Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Genesis 32:5-6 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 3

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau. The meeting could be explosive. Jacob’s short course in diplomacy is worth noting (see parts 1 and 2).

So how does Jacob prepare for this confrontation? How do you prepare when you are facing a meeting with a sense of dread?

  1. BE STRAIGHTFORWARD AND FOCUS ON THE DESIRED OUTCOME

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© Keep Your Focus Clear. Created by Ross Cochrane

Jacob sends a message to Esau,

“…and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be FRIENDLY to me” (Genesis 32:5 NLT).

Jacob is direct. He lets Esau know that he has a small army of servants and livestock with him and that he hopes for a friendly meeting. Wise move Jacob! No sign of deception here, just a lot of wisdom.

Some say he was trying to impress Esau with his wealth, and this was only evidence that Jacob didn’t trust God to care for him, but please! He has to get in contact with Esau in some way.

He is letting Esau know that he is not there to bring harm but re-establish a friendship or at least a working relationship. He tells Esau exactly what is happening, how many people he has with him, what he can expect, no frills, no surprises, no deception. Just straight talk and a focus on the best possible scenario: friendship.

The key diplomatic responsibilities of Jacob are how best to influence and persuade Esau to re-establish a relationship with him as an ally rather than adversary. In this operation as an Ambassador of God, his intelligence, integrity, his understanding of the emotional climate, and his spiritual insight are critical.

If he succeeds, he will live to tell the story and develop a relationship with Esau grounded in trust and mutual understanding. If he doesn’t, he will have placed his family in the worst possible danger. There are no guarantees except the promises of God.

God has granted Jacob extensive privileges and immunities, but all that depends on upon applying his faith to this confrontation with Esau. The Elegancy of Diplomacy is worthless without the Integrity of Devotion to God and His purposes.

“After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!”” (Genesis 32:6 NLT). 

So much for diplomacy. Jacob shows his humility and Esau responds with a show of strength. Esau has an army and Jacob has flocks and servants. If this is reduced to Possessions and Power then there’s little chance of resolution.

Flexing his muscles with an army of 400 men indicates fairly strongly that Esau doesn’t trust Jacob. Based on his record, I wouldn’t either. Experience tells him that he should not take chances. He doesn’t give any message to Jacob but leaves him guessing as to whether he is coming as friend or foe.

When a conflict management meeting starts to go south, what can you do? (Watch out for Part 4)

Pastor Ross

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Missing the Point

© Ross Cochrane – Gambling with Forgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35 – HOW TO INVEST IN WHAT TRULY MATTERS – The Parable of a Rogue Trader

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Monday.  ANOTHER ROGUE TRADER SQUANDERS MILLIONS.

Another rogue trader is back in the headlines after Compassion Bank’s Owner and Managing Director revealed that “unauthorised trading” by Michael Heartless has cost the bank millions of dollars.

The losses had surprisingly little impact on the market generally, due to Bank reserves and profits, which fortunately dwarfed the rogue trader’s activities. “This will not even touch the bank’s massive resources for the Kingdom our bank serves,” said Managing Director, J.C. Davidson, who also rules the dominion of World Kingdom Enterprises, “but it is disappointing.”

Michael Heartless had it all, authority in the banking arena, great wealth and honour. Living in a huge house, he was chauffeur driven in a magnificent limousine. He wore designer clothes and a Rolex watch. A wheeler and dealer and now an exposed ruthless rogue trader, he was the Senior Trader of Compassion Bank’s massive company.

Heartless worked his way up in the company from the position of Assistant Accountant to Senior Accountant and then Senior Trader, and was entrusted with borrowing from his employer’s Worldwide Banking Corporation to make huge business deals and investments. Traders said he expressed a love for working for his boss, as a trusted long-time employee.

After a lucrative career, Mr. Heartless began to get careless, making a series of questionable deals and fraudulent choices which inevitably lost millions of company dollars. Because he had worked in Compliance, he became adept at hiding his losses and bypassing checks.

Never thinking he would be discovered, and always thinking he could pay back the company if given time, he added to his fraud by siphoning off enough funds to keep on living his extravagant lifestyle. He bought luxury goods and property at over inflated prices, spending millions in a number of waterfront apartments. He was sure his next big deal would pay back the money he owed.

