them. We want them to learn that they are created by God for a purpose and that they make a difference in the world for Christ.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST SO THEY LEARN TO BE PEOPLE OF FAITH IN GOD AND BELIEVE IN HIS WORD, not simply look towards the popular opinions of the media. I don’t want the world and its influences to shape their thinking.

 

The TV and social media might be useful in their lives but I don’t bring them to the TV or computer to be blessed. I believe in helping them to shape their spiritual values and beliefs on what the Bible says. And this will be a blessing.

We want them to grow up with discernment about what is sin and not simply embrace the world’s popular values. We refuse to contribute to them becoming weak spiritually and feeling as if they have to accept anything and everything the world offers. We don’t want to leave them struggling to swim and sink in the cultural assault of a valueless society.

We are not so preoccupied with life that we don’t see our responsibility and the importance of raising our children in the ways of the Lord.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST TO BE BLESSED WITH HIS LOVE: that they know God’s love and learn to love others, which incidentally, is not necessarily accepting the lifestyle choices of others.

 

  1. WE BRING OUR CHILDREN TO CHRIST BECAUSE THEY BELONG TO GOD and although He entrusted them to us, we want to acknowledge that they are His, which is why we raise them according to the principles of the Bible.

 

In Isaiah 64:8 (NLT), Isaiah sees a people that have deliberately chosen to be shaped by the world’s values, and he says “Yet You, Lord, are our Father.We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”

The invitation is that we might bring our children to Christ that they may be crafted with a distinctive identity and future, not in our image but in the design and purpose of God for their lives.May the blessing of the Master Potter uniquely shape the lives of our children with His blessing, to be all they were intended to be.

Pastor Ross

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Yoke © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Matthew 19:1-12 – E-MAIL FROM JESUS ON MARRIAGE

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed Him there, and He healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap Him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And He said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to Him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”   

E-MAIL TO JESUS FROM ME

Jesus, You are so old-fashioned. You think that from the beginnings of creation and probably beforehand (very old-fashioned), God invented marriage. If that’s the case, then modernity can only try to interfere with it or break it, but will fail since it is firmly established by God. You are saying that His original intentions remain unchanged. So no court or government can change the nature of what God has established. 

This makes sense to me, Lord. If marriage was designed by human beings and particularly by our present cultural hegemon (ruling class) who commandeer the social commentariat (media) we would see the downward annihilation of the basic union that holds society together, the family.  

But what I love about You, Jesus, is that although You are still being as vigorously questioned by the religious Pharisees of our day, You still show Your love for all people, while not buying into all of the popular cultural norms we try to justify. 

I recall that Paul says in Ephesians 5:22-33, that God created marriage to be a picture of Your love for Your church. It speaks to me of Your absolute faithfulness. Jesus, You are not going to write us a letter of divorce. You, at least, are faithful to Your Bride – the Church. We are not always as faithful to You as time and time again we choose to conform to the world around us.  

It’s easy to see then, why You hate divorce, Lord. It’s because You love marriage. Especially since marriage is designed to reflect the relationship we can have with You. But through hard-heartedness, many remain divorced from You, Jesus and from eachother.  

It occurs to me that divorce and other invented marriage anomalies, even unwittingly, picture a war on the beauty of the gospel, God’s grace, and faithfulness and on the basic unit of our society, the family.  

It seems to me that You make Yourself clear. God has designed marriage, so we don’t need to redefine it. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant relationship, as is our bond with You, Lord Jesus. 

Lord, it’s difficult to stand up against those who feel they can decide what the cultural position should be. The vitriol concerning gay marriage is an example.  

Nevertheless, as a Christian, I am compelled to stand up for my faith and to proclaim the answers from the Bible for living a life as God intended from the beginning.  

I’ve been reading some history, Lord. When You taught these principles, Jesus, women were regarded as property to be possessed by men. They had no rights. Women were abused: used and discarded, neglected and violated. Divorce was common. And the principles outlined clearly by Moses were often challenged and twisted to mean whatever the hegemon decided.  

The social commentariat that You spoke with would come up with all the loopholes or blatantly disregard God’s original intentions to proclaim their views as law. Leprosy and childlessness became reasons for divorce and along with countless other complicated reasons to break the marriage vows that God intended for a lifetime.  

Jesus, You didn’t side with Shammai or Hillel, respected Jewish scholars, but to what God originally intended and to God’s Word. As always, though not forever, You extend Your grace and forgiveness to those who respond to Your Word and Your love by entrusting their lives to You, Lord Jesus, in relationship. 

“Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together. I love the way You use the imagery of a yoke (joined together). Two oxen are yoked together, and they work together and are more effective in their work than they are separate. This is the picture of a man and woman united as one. Adam Clarke says  when persons (a man and a woman) were newly married, they put a yoke upon their necks,  to show that they were to be one, closely united, and pulling equally together in all the concerns of life.”  

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NLT) 

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT). 

Thanks, Lord. I value my marriage and love my wife. I also value and love my relationship with You. Help me to live out these principles.  

