Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

Psalm 9 in context © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:15-17 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 6

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. In this series I have placed words in David’s mouth but sought to remain true to what Psalm 9 and the Bible actually says about God. I hope this last episode will add to your understanding of a loving and just God.

DAVID: “The needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.”    

SKEPTIC: OK. I get that, but what I am talking about is that you pray that God will destroy your enemies. What has that got to do with the poor and needy?

DAVID: What I am saying is that God never forgets those who suffer because of evil, cruel, intolerant, violent and unjust people, people with the very characteristics that you ascribe to God. The poor and needy are destitute directly because of wicked people. They are emotionally defeated because they have been beaten down by evildoers. Justice, however, will eventually be served. 

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

DAVID: “Arise, O Lord! Do not let mere mortals defy you! Judge the nations! Make them tremble in fear, O Lord. Let the nations know they are merely human. Interlude” (Psalm 9:18 NLT)   

SKEPTIC: Do you really think it is right to ask God to judge nations? 

DAVID: Yes. One day God will judge the world, but I pray that He will intervene into the present with His justice now. Innocent people are dying at the hands of my enemies.

I pray that people will fear God while there is still opportunity. God is a universally just judge. He is also a merciful Father, with whom we can have a loving relationship with joy and praise if we but realise that we are merely human and need Him in our lives. 

The nations have fallen into the pit they dug for others. Their own feet have been caught in the trap they set. The Lord is known for his justice. The wicked are trapped by their own deeds. Quiet Interlude   (Psalm 9:15, 16 NLT)  

SKEPTIC: Now you say that it’s not God’s fault that the nations are destroyed, but their own? Isn’t this shifting the blame? After all, God destroyed them, according to your Psalm.

DAVID: The Bible speaks about reaping what we sow. Those who sow violence against God and His people reap judgement. They experience the natural consequences of their choices sooner or later. 

In Aussie (Australian) terms, it’s the “boomerang” principle. It is true that God executes judgment, and also true that people are responsible for the consequences of the choices they make. Both principles are woven together to form the truth. It’s worth pondering.

Some people will never know God’s love and will never know Him as the God of salvation; they will only know Him as the God of judgment because of their choices.

Other people will come to know God personally because of a consideration of His judgment. They run to His offer of salvation (see POSB commentary) and come to know His love personally.

“The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.” (Psalm 9:17, NLT)

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. Not only the wicked but anyone who doesn’t believe, dies.

DAVID: Yes, sooner or later. Death in the Bible always speaks of separation or being cut off. Physical death is separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of a person from fulfilling the purposes of God and from a relationship with God, because of our sin. 

You can be alive physically but dead spiritually (separated from God). Many have died physically but are alive spiritually (in relationship with God in heaven). Many have died physically and are dead spiritually (and remain separated from God) because of their own choices. Which is why God is patient. 

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

This is still true. God’s righteous character does not ignore sin as if it didn’t exist. His justice requires a price for sin. In order that His justice could be satisfied and we could be forgiven, God gave His Son as the sacrifice for our sin.

The POSB commentary expresses this well, “God’s redemption is available to all, but it is effective only for those who repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.”

Pastor Ross 

Is God just…? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:11 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 5

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Psalm 9:11 (NLT) says, “Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about His unforgettable deeds.”  

SKEPTIC: Unforgettable alright. You pray and He annihilates your enemies.

DAVID: I pray to God who will not forget the cry of those who my enemies have annihilated. God alone knows the details of the crimes of my enemies and He is just. 

In the meantime I will encourage the oppressed to sing songs of praises to God who has not forgotten them.

SKEPTIC: So you declare the destruction of people you call your enemies as a good thing? You even sing songs about it.

DAVID: I declare the salvation of the Lord for those who believe in Him. I declare that God does not forget those who are oppressed. 

My enemies are not merely objects of God’s annihilation, but I call all people to share in the blessing of knowing God personally, and I celebrate both God’s love and His justice. My Psalm says in verses 12-13 “For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer. Lord, have mercy on me. See how my enemies torment me. Snatch me back from the jaws of death.”   

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. You say God is your Avenger.

DAVID: Are you really criticising me for asking God to deliver me from persecution and death? 

SKEPTIC: No, but I am saying God is like an assassin that you have personally hired to do your work.

DAVID: How God avenges the murder of my people by ruthless and evil people, is best left to Him. I am asking for God’s mercy on me. He alone is just and fair. 

