Posts Tagged ‘Sacrifice’

 

The Cost3.jpg

The Cost © Ross Cochrane 

 

Matthew 18:5-6 – THE COST

Jesus says in Matthew 18:4-6 (NLT) “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf (Greek: in My Name) is welcoming Me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. 

Many people look at this verse and think it is talking about treating children well. It is not, although it goes without saying that we should do so. This is not talking about receiving little children in general, but receiving those who become like little children and who have believed and trusted in Christ.

To welcome those who humbly respond in obedience to Christ with a childlike faith as new followers of Christ is like welcoming Christ Himself. Jesus brings equality to a new level when He makes these statements. He says in effect these new Christians represent Me.

The old man could not escape it. It would be a sin not to allow Christ to direct his life.

Becoming a Christian would mean certain ostracism by his family and by his community if it became known. Even Jesus said, “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed” (Matthew 10:21, NLT). This was true in his community when someone responded to Christ.

He had seen it before. Unbelieving family members would become like a cult, applying pressure in the form of psychological and physical abuse. He knew that if he gave his life to Christ he would face the possibility of death, and the certainty of rejection.

“How can you do this?” his wife shouted at him, “What about our children? If you become a Christ-follower, we will all be in danger. I will let the authorities know. I warn you. If you love your family, please don’t do this!”

What will I do now? he thought, l love my family but I also love Christ! How awful it is to be forced to choose between them, and even worse to face being betrayed by my own family, but, deep down, I know that I must follow Christ. The love for my family will never diminish but I must ask, ‘To who do I owe my allegiance?’ And if it is Christ, then I must ask for His help to keep my family from suffering?

In the days to come he would read the words of Jesus in the book of Matthew (10:37, 40 NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine.”…”Anyone who receives you receives Me, and anyone who receives Me receives the Father who sent Me.”

In Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT) he read, “Everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:15, 28).

He read of others who were persecuted for becoming Christians in Philippians 1:29 (NLT) “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.”

Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 (NLT) “And all nations will hate you because you are My followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” He still longed to have peace with God. Perhaps God would help him bear persecution and rejection!

In Matthew 16:24 (NLT) Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.” It doesn’t sound all that rewarding, Lord, he thought, but then in John 16:33 (NLT) he read, “Take heart for I have overcome the world”. And in Romans 8:37 he read “I am more than a conqueror in Christ.”

In Matthew 10:39 (NLT) he read how Jesus says “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.” He thought, The key to handling pressure in my life is not to compromise in terms of my allegiance. It will mean standing firm in my resolve to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and come under His authority and direction no matter what the world throws at me. It will mean finding victory over every circumstance in this life in Him.

The invitation that Christ gives to follow Him will involve a cost. The choice you make will change your life forever.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 64

When Ahithophel arrived in Hebron, Absalom was already offering sacrifices. The animals had been taken from the royal flock. Absalom saw each animal as a symbol of all that he would make his father sacrifice to fulfil his own destiny. More blood is yet to be spilled.

As soon as he discovered that Absalom intended a military coup, Ahithophel pledged his allegiance. The conspiracy grew stronger. Men of Israel had only praise as they spoke of this handsome young king and they continued to spread the word about Absalom.

The trumpets blew and the crowds gathered. Some thought that David himself was announcing his son as king and that Absalom had his blessing, but for whatever reason, they began to flock to Hebron – the innocent sheep of Absalom’s sacrifice.

No-one noticed the man who returned secretly to Jerusalem to report to Hushai. Hushai warned David of the conspiracy immediately.

Not wanting any bloodshed, King David decided an immediate evacuation of the city. Hushai remained in Jerusalem waiting for further information on Ahithophel from a second messenger. He was still there when all who had chosen to follow king David left the city. Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

David wept. As he had approached the summit of the Mount of Olives, head covered and barefoot he had looked across to the city of Jerusalem and could no longer contain his tears. He spoke prophetic words that found their truest expression many years hence in the voice of the Son of David, Jesus, who stood in the same place and wept over the city.