The Managing Director and owner, J C Davidson, had given his employer an incredible amount of leeway, allowing him to make choices for the good of Kingdom Enterprises. Perhaps his fraud would not have been discovered for some time except an immediate audit was underway and J.C. Davidson wanted to bring His accounts up to date with all His Banking Traders who had borrowed money from Him.

One auditor said “It was an unpayable debt. Some countries could be run on what Mr Heartless owed. His debt was so immense that at first we thought it was beyond estimation. The interest alone on such a debt would be enormous.”

The audit revealed the massive losses and fraud and Mr. Heartless was summoned to appear before the Managing Director and Auditors. Although Heartless respected J.C. Davidson, he lacked the integrity of his boss and did not want to face up to his debt. A fellow trader said, “He refused to come at first but when a limousine arrived with two rather large messengers, he knew he had no choice.”

Subsequently, J.C. Davidson exercised His sovereign authority and demanded that Heartless repay the money lost. Heartless was unable to pay the debt, so according to court transcripts, Davidson ordered everything he owned to be sold.

Heartless, along with his family members, who were co-conspirators, were ordered to be placed under an enforced work order to recover the debt. This amounted to hard labour and community service for the rest of their lives. The conviction was immediately appealed by Heartless who tried desperately to work out a deal with Davidson.

One of the auditors told our reporter that Heartless literally collapsed and begged Davidson for more time. “He was totally unrealistic. He asked for patience and he would repay the whole debt. It was laughable. At least he acknowledged that the debt was his to pay, but trying to propose some kind of time based repayment scheme was ridiculous … His mistake was thinking that he could operate and manage finance apart from being accountable to J.C.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Tuesday. ROGUE BANKER WALKS FREE.

The world was left reeling today in hearing that the Rogue trader, Michael Heartless, walked away from paying a single cent. Bankers are questioning the way J.C. Davidson exercises His extensive sovereignty over Kingdom Enterprises.

An auditor for Kingdom Enterprises said, “What I found to be unbelievable is that J.C. Davidson had pity on him, released him and forgave his debt entirely, withdrawing all charges, and personally covered the money owed.” …

J.C. Davidson later made a statement. “You must understand that Compassion Bank is run not only on a set of legal principles of building business relationships. It is run on the invisible relationship principles of love, forgiveness and grace which cannot be legislated. Legal compliance without a heart to do what is right is fruitless. I encourage my employees to regard relationships of forgiveness and compassion with each-other as being incredibly important. The example of forgiveness I have shown to Mr. Heartless is more important than the money he owes Me. I am willing to pay the price for him.”

The banking world was astounded at the enormous debt forgiven and the apparent lack of justice and business sense. Bankers all over the world have accused Davidson of taking part in the fraud, but so far His business dealings by countless independent auditors have proved to be beyond reproach.

When Davidson was asked again why He let Heartless and his family walk free, He simply said, No amount of sacrifice on his part or enforced work programmes for his family could possibly re-pay their debt. He admitted his crime and I forgave his debt. That’s the end of the matter.” This approach would not be tolerated in normal banking practices in other countries. Heartless has refused an interview and has not been seen since his release.

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Wednesday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS LIVES UP TO HIS NAME.

It seems the story of the rogue trader, Michael Heartless is far from finished. It has recently come to light that when Heartless left his boss, after being completely forgiven of his multi-million dollar debt, that he immediately went to a fellow banking trader who owed him a few thousand dollars.

Heartless lived up to his name. Despite being forgiven so great a debt himself, it was confirmed by reliable sources and witnesses that he demanded payment and assaulted his debtor.

His fellow trader owed him a tiny debt in comparison to the millions of dollars that Heartless had been forgiven. A witness said that his fellow trader, who can’t be named “… begged for a little more time to pay, but Heartless kept on demanding immediate payment and wouldn’t listen.” It is alleged that Heartless pressed charges against the man, and had him arrested and thrown into prison.

A witness said “You would think that this guy Heartless would be over the top joyful about being forgiven his unpayable debt? But no. He uses violence to demand his fellow trader to pay a tiny debt in comparison. Unbelievable!”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Thursday. MICHAEL HEARTLESS FINALLY IN JAIL.

Michael Heartless finally faces a jail sentence. Fellow traders are whistleblowers as to Heartless’ lack of compassion and J.C. Davidson steps in.