I do not deserve God’s mercy, but by grace, He has given it to me as a gift. Should I remain alive, it will only give me more incentive to declare God’s grace and mercy and salvation to those who trust in Him. That’s why I prayed in verse 14 “Save me so I can praise You publicly at Jerusalem’s gates, so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.” 

PASTOR ROSS: This is still the basis of the gospel cry, “Save me, Lord, not because I deserve it but because of Your grace.” 

The Bible says all have sinned and deserve to pay the price of spiritual separation from God, but Jesus died a cruel death on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He is the only One who came to save us. He offers us the free gift of Eternal Life to those who will accept it. 

God says in Isaiah 43:11-12 (NLT), “I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.”

To be continued… Read Part 6

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:9-10 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 4

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Did you read all of my Psalm. Verse 9-10 reads, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. ”    

I thank God that He shields and protects me when I am oppressed and that He is my refuge when I go through times of trouble. He cares for me. He is my safest refuge, above all others, when my extremity of circumstances meets His Sovereignty.

SKEPTIC: He shelters you perhaps, but you are saying that He destroys others.

DAVID: What I am saying is that God is a shelter to anyone who trusts in Him. The word I have used here which you translate as Shelter literally means High place: a place where enemies cannot reach, or see or attack. I am imagining a high cave concealed in a mountain. I am secure in my relationship with God. 

Like any believer of your age, I can be secure from anxious thoughts or insecurities, secure from past and future sinfulness because of what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross. That’s why I wrote in verse 10, “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for You.”

SKEPTIC: So your trust grows when you escape from your enemies or whenever God annihilates them?

DAVID: Knowing God’s Name means, in your language, means “learning about God’s Character by seeing Him at work in our lives”. The more my faith grows, the more I experience Him at work in my life. Perhaps I simply notice He has been at work in my life all along. I always experience His love even when, at times, I see His righteous acts of justice over my enemies. 

SKEPTIC: Are you saying that when God wipes out a nation that He is expressing His love?

DAVID: Justice exercised without love is not really justice. It really would be, as you describe it, cruel. And you or I are not capable of such love to be able to judge with that kind of absolute fairness. 

All I know is that from my point of view, God will not abandon me and I seek Him with all my heart. I may go through some tough times but He will never leave me nor forsake me. 

SKEPTIC: So even though you have tough times, you still think God is a God of love? Even though He doesn’t protect you from trouble you still think He loves you?

DAVID: I agree with Paul in your New Testament who says in Romans 8:35-39, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To be continued…

Is God cruel, unjust, intolerant and violent? Stay with me, and read Part 5

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 3

Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) says, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; You have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: So, according to you, your enemies are annihilated forever by God. You just pray and they die.

DAVID: No, not at all. There is more to it than that. My words in Psalm 9:4 (NLT) say “For You have judged in my favor; from Your throne You have judged with fairness.”   

I am humbled when the Lord judges in my favour. He does not always do that. When He does, it indicates that my thoughts are lining up with His thoughts. This is not always so. I find myself praying, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

I ask Him to give me His perspective, from His Word, not my often twisted version of the way things should be based upon flawed social and cultural norms.

I hope He will also give me the grace to disagree with others firmly when I need to, without being a jerk or desiring their destruction. My Psalm is not simply talking about those who have a disagreement with me, but those who are trying to kill me and my people.

SKEPTIC: Aren’t you concerned that this Psalm will give a wrong impression of you? 

DAVID: Let me be less concerned with what others misunderstand about me, or whether others treat me fairly or not, or even whether they exclude me or not, and more concerned about what God thinks is fair. I want to portray God for who He is – not only loving, but just. Let me be more concerned about what He says than what others say. 

I am like Paul in your New Testament Bible. In Galatians 1:10 (NLT), Paul says, Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Save me from self-pity, and wanting to get back at people who seek to mistreat me for what I believe and who I believe in. I leave that in God’s hands. He knows how to fight His own battles without my sin getting in the way, so I pray that He will give me the right words when I need them and the respect for others who disagree. I pray that He will help me know when to stand up and be counted without being self-righteous. 

Only He knows what is right and just. It’s not so much that He is on my side, but I give thanks for the privilege of allowing me to be on His.

SKEPTIC: But your words in Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) are so severe when you speak about God. You say, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.” 

