Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’

Matthew 17:14-20 – HOW TO ADJUST YOUR FOCUS

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Focus. Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge.org, Paint.net, and MorgueFiles.com

Recorded in brilliant failure, Matthew 17:16 is a digital snapshot the disciples would rather have erased from the memory card. The colours are too dark, and there are no finely focused images of a miracle, just the indistinct madness of an ill-conceived attempt. When the disciples can’t cast out a demon from a boy, Jesus tells them that they “don’t have enough FAITH” (Matthew 17:20 NLT). In Mark 9:28-29 (NLT) Jesus adds “This kind can be cast out only by PRAYER.” 

Faith and prayer, like the interplay between field of focus and the aperture, are both needed to obtain the right exposure to God’s light for a healing miracle to occur. The disciples depth of faith was far too shallow, much too close to the Scribes, focused on their arguments, accentuating their negativity and blurring the little boy’s needs into the background.

They had needed more light that day. They did not allow God to adjust the aperture of faith to even the size of a mustard seed to obtain enough light to expose this little boy to the love of Jesus. Their image was far from perfect. 

DEPTH OF FAITH

As Jesus came down from the mountain He framed a different picture of all that was happening in a deep depth of faith. Everything was in focus, the argument with the Scribes, the crowd, the failure of the disciples, the faith of the father and the boy who needed healing. He saw the scene with absolute clarity.

The paparazzi crowd zoomed in on Jesus and away from the negative image of the argument, focusing their lenses on the celebrity of Jesus. The Son is the best light source of all. Rich and warm, His light brings out the best colours in everyone, but also highlights the strong shadows of darkness in the scribes and boy; the demonic shapes, long and sinister. The contrast is striking.

Then darkness suddenly flees as the demon is fully exposed to a blinding flash of light! Abruptly the shadows vanish and the image of a bright little boy appears, alive and well for all to see. The crowd is in awe at the picture of health they see. What had looked obscure and shadowy is now a beautifully balanced image of a boy, correctly exposed to the saving power of Jesus. Miracles are all about light. They marvel in the presence of Jesus, Master of Light and Life.

THE APERTURE (Faith)

Each person is a lens with their own maximum and minimum aperture setting (faith). Jesus invites me to use the widest aperture to let in as much of the light from God’s Word as possible. Otherwise, I will experience an underexposed life. 

ISO SPEED (Inner Sensitivity Opportunity)

At its simplest level, the Faith Aperture is an opening in my perception the size of a mustard seed. When God’s illumination passes through that opening, it shines on a light-sensitive heart that absorbs the light and captures the image of the Son of God within. The ISO speed (the Inner Sensitivity Opportunity) controls the sensitivity of my heart. The higher the ISO speed, the more sensitive the heart is to the light of God’s Word and the message of Christ. As these settings are adjusted to different circumstances I can get clarity and focus for perceiving my world through the eyes of God.

FOCUS AND LENS (Perception) 

Life is all about capturing light. It is received in faith. When I manually seek to control my world some circumstances will be in focus, crisp and clear, while others will be out of focus, blurry and confusing. As I allow the light of Christ to fill my life there are many ways that God automatically allows my perception sensors, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to detect, track and adjust my faith focus in the situations that I face each day. His invitation is to bring light and life and focus to your life.

He moves in closer like a big cat, stepping lightly and with careful intent, zooming in on His subject. He wants to capture every detail, the peppered freckles, the curve of the mouth, the twist of hair in the breeze. 

The intersecting lines of the viewfinder are poised and the autofocus is locked onto His subject. Playing with the early light, the background trees splash soft, subdued nuances of colour upon the scene. And in that split second when everything is resolved, His finger instinctively finds the shutter release and presses. The sound of the shutter sings in the silence, and a split second of time digitally replicates itself, irrevocably remembered and beautiful.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 28:10-22 – WHEN ALL YOU HAVE LEFT IS A DREAM

DREAMS IN A DESERT

DREAMS IN A DESERT

All his plans and positioning, all his hopes and expectations, lie in pieces on the ground? His life is bankrupt and his past seems characterised by failure, despite his best intentions. Everything stripped away, a wasteland of worthlessness. An internalised desert. Lonely, afraid and anxious of the future, rejected and feeling sorry for himself. Out here under the expanse of the stars, the universe stretching out before him, Jacob feels so insignificant, unwanted, discouraged, defeated. All his efforts useless. Hopeless. He is helpless, his life a waste, a burden, an irrelevant rock in a wilderness of boulders.

