Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’

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 

Psalm 8:3 – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 8:2 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 2 

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: (picks up Bible that the Atheist has been reading and turns to the New Testament). Nothing comes close to who God is and His character. When I wrote Psalm 8, I was also talking prophetically about a coming Messiah. I notice the writers of the New Testament, written many years after my writings recognise Him to be Jesus. Jesus shares the glory of God. John 1:14 (NLT) says, “So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”  

Colossians 1:15 (NLT) says “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,…  

ATHEIST: In our world He is mostly a swearword used on many building sites and general conversation, although I grant you that He is also recognised as an historical figure who made an impact on the world with His teachings. 

DAVID: Nothing can rob God of His glory. Not using His Name as a swearword. Carelessly profaning His name makes no difference to who His is and the impact He still makes in the earth.  Look at this. This was written to Christians in Philippi. Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

ATHEIST: I have no intention in bowing down to Jesus just because your Bible, not mine, says He is God and that He existed before the world was created and is supreme over all creation. There are many Scientific explanations as to how the world came into being and none of them include God. 

DAVID: Scientific theories may exclude God but then Science is not concerned with God, only the physical world. I like what your Bible says in Romans 1:20 (NLT), “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” I remember as a child looking up to the stars and trying to fathom how they came into existance and the eternity of space, and coming to the conclusion, though I didn’t know Him then, that there must be a Creator.  

ATHEIST: A child is easily susceptible to such beliefs. And it is childish to maintain such a stance. 

DAVID: In Psalm 8:2 you noticed that I wrote as I prayed, You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength, silencing Your enemies and all who oppose You.  

ATHEIST: What is that supposed to mean?  Your childish faith will oppress me? 

DAVID: No, not at all, but it takes a childlike, but not childish faith to believe in Christ and to trust Him in the face of opposition. 

For me the very life of a child itself is evidence of the almighty power and wonder of God. I realise that not everyone is going to be impressed by God’s strength, excellence and majesty, but they are often silenced by the simplicity and miracle of the birth of a child and the faith of a child. 

I notice that in your Bible, in the New Testament, Jesus quoted me (from Psalm 8:2) when His enemies, the religious leaders, confronted Him. The children were shouting praises when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday.  

Matthew 21:14-16 (NLT) says of Jesus, “The blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” 

Jesus misses out the second part of the verse I wrote in Psalm 8:2 about silencing enemies of God, however the Pharisees would have known this verse and would not have missed what Jesus was saying – that they were the enemies. 

I notice that earlier, in Matthew 18:2-3 (NLT), Jesus calls a little child to Him and puts the child among crowd. Then He says, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

Even at the birth of Jesus Himself, He is called Saviour. The babe in the manger became the Saviour of the world. 

ATHEIST: Childlike faith or simply foolishness? 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. 

DAVID: I notice in your Bible in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 that it says, “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” 

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.  

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). 

(to be continued) 

Pastor Ross  

Psalm 8:1 – INTERVIEW WITH AN ATHEIST ON PSALM 8 – Part 1 


Psalms 8:4 (NLT) “What are people that You (Lord) should think about them, mere mortals that You should care for them?”

The scene takes place on the top floor of a Skyscraper, to a luxury apartment belonging to 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, the human author, 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: amazed at his location looks out from the glass and begins to pray: “O Lord, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1) 

ATHEIST: (Hears David pray and approaches him). I appreciate you trying to include us all in your prayer, but He is not our Lord and the only glory you see from up here is of man’s doing.  

DAVIDExactly! 

ATHEIST: What do you mean, “Exactly!”? You agree with me? 

DAVID: I was looking at the stars and perhaps you only saw the city. I revel in the heavens and the earth and weep for the city while it seems you exalt only in a limited worldview.  

ATHEIST: God is just a crutch for weaklings like you and all your kind.  

DAVID: Yes, He is a crutch to all those who recognize that they walk with a limp. The very name, “Lord” contains the idea of support. But be aware that He has authority over our lives whether or not we recognize it. He remains majestic, sovereign, omnipotent and omnipresent. His reputation still fills the earth. 

ATHEIST: He is nothing to me.  

