Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

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

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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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. He frees me from being strangled by difficult circumstances

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

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

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

So how do I find peace from constricting circumstances?

  1. He hears and answers my prayers

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

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

  1. He declares me to be forgiven

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

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

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

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

  1. He offers you His undeserved favor

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

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

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The Magain (small round shield to absorb the blows of the sword) © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 4

Some of his friends had joined a terrorist organization and were intent on punishing him because their religion told them that God had abandoned him as an infidel and he didn’t deserve to live. What has changed in our world?

At the time of the writing of Psalm 3, King David is running from his ruthless son Absalom who has gathered an army to defeat him. David writes in his journal,

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

Many people in Israel justified their own betrayal by saying, “God has left King David because he has sinned so badly.” Your friends and your enemies become obvious in times adversity.

David doesn’t try to defend himself. Firstly, David is honest with God about the pressures he faces and about the ridicule from those he once trusted.

But David finds peace in the midst of turmoil. In the light of his past regrets and present adversity, where does he find the resources for peace?

When others abandon you and question your faith or God’s willingness to help you, what is your response? Like David, you can…

  1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GOD

What do you know of God? David’s images are those with which he relates strongly.

a. God Is My Shield

Psalm 3:3 says, “But You, O Lord, are a shield around me; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” 

Nathan prophesied that in 2 Samuel 12:10 (NLT) “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” David is under no delusions. God says that he will always have enemies who will be out to destroy him.

The sword may come against him as a consequence of his moral failure but the Lord will be his shield. God is your shield (Psalm 3:3) when all other shields are inadequate.

Apparently, there are two kinds of shields used by Hebrew warriors. According to the POSB commentary, one was a large rectangular shield which the soldier could hide behind and be covered. The other was a small, hand-held shield which was used to fend off arrows and absorb sword strikes. It is the small, hand-held shield that David is speaking of in Psalm 3.

That means that in Psalm 3, David is saying in effect,“The sword will come against me. That is inevitable. But the Lord is my shield. The Lord will not just protect me from being struck by the sword, but will also personally take the blows intended for me. He will personally absorb the impact.” David knows that this is a spiritual battle that he fights and however inadequate his small round sword may be in the midst of open warfare, God has absorbed the blows of his sins and will shield him from the blows of the evil one. He will face this situation he has brought on himself but will not be robbed of forgiveness.

Isaiah 53 reminds us that the Jesus Christ is our shield. Jesus personally absorbed the blows of sin for us when He died on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief … Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed … the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.

David was face to face with a situation he had brought on himself and Nathan warned him that he would have to live by the sword as a consequence, yet God was intercepting each blow of the spiritual battle and he was at peace.

Like a shield, Christ absorbed the painful blows of my sin. He is my shield in the midst of the spiritual battles I face. What about you? (More about this later).

Pastor Ross

Sword and Shield – better proportions and lighting

A post shared by Ross Cochrane (@pastorross1) on

The Sword Shall not Depart from your House © Ross Cochrane

 

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

The Sword Shall not depart from you – Part 3

2 Samuel reads like a Starwars prequel to Psalm 3. Luke Skywalker had some issues with his Dad, Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. So does Absalom.

What happened to make Absalom hate his father so much?

2 Samuel tells the story of how Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar. When Amnon raped Tamar, King David did nothing. Perhaps that’s when Absalom began to hate his own father and lost his faith in God.

Absalom was not about to sit around and do nothing. Two years later, his simmering rage against Amnon had not been assuaged. So he plotted revenge.

Absalom invited Amnon to a harvest feast and then murdered him. He escaped to live with his grandfather, Talmai, King of Geshur. David does nothing to get him back or hold him to account for his crime.

Why does David let Absalom get away with murder?  

Well, perhaps David’s own conscience plays a part in his decision-making. Is he reluctant to act because of his own sin of adultery and murder?

David’s life moves from a soap opera to a murder mystery to a Starwars premake. David had slept with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. But worse still, to cover up his sin, he had murdered her husband Uriah by putting him in the thick of battle without support. Perhaps these sins made him inept when it came to disciplining his sons.

David confesses his sins bitterly when confronted by Nathan the prophet, but Nathan prophesies that “The sword shall not depart from your house” and this prophecy was finding fulfillment in the most horrible way.

Sword2

David suspects nothing when Absalom is eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem. Instead of behaving in humility to his Father, Absalom patiently and relentlessly wins the hearts of the people (2 Samuel 15:13) and stages a rebellion.

WHY DID DAVID WRITE THIS PSALM?

With all this emotion and action spinning around in the background and threatening another episode, Psalm 3 begins to take on a new meaning. It is said that David composes this Psalm when he is forced to leave Jerusalem, fleeing from Absalom’s army, as he passes by the mount of Olives. 2 Samuel 15 recounts how he weeps, with his clothes torn, and with dust on his head as a sign of his grief and shock at such a revolt. Not only his son but many people he trusted have turned against him.

Although David grieves over his son’s rebellion, somehow David finds peace during this terrible situation. This Psalm indicates that he runs FROM Absalom but INTO the arms of God. His defense from Absalom’s huge army is this prayerful Psalm.

“How do I continue to have peace in times of pressure?” David leaves me an example when I am facing circumstances I face as a consequence of my own mistakes in life.

  1. BE HONEST WITH GOD ABOUT THE PRESSURES AND THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING but also, like David
  2. MAKE A DECISION TO RECOGNISE YOUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD

Terrorists, drug lords and presidents and kings only seem to get away with their sinful behavior.

Consequences and forgiveness are different. The Bible indicates that although we often face the consequences of our own sin against others, God forgives us when we honestly confess our transgressions to Him. But let’s not pretend that this forgiveness did not come at a price. Christ paid for us the supreme cost by dying for us on the Cross. The Cross pays our debt of sin and our relationship with God is restored when we place our trust in what Christ has done.

We may face consequences and pressures that directly result from our sins yet God can give us the peace we need while He deals with the mess we make at times with living. He gives us peace when we are surrounded by circumstances that are far from friendly and absorbs the blows of the enemy. (Psalm 3 has a lot more to say about this).

Pastor Ross

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Steampunk Lightsaber Created by Ross Cochrane on Paint.net . (Inspired by GC Geek at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6lSfOfiXHY)

Psalm 3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? The Darkside – Part 2

Watch King David if you want to know about pressure. When he wrote Psalm 3, he was surrounded by people who wanted to kill him. I have never faced that kind of situation.

In the book of 2 Samuel in the Bible, it tells of a rebellion against David. To be specific, it tells of Absalom’s rebellion against David. What makes it horrible is that Absalom was David’s own son.

What happened to make Absalom hate his father so much?

There are overtones here of the Starwars Trilogy. Luke Skywalker had some issues with his Dad, Darth Vader. Attacking the Death Star in an X-wing is nothing compared to the internal conflicts he faces in the final battle with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi.

Luke says he’ll never submit to the dark side of the Force, but then again killing your Dad with a Lightsaber is not an easy thing to do.

Quantum leap back to my study. I can’t say I ever wanted to be like my Dad. Unwittingly I made a choice early in my life never to be a son. I didn’t learn from him and avoided him. I look a lot like him now and our relationship was reconciled before he died in an amazing way.

What’s all this got to do with Psalm 3? Wind back the scene to the window of 2 Samuel and you will see that Absalom never reconciles. He was an angry young man and battled all his life with issues to do with his father.

Unlike in the lightsaber episode of Starwars, it was the son, Absalom, who gave way to the “dark side” big time and not the Father, David. David refuses to face his son in battle and seeks to protect him to the end. Yet some think of David as an evil king. Why does David have so many enemies? Is he really that unlikeable?

I spoke to my friend Joyce a while ago who doesn’t know the Bible very well but even she said that she doesn’t like King David. She doesn’t like him because he committed adultery and murder. He seems to get away with it without consequences.

Is this a clue as to why King David has so many enemies? His abuse of leadership earlier in his life? Do they all feel like Joyce? Is he like so many terrorists, kings, presidents, and drug-lords who seem to get away with their sinful behavior?

To really understand why David wrote this Psalm, you have to know the prequel. It is not a pretty story and it is found in the ancient book of 2 Samuel, but you will have to wait to find out more (might as well make a trilogy from this amazing Psalm).

Pastor Ross