Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 7’

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

Prose, Poetry and Photos © By Ross Cochrane

Cross = Love

Cross = Love

In the Aged Facility where I am a Chaplain, I meet many people who, when finding themselves in high care, move through a process of grief over the losses that come with age. Life changes dramatically after a stroke or a fall or when dementia makes it impossible for people to live at home. All of a sudden they are living in a building with locked doors with keypads and nurses writing care plans, careworkers showering, lifting, and doing everything for them. It’s all a little confusing, confronting and unfamiliar. It can feel as if they are trapped.

It is often the inward prison of negativity that traps people more than their outward circumstances. This is true through life but can come to the forefront when someone comes into high care.

I have also noticed what happens when someone finds Christ. All of a sudden the prison on the inside is opened and they are free. Free to live as God intended. This prose and poem talks graphically about that journey. I have not tried to water down the grief. Isaiah 53:4 speaks of Jesus. It says “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;”

PRISON DIARY – JOURNEY TO LIFE

DAY 1 – LOSS OF YOUTH 

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

As to where I am or how I got here, I cannot tell you. But the diary I hold in my hands claims my name on the cover. Inside I find this verse from the Bible – John 21:18 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

Lifted like a mist on mountain slopes
The haze clears enough for me to see. I am old,
And wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall.
I cannot fathom how distant hopes
Ended, broken and bruised, torn, homeless and cold
These words I leave to journal such a fall.

A care worker and a walker, seem strange,
Whoever is crippled, cranky, unconvinced,
With soft, sweet, sure, safe, assuring words,
Is greeted, treated kindly in exchange.
Absurd!

DAY 2 – LOSS OF FREEDOM

Key to Life

Key to Life

I am able to walk with the help of a walking device. A Care Worker attended to me today, and when I asked her where I was, she said “You are in a safe place.” Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, I have concluded that I am in a prison! Files and Records. No privacy. Escape seems impossible. I would not get very far, even with my walking frame.

On the next page of my diary I read Psalms 118:5 (NLT) “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.” If only.

I know I am meant for other things,
Not lies and patronising tones, and these locked doors.
My ears, dulled to all the other sounds around me
Hear freedom’s constant calls. Flightless wings
Refuse passage from this sad prison. It causes
Hope to fade, and fear fails to set me free.

Their care invades, interrogates, ensnares,
While ever I remain, constrained to live now,
What life is left, in this single room.
My private things in folders are shared, theirs
To Consume. 

DAY 3 – LOSS OF HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS AND THE FAMILIAR

Key to life

Key to life

I have exchanged my friends and family with inmates and guards. The inmates are all very old. The guards all very young. Different generation, different cultures, paid to be friendly. I still shudder to think that young women take me to the toilet and shower and dress me in the morning. My son says I have no choice.

Sentenced, I seek for my release, reach
For keys to other kingdoms with a future sure
Where heartfelt cries are answered and I once more walk
Free, unfaltering, fearless. Each
Footstep closer to friends, fam’ly, and cure,
Where old mates, tried and true, gather to talk.

I have exchanged familiar with strange;
Whatever is diff’rent delights to devour
The sure, safe, secure and stable things,
And whispers words of warning of the change
It brings. 

DAY 4 – LOSS OF HOME AND HOPE

Boxed TimeMy family avails themselves of visiting rights occasionally, but it seems they think I deserve a life sentence and have abandoned trying to advocate for my release. Today I cried when they left. I learned that my beautiful four bedroom home, where I have lived for the last 40 years, is being sold by my son. Somewhere down the line I exchanged my home, spacious gardens, and a big back yard for a one room cell with photos. This hardly seems like a fair exchange. Life wasting.  Inheritance draining. A burden to my family. Set aside. Abandoned.

The Bible verse for today is Psalms 71:9 (NLT) “And now, in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing.” Don’t abandon me.

Today, I have cried for life bereft,
For loved ones advocating not for my release.
For homes sold, taken, traded, forty years of waste,
Tears tasted forfeit fall, failed, unblessed.
Escape plotted and plans, so hollow, they cease
To make sense. My dreams in shackles, erased.

DAY 5 – LOSS OF MONEY, WORK, RESPECT, MEANING

Discovered today that I have no money to spend. A successful business, millions earned over a lifetime, money to burn in the bank but I am broke. My son told me that he is now my power of attorney and he will pay for everything. Enforced poverty.

I said somewhat foolishly “Have more respect! Don’t you realise who I am?” Has he forgotten? Have I forgotten who I am? A doctor, an army officer, Prisoner of war, a Businessman, a Mayor! Was I the Mayor? Who am I? No-one seems to care who I am anymore. I am just a grain of sand on the beach, a tiny ripple in an ocean. “Don’t laugh at me!”