Blessed by God with the rulership of his family, yet it is Jacob who is forced into exile; Esau who forfeits the blessing of God is left in the possession of everything! He is given free opportunity of leadership without a rival! It makes no sense!

He is following the trail of his grandfather Abraham. His father told him about the altar Abraham built at this site (Genesis 12:8), and Jacob deliberately finds it and chooses to stay here for the night. Perhaps God will protect him from Esau if he follows in the footsteps of Abraham. He sleeps on the altar that night with his head resting on one of the stones, like a living sacrifice. His father once lay precariously on an altar with his life in God’s hands. Alone in the wilderness of his own making, he is in a good place to hear God speak. God chose to bless Abraham here, and as Jacob sleeps, all other blessings and birthrights gained by deceptive means recede, as God speaks in His righteousness with the blessing He originally intended. Strange that it is often a wilderness that is the perfect place in which to hear God speak.

There is intense interest in heaven on this night about what is taking place on earth. In a dream, it seems as if the stones of the altar are being crafted by a master builder into a stairway, step upon step. Multitudes of angels move up and down on a stairway in the wilderness; toward Jacob and back again, “… mighty ones who carry out God’s plans, listening to His Word” (Psalms 103:20). “…servant spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Jacob is aware that his sin has separated him from his family and from being able to appropriate the blessings he had obtained by stealth. He needs a mediator to bridge the distance between him and God.

At the top of the stairway stands the Lord, and He says, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac.” (Genesis 28:13 NLT). Below stands Jacob. And even though Jacob is in a situation where he is feeling lost and lonely, regretting his past and afraid of the future, God reminds him that in the past He has been in relationship with his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac. He will also be with Jacob concerning his future. He says “Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:14,15 NLT)

He still offers such an invitation and promise. I hear His words when I am discouraged, lonely or a little apprehensive about my future; the still small voice of God saying “I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. You are blessed to be a blessing”.

The dream gives a picture of the reality. A bridge spanning the gulf between us and God. Years later this stairway is personified in Jesus Christ, the only way from earth to heaven, the one Mediator between man and God. 1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT) says “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus says in John 1:51 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the One who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

Without Christ I am earthbound. God, majestic, high and lifted up, unlimited, almighty, beckons me to connect with Him. Bringing heaven to earth, Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NLT).

Awestruck by this dream, Jacob responds, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he is also afraid and says, “What an awesome place this is! …the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17).

And His invitation still reverberates in the rocky places and wildernesses of the hearts of countless souls through the ages to this day, this moment, as on the altar we are left with nothing but a dream and a promise. There before us the very gateway to heaven opens.

Pastor Ross

“If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras. You will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!” (You will do the impossible!) “The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them. I will reward them with a long life and give them My salvation.’” (Psalms 91:9-16 NLT)

If this article has resonated with you, would you please pass it forward to those whose lives you think may also be touched by Words of Life. Thanks and may God bless you.

Genesis 28:1-9 – HOW TO AVOID MISSING THE POINT ENTIRELY

Missing the PointIt was the first time I had spoken before Doc Gibson, a respected theological professor. Having been given a classic passage in the Old Testament on which to speak I had spent many hours reading every book and commentary I could find. By the time I came to speak I was exhausted from lack of sleep but felt I had something worthwhile to offer. The professor, however, after hearing what I had to say, told me that I had missed the point entirely. I was devastated. In a few minutes he summed up my blind spot and I went home a little annoyed, affronted, embarrassed and feeling sorry for myself. Over the next few days I reflected on how I could face the professor, but I kept coming back to the only conclusion I could make – he was right! How could I have missed something so obvious? Taking his advice, and seeking to diligently “find the point”, I was greatly encouraged at the end of the next year when I won the preaching prize.

All of a sudden in Genesis 28, Jacob, not Esau, has the full support of his father. Isaac has just blessed Jacob (Genesis 28:6), instead of him. How does Esau feel about all this? Understandably he feels he has been robbed. It’s as if he has caught the thief, laid charges but somehow on a technicality the case has been reversed so that the thief is awarded the damages. There is no justice. He is upset, rejected, annoyed, angry, hostile towards his brother, struggling to find answers. But hasn’t he also missed the point?