This day it seemed that both voices, centuries apart, cried in unison, “Jerusalem, Oh, Jerusalem, who kills her prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, the way a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate. For I say to you, from now on you shall not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

The presence of God descended upon this place of worship and all the people who were with the king covered their heads and wept also.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

On the Mount of Olives, Ziba met David with a couple of saddled donkeys. David could not see Mephibosheth and so he had asked, “Where is your master?”

“He has decided to stay in Jerusalem, I could not convince him to come with me, my lord king. He kept saying, ‘Now that David is gone, Israel will restore my father’s kingdom to me.'” Ziba looked embarrassed. David was annoyed. I treated him well and he repays me with such disrespect.

King Saul’s son, Jonathan, had proved to be David’s most faithful, trusted and loved friend. It had been an honour to show kindness to his son, Mephibosheth. The land that belonged to king Saul was given to him and Ziba had been instructed to cultivate it. Mephibosheth ate at David’s own table.

“My lord, I have brought you some of the produce of my master’s land.” Ziba proceeded to unload the donkeys. He had brought two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clusters of raisins, a hundred summer fruits, and a jug of wine. “The donkeys are for the kings family to ride, and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become faint in the wilderness.”

Although David was disappointed with Mephibosheth, he was grateful for the supplies. “Because you have shown me kindness despite your master’s unfaithfulness to me, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now yours.” Ziba could not believe his ears. He prostrated himself on the ground to show his gratitude and loyalty.

“Let me always find favour in your eyes, my lord, the king!”

It seemed as if Hushai had entered into a sanctuary as he walked into camp that day and made his way through the guards to David. He presented himself by prostrating himself before the king. As a sign of his grief for his king, he had torn the top section of his garments and put the dust of the road upon his head. David took him by the hand and raised him up, giving him the hug of a respected friend. Hushai said, “My lord, it has been confirmed that Ahithophel is one of the conspirators with Absalom.” David turned again towards Jerusalem and said, “O Lord, I pray, make Ahithophel’s counsel be foolishness.”

David trusted Hushai and wasted no time in giving him a special mission for the sake of intelligence. He said, “You will be of no use to me here, Hushai. Go back to Jerusalem. You must thwart the counsel of Ahithophel in whatever way you can. Be my ears. Whatever you hear from the king’s house, report it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Their two sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, will be your feet and will send me everything that you hear.”

Hushai left immediately and found another way back to Jerusalem so as not to arouse the suspicion of Absalom’s spies. He walked into Jerusalem just before Absalom arrived.


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 62

Absalom could think of no better time to make his move than now. His plan was perfect and his father would be so easily deceived. Going to the king, he said, “I made a vow to the Lord while I was in Geshur. I told Him that if ever He brought me back to Jerusalem, then I would serve Him. God has answered my prayer and I need to go to Hebron, to my birthplace, to offer sacrifices. May I take leave from my duties here?”

“Of course!” I am delighted. This was the first time he knew his son to speak so openly about serving the Lord. He decided to postpone his celebration and would not make his announcement of Absalom’s reinstatement as a counsellor until he had returned.

Had Absalom known the plans of his father to re-instate him, perhaps he would have adjusted his own strategy for power. “Thankyou, my lord.”

David placed his hand on Absalom’s shoulder and said, “Son, when you were born in Hebron, I named you Absalom, “Father of peace.” Now return to your birthplace in peace.”

This struck Absalom as rather ironic. Peace is not exactly what I have in mind, Father. Far from it. You are such a fool! Israel’s 40 years of wilderness wanderings under your rule is almost over and you can’t see it! It is time for a new generation to enter the promised land! Now you will watch from the battlements of your Jericho as your kingdom collapses around you and you will be forced to witness the coming of a new sun rising in Israel!

Messengers were sent immediately throughout all the tribes of Israel, to spread the news that Absalom was succeeding David as king.