PASTOR ROSS: I can only agree with the Skeptic. David’s words are severe when speaking about the justice and the severe judgment of God. His words are shocking. Too few people find them shocking enough to take them seriously.

Psalm 9 makes me concerned for the direction our own country is going. We seem to be making some wicked decisions and placing them in law, laws that contradict God’s Word. My heart cries out to God to prompt us to turn our country towards Him rather than this continual movement away from God. 

I pray that He will rebuke and erase the wickedness from our country and that we would respond in repentance. I pray that He will protect the generation of my grandchildren from the consequences of any wicked lawmakers or social engineers who choose to continually erode the principles of the Bible. 

I pray that He would help me not to be involved in destroying our society with such wicked intent, but actively involved in His loving, fair and just purposes. I don’t want to be deceived by clever words and deception that ultimately applauds what is evil and deplores what is right and just and valuable.  

My prayer is that God will bring His salvation to our lost generation. May we not be erased in the pages of history because of our defiance of God; so insignificant that we don’t deserve more than a passing reference to our demise.

Even before David’s time as King, so many of the nations, once real people who made real choices and a wicked name for themselves, were destroyed so utterly that in the aftermath of such destruction, we cannot even dig up the remnants of one city. Yes, their cities were destroyed, but more tragically, those who chose to stand against God were utterly wiped out to the point of being entirely forgotten by history itself. 

I take the words of this Psalm to heart. Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says, “But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne…”   Long after this generation perishes, He will reign. Long after this Government is out of office, He will still exercise His authority.  “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”   

Paul expresses this idea when He speaks to the Athenians about who God is in Acts 17:24-31

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, … He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need… He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist… ‘We are His offspring.’ … “God … commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him. For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man He has appointed (ie Christ), and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

To be continued… 

IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? You decide as we look at some other parts of this Psalm. Read Part 4

Psalm 9:7-8 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 2

Is God Cruel and Unfair? © Image by Julie Cochrane

Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says,But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: What gives your God the right to judge anyone? He’s supposed to support you, not execute judgment on people.

DAVID: I am a little confused here. Are you really saying that God Most High, higher than any authority on earth should not “judge the world in righteousness; that He should not execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (verse 8)? 

SKEPTIC: I am simply questioning a God who would destroy people. 

DAVID: No, you are questioning God’s authority to make righteous decisions based on His perfect character. You Are you saying that God Most High must have your values, your ideas of right and wrong, your standards? Must He do as you want Him to do, as your personal flunky? 

Let me ask you the questions that you are asking of God. “Are God’s plans higher than your plans, and if He is God Most High, then does He have the right of sovereign choice rather than simply obeying you and always agreeing with you, as a Houseboy Creator, Flunky God, Slave almighty. Are you responsible to God Most High or is He responsible to you?”

SKEPTIC: Strange, that’s what I am saying about you. It seems to me that God is responsible to you. You are the one praying that God will kill your enemies.

DAVID: Just as you can’t see that I am asking God to respond with Justice concerning my enemies, I can’t see why you demand of God Most High that He not judge people for going their own way, without reference to Him? 

My Psalm says God is absolutely just, in which case it is disastrous to stand against Him or His purposes?

SKEPTIC: He seems like a harsh God to me.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not known His love. I know Him as a God of Love AND a God of Justice. His purposes are designed for life to be lived to the full. In your New Testament Bible, John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

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

I admit, I am biased towards God after all these years as His follower. I don’t fully understand those who defy God Most High in their hearts, words and actions. I would rather do life with God than without Him. 

I regard life as a precious gift from God and I am here but a moment. I thank God that in that moment I can serve His purposes and stand in awe in His presence, and have a choice to live life to the full. Physical life is His gift and spiritual life is a gift and a choice. 

I choose life. 

SKEPTIC: But you don’t choose life for your enemies.

DAVID: I do not enforce my standards on my enemies. My Psalm says that the intimidating adversaries of spirituality continue to retreat in God’s presence. I believe that anyone and anything that seeks to steal the valuable resources for living spiritual life based on God’s Word will ultimately withdraw, give way, recoil, run and  fail. 

I have been invited to live life as an overcomer in a world that increasingly rejects and repudiates the claims of the Bible. I claim the words of your New Testament Bible which says in Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT), … For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

SKEPTICS: Well, we don’t have enemies trying to kill us today.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not been looking at your world. Does the author of this blog have anything to say on this.