DAVID: You have been given the right not to think beyond yourself. I have made a choice to continue to thank Him for who He is, glorious and worthy of praise, higher than the heavens. I will continue to love Him, worship Him and acknowledge His authority over my life and lean on Him. 

ATHEIST: (Glances at his giant TV) You say that He is majestic or excellent. We have just witnessed the horror of the massacre in New Zealand. Children are starving in refugee camps around the world. How can such a so-called excellent, sovereign, righteous, just, loving, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God stand by and do nothing?   

DAVID: How could you standby and do nothing and then accuse God?  

ATHEIST: You are accusing me of being responsible? 

DAVID: You and me. Certainly those who hold your worldview, yes. Your religion, yes. Your sinful attitudes, yes. The fool has said in his heart that there is no God. The very freedom of choice God has given to you to go your own way without God’s excellent, loving, just and righteous standards, in its extreme, can lead to even greater atrocities than this man has committed. We see evidence all over the world, though not always in the news.  

ATHIEST: You Christians always speak your venom about living in a sinful world and yet something like the Crusades take place. You speak about needing the forgiveness of Jesus and how He loves the world, yet this is offensive to much of the world. You shouldn’t be allowed to fill the earth with your hate speech.  

DAVID: The Christian Crusades, and may I add, the many years of slaughter of Christians in my land before the Crusades are indeed all signs of sinful hearts.  

Hate speech is indeed the sign of a heart that needs God’s healing, but let me ask you – Is what you call hate speech based entirely on your Godless worldview and is anyone who dares to disagree with you offensive?  

From my worldview I find it difficult to think that someone who hates the idea of God and His love for humankind should decide what hate speech is and what type of hate speech requires prosecution?  

We see reporters jailed in other countries for what they say against other religions. Are they guilty of hate speech? We see Christians killed and persecuted in many parts of the world for standing up for what they believe each year. Are they really guilty of hate speech? Now we see the atrocities of a gunman in New Zealand expressing his hatred against the Islamic religion. Is it really hate speech that is the problem or is it what the Bible calls the sin of the human heart. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

I prefer to seek to live by the absolute standards of God’s Word. It seems to me that trying always to curtail hate speech is a vain attempt to change a person’s heart and drives hateful attitudes even deeper. It is, at best, a veneer of justice. Yet I have seen in my own life that only God can change the human heart.  

ATHEIST: So I have to live by your rules imposed upon my life? Or the rules of your Bible or your God? 

DAVID: No. What I am saying is that standards cannot be imposed by laws alone. God’s absolute standards don’t demand a law, but a change of heart. A choice. I choose to love because God first loves me. When I chose to love God I began to see things through the eyes of the Cross. I saw my own sin and found the forgiveness that comes through believing in Christ alone, in my day the coming Messiah. My heart changed direction. Christians call this being “born again”. Abraham expressed it as being blessed to be a blessing to others.   

Excellence reflects who God is. His perfect character. I want to reflect something of His excellent character in the way I live.  

(to be continued) 

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 36 – EMAILS TO ESAU – Part 2 

Emails to Esau 2 © Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

Happy birthday to us! 120! Can you believe another decade has past. A lot of water under the bridge and bridges burned (I hope). I hope you have a great day. 

Your homeland sounds fascinating. I guess the name Edom will always remind me of our past also, and if you don’t mind, I won’t inflame enmity by attempting to come. I hope we can still keep in contact, however.  

I can’t say I have particularly represented God very well over the years, yet at significant times in my life, He has spoken clearly to me. I have struggled with Him. But He has always been with me. I am sad to hear you have abandoned faith in Him. I hope it’s not because of me, but I fear I had a lot to do with it, although I cannot take final responsibility for your decisions. 

I am still interested in getting our family tree in order, as I now take over that responsibility from Dad. I have been married for over 40 years. You must have been married for around 80 years, so there must be quite a few children. 

Yours, 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Thanks for the Birthday wishes. I had forgotten. You were the only one who remembered.  

Since you don’t look like you are going to stop with this family tree thing, I’ll give you some details. 

Like you, brother, I’m a polygamist. I have three wives:  First is Judith (now known as Aholibamah), the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, a total heathen in your eyes, brother. And Bashemath (now known as Adah), the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 36:2). 

