Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

What on earth2

The Questions of Discipline © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 6 – 10 WAYS TO KNOW IF I AM EXPERIENCING GOD’S DISCIPLINE? – Discipline Part 2

A car accident changed his life. He is in a wheelchair and believes that God is angry at him. Is his accident really GOD’S DISCIPLINE? 

Another woman who lost her husband feels that God is VERY SEVERE.

In Psalm 6, David believes that he is being disciplined by God.

O Lord, don’t REBUKE ME in Your anger or DISCIPLINE ME in Your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

DISCIPLINE?

  • Have you ever prayed for healing and not received it?
  • Do you feel that God is displeased with you and rebuking you for your sinfulness?
  • Do you believe that the Lord is angry with you and “taking you to the woodshed for a spanking with the razor strap?”
  • Does the Lord yell at you and discipline you in a rage?

King David is afraid that God is doing just that. His Psalm doesn’t go into details, but it is clear that he thinks that God is disciplining him. And he is upset, humbled and broken. He’s in anguish about his circumstances. He’s more concerned for inward peace than even outward healing, though, it seems, he needs both.

And that’s what leads me to ask this question…

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME AND WHEN HE IS NOT?

Fortunately, the Bible gives me some guidelines and they are not necessarily what you expect. They have much more to do with the results of discipline than to the discipline itself. Here are 10 ways to know if what you face is the discipline of God.

The first way has to do with God being a God of Truth …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO GOD’S WORD?

Psalms 119:67,71 (NLT2) says “I used to wander off until You DISCIPLINED me; but now I CLOSELY FOLLOW YOUR WORD… My SUFFERING was good for me, for it taught me TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DECREES.” 

In fact, God’s Word itself disciplines us. 2 Timothy 3:16 (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.”

So difficult things that happen in our lives can lead us back into the Bible and what God has to say for our lives.

God’s Word always brings correction and direction for our lives, and perspective on how we can respond to what happens in the world and to us personally.

Sin triggers discipline. So the 2nd way to know if you are being disciplined by God has to do with the righteousness and justice of God… 

2. AM I PROMPTED TO ADMIT WHEN I GET THINGS WRONG?

1 John 1:8-10 (Msg) says …

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we ADMIT OUR SINS—… He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to Himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The key thing to remember is that when I deserved God’s discipline, Jesus suffered for me on the Cross and died to pay the price for my sin.

This brings me to admit when I get things wrong and ask God for the forgiveness that was purchased for me on the Cross.

That leads us to the third question to help you know if you are facing the discipline of God. It has to do with responding to God’s righteousness …

3. AM I PROMPTED TO PLEASE HIM AS MY HEAVENLY FATHER?

Hebrews 12:6 (NLT) says, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”

Revelation 3:19 (NLT) says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.”

If I am loved by God as His child, apparently, there will be times of discipline.

Some parents today do discipline badly, but not God. God never abuses His children, and so His discipline will draw me closer to Him, not drive me away. 

I will not find myself saying, “Whatever” with teenage indifference to a parental instruction, but I will find myself delighting in pleasing Him as I respond willingly to His correction. My response will be prompted by my relationship to Him as my Father, someone I respect and love.

The 4th way to know if it is God who is disciplining me has to do with being prompted to recognise that God is omnipotent and sovereign and I need His help…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO RECOGNISE THAT ONLY GOD CAN HEAL ME?

Psalm 6:2 (NLT) says, “Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

The requests of David’s prayer indicate he feels the consequences of his sin and of God’s displeasure at him. He is distressed and depressed. Helpless and hopeless.

He doesn’t resist or reject God’s discipline or despise God for it. He recognises that only God can heal him on the inside and on the outside.

The 5th principle has to do with responding to God’s unfailing love…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO BE RESTORED TO HIM?

Psalm 6:3-4 (NLT) says, “I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until You restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love.”

Psalm 6:6 (NLT) says, I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.

I mourn for something inside me which struggles and sometimes wants to give up and I am so tired of struggling and being defeated. Ever felt like this? I have.

Sin always clouds who I am in Christ and I need You to restore me to health on the inside. Distress, emotional anguish and depression over a period of time make me cry out “How long, O Lord?” How do you pray when you can’t cope?

David is so honest. He questions and wrangles with God as he cries out in pain and anguish. God even invites us to ask for answers.

James 1:5-8 (NLT) says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

Lord, sometimes You seem so far away. I pray that Your presence would be apparent in my life today and that You would actively intervene in my situation because I am continually in need of rescuing. Thankyou Lord for Your unfailing love that has saved me and continues to save me.