Jacob, his brother, is told not to marry a Canaanite and is sent to Syria to find a wife (Genesis 28:7). He is to go back to Rebekah’s family in Padan-aram, and marry one of his own cousins, one of the daughters of his uncle, his mother’s brother, Laban. Repeating the blessing of Abraham over Jacob (Genesis 26:3-5), Isaac, his Dad, tells Jacob that he will be a father of a great nation, and his descendents will own the land of Caanan. And just like that, by necessity, Jacob is propelled from the presence of his family.

It is obvious to Esau from this conversation his Dad has with his brother that his parents don’t approve of his choice of wives (Genesis 28:8). This has been clear since Genesis 26:34-35. If you had married Hittite wives (Canaanites, Philistines, Genesis 26:34), how would you feel listening to this go down between Jacob and his father Isaac? Esau, as impulsive as ever and so desperate to win back his father’s approval, does the only thing he can think of. Since Jacob is sent off to marry his mother’s niece, he will marry his father’s niece. That should solve the problem.

If you remember the story, Ishmael is the son of Abraham and Hagar. Abraham was married to Sarah and couldn’t have any children so Sarah gave Hagar, her servant, to Abraham as a surrogate mother. Hagar bore Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-4, 15). No Hittite blood here. Esau hopes his marriage into Ishmael’s family will please his parents. He wants to fix things outwardly by marrying someone who is not a Canaanite, but he missed the point entirely!

Esau’s descendents are called the Idumeans. One famous descendent is king Herod, who features in the Christmas story, is the Idumean who tried to take the throne of David, but who was merely a puppet king of the Romans. He was the Idumean who tried to kill Jesus after he was born by slaughtering every male child in Bethlehem two years and under. Unfortunately he highlights the characteristics of the Idumean line.

Although Ishmael was Abraham’s son his family line did not have faith in God. Esau aligned himself by marriage to Ismael and to the Hittites and although he was from the line of Abraham he did not have the faith of Abraham. Esau is still so spiritually blind that he just doesn’t get it! He thinks any connection by marriage to Abraham will regain approval with his Dad, but marrying into the family of Abraham is not the point! All through his life he has opportunities to submit his life to God. Even in marriage he misses the opportunity to marry a woman of faith and to serve God from his heart, but he is not interested.

He misses the point concerning his birthright! He misses the point concerning his blessing! He misses the point concerning his marriage! A birthright, a blessing and a marriage are all associated with responsible spiritual leadership under God. A birthright bequeaths spiritual leadership, a blessing bestows spiritual leadership and a marriage is a betrothal that gives expression to spiritual leadership as we submit to eachother and to God. He misses the point on 3 counts. But the invitation of this passage is that you don’t have to.

You have a birthright in Christ that has been bequeathed to you, a destiny to fulfil that is yours. In Christ you are blessed with the blessing of Abraham, blessed to be a blessing. The Bible says His Church is in marriage relationship with Christ, His bride. The invitation to have a personal relationship with God is yours. He loves you and wants a relationship with you. What would be the point of Christ dying for your sins if you were to gamble with your life at the Cross and not get the point of relationship with Christ?

Pastor Ross

Genesis 26 – REMAKE OF BACK TO THE FUTURE

Remake of Back to the Future

“BACK TO THE FUTURE”, for those who weren’t around in 1985, is an American SCIENCE-FICTION ADVENTURE FILM, starring Michael J. Fox. It could easily be a re-make of Genesis 26.

MARTY MCFLY is sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in a DeLorean and its plutonium powered FLUX CAPACITOR. Back in 1955 he meets his future-parents in high school. Then the UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS. He accidentally attracts his future MOTHER, LORRAINE, romantically. Gross.

Marty has to repair the damage to history by getting his parents to fall in love, otherwise he won’t have a FUTURE. He has a photo of the family in his pocket and his image is fading.

Marty’s future father is George. GEORGE, as a teenager, is afraid of a bully called BIFF, and Biff starts to pick on George and Lorraine. For once in his life George STANDS UP TO BIFF and with ONE PUNCH knocks him out. LORRAINE, Marty’s future Mother, is smitten with George and they kiss on a 1950’s dance floor. Eventually they will marry and this assures Marty of his existence in the future.

Now all Marty has to do is to get home to the future. With the help of scientist DR. EMMETT BROWN (“Doc”), who harnesses a LIGHTNING BOLT to power the DeLorean’s flux capacitor, Marty finds his way back to his future.

I want a PLUTONIUM POWERED FLUX CAPACITOR for my Mitsubishi Lancer! I want to be able to go back into the past and correct all the mistakes I have made. If I can’t have that then spare me from repeating the same mistakes that my parents have made, so that my past doesn’t keep becoming my future. Isaac has a similar problem in Genesis 26.