PASTOR ROSS: According to https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/rita-panahi/christianity-is-the-most-persecuted-religion-in-the-world/news-story/fccadd1f30733117c2d9dd338a27e7cc Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth at the moment. I can’t help but think that the enemies of Christianity today are not so much the Skeptics like yourself, who are at least willing to consider the case for Christ, but the social engineers in our Governments, Universities and Schools seeking to eradicate any semblance of our Christian heritage from our society. Those who see the Bible as hate speech. This is a startling change of values in our society which I believe will lead to disastrous consequences, perhaps for generations to come. 

I love speaking with genuine skeptics, but increasingly, the social engineers of our society,  with an evangelical zeal, berate Christianity today, preferring followers of Christ to be seen and not heard, silenced from any platform that may challenge their agenda. 

It is no wonder that Romans 12:1-3 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you … Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Faith that is personal is also faith that it lived out in public. I pray that the Lord would help me to continue to develop my personal faith. Hopefully, without arrogance, I will privately and publicly respond to the principles of the Bible with confidence. May my faith in Christ be a witness in the public square and a gauge for others to consider the claims of Christ and that others will truly understand the awesome character of God. 

I claim the truth of Romans 1:16 (NLT) when it declares, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

To be continued…

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? If a believer prays will he automatically be able to curse his or her enemies with death? Read Part 3.

Pastor Ross

Is God cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 1

Psalm 9:3 (NLT) says, “My enemies retreated; they staggered and died when You (God Most High) appeared.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: I have to wonder – is this how people see God when they are reading my Psalm? Is this what people think about God? If it is, then perhaps you have misunderstood me altogether.

SKEPTIC: I don’t think I have misunderstood you. You say your enemies staggered and died in the presence of God (verse 3), that He rebukes and judges people (verse 5), completely erasing them from the earth (verse 6), that this is the fate of all nations who ignore God (verse 17). You actually ask God to judge them (verse 19). 

DAVID: Strange. You have not looked at the full context of my Psalm to see what I am really trying to express about God?

I notice that you have conveniently forgotten that I describe God as One who is a shelter for the oppressed (verse 9), does not abandon people (verse 10), cares for the helpless (verse 12), saves and rescues (verse 14), and has mercy (verse 13). He does marvelous things (verse 1), and reigns forever (verse 7), In fact, He is the only One truly able to judge nations with justice and fairness (verse 4), yet there are some mere mortals who have chosen to defy Him (verse 19-20). 

SKEPTIC: Yet you can just pray to God and ask Him to wipe out people with complete impunity? How can you believe in a God like that.

DAVID: I find great joy in my relationship with God (verse 2) and so I began my Psalm with praise. God is not just anyone. He is God Most High (verse 2), higher in authority than anyone we may encounter on earth.

Impunity hardly applies to a just and fair God. It is not God that needs our impunity. Nowhere in my Psalm do I indicate that God is cruel, violent, intolerant and unjust, as you describe Him. 

My Psalm describes a God who is perfectly Just, not stupid or oblivious to what is going on around Him and He is only One who can respond appropriately in His own way and His own time, always doing what is right. 

Clearly my Psalm indicates that any person is free to defy God, but why would they think that putting their heads in the spiritual sand will somehow mean that a just and fair God will simply stand by. There are consequences for any of our choices, not only with other people but also with God. 

SKEPTIC: So you are OK with Him wiping out your enemies completely?

DAVID: I would prefer that I didn’t have enemies, but I do. By the way, my enemies are characterised by all the things that you attribute to God – cruelty, violence, intolerance and injustice. 

In this Psalm you can obviously see that my enemies are described as wicked (verse 5), oppressive (verse 9), cause trouble (verse 9), hate people (verse 13), appear to be flaunting any form of justice (verse 16), forget the needy (verse 18), destroy hope in people and afflict them (verse 18, 12). My enemies want me, and anyone who follows God, dead. The equivalent in your time is perhaps Isis or the Taliban.

SKEPTIC: So you pray that God will destroy them?

DAVID: I recognise that anyone who tries to stand against God Most High will fail. And yes, I pray for justice to prevail. 

I do pray to God. With all my heart (verse 1). But my prayer is a prayer of praise, not just an anxious cry for help. I am not seeking to be an arrogant man wanting to cause death and destruction to all who disagree with me. 

SKEPTIC: But you clearly think that God is on your side?