Mum and Dad were not too impressed with my choices of wives when I told them (Genesis 26:34), so to appease them, I married my cousin, another Bashemath (now known as Mahalath), the daughter of Ishmael. It didn’t make much difference. She doesn’t believe in your God either (Genesis 28:6-9).  

If you are wondering about the name changes, in Edomite culture we change the names of our women when they are married. 

My family has prospered greatly despite our rejection of God and despite living outside of Canaan. I now have many servants and cattle.  

I have broken free from the yoke, like Dad’s blessing said.  

Since it is only my sons that interest you for your records, you can list 5.  

Adah gave birth to Eliphaz. Eliphaz strangely enough believes in God (a bit of a disappointment really). Probably influenced by his friend Job. I have to admit he’s a good tribal leader, though 

Basemath gave birth to Reuel.  Reuel is also a tribal leader.  

Oholibamah gave birth to JeushJalam, and Korah. They were all born in Canaan (Genesis 36:2-3).  

I didn’t want my kids growing up with all the God talk of my parents. So I moved to Edom some time ago, but like you came back when I heard Dad was dying. I became quite wealthy while I was in Canaan, but I could not call this my home because it is promised to you, so I packed up for good. I have no desire to live in your shadow, Jacob (Genesis 36:6). There’s not enough land to support us both because of all our livestock and possessions anyway. 

Now Dad’s gone I have moved everything to Mt Seir in Edom. You don’t need to worry. I won’t get in your way. 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Esau, 

You and I are very different and so I guess your decision to move was wise. Nevertheless, it seems strange that your sons were born in Canaan only to move out. My sons were born out of Canaan only to move in. You acquired wealth in Canaan only to move to Edom. I acquired wealth in Padan-aram only to move to Canaan. I ran away from you after stealing your blessing. Now you move away from me in order for me to enter into that same blessing. What a strange set of circumstances. 

Tell me. Do you have any grandsons? 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Let’s make one thing clear, brother. I didn’t move from Canaan because of my love for you. I moved because I already have a life and own my land, which is more than you can say about Canaan. All you have is a promise and promises don’t mean anything. Get real, Jacob.  

As for Grandsons. Yes, I have 10 grandsons. I am getting old. All of them now are clan leaders of around 1000 families. 

Eliphaz has 5 children. Teman is his eldest son. Teman is a great leader. He already has a district and town named after him in Edom.  

Eliphaz also lives in Teman. Great man of wisdom. Eliphaz the Temanite. Can’t tell him anything. The whole place gives me the creeps. They’re all a lot of philosophers and know-it-alls and all they do is sit around and talk and read. A bit too cerebral for me.  

 Eliphaz has other sons, Omar, ZephoGatam and Kenaz 

I suppose you need to add another son also. Eliphaz took a concubine, just to continue the family tradition, named Timna, a local girl, and they had a son called Amalek (Genesis 36:12). He’s a tough kid. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. He’s not well accepted by the rest of the family. So he has moved his clan to the West of Edom. I don’t see him much 

Eliphaz also has a son-in-law, Korah, also a great leader.   

I don’t have time for other details, so here’s a quick rundown. My son Reuelm through my wife Basemath, has 4 sons: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. (Genesis 36:12-13). 

I’m going on a 3 day hunting trip through the mountains so I’ll write to you again when I get time. Might even prepare some red stew when I get back. Pity you aren’t here to cook it.   

Esau. 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Esau is a very successful, wealthy, powerful man. Famous. The best example of a successful Atheist the world has to offer. Who says God won’t allow Atheists to succeed in life? But at what cost. Alienation from family and constant tension with the world around him. Arrogance with defying God.   

Pastor Ross 

Matthew 7:22-23 – HOW CAN THINKING PEOPLE BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

How Can a Thinking Person Believe?

Jesus makes it tough for people living in the Western World. He 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. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”

All these things are unfamiliar to our culture. In just a few sentences Jesus speaks about JUDGMENT DAY, PROPHECIES, DEMONS, MIRACLES, KNOWING GOD and GOD’S AUTHORITY to tell us what to do. Not what we want to hear in our scientific age. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, mocks the fuse that has been lit by the words of Jesus in these verses. He wants to cast out Christians in the name of science.