Isaac’s father, ABRAHAM (Abram then), was afraid of a man called ABIMELECH (Biff?). Abraham has a BEAUTIFUL WIFE called Sarah (Sarai).

He doesn’t want Abimelech to get JEALOUS and attract attention, so he tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. BUT THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS! He attracts the UNWANTED ATTENTION of Abimelech anyway! Abimelech takes Sarah into his harem with the intention of sleeping with her. Somebody has to REPAIR THE DAMAGE otherwise Isaac won’t have a future. He won’t be part of Abraham’s family.

Fortunately God intervenes (who needs a plutonium powered flux capacitor to protect the future when you have God on your side) and a curse is placed on Abimelech until he returns Sarah to Abraham. THUS ISAAC’S FUTURE IS ASSURED.

Now the interesting thing is that many years later Isaac, Abraham’s son, makes the SAME MISTAKE as his father. Isaac travels to a place called Gerar and meets a man called Abimelech also. Dejar vu! Like his father, Isaac is afraid that Abimelech will be jealous of his beautiful wife and try to kill him, so he tells people that Rebekah is his sister and not his wife. He is REPEATING HISTORY. The question is “Will he DESTROY HIS FUTURE by his lie?” He has put his whole future at risk because he is not willing to trust in God.

Fortunately Abimelech sees Isaac caressing Rebekah and confronts Isaac with the lie. Abimelech is more concerned about the truth than Isaac is, and orders his men not to touch them.

What is the future that God has planned for Isaac? In Genesis 26:3-4 (NLT) God says “Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

God keeps His PROMISES made to Isaac. In the future, CHRIST would intervene in history as a descendent of Isaac, and would bless the nations of the earth as promised and REPAIR ALL THE DAMAGE that was done in the past. No need for a DeLorean to go back in time and fix my mistakes and sins. All we need to do is to TRUST IN CHRIST and what he has done for us when He died for our sins. Not a bad deal, but it requires FAITH (Romans 4:13).

What is the future that God has planned for YOU? The invitation is to stop repeating your past or living in regret. Only Christ can deal once and for all with my past mistakes so that they do not become a part of my future. Divinely generated FAITH, like an lightning bolt, helps me find my way BACK TO THE FUTURE God intended for me before the PHOTO FADES.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:7-10 – HEREAFTER

Hereafter

Last night I watched a video called “HEREAFTER” with Matt Damon. It is a movie about people grappling with what happens to them after they die. Matt Damon plays the part of a reluctant Psychic who connects with people who have died by touching the hands of relatives. He relates what those who have died are saying. By the way, doing this is strictly prohibited in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10-14).

The thing that really strikes me about Genesis 25 is a clear reference to the HEREAFTER. Genesis 25:7 says “Abraham lived for 175 years, and he died at a ripe old age…” That’s an understatement! 175 is almost OVERRIPE but I think the idea here is that it was a fruitful life because it goes on to say that he “lived a long and satisfying life. He breathed his last and WAS GATHERED TO HIS ANCESTORS.” 

Think about that statement for a moment. Genesis 25:8 (NASB) – “GATHERED TO HIS ANCESTORS.” Henry Morris in his book “the Genesis Record”, points out that this is an interesting phrase since NONE of his ancestors were buried in the cave of Machpelah where he was buried, so it can’t refer to the actual BURIAL PLACE.

It has to be a reference to LIFE AFTER DEATH! Do “HIS PEOPLE” refer to those who died, from Adam down to him, believing in God? Are “his people” believers, the believing line through the line of Seth? I think so. God is creating a scarlet thread of redemption down through the pages of the Old Testament that will eventually end up with the birth of Christ. He is creating a spiritual line that extends down even further.

What makes this statement even more compelling as a reference to the HEREAFTER is that nineteen hundred years later, the place where believers are said to go to when they die is actually described as “ABRAHAM’S BOSOM” (Luke 16:22). We will be with Abraham, the father of those who believe (Romans 4:9-13).

Even the most Godly people die. 100% of us die. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Every person since Adam and Eve has forfeited their lives because of sin except, of course, Jesus, who never sinned. He did not forfeit His life but gave Himself up freely for us (John 10:17-18), paying the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8).

John 3:16 (NLT) 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.” 

The invitation God offers us concerning the HEREAFTER is to accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. John 3:36 (NLT) says that “anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.” There is a HEREAFTER. Not everyone who thinks they are going to heaven will be there, however (John 3:36), but those who place their trust in Christ and come under His authority will experience the gift of eternal life with God.