Yours, 

Ross 

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Yoke of Marriage © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Matthew 19:1-12 – E-MAIL FROM JESUS ON MARRIAGE 
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed Him there, and He healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap Him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And He said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to Him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”    

 

PS I found three commentaries particularly helpful when looking at Matthew 19:1-12 – Christ-Cantered Exposition – Exalting Jesus in Matthew, and Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Loyal (Matthew) and Ivor Powell commentaries. I have paraphrased some of their material because of their obvious desire to be faithful to the Biblical text.

In summary, the Bible tells us,

  • God invented marriage.
  • Marriage is a picture of the relationship of Christ and the loving relationship believers share with Him.
  • Marriage is a covenant made with God and a man and a woman for a lifetime. (Incidentally, this means He did not include group marriages, or gay marriages or many of the other marriage departures from His original intention that we have today.)
  • God intensely dislikes (hates) divorce because it is a departure from His original intention. This is because he loves marriage and faithfulness. In the same way, we could say that God hates unbelief because He loves and wants the best for men and women. He may hate divorce but not the one divorced. He may hate unbelief but not the person who does not believe.
  • God, in His grace, regulates the anomaly of divorce, just as he forces no-one to believe in Christ. Nevertheless, …
  • There is only one reason for divorce and that is adultery due to hardheartedness.
  • There is only one reason for a broken relationship with God and that is not trusting in Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • God is always forgiving and He is always faithful, but not forever.
  • God, in Christ, will never be unfaithful to you.
  • If you are single, that singleness can be an advantage in serving God’s purposes.
  • If you are married, love your spouse in a way that pictures the love of Christ to those who respond to Him by entrusting their lives to Him.
  • If you are considering divorce, remember that divorce is an anomaly to what God intended for your marriage, and pictures hard-heartedness towards Christ and towards His love for those who entrust their lives to Him.
  • If you are divorced because of your partner’s adultery and single, rest in Christ’s love for you. Serve Christ in your singleness or possibly in a future marriage.
  • If you are divorced because of your adultery and single, admit to God that you have sinned and turn from that sin by entrusting your life to Christ and serve Him in your singleness.
  • If you are divorced because of your adultery and have remarried, admit to God that you have sinned and turn from that sin by allowing your present marriage to reflect Christ’s love for you and serve His purposes.

 

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One © by Ross Cochrane – Created with Blender

Matthew 19:7-11 – EMAILS TO JESUS – About Marriage and Divorce – Part 2

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We are offended and insulted. You don’t seem to realize that Your words are the source of misunderstanding and can significantly damage our standing in this community. You have impugned our character with Your accusations and implied that we have flagrantly disobeyed the law concerning divorce. This amounts to hate speech and Your public ridicule amounts to defamation. We take offence and have no intention of turning the other cheek. Your slanderous, libelous or defamatory comments have caused us to consider legal action.  

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Man Who Has Considered Divorce Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I have seriously been considering divorcing my wife for a younger woman I am interested in. You got my attention today when You said ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

As a potter, I was reminded of a deep brown clay and a light yellow clay I mixed together recently to make a pot. After it was fired, my customer dropped it on the way out and it broke in half. Although it was broken in two, the 2 halves will never be the brown and yellow clay again, but each half will always retain the substance of the other. The image has disturbed me since You spoke.

I guess that’s why I was interested in how you responded to what the Pharisees said to You concerning divorce.  They asked You, “… why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?”  

I was hoping you would say something which would back up what I intended to do, to show me a way to make it a little easier to divorce my wife. But You were more concerned with keeping the marriage relationship strong. I must admit, You masterfully cut across the attack of the Pharisees and that’s why I am writing this letter. 

I thought the Pharisees had You cornered when they spoke about what Moses said, but you didn’t flinch. You replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.”  

You also made me think when You said rather forcefully, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

You made Your point crystal clear and went a lot further than I was willing to hear. You didn’t allow any leeway. I had never really considered directly what God intended for my marriage and, like the Pharisees, I was more interested in what Moses the lawgiver said about concessions for a divorce. 

When they tried to imply that You were setting Yourself above Moses, You kept bringing what God originally intended into the argument. This didn’t sit well with me at first but when I think of what God originally intended then I can see that God believes in my marriage more than I do. The master potter has mixed the clay and fired the pot to last a lifetime, … if well cared for.

So if God wants marriages to succeed, then He doesn’t want me to be looking for loopholes in the law to accommodate my failures in working on my marriage. I can see that He wants me to look for ways to normalize a strong marriage. He doesn’t want me to look for the exemptions to accommodate my sexual fantasies, but to find ways to enhance my faithfulness.

You have given me perspective. Lot’s to think about. All this time I have been blaming my wife for our marriage difficulties rather than addressing my own hard-hearted attitudes. 

When we married I never contemplated that one day I would consider divorce, but I have incrementally edged us towards the precipice, and deliberately tried to make her life miserable to justify my sinfulness. 

During one argument with my wife, I warned her of my intention to divorce her. It caused her such pain, and I can see why divorce is not what God originally intended. 

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that you have messed with my thinking. It’s too soon to give up on us yet. It’s better to just go with what God wants and see what happens, even when it would be easier to simply write her a letter of divorce.

Lord, thankyou for softening my heart. I’ve got a long way to go, but thankyou for helping me to look for the incremental changes that will bring healing grace and restore trust to my marriage.