David is not impressed with the painful state that his life is in and wants the Lord to extricate him. It seems he even fears for his life and so the 6th way to tell whether or not I am being disciplined has to do with responding to who God is…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO WORSHIP HIM?

Psalm 6:5 (NLT) says, For the dead do not remember You. Who can praise You from the grave?

The Message Bible says, I’m no good to You dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 speaks about Christians participating in the remembrance meal in the wrong way and says some have been judged for doing so and some have even died as a result of their sin, … But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

David still had work to do. He wants to live and continue to make a difference as his life on earth gives praise to God. He is examining himself before God.

If I serve a righteous, holy and just God, then God’s discipline will also lead me to ask …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO STAND AGAINST EVIL?

Psalm 6:7-8 (NLT) says, “My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.”

My vision is blurred by grief at wasting my life. It seems sometimes that life conspires against me and I am surrounded by defeat instead of victory. Today I actively refuse evil ways and pursue Your ways, Lord. Thanks for listening to my heart.

God is immutable (unchanging and faithful to His character) and if God disciplines me then I can expect to ask…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DECLARE MY CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN GOD?

Psalm 6:9 (NLT) says, The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.

Thank You for hearing my deepest cries. I trust You, Lord. I know You answer my prayers.

God is eternal and wants us all to share in His life. Does God’s discipline make me more passionate for the gospel?

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DESIRE THAT THOSE DON’T KNOW THE LORD WILL BE CONVERTED?

Psalm 6:10 (NLT) says, May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly TURN BACK in shame.

The Hebrew word for “Turn back” is the word that means to recover, restore, convert or revive. Is David praying for their repentance and conversion?

In Psalm 51:13 David says, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You. THEN I WILL TEACH YOUR WAYS TO REBELS, AND THEY WILL RETURN TO YOU.”

May the things that conspire against all that I am created to be today be thwarted and run for cover and find none. May shame not be present in my life today as I serve You, Lord. May those who conspire against You be disciplined, not so they will suffer, but so that they too can find their way back to You.

God’s discipline is not purposeless and so a final question,

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO FIND SOMETHING GOOD WHICH COMES FROM EVERYTHING FACE IN LIFE?

What I do know is that Romans 8:27-29 (NLT) says, “… GOD CAUSES EVERYTHING TO WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” 

Notice this is not saying everything is good but God CAUSES everything to work together for good to those who love Him. The Christ-followers to whom this was written were experiencing persecution. God turns cursing to blessing.

When Jesus went to the Cross it was certainly not a good thing. But God caused everything to work together for good so that we could be saved.

By the way, I don’t believe that all the accidents, catastrophes, sickness and terrorism and droughts and floods and earthquakes and bad things that happen to good people are God’s discipline, any more than I believe old age is God’s discipline.

These things are all part of the world we live in and yes, God allows them.

Nevertheless, God can use what is already part of our lives for His good purposes, both good and bad things, and they can also serve to keep us trusting in Him. 

What I like about David is that he is honest with God. He realises that difficult times have a purpose and bring us to our knees with the kind of honesty that is disturbing to anyone else but God. 

God wants you and me to be transparently honest with Him.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME? I will be prompted to pay more attention to God’s word, to please Him as my Heavenly Father, to admit when you get things wrong, to recognise that only God can heal me, to be restored to Him, to worship him, to stand against evil, to desire that even those who don’t know the lord will be converted, to declare my confidence in God, to find something good which comes from everything we face in life.

God bless you.

Pastor Ross 

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Lie like the Devil or...

Lie like the devil or ….?

Truth isn’t truth? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:1-2 – TRUTH ISN’T TRUTH? CONTEXT NEEDED.

Psalm 4:2 King David says, “How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” 

Recently, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that “truth isn’t truth” during a television interview. Even in context, this statement is a sad reflection on politics.

He was talking about a conversation between President Trump and FBI director James Comey in February 2017. Mr Comey’s account of that conversation is quite different from President Trump’s.

Guiliani said, “When you tell me that he (Donald Trump) should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.”

Todd responded: “Truth is truth.” Mr Giuliani said: “Truth isn’t truth.”

Mr Giuliani then gave context to his comment – “If you’re just a genius, tell me what the truth is! We have a credibility gap  You’ve got to select between the two of them.”

In another interview, Mr Giuliani was commenting on facts. He said, “It’s in the eye of the beholder,”

“No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder,” Cuomo said.