Abraham lived a long life and then received eternal life because he believed in the promises of God. Romans 4:9-25 (NLT) says “… that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. … So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. … For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” …

The spiritual line of Abraham didn’t stop at Christ. It was intended to continue down through to me and you. It leads us to Christ and back to Christ. God bless you as you make choices today concerning Christ which echo in eternity.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:1-4 – HOW TO LEAVE A LIFECHANGING LEGACY?

Leaving a Lifechanging Legacy

The artwork and design of my wife’s book on her family tree is magnificent. The storyline is clear and so interesting. Hours and hours of work, a labour of love. I am so proud of her. A legacy for generations to come.

In the prologue of her book, Julie writes “It seems a strange thing, almost a disrespectful thing, to reduce the lifetime of one person to a page, a line or just a photo in a book. If only we could go back in time and spend an hour, a day, with each of our forebears, and listen to each one express their lives in their own words – the highs and lows, the challenges and accomplishments, the disappointments and surprises, the heartaches and celebrations – not only would we know more about them, we could appreciate more of the valuable contribution each made to following generations, and understand more about who we are ourselves.”

In Julie’s family tree we can trace back a history of ten generations and a history of faith in Christ for at least five generations. Who knows how many generations to come will seek to find a relationship with Jesus Christ as part of their family heritage? Others in the family tree we know very little about, however.

Everyone knows about Sarah and Hagar in the story of Abraham, but very few know that he also had another wife. In Genesis 25, Abraham Marries Keturah.

We all know he had trouble having children with Sarah. God healed both Sarah and Abraham in order for them to have children, so by the time he marries Keturah all those problems are long gone. Did you know that he had SIX MORE SONS, as well as Ishmael and Isaac?

Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT) says that “the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” This is certainly true of Abraham.

What is the story with these other sons and grandsons of Abraham? They are given generous gifts and sent away. Strange names like Zimran, Ishbak, Ashur, (We named a cat Ashur. I wonder what ever happened to Ashur?) and Letush (great name for a market gardener), and Dedan (the trail goes dead with Dedan), and more. We never really find out? The line is followed only through Isaac, the promised son, not though these other sons.

It is strange to get a mention in Abraham’s family tree and then disappear into OBSCURITY. It seems they do nothing of any real significance worth mentioning. These other sons and grandsons made no real contribution to God’s purposes on the earth except to fulfil a promise made to Abraham of numerous descendents. Why are they mentioned by name at all? Perhaps God deliberately CONTRASTS them with those who follow the believing line which runs through Isaac. Will I leave a lasting Legacy or disappear into obscurity?

Abraham was a very wealthy man and at the time of his death Isaac inherits a huge fortune, everything Abraham has. But the HERITAGE OF FAITH that I give to my children is worth more than all my possessions. We have no idea of the difference we make when we believe in the promises of God and pass them on to our children. Genesis 25:11 (NLT) says “After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac” (see also Genesis 17:19).

The choices Abraham makes in his life give me an invitation to explore what it would look like if I believed in the promises of God. What if I, like Abraham, believed in the promise that one day through Abraham the nations of the world would be blessed. Isaac will continue the LINE OF FAITH that one day will lead to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. What if I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died for my sins?

Genesis 25 is not about Abraham’s death. It’s about LEAVING A LEGACY. I choose to believe in Christ and LEAVE A LIFECHANGING LEGACY of faith for generations to come. What about you?

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – TAKE AN OATH AND PLACE MY HAND WHERE? – Part 4

Oath on Bible – Photo created by Ross Cochrane using photos from MorgueFile.com

SUBPOENA AD TESTIFICANDUM. Ordered by writ of the court to testify. The maintenance man drove us in his van to the courthouse. Two young women, both relatively new to Australia had been issued with subpoenas. They had never testified before and for them going to court implied that they were going to be convicted, or at least have their reputations ruined by their association with another persons guilt. As their Pastor and Chaplain, I was there to support them. They would make AN OATH ON THE BIBLE and would be constrained by that oath to tell the truth.

In Genesis 24:2-9 (NLT) Abraham subpoenas his oldest and most trusted servant “TAKE AN OATH BY PUTTING YOUR HAND UNDER MY THIGH. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.” Abraham says “Be careful never to take my son there. For the Lord, the God of heaven, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants.” So the servant takes the oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham and swears to follow Abraham’s instructions. He is constrained by that oath to fulfil Abraham’s requests.

