Posts Tagged ‘Generosity’

Matthew 15:29-38 – FISH AND CHIPS ON A COLD WINTER’S DAY

Cross = Love.  (Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Cross = Love.
(Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net)

Midday Friday the smell of Fish and Chips wafts in through the adjoining doors as our small group sings the last song. I scan the ancient, lined faces who listen to Words of Life every week in this area of the Shalom Centre and we feel the presence of the Lord as rusty voices give substance to their faith. We ask for Dave’s recovery in hospital and give thanks for the food and then begin the slow, measured and deliberate process of getting to the meal table in the next room. Sunshine washes through the window as I collect the hymn books but the persistent seeping draught under the door leaves no doubt that winter is arriving, and my thoughts, like shadows, flicker in the cold air of another winter long ago.

Jesus leaves Tyre and goes up to Sidon even further into Gentile territory. Before leaving Jewish territory the grass was green (Matthew 14:19). Now the ground is barren; winter has come (Matthew 15:33).

Decapolis. The miraculous events taking place here are lifechanging. Jews among Gentiles, His disciples are learning that these lost, outcast, and needy people are loved by God. Intensive training at the coalface instils in them that the message of the gospel is also for Gentiles. I attend to His words and take notes.

Jesus teaches me about…

AVAILABILITY – He sits down (Matthew 15:29) with those humble enough to see their need. APPROACHABILITY – No one an outcast. He welcomes me. COMPASSION – There are times when I am so NOT “moved with compassion” as Jesus is (Matthew 15:32). Pity maybe, but not compassion. Compassion is different. Compassion is committed to lean in and to DO something when pity has been overwhelmed. Jesus doesn’t just have sympathy or empathy. He goes further and meets the needs of the people who come to Him, healing everyone; every kind of sickness and suffering, both physical and spiritual. Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 15:30-31). Lord bring Your healing touch to Dave today.

PROVISION – He waits until I am well and truly hungry, after three days and nothing left to eat. When my resources are not enough. When my humanity is inadequate when faced with the enormity of the need. When I am empty, drained of solutions and concern, and feeling lost. Just when I want to leave work, go home, forget about those in need and be with my family. Let those in need learn to find a way to meet their own needs (Matthew 14:15)! Ever feel this way? That’s when Jesus says to me “I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” (Matthew 15:32 NLT). “How much bread do you have?” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). He is more concerned with what I have in my hand than the enormity of the need.

4000 men! Some of the women and children would have stayed at home but many were there. 8,000 people? 16,000? It’s absurd to seat eight to sixteen thousand people with the view to feeding them with “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.” (Matthew 15:34 NLT). Surely not! “Unsatisfactory, insignificant, insufficient, inadequate, deficient, lacking, not nearly enough!”

THANKFULNESS – Jesus simply tells us to sit down and get ready for a miracle. The blessing is given and Jesus breaks the bread. CO-OPERATION – Jesus invites me to help distribute what He places in my hand. It seems to multiply in my hands as I go. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it, gives it away. The more I distribute the more there is that remains. 7 baskets of provision left over, untouched. Not junk food; fish and chips, but healthy Omega 3 oil bearing fish that only John West chooses (according to the Ad) and barley bread. What would the world look like if we brought what was in our hands to Jesus. Compassion and responsibility would accomplish the extraordinary (Matthew 14:15-21). More than enough!

Jesus, using bread as a symbol of relationship says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever COMES to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever BELIEVES in Me will never be thirsty” John 6:35 (NLT). THE JESUS DIET.

GENEROSITY – Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Jesus says “… pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT) More than enough.

It seems Jesus is deliberately inviting me to look beyond the simple awareness of a need. Jesus is inviting me NOT TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY to accomplish the EXTRAORDINARY in ANY situation. He invites me to be responsive to what God can do through me, to use what I have in my hand. To show COMPASSION and not just pity. To rely on Him to get me through. 

So take what resources you have to God right now and allow Him to use them for His purposes. God’s EXTRAVAGANCE, your CO-OPERATION. Remain in a place where God wants you to be to see His purposes accomplished despite your reservations and your limitations. Be open to a MIRACLE! Never be hungry! Never be thirsty! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Bread of Life. Even better than fish and chips on a cold winter’s day.