“… yes they are. Nowadays they are,” Giuliani asserted.

Even given context, Giuliani’s “truth isn’t truth” and “facts are in the eye of the beholder” remarks, points to a worldview that everyone can have their own version of the truth and that there is no absolute truth. Relativism.

Lindy Keffer from Focus on the Family says, “In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.” 

The Press has had a field-day with Guiliani’s comments, but some people have pointed out that when Guiliani’s interview was broadcast by the newspapers and twitter comments, the headlines and some articles left out the context of his “truth isn’t truth” statement and are therefore also misleading, lies in themselves, their version of the truth of what was said without the context, and thus proving his assertion.

King David is more direct in Psalm 4:2 “How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” asks David but through him, it is God who asks this question today.

We are all capable of manipulating the truth to get ourselves out of a corner. The blatant lies of politicians have long been acknowledged. The slogan from the Bible that hangs over the door of many courtrooms, “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” appears to have been watered down to “I will have my version of the truth and you will have your version of the truth and one of us will be set free depending on what someone else’s version of the truth is.” 

Can we believe what Comey tweeted? … 

“Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.” Guiliani would say, “Truth according to whom?” What is the standard of truth in Comey’s statement? Does it come from an external source or from our version of the truth?

I want something I can be sure of. God’s Word is Truth, absolute truth. I am invited to test the truth of His Word by living my life according to its precepts, without uncertainty.

I particularly want to be honest and call a lie a lie. I want to be able to admit to myself when I am operating from deception (and not to start believing my own lies as being my version of the truth).

I want to be able to admit my deceptive behaviour to God and see it from His point of view. Admitting a lie to others is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. Better to operate from the Truth in the first place. This is one of the serious challenges of our times (and of my life personally). It has to do with admitting when I am wrong and have an external set of standards that don’t depend on me. I need God’s standard of truth to do this.

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).

Answer me when I call to You, O God who declares me innocent” (Psalm 4:1 NLT).

It’s what God declares over my life that matters most. Just as David is declared innocent by God, I am declared by God to be forgiven because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross for me.

I have come to know the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Truth has set me free.

I can come to Him at any time and He listens if I am willing to give an honest account.

Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

The Bible never says that I won’t face troubles, but it speaks of God undeserved favor (mercy) and that He hears my prayer.

Even David as a King faces challenges and needs God’s help. He asks humbly for God’s undeserved favor, knowing that God will hear his deepest prayers.

Through this prayer of David, God invites me to call to Him and acknowledge my need for His help, without the lies.

Pastor Ross

Related Article

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/absolute-truth

Genesis 30:14 – LOVE POTION NOW BENIGN – FAITH AND SUPERSTITION

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Their words are as poisonous as the mandrakes over which they are arguing. Rachel’s anxiety and grief about not being able to conceive and her jealousy of her sister’s success reaches a culmination as she searches for solutions in superstition.

Rachel begs Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But Leah angrily replies, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?” (Genesis 30:14-15 NLT).

Obsessed and desperate, Rachel wants the mandrakes, the “love plants”, that Leah’s son Reuben has found in the field. Why is a toxic plant associated with love? Perhaps it aligns itself with Rachel’s love, poisonous with jealousy and delirious with desperation.

The Mandrake plant is toxic, causing hallucinations. It’s root system is bulbous and resembles a human figure. Although it has a pleasant smell, the only part of the mandrake that is not poisonous is it’s red fruit. It is called the “love apple” and is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac (love potion) which could help a women in conception (Wikepedia).

Rachel answers, “I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.” (Genesis 30:5 NLT). Steeped in superstitious zeal, Rachel is willing to make whatever sacrifices she needs for the mandrakes. She has already made her servant/slave a surrogate mother. Now she prostitutes her husband’s services. They both know that they can manipulate Jacob to do their bidding.

Jacob hasn’t been sleeping with Leah and Leah doesn’t trust Rachel to follow through with the sleeping arrangements that night for her own husband, so she meets Jacob coming in from the fields and demands that he sleeps with her. There is no romance in her words. She says “I have paid for you with some mandrakes.” Jacob obviously doesn’t care who he sleeps with. He is more interested at this stage in keeping the peace.

Jacob has eight sons now from 3 women. No doubt he realises he is being used by two jealous wives. Nevertheless he spends that night with Leah.