Strange way to take an oath. What is this “place your hand under my thigh” business? If someone told me to do this I would say “You want me to place my hand where?” I certainly wouldn’t go telling anyone today to place his hand under my thigh and take an oath. He’d hit me! Perhaps this is why the Bible discourages the making of oaths (James 5:12)!

It is clear that this is not your normal “swear to tell the truth by placing your hand on the Bible” oath. Many commentators agree that the servant probably kneels before Abraham and places his hand between Abraham’s thighs (the thighs symbolise power and strength), under his genitals, because that’s where he bore the MARK OF CIRCUMCISION, the sign of God’s covenant concerning a great nation.

This oath to find the right girl for Isaac as a wife is related to the COVENANT PROMISES God has made to Abraham concerning his descendents who would come from the “loins” of Abraham.

Today such an oath would almost look like a homosexual act, but it has nothing to do with homosexuality. In fact just the opposite. It is related more to the marriage of a man and woman and procreation. (Mind you, if it had been me, I’d make sure no-one was around when this kind of oath was made. It wouldn’t look right).

But the idea of this oath is to have integrity about the things you say you are going to do based on the things that God has said He would do concerning descendents. You will notice this oath even has an escape clause. If the girl didn’t come with the servant he would be free of the oath.

From my point of view as a Westerner it is a repulsive way of making an oath. Imagine if we used this method in court today? I’m glad it’s not a ritual like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But if I am not careful I can miss the real emphasis of these verses in the Bible because I am looking at it through the eyes of my culture.

The invitation is to see BEYOND THE METHOD of making the oath to the commitment that is being made to God and the fulfilment of the covenant promises He makes. The servant is to “Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, …” (Genesis 24:3 NLT) that he will find the right girl for Isaac to marry, so that the promises a great nation through Abraham will be realised.

As I commit my life completely to the Lord Jesus Christ I am saying that God is my Lord and has authority over my life. He is my God, the God of heaven and earth. His authority is well beyond anything that I can imagine. I am asking that Heavens purposes be fulfilled on earth. I am agreeing that His promises and purposes be accomplished and that I am willing to co-operate with Him.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – THINGS THAT DON’T GO TOGETHER – Part 3

Just Married!

The engine of a Fiesta in a Ferrari! Pickles and icecream. There are certain things that definitely DON’T go together. Aluminium foil and microwaves (Julie rediscovered this recently). Children and cancer. Wouldn’t it change the world if honesty and politics went together.

It was dark when I dressed and when I arrived at the Church building we sat around in a small circle of dedicated students learning and reciting Greek declensions with our Pastor. It was about halfway through one of these early morning classes that I noticed my shoes. I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHOES! Very embarrassing. I wonder if anybody else noticed? Certain things should not be worn together.

Deuteronomy 22:10 (NLT) says “You must not plough with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.” The idea here is that there are certain things that are totally INCOMPATIBLE. They were never meant to be placed in the same yoke, never meant to be together in the same equation. Just won’t fit! Won’t make sense! Doesn’t work well!

Abraham wants his son to marry a woman from among his own relatives and insists that he must not marry a Canaanite girl. It almost seems RACIST! Wouldn’t it be better to form an alliance through marriage with the people who are there in the land promised to Abraham? What an easy way of claiming the promised land. You would think that it would HELP THE PROMISE along a little. So far Abraham only owns a burial plot that he bought for Sarah. Why not also form a covenant through a marriage to a Canaanite girl with his son? It was clear that he DOES NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. Why? Are we to be DISCRIMINATORY when we choose a marriage partner? No, but we are to be DISCRIMINATING.

The Bible speaks of our relationship with God as being the most important relationship we will ever have, even more important than our marriage relationship. When we marry we form a COVENANT. That covenant is used as a picture of our relationship with God. Ephesians 5:25 (NASB) says “Husbands, love your wives, just AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH and gave Himself up for her,…”   The Canaanites were idol worshipers and REJECTED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM.

There are certain things that DEFINITELY DON’T GO TOGETHER. Ur and Abraham. Sodom and Lot. Idols and the temple. Christ and the devil. Light and darkness. Righteousness and wickedness. A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST MARRYING AN UNBELIEVER. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) says “DON’T TEAM UP WITH (be UNEQUALLY YOKED with) those who are unbelievers.” It’s like harnessing an ox and an ass together.

