Posts Tagged ‘Respect’

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Shards of Pain © by Ross Cochrane using GetPaint.net

Matthew 20:18-19 – FACING THE FUTURE

The nausea became too much and I found myself looking into a bowl for several times that day. I thought it must be some gastric bug, but it wasn’t. I admit that my prayerlife was focused on myself that day. “Lord, please heal my body! 

The pain started last Saturday, slowly at first and then it cut deep into my lower stomach in an arc with surging intense bursts (and I had been looking forward to a restful weekend).  

No position in bed on Saturday night would give enough opportunity for sleep and by Sunday I was feeling miserable. No Church, even though my son was preaching. I decided to email my boss and let her know I would not be coming in on Monday. 

By Monday with no respite from the pain I was wondering what was going on; a hernia perhaps, a blockage of some sort and my mind even entertained bowel cancer (as you do)?  

My wife drove me to my doctor, Dr. James. After some painful prodding and questioning, he said, I suppose you expected me to give you a script for chemist shop drugs that will give you relief while I spend another day running some tests. But instead, I am sending you to the emergency department at the Seventh Day Adventist hospital with a suspected Appendicitis attack. They will do the tests much more quickly. I am sure it is to do with your appendix.” My day had changed yet again. We went straight to the hospital.  

From the moment I entered triage, I was treated with such respect and care, starting with Tony, the triage nurse and so many others. They encouraged me to ask my questions. From the ward’s person, to the trainee doctor, Kevin, to nursing staff and the surgeon, Dr. Barto, everyone was so understanding and explained each step. Through all this, my wife, Julie, was there to support me.  

The tests were fairly clear. “You will have the operation to take out your offending appendix at around 7 pm”, said the surgeon, Dr. Barto.  

 

The emotional and mental pain begins for Jesus as He turns towards Jerusalem, knowing exactly what He will go through. He gathers His disciples. He describes what will happen. Unlike me, no care and respect is given. He will be betrayed, condemned, mocked, flogged and crucified with no-one to support Him.  

What anguish must have accompanied this disclosure to His closest friends, but even they seem to show Him no understanding. Instead, they vie for authority in the coming Kingdom with no inkling of comprehension of the concept of servanthood.  

 

There was a space at 4 pm and I was wheeled through the corridors to the operating theatre, and for me, the next thing I remember is waking up in the post-op area and wheeled back to a beautiful room on the 9th floor where I felt euphoric from the anaesthetic and the comforting presence of God and my wife.

 

The offending appendix, I discovered, had been gangrenous. I am grateful to God that when I was helpless, there were those who treated me with care and respect and excellence. I woke the next day to the soft rays of a sunrise through my window.  

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I received care and healing and respect. Jesus received contempt and abuse and disdain. I cannot imagine the torment of inflicted pain that would crush my spirit and body to the point of death. He died, surrounded by the severity of hardened soldiers instead of trusted friends to support Him. They spoke of places of authority at His right and left hand but in the end, they ran away.  

He told them He would rise on the 3rd day. How simple that sounds but in rising again He would wrench the very hatred from a world of sinful opposition and give each mocking face an opportunity to find their way to God through Him. He gave respect where there was none, love where there was only derisive laughter.  

He woke, not like me, from a drug-induced euphoria on a hospital bed, but from the dungeons of death and a stone slab, with a startling rush of breath into His lungs, victory clasped like a scepter in His hand.  

The gangrenous sin seeping its poison in the world with its blackened tendrils of death was cut away and thrown into the void, the offending stench replaced with a sweet-smelling incense to those who put their trust in Christ. 

A gangrenous appendix operation fades into insignificance as I take hold of You, my risen Saviour and grasp just a glimpse of what it must have meant for You to share this disclosure to Your disciples. All I can do is be committed to You who knows the path ahead, even through the valley of death, and enjoy the life you have gifted.  

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Epilogue

What a relief. Jacob reunites with Esau without bloodshed. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

“Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied.” Jacob is keen to say that it is God who has blessed him. Maybe he’s also making it clear, “Keep your hands off, Esau!” only in a more subtle way.