The message was well received. “Finally, a man who will give justice to Israel”, they said. They would listen for the sound of the trumpet and pay allegiance to Absalom as king in Hebron.

To achieve his purposes through a sacrifice seemed appropriate, he thought, as he rode out of Jerusalem in magnificent splendour. He had planned things well. One step at a time. Now the finale.

As his hair had continued to grow, Absalom, now back in a position of influence, had begun drawing more and more attention to himself. Riding in a chariot that he had acquired  along with some of the best of the king’s horses, the image was complete. Fifty of his best men ran before him. On this occasion, two hundred men followed as they moved out of Jerusalem and towards Hebron. The sight was impressive. He gained the attention of everyone in David’s kingdom as a young man of importance. The son of king David. Is this the man next in line to be king? they thought.

The sacrifice is being prepared.

Each of the fifty men who were running at a steady pace before the chariot had been specially trained for months. They would obey Absalom without question and had pledged their loyalty to him. For over two years they had been his secret intelligence, informing him of everything that went on in and around the palace. It was now time to dispatch one of them as a messenger back towards Jerusalem. He could think of no-one more suited or trusted to send than a man from Gallim.

“You will be my eyes and ears. Do your job well and I will soon return to you that which is rightfully yours.” His name was Paltiel. He had been one of the best of Absalom’s spies, mature and clever, but with a cold heart like the man he served. His wife, Michal, had been forcibly taken from him by the king and with a little help from Absalom, he had maintained his rage towards David ever since. “You have the eyes of a hawk and a quick mind, but for now, you must fly in the shadows.”

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 58

The plan had taken months of preparation and even before his triumphal entry back into David’s presence, Absalom knew the pathway he intended to take. Firstly he had to gain for himself a reputation as one who cared for the people. Easy enough. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

His father, the king, refused to see him face to face. As he had walked home, fuming with revenge, he devised an additional strategy. It was simple but effective, and fetched the faint flicker of a smile to his otherwise dark demeanor.

Absalom went immediately to the Tent of Meeting, his long hair blowing in the breeze and a good size crowd gathered out of curiosity. They had all heard of his return and he was now a celebrity.

As he stood before the priest he asked for the razor and the kings scales to be brought. He was there to complete his Nazirite vow but so much more interested in symbolising his father’s injustice. “My banishment is at an end!” he shouted and the atmosphere was electric with cheering and well wishes.

Some of the women were crying as Absalom presented offerings as if he was presenting them to the Lord: a lamb without defect, a ewe-lamb without blemish and a ram without fault, as the law required. He saw these animals not as sacrifices but as symbols of himself. Flawless. I am the innocent victim of your injustice, father, and you will pay! “Behold, the sacrifice!” he shouted. He was handsome and without guile and the people saw him as a hero returned, and many thought he was despised unjustly by his father the king.

Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he shaved off his hair and weighed it according to the Royal standard of king David before the people, as a measure of his humiliation. It was then burned in the fire as a sacrifice. It was a very moving event. It worked. It gave him much favour in the eyes of the people. His hair weighed about 200 shekels worth of pity by the kings own scales.

He felt like Samson, shaved of his hair and now imprisoned in his own house, blinded to the sight of his father’s favour. And like Samson, he determined to get his revenge. You will pay, father. You will pay.

Another vow was made that day. His hair began to grow again, along with his popularity, but for him, each inch represented the growing resentment he felt towards his father. He endured two full years in Jerusalem, without any contact.

Absalom took great pains to associate himself with the important people of David’s court and spent time building relationships. Ahithophel was a key target, since he was the grandfather of Bathsheba.

Although David had apologised to Ahithophel for the disgrace brought on his family through adultery with his granddaughter, Surely, you want revenge, thought Absalom, to avenge the loss of reputation. What about the murder of your son-in-law? Absalom knew he could work on these areas of hurt.