DAVID: No. Just the opposite. God is not my servant, like some Genie in a bottle. I am God’s servant. God judges with fairness (verse 4,8) and I do not anticipate God will simply stand aside while my enemies come to annihilate His servants. 

To be continued….

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? What gives Him the right to think He can demand things of me? What gives Him the right to judge me? Read part 2.

Pastor Ross

Higher Flight © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:1-2 – HIGHER FLIGHT – Part 3

In Psalm 9:1-2, King David says “I will” four times in relation to praising God, “I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of You. I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Notice, David ends verse 2 with one of the names of God. ELYON – MOST HIGH. 

I praise Him, not because He needs my praise, but because I recognise that He is Most High (Elyon). Supreme. Over all. David emphasises that God is Most High. Not just high, but Most High. Higher than anything earthly.

I love the poem by the pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr called High Flight. It is almost a poem of worship.

High Flight

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

This poem for me encapsulates something of that sense of exhilaration and extreme height of flying and sensing the presence of God. God most High is so much higher still.

In considering this Name of God Most High, The POSB commentary prompted me to pray this prayer.

Prayer: You are higher than my unsolvable problems and my anxious thoughts. You are higher than the financial struggles I may face. You are higher than my times of depression or the lies I may have about myself. You are higher than any temptation I may face and any spiritual enemy. You are higher than my doubts, because I know instinctively that I can trust You completely and utterly. I trust You today. 

Nothing can come against You or Your purposes, Lord. What about all those aspirations of influential people who continue to wreak havoc against Your kingdom principles? I can trust that You are higher than even the many culturally accepted but spiritually corrupt principles that infiltrate and pollute our world. Even those that are beautifully socially engineered, yet still in opposition to Your Word. 

I can trust that You are higher than cancer and strokes and heart disease and diabetes and every sickness that we may face on this earth. You are higher, Lord Jesus, than death itself. 

Knowing You, Father, gives me a deep-seated joy. Today, I pray that You would help me as I willingly take the opportunity to praise Your Name and honour the Lord Jesus Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, Most High God. 

Pastor Ross

Psalms 9 – THE POETIC WARP AND WEFT OF WORSHIP – Parts 1 and 2

PSALM 9:1 – WOVEN WORSHIP – Part 1

Woven in Worship © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Today (Sunday 4-8-2019) I finished a poem on worship. I don’t often write poetry, but Psalm 9 inspired me (see below) with a picture of worship I had not considered. 

Psalm 9 reminds me of a woven cloak made on a loom – two distinct sets of threads, praise and prayer, unique strands, with an array of colours forming a garment of worship intricately woven with subtlety, warp and weft, interlaced into a strong and beautiful design. 

In Psalm 9:1, King David says, “I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart; …” 

It seems it is a function of the heart of a believer to weave praise in and out of their lives, to create a beautiful pattern interwoven with prayer, a harmony of colours. 

David’s heart takes the thread of praise and skillfully propels it across the loom weaving it through the warp threads of prayer. 

It is because of a heart relationship with God, not because of a list of possible benefits that David praises the Lord. It is not based on what God has done, although what God has done is amazing, but in knowing who God is. He does not ask, “what’s in it for me?” but instead, “Whatever happens, Lord, I will praise You with all my heart.” Gradually the garment is created.

I have long loved the sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins so I have written this poem in a similar style to express what worship is like for me. I have related it the thoughts above, the warp and weft of prayer and praise …

PSALM 9:1-2 – WOVEN WORSHIP

© Ross Cochrane

Worthy are You, Lord, for woven things –

For warp of worship weaving colours into time;

For weft threads singing subtle, tonal groans of praise;

Soft braided, subdued songs, wordless strings;

Soul-scape, plaited with prayer-laced, twisted strands that climb

With purpose, hues clear, untangled, ablaze.

All loves fibres meandering, rare, whole,  

Beautiful in favour, honour, rhythm, rhyme,

Plaided patterns that proclaim Your ways;

Eternity’s robe: full hearts extol

Your Praise.

Pastor Ross

WOVEN WORSHIP – Part 2

Lord, I choose to praise You, with all my heart because of who You are AND because I am amazed at what You have done in my life and in the lives of others. 

Praise that is only woven with words and not with ALL my heart, slips from the warp and weft and creates holes and imperfections. All I am left with is lip-service. You then help me correct the design. 

