Posts Tagged ‘Hell’

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.  

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© Lost/Found – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:11-14 – SAVE ME!

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

God lost the human race. God lost their love, worship and friendship. Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All we like sheep have gone astray.

He hasn’t stopped loving us or seeking after us. He sent His Son to save us. But what does that mean? The Bible unfolds that message of being saved …

1. CHRIST CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE ME

Matthew 18:14 (NLT) says, “In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Romans 10:13 (NLT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

2. CHRIST IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAME TO SAVE ME

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. No-one else came to save us.

3. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE SINNERS

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT), “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

God loves to forgive. God does not approve of or condone the sin, but He loves the sinner and extends His grace to anyone who becomes positive to the message of Christ.

4. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM MY SINS

In Matthew 1:21 (NLT) an angel spoke to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, “And she (Mary) will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” 

5. CHRIST CAME TO FORGIVE ME

Acts 10:43 (NLT) says “…everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have their SINS FORGIVEN through His Name.”

6. CHRIST CAME TO SAVE ME FROM JUDGEMENT AND ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD

John 3:17-18 (NLT) “… 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.”

In John 12:46-48 (NLT) Jesus said again “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to SAVE THE WORLD AND NOT TO JUDGE IT. But all who reject Me and My message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” 

Being positive to the message of Christ leaves tracks for God to follow. The Shepherd searches for them and finds us.

Why does God seek us? Because He does not want us to be lost, devastated. This is an example we can all follow concerning anyone who is positive towards the things of God. This is a prime reason for not looking down on or despising these new followers of Christ. They are loved by God and they have become positive towards Christ, and they have come into relationship with God. They are part of His flock.

Followers of Christ share with God in seeking and protecting people who are positive towards the things of God, not looking down on them or despising them because of their past. The world is full of those who are lost and need to be found. We pursue them because this is the example of God Himself. 1 John 5:1 (NLT) says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.”

John Calvin said, “It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.” John 3:16 (NLT) agrees. 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.” The invitation is to believe in Him who came to save us.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-19 – S.W.A.T – PARABLE

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! - Picture created by Ross Cochrane

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! – Picture created by Ross Cochrane

Standing on a precipitous rock, at least a thousand feet above the valley, He could see the smouldering fires of the fortress, the towering spires rising above the early morning mist and warning of the malice within it’s walls. Captain Joshua Davidson could almost smell the evil stench emanating from this edifice built in the pit of hell and from this vantage point He could just make out the top of the massive gates. Somewhere, beyond those walls, inside the wandering corridors and immense chambers they would be waiting. Nothing would delay Him or distract Him from this high risk operation. He had everything necessary; specialised equipment, tactics and utmost precision but most of all the sure expectation of success.

Joshua Davidson was born to lead a team such as this. Known as the Builder He had first conceived the idea of forming a specially trained and equipped unit when the need arose to manage critical situations involving hostages. The commander in chief, His Father, had approved the idea, and He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. His SWAT unit (Spiritual Warfare Assault Team) initially consisted of 12 men. Their mandate: “To set the captives free!” (Luke 4:18). They were given special status and benefits, and attended specialist training sessions. Blessed with highly-developed resources (Ephesians 1:3) and totally committed to their Leader, these men were willing to obey without question and risk their lives in this rescue mission. Their motto and catch cry; the Rock solid foundational statement by which they lived: “We serve Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Their code-name was Ekklesia”; the Church; called out ones (Matthew 16:18).

Once prisoners themselves and now trained for hostage rescue, His team secured the ropes and rapelled down the rock face in silence towards their target. They were exposed at first but moved fast and avoided coming under fire from the heavily armed forces on the parapets. Soon the mist and darkness below provided them with the cover they needed to arrange their equipment with practised precision.

Within seconds and in unison the SWAT team moved relentlessly and silently towards the armoured and barred gates. To breach the doors quickly, Peter, a specialist Gatekeeper, used an explosive charge and a small hand held battering ram with percussive shocks called the Key. The lock and hinges were totally demolished and the gates fell inwards. They could not prevail against such force (Matthew 16:18).

The rest of the team moved in quickly as the alarms screamed their warnings. They used their ballistic shields in the dark corridors to provide cover and deflect possible terrorist gunfire. Each one wore body armour and night vision optics. Using a motion detector Captain Davidson was able to determine the exact position of hostages and although some of them refused to come, those who were willing to trust their rescuer were extracted to safety where a helicopter winched them to the cover and refuge of the Rock.

The rescue has resounded off the walls of history’s pages ever since; “… upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18 NLT).

Romans 8:1-2 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.   And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Pastor Ross

SWAT team prepared

SWAT team prepared (Photo credit: OregonDOT)

 

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

In the quietness of the morning, I hear a gentle knock on my office door and I am greeted by the smile of an old man in his late 90’s standing there with a walking stick, excited to tell me about the people he has visited through the week. A volunteer Chaplain of Chaplains, Alf Bourne has a quiet confidence and infectious enthusiasm that is disarming and charming, a gentleman who is both sensitive and engaging in his visits. We speak about Margo (not her real name), a woman in palliative care, who normally will have nothing to do with Chaplains or anything “religious”. She immediately warms to Alf’s visits, however. He has built up a friendship over the last 8 years sharing his faith only when invited. She had a dream of hell some years ago and called Alf to tell her about belief in Jesus. She prayed with Alf, inviting Christ into her life for the first time. Now she confides that all she wants to do is go up (she looks toward heaven) and as Alf holds her hand he speaks about that time when there will be no more pain, or crying, or tears and she will meet Jesus with a smile. He makes her smile despite her physical distress and he prays with her.

It is now Sunday. Alf has been playing the organ for the Church service in Dorothy Henderson Lodge and after it is finished we attend the service in the Shalom Centre. He greets each person after the services, smiling and laughing with them. We decide it would be good to visit Margo again but when we arrive the curtain is drawn. Margo has already stepped into eternity with Christ earlier that morning. There are tears in Alf’s eyes as we pray for the grieving family and a deep-seated joy in his heart at having played an important role in Margo’s life. He will miss her. He tells me that if he was not involved in Chaplaincy work, then his life would have been shortened long ago.

Alf tells me that he will go to renew his driving license in another year or so, when he is 99. His driving instructor told him last time that he was an excellent driver. He uses his car mainly to visit people in Ryde hospital. Two residents recently appreciated his visit and time of prayer with them.

He needs a little more help now, so he moved up from Wilandra village and now resides in Dorothy Henderson Lodge. As people enter Dorothy Henderson Lodge Alf makes them feel welcome. He says grace at meal times, visiting people on site regularly. What would I do without this extraordinary man on my team of volunteers? I am grateful to God for however long I have the privilege of his friendship and blessed by the wealth of experience he brings to my life and the lives of countless others whom he has touched with the respect, care and faith he shares.

Additional Note. On the 25th October 2015 Alf turned 100 years old. He has been looking forward to this celebration. He is my assistant Chaplain and insists on introducing me his senior Chaplain. He is my mentor, much-loved friend and outstanding colleague. I have drawn his picture below using a lead pencil and watercolour pencils. When he saw it, he thought he was looking old. I had to remind him that he is.

Alf Bourne

Matthew 7:22-23 – HOW TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE AND STILL GO TO HELL!

Judgment. Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge and MorgueFile.org

“I think he’ll go to heaven. He lived a pretty good life. He deserves it.” I speak to a relative after the funeral service and suddenly I am aware that nothing I said was understood. My assistant Chaplain tries to redeem the opportunity, but the relatives eyes show confusion and the moment is lost among other guests.

“But officer, I am an excellent driver most of the time”. As the police officer writes me a ticket he looks at me as if I just don’t understand (I never drive over the speed limit … Hardly ever … OK, probably too often).

Living a good life was not the reason for Graham (not his real name) going to heaven. On judgment day he 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.

Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT) says it hasn’t changed. Same false assumptions! But 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. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’” Will He look at them as if they JUST DON’T GET IT? 

The Bible mentions various forms of JUDGMENTS. This judgment refers to the last judgment, sometimes referred to as the judgment of the GREAT WHITE THRONE. It 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 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. 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. Jesus says 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. OBEY WHAT? 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.” Obey the good news about Christ! 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?

The invitation 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.” 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – DESERT DIARY – A Parable

U-Turn permitted.

DIARY ENTRY – MONDAY – DAY 1: It is all a MIRAGE! I can see that now. Up until now I have been travelling with this huge throng of people without even considering the inhospitable wasteland around us. We are in a DESERT! Unless we reach a waterhole soon, all of us will die!

TUESDAY – DAY 2: I know that we have plenty of provisions but our water supplies will not last forever and I am surprised that even our leaders don’t seem to know where we are going. When I ask one of them about what lies ahead, he says “Eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity and don’t think about tomorrow.” Another took me aside today and assured me that he knows what is best for us. He placed his hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Don’t cause any trouble or you may regret it!”

Fortunately most of our community leaders are more democratic and inclusive. I am drawn to a man who has a very charismatic, inspirational and likeable character. He is studying the mirages and has written a book on how they relate to our lives. It’s a fascinating book, but somehow I doubt that this will get us very far.

WEDNESDAY – DAY 3: We eat, sleep and travel in community and over time all kinds of leaders are emerging. I met a man today who is very task oriented, and he has achieved great success and fame by his accomplishments. Others have set the culture of our community by focusing on our values, building our worldviews through consensus over time. But still, there are no ABSOLUTES. No real direction! We are still living in this desolate place.

THURSDAY – DAY 4: At School today I was taught survival techniques for desert life, and how to be cross-culturally relevant and politically correct because all of us are on the same road. That is true. We never deviate from highway 666. The direction is set and no one questions where we are headed. Perhaps it’s because life is tough enough to bear without asking the big questions.

FRIDAY – DAY 5: No-one really wants to CHANGE! We have gifted leaders who are creative, problem solving, improvement oriented, innovative change agents, but we are still in the desert and our resources are running out. No matter how visionary they are, none of them have any really clear view of what is happening and how to get to a waterhole. We are on a highway to hell, abandoned by common sense in this austere environment. Today I saw some vultures circling above.

SATURDAY – DAY 6: I am feeling so INSECURE today. Not that we don’t have people who are here to serve and protect us. We have our own security force, armed men and women who are always planning strategies to keep wild animals away and how to deal with the riots of those who are running out of provisions.

SUNDAY – DAY 7: Some religious leaders practise meditation to empty their minds, others pray. Some organise provisions, buying and selling. Some help the poor and do good works. But it is all a MIRAGE! I have never really seen this before and I am secretly looking for a way to escape. I think about it all the time.

I think about the big picture. What will happen to us? We need to find an oasis, a way to life. Maybe if I can find it then I can show others the way. What are the signs? Is it only me that sees that we are lost in this forsaken place, travelling down a road leading to nowhere but destruction? I am so motivated to find a way out, but so few people are convinced and they think I’m strange. I met a leader today who said that if I continue to speak like I do I will be rejected and ostracised as a fanatic. I am in the minority.

MONDAY – DAY 8: Today it happened! I found the pages of an ancient book beside a creosote bush on the side of the road. I read from a book called Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Just there, where I found the book, I also found footprints leading away from the road we are travelling on, indications of another path. It is barren and difficult, narrow and dangerous, but perhaps this is what I have been looking for and I have decided to leave the community and set off, following the footprints of whoever it is who has travelled the path before me. Today is the day! I am intent on my quest. Today I begin my journey.

TUESDAY – DAY 9: It involved persistence to find the trail, but leaving everything behind me today I entered a difficult narrow gorge and into the whistling canyons of the way. Somehow I know that this path will lead to life. It’s not something I would normally do. It’s just that I finally see the truth that I have been lost in the crowd, going nowhere fast. I had to do something. There is always a choice and I have found the way of life and I have chosen to take it!

WEDNESDAY – DAY 10: Today I found other pages from the ancient book as I travelled. They tell me that the footprints I follow belong to a man called Jesus. His words in John 14:6 (NLT) call to me as He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” In Luke 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” Acts 4:12 (NLT) speaks into my heart and tells me that “There is salvation in NO ONE else! God has given no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

THURSDAY – DAY 11: What have I learned so far? I have discovered that to be a follower of Christ involves turning around and going against the flow. I need to follow His footprints in the sand and His Word. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). And yes it involves discipline, commitment, determination, self-control, and self-denial. It’s not always an easy road, but today it led me to an oasis! I drank for the first time the water of life, living water (John 4:10) and this wonderful adventure in life will last forever. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

FRIDAY – DAY 12: My community continues to choose the wide road where there are no obstacles, plain path, easy going. The freeway is wide, many lanes, no potholes. The highway to hell is not a bumpy road, but smooth sailing. It’s easy, level ground, great to travel on. Easy to get caught in the traffic and enjoy the trip. No toll-ways, no price to pay. All traffic accepted (all philosophies, beliefs, lifestyles, all accepted). But today I am putting up SIGNS along this road. U-turns and warning signs. One sign I got from Proverbs 14:12 (NLT). It says “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

I still carry that ancient book with me. I have all the pages now. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT), “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Jesus is giving the same invitation to you today.

Pastor Ross


Surfing the NetMatthew 13:47-50 – SURFING THE NET, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND HELL – Part 18

My starsign is Pisces (the FISH). I don’t read the stars so relax, but it has always interested me that the sign of the fish was used by early Christians as a secret symbol. During times of persecution, if a Christian met a stranger in his travels, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they could speak freely about their faith.

I guess it’s because when Jesus spoke to some fishermen and called them to be His disciples He said “Follow Me and I will make you FISHERMEN OF MEN”. I know He should have been POLITICALLY CORRECT and said “fisherpeople of people”, nevertheless I have to admit, I was caught well and truly by the message of Christ. I came under the NET of His authority and I am part of the network of His kingdom, the Church, along with millions of others across the earth.

But the net that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13:47 is DIFFERENT. It speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of God’s authority exercised in the FUTURE. It is spoken of as a NET that sweeps us toward eternity and JUDGMENT. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) says “And just as EACH PERSON is destined to die once and after that comes JUDGMENT”. 

A SWEEP NET is one huge net intentionally cast to collect everything in it’s way. Jesus says “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught FISH OF EVERY KIND. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away.” This is surfing the net old style.

Even though this kind of fishing is now spoken of as the rape of the sea, Jesus speaks about a huge net that catches “EVERY KIND OF FISH.”

The Kingdom net He speaks of is cast over people of every race, colour and creed. It is cast over men and women, married and single, young and old, hearing and deaf, sighted and blind, speaking and mute (For those who want to be POLITICALLY CORRECT that’s matrimonially, chronologically, aurally, visually and vocally challenged).

The net is cast over those who are attractive and those who are just plain ugly (aesthetically challenged), thin and fat (gravitationally challenged), those who are well adjusted and those who are total psychopathic misfits (socially misaligned), those with hair and those who are bald (follicularly challenged), religious and atheist (spiritually impoverished).

It is cast over the good and the bad, walking and crippled, musical and tone deaf, educated or not, Australian or not, and no matter what language, religion, customs, tastes, sexuality, eye colour or blood type they may have. Somewhere in all of that I am included, especially in the follicularly challenged category. In other words JESUS DIED FOR US ALL.

But coming under the all encompassing authority of God’s sweep net is only HALF THE STORY. His Kingdom authority is very inclusive, but not politically correct because NOT ALL will be saved. This is not EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Yes, ALL are caught in the net of Christ’s authority as a JUDGE. Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT) prophesies that “… that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, …” but that doesn’t mean that everyone who bows will somehow automatically be swept into heaven.

You may not even be aware but you are being pulled inexorably into the shore of eternity, and there is no avoiding the inevitability of being caught in this net and it’s relentless movement towards a VERDICT.

Jesus doesn’t seem to realise that it is POLITICALLY INCORRECT, discriminatory and disrespectful to speak of some people being REJECTED because they are “WICKED” (or should I say people with a “spiritually alternative lifestyle”).

Jesus just says “The angels will come and separate the WICKED people from the RIGHTEOUS, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50 NLT).

It is so horrific that Jesus doesn’t want to water it down to sounding like it is simply an alternative eternity for the religiously challenged, some kind of spiritual waiting room for heaven.

Hell is terrifying and permanent! Jesus speaks of Hell as a FURNACE. It was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, a place of inconceivable MISERY AND TORMENT. Jesus loves you enough to warn you about it because many people are headed towards a Christless eternity. He’s the only one who has come to save you.

The invitation He gives is encapsulated in the Greek word for “fish”“Ichthus”. It is an ancient Word of Life, an acrostic used to spell out the meaning of the good news in one of it’s simplest forms. It stands for “Iēsous Christos, Theou Huios, Sōtēr” and translates into English as “JESUS CHRIST GOD’S SON SAVIOUR”

God bless you as you give your life to Christ perhaps for the first time today, come under His authority, accept His death on the Cross for your sins, and get to know Christ personally, the fisherman of men, (sorry, fisherperson of people).

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 13:36-43 – WILL I SEE MY MUM IN HEAVEN? – Part 12

Will I see my mum in heaven?