Charges have been laid and Heartless is now in prison but for the most surprising of reasons. J.C. Davidson, presiding over His own court, described Heartless as “… an evil man.” He said, in summing up his sentence, “You acted within the law but sooner or later evil men are brought to account for their evil acts. This is your time to be called to account for your unforgiveness and lack of compassion. In this court, your unforgiveness is a greater crime than the original debt which I forgave. Your crime is your lack of compassion. You will remain in custody until you have shown forgiveness to your fellow trader and until that time you will bear the torture you have brought on yourself.”

The world stands dumbfounded by his charge. Apparently Michael Heartless receives justice for his heartless pursuit of a fellow debtor. He is a prisoner because of his own bitterness and lack of compassion. His punishment is self-imposed. His unforgiveness has placed him in prison and because of his bitter and vindictive actions towards another fellow trader, he will not be free until he takes the example of his boss, and learns to forgive.

An employer who was at the court told said, “The world may not agree with how the Managing Director of Compassion Bank and Kingdom Enterprises exercises His sovereign authority over His country, but perhaps we could all learn to be a little more compassionate in the light of our own indebtedness towards God.”

Warren Wiersbe says “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are only imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment.”

 

WORLD BREAKING NEWS: Friday. JESUS SERVANTS FORGIVE DEBTORS.

The prayer Jesus taught His disciples includes the words “… forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors … If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV and NLT).

In the parable in Matthew 18:23-35, the king is the Lord Jesus Christ. The servants are anyone who calls Him their King. The Kingdom refers to the sphere of His authority to rule over us as our King, and His ability to bring us to account. Romans 14:11-13 (NLT) says, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” 

The context of this parable is forgiveness between two people who are followers of Christ. Jesus says that we are people who offer forgiveness continually without trying to count the number of times or measure the size of the debt (Matthew 18:21-22).

The currency in this parable is the extensive, unmeasurable amount of forgiveness we have received from God compared to the meagre amount of forgiveness we will ever have opportunity to give to others who sin against us. True compassion, therefore, arises out of a deep-seated understanding of our own forgiveness and prompts in us the capacity to forgive others.

God offers us mercy because of the death of Christ on the Cross who paid the penalty for our sin and not because of some misplaced idea of us being able to pay the debt. It is not surprising then that Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The parable has further explanation through the words of Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) which says “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” 

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:18-20 – FORGIVENESS AND A TORN $10 NOTE

It was at Mt Austin Primary School before I was a teenager that I discovered that I was skilled in drawing and painting. It was 1966 and I decided to make a copy of the new decimal currency, a $10 note. What can say? I was young. I didn’t know it was illegal and I had no intention of using it as currency, only as an Artwork.

Meticulously, I worked for hours on my $10 note until I was fairly sure that I had a respectable representation and took it to School the next day.

One of the better artists in the class happened to see it and was impressed. He wanted to show some of his friends and so foolishly, I let him take it away. He promised to return it, which he did … in two pieces; torn down the centre. Hours of hard work. He apologised sincerely. He said it was an accident. I forgave him and took my torn emotions and artwork home. Sticky-tape just didn’t work for me. It had been destroyed, but it had been an accident. What can you do? Move on.

Not to be deterred I decided to make an even better representation of the $10 note using all the newly discovered techniques I had mastered from the last one. Once again it took me hours to make and I hesitated on taking it to school but eventually decided I could make my artist friend feel a little better in the light of my replica.

On showing it around at School, once again my artist rival wanted to show it around to his friends and I said I would rather he didn’t, but he said he would keep it safe. Surely he would be careful this time, and my trusting nature gave way.

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice but my artwork came back torn in half once again and once again my friend was apologetic. I was heartbroken about my artwork and less concerned about my careless friend. I forgave him once again. To this day, I don’t know if it was his jealousy that caused the ruined artworks or his carelessness. How many times do you forgive?

Forgiving a torn artwork is trivial. What happens when the sin sears its way into your soul and brings devastation to your heart? All I know is that I have been forgiven more than I could hope for in my life and have been tested with offenses where only God’s help enabled me to forgive.

Peter once came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone (Greek my brother) who sins against me? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 NLT).

Good question. Is forgiveness limited? Are there circumstances when I can’t or should not forgive? Do I only forgive the small things?