In Matthew 15:8 (NLT2) God speaks of religious people who ‘… honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” I may miss a thread in my praise at times, Lord. Help me worship You with all my heart, to be fully engaged in worship. Lord, help me not be simply religious in my praise, but wholehearted. 

John 4:24 (NLT2) says, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” It seems wholehearted worship involves worshiping God in spirit and in truth, not “faking it until you make it”. Truth is being honest with God and allowing Him to be honest with us. Spirit to spirit. 

The design that is produced in me is not based on how I feel at the time, not on what I am going through in my life, but upon my relationship with Him. It is not based upon emotions or reason, but an inbuilt, unseen, honest to God, heart to heart, spirit to spirit love for God and His love for me.  

Psalm 9:1,2  “… I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of You. I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”   

FOR MARVELLOUS THINGS

For all You do that I see

Lord, help me be aware of Your interventions into people’s lives, to see the marvellous things You have done. When I look back I see the design you intended, crafted into the garment, it’s often difficult to visualise just what you have in mind, but the finished result is always so amazing. I can see how You have woven your intentions and purposes through my life. 

Sometimes, I find it difficult to do things Your way, but it is only when I acknowledge that You are the Master Craftsman and press on in praise and prayer, that miracles occur and something altogether magnificent is created. 

Lord, lead me to those with whom I can share these truths. Is that what praise is? Acknowledging what I see You crafting? Is it both public and private? I guess praise reminds me of what You have done in my life, but telling others of what You have done is like putting Your works on display for others to appreciate.

Even in difficult times

Even when I am going through a difficult time, help me praise You with all my heart and be a witness to others of the saving power of Your grace.

David was going through difficult times. He had individual enemies determined to dethrone him. Then, like today, nations were rising up, determined to annihilate Israel. Then there were the enemies of God Himself and His purposes on the earth, enemies who to this day seem to want to wage war on God and upon those who believe in His Word.

For all You do that I don’t see

I don’t always see Your hand upon mine. At times it gets dark and I just sort of get into a rhythm and do what seems right, feeling the way without seeing what I am doing. When morning comes I am often surprised that Your hand was upon mine all the time and the light of day reveals the wonder of how You led me through the dark of night. 

At other times, I give the garment away or I teach others how to weave and they take their new found skills away, and I do not see the results. I want to praise You for ALL those things that You do in me and in others, even those I don’t see. I want to acknowledge all that You have done whether I see it or not.

Worth sharing

Lord, there appears to be a public aspect of Praise and prayer. A time to put what You have created in us on display, to tell others about who You are and what You do. 1 Peter 2:9 (NLT2) describes who we are as followers of Christ. “… for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can SHOW OTHERS THE GOODNESS OF GOD, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”    

Let my heartfelt thanks to You always give occasion for sharing with others. When I receive too much praise I become arrogant, but when I praise You I find humility as I recognise who You are, the only One truly deserving of praise.

Thanks for giving me glimpses at what You are weaving into the fabric of my life. No threads are wasted. You use both dark and colourful. You know what you are doing.

Pastor Ross

Love, Justice and the Cross © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 8:4-9 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 4 

The scene takes place on the top floor of a Skyscaper, in a luxury apartment belonging of a millionaire Atheist. From here the entire city can be viewed. It is breathtaking. The Atheist picks up a Bible and randomly turns to Psalm 8. Alarmingly, he finds King David, (author of Psalm 8) is transported to his apartment. A conversation ensues. (Disclaimer: This is my imagination and my own thoughts imposed upon the characters below as to what might have been said as I personally relate to Psalm 8. Both characters describe my own journey with seeking to understand and apply God’s Word, the Christian Bible, in the world in which I live). Continued… 

ATHEIST: You didn’t really answer my question. Do you really believe that you must turn from your sins, believe that Christ died for your sins, and that you must do this to get into some mythical realm called heaven? To me that sounds ludicrous. 

I strive to be a good person (which most atheists do). “Not believing in heaven means we want to be kind to one another to make life on earth more pleasant and not to be rewarded (or to avoid punishment) in the afterlife.” (quoted from Epi B) 

DAVID: You might be surprised to find that the Christian Bible doesn’t say that heaven is a reward for good works. Written to a Church in Ephesus, Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” I am sure that many Atheists are good people. 

Yes, I do believe that God visited us personally. He gave us His Son, who came to earth. Yes, I do believe He became one of us in order to take our place on Calvary’s cross, to receive upon Himself the punishment for sin. I believe He did that because He loved us and that He was the only one who came to save us, from ourselves and from judgment. 