Yes, I know there have been times in history when Christian culture has confused spirituality with superstition, regarding various amulets and charms with power to cast out demons. Yes, religious leaders have used these trinkets to promote superstition for personal gain and power. Yes, many believed that all diseases were produced by evil spirits and those with intellectual disabilities or suffering from a mental illness or Epilepsy were considered to be possessed by demons. But please don’t tar every follower of Christ with the same brush? Same old, same old.

Jesus believed in the existence of demons! As a Bible-believing Christian today I acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world including the demonic, without having to put any trust in amulets and charms. Similarly every Bible-believing Christian I know believes in miracles, and signs and wonders without attributing superstitious beliefs to eclipses and comets, magic and false prophets. No intelligent person can explain every human condition by science alone.

Unlike Richard Dawkins, many cosmologists today are speaking of parallel universes or multiverse, even though they are conflicted because it doesn’t fit neatly into the test-tube of science. In his book, A Brief History of the Multiverse, author and cosmologist, Paul Davies, says, “… how is the existence of the other universes to be tested? … somewhere on the slippery slope between that and the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, credibility reaches a limit. As one slips down that slope, more and more must be accepted on faith, and less and less is open to scientific verification …The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith.” — Paul Davies, A Brief History of the Multiverse

George Ellis, like most cosmologists, accepts the idea of the multiverse saying it would be so far away, however, and that it’s very unlikely any evidence will be found. He says “As skeptical as I am, I think the contemplation of the multiverse is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the nature of science and on the ultimate nature of existence: why we are here … In looking at this concept, we need an open mind, though not too open. It is a delicate path to tread. Parallel universes may or may not exist; the case is unproved. We are going to have to live with that uncertainty. Nothing is wrong with scientifically based philosophical speculation, which is what multiverse proposals are. But we should name it for what it is.” — George Ellis, Scientific American, Does the Multiverse Really Exist?

I know that like the multiverse, when my prayers are answered in miraculous ways we are still not be able to sieve it through the grate of science and come up with God or a miracle. Yet to deny God and miracles on the basis of science is a lie and the spiritual dimensions of life will remain disregarded and silent, unable to be investigated due more to rebellion than reason.

Miracles are not only possible, but any thinking person will concede that life is not lived in the test tube of science alone. Unfounded assertions and rudeness will not help the cause of science. Such a limited view of life displays arrogance and ignorance. Such arrogance and ignorance is the soil in which unbelief grows and does not leave us open enough to investigating the possibility of the truth of the Bible. The invitation God gives is simply to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 – that’s about as empirical as it gets! 🙂 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:6 – PIGSLOP OR PEARLS?

Pig-Slop or Pearls?

Atheist Richard Dawkins was in Australia recently for the GLOBAL ATHEIST CONVENTION which started in Melbourne on Good Friday. Dawkins is well-known for encouraging his fellow atheists to ridicule those who claim to be Christians. “Mock them, ridicule them in public,” he urged in one brief address. “Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion.” The so-called “Reason Rally” coincides with Easter Celebrations. Christians turned up to a “Reason for Faith Rally” in Australia, challenging Dawkins and his Atheist friends.

On Easter Monday night Dawkins participated in a televised debate with Catholic Archbishop Pell on faith and religion. Journalist Tony Jones who moderated the debate, described it as “a remarkable match-up – a title fight of belief,” according to the Canberra Times. The television program conducted a poll beforehand, in which 76 percent of the 20,000 Australian respondents voted that religious belief does not make the world a better place.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:6 (NIV) “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your PEARLS TO PIGS. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Being likened to Dogs (a term used for Gentiles whom they despised) and Pigs (an unclean black-market animal, a demonic hiding place) is not exactly flattering, but it does get the point across.

The unmistakable, musty, matted smell of DOGS, mongrels who scavenge among the refuse of the city, savage and hungry, is present on the same breeze that carries the aroma of burnt offerings.