Rising early each morning, Absalom stood beside the road that led to the city gate. He was here to greet anyone who came to the city with a case to be heard by the king for judgement. Most of them knew who he was, so his attention to them in a time of need made them feel important and cared for.

Those who recognised Absalom immediately came and prostrated themselves on the ground before him. He reached down and lifted them up, hugged and kiss them in the warm greeting of an equal and a friend.

“What city are you from?” he asked, because he was only interested in those who were from Israel. If they were, he questioned them about their case and showed great interest in what they had to say. Then he added, “I can see that your claims are valid. As you are probably aware, I am a man who has been trained through the hard process of justice. If you know anything of me you will know that to be true. But my journey so far has made me well acquainted with the law. You have a very good case but I’m not sure that you will get the justice you deserve. It’s a pity that you have no advocate before the king.”

It worked each time. The man would look to him and say, “My lord, are you not able to defend me before the king?”

Absalom would laugh and then look seriously at the man. He would say, “If only what you are saying could be done. If I were appointed as judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and believe me, I would give him the justice he deserves.” And so the scenario had been repeated each day.

I have stolen the hearts of the men of Israel from you, father. He was seen as a man of justice and great wisdom, but also as a friend. Now the deception was almost complete.

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 44

“I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me.” Samuel had said.

Shimeah was in a melancholic mood as he spoke with his older brother Eliab in the presence of Shimeah’s son, Jonadab, who listened with avid interest as they remembered the day, long ago, when Samuel the prophet arrived at Bethlehem.

“The elders of our district wondered why this prophet of the Lord had come. Samuel made a point of consecrating my father, Jesse. And then each of my brothers.” Why did my knees begin to shake when he came to me? “We had all been invited to the sacrifice. No-one asked why. The authority of this man was too great to ignore, so our father obeyed without a word of argument.”

“When he looked at each of us,” said Shimeah, “… it was something about his eyes. They seemed to look into your soul. When he came to Eliab it was as if he was just about to speak some great word of prophecy.” What made him hesitate? He seemed confused.

“Samuel looked to our father, Jesse. Jesse called Abinadab, the second eldest of my brothers and had him pass in front of Samuel. I heard him say very clearly, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’”

“It was only then, at that moment that I realised Samuel was here on a mission, and that I was next in line. I thought, ‘If it wasn’t Eliab or Abinadab, then it must be me he wants’. I really thought he was going to choose me”. He laughed. Why did he pass by me? “After all, the three of us had been chosen for king Saul’s army recently, but that didn’t seem to make any difference to Samuel.” He simply dismissed me. ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ “I am relieved in a way, I suppose,” But why didn’t he choose me? His heart sank again as he remembered how his father continued to parade his sons before Samuel.

Eliab took up the story, “I remember it like it was yesterday. Each time Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’

“But David wasn’t there, was he?” said Jonadab. He knew the story well but loved hearing it again since his father and uncle had actually been there.

No. Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

Our father replied, ‘No. My youngest is still tending sheep.’

‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’ Jesse had obeyed.

 “David looked so bewildered when he saw Samuel,” Eliab said. “Somehow they seemed to recognise each other but I’m sure they had never met. David had an air of expectancy and excitement like someone who has come home after a long time away. Samuel had looked into the handsome face of David and finally knew. “He reached for the horn of oil that he carried and anointed him in the presence of us all.”

“I did not understand fully the implication of what Samuel was doing all those years ago. It all makes sense now, of course,” said Eliab. Does it? thought Shimeah.

Shimeah knew that it had been Samuel who had once anointed Saul as king and although he too did not quite understand the significance of what Samuel had been doing that day with David, he felt a pang of resentment rising up towards his younger brother. Why did the Lord choose him? “He was not experienced in warfare in Saul’s army. He just tended sheep, which of course has it’s challenges,” but hardly enough to qualify David to be chosen by God to be king. “But it’s true. David was somehow different from that day on.” A difference that showed up when Shimeah had been at war with the Philistines.

Genesis 4 – Part 1 – “HOW CAN I KNOW THAT I AM ACCEPTED?”

Unacceptable!

They had behaved badly in class but they were equally disruptive in the detention room, swearing, acting tough and defying anything I said with a smart comment. Unacceptable behaviour. I have never really had a problem with anger, but the closest I came was in that classroom. Teaching in a highschool can be stressful at times, and I was being hooked into their GAME.

It was a game that is commonly played in a classroom and if you could give it a name it would be “Make me!” or “I don’t care and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

If these guys had been in the garden of Eden and told not to eat the fruit they would have said to God “You can’t make me do anything! I’ll do what I like and I don’t care what you think!”

In Genesis 4 Cain reminds me of those guys, because he is playing a REBELLIOUS GAME with God, only things get way out of hand and he ends up killing his brother Abel. It hasn’t taken very long for the first murder to be committed, only one generation away from Adam and Eve. Cold blooded, reckless, callous, uncaring and unacceptable.

It’s interesting that Cain and Abel BOTH bring an offering to the Lord. Why? God didn’t tell them to do it. There’s no law that says they MUST do it. They just did. Abel’s offering was ACCEPTED and Cain’s offering was not.

Why is Cain’s offering UNACCEPTABLE? Does he bring rotten fruit and veges in defiant rebellion against God rather than bringing the best of the crop? Or is this a sin offering where he needs animals for SACRIFICE? We are not told, but we are told that God considers that Cain has not done the right thing and his attitude is also out of line.

Why does he come in the first place? It beats me! Why do some people come to Church when it is clear that their lives are up the creek and they don’t really have any relationship with God, nor desire one? I don’t know! To gain points with God? Maybe.

Whatever reason Cain has, it doesn’t go down well with God. Nobody can expect to come to God with their own agenda, their own works, efforts, fruits, ways, religion, or ritual. It doesn’t work that way. You have to come to God on His terms, not by trying to impress Him with our imperfect thoughts and ways.

A woman I visited yesterday in hospital asked me “How do I know that I am ACCEPTED BY GOD?” It seems that God establishes something with Cain and Abel that’s important. He will never accept you apart from the SHEDDING OF BLOOD of substitutionary innocent sacrifice. The BLOOD OF CHRIST Himself is shed so that you can be accepted by God, and He is the perfect and only substitutionary sacrifice necessary.

You want to bring something to God? Try to bring the fruit of your own good works and it won’t cut muster with God. First go to the Cross and accept the sacrifice that was made for you. Then instead of trying to impress God with your good works you will serve God because you see yourself for who you really are, a sinner saved by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

The “POSB Commentary” says “The clearest explanation as to why Abel offered an animal sacrifice and was approved by God is that God did institute salvation by animal sacrifice with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were bound to have taught their sons to approach God through animal sacrifice. But only Abel approached God properly. Cain, as so many down through history, rebelled and did not.”

God bless you Church as you realize you can know for certain that you can be ACCEPTED by God! My acceptance is based on what Christ has done for me, not on my own good works.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTES!

Christmas Substitute

In the very centre of Christmas cheer, amidst the silver bells, coloured baubles and lights, enormous sparkling chandeliers, banners and wreathes and beside a gigantic Christmas tree, there in the middle of everything stands a huge throne that dominates the centre of the plaza. No, it’s not for Jesus. It is for Santa Claus, enthroned as the CHRISTMAS SUBSTITUTE of a naughty and nice world.

The nativity scene is hard to find, tucked away in a glass case around the corner somewhere. At least in Australia we still have them. It’s not that we don’t want to include Jesus, the Saviour of the world, in the celebrations, it’s just that there is no room in the … well you know what I mean. It seems you still have to search for Jesus, like wise men of old, without the help of the star. So much for Matthew 6:33 (NLT) “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” 

I’m not sure Jesus would go for the big red throne adorned with tinsel and holly anyway. The stable seems to indicate that God is less interested in all the frills and more interested in ruling over the hearts and lives of those willing to love, honour and obey the real King of kings and Lord of lords, people such as Abraham.