ATHEIST: So you believe that, even though you acknowledge that I am a good person, that I will go to hell. Who would want to believe in a God like that? This is a major inconsistency in Christianity. If I am a good person He would let me go to heaven. Afterall I’ve lived a pretty good life. I deserve it. Not that I believe in a heaven. 

DAVID: I’m sure you are an excellent driver most of the time too, but when a police officer pulls you up for speeding, and you say, But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”as the police officer writes you a ticket he will look at you as if you just don’t get it. 

Living a good life is not the reason for going to heaven. On judgment day you will not stand before the Lord and say “Lord, I lived a pretty good life.” How lame would it be to stand accused before any judge and say “Well judge, I’ve lived a pretty good life” and expect the real problem for you being there to be pardoned. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death,…”  Time off for good behaviour doesn’t count when it’s a death sentence. 

ATHEIST: So, if I make one mistake, I am bound for hell. All the good I have done in my life goes for nothing.  

DAVID: I believe that seeking to be good is a good quest in life, but it is not the basis for going to heaven. I notice that there are people mentioned in the New Testament of your Bible, here in Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) with the same false assumptions! Jesus says “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your Name and cast out demons in Your Name and performed many miracles in Your Name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. ...’”  These are obviously very religious, very good people. He will probably look at them as if they just don’t get it?  

ATHEIST: So now you are confusing me. You have made mistakes too. So, according to your Bible, not mine, you are also going to hell. This is getting more ludicrous the more you quote from the Bible.  

DAVID: It’s simple really. The Bible pictures a courtroom where a verdict is pronounced on those who have made a choice not to include Christ in their lives. 

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says that “… there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  

It’s like the law of double jeopardy. Christ paid the price for my sin so it’s been dealt with once and for all (Romans 6:10). Those who don’t know Christ, however, will be judged according to their works. It will be their works (good or otherwise) versus the work of Christ on the Cross (Revelation 20:12).  

The judgment will verify what the Bible has said all along – that human works, no matter how good, cannot satisfy the justice of God concerning our sin (Matthew 7:22-23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23). 

Since God is totally fair then He can only be satisfied by the work of Christ on the Cross for our sins. When we trust in what Christ has done, then, and only then, can He offer us a place in heaven, not as a reward, but as a gift. Romans 6:23 (NLT) goes on to say “… but the free gift of God is eternal life THROUGH CHRIST JESUS our Lord.” 

Our good works don’t erase our sin, any more than eating lettuce will somehow counterbalance the calories you have just consumed in eating an extra large pizza. Those who insist on their own good works rather than accept the work of Christ in paying the price for those sins will be condemned.  

ATHEIST: So, your so-called just God demands that I obey Him or He’ll send me to hell?  

DAVID: Jesus says it’s not an obedience in terms of good works or being a good person, and as I said, that even those who cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name will not be accepted for doing so if they don’t know Him personally and obey Him.  

ATHEIST: OBEY WHAT?  

DAVID: 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) speaks about God’s judgment “… on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to OBEY THE GOOD NEWS OF OUR LORD JESUS.”  

ATHEIST: Obey the good news about Christ! Are you kidding? How is that good news that people are judged for not obeying Him? 

DAVID: The good news about Christ is found in John 3:16-18 (NLT). It says “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him WILL NOT PERISH but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, but to save the world through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.”   

He’s the only One who has come to save us! We can’t save ourselves. No-one but Christ can. What are you trusting in – yourself or Christ? 

ATHEIST: So, I have no choice according to your Bible? If I choose to be an Atheist then I am lost. 

DAVID: Of course, you have a choice not to believe in the Christian message, and to ignore that there is a God or Heaven or Hell, but the invitation the Bible gives is always to know and trust in Jesus Christ. In John 10:27-29 (NLT) Jesus says “My sheep LISTEN to My voice; I KNOW THEM, and they FOLLOW ME. I give them eternal life, and they will NEVER PERISH. No one can snatch them away from Me, for My Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”  This is why I wrote Psalm 8 so long ago and declared, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” 

ATHEIST:  Sheep is right. You see God in everything. I see God in nothing. So why doesn’t an excellent bolt of lightning strike me dead right now, since I choose not to believe in Christ? 