Matthew 15:39 (NLT) “Then Jesus sent the people home, and He got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.” 

No time to bask in the glory of a miracle. We move on to the next thing He wants to accomplish in our lives. 

Pastor Ross

PS If this message has helped you, please pass it forward to others and watch it multiply in your hands.

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Genesis 28:18–22 – TURNING A DREAM INTO DESTINY

Dream to Destiny

Dream to Destiny

Approaching the little Baptist Church near the station I can hear the voices that once drowned out the clatter of trains singing their praises again. The pump organ, now gone, for just a moment fills the room again with it’s sonorous tones as worship at full volume rises above the matters of the week. Mrs Young smiles as her head bobs above the music manuscripts, her strong vibrato voice somehow coaxing “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing” just one more time.

I am the ragged young man with long hair and a beard and no shoes who sits in the second front seat on Sunday mornings, and the man wearing a suit and tie always greets me at the door. There he is again, smiling and welcoming me in. I can see it, the photographs of remembrance still evoke the same emotions though the faces are fading in sepia.

We were a Church together with all the seemingly disparate parts meeting as one. We loved eachother. It will be a place I will always remember and return to, marked; a memorial in my mind. It is Jacob’s anointed stone and represents for many a stairway to heaven; access to God. It must be the very house of God; a place where dreams are transformed into destiny.

Nothing has changed for Jacob in Genesis 28, yet everything has changed. He is still running, still in a desert landscape, still propelled to leave home, still rejected by his brother, yet Jacob wants to preserve this moment, this milestone, this inspiring vision for his life, so he takes the stone he rested on, sets it upright as a memorial pillar, then anoints it with olive oil. It will represent that the dream he had of a stairway to heaven and the promises of God have been set apart for God’s purposes in his life. This is his first place of worship; the first place where he has made contact with God in a significant way. He names it Bethel; house of God; a place to meet with God and listen to Him speak. This must be the very house of God. A place where dreams are transformed into destiny.

Then Jacob makes this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if He will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me” (Genesis 28:20-22 NLT).

Jacob knows he needs God’s help, so he expresses it in terms of a covenant of commitment. He is saying in effect “Since you have promised these things then I’ll serve You. I commit my life to you”? As a covenant seal Jacob commits himself to paying a tithe. Tithing is a principle that unrolls gradually in the Bible, like a scroll. God doesn’t command him to do it. He isn’t planning to tithe regularly. This is the only recorded time that Jacob intends to tithe, a once-off offering that Jacob wants to make. It declares his trust and dependency upon God who provides and cares for him.

For once in his life Jacob is more concerned with giving rather than grabbing. Tithing won’t save him or ensure that God will bless him with material things. God has already promised to do this. Tithing is not a talisman against evil. For Jacob, it is an expression of his commitment to God, a response of his heart to God’s purposes for his life. My Pastor speaks about it as living the unlived life.

God invites me to respond to Him today; to commit my life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, entrusting my life into His care; to meet with and listen to God and His purposes; to respond to Him with all my heart; to determine to live a life of generosity and recognise a place of personal worship as the house of God. That’s when God turns my dreams into destiny.

Pastor Ross

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.

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration of Job. You will not read another commentary like it.

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My wife Julie

Matthew 7:12THE GOLDEN RULE AND THE TREASURE OF MY LIFE

She is selfless and giving. Yesterday, knowing that my son and his family are all sick, she cooked them a casserole, travelled to see them in another part of Sydney, and encouraged them to go to the park with her. They had a great time basking in the sun and enjoying each others company. Ever since I have known her my wife Julie has been generous with the people around her, not only her family. She acts without expecting anything in return. She is practical and sensitive to the needs of others.

She loves the unlovely and those who don’t particularly deserve it, like me. She is very much a treasure in my life, a gift from God. She lives out the Golden Rule not so much by intention but as a natural outworking of her relationship with God. It’s a part of her life. She seems to see opportunities to “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). This rule of life, verbalised by Jesus so long ago, has been activated in Julie’s life in the most beautiful of ways.