Despite Rachel’s superstitious zeal for the mandrakes in the following days it is not Rachel who conceives but Leah. Leah bears Jacob another son (Genesis 30:17-18). No doubt the guilt of giving her servant to her husband to bear children has played upon her mind because she names him Issachar, which means “reward” “… for she says, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife” (Genesis 30:18 NLT). Leah, like Rachel, seeks to justify rather than admit her sin. She falls into the snare of deceiving herself by trying to involve God in her selfishness. Do I really expect God to reward my plans when I violate His? Does God reward immorality/human trafficking? I don’t think so. God heard and answered Leah’s prayer, not to reward her immoral decisions concerning her servant/slave, but to fulfil his promise to Jacob.

Faith is not a good luck charm. Faith does not beg for a superstitious potion in the hope that something might happen. Reuben grows up with the example of his parents superstitious belief in love potions and Issachar has a constant reminder in his name of his Mother’s attempt at trying to justify her sin. What impression do we leave on the next generation by our blatant disregard of living our lives as God intended. God invites us to acknowledge our sin rather than justify ourselves? We can pray as David prayed – “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…” God’s love potion for forgiveness and fruitfulness in life is found in knowing Jesus.

Faith expects the best and enables me to endure the worst. It builds it’s perceptions on revealed truth, not on false hope. Superstition limits us to imaginary measures to solve our problems. Faith lives a life that points us to hope in the reality of God’s solutions. Christ continually calls us to be immersed in the truth of all that God has promised; Jesus said “I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life” (John 14:6). 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:19 – Part 2 – HOW TO UNLOCK THE DOORS TO UNLIMITED RESOURCES

Key to Truth (Photo and image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and PhotoForge) Key in bottom corner - Cross = Love

Key to Truth (Photo and image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and PhotoForge) Key in bottom corner – Cross = Love

The morning looks sleepily into the mirror, wipes away the mist so the boats on the other side of the Bay are vaguely visible, stretches it’s shadowy arms across the beach and offers me a cup of coffee as I prepare to face the day. Holidays. Glorious holidays! Bateman’s Bay and an apartment on the beach. Beautiful.

They looked so insignificant when we received them from the owner, but her keys supplied us with the authority of her house and to the view from the full length windows leading onto the beach, of beautiful rock features nearby stretching out into the water; the resources of heavens bounty.

Matthew 16:19 (NLT) says “And I will give you (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 

Jesus, owner of heaven and earth, speaks of the Keys of the Kingdom. Keys to open doors of faith? Yes. But there is a wider vista. “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). Jesus said “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old” (Matthew 13:51-52 NLT).

2. KEYS TO OPEN UP TRUTH

Jesus gives Peter the authority of a homeowner with a storeroom full of treasures. Only an entrusted servant can hold the keys to a house bearing the treasures of God’s purposes on earth. What an incredible honour to be entrusted with such keys. It is a sign of authority to bring “new gems of truth as well as old” from the room of His riches.

Peter was the first man who had the insight of heaven concerning the New Covenant, a new gem of truth. Jesus said “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being” (Matthew 16:17 NLT).

The keys committed to Peter are not the keys of earth, but the keys of heaven. Peter demonstrates that new treasures of truth from the storeroom of God’s kingdom can be shared. Peter is to transcribe heaven’s perspective on earth; the legacy of love, to reveal it’s gems to us. He is used by God to unlock the doors through inspired teachings, some of which are included in the New Testament. Peter becomes a scribe instructed by the authority of heaven.

When we declare the purposes of God and live according to God’s truth, we are also bearers of the keys. The Spirit of Truth enables our decisions on earth to correspond with the decisions of heaven. “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 NLT). Our discernment of good and evil is no longer based on law but on relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, Son of the Living God. He gives us a moral compass and standard for living which cuts across all other standards. When God’s Word declares it, it is no longer in dispute.

The invitation is to find God’s truth and live it out, to help others understand God’s purposes, to interpret His will in everyday living, to allow God to be our counsellor, our teacher, to be loosed by a law of love to serve God, not bound by our culture or whatever is most popular. 

We have authority through our relationship with Christ to be loosed from any captivity of our past, or slavery of our wills in the present, or any despotic imposition that would cause our hearts and minds to miss the mark in the future. 

The invitation is to trust in Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Once and for all the key slides into the deadbolt across the corrugations of metal and is turned. Can you hear the soft click of metal as it aligns itself with perfect precision? Can you feel the bolt slide smoothly until the door is released? The storeroom of truth is opened to those who accept the keys. 