A convicted follower

 

Divorced Wife of a Pharisee writes to Jesus  

Dear Jesus,

I was in the crowd today and heard what You said about divorce and adultery, but you didn’t go far enough!

Leviticus 20:10 (NLT) says “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.” That’s what you should be saying! Re-marriage wouldn’t be a problem. Further adultery wouldn’t be an issue then.  ‘Til death do us part.

The Scriptures clearly say that the penalty for adultery is the death penalty, but You ignored this. I know that since this was written, God seems to break His own rules and offers grace to those who deserve death, but why?

Why should grace be given to my scoundrel husband? Why should it be so easy for him to leave me? Moses wrote it clearly enough in the commandments, “You shall NOT commit adultery or covet your neighbor’s wife”. So why is it that my husband should get away with adultery and with leaving me for my neighbor’s wife simply by writing me a notice of divorce? You didn’t give any answers for this!

I’d be the one throwing the first stone at both of them. He doesn’t deserve God’s grace. Something inside me had died. Why should he live?

I overheard your disciples say, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”  I agree! Finally some sense. It’s not worth the pain.

If my husband wasn’t ready for the commitment, he shouldn’t have married me in the first place. It’s meant to last a lifetime, through the good and bad. Even You said that. And I agree. It’s a spiritual commitment. A gift from God that shouldn’t be split apart.

I know that King David got away with adultery because God was gracious to him.  He deserved death. Why is God so gracious? And Solomon was even worse. And don’t bring up Hosea and how he forgave his harlot wife, or talk to me about forgiving my husband. I won’t! I can be just as hard-hearted as him. I’m through with my husband, with Moses, and God and You too!

As far as I am concerned, God is far too gracious to adulterers and that’s all I have to say.

An Angry Divorced Wife

 

Divorced Wife of Pharisee writes to Jesus Again

PS  I’ve been meeting with some women who are all divorced. One of them is a young woman who once felt like me, but she has not remained bitter since becoming a follower of You. I envy her peace and even her faith. She was the one who encouraged me to write to You. Perhaps I’ll stay with her for a while, but don’t get the idea that I agree with the kind of mercy You are peddling to hard-hearted sinners like my husband.  

The truth is, I don’t really want him to die. I wish he would repent, but it seems I will now remain single for the rest of my life. You said some remain single. As You say, “Not everyone can accept this statementOnly those whom God helps.  My friend is praying that God will help me. …  

Dear Jesus,

After the explosive email I sent to You the other day, I thought I had better write to You and apologise. It was my hurt speaking. Somehow I know that you will forgive me. Something struck me about what you said about those who remain single all their lives. You said, “Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”  

For the moment I choose not to marry again, even though, according to the principles you have taught, I am able to remarry. You see, even as I write, I have decided to become one of Your followers, something I thought I would never do.

And I have chosen not to seek marriage again. Like those who remain unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, I have chosen to come under Your authority as my Lord and King; to serve the purposes You have set for my life. This is a radical but welcome change that has occurred in my life.  

I’ve been talking about my husband not repenting of his sins against me but not realising I needed to repent of my own sins towards God and that all of us need God’s grace if we are to be saved. 

Single for The Sake of the Kingdom

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Follow Button © by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.78c

Matthew 19:1-2 – E-MAILS TO JESUS

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We didn’t realize You were coming into our area but now that You have arrived we notice You are attracting large crowds. Proselytising is strongly discouraged in our community. 

We, the Pharisee Investigative Group Surveillance, will be on hand and will see to it that you and your followers are scrutinized with the appropriate checks and balances of all you say and do.

We ask that you comply with the following

  • Do not speak against religious and government authorities, local customs and laws.
  • Do not share heretical teaching, or engage in defiling acts such as healing or associating with undesirable people such as sinners and those with leprosy or Gentile dogs, especially on the Sabbath.
  • Do not throw furniture or act violently in and around the temple or synagogues.
  • Do not leave food scraps around after meal times
    • Do not refuse to answer the questions of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance group or hesitate in asking for any further legal advice.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

1 You finished teaching in Galilee today and You said You are going down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds have been following You there and You have been healing their sick. I just wanted You to know that I am going with them.

It is difficult to make the adjustment of leaving, but I know that I must move on. One painful season of my life has finished. 

I almost left it too late. Making the right move depends on making sure you make the right choices. It’s not always easy, is it? I knew I had to go from here but I wanted so much to put it off. That’s partly why I am writing this letter.

Unlike me, You always understand the right time to go. When You finish saying what You want to say, You just move on, so resolute for some reason to move ever closer to Jerusalem. I am not sure why.

Jesus, I have noticed that You never stop people like me from following You. Even though I am all alone and have no right to expect anything from You, somehow I know that when You welcome the crowds, You are welcoming me too.

In fact, I have discovered that believing what You say for my life is a continual journey of following You, Lord. You say You still want to heal people like me on the inside and make me whole.

I feel safe with You. You will never turn me away or leave me to face the journey of life alone, but neither will You compel or coerce me to obey and follow You.

I am praying that God will help me in the next part of the journey but I know it will not necessarily be easy.

