Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

Risk and Reward

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

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

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

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

And then I am encouraged to…

     6. SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

     7. BE WILLING TO HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE GOD

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

Who is the PROUD person?

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

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

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

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

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

BUT IS THERE ANYONE THAT GOD HATES?

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

     8. RECOGNISE THAT I AM ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

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IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

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

Psalm 5  HOW DO I PRAY WHEN I AM OVERWHELMED?

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

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

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

Welcome to Australian Politics.

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

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

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

  1. EXPRESS YOURSELF IN WORDS AND EMOTIONS

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

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

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

     2. RECOGNISE GOD’S AUTHORITY

“O Lord,.. my King”. 

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

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

     3. BOLDLY ASK FOR UNDESERVED FAVOUR

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

For followers of Christ, we have the assurance that God hears our prayers. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says that Jesus “… understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

     4. BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER 

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

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

     5. WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR HIM TO ANSWER

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Lie like the Devil or...

Lie like the devil or ….?

Truth isn’t truth? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:1-2 – TRUTH ISN’T TRUTH? CONTEXT NEEDED.

Psalm 4:2 King David says, “How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” 

Recently, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that “truth isn’t truth” during a television interview. Even in context, this statement is a sad reflection on politics.

He was talking about a conversation between President Trump and FBI director James Comey in February 2017. Mr Comey’s account of that conversation is quite different from President Trump’s.

Guiliani said, “When you tell me that he (Donald Trump) should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.”

Todd responded: “Truth is truth.” Mr Giuliani said: “Truth isn’t truth.”

Mr Giuliani then gave context to his comment – “If you’re just a genius, tell me what the truth is! We have a credibility gap  You’ve got to select between the two of them.”

In another interview, Mr Giuliani was commenting on facts. He said, “It’s in the eye of the beholder,”

“No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder,” Cuomo said.

“… yes they are. Nowadays they are,” Giuliani asserted.

Even given context, Giuliani’s “truth isn’t truth” and “facts are in the eye of the beholder” remarks, points to a worldview that everyone can have their own version of the truth and that there is no absolute truth. Relativism.

Lindy Keffer from Focus on the Family says, “In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.” 

The Press has had a field-day with Guiliani’s comments, but some people have pointed out that when Guiliani’s interview was broadcast by the newspapers and twitter comments, the headlines and some articles left out the context of his “truth isn’t truth” statement and are therefore also misleading, lies in themselves, their version of the truth of what was said without the context, and thus proving his assertion.

King David is more direct in Psalm 4:2 “How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” asks David but through him, it is God who asks this question today.

We are all capable of manipulating the truth to get ourselves out of a corner. The blatant lies of politicians have long been acknowledged. The slogan from the Bible that hangs over the door of many courtrooms, “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” appears to have been watered down to “I will have my version of the truth and you will have your version of the truth and one of us will be set free depending on what someone else’s version of the truth is.” 

Can we believe what Comey tweeted? … 

“Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.” Guiliani would say, “Truth according to whom?” What is the standard of truth in Comey’s statement? Does it come from an external source or from our version of the truth?

I want something I can be sure of. God’s Word is Truth, absolute truth. I am invited to test the truth of His Word by living my life according to its precepts, without uncertainty.

I particularly want to be honest and call a lie a lie. I want to be able to admit to myself when I am operating from deception (and not to start believing my own lies as being my version of the truth).

I want to be able to admit my deceptive behaviour to God and see it from His point of view. Admitting a lie to others is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. Better to operate from the Truth in the first place. This is one of the serious challenges of our times (and of my life personally). It has to do with admitting when I am wrong and have an external set of standards that don’t depend on me. I need God’s standard of truth to do this.

You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:3 NLT).

Answer me when I call to You, O God who declares me innocent” (Psalm 4:1 NLT).

It’s what God declares over my life that matters most. Just as David is declared innocent by God, I am declared by God to be forgiven because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross for me.

I have come to know the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Truth has set me free.

I can come to Him at any time and He listens if I am willing to give an honest account.

Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

The Bible never says that I won’t face troubles, but it speaks of God undeserved favor (mercy) and that He hears my prayer.