Adam Clarke says “It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice (three times) Peter raises that by more than a half, but Jesus multiplies forgiveness into an eternal value. Perhaps nothing is more difficult than to forgive.

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replies, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22 NLT). Jesus says, in effect, that forgiveness is uncountable, unlimited.

Trying to count how many times I have forgiven someone in itself shows an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness has an eternal quality and gives us a picture of the spirit of Christ. It defies counting because it comes from the heart. It’s not some scientific calculation, and it will demand grace, not reciprocity.

Can you measure how much a person has been loved or forgiven? Impossible. We can count offenses easily, but forgiveness involves leaving the offence behind, so we cannot count mercy.

To understand what Christ has accomplished in forgiving us for sins beyond count is to appreciate how much we need to forgive others without counting.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) says “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The invitation is to forgive and not carry around the burden of bitterness. Do everything you can to restore the relationship.

And no, I have never drawn a $10 note again, but the skills I gained from the experience were invaluable. A torn $10 note is not worth a torn relationship. Forgiveness in a relationship transcends an enumeration of our faults?

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© Letting Harry Loose. Created with FilterForge.org by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – LETTING HARRY LOOSE! A Parable.

He comes into the concert hall late, dishevelled, unshaven, and a little drunk, stumbles his way to the stage and pushes his way up the stairs to the little ensemble.

“Where have you been? We are almost about to start” says one of the other musicians, obviously annoyed. Harry does not answer. His breath is stale and he tries to tune his violin in the last few minutes, but fails.

The other musicians have no idea how much their role in unifying the string quartet, setting the tempo and shaping the sound of the ensemble will be severely challenged. This music especially created for the Ballet tonight is called the “Symphony of Agreement.”

Fortunately the other musicians start the piece with sounds like a gentle stream over the pebbles with crystal clear chords resounding throughout the concert hall.

Just then a glorious backdrop is lit and what looks like a golden ray of sunlight courses its way through the painted trees and rests on a stream. Ballet dancers appear from the wings, their movements choreographed with the musical harmonies of the string ensemble.

That’s when Harry begins to play. It is a discordant melody which rises over the other harmonies like fingernails scratching their way down a board. The audience flinches to its sound, recoiling from its intrusion. The dancers are confused momentarily but bravely continue.

Susan, one of the other musicians, plays a note as crisp and clear as a bell, to call the ensemble back to play the music as written, a pure and beautiful sound, and then a magnificent melody to invite the audience to forgive and respond.

But once again Harry’s out-of-tune notes rise like a wailing dog to destroy her attempt and none of the musicians can continue to play. The acrimonious wail echoes through the hall with jarring intensity interfering with all hopes of saving the moment.

“Will you stop playing!” Susan forcefully whispers. “You are destroying the arrangement entirely! Your contribution to this ensemble is an offense” But Harry plays on, oblivious to her pleas. Someone in the audience cries out in protest and with that Nathan, another member of the group stops playing, rips the violin away from Harry and asks him to leave. The ensemble seeks to salvage the rest of the performance.

Afterwards, the member’s of the stringed quartet are ready to string Harry up. They come with accusing fingers and strong words, offended by Harry’s actions tonight. “How could you do this to us, they say. We’ve practised for months and you go and get drunk.” Harry stands before them, tears running down his face and tries to apologise in between their angry words.

What action can they take concerning Harry?

Matthew 18:15 (NLT) says, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” 

In the ensuing conversation, it is discovered that Harry has been keeping the wrong company, lost a lot of money gambling and with the pressure of the concert was foolishly persuaded to “drown his sorrows” at the pub with a so-called friend. After too many beers Harry suddenly remembered the String Ensemble he was meant to be leading that night.

When anger subsides, his friends gather around him, help him home, sober him up, and most importantly, as he expresses his shame, they forgive him and pray for him. It seems that harmony between Christian friends is even more important than harmony in their Stringed Quartet, despite the poor reviews.

“If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, (Greek gather together in My Name) I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 NLT)

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says “If two of you agree…” What Jesus is saying is personal and relational not simply organisational and legalistic. Agreement speaks of harmony; moving together, being in accord with eachother like a co-written piece of music played by a group of musicians who know eachother well.

It is not Harry’s raucus, disconnected and discordant notes of half-hearted, unsynchronised relationships, but a well-orchestrated piece of music in which souls play together, hear eachother and act in unity.

Jesus says if a relationship is restored with a person who has sinned against you then you are once again in agreement (in harmony) and that agreement has heaven’s approval. It is the idea of the Lord’s prayer to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

It’s not so much a matter of knowing how best to confront the sin, but how best to restore harmony to a relationship without disregarding the discordant nature of the sin. And it is about declaring forgiveness and restoration. If this is not possible, it is about recognising an irreconcilable fracture of a relationship where forgiveness is inappropriate due to the stubbornness of the other person. Not easy.

This is not God being our genie in a bottle, and coming to do whatever we ask when we agree on something. Neither was the last part ever intended to be a favourite quote when there is poor attendance at a prayer meeting. “Well, Lord, there’s just a few here tonight but thankyou Lord, You promised where two or three are gathered in Your Name, You will be here.” NO! It’s two or three gathered together in harmony after restoring a rift in a relationship due to someone doing the wrong thing. That’s when God’s forgiveness is there personally in the midst of us along with His presence.

Matthew 18:18 (NLT) says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid (Or bind, or lock) on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit (Or loose, or open) on earth will be permitted in heaven. Can we simply disregard the context? No! Binding or forbidding is a reference to the penalty of forbidding them forgiveness because of their stubbornness, while loosing or permitting is restoring someone through forgiveness to a relationship of unity.

Our part is to act in a just and loving way in our relationships to do everything we can to get things right. We have authority based on God’s Word to act in His name concerning these issues, heaven’s stamp of approval when we are seeking to forgive.

Jesus is NOT giving us a pattern for Church Discipline as many call it, but a pattern for returning harmony and agreement to a discordant relationship. And He is there in the midst when that happens.

To His disciples, Jesus says in John 20:23 (NLT) “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

In the end, this can only happen because of the Cross. It is only when I am confronted by the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross that I can come to a point of acknowledging my sin. It is only when I know real forgiveness that I can in turn truly forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) invites us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The next night Harry leads the Stringed quartet with great humility and with a passion for recompense. The harmony is perfect. The unique melody on this night is a gift from God, and it almost seems that He has taken over Harry’s violin.

The Ballet dancers move in choreographed splendour to the voices of the instruments and keep perfectly in time with Harry’s rhythm and tempo, tones and timbres. He whispers into the ears of the audience with the soft notes and builds up the crescendos to crash upon the shores of their hearts.

God is there at the beginning and there at the finale. The Maestro and the maestro at work, playing a Symphony of Agreement, loosed in the corridors of heaven and brought to earth. The Ballet and orchestra receive a standing ovation that night and I think it was accompanied with the cheers of heaven.

Christ prompts you and me in our relationships. When we respond to Christ, admit our sin, we find forgiveness and harmony with Him and with eachother.

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to save me. I admit that I have been out of tune with You and out of sync. I believe that You died for my sins and I want my life to be more than just about me. I hear the sound of God’s symphony of agreement and love and I accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour. Make my life Your instrument. Make me the person You designed me to be; to live my life in Harmony with You and others. Thankyou for saving me.

Pastor Ross

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© Don’t Cross Me – created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – CROSS ME AND YOU’LL REGRET IT?

She came to me, tears streaming down her face and in obvious distress. It was Sunday and I was walking across from our house to our small Church building to take the service. The morning was beautiful, her confession was not.

For around three years she had been the bursar of the Christian School that our Church had started and that morning she blurted out that she had stolen money on a number of occasions and was not able to pay it back. She knew that eventually it would be discovered.

Thanking her for her courage in telling me, I encouraged her to wait until I was able to speak to our leaders and I went to the Sunday Service with my mind spinning and a heavy heart.

Jesus speaks about the importance of keeping Church relationships healthy in Matthew 18:15. He says “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  

If our bursar had sinned against me the matter would have been easy to solve but the criminal act she had committed affected the whole Church. Matthew 18:15 encourages us to limit the interaction with only those involved in the offense.

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses(Matthew 18:16 NLT).  