Jesus, You simply invite me to come, and in coming, I know that I must turn from all else, from the directions I could take to the directions You want for me to take. You say we have all gone astray from God and that You are the only way back.

I have found that this is what faith is all about. Simply turning around and following You, instead of trusting in the direction I wanted to go without You.

I just wanted to thank You.

Yours,

A follower.  

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Jesus,

We warned you about associating with sinners, the sick, proselytizing and teaching about culturally sensitive issues. You will now be subject to the public questioning of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Woman Follower Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

3 Today, some Pharisees came and tried to trap You with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 

They seem intent on wanting to trap You, to set You up and discredit what You teach. They want to see You fail. You can speak freely but only if You agree with their point of view.

You are healing the sick but they are more concerned about a theological issue concerning divorce. Go figure.

I felt as if they were looking at me. Why did they choose this question? One of them looked at me with derision. Do they know my secrets, a Christ-follower who is divorced? I shrank back into the crowd. But I don’t feel rejection from You, Lord, only respect.

I think I know what the Pharisees are doing. That’s the reason for this letter. There is more to their question than meets the eye. Their question has political overtones.

That’s why I am warning You, Lord, but already it seems too late. I know You are not concerned for political games but I also know that Your forthright views won’t endear You to the Pharisees. The truth is that the Pharisees don’t only want to trap You, Lord, but they want to get You into trouble with King Herod. Herod does not tolerate those who say anything against divorce.

I was a friend to Herod’s wife, Phasaelis. King Herod has divorced her. I tried to warn her about Herod’s affair with his own niece, Herodias, and it was me who helped her escape to her father, Aretas, king of Arabia.

When my husband found out I had helped Phasaelis, he was furious. He did not want to be associated with me for fear of King Herod’s wrath, so he divorced me, and threw me out of the house. He threatened to turn me in to the authorities.

And that’s why I am hesitant to follow You now that you are moving closer to Herod. 

King Aretas has put a contract out on King Herod’s life for the shameful way he has treated his daughter. He has declared war on Herod and there is a bitter battle taking place on the Northern border.

And Lord, it’s not only Herod You should be concerned about. You should know that Herodias, Herod’s niece, and lover, is just as dangerous as Herod himself. She caused Your friend, John the Baptist, to be murdered.

When Herod arrested John the Baptist, Herodias sought to justify her relationship with Herod, but John the Baptist denounced her “marriage” saying that it was against God’s law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). John was just like You, anything but politically correct.

Herodias didn’t like anyone exposing her sinfulness. Her conscience was seared with a life of excess, and she had the political backing to get her way. With a heart as black as the dungeon wall in which John the Baptist was imprisoned, Herodias tried to rid herself of what she considered to be an irritation, this badly dressed and ill-spoken man, … and she succeeded.

Herod granted her request. It was quite a table that had been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sat together at the king’s table that night as John’s head was brought in on a platter. You see, it doesn’t pay to say anything about God’s views on the marriage relationship. It is considered to be hate speech.

I know You are not intimidated by the dangerous question the Pharisees asked. But Lord, they are trapping You into speaking against Herod’s incestuous, adulterous marriage, even indirectly, and this could get You into a lot of trouble and I don’t want this to lead to Your death, too.

I would recommend that You leave this place as soon as possible,

Yours,

A Concerned Follower

 

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Jesus!

How dare you question our theological understanding! Your narrow views about the Scriptures are not wanted here. Not once did you mention the views of our esteemed Scholars and experts, Shammai and particularly Hillel, who have interpreted the Scriptures to be more culturally appropriate? This matter will not end here.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I’ve been thinking about the way You answered the Pharisees when they asked You about divorce. You answered their question. 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” You replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 

They wanted to argue and impose their thinking upon You, not read the Scriptures in order to understand what God was saying to them.

You cut across the plans of the Pharisaical social engineers, beyond all the popular opinions of the Romans and Jews, beyond all their justifications and You went back to what God has already declared in the Bible. I love the way You said, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?”

The simplicity of Your statement struck me. You said that God created them male and female for the purpose of marriage. I am a Roman woman and I am so aware that we Romans practice polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, incest, keeping of concubines, prostitution, and divorce. But you made it clear that the original blueprint God made for marriage involves one man, one woman, who become one in Marriage.

5 You said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 

I’ve been thinking about this Oneness. You seem to be suggesting more than just the physical union but a oneness like a spiritual glue that God uses to bond us together as a husband and wife and this eventually leads to us to become a mother and father ourselves.

My husband and I had a son. You said a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. But Your words only remind me of the pain I feel.

When my husband divorced me, he took our son. Our son, the miracle of the oneness of our marriage, torn from me. 

You expressed it well. 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

My divorce at first left me with less than I started out with. I felt bereft in every way, split apart from the oneness I experienced with my husband and torn apart from the expression of our oneness – our only son. I miss my son with an unbearable pain and all I can do is ask God to protect him.

Yet, despite the devastation and pain, my relationship with You has somehow made me whole. If only my marriage had the oneness I experience spiritually as I trust in You. If only my husband knew that it was God who joined us together.