Even David as a King faces challenges and needs God’s help. He asks humbly for God’s undeserved favor, knowing that God will hear his deepest prayers.

Through this prayer of David, God invites me to call to Him and acknowledge my need for His help, without the lies.

Pastor Ross

Related Article

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/absolute-truth

Mountain Island in mist Final

Peace © Image created by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Psalm 4:6-8 – CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF THIS?

“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.” (Psalm 4:6-7 NLT)

The everyday person today is asking the same question that is asked in this Psalm “Can anything good come out of this? We want something better than this. Who will show us better times?” We ask it of Politicians, Educators and the Social Engineers and so often the decisions they make are not satisfying and at times disturbing. It is a question born out of discouragement with what we see happening in our world. It’s not asking for the good old days. The good old days are so often fuelled by a bad memory and a good imagination. No, it’s not living in the past. It’s asking for better times, here and now, but not based on imposed popularist worldviews or socially engineered political agendas, but on something far more secure.

Someone said, “When the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence, water the grass on your side.” That seems like good advice, but David’s choice for better times is not fed by comparison. David is praying that he will live in such a way as to make God smile, no matter what the grass is like on his side of the fence. Having better times independent of God’s favor is meaningless to David. Better times and indifference to God’s purposes would be absurd in his thinking.

I read an article a friend sent to me recently written by Greg Sheriton in The Australian newspaper, entitled, “Is God dead? The West has much to lose in banishing Christianity.”

He quotes George Orwell, 1944 “One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realizes how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.”

Sheridon says, “In abandoning God, we are about to embark on one of the most radical social experiments in Western history. It is nothing short of the reordering of human nature. Short of war, nothing is as consequential.”

JOY

Sheridon quotes A.N. Wilson The Book of the People, 2016, “Materialism, the most boring as well as the least accurate way of experiencing the world and recording experience, is the dominant mindset of the Western intelligentsia in our day.”

Things haven’t changed since the times of King David. Many people were satisfied with the joy of good harvests and plenty of livestock, but David understood that Joy is not the product of an abundant harvest. Joy is the harvest of God’s abundant favor. The wind rippling its way through a wheat field ready for harvesting does not compare to the wind of the spirit rippling with joy through the soul.

Romans 15:13 (NLT) says “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

PEACE

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:8 NLT).

Surrounded by the danger of a rebel army led by his own son, Absalom, you would expect David to experience some anxiety. Yet David is obviously inwardly secure and he expresses trust in God for each day. The battle is not yet won, but spiritually David has victory.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than the absence of conflict. It carries with it the ideas of adequacy for life, confidence and fullness of life.” (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) declares in prayer, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

The invitation of Psalm 4 is to experience incredible joy and peace even in the midst of trouble. It is as if David is speaking in harmony with Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT), “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

When Nathanael heard that Jesus came from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip simply said, “Come and see for yourself” (John 1:46).

What good can come from all of this? What good can come from what this world offers? Philip invites us to find a deep and satisfying peace with God through trust in Christ instead of trusting in a Godless materialism. Come and see for yourself.

Psalm 4 reminds me of the blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT) which I pass on to you today, “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”  

Pastor Ross

Anger.png

Anger © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:4-5 – EXAMINE WHAT CONTROLS YOUR LIFE

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude” (Psalm 4:4 NLT).

I wondered who David was addressing in this part of Psalm 4. Is he talking to himself, his own followers or his enemies? Is he trying to protect himself against the sin of being controlled by anger rather than, as he has said in the previous verse, be set apart as a godly man? Or is this the Lord speaking and answering David’s prayer? Then I realized that these words are relevant to all parties no matter who said them or to whom they are addressed.

Ephesians 4:21-27 (NLT) gives us similar instruction to those who believe in Christ. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, … let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. … And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

My take on Psalm 4:4 is, “If you think you have a reason to be angry, don’t let that anger make you think you have a right to act independently of God. Consider this deeply before taking any action. Sleep on it rather than do something you’ll regret.” The idea is the intention for reflection which leads to repentance.