Wild dogs lope in the side shadows, irresistibly drawn by their hunger, looking for opportunities to snatch scraps or attack if they can. They snarl at the vigilance of the temple guards, and resist their efforts to dissuade them. Jesus appears to be including the Pharisees as He speaks of dogs and pigs. The Pharisees of today still seek to devour Jesus and attack His followers. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT) says “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith…”

So I bring my sacrifice to the temple, so to speak, to be presented to the Lord, amidst the crowds and noise of the city. A part of it will be burnt on the altar, part of it will be eaten by the priest, and part of it I will take home for my family. How vile it would be to desecrate the choicest pieces of my sacrificial offering by throwing it to dogs. No, I will freely lay it on the altar to God. I will not waste that which is sacred on those who would consume it’s benefits without a thought of its significance, then savage the hand that feeds them. My life of faith is not to be devoured by those who want to play games, mocking and ridiculing Christ.

Pigs will eat just about anything and a lot of it, so pretending to feed wild pigs is stupid. It gets them annoyed and they are liable to get vicious. A pig doesn’t want pearls. It wants slop not Salvation, grain not Grace, corn not Christ, muck-raking not Miracles.

Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 10:14 (NLT) “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” A pearl is priceless, but not to a pig. I need to discern who I speak to about Christ and who I allow to speak into my life. Those who make judgments which are critical and petty and derogatory concerning faith in Christ are the hogs and the dogs, false teachers who flatter the ears of the world and revile Christ with their course language, deceitful religious systems or self-willed lifestyles, those who parade reason as their motto but are unwilling to look beyond themselves.

In John 8:43-45 (NLT) Jesus says to those who reject and revile Him, “Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!”

Obviously it is no good wasting time on people who are not going to be receptive. No use trying to heal someone who wants to remain sick. No use casting out demons from someone who actively invites them in. No use casting pearls before pigs. No use preaching the gospel of “peace with God” to someone who is not receptive. No use speaking Words of Life to those who have committed spiritual suicide. Receptivity is important. 

The disciples shake the very dust from their feet. Nothing given, nothing received. It’s as if the footprints in that place indicating your presence have disappeared in the dust. There is nothing to say that you have been there, and the influence and impact of God’s message is withdrawn …

… Yet the Father waits, knowing it is better to leave them, prodigal-son-like, hungry and wallowing in a purposeless pig-slop life in the hope that one day they will turn back home.

Pastor Ross

BREAKING THE CHAINS OF SUPERSTITION – Part 1

Superstition – Photo Creation by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile.com

The 2nd Friday in January was Friday the thirteenth, 2012. For those who believe in SUPERSTITION an unlucky day – a bad day for a journey, to marry, to make any investment. One woman I spoke with yesterday reads the stars each morning in the paper and prays that God will allow it to happen. Lets add to that walking under a ladder, a black cat, crossing your fingers, touching wood, reading the stars, petals plucked to discover if she loves me, she loves me not.

RELIGION especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. One man wears a cross as a kind of rabbits foot against bad luck, while another wears it as a symbol of what Christ did for us on the Cross in dying for our sins. One person prays as a meaningless ritual while another uses prayer as an expression of relationship with Christ.

SUPERSTITION is evident when I have a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of cause and effect. Many people would add that a belief in the supernatural, in miracles, in God, in the resurrection and ascension of Christ is also SUPERSTITION.

I’ve been reading a lecture (blog) by Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), an Atheist. I love his ability to express himself but I am amazed by the arrogance of his assertions and how he intentionally associates SUPERSTITION WITH FAITH. He is particularly scathing about regarding the Bible as the inspired Word of God and proclaims SCIENCE AS OUR SAVIOUR, which will “destroy bigotry in all its forms… It will abolish poverty and crime, and greater, grander, nobler than all else, it will make the whole world free.” (Ingersoll lecture on Superstition)

And years after his death in the scientific age in which we live we are still mesmerised by the superstition of believing that science is the saviour of the world. Yet far from freeing the world, the evidence suggests we are destroying it by the very discoveries we have made. Science hasn’t lived up to the arrogant claims and promises Ingersoll makes because it keeps limiting us by ignoring the very things that truly set us free.

If I was not willing to accept Christ for who He is I guess I would be forced to come up with some fanciful explanation that allowed my atheism or superstition some credence and would not obligate me to come under God’s authority – scientific or religious – it wouldn’t matter much which.