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”” It seems even God wants Power of Attorney!

Power taken from me, enforced lack,
Where is my million dollar wealth? Has it dwindled now?
It evades, is inaccessible evermore,
A prisoner of time. Send me back!
Respect, honour are scorned, sold, shallow, but how?
And my trade, my craft, sawdust on the floor.

Sand sifts, hourglass-like, survival slips, slides,
Sedation is stable, settled, soothes for now.
Closed door, house of straw, coffee cups.
An imposed life where meaning from me hides
And ducks. 

DAY 6 – LOSS OF CHALLENGE

I was so pleased when one guard said she would take me home today, but she simply proceeded to take me back to my one room prison cell. Is she mad! Am I mad!

Tablets everyday. Surviving but not living. I have been issued a walker to get around, but there is nowhere to go, no challenges to face, no future to plan, no contribution to make, nothing truly meaningful that I can do in terms of work. Closed doors. Imposed routines. I have come to consider a cup of coffee as one of the most important events in life. Nothing dangerous or risky. Nothing to fear, no mountains to climb, no real difficulties to overcome. If I fall, a monstrous piece of machinery turns up to pluck me from the floor and place me on the bed. It seems the worst enemy around here is gravity.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT) “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“Please, can you take me home!” Insane hopes,
But I am trundled, bundled to a prison cell,
Where assessed risks are guarded and no dangers lurk
Sentries pencil their paperwork, ropes
To choke challenge are wound, and sound the death knell
On all threats, and on adventure. Their work
Is to protect, to reduce all life’s dare.

Whoever has fallen, is plucked safe and well,
With swift, safe, sure, artificial arms.
No hazards here, but superficial care
Hurts, harms.

DAY 7 – FAITH FOUND

Cross

Cross

Devotions. Lumped together with people of different faiths. Might as well go as it’s all that I have got to express my faith. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Chaplain says God doesn’t have a band-aid for the wounds I have on the inside, or a drawer full of pills to help me cope, but God does offer His total healing, forgiveness, friendship and direction in life and in eternity. He can be trusted to keep His promises. He will never leave me or forsake me. He can set me free on the inside.

Today I read about Abraham. Romans 4:19-22 (NLT) says “Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.”

Jesus loves me this I think I know. I better take it to the Lord in prayer. I’ve been invited to devotions by the Chaplain tomorrow. Pierced hearts cannot somehow with band-aids and pills and magic potions be healed.

DAY 8 – FREEDOM WITHIN

Old

Old

The Chaplain read from 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.” That’d be right. Even the road to heaven is too narrow. Hopefully it has wheelchair access. Better take my walker and hope for the best.

Seriously though, perhaps it’s not that I am in a prison. It is that the prison is in me. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” His death on the Cross for my sins has set me free. Thought about this all day.

I read from Isaiah 46:4 (NLT) and it spoke to me. God says “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”

John 8:36 (NLT) says “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” 

DAY 9 – NEW REFLECTION

So I embark on the adventure of faith, with it’s challenges and potholes and narrow roads. My faith is still a bit bumpy and it is a challenge everyday. But today I choose life.

I look in the mirror. The old man who stares back at me is the real diary. My faith, written on my life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 

DAY 10 – THE TRUE DIARY

Journey to Life

Journey to Life

Ascending like mist on mountain slopes
The haze has lifted. I still see that I am old,
My wrinkles stare from mirrors on a clean white wall,
But now I fathom who I am. Hopes
Fulfilled I see, reflected in that form so bold,
A shining light to journal such a call.

Fresh life written in that face revealed. True
Diary of faith, forgiveness I behold,
God’s grace for grief’s wounds, freely poured.
His faithful touch heals, redeems, makes me new,
I am restored.

Advertisements

Matthew 7:16-18 – CHRISTMAS TREE OR FRUIT TREE?

Christmas Tree or Fruit Tree? All is not as it seems.

Strange to chop down a tree, decorate it with fake fruit and place it in the living room as if it is growing. Smells real, but cut off at the roots and propped up. Replace the apples with brightly coloured baubles, fancy lights, garlands, ornaments, tinsel, ribbons and candy cane. Place a toy angel or star on top of the tree for religious significance and presents around the base. Then after a while, throw it out or burn it. Christmas trees are seasonally profuse and then of no use.

John Stott says “The Christian should resemble a fruit tree, not a Christmas tree.”