Psalm 4:4 gives me a choice to examine myself. I can make choices that can change the way I respond to life’s circumstances. I don’t have to be controlled by my emotions. I can, as Psalm 4:5 (NLT) says, “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.”

1 Samuel 15:12 speaks about Absalom offering sacrifices to impress people. When religious rituals become an excuse for power-plays then it has nothing to do with trusting in God and it is hypocritical. Religious rituals and laws are never enough to replace the right spirit and relationship of dependence to God.

Psalm 4:4-5 invites me to a life of integrity and trust in Christ. He became a sacrifice for sin once and for all and trusting in Him alone brings forgiveness and a right spirit. I am not to live a life controlled by my emotions, but as Romans 12:3 (NLT) says, “… 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.”

Pastor Ross

Chosen 6.png

Chosen © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Psalm 4:3 – CALLING VS SELF-ESTEEM

“You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him.” (Psalm 4:3 NLT)

BE CONFIDENT OF YOUR CALLING AND AUTHORITY

Confident of his calling as King, assured that he is innocent of the charges against him, certain that he is set apart for God’s purposes, David declares that the Lord will answer him.

David isn’t a product of the Self-Esteem Movement, trying to prop himself up with undue praise, while pandering to his egotism with self-talk. This is a confidence born from his calling, despite his brokenness.

Kingship isn’t a trophy handed out to everyone like a “You are special” ribbon in the team just so we can feel better about ourselves. It is a responsibility demanding submission to God and the careful application of His wisdom in order to represent His authority over His people.

Why am I making a distinction about confidence in God’s Calling and Self-Esteem?

When rigorous studies were finally conducted and evaluated on Self-Esteem some years ago by Roy Baumeister, a Professor of Social Psychology at Florida State University, after the all-pervasive social program in Self-Esteem had already infiltrated every aspect of education, they suggested that young people with very high self-esteem are more likely than others to hold racist attitudes, reject social pressures from adults and peers and engage in physically risky or even unlawful pursuits. This was not at all what was expected.

It was discovered that Low self-esteem could actually be a motivating influence towards achievement while high self-esteem could lead to arrogant, conceited, self-satisfied behavior. It was too late. The Self-Esteem Movement probably thought his research was Hate Speech and thus it has been largely ignored.

King David knows the inward reality of his calling that does not require a feel-good pat on the back by his parents, educators, coaches or psychiatrists to build up a sense of Self Esteem from a social engineering endeavor.

In all their blustering bravado and outward self-esteem, the opposing army has only caused God, unlike the teachers of the Self-Esteem Movement, to use a red pencil to circle their evil schemes and call them to repent, not hand them a ribbon of encouragement to help them feel better about ignoring their blatant failures.

David invites me to re-examine the certainty of my relationship with God and be able to declare to those who oppose the principles and values of the Word of God, “I am confident in Christ who has called me to represent Him and His purposes on the earth?”

Such confidence is birthed from a desire to discover and submit to His Holy Spirit, His will, His ways, His word, His purposes, His calling, His correction and His direction for our lives. Esteem for God. Confidence in God. God loves, calls and empowers broken people.

Proverbs 3:5-7 (NLT) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil”

Ephesians 4:1 invites you who have believed in Christ, who died for your sins, to “… lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Pastor Ross

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Dispatch bag – adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:2 – I ADVISE YOUR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

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

To The Commanding General of the Opposing Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expecting your reply within the hour

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

The purpose of a letter of surrender?

TO OFFER TIME TO RECONSIDER

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

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

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

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

It seems David and God speak in unison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the High Commander

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

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

Signed by the Commanding General

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

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

Pastor Ross

Cave.png

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. He frees me from being strangled by difficult circumstances

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

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

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

So how do I find peace from constricting circumstances?

  1. He hears and answers my prayers

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

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

  1. He declares me to be forgiven

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

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

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

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

  1. He offers you His undeserved favor

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 5:13-15 (NLT) says, “… we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” 

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

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

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

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

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Identity Theft - Photo by Rachel Bennett and Ross Cochrane

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

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

Identity Shield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can you have peace in times of pressure? 

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

3. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross