Posts Tagged ‘Listening to God’

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Blame or Excuse? © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – SEND IN SOMEONE TO BLAME

Genesis 34 reads like a Newspaper article on terrorism.

A local prince, Shechem, seizes Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and rapes her. When Jacob’s sons discover what has happened, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, take their swords and enter the town and slaughter every male there, including Shechem. Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons plunder the town – everything they can lay their hands on. They also take all their little children and wives and lead them away as captives.

With such a terrible story, I was interested to read some commentary on this part of the Bible. Some commentators actually seek to defend Jacob’s sons saying they performed an act of judgment sanctioned by God for their murderous acts. Other commentators blame Dinah for what happens to her. She is at fault for carelessly placing herself in danger of being raped. Some blame Jacob for settling in a pagan neighborhood for the sake of doing business and putting his daughter in harm’s way by not escorting her wherever she went. Still others blame Hamor, Shechem’s father, for pandering to his son and not providing him with a moral compass.

But why try to excuse the actions of murderers who misuse God’s covenant for their crimes? Why try to blame the victim of rape? Why try to blame fathers for the crimes of their sons? Such distorted commentary does not seem to me to be helpful in finding the message here. In hindsight, we can always point the finger.

JACOB, you should have….

Genesis 33:17-20 says Jacob settles in Succoth and builds a house so he obviously stays for some time. Later he travels to Shechem in the land of Canaan and sets up camp outside the town. He buys a plot of land from the family of Hamor for 100 pieces of silver, again obviously intending to build a house and settle down with his family, and do business in the town. He builds an altar to God to declare his allegiance, a witness to his faith in God.

So is Jacob to blame for what happens? Is it wrong to settle down in a foreign place with foreign customs and moral values very different to ours and expect that God will protect us as long as we state that we are Christians? What responsibility does a parent have in the supervision of children?

Apparently, if Jacob had chosen to live in Sydney’s CBD area or Liverpool, Mount Druitt and Campbelltown, Dinah would have a higher probability of sexual assault than some other areas of Sydney. Residents in these areas report dozens of sexual assaults each year. Does Jacob place his daughter at risk?

Australian law says “Decisions such as … where your child lives are your right and responsibility to make … Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from harm and provide safety, supervision and control.”

As a parent, Jacob provides for Dinah’s welfare – food, clothing, a place to live. But would he pass Australian laws concerning protecting her from harm and providing safety, supervision and control?

Dinah is probably between 7-9 years old. If Jacob lived in Silver Spring in the USA and let Dinah walk to her friends’ place alone, he might face criminal charges for leaving his child unsupervised. He might have Children’s Protective Services require him to sign a safety plan promising not to leave his children unsupervised. If he refused he would face criminal charges. In the light of what happened, would you like to see Jacob charged? Was Jacob’s parenting at fault?

Or is it OK for parents to allow their children to wander free range to explore the world at their own risk and learn to be street wise? Is Jacob to blame for neglecting his daughter’s safety? If he had not settled here this blot would not have occurred on the page of history and would not have interrupted the flow of the story of faith in the book of Genesis. But who can live their lives according to “What if’s” and “You should have’s”?

No word is given to justify or condemn what takes place in Genesis 34. It is simply depicted, in all its raw violence and abuse of power. No interpretation is needed. It is obvious that all have sinned and all fall far short of the glory of God, pagan’s and God followers alike. There are no heroes of faith here.

I find no mention of God in Genesis 34, only two of His institutions desecrated and used to excuse rape and murder. Religion used for criminal actions. Nothing has changed. God chooses not to speak in the midst of such perversion of His grace or is it that He is not being consulted? He looks for faith and trust, for humility and Godly dependence, but does not find it here.

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect, but not so much on my rights or even my responsibilities, not so much on the altars I build to declare to the world my faith, not so much on my distorted views of justice and revenge, not so much on excusing or blaming and not even on hedging myself and my family from from harm without any willingness to take reasonable risks. It simply invites me to reflect on and be confronted by what happens when human life is devalued and lawlessness is given free reign without any reference to God.  

Genesis 34 reminds me of the risk of life where I can never predict what will happen next. This is not about regret and what I should or should not have done in my life, but a reminder of how much I need God for each step. It reminds me to reflect on the importance of listening to God so I can gain better perspective. Really listening. Listening through the noise and confusion of my world. And yes, I can choose not to abuse, accuse or excuse. I can choose to seek for the whisper of His still, small voice and obey. His promise is that I will be able to navigate the path ahead with discernment and apply wisdom.

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 31 – HOW TO APPLY FOR THAT DREAM JOB

Promised Land Next Exit © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Promised Land Next Exit © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Recently I was offered a position in an organisation I love. My heart jumped in response to working in such a place. I love being able to sow into people’s lives with my gifts and calling. This opportunity was one that excited my Pastor’s heart with so many wonderful possibilities.

However, the more I prayed about it, the more I felt uneasy about accepting this position. I couldn’t move beyond the conviction that God had called me at present to work with the elderly and the dying, and their families. Perhaps not as exciting but no less significant. I have the opportunity to share my faith with those on the verge of eternity, as well as with families and staff, many of whom do not as yet express a faith in Christ.

I was grateful, honoured and affirmed for the confidence placed in me but I knew that I was already in the place of my calling. What about you?