When Jesus speaks of false prophets in Matthew 7:16-19 I thought of John Stotts analogy with Christmas trees. They look attractive, exciting, different. They set the stage to get us emotionally involved but they don’t really have anything lasting to offer, nothing that will sustain. Matthew 7:16-23 (NLT) says “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions….”

WHAT IS BAD FRUIT? Rotten? Poisonous? Imitation? Baubles and bells – attractive alternatives? All the above. It looks good but has no life. Teaching which has dangerous consequences for my life and no correlation with what God is saying. In the context of Matthew so far, bad fruit is related to the negativity and judging attitudes of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy and reputation-driven public displays and wrongly motived “good” works, their legalistic unbending traditions (Matthew 3:10), their self-righteousness, and their unforgiving, rigid, harsh and pettyminded outlook on life, expressed in words and actions.

Sometimes it is what we say and begin to believe about ourselves which isn’t true. I can become my own false teacher. My own negative attitudes distort who I am in Christ and can be a powerful influence in my life. An over inflated view of myself is just as bad. Romans 12:3 (NLT) says “… Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” It’s always worth asking “What characterises my life? How does God see me? Am I living a fruitful life? What kind of influence do I have on others? What positive difference am I making in the world? Do I belong to a fruitful Church?”

WHAT IS GOOD FRUIT? Tasty, nutritious, useful, performs what it was designed to do, carries seeds of the same kind as the tree. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) speaks of fruit which is actively outworked in our actions and motivated by the Holy Spirit. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Of course I know that a Christmas tree is just a traditional decoration. So at certain times in the year I tolerate counterfeit reality. What is disturbing is that there are times when I am also tempted to accept what amounts to false teaching of false prophets because at first it is so appealing, so glamorous and promises a candy cane, sugary kind of love, joy and peace which has no substance. It gives me an emotional high and helps me justify my sins with cheap grace. But long-term I discover no sustenance from the fruit these trees bear and I am left craving for the next quick fix.

I soon find that there are no Christmas tree substitutes for the Cross and repentance (Luke 3:8). No fancy lights to substitute for the light of the world. Jesus simply 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” (John 8:12 NLT). No brightly wrapped presents to substitute for the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” No candy cane junk food quick fix substitutes for developing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The invitation that Christ gives is simply to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Christmas Tree or Fruit Tree?

Pastor Ross

PS You may not have seen the face hidden on the edge of the Christmas tree? Side on. Looking down. Not all is as it seems. Sometimes what is concealed is an important part of the picture.

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


Matthew 7:7-11 – SYNC IN PROGRESS …

Sync in Progress

My computer is now IN SYNC with my i-pad 2. My portable Wi-fi is also in sync with all my Wi-fi capable devices. The ongoing cost of all these devices is incredible. I spent $100 in just one month downloading 6 GB of data using my Wi-fi account, thinking it would last a year. Oh, the COST of being in sync!

I’d like to think that my prayers are always in sync with God, but that is not always true. I don’t always get what I want or what I think I need immediately? Why did Phil’s daughter die of cancer, an agonising death, when she was only 6 years old, though a Church load of people prayed? Why wasn’t she healed?

There’s a COST to being in sync with God, and it means that I transfer management rights of my life to Him. It is beyond my ability to see why He does not intervene at times or to see His purpose in everything I pray about, but I have come to trust Him. If I were in charge then … things would be an absolute mess, and so the more I get to know Him the more impact my prayers have to accomplish His purposes on the earth. My responsibility is to pray in sync with Him. His is to answer in His way and with His perfectly co-ordinated timing, according to His Character.

I would not give my grandson a loaded gun just because he asks for it, but when Rome says “I’m hungry” (which is often the first thing that he will say when coming into our house) then he knows that I will feed him. Matthew 7:9 (NLT) says “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

1 John 5:14-15 (NLT) speaks of being in sync with God when it says “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that PLEASES Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us WHAT WE ASK FOR.” James 4:2-3 (NLT) says – “… Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because YOUR MOTIVES ARE ALL WRONG—you want only what will give you pleasure.”

Matthew 7:11 (NLT) “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” NO RELUNCTANCE on God’s side. He is not disinterested and unconcerned. Like a father — He loves and cares for me. He’s NOT DEAF. He hears me. He DOESN’T HESITATE or GIVE GRUDGINGLY. He WON’T REBUKE me for asking (James 1:5).

And His answers are NOT POOR QUALITY. He gives “GOOD GIFTS” (Matthew 7:11). 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.” Matthew 21:22 (NLT) says “You can pray for anything, and if you have FAITH, you will receive it.”