It fascinates me that versions of the “GOLDEN RULE” existed even before Christ? Commentaries say that it is found in the Rabbinic writings, Hinduism and Buddhism, even Confucius had a version. The difference, according to John Macarthur and other scholars, is that all of them cast the rule as a NEGATIVE command. Rabbi Hillel’s version, for example, said “What is hateful to yourself do not (do) to someone else.” In other words I just have to make sure I don’t do negative things to others. But these negative versions exclude and EXCUSE me from doing anything positive.

Jesus puts this command in the POSITIVE, and says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” I am to be actively and INTENTIONALLY doing something positive and not simply AVOIDING doing what is wrong or hurtful to others. The Golden Rule turns these other versions around and confronts me with what I so often omit to do for others.

The Golden Rule doesn’t make me DEPENDENT on others. My wife, Julie, didn’t wait to send a meal to our sick family members. She wasn’t returning a favour. The Golden Rule doesn’t tie me to unrealistic EXPECTATIONS of obligation, but frees me to express love to others without the prospect of anything in return. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NLT)

Given that our selfishness will always tend to manipulate others, this law suspends selfishness and gives us a compass and invitation for living generously. It has the capacity to change the heart of dictators who instigate civil unrest by their greed by breaking the chains of injustice, deceit and manipulation. It heals marriages and disharmony in families. Most of all it changes ME, my perspective about others and cuts across my selfishness. It reaches out to others, like Julie does, and seeks to make a difference. The Golden Rule and the treasure of my life.

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

Part 4 – Genesis 21:22-34 – WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF…

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I was talking with a Jewish friend at work the other day. She said “I don’t like evangelicals!” I said that it was unfortunate because I was one, and that she was working for an evangelical organisation. She said “I don’t like people trying to convert me!” I said that as I share with people about Christ in my life and live out my genuine faith in Christ that I hoped that those around me will see in me something they will also want to have in their lives. She accepted that explanation of being an evangelical. She just didn’t want to be FORCED. I can understand that. I hope she understands that I want my influence to have eternal value.

What would it look like if I were to LIVE MY LIFE in such a way that people could see the PRESENCE OF GOD IN ME? Abraham lived his life like this. At one point a king called Abimelech comes to him and says, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do.” (Genesis 21:22 NLT)

2 Corinthians 8:21 (NLT) says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to SEE that we are honourable.” What is it that people see in me that indicates the PRESENCE OF GOD?

If you had asked Abimelech about his INITIAL IMPRESSIONS of Abraham were when he first met him, he would say that he was a LIAR and lacked integrity, untrustworthy and a believer who didn’t seem to have much trust in God, someone willing to put everyone in danger to save his own neck. Proverbs 12:19-20 (NLT) says “TRUTHFUL WORDS stand the test of time, but LIES are soon exposed. DECEIT fills hearts that are plotting evil; JOY fills hearts that are planning peace!” Proverbs 11:11 (NLT) says “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, ..”

1. I want people to SEE GOD IN ME as they see how committed I am to living a life of INTEGRITY.

I really like the way there’s an HONEST EXCHANGE here. Abimelech is so HONEST with Abraham. He comes right out and says, “Swear to me in God’s name that you will NEVER DECEIVE ME, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.” (Genesis 21:23 NLT) Abimelech has already been on the other end of Abraham’s deception. He wants some ASSURANCE OF ENDURANCE. He doesn’t want to be under God’s death sentence again. He also sees the benefit of connection with Abraham, a rich and powerful man. Abraham replies, “Yes, I swear to it!” (Genesis 21:24 NLT) What else could you say? This is a great way to MAKE AMENDS for being such a jerk.

2. I also hope that people see that I serve and honour God by the way I am willing to DEAL WITH CONFLICT head on. Let’s get things OUT IN THE OPEN before they cause a rift in my relationships. Abraham does this. He complains “to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants.” (Genesis 21:25 NLT) Abimelech can then do something about it.