Yours,

A Reflective Follower

Missing the Point

© Ross Cochrane – Gambling with Forgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35 – HOW TO INVEST IN WHAT TRULY MATTERS – The Parable of a Rogue Trader

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Monday.  ANOTHER ROGUE TRADER SQUANDERS MILLIONS.

Another rogue trader is back in the headlines after Compassion Bank’s Owner and Managing Director revealed that “unauthorised trading” by Michael Heartless has cost the bank millions of dollars.

The losses had surprisingly little impact on the market generally, due to Bank reserves and profits, which fortunately dwarfed the rogue trader’s activities. “This will not even touch the bank’s massive resources for the Kingdom our bank serves,” said Managing Director, J.C. Davidson, who also rules the dominion of World Kingdom Enterprises, “but it is disappointing.”

Michael Heartless had it all, authority in the banking arena, great wealth and honour. Living in a huge house, he was chauffeur driven in a magnificent limousine. He wore designer clothes and a Rolex watch. A wheeler and dealer and now an exposed ruthless rogue trader, he was the Senior Trader of Compassion Bank’s massive company.

Heartless worked his way up in the company from the position of Assistant Accountant to Senior Accountant and then Senior Trader, and was entrusted with borrowing from his employer’s Worldwide Banking Corporation to make huge business deals and investments. Traders said he expressed a love for working for his boss, as a trusted long-time employee.

After a lucrative career, Mr. Heartless began to get careless, making a series of questionable deals and fraudulent choices which inevitably lost millions of company dollars. Because he had worked in Compliance, he became adept at hiding his losses and bypassing checks.

Never thinking he would be discovered, and always thinking he could pay back the company if given time, he added to his fraud by siphoning off enough funds to keep on living his extravagant lifestyle. He bought luxury goods and property at over inflated prices, spending millions in a number of waterfront apartments. He was sure his next big deal would pay back the money he owed.

The Managing Director and owner, J C Davidson, had given his employer an incredible amount of leeway, allowing him to make choices for the good of Kingdom Enterprises. Perhaps his fraud would not have been discovered for some time except an immediate audit was underway and J.C. Davidson wanted to bring His accounts up to date with all His Banking Traders who had borrowed money from Him.

One auditor said “It was an unpayable debt. Some countries could be run on what Mr Heartless owed. His debt was so immense that at first we thought it was beyond estimation. The interest alone on such a debt would be enormous.”

The audit revealed the massive losses and fraud and Mr. Heartless was summoned to appear before the Managing Director and Auditors. Although Heartless respected J.C. Davidson, he lacked the integrity of his boss and did not want to face up to his debt. A fellow trader said, “He refused to come at first but when a limousine arrived with two rather large messengers, he knew he had no choice.”

Subsequently, J.C. Davidson exercised His sovereign authority and demanded that Heartless repay the money lost. Heartless was unable to pay the debt, so according to court transcripts, Davidson ordered everything he owned to be sold.

Heartless, along with his family members, who were co-conspirators, were ordered to be placed under an enforced work order to recover the debt. This amounted to hard labour and community service for the rest of their lives. The conviction was immediately appealed by Heartless who tried desperately to work out a deal with Davidson.

One of the auditors told our reporter that Heartless literally collapsed and begged Davidson for more time. “He was totally unrealistic. He asked for patience and he would repay the whole debt. It was laughable. At least he acknowledged that the debt was his to pay, but trying to propose some kind of time based repayment scheme was ridiculous … His mistake was thinking that he could operate and manage finance apart from being accountable to J.C.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Tuesday. ROGUE BANKER WALKS FREE.

The world was left reeling today in hearing that the Rogue trader, Michael Heartless, walked away from paying a single cent. Bankers are questioning the way J.C. Davidson exercises His extensive sovereignty over Kingdom Enterprises.

An auditor for Kingdom Enterprises said, “What I found to be unbelievable is that J.C. Davidson had pity on him, released him and forgave his debt entirely, withdrawing all charges, and personally covered the money owed.” …

J.C. Davidson later made a statement. “You must understand that Compassion Bank is run not only on a set of legal principles of building business relationships. It is run on the invisible relationship principles of love, forgiveness and grace which cannot be legislated. Legal compliance without a heart to do what is right is fruitless. I encourage my employees to regard relationships of forgiveness and compassion with each-other as being incredibly important. The example of forgiveness I have shown to Mr. Heartless is more important than the money he owes Me. I am willing to pay the price for him.”

The banking world was astounded at the enormous debt forgiven and the apparent lack of justice and business sense. Bankers all over the world have accused Davidson of taking part in the fraud, but so far His business dealings by countless independent auditors have proved to be beyond reproach.

When Davidson was asked again why He let Heartless and his family walk free, He simply said, No amount of sacrifice on his part or enforced work programmes for his family could possibly re-pay their debt. He admitted his crime and I forgave his debt. That’s the end of the matter.” This approach would not be tolerated in normal banking practices in other countries. Heartless has refused an interview and has not been seen since his release.

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Wednesday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS LIVES UP TO HIS NAME.

It seems the story of the rogue trader, Michael Heartless is far from finished. It has recently come to light that when Heartless left his boss, after being completely forgiven of his multi-million dollar debt, that he immediately went to a fellow banking trader who owed him a few thousand dollars.