In delivering a series of messages based on The Truth Between Us, Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, recently said that true atheists and followers of Christ both want to rid themselves of SUPERSTITION. Thankfully, both atheists and followers of Christ ask us “Is that really the truth?” and if we were honest sometimes the answer is “No, it’s more connected with superstition and rituals and our own biased desires.” It may even be based on our self imposed limits.

Arnold (not his real name) has worked so long as a scientist that he has allowed his empirical rationalism to limit his ability to discern truth by relying only on his SENSES. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise FAITH as a valid system of perception. When Arnold, shackled and restricted to the evidence of the senses as he must be for his scientific research to be meaningful, refuses to acknowledge any OTHER pathways to truth but it’s own self imposed world of choices, then far from practicing science he is involved in “SCIENTISM” (as my geologist friend Bob calls it). Closing itself up to other possibilities outside the field of it’s own restricted measures of obtaining truth, scientism arrogantly seeks to cut us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives and from the divergent thinking that leads us to new discoveries. Should I restrict myself to my senses as the ONLY means to living life I could never be accountable to anyone but myself, limited by my “INGROWN THINKING”.

Erwin McManus speaks about the impossibility of trying to see something with the sense of smell or hear something with the sense of sight. It’s not that faith and science are diametrically opposed. They are not. It’s that we sometimes apply the wrong apparatus of perception when seeking truth.

It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. No-one should be more committed to pursuing truth than a follower of Christ, who says He is the way, TRUTH, and life and that the TRUTH will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32). He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 14:1-2 – BREAKING THE CHAINS OF MY LIMITATIONS

Breaking the Chains of My Limitations

One hundred and one years have passed and he still believes in a SUPERSTITION that once haunted Herod Antipas almost 2000 years ago. The centenarian I spoke with yesterday doesn’t like the idea of the afterlife, of heaven and hell, of continuing to live on past death, nevertheless he clings to a belief in REINCARNATION, that the soul is recycled. It is recorded that Herod Antipas also believed you could return and inhabit a different living person (Matthew 14:1-2). Reincarnation with a twist.

In delivering a series of messages based on The Truth Between Us, Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, recently said that true atheists and followers of Christ both want to rid themselves of SUPERSTITION. Thankfully, both atheists and followers of Christ ask us “Is that really the truth?” and if we were honest sometimes the answer is “No, it’s more connected with superstition and rituals and our own biased desires.” It may even be based on our self imposed limits for discovering half truths.

Religion especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. But then again science and rationalism can also limit our ability to discern truth by relying only on our senses. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting and limiting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise faith as a valid system of perception. When science refuses to acknowledge that we know things beyond our senses it becomes scientism. It cuts us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives.

No-one should be more committed to pursuing truth than a follower of Christ, who says He is the way, TRUTH, and life and that the TRUTH will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32). Sometimes the only verifiable truth I have is the truth evidenced by a changed life. It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

When Herod hears that some people think that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead (Luke 9:7-9), with superstitious fear and a guilty conscience, he readily grasps at this explanation (2 Timothy 4:4). This is weird because he claims to be a Sadducee, and Sadducees don’t believe in life after death.

Years later Herod meets Jesus face to face when Jesus is on trial to be crucified (Luke 23:8–12) but even then He misses his opportunity to discover who Jesus really is and examines Him as a curiosity.

Strange that all the conclusions about Jesus that people come up with don’t include what John has been telling them all along. God has promised to them a Redeemer. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Saviour. Instead they come up with a quasi reincarnational theory.

Where does imagination stop and truth start? Children mix imagination and truth, but discerning that which is imaginary and that which is a possibility is the process that allows me to discover truth.

If I was not willing to accept Christ for who He is I guess I would be forced to come up with some fanciful explanation that allowed my atheism or superstition some credence and would not obligate me to come under God’s authority. Scientific or religious. It wouldn’t matter much which. There’s a downward trend here in Herod’s life that must tear him to pieces inside. He can’t explain away the miracles of Jesus and he desperately wants to maintain control of his world, so he must grasp at staws.

The invitation that both Herod and John the Baptist gives to us is to seek the truth. In the palace Herod entertains the truth but allows superstition and pride to reject Christ for who he really is. In the dungeon John the Baptist speaks the truth and though he is beheaded by Herod, it is the Truth about Jesus that sets him free.

