Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

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Chosen © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Psalm 4:3 – CALLING VS SELF-ESTEEM

“You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him.” (Psalm 4:3 NLT)

BE CONFIDENT OF YOUR CALLING AND AUTHORITY

Confident of his calling as King, assured that he is innocent of the charges against him, certain that he is set apart for God’s purposes, David declares that the Lord will answer him.

David isn’t a product of the Self-Esteem Movement, trying to prop himself up with undue praise, while pandering to his egotism with self-talk. This is a confidence born from his calling, despite his brokenness.

Kingship isn’t a trophy handed out to everyone like a “You are special” ribbon in the team just so we can feel better about ourselves. It is a responsibility demanding submission to God and the careful application of His wisdom in order to represent His authority over His people.

Why am I making a distinction about confidence in God’s Calling and Self-Esteem?

When rigorous studies were finally conducted and evaluated on Self-Esteem some years ago by Roy Baumeister, a Professor of Social Psychology at Florida State University, after the all-pervasive social program in Self-Esteem had already infiltrated every aspect of education, they suggested that young people with very high self-esteem are more likely than others to hold racist attitudes, reject social pressures from adults and peers and engage in physically risky or even unlawful pursuits. This was not at all what was expected.

It was discovered that Low self-esteem could actually be a motivating influence towards achievement while high self-esteem could lead to arrogant, conceited, self-satisfied behavior. It was too late. The Self-Esteem Movement probably thought his research was Hate Speech and thus it has been largely ignored.

King David knows the inward reality of his calling that does not require a feel-good pat on the back by his parents, educators, coaches or psychiatrists to build up a sense of Self Esteem from a social engineering endeavor.

In all their blustering bravado and outward self-esteem, the opposing army has only caused God, unlike the teachers of the Self-Esteem Movement, to use a red pencil to circle their evil schemes and call them to repent, not hand them a ribbon of encouragement to help them feel better about ignoring their blatant failures.

David invites me to re-examine the certainty of my relationship with God and be able to declare to those who oppose the principles and values of the Word of God, “I am confident in Christ who has called me to represent Him and His purposes on the earth?”

Such confidence is birthed from a desire to discover and submit to His Holy Spirit, His will, His ways, His word, His purposes, His calling, His correction and His direction for our lives. Esteem for God. Confidence in God. God loves, calls and empowers broken people.

Proverbs 3:5-7 (NLT) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil”

Ephesians 4:1 invites you who have believed in Christ, who died for your sins, to “… lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 32:9 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 5

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau. The meeting could be explosive. (see part 1-4).

So how does Jacob prepare for this confrontation? When you need urgent counsel, who do you talk to?

  1. TALK THINGS OVER WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST
IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

Lifeline © Image created by Ross Cochrane.

“Then Jacob prayed, “O God…”” (Genesis 32:9 NLT).

Sure, you might want a human counselor, but when it comes to trusting someone, God is a great contact.

Jacob comes to God in prayer. This is crisis prayer but shows that God is becoming a more central figure in his life. In fact, this prayer is central to all that happens in this story. It leaves me to consider that if Jacob has a history of significant interactions with God, then prayer is a key factor to the outcomes of my own life today.

 

 

 

  1. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE

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Heritage © book created by Julie Cochrane. Photo by Ross Cochrane

“O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, You told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And You promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly’” (Genesis 32:9 NLT). 

To be blessed by God and then murdered by his brother doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When all we can see are the difficult circumstances, we miss out on seeing God’s past record of faithfulness. Prayer draws us back into the reality of God’s intentions.

Jacob is laying it out on the line with God in prayer. There is family history in his relationship with God. There is a covenant in place and so far it has all worked out. God has been faithful.

My wife has a wonderful heritage of faith extending back generations in her family, but any follower of Christ has become a part of the generational blessing and faithfulness of God over centuries and we have good reason to develop trust. We do so on the basis of a new covenant with God made through the death of Christ.

Hebrews 8:6-13 (NLT) says “But now Jesus, … mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises: “… I will put My laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

From Genesis 28:12-15, it’s quite clear that God was with Jacob and would protect him wherever he went. God had big plans for Jacob and his sons. Jesus would eventually come from his line. If Esau wanted to escalate conflict, then he really didn’t have a chance.

We have the history and heritage of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness going back thousands of years. Yet sometimes it is our own past history and lack of faithfulness that gets in our way of trusting in God.

Jacob was the big man, knowing that he was in the right, when he stood up to Laban. But with Esau, he knows he has done the wrong thing.

What do you do when your actions have caused the conflict? (Find out more. Part 6 is coming).

Pastor Ross

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© Calling all Angels – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:10 – ARE YOU KIDDING ME – ANGELS?

Matthew 18:10 (NLT) “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven THEIR ANGELS are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”  

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds write in their song Into My Arms

And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you.

In Matthew 18:10 Jesus moves into what many regard as fiction. He has already likened the humbly obedient person who is receptive to Christ to a child. Then He says that new followers of Christ have GUARDIAN ANGELS READY AT HAND! Hebrews 1:14 indicates that they are assigned to care for your spiritual growth when you have placed your trust in Christ.

Psalm 91 also mentions angels, and it’s evident that this is not some romantic baby cherub firing arrows at lovers, but more like the Science Fiction winged hero like Falcon in the new Captain America movie who fights for our deliverance (but without the mechanical wings).

Psalm 91:1-16 (NLT) says, “… If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. FOR HE WILL ORDER HIS ANGELS TO PROTECT YOU wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!”

Turn to any section of the Bible and sooner or later you’ll come up against an angel. It seems these guys don’t care that people don’t believe in them. So when Jesus talks about new followers of Christ having angels in heaven, ready at hand, He’s not kidding?

What will these heavenly creatures do if a new follower of Christ is looked down on, despised or demeaned? Come down with swords ready at hand to annihilate all opposition? Obviously not. New Christians are despised and demeaned all the time and those who do this seem to get away with it.

It’s clear we still experience evil situations in life, but according to Psalm 91, with God’s help, they will not overwhelm or overcome us, and even for plagues and diseases, God will find the way through in terms of protection and rescue. The Psalm continues,

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them.” Things will come against those who trust in God but nothing will be successful?

Moses is possibly the writer of Psalm 91. Moses had it good. He only had to grapple with desert perils; hidden traps, terrors by night and arrows by day, deadly diseases, stumbling over rocks and facing lions and snakes. Today that translates into terrorist attacks, stabbings, road rage drivers, cancer, rapes, riots, Ebola or Aids and a whole lot more threats to health and home. Hebrews 11:37 describes heroes of the faith who experienced much worse.

God unfolds His Story throughout the pages of Scripture and we realise that there is even more to the story of God’s protection and victories in life than even Psalm 91 shares with us. And apparently angels are part of that story. I’m not kidding!

The invitation is to trust in Christ and in doing so we are promised the victory and protection of God available to us during times of difficulty. Calling all angels.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:1-4 – “THE GREATEST” QUALITIES

Matthew 18:1-4 is an invitation to find your true identity but it will mean some rewiring of assumptions about what is great. Greatness is not a wall designed to keep people out. It is not a pyramid to keep people in. The qualities of “the greatest” will include…

SERVANTHOOD

Jesus doesn’t deny authority in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is coming under authority that is important. Luke 22:26-30 (NLT) Jesus says “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves. “You have stayed with  Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

It is not a sense of entitlement but seeking out the best in others that is powerful. No-one can exercise authority without coming under authority. Servanthood is true greatness. He invites us into another person’s world.

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Humble enough to turn aside, come and obey when Jesus calls. Greatness involves humble obedience. Humility admits our dependence on Christ and enables us to realise our potential in Him. To enter into Christ’s kingdom realm demands that we become like a child for it is only in doing so that we can become a child of the king.

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

The child responded to the call of Christ. “Turn…” Turn like the child turning to listen to Him and come to Him. Become like a little child. Compliant to the things of God in our lives, it will involve being vulnerable enough to trust.

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

With faith, there will always be an element of risk. Children are not conscious of inherent dangers and a child may like showing off, but to come into a group of adults at the request of Jesus shows courage, risk-taking, and faith.

FOCUS ON CHRIST

Focus demands not being distracted by a false sense of entitlement but fixing our attention on what Christ is asking of us. It means a deliberate disassociation with self-centredness. The child made Jesus the centre of his or her attention and in doing so came under His authority.

And the invitation is to come as a Child comes, at the sound of Jesus’ voice, with all our gifts, motivations, abilities, potential, personality, and limited experience, to Jesus. Position depends on responding to His calling. God’s purposes replacing worldly ambition is a powerful influence.

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

Position, power, prestige, fame, wealth and ambition come into perspective under the authority of Christ. Am I motivated by pride or by a desire to submit myself to Christ? The motivation is all important.

Was it pride and covetousness that made them ask this question about who is the greatest? Self-importance and envy get in the way of our calling and position in Christ. It seems they were being contentious about who would lead them, who would be greatest and have the most authority.

Perhaps they were jealous of Peter or John or James. Perhaps it is just political wrangling over the best candidate. Whatever motivated the question, it was not indicative of a childlike faith.

The invitation is clear for those who would find their true identity and purpose.

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.(Matthew 18:4 NLT)

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Matthew 18 – TOO ADULT

GRAHAM (an entrepreneur and 2IC of a company): “I know they learn quickly, they’re creative and they are curious and interested in life. They remember things easily and are fun loving people who have retained an imagination. I think it is wonderful that they don’t believe in limits.

I know that they find a way into your hearts so that you end up loving them, excusing them, defending them, laughing and playing with them and you can’t do without them. But what’s the deal with relating them to people in authority, people who are great? You have got to be kidding? 

They are distracted so easily from a task, loud most of the time, demand attention and interrupt all the time. When they get tired, they get cranky. They want to eat all the time, and want others to get it for them.”

JESUS: “I called a little child to Me.” 

GRAHAM: “But Lord, how is a child related to greatness. I would understand if you said you have to be less self-serving and less self-centred, or listen more. But how is the calling of a child related to greatness?

In fact, why call a child at all. Children throw tantrums in shopping centres and are uncooperative when you want them to do something. They hit their brothers and sisters, disrupt a good conversation, and are bored easily. They are careless with their toys, changeable in their moods, and cling to their mothers.”

JESUS: “I called this child and the child came to Me, and I placed them in the midst of My disciples to teach them about greatness.”

GRAHAM: “So let me get this straight. This is a picture, right? You CALL the child then PLACE the child. There is a CHOICE made by the child to come. So, at least, this child is OBEDIENT. Are you saying that Your calling looks for a response of OBEDIENCE? But isn’t it the person who gives the direction the one who is great. You are the One who has the authority, especially since You managed to get a child to obey You?

And by the way, what about stranger danger? What were the mum and dad thinking? Were the parents around? Did the child know You?” 

JESUS: “I called the child and the child came.”

GRAHAM: “I guess the parents must have known You. Everybody knew You and, come to think of it, I seem to remember parents bringing their children to You so You could lay Your hands on them and pray for them. 

Didn’t that bother You? Having parents forcing their kids on You?”

JESUS: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:13-14 NLT)

GRAHAM: “Oh, please, You can’t be serious. Children lie if it suits them, they are impatient with getting somewhere in the car, lack manners at the table, are irresponsible with tasks unless paid, covetous of their friends toys, possessive of their own, untidy and lazy about cleaning up, and so obstinate about knowing things they have got wrong.” 

JESUS: “When I called, the child came and I placed the child among My disciples.”

GRAHAM: “You said that before but what are You saying, Lord? Are You saying that You PLACED this child where you wanted him or her to be because OBEDIENCE comes before someone can be POSITIONED? But it’s still You giving the direction. Are you saying that greatness is being in the position You place us, the place where we can be used for Your purposes? Is this what you mean by greatness?

I still can’t accept it that a child can be great. Children in Your time on earth had no rights. They can’t be great. Children are so dependent on adults and yet insist on being independent. They are always asking questions, never want to go to bed early, embarrassingly make fun of others, hate homework and structured learning. When they are small they demand to be picked up. When they are big they refuse to give you a hug. How is that great?”

JESUS: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

GRAHAM: “But Lord, children have no responsibilities, stand in front of the TV, invade your personal space, cough without covering their mouths, pick their noses, play in the dirt, pass on colds and flu and nits and ringworm and worse diseases. They have high pitched screams, have no idea of danger, and have far too much energy to keep up with. They break toys, and if they can’t get what they want, they ‘cry’.”

JESUS: “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming Me.” 

GRAHAM: “OK, Lord. Let me try to get my head around this. The Child was called, so she or he was old enough to understand, turn to You, exercise trust and obey. He or she makes a choice, a positive choice towards You.

I think You are trying to tell me that I need to think of greatness in the simplest of terms. It’s not the flaws of children that you want to emphasise but the simplicity of faith. This child, in this situation, is a picture of what it means to have dependence on You and trust in You.

I guess you are not saying that I am to be childish, but childlike, and have a simple openness in being directed in my life by You. To be great is to find my purpose and position in life lining up with Your purposes and where You want me to be. OK, I get it. Save me from being too adult.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:19, 30-37 – CLEARING AWAY THE OLD COBWEBS

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

A spider weaves it’s web, silk extruded from its spinnerets. For weeks I watch it sitting in the middle of it’s lair just outside our window and then suddenly it is gone. I often wonder what happened to that spider. Now over the weeks only the tangled architecture of an abandoned snare remains. The magnificent lines of aerial craftsmanship are now sagging, sticky filaments flailing in the wind. The tensile strength of mellifluous spider silk stretched in etched lines in space has become a confusion of snarls.

RECOGNISE MY OLD COBWEBS

  1. AM I TRUSTING IN FALSE SECURITY?

What was Rachel thinking? Was she trying to hedge her bets? Was she rejecting a relationship with God, trying to enrage her father, or does she see these idols as valuable items to sell as a forfeited dowry? (Genesis 31:19). Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and family blessing. Now Rachel steals to get what she wants. Theft and lying still plagues this family. In a world full of spiders, it seems stupid to risk getting caught in your own web.

You locate trust where you find your security. You know the common ones; health, wealth, intelligence. (All such are temporal. Believe me; I work in aged care. I see how temporal it can be, everyday). Trusting in an eternal God clears away the cobwebs of false security.

  1. AM I PLAYING THE BLAME GAME?

Laban’s sons and relatives already view Jacob with suspicion, and now once again Laban tries to discredit him – “Why have you stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30 NLT). Implying that this is another motive for leaving, Laban attacks Jacob’s integrity. Watch out for the fangs, Jacob. The web is a problem but how will you avoid the cruel venom of the spider?

But is the secret to success really found in knowing who to blame for your failures? Deny all, admit nothing, and blame someone else? Politicians, parents, wives, God? Blame is a cobweb in Laban’s window that blocks his ability to see his own reflection. When you blame others you give up the power to change.

  1. AM I ALLOWING FEAR TO RULE MY DECISIONS?

Jacob has no interest in idols. He explains honestly that fear was the basis of his deception in rushing away, not theft. “I was afraid … I thought you would take your daughters from me by force” (Genesis 31:31 NLT). 

The kind of fear that disturbs our trust in God. Fear that frantically seeks for methods to help God protect us rather than cooperate with His plans was the fear that justified Jacob’s decision to leave secretly. He was obeying God, but fear chooses the way of deception once again to escape harm. Arachnophobia. The vibration of panic pulling at the web has only attracted the malice of the spider. Trust uses the broom of faith to sweep away fear.

  1. AM I GIVING NEGATIVE WORDS POWER?

Jacob has nothing that belongs to Laban. Even his wives were sold to him for 14 years of labour. It all legally belongs to Jacob, except of course for the idols. Not aware that Rachel has stolen the household gods Jacob makes a rash statement of bravado. He says “But as for your gods, see if you can find them, and let the person who has taken them die! And if you find anything else that belongs to you, identify it before all these relatives of ours, and I will give it back!” (Genesis 31:32 NLT).

Negativity misuses our words; and turns words of life to words of death. It makes rash statements without thinking of the consequences. Jacob gives negative words power and says things he doesn’t really mean.

James 3:8-10 (NLT) says that “no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” 

  1. AM I RELYING ON LIES AND SECRETS?

Laban doesn’t take Jacob’s word. He is looking for any excuse to discredit and humiliate Jacob. He searches the web. Rachel is not about to let her sin find her out. She has hidden the gods in the camel’s saddle and she sits on the saddle. I love what Sherry Car writes about this. She talks about “Sitting on false security! … What kind of false securities do we have beneath us?” https://www.bible.com/

Will the spider find his prey? Laban doesn’t think of asking her to rise because she says she is having her menstrual period. There was an uncleanness associated with this and no-one comes near her. Laban doesn’t find the gods (Genesis 31:35).

Lies and secrets are cobwebs on the soul, hindering our ability to see the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

  1. AM I RULED BY SELF DECEPTION?

Rachel is no less guilty of the crime. She escapes facing up to what she has done but perhaps this opens the door to the curse of idolatry into the life of her family and to future Israel? “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23 NLT).

God changed Laban’s capacity for harming Jacob by warning him in a dream (Genesis 31:24), but that doesn’t change his heart. Even after having a direct encounter with God he is still looking for his household idols!

The scene is pathetic. Laban is more concerned to prove that Jacob is a thief and liar than admitting his own need to repent and give his heart to God. Rachel is more concerned with sitting on false security in idols than in trusting in God. Jacob just wants to get out from under Laban’s bullying influence and finds deceptive means to to try to help God. The angelic host must be killing themselves with laughter at the standoff but horrified by the human capacity for deceiving themselves. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

GETTING RID OF THE OLD COBWEBS

Robert Zoellick says “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” The Bible says that the wages of sin always leads to a spiritual death sentence without God’s grace (Romans 3:23,24).

Genesis 31 speaks of the tangled web of self-deceit. The invitation God gives us is to admit our ridiculous pretence. Jacob, Rachel and Laban all have the opportunity to trust in God. 

The nature of trust compels us to confront our self-deceit. It does not sneak away from problems, lay blame on others or trust in false security but declares God’s purposes, inviting us to come freely and choose to refuse being entrapped by our circumstances. It is being open and honest with God, allowing Him to clear away the cobwebs (Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13). 

Security, responsibility, trust, words of life, and truth in life are found in a loving relationship with Christ (John 14:6). He died for my sin so that I could be clean and forgiven and live life to my full potential (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:9-13 – BUT WHAT WILL OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF ME? 

My head shouts “Who Cares!”, but my heart whispers, “You do, stupid”. (Image Created by Ross Cochrane)

My head shouts “Who Cares!”, but my heart whispers, “You do, stupid”. (Image Created by Ross Cochrane)

All of a sudden she is here, arguing with me. When I question her motives she turns and says “Don’t kid yourself. You care about what others think of you! You think happiness is being liked by others. Everybody does. What will my wife/husband think? What will my parents think? What will my friends think? What will my work colleagues/boss think? What will they think of me if I disagree with them? I’ll be un-cool. I can’t be caught wearing that!”

With a look of resignation she says, Whether I like it or not my status is based on what people think of me. I live my life for their recognition.”

She frowns and confronts me, “Although you must resent it at times, if you are honest with yourself, you feel better about yourself when you have a following on the internet of people who like you, a social acceptability rating. A younger Gravatar. A little more hair.”  

Before I can object she shoutsSo stop judging me! People need a little help in what they think about me. The first impression. It is up to me to manipulate that, how skilful I am to control those impressions. I deserve it. 

How stupid it would be to think that I don’t need anyone’s approval but my own. I don’t live life in a vacuüm. I need you to love me. I won’t ask you outright, like you do on Instagram and your blogs, but I secretly want to know “What do you think of me?” 

Now with tears in her eyes she pleads “I need your approval. It’s a game of chance. If I’m lucky, I’ll win. I don’t have low self-esteem, as long as you respect me. I accept myself if you do. I love myself if you do. I forgive myself if you do. I make my own decisions if you approve of them. I am happy, complete, fulfilled and loveable as long as that’s what you want. It works better that way. I fit in. I’m accepted and acceptable and likeable. You do like me, don’t you?”  

Then, before I have time to reply she is gone as quickly as she came. I find her again in the pages of Genesis as I continue to read…

She has already been blessed with children of her own, but now Leah becomes concerned that Rachel might have an advantage (Genesis 30:9). When she discovers she is no longer able to have children, she wonders whether she will be accepted.

So without too much trouble Leah convinces Jacob to take her servant, Zilpah, and sleep with her. Zilpah’s child will legally belong to Leah. Zilpah doesn’t have a choice. Human trafficking seems rife in this dysfunctional family. Leah names the child Gad which seems to mean “good luck or fortune.” I’m not so sure it was for Zilpah. 

She enters a game of chance and luck and neglects her destiny. Leah, did God withhold more children from you deliberately? Have you failed the trust test? When my life seems barren what do I do? Manipulate my circumstances on the chance that I’ll be loved?

When Zilpah bears a second son, Leah names him Asher, or “happy.” Happiness in the midst of mutual jealousy between sisters is false. I want to help Leah to see that true happiness is found in her relationship with God, not in a competition with Rachel and not in compromising her trust in God in order to gain approval from others.

But Leah says, “What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me” (Genesis 30:13 NLT). There is no mention of God’s celebration of her son. Does Leah know that her thinking is dysfunctional and distorted? Do I? Or am I so concerned what others think about me that I forget my relationship with God. John speaks of the religious leaders as those who “…loved human praise more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 NLT). 

The story of Leah helps me find my security beyond human recognition, social-acceptability, status, and appreciation. Security based on human praise is so fragile and so easily lost. It is a game of chance. God invites us to find our self-esteem and happiness, not from others or from ourselves but from a relationship with Christ. He knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us. He invites us to a fruitful life, based on His Truth and a recognition of His blessings. It is not dependent on what others think about us. Trusting in Christ enables us to live beyond our insecurities. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:1-3- CHECK MATE

Jealousy's Pawn - Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

Jealousy’s Pawn – Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

She begins the game by attacking her husband, who is standing nearby. She is jealous of Leah, her sister, whom she now considers an opponent. She blames Jacob for not concentrating. She needs his support. She is running out of time and patience! The game will be lost! Rachel pleads with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1 NLT).

Rachel has chosen the black and God has made the first move, but she seems to think that she is playing against Leah. She is ready to make her first move, but her strategy is flawed and will serve only to achieve short-term advantage and place her emotions and marriage in danger.

Focused on more than simply achieving equality on the board, Rachel feels she must develop a counterplay to unbalance Leah’s position, to neutralise her gains. She does not know how to lose graciously and she feels that her sister has put her at a disadvantage by bearing children while she remains barren. She knows that she must manoeuvre her resources and bring into play some “interferences” and “underminings” to gain a tactical gain and she is willing to make whatever “sacrifices” are necessary to achieve “check mate”.

The game has reached a critical level even at this early stage. She is flustered, not considering the consequences of her action. She refuses to see the big-picture. She is not aligning her actions with God’s strategy for her life. Her next move is too hasty and unexpected, unconventional, wild, crazy!

“Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” (Genesis 30:3 NLT)Move the pawn! But Rachel, you can’t have Check Mate in one move!

When your thinking is distorted then nothing is learned from the failures of history. Instead, they are repeated. Like Sarah, Rachel tries to manipulate the hand of God by giving her maid to Jacob in order to obtain children. Like Hagar, Bilhah is the Pawn moved around the board by Rachel.

Afterall, surrogacy is an acceptable tactical custom of the day, like polygamy, or multiple sexual partners. I guess things haven’t changed. One commentary suggests that this is why Laban provides his daughters with maids; as a back-up in case his daughters had no children; pawns in a game of Chess! Bilhah will never have full rights as a wife and mother. She is owned and her children are owned.

Today, we would call it human slavery and trafficking. For Rachel it was a part of the strategy, an ill-considered move to gain short-term advantage over Leah. Jacob is also playing the part of a pawn. Why doesn’t Jacob object? No complaints from Jacob. He’s in his 90’s and sleeping with three and soon four young women. He’s suddenly not interested in asking God about it. For Jacob and Rachel, there is an erosion of faith and trust concerning God’s promises. Neither of them seem concerned enough to pray. Doesn’t Check come before Mate? 

Without God, life is lived like a game of chess where we try to remain in control and determine the moves we play, but ultimately we lose. Each move we make effects the lives of those around us and their moves influence ours, but our selfish choices can seriously damage relationships. 

Rachel does not accept responsibility for her actions nor does she consider the consequences of the moves she makes. The invitation is to stop treating life like a game of Chess and begin to look for God’s perspective, His strategies, His plans and take His purposes for our lives into consideration. 

The strategy was planned from the beginning of time; Jesus experiences the jealousy of the religious leaders of his day and just as they think they have defeated Him, He makes His move. They are astounded. Slaves of sin are set free. The pawns have become royalty. Death defeated, sin forgiven, sacrifice sufficient! Check mate! The white King wins! He invites us to share in His victory. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:1-2 – JEALOUSY IS A TERRIBLE COUNSELOR

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor - Image created by Ross Cochrane

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Envy © by Ross Cochrane

Envy sees a world of better things
She vies against a sister with protracted claws
And leaves her grieving, graceless, loveless, insecure.
Self flaying tail of pain, flings it’s stings.
Hateful, harmful hooks take hold and cling. Her jaws
Will maul trust and make truth a prisoner.

Poor in counsel, jealousy lays blame,
Inciting Cain to kill, closing heavens doors,
Her sick soul still seeks a shameful cure.
Yet victory for her will still remain
Unsure.

Jealousy is a terrible counselor. She leaves you feeling isolated, insecure and grieving over your loss. You are incited to inflict damage on those you love. Jealousy turns you against Trust; a gracious and truthful friend who helps you understand your attitudes. Trust helps you to see your blessings and celebrate the success of others and helps you believe for the best. She is the mother of Patience.

 

Is she planning to commit suicide or is she simply expressing that her sole motivation in life is to have children? Rachel sees her sister and pleads with Jacob, “Give me children or I’ll die” (Genesis 30:1). She doesn’t plead with God and so far there is no mention that Rachel places any trust in the promises God has made to her husband. Is God providing her an opportunity to trust Him by keeping her childless?

Jacob has grown up in a competitive environment with his brother Esau, so he understands the dynamic of sibling rivalry. Now, through his bigamy, he creates an even greater environment for competition between his wives. Jealousy turns up because she is invited and Jacob acts as if she is an unexpected gate-crasher. Jealousy whispers lies about Leah and introduces Rachel to Blame. Jealousy and Blame test Jacob’s conflict management skills to the max.

Proverbs 14:30 (NLT) says “… jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs 27:4 (NLT) says “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NLT) says “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” Far from being happy and proud for her sister and the blessing of children, she creates a catfight. Rachel’s motive for intimacy with Jacob is not intended to develop her love for him, but to feed her jealous battle with her sister.

Jealousy and Rage have an infamous history. Jealousy incited Cain to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Jealousy embittered Sarai against her servant Hagar (Genesis 16) so much so that she sent her into the wilderness to die with her child. Jealousy encouraged Lot to move away from Abraham (Genesis 26) choosing the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot almost lost his life. Jealousy fed king Saul’s obsessions and insecurity against David. He tried to kill David (1 Samuel 18). Jealousy builds a gallows for Haman who attempts to use it to murder Mordecai (Esther 5:13). Government officials swayed by Jealousy throw Daniel into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Jewish leaders provoked by Jealousy (Acts 13 and 17) force Paul to leave town. The religious leaders prejudiced by Jealousy’s deceit crucify Jesus (Matthew 27:18). Jesus is well acquainted with Jealousy’s snares. Jealousy and Rage have an unpleasant association with Death rather than new life.

Rachel listens to the whispers of Jealousy. She wants the status of motherhood and Jealousy has told her that it is a stigma to have no children. Jealousy has made her more concerned with what others think of her than what God thinks of her. If Hannah, who lived many years hence, could have counselled Rachel perhaps the outcome may have been different (1 Samuel 1:11), but instead, a family of children, born in the midst of Jealousy and tension, grow up with distorted values? One day Jacob’s sons, intoxicated with Jealousy’s wine, will sell their brother Joseph into slavery. Jacob’s bigamous relationship was destined for such grief.

“Then Jacob becomes furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asks. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” (Genesis 30:2 NLT).  

This is their first recorded fight and Jacob is furious with Rachel, as if his fury can quench Jealousy’s influence. “Am I God?” he shouts. At least he realises his limitations. He realises that children are a gift from God. Does he also realise that God has deliberately withheld children from Rachel (Genesis 29:31)? He implies as much. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” acknowledging God’s part in all this. Is he implying that God is judging her? Is it just that he wants to blame God when backed into a corner like so many people do?

Perhaps Jacob is seeking to bring Rachel abruptly to her senses, making her aware that God gives life and that she should stop associating with Jealousy and take counsel from Him. Is he furious because the wife he supposedly loves does not have faith in God? Not that he should talk. He doesn’t pray either, so is his faith also waning? Since Rachel has succumbed to Jealousy’s irrationality, a lecture on theology isn’t going to help. If only both of them got down on their knees and prayed, it might help quell Jealousy’s fire and assuage Jacob’s Rage.

The invitation that God gives to me is to take counsel from Trust, to make choices of life rather than death, to allow the Cross to deal with Rage and Jealousy. Lord, bring Your perspective to my attitudes. Trust invites me to see my blessings and celebrate the success of others. Trust helps me believe for the best and develop patience. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:20 – HOW TO START A CONVERSATION WITH JESUS

Conversation - Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Conversation – Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Walking into the building that morning (some years ago) a couple we did not know greeted us, engaging with us in conversation easily. How pleasing to go away on holidays and return to be welcomed warmly as guests by perfect strangers. They were quite surprised when I spoke to the crowd that morning. They had no idea that I was the Pastor of the Church they had attended for the last month. It was probably better that way. Sometimes a title can be an impediment.

ICEBREAKERS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus! How do you start a conversation with Jesus? If you were Jesus what would you say? The normal icebreakers are not going to work ….

“Hello, I’m Mark and I’m a mechanic?” 

“Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m the Messiah, Saviour of the world, the Way, Truth and Life, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God, and Light of the world.” 

(Awkward silence) “I see… well, nice meeting You.” 

Perhaps it’s better to let Jesus initiate the conversation. How does Jesus make a memorable first impression? Where do you begin when you are the Saviour of the world and Your purpose for coming is to form genuine trust relationships with others? How can you hope for initial rapport to be created? At least Jesus knows one thing to avoid in starting a conversation…

TITLES AND LABELS

I have read all kinds of reasons why Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT). It’s not that He is unsure of Himself. He’s not shy or embarrassed about who He is. Some say His disciples have a false understanding and He needs more time to teach them what the word Messiah really means. Others say He wants them to wait until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them before sharing who He is. Still others say that it would cause a riot to tell people that He is the Messiah and Jesus wants to avoid confrontation or an uprising. These reasons seem complicated and unnecessary.

The simplest explanation is that Jesus is not interested in titles but in genuine interactions; in starting up a conversation with us where we can get to know Him without any frills. He wants us to come to a knowledge of the truth by meeting us where we are and allowing us to be open with Him. Jesus doesn’t have to try to impress us and He’s not trying to impose Himself on us.

INTEREST AND HUMILITY

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT) gives great advice in starting a conversation. It says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. … take an interest in others, too. … have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had … 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. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT) Christmas and the Cross remind us about the humility of Christ as He relates to us.

OPENNESS AND TRUST

So when Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT) it seems to me that He invites us to come to understand who He is, as Peter did (Matthew 16:13-19), through personal relationship and openness to God, not simply because of a label giving Him status.

Normally you can’t expect miracles to take place in your first interactions with someone new … except when you start a conversation with Jesus.

“So Jesus, I’ve heard a little bit about You. Some people say You are the prophetic voice of our time?” 

“But who do you say that I am?”

Great way to begin! But be warned – starting a conversation with Jesus could end up being a life-changing encounter. I know the traditional rule is that you never start a conversation with people you don’t know well with talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex. The risk of offensiveness is way too high. Jesus however will inevitably address all these issues in our lives and more. He’s not afraid to get to the heart of a conversation about troubled lives, estranged relationships, and even sin and death. But far from being awkward, His initial invitation allows us to get to know Him personally and to keep in touch … for eternity. 

Pastor Ross