Our leader’s meeting that week was awash with prayer and a genuine desire to deal with the situation well. Could this matter that affected our whole Church be kept in-house and dealt with by the leaders alone? Would the whole Church in some way need to be involved? Did we need to let the police know? She would be charged and have a police record for the rest of her life. There are times when this is totally appropriate. Was this one of those times? What did the Bible say? …

Luke 17:3-4 (NLT) says “So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Galatians 6:1 (NLT) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”  

It seems that the Bible regards repairing a relationship with a person who has wronged you as being even more important than their sinful actions. Confront the person without malice with the view to repentance, forgiveness and a new start. There may be restitution and other consequences but restoring the broken relationship is the most important. It’s not “Cross me and you’ll regret it! That’s a barbed wire threat that damages relationships. It’s The Cross allows room for me to forgive!” Jesus with hands reached out said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT).

If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector(Matthew 18:17 NLT).  

This sounds so prescriptive and legalistic at first. But to treat a person as someone who is not a follower of Christ is still an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. Fortunately for us, the person hadn’t refused to listen. Just the opposite. She had admitted to me privately of a public sin. If it had just been against the leaders we could have dealt with the matter in-house, but we needed to deal with this as a Church.

As I remember it, the Church service the next week gave followers of Christ a reminder of the guts of forgiveness. We began our service with worship and praise but I informed our Church that we had a difficult situation to work through.

I had previously encouraged the lady to come and share with the Church, with my help, what had happened. I was amazed at her bravery.

That day we had an opportunity to show hard-hearted malice and unforgiveness, but as I remember it, each member came forward personally and putting their arms around her said, “I forgive you.” Each person expressed their love for her. There were many tears that day as we prayed for her and we knew the presence and approval of God. Followers of Christ have a responsibility to reconcile but it’s nice to see it in action. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Many could have withdrawn from this lady who stole money from us, gossipped to others about the wrong things she had done, or even tried to get revenge. Instead, because of her genuine admission and contrition for the wrong she had done against us as a Church, we took up an offering that morning for her. She had lost her job because of her theft and needed all the help she could get to re-establish herself.

The Church paid for her debt. Justice had been accomplished through forgiveness. I was humbled and grateful to God. The invitation of this passage is to restore lost relationships. Not “Don’t Cross me or you’ll regret it!” but “Because of the Cross, there is room for me to forgive.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:19-21 – WHAT TO DO WHEN LOVE HURTS

What to do when love hurts

What to do when love hurts

As I greet him with a smile he looks at me with the confusion of dementia in his eyes and demands that I leave. “I don’t want to talk with you. I don’t know you?” I am a stranger to him, though we have talked as friends many times in the past. In the hall I meet a woman who is walking slowly with the help of a stick. I ask her if she is lost and she tells me that she has never been so insulted in all her life. “I wish all you nosy people would just leave me alone!” she says. I apologise and leave her to sit for a while in the foyer. Through the glass entrance door I see a woman sitting alone and crying. I talk with her about her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. “He doesn’t recognise who I am anymore and pushes me away” she says, deeply hurt.

I meet people in aged care who experience times when they feel unwanted, excluded, unloved, or even neglected. Times when they feel misjudged or overlooked and sometimes they can choose to let grazes fester and become deep wounds; times when they know an aching emptiness as they see those they care for or love withdraw, reject and ignore them.

The unintentional wounds caused by those with Alzheimer’s disease are felt by those who have known the joys of relationship; those who have loved. It is not really true that love hurts. It is not being loved that hurts. Love is what heals a broken heart.

Leah is not loved by her husband, Jacob, and is vulnerable to the weeping wounds of such loss as he all too often neglects her for her younger sister, Rachel.

God in His grace chooses to give Leah another son to Jacob after a time of barrenness (Genesis 30:19-20) and her broken heart finds expression in the name of her son. She names him Zebulun, which means “dwelling” and “honour.” She chooses this name in acknowledgement that God has not forsaken her and honours her with a sixth son. But in the naming of her son, she also declares her desperate hope that her husband will honour her and finally choose to dwell with her exclusively.

She names him with the tears of her hurt that becry the absence of love “…now my husband will DWELL with me, because I have borne him six sons” (Genesis 30:20 NASB). She is the mother of Jacob’s sons but not the wife of his heart. He will sleep with her but his affections are reserved for Rachel. In her loneliness God also gives a daughter to Leah (Genesis 30:21). Leah calls her Dinah.