Perhaps the questions worth asking are “What superstitions am I willing to embrace when it comes to seeking for the truth about Jesus? Am I simply applying limited constructs in a desire to eradicate Christ and His authority in my life? Am I really willing to seek the truth about who Jesus is? Am I willing to act on truth that I perceive beyond my senses and beyond my superstitions?”

John 16:13 (NLT) speaks about God the Holy Spirit as “THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH” who “will guide you into all truth” John 16:8 (NLT) says “… He will convict the world of its sin …” of unbelief. Am I willing to look beyond myself for the answers I need in life?

Pastor Ross

Part 9 – Matthew 12:30-32 – I DON’T WANT TO BE RESCUED!

The Unforgiveable Sin!

The world watched as 33 Chilean miners TRAPPED underground for 69 days were rescued. The last miner was rescued on Thursay  October 14, 2010, a day marked with celebration and joy all around the world. The President of Chile said that Chile will never be the same.

One of the rescued men, Mario Sepulveda, said “I was with God and I was with the devil. They fought and God won the battle. I reached out and took hold of God’s hand. I never doubted that I would be rescued.” According to one article a number of men and their loved ones gave their lives to Christ during the ordeal as they prayed and reached out for God’s help.

Scientists and engineers WORKED day and night to design and drill an ESCAPE hole half a mile down to the trapped miners. 69 days later, they lowered a capsule from CAMP HOPE down to the men. It took 50 minutes to rescue each man. One newspaper headline read “FREED FROM HELL TO HOPE”. As the steel caged capsule surfaced it was as if each man was given NEW LIFE, SAVED, DELIVERED, REBORN.

The story got me thinking about what I had been reading in Matthew 12:31-32 (NLT). You probably won’t see the connection straight away but Jesus says “Every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven-except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will NEVER BE FORGIVEN. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will NEVER BE FORGIVEN, either in this world or in the world to come.”

How am I to understand this verse and what does it have to do with miners or me?

Imagine if some of the miners, after all the work that had been done for them, had decided they DIDN’T WANT TO BE RESCUED and walked back into the darkness of the mineshaft, away from the capsule which had been made to bring them to safety and celebration on the surface? What if they refused to be saved and decided to stay behind? What if they tried to KILL THE PHYSICIAN who came to examine them, SLANDERED Camp Hope, the capsule, the scientists, engineers and the cheering world and stayed behind? What if they didn’t want to be hugged by the President of Chile? What if they didn’t want to be famous and have their lives changed forever? What if they said, “I REJECT ALL YOUR WORK to save me. I DON’T WANT TO BE RESCUED!”

That’s what these verses in Matthew 12:31 and 32 are about! Jesus says in John 16:8-9 (NLT), speaking of the Holy Spirit, “…He will CONVICT the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it REFUSES TO BELIEVE IN ME.”

CONVICTION! The Holy Spirit convicts me of my need to BELIEVE AND PUT MY TRUST IN CHRIST. But I can CHOOSE TO REFUSE! I can either respond to the CONVICTION of the Holy Spirit or HARDEN my heart to the point of BLASPHEMY. When I ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my life and actively refuse and abuse His promptings in terms of PERMANENT ONGOING UNBELIEF, then such sin against the Holy Spirit is UNFORGIVEABLE. I remain lost.

Are you concerned about committing the UNFORGIVEABLE SIN? That in itself is an indication that you have not. You can still reach out to Christ. Like the physician who came down in the escape capsule, Jesus came down to rescue you personally. Jesus died on the cross for your sin. 1 John 1:7 (NLT) says “…the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” To reject the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to belief in Christ will leave you WITHOUT HOPE of salvation and GUILTY before God.

John 3:36 (NLT) says “…anyone who believes in God’s Son has ETERNAL LIFE. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry JUDGMENT.”

Jesus has done everything He could do to save me. There is nothing left for Him to do, but I am left with a choice as to whether or not I respond to the conviction in my heart and receive Christ as my Saviour. 

Like the miners who agreed to be rescued I stepped into the capsule of His love and I received new life and hope for the future. He wrapped His arms around me to the applause of heaven. My life will never be the same.

God bless you Church as you remain open to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in your life, willing to be rescued and ready to encourage others to reach out to Christ and be saved.

Pastor Ross