I watched the news in the last few weeks as a nation reels in the horror of the aftermath of an earthquake. The devastation of a category 6 earthquake brings everything to it’s knees, buildings awkwardly buckle and crumble as if submitting to a warlord. Darkness falls like a smothering blanket over the city as the electricity grid fails. Debris falls, the dusty malformed tears of a city, the victim of a stroke. She looks contorted and twisted as she struggles in vain, convulsing with each aftershock, trying to stay alive but unable to move, her eyes wide and blinded in the dirt.

A woman is plucked from the wreckage of a collapsed building but nothing can save the twisted misshapen, struggling city from the crushing reality of over 160 deaths. Hell walks the darkened streets of Christchurch, New Zealand and faces are haunted with fear, shock and grief. Their eyes look for someone to tell them that this is not happening, but somehow they know that life will never be the same.

There was no warning. Sudden, unexpected. No-one can tell when death knocks menacingly at the door. She dies, not in the streets of Christchurch but a sea away, in Australia. There is no front page news of this devastating event. Only a lonely ad somewhere in the funeral notices of the local paper. My mum dies of a massive stroke (cerebral haemorrhage) in the early hours of the morning as Christchurch is still reeling from the aftershocks. As I hear this news I cannot believe that this has happened until my sisters and I go to view her body, and I see that she is not there. Just an empty shell. She has departed into eternity. We conduct her funeral a week later.

And all of us are left with unvoiced questions about eternity, questions we don’t really want to think about but which linger in the shadows of the mind. WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY DIE?

Jesus speaks of HEAVEN as a place where “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” and HELL as “…the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42-43 NLT).

IS MY MUM IN HEAVEN? If I am honest, I can’t answer that question. I have to leave it in the hands of God. I trust Him to make the decisions of eternity. Did my mum come into a personal relationship with Christ as her Lord and Saviour? I know that I shared with her about how Jesus died for our sins on a number of occasions. Did she ever decide inwardly to trust in Christ? I know that she would pray at night, but was she saved out of the wreckage, plucked from the roof before her life collapsed, before all that was left was shock reverberating in the emptiness of our hearts?

The world didn’t know it but it was experiencing an earthquake of unbelievable magnitude when Christ died. He was reaching out to save us from our precarious condition. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins there was an appropriate blackout that covered the earth which in the physical environment described what was happening spiritually as He was judged for my sin (Mark 15:33).

The only light that not only dispels the darkness but also causes no shadows is one that comes from within, an inner light. God is described as light and some would unkindly say of Christians that the lights are on but nobody’s home, but that’s cruel and patently untrue. No matter how odd Christians are, foolish to many, CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says “…God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The invitation is right there.

When the Bible describes those who go to heaven, it says “we will be like Him (Christ), for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). The only way Jesus can describe to me what heaven is like is to say “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). Although I can’t quite imagine shining like a celestial lightbulb, the contrast and choice is clear – DARKNESS, shell shocked and stubbornly unbelieving among the rubble of a collapsing world, or LIGHT; reaching out to a loving hand, and to salvation from the ruins of the devastating effects of my sin.

I choose LIGHT. Will I see my mum in heaven? Will I see you there?

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:36-43 – HELL, GOD’S WASTE MANAGEMENT CENTRE – Part 11

Hell

I watch as hell is washed inland with the momentum of an earthquake behind it, a wave of burning cars, buildings and debri. And in its wake the devastation of thousands lost. Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear explosion.

In the Valley of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem, refuse was burned continually day and night. It was called Gehenna, the city dump. Jesus uses it as a picture of HELL. I know that Hell is regarded as a foolish ploy of religious people to instill fear, or a metaphor of retribution, but the Bible is very clear about it being a LITERAL AND DEFINITE place, originally prepared for the devil and his angels and not us (Matthew 25:41).

We are concerned for the lives lost in Japan. What is even worse is the thought of people being separated from God for ETERNITY. As reluctant as I am to speak about hell, Jesus isn’t. Perhaps today, rather than pointing to Gehenna, Jesus would point to the smoldering, twisted rubbish dump, like a lake of fire and smoke that once was Northern Japan, and say that it is a portrait of hell. It’s an incredible waste. But Imagine God thinking that my life is a waste such as this, not only on earth but also for eternity. No wonder hell is described as “THE SECOND DEATH”.

