Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

Wrecking Ball 2

Breaking and Smashing © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:10 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 2

THERE IS NO OTHER KING

Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) speaks of Christ, humbled by dying on the Cross, but then it goes on to say “… Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So when have we ever seen this happen? Every knee bowing down? Not yet. There have always been those who don’t believe in Christ and refuse to come under His authority. Through the centuries there have always been those who opposed Christ and His followers. Has the book of Philippians in the Bible got it all wrong? No!

GOD IS PATIENT, BUT …

The Bible describes our present time as a time of God’s grace. 2 Peter 3:9-10 (NLT) explains “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. BUT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.” 

So the Bible is clear that this prophetic time of judgment hasn’t yet taken place. God is giving the nations time to repent, but one day Christ will return with swift judgment as a victorious ruler.

Jesus is not King of one nation only, but every nation. The rebellion of empires or our individual sin against him in no way diminishes His authority and power. His humble servanthood in no way diminishes His dominion and intention to return as the conquering King.

TO WHOM DO I OWE MY ALLEGIANCE?

“Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!” (Psalm 2:10 NLT).

So these words are the culmination of an angry promise and warning. Surprisingly, it is a plea from a heart of grace. David says, “Don’t be fools. Act wisely. Be warned.” How are they to act wisely? They have a choice. Submit or be annihilated. Not much of a choice? If they only realized that it’s the choice of a drowning man. Grab the rope and be saved or die. Judgment will come whether you do or not. Fall from a plane without taking the parachute you’ve been offered will have inevitable consequences.

As an ancient king, David could have simply gathered his army and gone against these rebellious kings and brought them to justice, but he doesn’t. He gives them time to consider their future. Before the storm comes, a moment of grace.

In the same way, the Bible uses this Psalm to say that God’s purpose is not to take pleasure in judging us, but to save us from inevitable judgment. Judgment was never intended for us according to the Bible. It is intended for the final judgment of the devil and his angels. Our mutiny leaves us out in the storm but there is shelter in Christ.

Before Jesus came, John the Baptist prepared the way by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus continued to say exactly the same thing (Matthew 4:17).

The voice of love still invites us to respond in love and repentance to the King of kings.

Pastor Ross

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Hand of Jesus4

THE HANDS OF GRACE

The world is changed by the HANDS of the Lord,

Which reach out from the handbook of ages,

Where Hands of His grace have planned and penned the stages

For undeserving hands in need of life restored,

The hand-wrought work of God; unearned reward,

Handpicked, and free at last from sins cruel wages.

Yet mishandled grace has smudged most its pages.

 

THE HANDS OF MAN 

So God’s pure hands now hold a two-edged sword,

While sinful, errant hands hold nought but shame,

In need of His abiding, guiding hand.

With things so out of hand, we must share blame.

We take the law into our hands and stand

Doomed, death’s wages play our hand a losing game,

As hands rebel against His Holy Name

 

THE HANDS OF GOD

Did God throw up His hands at my offence?

Or wash His hands of me until I die?

Or did He force His hand upon me to comply?

In Satan’s hands, my life will not make sense,

God acts with heavy hand and moral sense.

On one hand, He condemns with just resolve.

On the other hand, His love wants to absolve

 

THE HANDS OF SALVATION

I forced God’s hand to judge me. No defence.

The hands of Jesus have for me made room.

Those hands that flung the stars and worlds in space

Became the tiny hands in Mary’s womb.

Hands-on hands, rough and calloused found their place.

Soon nail pierced hands would rise up from the tomb

Those Hands which long to craft my life in grace.

 

His gentle hands restore sight with one touch,

Hands that heal the wounds and scars we bear,

Hands that soften hardened hearts heal with loving care,  

Those hands that feed five thousand offer much,

Servant hands that wash disciple’s feet. Such

Loving hands bless children with a prayer.

His hands broke bread and gave us wine to share,

Hands that wrenched the victory from the devils clutch.

 

Yet Judas would such blameless hands betray

And hand Him up to hands of sinful men,

His hands abandoned, as we turned away.

Pilot would such faultless hands condemn.

He tried to wash his hands of guilt that day,

And blood is also on our hands as it was then.

 

The crowd forced Pilot’s hand to crucify.

The hands of Jesus bore His Cross and our travails.

And into open hands, we drove those cruel nails.

He knew firsthand that He would have to die,

Sin handled, “It is finished” was His cry.

Into His Father’s hands, His spirit sails,

And though His hands are still, His love prevails.  

 

Salvation, paid in full, His hands supply,

He won hands down the victory over death,

And on the day I handed Him my sin,

He handed me forgiveness, peace within.

My hands received new life from Spirit breath.

 

So touch His nail scarred hands, be born again,

Those hands that offer love of unplumbed depth.

He takes your hand, the journey can begin.

 

THE HANDS OF FAITH

The hands of faith are my hands reaching out,

And Jesus is on hand to hear my prayer.

He wants all hands on board, He’s just and fair.

He waits for hands of faith that will not doubt,

Clean hands and hearts of those who are devout.

For faith is not a ‘hand-me-down’ we wear,

Not second hand but born from choice and prayer.

We take hands off, He turns our life about,

 

The clock hands say the day is almost spent.

Salvation is at hand, the time is near.

Faith takes the hand of God with full intent,

Surrendered hands and hearts and ears to hear.

So with clean hands and heart make the ascent

In His eternal hands, there is no fear.

 

THE HANDS OF JESUS

Fingers that flung worlds and stars in space

Became the tiny fingers formed in Mary’s womb,

Then craftsman’s hands, all calloused, shaping wood and stone,

Hands to feed five thousand, and defy the storm,

Hands that seek God’s will to make our hearts His throne.

Hands betrayed, abandoned, lashed and bound,

Forsaken hands, abused and battered, have borne

The sinners price in full. Yes, He alone

Reached out His hands to us, and we are found

And known

So today, as we pray, could you open your hands in front of you and open your heart to Him.

Dear Lord Jesus, I admit to You that I have sin on my hands, and I ask for Your forgiveness, for clean hands and a new start. I believe that when Your hands were nailed to the Cross You died for my sins and rose from the dead.

I hand over my life to You and invite You to come into my heart and life.

Take my hand of faith because I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour.

I accept the gift of eternal life that you hand to me,

I pray this prayer knowing that now I am in Your hands. Thankyou for welcoming me into Your family.   

In Jesus Name,

Amen.

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, then Jesus will give You a hand in living life to the full, as God intended. And please e-mail me if I can help you live your life for Him.

Pastor Ross

 

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

These are the hands of Alf Bourne, a 97 year old volunteer Chaplain. Photo by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

In the quietness of the morning, I hear a gentle knock on my office door and I am greeted by the smile of an old man in his late 90’s standing there with a walking stick, excited to tell me about the people he has visited through the week. A volunteer Chaplain of Chaplains, Alf Bourne has a quiet confidence and infectious enthusiasm that is disarming and charming, a gentleman who is both sensitive and engaging in his visits. We speak about Margo (not her real name), a woman in palliative care, who normally will have nothing to do with Chaplains or anything “religious”. She immediately warms to Alf’s visits, however. He has built up a friendship over the last 8 years sharing his faith only when invited. She had a dream of hell some years ago and called Alf to tell her about belief in Jesus. She prayed with Alf, inviting Christ into her life for the first time. Now she confides that all she wants to do is go up (she looks toward heaven) and as Alf holds her hand he speaks about that time when there will be no more pain, or crying, or tears and she will meet Jesus with a smile. He makes her smile despite her physical distress and he prays with her.

It is now Sunday. Alf has been playing the organ for the Church service in Dorothy Henderson Lodge and after it is finished we attend the service in the Shalom Centre. He greets each person after the services, smiling and laughing with them. We decide it would be good to visit Margo again but when we arrive the curtain is drawn. Margo has already stepped into eternity with Christ earlier that morning. There are tears in Alf’s eyes as we pray for the grieving family and a deep-seated joy in his heart at having played an important role in Margo’s life. He will miss her. He tells me that if he was not involved in Chaplaincy work, then his life would have been shortened long ago.

Alf tells me that he will go to renew his driving license in another year or so, when he is 99. His driving instructor told him last time that he was an excellent driver. He uses his car mainly to visit people in Ryde hospital. Two residents recently appreciated his visit and time of prayer with them.

He needs a little more help now, so he moved up from Wilandra village and now resides in Dorothy Henderson Lodge. As people enter Dorothy Henderson Lodge Alf makes them feel welcome. He says grace at meal times, visiting people on site regularly. What would I do without this extraordinary man on my team of volunteers? I am grateful to God for however long I have the privilege of his friendship and blessed by the wealth of experience he brings to my life and the lives of countless others whom he has touched with the respect, care and faith he shares.

Additional Note. On the 25th October 2015 Alf turned 100 years old. He has been looking forward to this celebration. He is my assistant Chaplain and insists on introducing me his senior Chaplain. He is my mentor, much-loved friend and outstanding colleague. I have drawn his picture below using a lead pencil and watercolour pencils. When he saw it, he thought he was looking old. I had to remind him that he is.

Alf Bourne

Matthew 7:15 – HOW TO STOP OTHERS SHIPWRECKING YOUR LIFE!

Shipwrecked!

They must have seen the cyclone winding its way down the coast of Queensland. But seeing the storm on television and not doing anything about it led to devastating consequences. Being moored outside the harbour left their vessels vulnerable to the punishing winds and wayward currents and tides. It’s no use just watching out for a storm!

I walked along the shore afterwards and the wasted pieces of debris were scattered for as far as the eye could see. Large vessels lay beached in sad shapes of upheaval as if summoned and thrown about by huge cruel fingers and left crumpled and injured upon the mud and rocks. One couple suffered the loss of a million dollar yacht now strewn in pieces of wreckage along the coastline. The warnings went unheeded with disastrous consequences.

In Matthew 7:15 (NLT) Jesus says “BEWARE of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” False Prophets can obviously cause harm or Jesus wouldn’t have said “BEWARE”. The word is emphatic so this warning is strong and direct. In the original language of the New Testament, it means “hold toward or before” It has the idea of holding your mind to something, taking heed, paying close attention, to continually watch out for and be on your guard against the danger of their deception. It’s not just noticing the possibility of danger but actively guarding against it.

The wide expanses of water look very attractive and easy to navigate when it comes to truth. False teachers do not think they will need any navigational equipment. But such a course leads nowhere except destruction on the reefs of false beliefs that lurk beneath the still waters. Isaiah 9:15-16 (NLT) speaks about false teachers. He says “… They have led them down the path of destruction.”

False prophets lead people into dangerous waters and teach something quite different to what the Bible proclaims. They say, “Heaven and hell is a myth.” They say, “God is a God of love and so won’t permit anyone to be punished for eternity,” They say, “Satan is a myth.” They say “Jesus didn’t die for our sin.” They say “We are not responsible for our sins. The blame lies with our parents or our environment.” (Kistemaker)

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NLT) makes it clear that “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.” God is a God of love, but because He is, He makes it clear that there is only one way to be saved (John 3:16-17). John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus makes it clear when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” Acts 16:31 makes it clear when it says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” 

Truth is a narrow way that leads to life and is not necessarily an easy channel. The unpredictable depths of the narrow passage requires a Captain to take precautions as he sails through, taking soundings from his navigational equipment and consulting the charts. It takes effort, determination and perseverance to take that path and a Captain who knows what He is doing. We have such a Captain.

How do I safeguard myself against false teaching? One way is to read and study the navigational charts of the Word of God, praying that the Holy Spirit will fill me and lead me into His Truth. The Bible will always be the DEPTH SOUNDER for the truth, the NAVIGATIONAL STANDARD by which we can measure our lives. Psalms 119:105 (NLT) says “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” John 16:13-15 (NLT) says “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. …”

2 Timothy 3:13-17 (NLT) says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”

The invitation God gives is to take heed, guard, watch carefully and take adequate precautions when it comes to who you allow to speak into your life. Am I more interested in being entertained while rocks are ripping a gash in my life because of a faulty belief system? Or am I willing to chart a course under the direction of a Captain who knows the passage that will achieve His purposes and put my life on a true course for the future? Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…”  

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:13 – 14 – DESERT DIARY – A Parable

U-Turn permitted.

DIARY ENTRY – MONDAY – DAY 1: It is all a MIRAGE! I can see that now. Up until now I have been travelling with this huge throng of people without even considering the inhospitable wasteland around us. We are in a DESERT! Unless we reach a waterhole soon, all of us will die!

TUESDAY – DAY 2: I know that we have plenty of provisions but our water supplies will not last forever and I am surprised that even our leaders don’t seem to know where we are going. When I ask one of them about what lies ahead, he says “Eat, drink and enjoy life while you have the opportunity and don’t think about tomorrow.” Another took me aside today and assured me that he knows what is best for us. He placed his hand on my shoulder and in a rather autocratic, controlling, patronising tone of voice said “Don’t cause any trouble or you may regret it!”

Fortunately most of our community leaders are more democratic and inclusive. I am drawn to a man who has a very charismatic, inspirational and likeable character. He is studying the mirages and has written a book on how they relate to our lives. It’s a fascinating book, but somehow I doubt that this will get us very far.

WEDNESDAY – DAY 3: We eat, sleep and travel in community and over time all kinds of leaders are emerging. I met a man today who is very task oriented, and he has achieved great success and fame by his accomplishments. Others have set the culture of our community by focusing on our values, building our worldviews through consensus over time. But still, there are no ABSOLUTES. No real direction! We are still living in this desolate place.

THURSDAY – DAY 4: At School today I was taught survival techniques for desert life, and how to be cross-culturally relevant and politically correct because all of us are on the same road. That is true. We never deviate from highway 666. The direction is set and no one questions where we are headed. Perhaps it’s because life is tough enough to bear without asking the big questions.

FRIDAY – DAY 5: No-one really wants to CHANGE! We have gifted leaders who are creative, problem solving, improvement oriented, innovative change agents, but we are still in the desert and our resources are running out. No matter how visionary they are, none of them have any really clear view of what is happening and how to get to a waterhole. We are on a highway to hell, abandoned by common sense in this austere environment. Today I saw some vultures circling above.

SATURDAY – DAY 6: I am feeling so INSECURE today. Not that we don’t have people who are here to serve and protect us. We have our own security force, armed men and women who are always planning strategies to keep wild animals away and how to deal with the riots of those who are running out of provisions.

SUNDAY – DAY 7: Some religious leaders practise meditation to empty their minds, others pray. Some organise provisions, buying and selling. Some help the poor and do good works. But it is all a MIRAGE! I have never really seen this before and I am secretly looking for a way to escape. I think about it all the time.

I think about the big picture. What will happen to us? We need to find an oasis, a way to life. Maybe if I can find it then I can show others the way. What are the signs? Is it only me that sees that we are lost in this forsaken place, travelling down a road leading to nowhere but destruction? I am so motivated to find a way out, but so few people are convinced and they think I’m strange. I met a leader today who said that if I continue to speak like I do I will be rejected and ostracised as a fanatic. I am in the minority.

MONDAY – DAY 8: Today it happened! I found the pages of an ancient book beside a creosote bush on the side of the road. I read from a book called Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) which says “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

Just there, where I found the book, I also found footprints leading away from the road we are travelling on, indications of another path. It is barren and difficult, narrow and dangerous, but perhaps this is what I have been looking for and I have decided to leave the community and set off, following the footprints of whoever it is who has travelled the path before me. Today is the day! I am intent on my quest. Today I begin my journey.

TUESDAY – DAY 9: It involved persistence to find the trail, but leaving everything behind me today I entered a difficult narrow gorge and into the whistling canyons of the way. Somehow I know that this path will lead to life. It’s not something I would normally do. It’s just that I finally see the truth that I have been lost in the crowd, going nowhere fast. I had to do something. There is always a choice and I have found the way of life and I have chosen to take it!

WEDNESDAY – DAY 10: Today I found other pages from the ancient book as I travelled. They tell me that the footprints I follow belong to a man called Jesus. His words in John 14:6 (NLT) call to me as He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” In Luke 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” Acts 4:12 (NLT) speaks into my heart and tells me that “There is salvation in NO ONE else! God has given no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

THURSDAY – DAY 11: What have I learned so far? I have discovered that to be a follower of Christ involves turning around and going against the flow. I need to follow His footprints in the sand and His Word. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). And yes it involves discipline, commitment, determination, self-control, and self-denial. It’s not always an easy road, but today it led me to an oasis! I drank for the first time the water of life, living water (John 4:10) and this wonderful adventure in life will last forever. In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

FRIDAY – DAY 12: My community continues to choose the wide road where there are no obstacles, plain path, easy going. The freeway is wide, many lanes, no potholes. The highway to hell is not a bumpy road, but smooth sailing. It’s easy, level ground, great to travel on. Easy to get caught in the traffic and enjoy the trip. No toll-ways, no price to pay. All traffic accepted (all philosophies, beliefs, lifestyles, all accepted). But today I am putting up SIGNS along this road. U-turns and warning signs. One sign I got from Proverbs 14:12 (NLT). It says “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

I still carry that ancient book with me. I have all the pages now. Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT), “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Jesus is giving the same invitation to you today.

Pastor Ross


Genesis 25:7-18 – HOW TO CLAIM YOUR INHERITANCE

Claiming Your Inheritance

“MISHMA, DUMAH, MASSA,” (Genesis 25:14). Three of the children of Ishmael, maybe triplets. Their names became a PROVERB. Adam Clarke in his commentary on Genesis says “Mishma” means HEARING. “Dumah” means SILENCE; and ‏”Massa” means PATIENCE. The idea is “Hear much, say little, and have a lot of patience.” Perhaps that’s what James was quoting when he wrote in James 1:19 (NLT) “… You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry”.

MISHMA, DUMAH AND MASSA were tested at the bank recently. It was a comedy of errors from start to finish. My Mum didn’t sign her will and after her death my elder sister and I wanted to personally finalise various papers at the bank. We wanted the bank to release the money from my Mothers account, our INHERITANCE. It would only take five minutes in my lunch break.

My sister met me at my office and we went to the BANK together. We finally found the bank in the heart of the shopping centre but realised we had left the papers in the car. So we walked all the way back to the car and then found our way down the three floors once again to the bank. It only took us about 15 minutes. Patience. Still plenty of time.

The woman at the bank was helpful but insisted that we needed to find a JUSTICE OF THE PEACE to authorise certain documents. Don’t say anything that you will regret. Listen to the woman. She is only doing her job. Patience.

The Justice of the Peace came in on Wednesdays. It was Tuesday. We walked back to the car and drove back to my office where I enlisted the help of a Justice of the Peace from my workplace.

With papers authorised, once again we travelled back to the bank. The initial fifteen minutes had become two hours by the time we finalised the papers. Now all we had to do was post these documents to our solicitor who would enable us to “CLAIM OUR INHERITANCE”.

It could have been worse. We might have realised that we had left the papers at the bank when we had arrived back at my office, but fortunately the quick thinking woman from the bank came running down the corridor and handed us the documents. We had left them on the counter. My sister looked at me and said “Don’t say anything!” and we laughed at how we had made a simple task take so long. Mishma, Dumah and Massa came in handy that day.

In Genesis 25, only Isaac is named on the will, signed by Abraham Himself, to take to the bank to collect his INHERITANCE. Only Isaac was chosen by God to be the son whose descendents would one day lead to Jesus Christ. Who needs a Justice of the Peace when you have the GOD OF JUSTICE AND PEACE to verify the COVENANT?

Neither Ishmael nor the six sons of Keturah share in the inheritance of Abraham, although all of them are his children. Before he dies, Abraham gives them generous gifts and sends them away. Perhaps Abraham is protecting what God has said about the destiny of his son Isaac.

Back in Genesis 16:12 (NLT) God told Abraham that Ishmael would “be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in OPEN HOSTILITY AGAINST ALL HIS RELATIVES.” The 12 tribes of Ishmael follow their father’s example. What a terrible way to live – in open hostility to everyone around them and to the purposes of God. I claim my inheritance by FAITH and not by FIGHTING against His purposes for my life.

Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT) says that because of sin we all fight God either openly or inwardly. It says “This includes you who were once FAR AWAY from God. You were His ENEMIES, SEPARATED from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has RECONCILED you to Himself through the death of Christ …” Christ bore the enmity, the open hostility and inward rebellion of us all, opening the way for me to have a relationship with Him.

What is that inheritance that God wants me to receive? 1 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT) that “we have a priceless inheritance—an INHERITANCE that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your FAITH (in Christ), God is protecting you by His power until you receive this SALVATION, …” Eternal life, forgiveness, peace with God.

MISHMA, DUMAH AND MASSA. Listen (MISHMA) and spend time to understand what God is saying (DUMAH) and remember that “the Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient (MASSA) for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).

The invitation of reconciliation is a prayer away. “Lord, I choose to be reconciled to You and receive the inheritance of Salvation that You have given to me in Christ.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:31-32 – SMALL SEED, INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL – Part 13

Mustard Seed Potential

When I read the Parable of the Mustard seed I am left with some serious questions. Jesus just tells the story in two sentences and leaves it at that. No explanation. He just says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32 NLT).

And I am left asking how can something so VAST like the Kingdom of Heaven be compared to something so SMALL. How could something of such immense significance be infused into the DNA of such a small seed, how could such power and authority be found in something so small, something so minute. We are talking about the SOVEREIGN RULERSHIP of God here. So what is it with the mustard seed analogy?

I’ve thought about this a lot of late, read some other scriptures and tried to figure it out. Somehow I think that this is what Jesus intended all along. He deliberately leaves us to find out what it means knowing that only those who will seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) will find the answers from His Word of Truth. So here’s an UNEDITED edition of the parable and what I think Jesus is getting at…

“Once the King of a vast empire decided to become a farmer and plant a crop that would one day reap a huge harvest. He spent time preparing the soil and when the time was ripe He went out into His field and deliberately planted ONE SMALL SEED in the fertile earth.

It was no ordinary seed. It was a seed of destiny, a seed of promise, a seed of kingdom significance, the seed of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Inherent in this one seed was the very nature and character of the King Himself and His authority to rule and reign in the lives of those who follow Him. It was destined to change the world. That’s why the soil in which He chose to plant His seed was the soil of a person’s heart and life.

At first the seed was planted into the heart and life of a young virgin girl who bore this tiny seed in her womb. And in the most HUMBLE of places she gave birth to HEAVENS KINGDOM ON EARTH. Not in the splendour of a palace. He was born in a manger, a TINY BABY. The seed became a human being. It all seemed so INCONSEQUENTIAL and unimportant, just another baby, but don’t miss this. We are talking about the KING OF KINGS and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

An ancient book recorded His birth. Among other things it says “…Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the HUMBLE POSITION of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). Just a small seed yet heavens kingdom “…appeared in human form, He HUMBLED HIMSELF in obedience to God.”

The downside to living as a human of course is that He was destined die as a human. How could the Majesty of all heaven live His life as a human being? How could He die and be buried like a seed in the ground, yet in our story that is exactly what happened. He “died a criminal’s death on a cross.” I know I said it’s the unedited version but I can’t get into too many details here. You’ll have to read the book.

I can tell you this, however. “It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:32 NLT).

Yes, the seed began to grow into a mighty tree and all of a sudden the Cross became His throne where heavens authority and character was expressed. It would have incredible impact upon the world.

The only way I can describe what happened was that on that Cross reserved for criminals, the Divine SOVEREIGNTY of heaven chose to pay the penalty for our sin! Divine JUSTICE was satisfied! Divine RIGHTEOUSNESS became available! Divine LOVE was released forever! Divine LIFE was offered! OMNISCIENCE was articulated! OMNIPOTENCE accomplished what was impossible! OMNIPRESENCE assured us that He would never leave or forsake us! His Divine IMMUTABILITY confirmed afresh that He is the same yesterday, today and forever! His Divine VERACITY drew us into the presence of all Truth!

But our story doesn’t end at the Cross. It BEGINS.

Here’s the real miracle of the story. Unless a seed is “planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT).

He rose again! He defeated the power of sin and death! The seed grew to fulfil His destiny and so it is no wonder then that “…God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11 NLT).

This is a true story. You say, how do I know all this is true about the Seed? I know because as it became a tree and grew I became engrafted (Romans 11:17) as one of it’s branches, along with millions of others, His Church. When I yielded to the great authority of Christ, the life of the Seed became my life. “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).”

One day every knee will bow, but today the invitation is in the form of a small Seed of DESTINY, PROMISE AND LIFE and it is given freely to you. It is a seed with all the authority of heaven infused into it’s DNA, the very life of God Himself. Inherent in such a small seed is all of heavens authority and resources made available for the circumstances of life, such incredible potential for those who seek and accept the gift of the mustard Seed.

Pastor Ross.

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Matthew 13:36-43 – HELL, GOD’S WASTE MANAGEMENT CENTRE – Part 11

Hell

I watch as hell is washed inland with the momentum of an earthquake behind it, a wave of burning cars, buildings and debri. And in its wake the devastation of thousands lost. Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear explosion.

In the Valley of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem, refuse was burned continually day and night. It was called Gehenna, the city dump. Jesus uses it as a picture of HELL. I know that Hell is regarded as a foolish ploy of religious people to instill fear, or a metaphor of retribution, but the Bible is very clear about it being a LITERAL AND DEFINITE place, originally prepared for the devil and his angels and not us (Matthew 25:41).

We are concerned for the lives lost in Japan. What is even worse is the thought of people being separated from God for ETERNITY. As reluctant as I am to speak about hell, Jesus isn’t. Perhaps today, rather than pointing to Gehenna, Jesus would point to the smoldering, twisted rubbish dump, like a lake of fire and smoke that once was Northern Japan, and say that it is a portrait of hell. It’s an incredible waste. But Imagine God thinking that my life is a waste such as this, not only on earth but also for eternity. No wonder hell is described as “THE SECOND DEATH”.

Imagine in Japan a helicopter offering to lift someone from the path of the Tsnami. Imagine them saying “I don’t need your help”. Lots of people do that with Jesus. They say “Well, I’ve lived a pretty good life. I don’t need Jesus. I don’t need to be saved!” The arrogance that deceives me into thinking that somehow I DESERVE heaven rather than accept that Christ died for my sins to keep me from hell may be a prevalent concept today, but it is totally ego centric and highlights how spiritually blind I am. I am choosing to live on a waste dump. Or as we choose to call it a Waste Management Recycling Centre.

As I speak on this day 14th March 2011, Hell walks through the battered remains of New Zealand, Japan and threatens people at Gunpoint in Libya, but Matthew 10:28 (NLT) says “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Bible says God is life. Those who choose to separate themselves from God separate themselves from that life for eternity, an unimaginable existence.

When Jesus gives an explanation of the parable of the WHEAT AND WEEDS being separated at the harvest, He uses strong terms. He says in Matthew 13:41-42 (NLT) “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A comedian said if you don’t have teeth then teeth will be provided, but somehow it doesn’t seem so funny when you think that teeth gnashing describes the terrifying torment and anguish of such retribution.

Jesus is looking at some very religious people as He speaks and says “There will come a time when it will be sorted out”. The day of judgment is coming! He is simply stating it as a fact, and He is not trying to be some street preacher wearing a placard saying “Turn or burn!” Far from it. He is saying “NO-ONE ELSE has come to save you.”

John 3:17-21 (NLT) says “God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE the world, BUT TO SAVE the world through Him. There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does NOT believe in Him has ALREADY been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light…”

These are words of life, not death. God loves you. He IS love. The invitation is clear. God offers us life in Christ. Jesus is the only way, truth and life. Choose life.

Pastor Ross

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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 4 – Genesis 22:1-19 – CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Living Sacrifice

His weather worn face looked like ancient parchment stretched over a wire mesh skeleton and his eyes, haunted with memories, looked straight through me into my soul. As I gave my devotion that day I could tell that he understood the anguish Abraham must have felt as God said, “Take your son, your only son-yes, Isaac, whom you love so much-and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2 NLT)

I asked him later if he was spending time with his family this Christmas. He pointed to the two drawings above his chair on the wall. Simply framed crayon drawings, pastel colours, a boy and girl. He said simply and in a half whispered voice which only slightly betrayed the emotion he held at bay “My children. Both of them died of cancer.” He had outlived his family and somehow in the aftermath of his loss and grief, I could still see the remnants of faith, tested but still intact and with a depth that only occurs in the fires of experience.

Why would God ask Abraham to do such a gruesome thing and why did Abraham obey right up to the moment that God stops him from carrying this through? Is this a picture of absolute surrender to God or the kind of RELIGIOUS FANATICISM that has no emotions and just obeys with robotic obedience? This passage is graphic and startling in it’s implications for me! There’s no Christmas sleighbells and FEELGOOD music accompanying this scene.

Remarkably, Abraham’s faith is still intact. He still believes the promise of God. It must have seemed like Christmas when God had said, “… for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4 NLT) and that “… All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3 NLT). And Hebrews 11:19 (NLT) says “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again …”

With the noises of the world around me, my problem is hearing God speak in the first place, let alone audibly, but if He said this to me I don’t think I could have done it? I would still be asking, “Lord, is that really You?” I would put it down to an exegesis problem. “You don’t really mean sacrifice. You mean bless, not sacrifice, don’t You, Lord? Lord, what are you thinking?” Where would I draw the line? Would I begin to water down what God is saying rather than come under His authority?

The test this Christmas is to love God and put Him FIRST in my life today. And I’m not talking about gooing and garing over the baby in the manger. The invitation this Christmas is not only to come let us ADORE Him, but also to ask the all important question “Why did He come?” My mind sweeps down through the corridors of time and I see not only a MANGER but a CROSS.

Isaac couldn’t be a sacrifice for my sin! No-one can pay the penalty of my sin but Christ alone, the innocent Lamb of God. Christmas declares that “… He (Jesus) will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NLT). The challenge this Christmas is to accept the gift He offers of forgiveness and salvation.

When God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac they must have understood another awesome truth. As they stood by the fire that day Abraham saw Isaac as a LIVING SACRIFICE. Life for both Abraham and Isaac would always be seen through the eyes of that sacrifice. CHRISTMAS IN THE FIRE!

Isaac tells me that I am to life my life as a LIVING SACRIFICE, not willing to allow my circumstances and the things I treasure most to dictate what it means to live under the authority and direction of Jesus Christ. It involves a choice to see life through the eyes of the Cross rather than through the shrunken, distorted lenses of my circumstances and the cultural pressures around me. Dying to the influences of the world and intentionally coming under the authority of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) explains “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

Pastor Ross