Abraham is confident that the Lord will send an ANGEL ahead of the servant to help him find the right girl for Isaac among his relatives. Angels have already played an important part in Abraham’s life (Genesis 18, 19, 22). By the way, he is not talking about A CUPID-LIKE ANGEL, so let’s not go there. It was probably Gabriel or Michael, the fiercest of all angels, sent to protect the promises of God to Abraham.

A GREAT NATION was coming through Abraham. JESUS would one day be born through this family line and it seems God didn’t want anybody or anything, demonic or otherwise, to interfere with the process of finding Rebekah. Abraham’s faith had been tested and he had learned some valuable lessons. He is doing everything he can to make sure that he doesn’t get in the way of God again.

Perhaps it was the archangel Gabriel who was sent. Afterall Gabriel turns up at the birth of Christ to Mary (Luke 1:26) and angels throughout the Bible have a way of protecting people (and I might add of scaring them to death in the process. It seems they always have to reassure people by saying “Do not fear!” so they obviously aren’t the cute, fat baby-like cupid angels that we see on wedding invitations).

In a world where Satan wants to destroy Godly marriages because they are a picture of our relationship with Christ, is this your opportunity to pray that God would SEND AN ANGEL to protect you and that God would lead you to the right person to marry? Some people are just meant to be together.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – GOD HAS AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE! – Part 2

Online Love

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…”

The most successful INTERNET DATING SITES today, according to Wikipedia, are very specific concerning those they target. To ensure compatibility many of them are advertised according to RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS. That would have suited Abraham if he had been able to access the internet. Many today would accuse him of being a racist because he did not want his son to marry a Canaanite.

Abraham sent his trusted servant out to find a perfect match for his son Isaac, but he was instructed to go to Abraham’s relatives. He didn’t want a marriage where race or faith in God would be compromised.

Today the servant could have linked into JDate (which is for Jewish singles) while avoiding the local dating sites such as CanaaniteDate.com.

How do you find a person who is COMPATIBLE? Today he could have surveyed Isaac and entered the data online to find the characteristics in a woman he wanted, such as age, gender, what city she was from, height, weight, education, income, sense of humour, her interest in sports, her political persuasion and medical condition. What if she has mental problems or severe disabilities? To go one step further, Abraham’s servant could have linked into a site that used a personality test to ensure compatibility.

It all sounds like a great way to go if you are looking for a marriage partner, but Rebekah takes a huge risk in following this servant of Abraham. She has no idea whether or not she is exposing herself to ruthless predators, only to find herself a victim of fraud or of being stalked or of sexual exploitation and violence. For all she knows she could end up as a victim of human trafficking!

If Rebekah lived today she could have asked for a police check on Abraham’s family. It would have revealed a few cautions against Abraham – abandonment of his son Ishmael and attempted murder of Isaac. God acquitted him as righteous but how would you feel about having a father-in-law like that?

At least two couples I know began their relationship on the internet. Recently Sharyn Cook said “I met my husband on the internet and he is definitely God’s answer to my prayers”.

The question the servant had to ask was “How do I find someone who will be compatible?” He decided to use GOD’S ONLINE HELP, the best and most successful dating site of all, accessed by the same password Sharyn used – “PRAYER”.

So the oldest and most trusted of servants goes to find a girl willing to go with him, leave her family, come to a totally new land called Canaan, marry and live with a man she has never seen before in her life. This is a big ask. No wonder the servant prays in Genesis 24:12 (NLT), “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” This servant obviously has a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD although I think he could have included a desire for a bit of lovingkindness for Isaac too. Afterall, he is the one who is going to be affected the most by this prayer. Prayer voice activates his faith and links him directly to GOD’S INTERNET DATING SITE.

God knows what He is doing as he leads the servant to Rebekah. Imagine if Rebekah was so off-line with God that she had not agreed to come. Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ was to come through the line of Isaac. Her positive response, however, shows that she is a right person for Isaac.

Should this servant give us advice as to finding someone who is compatible for marriage, he would say “Dedicate yourself to the purpose but let that purpose be guided by your prayer.” How different might be the results should this kind of online search be conducted today. Connected to God’s wisdom, our choices make so much more sense and have so much greater impact and fruitfulness. The invitation today is to be connected to God in every arena of our lives, especially in the decision of a life partner in marriage.

Pastor Ross

Part 1 – Genesis 14 – BUZZ LIKEYOU TO THE RESCUE!

Buzz LikeYou to the Rescue!