They look so insignificant when we receive them from the owner, but His keys supply us with the authority of His house and to the view from the full length windows leading into His purposes, and the magnificent expanses of His truth available to us from His Word; the resources of heavens bounty. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-16 – THE KEY VANTAGE POINT

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT - Collage by Ross Cochrane and photos from MorgueFile

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT – Collage by Ross Cochrane and photos from MorgueFile

Eight strangers. Eight points of view. One truth. In the movie “Vantage Point” a violent and desperate scenario unfolds from eight different perspectives. Each view from different eyes gives us greater understanding about what is actually happening; the cable news crew, an American tourist with a handheld camcorder, a Secret Service agent ensuring the president’s safety and even our own viewpoints. Each vantage point leads us on a path of deception, or betrayal, or violent struggle as we try to save the president. Unwittingly we find ourselves involved in desperate powerplays as the truth is unfolded.

This is called Disambiguation or the Rashomon effect; a method of storytelling using multiple perspectives to explore what is really happening. It provides a setting, characters and plot, but various characters give an account of alternative versions of the same incident. The stories are mutually contradictory and we are caught in a search for the truth, which sometimes, as in Vantage Point, becomes clearer with each revelation.

There are many Vantage Points in the gospel accounts but only one truth. If we looked at Jesus through the lens of a TV Camera and saw the events leading up to the Crucifixion we would want to rewind and replay the scene again and again from different vantage points in order to find the truth. Who is this man? Matthew 16:13-16 would look something like this…

CAESAREA PHILIPPI – AD 28

A BANK OF MONITORS shows various vantage points of Jesus surrounded by His disciples. CAMERA ZOOMS IN ON YOUR IPHONE SCREEN. In your viewfinder, you are scanning a group of men talking. FOCUS ON JESUS. You press Video Feed. His team is listening, waiting.

Jesus has been shown the full story board by His Father of His coming abduction, interrogation, His condemnation before His accusers, His crucifixion and resurrection. His gaze now scans across His disciples. We get a glimpse of some sadness in His eyes. He takes a deep breath and asks “Who do others say that I am?”

Your camera feed pans across to Judas. He is distracted. You turn the video around, trying to see what Judas is looking at. You capture a curtain fluttering in an upper window of a nearby building. Back to the group. You almost miss what Matthew is saying. “Well, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” There is general agreement.

THEN UNEXPECTEDLY JESUS WALKS TOWARDS YOU. Uncomfortably close. The iPhone is still recording but now somehow it is in Jesus’ hands. The image shudders and is turned upside down but then FOCUSES BACK ON YOU. You feel confronted and a little awkward. (All cameras pan to you and you see yourself on monitor 6) as Jesus focuses in on your heart you begin to hear His question. “Who do you say that I am?” You find yourself asking “Why am I avoiding this question? Are my alliances curtainlike flutterings in the window? Am I here, taking all this in, recording the scene but not really responding? Distracted? Who do I say that Jesus is? Is He a MARTYR FOR HIS FAITH like John the Baptist, A MIRACLE WORKER like Elijah, A MESSENGER from God like Jeremiah or one of the prophets? His question rings in your head; “Who do YOU say that I am?”

CUT TO PETER. PETER gives voice to his perspective of Jesus. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

That would be a fitting end to your video but with that revelation of truth all the action begins rather than finds closure. Jesus once again zooms in on you and although Jesus is no longer visible on the monitors, His voice reverberates with the FADE OUT. And somehow you know that unless you respond to the question Jesus is asking, you will never find the truth, not just of who Jesus is, but also of who you are and the destiny God intends for you.

THE KEY VANTAGE POINT is not your video feed of Jesus but His focus on you. All of us have seen the story board of Jesus life, death and resurrection, but when the full picture is replayed again and again, how will you respond when all the love of God is focused on you and Jesus asks “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:15 – HOW TO KEEP THE WOLVES FROM YOUR DOOR

Wolf at the Door!

“The spine-tingling howl was both compellingly beautiful and terrifyingly close. My nerves sung with alarm and the sheep moved restlessly. Was this a lone wolf or would we face a pack of hungry animals.

The other shepherds, with their woollen coats, hoods pulled up over their faces to protect them from the cold, were steering the flock in the darkness, whistling and speaking in comforting tones. All of a sudden a dominant male voice was shouting out orders and I realised that they were not shepherds but thieves! A wolf pack of men! The blow to the back of my head took me completely by surprise.”

In Matthew 7:15 (NASB) Jesus says “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

John MacArthur has an interesting explanation of Wolves in “SHEEP’S CLOTHING.” He says that shepherds wore woollen clothing to keep warm when they tended their sheep, “sheep’s clothing.” That means that false prophets do not deceive the flock by IMPERSONATING SHEEP but by IMPERSONATING THE SHEPHERD!