DAVID: Your Bible tells you. 1 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

Pastor Ross 

P.S. Thanks Epi B for your perspective as an Atheist. I found it helpful to include your comments in my posts. Since I am not an Atheist, I had to simply use my own journey to Christ as a basis for representing Atheism. Great to have your contribution and to read some of your posts.  


“What are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” Psalm 8:3 (NLT) © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 8:3-8 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 3 

The scene takes place on the top floor of a Skyscaperin a luxury apartment belonging of a millionaire Atheist. From here the entire city can be viewed. It is breathtaking. The Atheist picks up a Bible and randomly turns to Psalm 8. Alarmingly, he finds King David, (author of Psalm 8) is transported to his apartment. A conversation ensues. (Disclaimer: This is my imagination and my own thoughts imposed upon the characters below as to what might have been said as I personally relate to Psalm 8. Both characters describe my own journey with seeking to understand and apply God’s Word, the Christian Bible, in the world in which I live). 

DAVID: What amazes me is that the majestic, famous, omnipotent, and worthy God, whose creative fingerprint can be found in all the earth, loves me. As one of God’s creative brushstrokes, with Him I can find the greatest expression of who I am. 

(Looks out the window at the night sky and prays again) “When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them? (Psalm 8:3 NLT). 

I am interested to see that in the New Testament of your Bible, that my words from Psalm 8:3 are quoted again. Hebrews 2:6-8 (NLT) says, “For in one place the Scriptures say, “What are mere mortals that You should think about them, or a son of man that You should care for him?”  

ATHEIST: Why would a God who supposedly created the universe care for human beings when all we have done is destroy His creation?  If God did exist, and He doesn’t, then He would consider us as enemies

DAVID: Enemies of God? Yes.  But for followers of Christ, it says here, in Romans 5:9-10 (NLT) “Since we have now been justified by His (Christ’s) blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, WHILE WE WERE GOD’S ENEMIES, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!” 

 We are enemies of God without Christ, but there is an invitation for friendship. God’s intention was to be friends, not that we would be opposed to Him. I wrote in Psalms 8:5-9 (NLT2) “Yet You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.”  

ATHEIST: You say we were created a little lower than God. I’m an evolutionist. I believe that human beings are a little higher than other animals, but only in terms of intelligence.  

DAVID: I guess this is why people over the centuries have made idols in the image of animals to represent their gods. Those who are followers of Christ believe God made us in the image of Himself so that we can represent Him. We bear the stamp of our creator.  

We are God’s representatives on earth over His creation, yet, we are lower than God.  

That’s why I wrote in the Psalm you were reading, “You (God) gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents” (Psalm 8:5-8 NLT). 

ATHEIST: Authority over all things? If that’s true He didn’t know what He was doing. The world has been messed up by human beings. We are now frantically trying to save the planet from ourselves. We bring animal species to extinction, fill the oceans with plastic and the skies with pollution, and disregard climate change. National park animal sanctuaries, battery operated cars, wind generators and solar energy solutions have all been too few and have come too late. 

DAVID: Yes, I agree. We have made a mess of our world. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation and yet we still need His help to look after the planet over which He has given us authority.  

Since we were given the ability to choose, we could either use our authority to mess things up or use our authority to clean things up. Cleaning things up is now the harder choice.  

We are slaves when we ignore the boundaries God has created in our world that greedy people cross. 

ATHEIST: Yet you are a slave. You are a slave to your Holy Book, the Bible.  

DAVID: I could equally say that you are a slave to your worldview, but I agree with you. In John 8:31-34 Jesus met some religious leaders who thought they were free of their worldviews. He said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” 

We are all slaves in one sense to something. Your Bible says in Romans 6:16-23 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness … But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

I notice in your Bible that Jesus says to His disciples, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26 NLT).  

1 Peter 2:16 encourages Christ-followers to “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” 

In Him I find freedom. It is the freedom of to whom and what I am willing to give my allegiance, having choices which bring purpose to my life. It is the freedom of new birth without abandonment, but being raised to find the security of a loving Father. It is freedom to fly, riding the banks of endless air, knowing that without the wind of the Spirit beneath my wings I would still only be wondering and amazed at the flight of the eagle from the ground.  

It is the boundaries themselves I find that have given me freedom, and without which I am truly enslaved. I like your New Testament Bible. It says here in 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT), “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” There’s nothing wrong with boundaries. No-one escapes boundaries. It’s whose boundaries and which boundaries you choose that determine whether you are truly free.  

(to be continued) 

Pastor Ross