My grandson hits the ground running in the morning. He will come in at 5am while I am having my quietime and startle me by saying “Pa, you be Zurg!” and thrust into my hands an action figure with horns, piercing eyes and cape. My grandson plays the part of BUZZ LIKEYOU (I think the name is supposed to be Buzz Lightyear, but I kind of like the idea of Buzz having the name “Likeyou” so I have given up trying to correct this – imagine an action figure that actually likes you). Of course Buzz doesn’t have horns. I am always cast as the bad guy, THE EVIL EMPEROR ZURG. Zurg has the fire power of a small army attached to his arm but it makes no difference. I am always defeated by Buzz Likeyou who likes everyone except the evil emporer Zurg. I suppose that’s a good thing, but not at 5am. “Zion Brave”, I say, “go back to bed until the sun comes up at least.” He goes in to our bedroom and Nanny tells him stories of Bible heroes or he goes back to sleep beside her until it gets light.

IN GENESIS 14:1-24 WAR BREAKS OUT! This is the first war mentioned in the Bible and Lot is in the middle of it. Now there’s an interesting name. Lot by name and he wanted a lot by nature. He’s the nephew of Abram and he’s camped near Sodom and Gomorrah with his family, a lot of livestock, lot’s of servants – the lot (I know. I couldn’t help it. Who names their child “Lot”?). Anyway, that’s the reason he get’s caught up in the battle (not because of his name but because of his position. Position myself beside Sodom and Gomorrah’s kind of wickedness and I am inviting unnecessary trouble.)

It all looks good and the land is fertile and lush, but you don’t want to be in Sodom when Kedorlaomer comes (the evil emporer Zurg). You see SODOM IS A VASSAL CITY (servant city) of King Kedorlaomer. They have probably been forced by their suzerain overlord, Kedorlaomer, to pay tribute money (usually 10%. Tithing to kings was common in the ancient world), and they have refused and rebelled. Even evil people rebel against tithing.

King Kedorlaomer decides to assert his authority and brings his army to lay waste to the city and bring it back under his control. Genesis 14:10 (NLT) says, “as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits,” (I presume that means their chariots got stuck or swallowed by these tar pits. What a way to go! Was it hot tar? Uggh. Maybe they just fell into these pits in order to hide), “while the rest escaped into the mountains. The victorious invaders then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and headed for home, taking with them all the spoils of war and the food supplies. They also captured Lot-Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom-and carried off everything he owned.” (Genesis 14:11-12 NLT)They took the lot. Lot was left with nothing. There are consequences to choosing to get too close to wickedness. Slavery! Wickedness always enslaves.

NOW “BUZZ LIKEYOU” COMES TO THE RESCUE! Abram is no wimp. He quickly mobilizes “318 trained men who had been born into his household.” (Genesis 14:14). The fact that they were trained means that Abram was always prepared for battle. I need to have that kind of readiness in the spiritual battles I face as a Christian – A PREPAREDNESS – ahead of time for what I may face.

It also shows how many people were in Abram’s entourage. He catches up with Kedorlaomer’s army at Dan, divides up his men and attacks during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army don’t know what hit them and they run for their lives. Abram recovers all the goods that had been taken, and brings back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives.

How does this apply to me Lord?

BE PREPARED SPIRITUALLY, because the battles will come.

BE ALERT TO THE OPPORTUNITIES around me to help someone who needs my help, especially if they need to be set free from the slavery of their old life, and find freedom to live by serving Christ. The truth is we will be serving something or someone. I choose to serve Christ and my God who created me and has the best plan for my life.

BE ALIGNED WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF PEOPLE. Abram aligned himself with people who could help when things got tough. He even trained them. I went to a prayer meeting this morning with about 40 other people. I choose to align myself with God’s warriors in prayer.

BE RESPONSIBLE for others in terms of care. Abram didn’t have to help, but he did. When someone is enslaved by their sin, drugs, immorality, we have a responsibility to help them.

Galatians 6:1 (NLT) says “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” 

BE STRATEGIC. Abram planned the rescue of Lot. If we are going to rescue those who are lost and don’t know Christ, then we need a strategy.

BE INVOLVED PERSONALLY. Not just train people and send them out with a plan, but be involved personally.

BE GENEROUS. Abram returned everyone and everything to Sodom that was taken. He didn’t have to. He was generous and unselfish towards non-Christians

Micah 6:8 (NLT) puts it this way “… the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  

What happens next is intriguing but it will have to wait for another time.

God bless you Church as you are prepared, alert, aligned, strategic, responsible, involved and generous.

Pastor Ross