The answer is mine, RIGHT NOW, by faith in God who answers prayer, even BEFORE I see it? The only condition – being IN SYNC with God; operating in unison, in agreement, co-ordinated to harmonise my life with His in such a way that my actions in time, space and purpose produce the maximum impact for Him. He expresses it this way “But if you REMAIN IN ME AND MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU, you may ask for ANYTHING YOU WANT, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7 NLT).

Elijah called down fire from heaven, and yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were protected from flames. Prayer has parted the Red Sea for Moses, brought down the walls of Jericho for Joshua, brought victory in battle for David, imparted wisdom for Solomon, closed the mouths of lions for Daniel, even extended the hours in the day without the use of daylight savings for someone who I can’t quite remember at the moment – was it Isaiah? Yes, (Isaiah 38:8).

The power of synchronised prayer can cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead. It encourages trust, deals with sin, accesses heavens throne-room, and changes my circumstances. It enables me never to give up, to keep on reaching beyond what I can achieve, to keep asking for the impossible, seeking for the unsolvable, and knocking on the doors of heaven for the answers I need on earth. It is the conversation of dependent children with their all-sufficient Father, and that’s when we will see extraordinary things take place in the ordinary everyday situations of life. SYNC IN PROGRESS … !

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:7-8 – SPIRITUAL CPR

Spiritual CPR. Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net.

I’ve been praying that the Lord would heal a persistent cough I have had for the last month and nothing appears to be happening? Am I to continue to pray even when I don’t see any results? Why do I pray for my friend who is dying? She is unable to move because she is so weak? Am I to persevere in asking for healing until she dies?

Matthew 7:7 (NLT) says “KEEP ON ASKING, … KEEP ON SEEKING, … KEEP ON KNOCKING, …” If God answers my prayers, what’s with the “KEEP ON” requirement? Doesn’t He hear the first time? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) says “NEVER STOP PRAYING.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” PERSISTENT PRAYER breathes life back into my circumstances and revives me.

Jesus uses the ASK method of CPR to breathe life back into a dead situation. Ask, Seek, Knock. ASK – Check to see if there a spiritual PULSE? Is the situation or person spiritually dead and needing emergency attention! SEEK – Check for Spiritual BREATHING. Ask the Holy Spirit to breathe life into this situation, to give spiritual respiration. Nothing artificial about this at all. Jesus said “I am the truth and life.” KNOCK – Giving Truth Compressions. Keep speaking Words of Life to keep the spiritual BLOOD FLOW to the heart. REPEAT THE PROCESS – Matthew 7:7 (NLT) says “KEEP ON ASKING, … KEEP ON SEEKING, … KEEP ON KNOCKING, …”

Is prayer just a way to deal with the pressures of life and doesn’t really have anything to do with answers, or do I have to keep asking until I learn the difference between praying for what I WANT and praying for what I NEED before the answers come? Is PERSEVERANCE AND DILIGENCE in prayer the means of learning ENDURANCE AND DISCIPLINE in life? PERSIST. PERSEVERE in prayer. 30 spiritual heart compressions (going to Church regularly) or a life support machine (growing up in a family that follows Jesus) is not enough. I will still need the DEFIBRILLATOR of personal belief and trust in Christ.

Prayer breathes life back into dead circumstances. It shocks my heart into life so it operates as it was intended. It confronts me with the Cross and with it’s rhythmic harmonies it allows God to have His finger on the pulse of my life. It allows my heart to beat in time with His. It reminds me that I am dependent on Him, to pray often, with diligent passion and active intention. I ask with dependence, seek with drive and knock with determination on heaven’s door so that earths doors will be opened. I am born again.

What is God saying in all this? Do I keep on knocking on the same door or do I seek any door that looks like it might open? “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” What about earth’s doors? It’s not always the one that opens that has the answers. What am I opening myself up to? When I knock on heaven’s door He seems to open the right earthly doors.

John 15:7 (NLT) says “But if you REMAIN IN ME AND MY WORDS REMAIN IN YOU, you may ask for ANYTHING YOU WANT, and it will be granted!” 1 John 3:21-22 (NLT) says “… we will receive from Him whatever we ask BECAUSE WE OBEY HIM AND DO THE THINGS THAT PLEASE HIM.” Matthew 6:33 (NLT) says “Seek the Kingdom of God ABOVE ALL ELSE, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you NEED.”