In Genesis 22, Isaac is the promised son, whom Abraham loves. It is interesting to me that this is the first time the word “love” is used in the Bible and it is in connection with the love of a father for his son. The New Testament makes it clear that this real life story is also a picture of Christ, the Son of God, whom God loves. In Matthew 3:17 (NLT) God says about Jesus “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.”

You know the story. God stops Abraham from killing his only son at the last minute and provides a SUBSTITUTE SACRIFICE. In Genesis 22:13 it says, “Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering IN PLACE OF his son.” God provides for us even in the most dreadful of circumstances.

Substitution. Isaac is Abrahams only son of the promise. Jesus is God’s only Son, the promised Messiah. The ram SUBSTITUTES for Isaac. The lamb of God, Jesus Christ, SUBSTITUTES for me. Isaac carries the wood. Christ carries the cross. Abraham offers Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Years later, Solomon’s Temple is built on Mt Moriah, where many sacrifices take place. Christ is offered up on the same mountain ridge, once and for all for my sins. Abraham travels three days and received back his son. Christ spends 3 days in the tomb and He is resurrected. Abraham calls Mt. Moriah Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide.” God provides for Abraham. God provides a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE for me in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God says to Abraham in effect, “Because you have not withheld anything from Me, even the one person you loved the most, then I will not withhold anything from you concerning my purposes.”

Abraham’s submission to God’s will, in an ultimate act of worship, pictures beautifully the SUBSTITUTIONARY WORK of Christ. In Matthew 26:39 (NLT) Jesus says “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.” Hebrews 5:8 (NLT) says “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned OBEDIENCE from the things He suffered.” 

Abraham’s obedience to God is a direct application of Proverbs 3:5 (NLT) in the most trying of circumstances “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT) asks, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your OBEDIENCE to His voice? Listen! OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

God bless you as you as you abdicate the throne this CHRISTMAS. I object that Santa has become a SUBSTITUTE for Jesus, but on closer inspection behind the beard and the red suit, if you look hard enough you will see me, bowing to culture and the “naughty and nice things” of the world. Sitting on a throne of my own making.

But I choose to abdicate! I choose to take off the mask and look for the manger. Forget the naughty and nice. I just want to be Ho, Ho, Holy! (Sorry, couldn’t resist). I choose His righteousness as a SUBSTITUTE for my sinfulness. I realise that all I have to offer Him is more akin to a stable, not a palace, or some fancy throne, yet here in this place, without all the frills of a Christmas substitute, I choose to recognise Jesus as my King.

Now with that established, let’s have a lot of fun! Have a happy holiday but most of all a Merry CHRISTmas!

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Genesis 22:1-11 – WHEN IT COMES TO THE CRUNCH?

Some Time LaterDay after day the drudgery of books had began to depress me. Don’t misunderstand. I love reading books. I was working in a warehouse at the time. Two of us would work in a large cubicle to pack books into boxes according to a computer order and convey them to be stacked onto palettes and trucked out to the retail shops in four Australian states. But I was called by God so clearly to be a Pastor. Packing books? Why would God have me wait all this time just to be packing books.

“Some time later” (Genesis 22:1 NLT) after Sarah, at about 90 years of age, has given birth to Isaac, and before she dies at 127 years of age (Genesis 23:1), the events of Genesis 22 occur. We are not told what went on in those 37 years except that Isaac was loved by Abraham.

That’s what I am talking about. Between the fulfillment of God’s promise and the “some time later”. I can look back and see how God has shown up in my life in the most amazing ways and I have responded in faith. My life has been changed. Then “some time later” God once again speaks into my situation, only this time it is to TEST MY FAITH.

It is what happens in these intervening years before the “some time later…” that determines my destiny. It is what happens when I am serving Him faithfully, day by day, living out the fruit of His promises, growing in the things I know about Him and applying His Word to the circumstances of my life. It is those things appropriated and applied in the EVERYDAY that determine how I will respond to God when the crunch comes “some time later”.

“”Abraham!” God called”. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” Imagine God speaking with me in an audible voice. I would be shocked but I would still love it. That would be so cool.

“Lord speak with me. Here I am. Sydney, Australia. That little place in Stanhope Gardens (Sounds like an old peoples retirement village), just before the bend, on the left, Solitaire Court. In my study just down the hall. That’s me, sitting at my computer. Welcome Lord. You are really good at finding people.”

But then again what if He were to ask me to do something IMPOSSIBLE?

God tested Abraham’s faith. He says “Take your son, your only son-yes, Isaac, WHOM YOU LOVE SO MUCH-and … SACRIFICE HIM as a burnt offering …” (Genesis 22:2 NLT). You know the story. At the last second Abraham is stopped.

Do I really need to be tried for attempted murder before my faith is acceptable? I have only one son, whom I love very much. Would I do it? Somehow it goes against all I have been taught about You, Lord. That you would ask me to do such a thing would be most IMPROBABLE. That I would do it would seem IMPOSSIBLE! It really would have to be an audible voice for me to go to a mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Even then I’d be thinking “Is this a demon trying to TEMPT me or the Lord trying to TEST me”, so You would need to be very convincing before You got me to obey You on this one.

I watched top gear last night on television. The makers of each new car know that their designs will stand the stresses to which they are subjected on the road. Nevertheless SOME TIME LATER, after they have been designed, and before production for the general population, they are RIGOROUSLY TESTED.

When God tests me, He tests me to APPROVE my faith, NOT so that I will FAIL. It seems it is more for my benefit than it is for His, and it is what I am doing NOW in the everyday situations of my life that prepares me LATER, when the crunch comes.

God bless you as you exercise faith, as you continue to learn to hear God’s voice and obey Him today, as He prepares you for the “some time later” situations of your life.

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 22:1-11 – LORD, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Sacrifice

There’s plenty of evidence of blatant disregard for human life today. Terrorism and suicide bombers? Capital punishment? Human trafficking. Abortion?

So what is God thinking when He asks Abraham to take his only son, the son he loves, and to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. I know that He stops him at the last second but what is going on here? If He is making a point of some kind then it seems to be a pretty extreme and cruel way to get the message across, and what is the message anyway?

Perhaps God is attempting to show me in a dramatic way that HUMAN SACRIFICE of any kind is wrong? Is that the point He is trying to drive home? If His point is to say that HUMAN LIFE IS VALUABLE, then what about those miners who died recently or the soldiers in Afghanistan? Weren’t they valuable? We prayed for them, some people around the clock. If God is trying to stress the VALUE of human life then it seems to me that asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is a kind of gruesome way to drive this point home.

The question is not “Why did God allow those miners to die or those soldiers in Afghanistan to sacrifice their lives?” but perhaps, “Why does He allow us to live, when we have messed His world up so much by our sin?” We are the ones who continue to allow bad things to happen to good people? We don’t seem to appreciate the far-reaching implications of our sin. Romans 6:23 (NLT) says “For the wages of sin is death, …” Why doesn’t God wipe out the human race and start again? It’s been done before (see Genesis 6:7, Genesis 7).

I can only go back to Ezekiel 18:23 (NLT) where God asks “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” The Bible says that judgment is real and it will come to everyone. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

Sacrificing a human life is not the point here, as horrific as it is, and as abhorrent to the Lord as it is. I can think of only two or three other valid reasons why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son whom he loved as a burnt offering, only to stop him at the last second.

Burnt offerings were sacrifices for SIN. It seems that God is showing me that ISAAC WASN’T WORTHY. Even the most precious and loved of sacrifices is NOT ENOUGH to pay for the penalty of our sinfulness.