Is the desire Rachel and Leah have for children based on the hope of having a share in the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)? It seems that they have disassociated with God’s promises for what has become a race of jealousy; vying for the love of Jacob and the approval of others.

Rachel and Leah invite me to ask myself the difficult questions – “Are my motivations for a fruitful life based on God’s promises; His Word? Or am I involved in a power play for love and acceptance from others?”  

When you experience the absence of love, in whom will you place your trust? Jesus invites you to place your trust in Him, over and above all other relationships, and to find your identity as a person who is loved by God. 

Don’t misunderstand, close relationships with others are important on this journey we make with God, but my identity is shaped essentially by God’s intentions and not the expectations or neglect of others. The healing grace of God’s love gives me a perspective on all my other relationships in life and enables me to live as God intends. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 26:12-25 – FOREIGNERS GO HOME!

Foreigners Go Home!

He is not afraid to let others excel to the point where they are better than he is. He is not THREATENED by others rising to the top. I like that about Pastor Brian Houston. How can I expect to grow if I am not willing to encourage others to reach their full potential in life and be all that God intends for them to be?

The trouble is when I begin to focus my attention on great preachers all of a sudden my ability to make a difference seems so small in comparison. They have such incredible impact in people’s lives all around the world. I can choose to either praise God for their influence or get JEALOUS, CRITICAL and INTIMIDATED BY THEM. When Isaac begins to prosper, he gets up close and personal with the destructive consequences of jealousy.

On reflection Isaac didn’t exactly get things right along the way when it came to his relationships. He uses his wife as a shield to protect himself without considering what this would do to her. He is rebuked by the Philistine leader, Abimelech, and regarded with suspicion from then on. It’s like getting the Mayor of the city offside.

All this probably contributes to the REJECTION AND JEALOUSY of Isaac by the local residents in Gerar, especially when God starts to prosper him. You can almost hear them say Not only is he a liar but these foreigners are stealing our jobs and livelihood!” You know how the conversations go when overseas investors take over iconic homegrown businesses.

Not having a belief in God and therefore not having an appreciation of God’s blessing in another persons life, the Philistines express their PROVINCIALISM and JEALOUSY by vandalising Isaacs property. They fill Isaacs wells with dirt, leaving him without a water supply (Genesis 26:14-15).

This is the Bible’s first act of VANDALISM. I’m sure there was graffiti saying “FOREIGNERS GO HOME!” Obviously the locals in Gerar were threatened and intolerant of strangers. Without water Isaac is forced to move (Genesis 26:18-22).

What makes it worse is that these vandalised wells had been in the family for years, built by his father Abraham. If it was me, I’d feel a little angry. Filling in a well with dirt was equivalent to an ACT OF WAR, a crime, an act of terrorism. Isaac had enough men to take these guys down. RETALIATE! REVENGE! GET EVEN! Perhaps Isaac is too much of a WIMP to try this. He doesn’t do anything but dodge the blows. Some suggest that he is just a PEACEFUL man. Whatever.

Isaac takes the easy way out. He moves from Gerar to Beersheba, singing the “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. “… You got to know when to turn away, know when to run.” His relationship problems with his neighbours are reflected in the names he gives to the wells he dug. Esek – “argument”, Sitnah – “hostility”. He’s not having a good day by the time he gets to the end of Genesis 26. Ever feel like this? Alienated? Rejected? Excluded?

JEALOUSY and prejudice is a terrible thing. It’s like a splinter that irritates you and becomes infected. It also separates you in terms of your relationships. It seems that even Abimelech is jealous and intimidated by Isaacs wealth and power. And since a leader sets the culture, he orders Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.” (Genesis 26:16 NLT). “FOREIGNERS, GO HOME!” God promised this land to Isaac and his descendents but now he finds that he is a foreigner in his own land.

Jesus had the same thing happen to Him. John 1:10-12 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they REJECTED Him. But to all who believed Him and ACCEPTED Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

God always has a way of turning CURSING TO BLESSING and Isaac keeps moving until God opens the way for him. It takes a while but I know that as I trust in God He dispels my fears and reaffirms His desire to bless me and impact future generations. He brings me to the place where, like Isaac, I can dig wells such as REHOBOTH, which means “the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22). That’s when I know that I am SUSTAINED by Him and, like Isaac, I build an altar to WORSHIP Him and spend time listening to what He has to say about my life (Genesis 26:23-25). I return to that place where I am closest to God.