Imagine in Japan a helicopter offering to lift someone from the path of the Tsnami. Imagine them saying “I don’t need your help”. Lots of people do that with Jesus. They say “Well, I’ve lived a pretty good life. I don’t need Jesus. I don’t need to be saved!” The arrogance that deceives me into thinking that somehow I DESERVE heaven rather than accept that Christ died for my sins to keep me from hell may be a prevalent concept today, but it is totally ego centric and highlights how spiritually blind I am. I am choosing to live on a waste dump. Or as we choose to call it a Waste Management Recycling Centre.

As I speak on this day 14th March 2011, Hell walks through the battered remains of New Zealand, Japan and threatens people at Gunpoint in Libya, but Matthew 10:28 (NLT) says “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Bible says God is life. Those who choose to separate themselves from God separate themselves from that life for eternity, an unimaginable existence.

When Jesus gives an explanation of the parable of the WHEAT AND WEEDS being separated at the harvest, He uses strong terms. He says in Matthew 13:41-42 (NLT) “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A comedian said if you don’t have teeth then teeth will be provided, but somehow it doesn’t seem so funny when you think that teeth gnashing describes the terrifying torment and anguish of such retribution.

Jesus is looking at some very religious people as He speaks and says “There will come a time when it will be sorted out”. The day of judgment is coming! He is simply stating it as a fact, and He is not trying to be some street preacher wearing a placard saying “Turn or burn!” Far from it. He is saying “NO-ONE ELSE has come to save you.”

John 3:17-21 (NLT) says “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. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light…”

These are words of life, not death. God loves you. He IS love. The invitation is clear. God offers us life in Christ. Jesus is the only way, truth and life. Choose life.

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button, to make comments and to share these thoughts with your friends. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Part 6 – Genesis 18:16-33 – CRASHED AND BURNED!

Crash and Burn!

CRASHED AND BURNED!

All my computer files from the last 10 years gone! No full back-ups so no way of retrieving it all. It seems I have lived the last 10 years on the ASSUMPTION that computers last forever, just keep adding data to them. Not so! Happened to me once before and I was devastated. This time I was not about to go into emotional meltdown over a computer. I PRAYED and by grace God helped a friend of mine retrieve a sizeable amount of data – 100 GB – whatever that means. SAVED!

CRASHED AND BURNED! Without a back-up plan! And only a REMNANT SAVED due to the PRAYER OF ABRAHAM. No, I’m not talking about computers anymore. I’m talking about SODOM and it’s cities. I’m talking about JUDGMENT and the JUSTICE of God. You know, the kind of judgment that the Bible talks about when we reject God. When we think we can leave God out of our lives on the assumption that we are living a pretty GOOD LIFE and besides “HOW CAN A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL?” That kind of ASSUMPTION! And not even a back-up plan. DEVASTATING! Predictable but devastating.

In Genesis 18:17 God is about to re-establish His covenant promises with Abraham and also remove Sodom and Gomorrah from the face of the earth. Surprisingly He says “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” (NLT). Why does God share His plan with Abraham? I think it was because Abraham responded to the Lord appropriately with BELIEF, SACRIFICE AND SERVICE. Those who get to know God will begin to KNOW HIS WILL.

When God’s messengers turn up in Sodom, the men of Sodom didn’t treat their guests with anything but ABUSE. Their eyes were BLINDED to the truth. Sodom was more concerned with fulfilling their own lustful desires in the moment. Abraham on the other hand was a man who would THINK GENERATIONALLY and raise a family who would stem the tide of evil in the world by “doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).

God has already said to Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:1-3), and He is about to give Abraham a graphic example of what that meant ultimately for those who reject the ways of the Lord. The WAGES OF SIN really is…. Romans 6:23.

Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT) says, “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. …Why should you die?”

In Genesis 18:22 there is still HOPE for Sodom as Abraham stands in the gap. God’s righteousness as well as His justice walked towards Sodom that day while His grace conversed with Abraham.

If Abraham was to do what is right and just, then he would need to know how to INTERCEDE for the people who were lost spiritually.

Ominously Genesis 18:22 says, “The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham.”

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

Did Sodom deserve judgment? Yes! And as a matter of fact I do too! It’s only by God’s grace that I am saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9 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.”

God bless you Church as God lingers with you to speak of grace and as He relentlessly walks towards to fulfilling all His promises.

CRASH AND BURN! No way of retrieving what is lost! It seems I can live my life with false assumptions which have devastating consequences, or like the data on my computer I can be SAVED BY GRACE.

Pastor Ross