Heartless lived up to his name. Despite being forgiven so great a debt himself, it was confirmed by reliable sources and witnesses that he demanded payment and assaulted his debtor.

His fellow trader owed him a tiny debt in comparison to the millions of dollars that Heartless had been forgiven. A witness said that his fellow trader, who can’t be named “… begged for a little more time to pay, but Heartless kept on demanding immediate payment and wouldn’t listen.” It is alleged that Heartless pressed charges against the man, and had him arrested and thrown into prison.

A witness said “You would think that this guy Heartless would be over the top joyful about being forgiven his unpayable debt? But no. He uses violence to demand his fellow trader to pay a tiny debt in comparison. Unbelievable!”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Thursday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS FINALLY IN JAIL.

Michael Heartless finally faces a jail sentence. Fellow traders are whistleblowers as to Heartless’ lack of compassion and J.C. Davidson steps in.

Charges have been laid and Heartless is now in prison but for the most surprising of reasons. J.C. Davidson, presiding over His own court, described Heartless as “… an evil man.” He said, in summing up his sentence, “You acted within the law but sooner or later evil men are brought to account for their evil acts. This is your time to be called to account for your unforgiveness and lack of compassion. In this court, your unforgiveness is a greater crime than the original debt which I forgave. Your crime is your lack of compassion. You will remain in custody until you have shown forgiveness to your fellow trader and until that time you will bear the torture you have brought on yourself.”

The world stands dumbfounded by his charge. Apparently Michael Heartless receives justice for his heartless pursuit of a fellow debtor. He is a prisoner because of his own bitterness and lack of compassion. His punishment is self-imposed. His unforgiveness has placed him in prison and because of his bitter and vindictive actions towards another fellow trader, he will not be free until he takes the example of his boss, and learns to forgive.

An employer who was at the court told said, “The world may not agree with how the Managing Director of Compassion Bank and Kingdom Enterprises exercises His sovereign authority over His country, but perhaps we could all learn to be a little more compassionate in the light of our own indebtedness towards God.”

Warren Wiersbe says “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are only imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Friday. JESUS SERVANTS FORGIVE DEBTORS.

The prayer Jesus taught His disciples includes the words “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV and NLT).

In the parable in Matthew 18:23-35, the king is the Lord Jesus Christ. The servants are anyone who calls Him their King. The Kingdom refers to the sphere of His authority to rule over us as our King, and His ability to bring us to account. Romans 14:11-13 (NLT) says, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” 

The context of this parable is forgiveness between two people who are followers of Christ. Jesus says that we are people who offer forgiveness continually without trying to count the number of times or measure the size of the debt (Matthew 18:21-22).

The currency in this parable is the extensive, unmeasurable amount of forgiveness we have received from God compared to the meagre amount of forgiveness we will ever have opportunity to give to others who sin against us. True compassion, therefore, arises out of a deep-seated understanding of our own forgiveness and prompts in us the capacity to forgive others.

God offers us mercy because of the death of Christ on the Cross who paid the penalty for our sin and not because of some misplaced idea of us being able to pay the debt. It is not surprising then that Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The parable has further explanation through the words of Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) which says “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” 

Pastor Ross

Hands in Unity.jpg

The Power of Forgiveness © Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:18-20 – TWO SISTERS AND THE POWER OF AGREEMENT

He was dying and wanted most of all to see his daughters together again. Graeme (not his real name) had two daughters who were estranged from each other. He longed to see them reconciled.

One sister, a follower of Christ, arrived first. She was concerned. “My sister is on her way and she is a professed atheist. I know that when we meet it will only end up in unnecessary conflict”. I encouraged her to wait and see what would happen.

When the other sister arrived they both went in to see their father in a coma and the stress of years of estrangement melted as conversation ensued in their common grief. How would they communicate with their Dad now? “He is still able to hear you,” I said, “and I am sure that he is pleased that you are both here. I encourage you to spend time alone with your Dad and express your love to him in whatever way you are able.”

When I offered to pray for their dad, they both accepted. I spoke to Graeme first. “Graeme, it is a beautiful day and your daughters have both arrived to see you. I’d like to pray for all of you.” I touched his hand “Graeme, you are surrounded by people who love and care for you and you are loved by God. I encourage you to reach out your hand to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust your life into His hands for the next part of your journey.” I prayed a prayer of commitment and allowed the sisters to spend time with their father.

Later, I came across the sister who believed in God. She said, “My father has died but we both spent time with him individually and together and expressed our feelings to him.”

“We could tell that Dad’s breathing was becoming weaker and my ‘atheist’ sister suddenly suggested that we pray the Lord’s prayer together. I was shocked. We cried as we prayed and the distance between us vanished. In forgiveness and agreement we stood either side of the bed, believer and so called atheist, holding hands with each other as the strife of the years fell away and we were reunited in relationship with each other, with God and with our dad. ”

“Our Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ….Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us … Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen”.

“Then the most amazing thing happened. As we said that final Amen, we heard my Dad speak clearly out from the haze of his coma, ‘Amen’, in agreement with us, and then he died.”