The whole family bows before Esau to show their respect. This isn’t saying, “Esau, we are all coming under your authority”, just simply acknowledging, “we are coming into your territory.”

  1. ENSURE THAT AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED
Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Restitution © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship” (Genesis 33:8 NLT).

Jacob makes it quite clear that he is not coming in any way as an act of aggression as he meets Esau. This time he’s not offering a pot of stew. These animals are a means of restitution for his deceit in the past. This is a tangible way to make amends. But there is something else implied that is another hint at what Jacob has been doing.

“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9 NLT). The fact that Esau has 400 men indicates that he has made a life for himself already, perhaps as a mercenary. He obviously has plenty. But Jacob needs some indication from Esau that he has abandoned his claim to his Father’s blessing.

It is important to Jacob that he shows a gesture of reconciliation, not merely mouth the words.

“But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favour with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10 NLT).

Strange thing to say.

Instead of struggling with Esau, Jacob struggled with God. The struggle with God meant a hip wrenched from its socket, but he did receive God’s blessing.

But why does he describe his meeting with Esau as seeing the face of God? Perhaps he sees it as a blessing. Perhaps the blessing God gave had a specific clause that Esau would not annihilate him and his family. His smile was the face of God in terms of answered prayer. His fight with God substituted for his expected fight with Esau. Perhaps this is the blessing God gave to Jacob.

But I like what the Life Essentials Study Bible says. It suggests that the animals that Jacob gave to Esau amounted to a 10th of all he had, thus being an offering to God and this is why he said: “seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” “Though it cannot be proven from this text, it would not be surprising if Jacob’s herd totaled 5,500 animals and the 550 he gave Esau represented 10 percent of his total assets, fulfilling his vow (Genesis 28:22).”

I really like this thought. He’s not setting Esau up as God, but fulfilling his vow to God to give a tenth of all he had. He did this by giving this offering of restitution for the blessing stolen from Esau. Perhaps this was the reason he gave his promise back in Genesis 28. Perhaps he always intended his tenth to be given to God in this way.

“Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift” (Genesis 33:11 NLT). 

Esau can see that God has blessed Jacob, so he accepts the gift.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe says “He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper” but this seems an unnecessary assumption. No pauper is able to offer such a generous gift. And if anything, God humbled Jacob, not exalted him, in his encounter. Jacob experienced a blessing with a limp, not a crown with a title.

In accepting the gift, the rift between Esau and Jacob is requited. Esau doesn’t say, “I demand my birthright and blessing back” but submits to Jacob’s favour as restitution for the deceptive manner of their taking, in kind.

Living as an alien to God’s promises for over 20 years, Jacob was abused for his labour but also enriched. And he enters the land God promises, injured and blessed.

There is nothing automatic about the blessing of God to Jacob. He didn’t simply inherit it from his father and he certainly didn’t achieve it through deceit. It could only enter his life through consent and grace. There is always a risk when You struggle with God. It is the greatest conflict you will ever face.

Years later, Jesus, descended from the line of Jacob and faced the greatest conflict ever faced by anyone, as He died on a Cross for our sin. The Cross is a crutch for those who realize that they walk with a limp. It is the reconciling plus sign for the human race. We need faith in Christ to take the journey God intends us to travel. It takes us into the promises of God for our lives.

God is not yet through with Jacob. This is a stepping stone to an ongoing journey in receiving all that God has promised, not just a happy ending to a feel-good movie. As we have seen in Jacob’s past, he has a tendency to make short-term choices which cause long-term pain, but through obedience he has arrived in the promised land. But he hasn’t completely arrived in terms of obedience, as he is yet to discover. (But that it for another time).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 16

Jacob is leading the way concerning this potentially volatile situation with his brother Esau. What happens next is all part of the puzzle of this remarkable story.

“So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last” (Genesis 33:2 NLT).

Jacob puts those he loves most at the back, so if they have to run, then they’ll have a better chance, perhaps.

I am amazed at how many commentators say Jacob goes back to scheming at this point. He’s not simply going to offer those he loves to front up with Esau first! He has to put his wives and children somewhere. The Bible tells us where. Does that mean he is scheming and not trusting in God? Give him a break. He has more obvious flaws than this.

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Objectivity not favouritism © Ross Cochrane

  1. REMAIN OBJECTIVE (Genesis 33:3).

It’s not scheming that is the problem here. It is favouritism. Jacob has a favourite wife and a favourite son. It is fairly obvious to everyone that he is distancing the most loved from danger.

Later, Joseph’s brothers show their dislike for this favouritism and Jacob once more will learn the hard way. He is preparing the ground for a day of discontent. Showing favouritism and a lack of objectivity will inevitably lead to further conflict.

That changes nothing of the fact that Jacob has come a long way concerning his faith. He is going to go meet Esau and 400 men. That’s not exactly a lack of faith. He has obeyed God and has prepared well to get this far.

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Respect © Ross Cochrane

  1. RESPECT YOUR RIVAL

“Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him” (Genesis 33:3 NLT).

I like this. Jacob doesn’t try to hide behind his family. He goes on ahead of them to meet Esau and his 400.

Why does he bow down seven times? Is this extreme respect? Custom? This is an ancient protocol for meeting a king. Jacob, God’s diplomat, bows down. Apart from showing cultural respect for Esau whose territory he was entering, it is almost worship. I’m sure that as Jacob bowed, he was madly praying that God would stop Esau from killing him. Perhaps it was God he was connecting himself with. Stay with this thought until later because I believe here, we have a hint at what Jacob has probably been doing all along.

Nevertheless, it is confusing. According to the prophetic blessing, Esau, the elder, was meant to serve Jacob, the younger. (Genesis 27:29). His time has obviously not yet come.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) adds some light by saying, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” But this is not the full story. There is something more at stake here.

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Reconciliation © Ross Cochrane

  1. MAKE CHOICES TOWARDS RECONCILIATION

“Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.” 

Hate had obviously dissipated in Esau through the years. The fight with God the previous night was the only fight that Jacob would face that day. It seems it became a substitute for the fight he expected with Esau. Both men have changed.

So here is a culmination unexpected to say the least. Jacob bows in respect rather than deceitful arrogance and Esau embraces him with love rather than expected anger.

What a relief. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

No doubt commentators will read this as a sign of weakness in both men. Some, like the famous reformist, John Calvin, suggest that God has forced Esau to be kind towards Jacob, but it is not necessary to take away a person’s will for Esau to respond well to Jacob. A change has taken place in Esau. Even without faith, Esau’s anger had time to dissipate over the years. He is ready to move on.

But it is what is said next that gives us a further hint as to what Jacob has been doing with this encounter all along. What is it? Find out by reading the Epilogue of this Story – Part 17.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 32:3-4 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 2

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

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

  1. DON’T PROCRASTINATE, PREPARE WELL

 

Time short1.jpg© Hourglass with watch parts. by Ross Cochrane

“Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom” (Genesis 32:3 NLT).

He sends messengers ahead. Why didn’t he go himself? Let’s face it. When death threats have been made, it makes more sense to send neutral parties. They travel to Seir in Edom; the territory of Esau, South of the Dead Sea. Good move Jacob!

Take action now. As so often is the way, help arrives when we get up and do something. Angels came as Jacob “started on his way”. Sometimes we just have to make a choice to move before God comes to meet with us more directly. Mind you, it took Jacob twenty years to get to this point!

Jacob is a wordsmith. He crafts what he wants to say so as not to inflame any residual anger in his confrontation with Esau.

  1. SPEAK WITH RESPECT AND HUMILITY

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© Respect and Humility by Ross Cochrane

“He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban,…” (Genesis 32:4 NLT).

Why does Jacob call Esau his master? Some say Jacob is despising his birthright which gave him rulership of the family, just as Esau had despised it by giving it away. They say Jacob is forsaking his father’s blessing by calling himself Esau’s servant, but give him a break! Isn’t it more likely that he is simply being polite? He is humbly showing respect. It doesn’t hurt to show respect. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Jacob has been away for a long time. This is Esau’s home territory. He wants to enter on Esau’s terms, not just barge in with the arrogance of a fool and provoke hostility. He crafts his message carefully. There are no threats or judgments, just a wisely worded diplomatic message.

This is a picture of servanthood that one day his descendant Jesus would exemplify. Jesus, the servant ruler tells His disciples, Mark 9:35 (NLT) “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

The time inevitably will come in our lives when God teaches us leadership through unpretentious servanthood and diplomacy, rather than insisting on our rights. We cannot know how to lead if we do not ourselves know what it means to submit.

Jacob also teaches us about focus in the midst of conflict (Coming soon, Part 3).

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:14-18 – HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS – Revisited

He was having a biopsy on a lump. The doctor was concerned and rightly so. It turned out to be bowel cancer, a devastating discovery and as we walked into my office he asked me for my support in prayer. Of course I prayed, then and most days since, through the biopsies and tests and surgery and soon the Chemotherapy. Many others join us in prayer. He is part of our tribe. We love him.

Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefiles.org, and FilterForge.org

Image created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefiles.org, and FilterForge.org

I have been reading an excellent blog recently at http://wp.me/p4V5We-1R called Beautiful Life With Cancer. Have you experienced a life-threatening illness? I would be interested to find out what it was that helped you the most?

HOW DO YOU SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH A LIFE THREATENING ILLNESS?

I wonder what it would be like if I had asked the Father in Mark 9:14 that question as he was trying to find answers for his son. Imagine an interview with him.

We are talking to David today, whose son recently experienced a life-threatening illness. David, thanks for talking with me today. Could you tell us how your son came to find answers?

Certainly. I had heard about a great Physician who was visiting in our area and I went out to meet with Him to see if He could help my son. When we arrived nine of His team had gathered a crowd around them but they were not able to help us, although they tried. They spoke about Jesus and were arguing with some Scribes.

So what Jesus found when He came down the mountain was an ARGUMENT. I don’t know why they were arguing but I do know that it wasn’t helping anyone find healing that morning. In the middle of the argument was my little boy who desperately needed healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The negativity of the scribes almost sabotaged the future of my son. He needed people to be PRESENT, but he needed POSITIVE PRESENCE to give him hope. I knew somehow even then that Jesus would …

1. BE PRESENT AND BE POSITIVE

Many say “I’ll be there for you no matter what!” but of course they can not. Jesus keeps His promise – He will never leave us for forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet Him. Most people want to get away from NEGATIVE people and this crowd was no exception. They ran to Jesus and away from the Scribes. Would you want people like the Scribes, or someone like Jesus, to speak into your life when you are sick? I know that I wanted Jesus.

“What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked. In effect Jesus was saying – This isn’t a time for argument. It’s time for COMPASSION. I already knew that Negativity wasn’t going to heal my son.

That’s when I spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk.” My son couldn’t talk. I brought him to Jesus and WAS HIS VOICE when he had none. I verbalised my deepest prayer on my son’s behalf. I knew that I could…

2. BE HIS VOICE BEFORE GOD.

He was not able to pray but I could pray for him. And God helps us in our weakness so we know what God wants us to pray for (Romans 8:26-28).

I described to Jesus the spiritual oppression taking place in my son’s life … whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. My son was sick physically, emotionally and spiritually. He had a DEMON plaguing his life. His spiritual illness led him to have physical illness.

I was willing to do anything to find him the healing he so desperately needed. I told Jesus how I had gone to His disciples. I said, “I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

The Scribes couldn’t help, but I didn’t give up. The disciples couldn’t help, but I still didn’t give up. Then I finally came to Jesus. He gave me a second opinion and a second chance. Even if you are disappointed with His followers, you can still go directly to Him.

Jesus said, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” I don’t think Jesus was talking to the disciples or me when He said “You faithless people”. He was looking at the Scribes. Their NEGATIVITY had created an ATMOSPHERE OF UNBELIEF that had limited the ability of His disciples to heal my boy. Negativity certainly isn’t one of the spiritual gifts. It definitely doesn’t provide the atmosphere for a miracle to take place.

Jesus said “Bring the boy to me.” This was the best choice I have ever made, to

3. INTRODUCE HIM TO CHRIST.

Jesus took my son away from the Scribes and their negativity.

But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw my son into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. The evil spirit felt comfortable in the negativity of the Scribes and in the middle of an argument, but very uncomfortable in the presence of Jesus. I know now that Sin and evil are always exposed in the presence of Jesus, but so is forgiveness and healing. We can all reach out to Christ.

Jesus asked me “How long has this been happening?” I replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. I described to Jesus what had been HAPPENING IN THE PAST. This spirit was making my son suicidal.

But Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be RULED BY OUR PAST. He gave my son and me a POSITIVE FUTURE.

I said to Jesus “Have mercy on us and help us…” The illness had affected me too, so I said have mercy on US. I know that families with who look after someone who has a life-threatening illness need support too. I strongly identified with my son. I…

4. PUT MYSELF IN HIS SHOES.

I had empathy rather than sympathy. When I brought my son, I also came to Jesus. We both needed spiritual help.

I said “Have mercy on US and help US, if you can.” Jesus asked me “What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Anything is possible if a person believes.”

What Jesus was saying is that MY OUTLOOK IS DETERMINED BY WHAT I’M LOOKING OUT FROM. I had to examine whether my perspective was one of unbelief or faith? I was encouraged to respond in faith so that as I brought my son I could also …

5. ENCOURAGE HIM TO RESPOND IN FAITH

Jesus was NOT AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT FAITH. Jesus changed the atmosphere when He spoke personally to me about faith in Him. He wanted me to CO-OPERATE with Him to get my son healed.

I so much wanted to believe. I cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” I had to be honest with Jesus so I admitted I had only a speck of faith and needed help with the rest. We always need to LIFT OUR EXPERIENCE TO THE LEVEL OF OUR BELIEF, rather than bring our faith down to the level of our experience (Brian Houston).

All we need is MUSTARD SEED FAITH in a HUGE God. It’s an active PARTICIPATION with God to grow and be involved in His purposes for our lives.

God is more concerned with the SPIRITUAL sickness of our lives than even physical sicknesses because He wants us to have eternal life. PHYSICAL HEALING IS TEMPORAL. SPIRITUAL HEALING IS ETERNAL.

When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, He rebuked the evil spirit.

He didn’t rebuke me for my lack of faith. He gave me hope.

He didn’t rebuke my son for allowing a demon into his life. He healed him.

He got to the heart of the matter and rebuked the demon and cast it out. When He dealt with the spiritual matter then my son was healed physically and emotionally.

He said “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” He said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” Then the spirit screamed and threw my son into another violent convulsion and left him. My son appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.”

They PRESUMED THE WORST but Jesus taught me to…

6. EXPECT THE BEST.

Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. Then He gave him back to me.

From that moment on he was well. What an amazing outcome. What an amazing God.

Thanks for sharing your story with us David, but tell me “WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE NOT HEALED?”

I cannot pretend to know what God is doing when someone is not healed. All I know is that when I pray and support and show compassion in Jesus name I can leave things in God’s hands. I trust Him to know what He’s doing.

I do know one thing. Jesus is interested in HEALING US SPIRITUALLY. That’s the ETERNAL solution. A relationship with Christ. He invites us into relationship with Him.

It the most wonderful thing for my son when Jesus reached down and took hold of him and he opened his eyes. Jesus face was the first person he saw after he was cured. That was life-changing!