3. I also want people to see God in me through my GENEROSITY. They make a covenant, a peace treaty, a business deal, but Abraham’s generosity goes beyond just making a legal agreement (Genesis 21:27). He gives a special gift to establish their relationship even more firmly. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says, “The GENEROUS will prosper; those who REFRESH OTHERS will themselves be refreshed.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Teach those who are rich in this world … to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” 

4. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree “and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.” (Genesis 21:33 NLT). God is eternal and connecting with Him has eternal consequences. John 3:36 (NLT) says “…anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”  

I want people to see God in me by the way I WORSHIP HIM. I don’t need to go around planting tamarisk trees but I do need to leave a LEGACY OF WORSHIP and look back on the times and places where God has met with me. Jesus used wine and bread once with His discipes to say, “Remember me”.

God bless you Church as people see your integrity, your willingness to deal with conflict, your generosity and mostly how you acknowledge and worship our eternal God. May people know through your words and actions that God offers eternal life through Christ. Make a difference that counts for eternity today.  

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 18:1-15 – ENTERTAINING ANGELS?

Entertaining Angels?

Jan and Darryl have always been openly generous people. They make you feel as if they are honoured to have you in their home and nothing is too much trouble for them. Which is just as well because they are our connect group leaders.

Every fortnight people in our Connect Group meet to connect with God and eachother in an authentic way. We talk about life and faith and how to apply the message on Sundays to the everyday situations each of us face during the week. It is the best time.

I noticed Jan and Darryl were hospitable people when we first met them 14 years ago, so I was surprised when we came to their Connect Group that they didn’t RUN OUT TO MEET US in their driveway and BOW TO THE GROUND. They just greeted us warmly and welcomed us in. They didn’t bring water, take off our shoes and WASH OUR FEET or even offer for us to take a shower in their bathroom. They didn’t go down to the local butcher and buy us the BEST CUTS OF MEAT FOR A BARBEQUE. We normally just bring our own supper and share it around. They didn’t BAKE BREAD for us in their breadmaker. WHAT KIND OF HOSPITALITY IS THAT? Abraham would have been shocked!

In Genesis 18:1 (NLT) it says “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.”

When God turns up at Abraham’s Connect Group in Genesis 18:1, all Abraham sees are THREE MEN. Who were these guys? Prophets? Angels? The Trinity in human form? He doesn’t ask them. That would be impolite in Eastern thinking. So what does he do? “he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.” (Must have been quite sprightly for his age. Ever seen a 100 year old man run? I’ve seen one with a walking frame but believe me he wasn’t running. And even bowing low has the risks of a fall and a broken hip.) 

Abraham goes OVERBOARD with hospitality. Darryl and Jan have nothing on Abraham. He calls the leader of the group “LORD” (a common greeting of respect in those times but in this case it could have been THE LORD!) and offers, you guessed it, to WASH THEIR FEET. He gets Sarah to BAKE SOME HOME MADE BREAD, and then KILLS THE BEST CALF in his herd and PREPARES A BARBEQUE. If that wasn’t enough then he WAITS ON THEM like a SERVANT rather than sitting down with them at the meal table! You have got to be kidding! He hasn’t even asked them who they are and what they are doing LOITERING around his tent!

This is HOSPITALITY GONE WILD! And these three “men” just accept it. They just sit around in the shade of a tree, while this old man and his wife go overboard with kindness. Abraham could have simply called his servants to serve these guys, but he does it himself. Even though he was a rich, influential and powerful old man (and old men were respected in his times), yet it is Abraham who shows them great respect and humility. It is getting difficult to pick out the angels in this picture.

What I notice about Abraham is that he is QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and he is AVAILABLE TO SERVE. Sacrifice and servanthood characterise this powerful man who is called a friend of God (James 2:23). I can learn a lot about how to build my RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD and show LOVE TO OTHERS from a man like this, and from people like Jan and Darryl too. Same HUMBLE AND GENUINE welcome.

God bless you Church as we are QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and AVAILABLE TO SERVE, as SACRIFICE AND SERVANTHOOD characterise our lives as we actively choose to SHOW LOVE TO OTHERS. Hebrews 13:2 (NLT) puts it this way

“Don’t forget to show HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS, for some who have done this have ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”

Pastor Ross