My wife’s response to this story expresses it beautifully. She said, “An amazing story of reconciliation, brought about by a father’s love for his daughters – reflecting Jesus’ amazing ministry of reconciliation brought about by another Father’s love for His children.”

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says, “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. Being in Agreement with God and with each other heals relationships. Agreement speaks of harmony and unity among followers of Christ crafted delicately through prayer and forgiveness and carries great authority.

Jesus had already told Peter in Matthew 16:19 (NLT) “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Then in Matthew 18:18 (NLT) Jesus is speaking to all His disciples about restoring broken relationships. He says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” So the same authority given to Peter to begin building the Church at Pentecost is also granted to all the disciples in sustaining the unity of relationships with each other and God.

The invitation is to respond to the forgiveness of Christ and understand how immeasurable and vast it is in restoring us into a relationship with God. To experience such love and forgiveness as this, changes us on the inside. We begin to see that relationships are of higher value than arguments and in humility we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

Pastor Ross

Torn 10 Dollar Note 5.jpg

Matthew 18:18-20 – FORGIVENESS AND A TORN $10 NOTE

It was at Mt Austin Primary School before I was a teenager that I discovered that I was skilled in drawing and painting. It was 1966 and I decided to make a copy of the new decimal currency, a $10 note. What can say? I was young. I didn’t know it was illegal and I had no intention of using it as currency, only as an Artwork.

Meticulously, I worked for hours on my $10 note until I was fairly sure that I had a respectable representation and took it to School the next day.

One of the better artists in the class happened to see it and was impressed. He wanted to show some of his friends and so foolishly, I let him take it away. He promised to return it, which he did … in two pieces; torn down the centre. Hours of hard work. He apologised sincerely. He said it was an accident. I forgave him and took my torn emotions and artwork home. Sticky-tape just didn’t work for me. It had been destroyed, but it had been an accident. What can you do? Move on.

Not to be deterred I decided to make an even better representation of the $10 note using all the newly discovered techniques I had mastered from the last one. Once again it took me hours to make and I hesitated on taking it to school but eventually decided I could make my artist friend feel a little better in the light of my replica.

On showing it around at School, once again my artist rival wanted to show it around to his friends and I said I would rather he didn’t, but he said he would keep it safe. Surely he would be careful this time, and my trusting nature gave way.

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice but my artwork came back torn in half once again and once again my friend was apologetic. I was heartbroken about my artwork and less concerned about my careless friend. I forgave him once again. To this day, I don’t know if it was his jealousy that caused the ruined artworks or his carelessness. How many times do you forgive?

Forgiving a torn artwork is trivial. What happens when the sin sears its way into your soul and brings devastation to your heart? All I know is that I have been forgiven more than I could hope for in my life and have been tested with offenses where only God’s help enabled me to forgive.

Peter once came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone (Greek my brother) who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 NLT).

Good question. Is forgiveness limited? Are there circumstances when I can’t or should not forgive? Do I only forgive the small things?

Adam Clarke says “It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice (three times) Peter raises that by more than a half, but Jesus multiplies forgiveness into an eternal value. Perhaps nothing is more difficult than to forgive.

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replies, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22 NLT). Jesus says, in effect, that forgiveness is uncountable, unlimited.

Trying to count how many times I have forgiven someone in itself shows an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness has an eternal quality and gives us a picture of the spirit of Christ. It defies counting because it comes from the heart. It’s not some scientific calculation, and it will demand grace, not reciprocity.

Can you measure how much a person has been loved or forgiven? Impossible. We can count offenses easily, but forgiveness involves leaving the offence behind, so we cannot count mercy.

To understand what Christ has accomplished in forgiving us for sins beyond count is to appreciate how much we need to forgive others without counting.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) says “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The invitation is to forgive and not carry around the burden of bitterness. Do everything you can to restore the relationship.

And no, I have never drawn a $10 note again, but the skills I gained from the experience were invaluable. A torn $10 note is not worth a torn relationship. Forgiveness in a relationship transcends an enumeration of our faults?

Harry.jpg

© Letting Harry Loose. Created with FilterForge.org by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – LETTING HARRY LOOSE! A Parable.

He comes into the concert hall late, dishevelled, unshaven, and a little drunk, stumbles his way to the stage and pushes his way up the stairs to the little ensemble.

“Where have you been? We are almost about to start” says one of the other musicians, obviously annoyed. Harry does not answer. His breath is stale and he tries to tune his violin in the last few minutes, but fails.

The other musicians have no idea how much their role in unifying the string quartet, setting the tempo and shaping the sound of the ensemble will be severely challenged. This music especially created for the Ballet tonight is called the “Symphony of Agreement.”

Fortunately the other musicians start the piece with sounds like a gentle stream over the pebbles with crystal clear chords resounding throughout the concert hall.

Just then a glorious backdrop is lit and what looks like a golden ray of sunlight courses its way through the painted trees and rests on a stream. Ballet dancers appear from the wings, their movements choreographed with the musical harmonies of the string ensemble.

That’s when Harry begins to play. It is a discordant melody which rises over the other harmonies like fingernails scratching their way down a board. The audience flinches to its sound, recoiling from its intrusion. The dancers are confused momentarily but bravely continue.