Pastor Ross

MATTHEW 15:1-20 – CATCH 22

Catch 22Image created by the author

Catch 22
Image created by the author

The door is open as I knock but the curtain is pulled across. I don’t know what to expect as I walk towards him but find him sitting beside his bed. He looks up with a welcoming smile and says “And who might you be?” As I sit with John he confides with me about his life as a soldier and a decorated officer. He is a respected man who saw the horrors of war. Now he wages a battle with cancer with brave dignity.

We laugh and talk together for some time with easy conversation, though his breathing is laboured. Then, when he knows that I am willing to listen he opens up to me concerning his dilemma. John (not his real name) received a visit from his family yesterday. They took the news of their father’s cancer with pragmatic stoicism, but it has been 3 years and he has lingered until the cancer has spread throughout his body. He is now in palliative care, breathing from only one of his lungs. On finding out that it is now difficult for him to eat, his sons tell their father that it is time for him to give up and accept that he will die. They have had enough. They don’t want to see him suffer, or is it that their inheritance is being eaten up by the cancer too? “Stop eating and fade away! It would be better for all of us. We have a life to live!” The registered nurse is asked to stop his meals but she refuses.

He wants to end the misery his family feels, but fights to hold onto every precious second of life. He cried a little when they left him with the extra weight of this problem and he is not a man who cries. Must he compete between family and eternity, life and love? Caught in a double bind, a false dilemma; forced to choose between two conflicting demands, he is left to question his very existence and becomes increasingly distressed. He is standing in no-mans-land and bullets fly at him from both directions. Is he ready to face God?

In Matthew 15:3, when the Pharisees challenge Jesus about His disciples not practising ceremonial hand washing, Jesus responds by challenging their selfishness and the False Dilemmas they create. He begins by saying, “Why do your rules and traditions contradict what God is asking of you?” What’s the use of a habit, ritual or tradition that actually cuts off my ability to love God and love others?

Jesus says, “For instance, God says, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honour their parents…” (Matthew 15:5 NLT).

It seems even God can be used as an excuse to devalue our parents. Does Jesus agree with the death sentence for not honouring father and mother? So easy for me to misfire my focus with cultural ethics on capital punishment. That’s not the main thrust of what He is trying to say to me. Jesus accepts the extreme gravity of this law without wanting to water it down because it provides stark contrast with giving value to my relationship with my parents? Dishonouring parents by pitting them in competition with God leaves both our lives in peril if it came down to the law. In an age when taking care of our parents is not always valued, Jesus says, “…you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NLT). Our own selfish standards and demands bear a death sentence in so many ways, but especially when we carry them into our relationships.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:7-9 NLT) 

Tears flow down her cheeks and helplessness is written into her expression. My wife looks at me after a phonecall to her parents who live in an aged care facility and who are becoming more and more frail. Her love for God translates into the honour she shows to them. She values them, visits them, cares for them without using God or other selfish demands as an excuse to abandon them. God is not pitted in competition with my responsibilities concerning other relationships.

Matthew 26:39 (NLT) says that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus “…bowed with His face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.”” Jesus faced His own Catch 22, wanting to bring forgiveness and eternal life to us yet understanding that the only way to accomplish this would be to die upon the Cross for our sins. Easter celebrates His victory over such a dilemma. His love and obedience to God the Father led Him to the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead defeated the power of the Catch 22 caused by our sin.

“Lord, so often You deal with the catch 22’s, selfish habits, behaviours, and self-imposed dilemmas I have established in my life by exposing my false assumptions and beliefs. Forgive me. Correct me. Let nothing get in the way of what You desire for me. Rid me of the false demands I build around my life and leave me with the simplicity of loving Christ and loving others. Thankyou Lord for loving me unselfishly enough to die for my sins, and bringing forgiveness to my life. Help me honour You from my heart and in my actions, words and thoughts as I relate with others today.” 

Pastor Ross

If this article has resonated with you, would you please pass it forward to those whose lives you think may also be touched by Words of Life. Thanks and God bless you.

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.