Beersheba is an invitation to DRAW CLOSE TO GOD. It speaks of that place where God says to me “Be strong and courageous! …. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT). It is that place where God says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Philippians 4:6 (NLT) echoes these words “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” It is a place where you are ACCEPTED as a child of God. You can find Him waiting for you there right now.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:44 – 240 PIECES OF EIGHT … PRICELESS! – Part 16

Treasure!

It has taken me a year but the treasure hunt has actually paid off! Worth the wait! Two hundred and forty Pieces of Eight! I am officially rich!

Finding the Spanish galleon called the Santa Margarita was heralded as one of the greatest shipwreck treasure discoveries of all time. Over $150 million in hidden treasure just lying there on the ocean floor! A King’s ransom in gold and silver, a hidden “mother lode” now revealed. X marks the spot.

80,000 pieces of eight, 169 silver ingots weighing about 70 pounds each, 22 copper ingots, gold bullion and hundreds of unique gold and silver artefacts and a number of bronze canons are still waiting to be recovered. Captain Jack Sparrow his self would be proud.

But that’s not the treasure I have found. Sorry to disappoint you just when I stirred your imagination perhaps with pirate maps and sunken treasure. Actually I’ve found something even more valuable.

As a child I once wrote a story about an Island of treasures, and how the hero of the story found that the treasures of creation are worth far more than Spanish doubloons. But I was wrong. I still missed it.

I’ve found something greater still, more valuable than the beauties of creation and all the Spanish treasures of the sea. I didn’t see it at first but I have been one of the few treasure hunters who has found the “mother lode”.

Jesus speaks of such a treasure hunt in Matthew 13:44. He says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

You are the treasure! Don’t just tell me that the HIDDEN treasure is Israel or the Church or Gentiles or potential believers. Tell me about the excitement of the hunt and how Jesus searched for all those whom He valued. Sure, the Lord has chosen “Israel for His own special treasure” (Psalms 135:4 NLT) but He has also chosen me and somehow I am valuable to Him. Treasure hunting was His intention, “To seek and to save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). He calls me “… HIS RICH AND GLORIOUS INHERITANCE” (Ephesians 1:18 NLT).

Perhaps today you don’t think of yourself as valuable to God. Perhaps you think that the only person of any value is Christ and so He must be the treasure mentioned in this parable. Perhaps you are thinking that you must somehow purchase His acceptance by living a good life, and doing enough good works, but that’s all back the front.

To me this parable shouts out that I am loved and valued by Christ. He doesn’t value my sin but He loves me so much that He gave His life to purchase me. He paid the ultimate price. Jesus said in Mark 8:37 (NLT) “Is anything worth more than your soul?” He thinks my soul is valuable! Nothing is worth more!

Jesus sells everything He has to purchase us. Colossians 1:13-14 (NLT) “For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness (the field) and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Titus 2:14 (NLT) says “He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, ….” Galatians 1:4 (NLT) says “Jesus GAVE HIS LIFE for our sins, … in order to rescue us from this evil world (the field) in which we live.” He saw me as valuable when I had nothing of value to give to Him. When I respond to Him, I see just how valuable He is in my life when once I thought He had nothing of value to offer me.

The Kingdom of heaven is the rulership of Jesus in my heart, and the realisation that I am loved and valued by God through faith in Christ. Everyone around you, created in God’s image, is also a trove of rich, opulent, magnificent, priceless treasure, invaluable PIECES OF EIGHT.

Over the last year I have formed relationships with 240 lost souls from another era. Weather worn faces and palid chalky skin, ghostlike hair, fascinating hands with veins like rivulets of stained ochre, and characters that inform me of the values of another world, with ancient stories of love and faith and perseverance. They haunt the floors with measured steps and walking frames.

I am the Captain, I mean Chaplain, of Shalom, an Aged Care Facility, a “Galleon” of immeasurable worth and I have begun to recover hidden treasure, by helping people realise how valuable they are to Christ. Like the ad says “Priceless! For everything else use Mastercard.” That’s my quest today (no, not to use Mastercard) communicating how valuable be my “240 pieces of eight … Priceless!” …And by the way….So are you.)

Pastor Ross