Susan, one of the other musicians, plays a note as crisp and clear as a bell, to call the ensemble back to play the music as written, a pure and beautiful sound, and then a magnificent melody to invite the audience to forgive and respond.

But once again Harry’s out-of-tune notes rise like a wailing dog to destroy her attempt and none of the musicians can continue to play. The acrimonious wail echoes through the hall with jarring intensity interfering with all hopes of saving the moment.

“Will you stop playing!” Susan forcefully whispers. “You are destroying the arrangement entirely! Your contribution to this ensemble is an offense” But Harry plays on, oblivious to her pleas. Someone in the audience cries out in protest and with that Nathan, another member of the group stops playing, rips the violin away from Harry and asks him to leave. The ensemble seeks to salvage the rest of the performance.

Afterwards, the member’s of the stringed quartet are ready to string Harry up. They come with accusing fingers and strong words, offended by Harry’s actions tonight. “How could you do this to us, they say. We’ve practised for months and you go and get drunk.” Harry stands before them, tears running down his face and tries to apologise in between their angry words.

What action can they take concerning Harry?

Matthew 18:15 (NLT) says, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” 

In the ensuing conversation, it is discovered that Harry has been keeping the wrong company, lost a lot of money gambling and with the pressure of the concert was foolishly persuaded to “drown his sorrows” at the pub with a so-called friend. After too many beers Harry suddenly remembered the String Ensemble he was meant to be leading that night.

When anger subsides, his friends gather around him, help him home, sober him up, and most importantly, as he expresses his shame, they forgive him and pray for him. It seems that harmony between Christian friends is even more important than harmony in their Stringed Quartet, despite the poor reviews.

“If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, (Greek gather together in My Name) I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 NLT)

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says “If two of you agree…” What Jesus is saying is personal and relational not simply organisational and legalistic. Agreement speaks of harmony; moving together, being in accord with eachother like a co-written piece of music played by a group of musicians who know eachother well.

It is not Harry’s raucus, disconnected and discordant notes of half-hearted, unsynchronised relationships, but a well-orchestrated piece of music in which souls play together, hear eachother and act in unity.

Jesus says if a relationship is restored with a person who has sinned against you then you are once again in agreement (in harmony) and that agreement has heaven’s approval. It is the idea of the Lord’s prayer to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

It’s not so much a matter of knowing how best to confront the sin, but how best to restore harmony to a relationship without disregarding the discordant nature of the sin. And it is about declaring forgiveness and restoration. If this is not possible, it is about recognising an irreconcilable fracture of a relationship where forgiveness is inappropriate due to the stubbornness of the other person. Not easy.

This is not God being our genie in a bottle, and coming to do whatever we ask when we agree on something. Neither was the last part ever intended to be a favourite quote when there is poor attendance at a prayer meeting. “Well, Lord, there’s just a few here tonight but thankyou Lord, You promised where two or three are gathered in Your Name, You will be here.” NO! It’s two or three gathered together in harmony after restoring a rift in a relationship due to someone doing the wrong thing. That’s when God’s forgiveness is there personally in the midst of us along with His presence.

Matthew 18:18 (NLT) says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid (Or bind, or lock) on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit (Or loose, or open) on earth will be permitted in heaven. Can we simply disregard the context? No! Binding or forbidding is a reference to the penalty of forbidding them forgiveness because of their stubbornness, while loosing or permitting is restoring someone through forgiveness to a relationship of unity.

Our part is to act in a just and loving way in our relationships to do everything we can to get things right. We have authority based on God’s Word to act in His name concerning these issues, heaven’s stamp of approval when we are seeking to forgive.

Jesus is NOT giving us a pattern for Church Discipline as many call it, but a pattern for returning harmony and agreement to a discordant relationship. And He is there in the midst when that happens.

To His disciples, Jesus says in John 20:23 (NLT) “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

In the end, this can only happen because of the Cross. It is only when I am confronted by the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross that I can come to a point of acknowledging my sin. It is only when I know real forgiveness that I can in turn truly forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) invites us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The next night Harry leads the Stringed quartet with great humility and with a passion for recompense. The harmony is perfect. The unique melody on this night is a gift from God, and it almost seems that He has taken over Harry’s violin.

The Ballet dancers move in choreographed splendour to the voices of the instruments and keep perfectly in time with Harry’s rhythm and tempo, tones and timbres. He whispers into the ears of the audience with the soft notes and builds up the crescendos to crash upon the shores of their hearts.

God is there at the beginning and there at the finale. The Maestro and the maestro at work, playing a Symphony of Agreement, loosed in the corridors of heaven and brought to earth. The Ballet and orchestra receive a standing ovation that night and I think it was accompanied with the cheers of heaven.

Christ prompts you and me in our relationships. When we respond to Christ, admit our sin, we find forgiveness and harmony with Him and with eachother.

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to save me. I admit that I have been out of tune with You and out of sync. I believe that You died for my sins and I want my life to be more than just about me. I hear the sound of God’s symphony of agreement and love and I accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour. Make my life Your instrument. Make me the person You designed me to be; to live my life in Harmony with You and others. Thankyou for saving me.

Pastor Ross