What would you do if you knew you were not in the place of your calling? What would you do if you were in Jacob’s shoes? How do you apply for that dream job?

  1. HAVE A PLAN

Jacob focuses his job search. The search engine indicates only one job available and that’s a servant position, the same job that has been on offer for most of his life. Often God puts the dream in our hearts long before there is an opportunity to take action. Jacob completes the P.L.A.N. form (Promised Land Application Network) and fills out the online survey (Prayer).

  1. MAKE A LIST

He makes a list of what he desires in a job – A good boss (Genesis 31:5), fair pay scheme for financial security (Genesis 31:7), on the job training and room to grow and improve his qualifications (Genesis 31:5), good team player relationships (Genesis 31:1), innovative workplace (Genesis 31:8-9), life insurance scheme (Genesis 31:24), a place of his own (Genesis 31:3). He decides that the job is a perfect fit.

  1. TALK IT OVER

Talking over his resume with his family he prepares for the job interview. He has been able to handle responsibility, work hard, problem solve and produce effective results. He explains that he has already had a confidential informational interview with his prospective employer. He talked over examples of something particularly innovative that he has done which had made a difference in the workplace. It was his prospective employer who had given him the idea (Genesis 31:5-13).

  1. PREPARE

Prepared for behavioural questions, he was able to describe problems he’s encountered in the past and how he handled them. He knew if he had been asked questions looking for negative information, he had 20 years of experience to draw upon. Fortunately he wasn’t asked to “Describe a work situation where you had to work for someone you didn’t like”? His prospective employer was not only cognisant of his present situation but understood his gifts, abilities, personality, motivations and experience. Laban does not (Genesis 31:12).

  1. BE HONEST

To be honest, his social media profile online is not looking good and his resume of past jobs has a few question marks. His police check might not come back entirely clean. He defrauded his own brother and father (Genesis 27-28). The Promised Land is a great location, but he was expelled from the country at one stage (Genesis 27:41-43). Will he be able to get his visa renewed? Will this all come back to haunt him?

Some of his past actions would be in conflict with the mission of this new organisation but now he is ready to take on board the goals and values of his prospective employer. The workplace culture his prospective boss has created seems very inclusive (Genesis 31:3).

  1. ASK QUESTIONS

All kinds of questions are racing through Jacob’s mind. “What do I believe? How do I respond to my circumstances? How can I communicate my intentions? How much power will Laban exert? Will my leaving be a threat or a blessing? Am I fighting a losing battle? How will my family be impacted? What do I want to invest my time, gifts, motivation and abilities into? What will staying here achieve? Am I brave enough to move? Am I too old to change my circumstances? Am I willing to do nothing? What is God saying? Am I willing to trust in God? Whatever I do demands a step of faith.” 

  1. MAKE A DECISION 

I like the Chinese Proverb – “He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” One day Jacob will walk with a limp but at least he won’t stand on one leg. 

God’s promise to us in Psalms 48:14 (NLT) is “He is our God forever and ever, and He will guide us until we die.” Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 28:20 (NLT) “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:1-8 – STAYIN’ ALIVE

Stayin' Alive. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Stayin’ Alive. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

I need to be interrupted, startled from the stupor of my wandering heart in order to really listen. I am all too willing to hear the voice of sleep in my early morning encounters drawing me away from the significance of prayer (Luke 9:32).

I am all too willing to listen to the voices of the past that meet me on the mountains of my vision, and listen to them, to take their lead, to live vicariously through their exploits rather than be challenged by difficult things of which Jesus speaks.

I am all too enthusiastic to give voice to half-baked solutions when faced with something I don’t understand, too eager to enshrine the holy moments of life in velvet coverings embroidered in gold and leave them in a drawer somewhere for remembrance sake.

So many voices haunt me from my past, call to me from the mirrored images of the present each morning, and dance around in my head with curious suggestions of what could be for the future.

Yet today I stand with Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, Old Testament saints with New Testament saints as God says “Listen to Him”, because Christ is the only One able to interpret my past, present and future.

A voice comes with bell-like clarity from within the continually changing, mysterious, all-encompassing billows, from the intangible substance of a bright cloud (Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:28, Exodus 16:10; 40:33, Exodus 19:9; 20:21; Ezekiel 43:2; 2 Chronicles 5:14).

I listen, prostrate on the ground, as the bright cloud envelopes us, and we are transported to another age when Israel was guided by the Shekinah glory. Cloud by day. Fire by night (Exodus 13:21, Exodus 40:34-38). The radiance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in deepest harmony. Three in one. And we are drowned in His magnificent attendance.

“Listen to Him”. Not to the voices of the past (Moses or Elijah), not to voices of the present trying to enshrine the moment (Peter), but to Him who is the Word of God, and to His unlimited wisdom for every timespan (Jesus).

Hebrews 12:18-25 (NLT) says “You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. … No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, … You have come to God Himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness … Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!”  

There are quietimes where I have experienced that strong, penetrating sense of His presence. Alone with Him as I walk or as I read His Word, or share His company. He continually urges me to listen to His Son and when I do, like saints of old, I pass in such close proximity to God that it is a miracle to have survived. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) gives the reason for my escape “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” Lord, I come. 

Pastor Ross