Spurgeon speaks of how the old doors had a NAILHEAD onto which a knocker was dropped and people would strike it so heavily that the saying arose “AS DEAD AS A DOOR-NAIL”. Jesus speaks of that kind of INTENSITY in prayer, praying so persistently that it outlives the door-nail. It may seem pointless to keep bashing on something that’s as dead-as-a-doornail, but there is LIFE on the other side of the door! CPR for the spiritual heart. That kind of prayer breathes life into dead situations.

The invitation is to pray OFTEN, with DILIGENT PASSION and with ACTIVE INTENSION. Be DEPENDENT on God, PASSIONATE about seeking Him, DETERMINED to find the solutions to life. A consistent prayerlife humbles me to receive God’s grace. “Asking” suggests DEPENDENCE; “seeking” suggests DRIVE; “knocking” suggests DETERMINATION. Prayer teaches me about FAITH to accomplish the purposes of God. SPIRITUAL CPR.

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

Matthew 7:1 – NEGATIVITY VULTURES!

Negativity Vultures

FAULTFINDING is the “VENOM OF THE SOUL” (Ray Pritchard). It verbalises defeat. It destroys joy, and vulture-like rips away at our hope and potential.

The PHARISEES are the religious leaders and they continually gather, like vultures, to communicate negativity to Jesus. NEGATIVITY VULTURES are scavenging people of prey, Condors of criticism, feeding on the carcasses of the wrongs of others. These sad individuals thrive on all that is negative, on what they see as the mistakes and sins of their victims. They hover over the social environment, keeping a close eye out for the dead, rotting flesh of the failures of others. They are SCAVENGERS OF SCANDAL. These RUTHLESS RAPTORS can smell defilement from a mile away and with their derisive cries they gather to the hunt in ever diminishing circles of flight until they land to tear the flesh off anyone with a flaw.

A group of Pharisees are very much like a WAKE of vultures. A WAKE is a ceremony associated with death and they speak WORDS OF DEATH. The only friends of a negative person are other negativity vultures who gather for nit-picking the rotting flesh of lost potential.

And by the way, not all of them are bald-headed old world vultures. They are found in every generation. The faultfinder feeds on the flaws of others and then, as vultures do, they vomit it up for their young so that the next generation learns their negativity. Unfortunately they are not an endangered species.  

My Pastor, Brian Houston, says negativity magnifies anxiety and distorts truth. It makes harsh judgments and sweeping, unfair statements. It sabotages potential. It turns molehills into mountains.

No wonder that Jesus says “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1 NLT). He’s not speaking against their discernment, but against their UNCONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, and their inability to discern their own shortcomings. He is warning them that JUDGMENT BITES BACK.

Tom Attridge shot his own plane down in 1956 when the velocity and trajectory of the rounds he fired decayed, and ultimately crossed paths with the plane’s shallow dive forcing Attridge to crash-land the aircraft. Destructive Negativity inevitably catches up with us and we SHOOT OURSELVES DOWN.

What is the spirit behind and the motivation of my judgments? Jesus commands me not to be hypercritical and negative and faultfinding towards others. He is saying stop being so annoying, petty and trivial! Stop being so objectionable, obnoxious and critical! Stop being so disapproving and disparaging! Stop being so scathing and severe! There is a spiritual gift of encouragement but there is no such gift as the gift of negativity.

What disturbs me is that I hear this verse used as if it is advocating that I ACCEPT any kind of lifestyle and teaching no matter what God’s Word has to say about it, and if I don’t then I am “not being very Christian”. Our culture cries out with insistent declarations against followers of Christ – “Do not judge! Do not make moral evaluations! Do not condemn anything!” Wrong! That is not what Jesus is commanding. He is not trying to water down evil in the world. He is not trying to excuse our sin. That’s NOT the emphasis of this passage at all. In fact to read it that way misses the whole point of what Jesus is trying to say. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR OTHERS DOESN’T MEAN UNCONDITIONAL APPROVAL OF OTHERS! You know the saying “Jesus loves me as a sinner but He doesn’t love my sin. He loves me too much to have me stay the way I am.” John 16:8 (NLT) says that the Holy Spirit comes to “…convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”

Without Christ we are already condemned. The fact is that Jesus Christ is the only One who has come to save us from certain judgment. Conviction of sin, confession of our inability to save ourselves, commitment to Christ alone as Saviour = no condemnation. Jesus paid the price for me when He died for my sin. John 3:17-18 (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…”

The invitation for us before diving in for the kill with our negative judgments of others is to ask “Am I being a NEGATIVITY VULTURE feeding on the faults of others or an INSTRUMENT OF GOD’S MERCY revealing God’s grace and patience? Is my aim to condemn or to express the love of Christ? Is my aim TO JUDGE OR TO SAVE.”

Pastor Ross