Romans 5:12 (NLT) says “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” God is showing me that there is NO-ONE WORTHY in the whole of the human race to die for sinners, except of course Jesus. Isaac deserves to die because of his own sin and cannot die as an innocent victim for the sin of others. God’s Son was the ONLY ONE. As abhorrent as human sacrifice is to God, the only way to pay for the penalty of sin was through the death of His only Son, the One whom He loved. Hebrews 10:11-12 (NLT) says Jesus offered Himself as a “single SACRIFICE for sins, good for ALL TIME.”

Romans 5:15 (NLT) says “… For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful GRACE and His gift of FORGIVENESS to many through this Other Man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:23 (NLT) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

God bless you as you begin to make some sense of this. Sometimes I need to be shocked to the max before I truly begin to understand what God has accomplished in sending His only Son to die for me.

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 18:1-15 – ENTERTAINING ANGELS?

Entertaining Angels?

Jan and Darryl have always been openly generous people. They make you feel as if they are honoured to have you in their home and nothing is too much trouble for them. Which is just as well because they are our connect group leaders.

Every fortnight people in our Connect Group meet to connect with God and eachother in an authentic way. We talk about life and faith and how to apply the message on Sundays to the everyday situations each of us face during the week. It is the best time.

I noticed Jan and Darryl were hospitable people when we first met them 14 years ago, so I was surprised when we came to their Connect Group that they didn’t RUN OUT TO MEET US in their driveway and BOW TO THE GROUND. They just greeted us warmly and welcomed us in. They didn’t bring water, take off our shoes and WASH OUR FEET or even offer for us to take a shower in their bathroom. They didn’t go down to the local butcher and buy us the BEST CUTS OF MEAT FOR A BARBEQUE. We normally just bring our own supper and share it around. They didn’t BAKE BREAD for us in their breadmaker. WHAT KIND OF HOSPITALITY IS THAT? Abraham would have been shocked!

In Genesis 18:1 (NLT) it says “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.”

When God turns up at Abraham’s Connect Group in Genesis 18:1, all Abraham sees are THREE MEN. Who were these guys? Prophets? Angels? The Trinity in human form? He doesn’t ask them. That would be impolite in Eastern thinking. So what does he do? “he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.” (Must have been quite sprightly for his age. Ever seen a 100 year old man run? I’ve seen one with a walking frame but believe me he wasn’t running. And even bowing low has the risks of a fall and a broken hip.) 

Abraham goes OVERBOARD with hospitality. Darryl and Jan have nothing on Abraham. He calls the leader of the group “LORD” (a common greeting of respect in those times but in this case it could have been THE LORD!) and offers, you guessed it, to WASH THEIR FEET. He gets Sarah to BAKE SOME HOME MADE BREAD, and then KILLS THE BEST CALF in his herd and PREPARES A BARBEQUE. If that wasn’t enough then he WAITS ON THEM like a SERVANT rather than sitting down with them at the meal table! You have got to be kidding! He hasn’t even asked them who they are and what they are doing LOITERING around his tent!

This is HOSPITALITY GONE WILD! And these three “men” just accept it. They just sit around in the shade of a tree, while this old man and his wife go overboard with kindness. Abraham could have simply called his servants to serve these guys, but he does it himself. Even though he was a rich, influential and powerful old man (and old men were respected in his times), yet it is Abraham who shows them great respect and humility. It is getting difficult to pick out the angels in this picture.

What I notice about Abraham is that he is QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and he is AVAILABLE TO SERVE. Sacrifice and servanthood characterise this powerful man who is called a friend of God (James 2:23). I can learn a lot about how to build my RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD and show LOVE TO OTHERS from a man like this, and from people like Jan and Darryl too. Same HUMBLE AND GENUINE welcome.

God bless you Church as we are QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and AVAILABLE TO SERVE, as SACRIFICE AND SERVANTHOOD characterise our lives as we actively choose to SHOW LOVE TO OTHERS. Hebrews 13:2 (NLT) puts it this way

“Don’t forget to show HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS, for some who have done this have ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”

Pastor Ross