False shepherds disguise themselves as true shepherds. They claim to teach the truth but their words deceive, mislead, and, inevitably, cause harm to God’s people. In their greed, they impersonate the shepherd. It’s the perfect disguise, but they are out for personal gain, and not the benefit of the flock. RAVENOUS WOLVES! They are in it to fill their own appetite for fame, prestige, position, recognition. They come with their OWN AGENDAS AND PURPOSES for success at the expense of others.

Pastor Brian Houston this Sunday @Hillsong Church delivered an excellent message on Highs and Lows in the Christian Life. He said how most people in Australia believe in God, but He is devalued to a lower place in their lives. When reason, science, culture, money, recognition, etc are not subservient to Christ, they dominate and distort the way we live. Self rules. There’s a bank ad on TV at the moment that proclaims “I am king. I have control”. 2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT) “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!”

Are some of our prominent Church leaders False Teachers today? The evidence would say yes! And they are anything but harmless. 2 Timothy 3:13-17 (NLT) says “…. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.” In Galatians 1:6-9 (NLT) Paul says “I am shocked that you … are being fooled by those who deliberately TWIST THE TRUTH concerning Christ …”

Unfortunately, the reason they succeed is because they also fulfil the selfish needs of those who follow them. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT) says “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”

With a worldview which doesn’t include Christ, false teachers neglect to preach about Jesus dying for our sins. 1 John 4 goes on to say “… But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God … You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them.”

Working in a High Care Facility for the elderly, I am often asked by a family to officiate in a funeral service. Occasionally a family will say, “We don’t want anything religious.” My reply is that I am a follower of Christ and that the service will reflect who I am, and that I would not be offended if they wanted someone else to take the service. I cannot be false to who I am and my message will clearly be from a Christian perspective.

The invitation Christ gives comes through His warning. Don’t be pressured to live according to a culture that doesn’t include Christ or His claims on our lives. The invitation is to acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that He died for our sins and offers us eternal life. Keep the wolves from the door by not feeding them.

Pastor Ross

BREAKING THE CHAINS OF SUPERSTITION – Part 1

Superstition – Photo Creation by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile.com

The 2nd Friday in January was Friday the thirteenth, 2012. For those who believe in SUPERSTITION an unlucky day – a bad day for a journey, to marry, to make any investment. One woman I spoke with yesterday reads the stars each morning in the paper and prays that God will allow it to happen. Lets add to that walking under a ladder, a black cat, crossing your fingers, touching wood, reading the stars, petals plucked to discover if she loves me, she loves me not.

RELIGION especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. One man wears a cross as a kind of rabbits foot against bad luck, while another wears it as a symbol of what Christ did for us on the Cross in dying for our sins. One person prays as a meaningless ritual while another uses prayer as an expression of relationship with Christ.

SUPERSTITION is evident when I have a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of cause and effect. Many people would add that a belief in the supernatural, in miracles, in God, in the resurrection and ascension of Christ is also SUPERSTITION.

I’ve been reading a lecture (blog) by Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), an Atheist. I love his ability to express himself but I am amazed by the arrogance of his assertions and how he intentionally associates SUPERSTITION WITH FAITH. He is particularly scathing about regarding the Bible as the inspired Word of God and proclaims SCIENCE AS OUR SAVIOUR, which will “destroy bigotry in all its forms… It will abolish poverty and crime, and greater, grander, nobler than all else, it will make the whole world free.” (Ingersoll lecture on Superstition)

And years after his death in the scientific age in which we live we are still mesmerised by the superstition of believing that science is the saviour of the world. Yet far from freeing the world, the evidence suggests we are destroying it by the very discoveries we have made. Science hasn’t lived up to the arrogant claims and promises Ingersoll makes because it keeps limiting us by ignoring the very things that truly set us free.

If I was not willing to accept Christ for who He is I guess I would be forced to come up with some fanciful explanation that allowed my atheism or superstition some credence and would not obligate me to come under God’s authority – scientific or religious – it wouldn’t matter much which.

In delivering a series of messages based on The Truth Between Us, Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, recently said that true atheists and followers of Christ both want to rid themselves of SUPERSTITION. Thankfully, both atheists and followers of Christ ask us “Is that really the truth?” and if we were honest sometimes the answer is “No, it’s more connected with superstition and rituals and our own biased desires.” It may even be based on our self imposed limits.

Arnold (not his real name) has worked so long as a scientist that he has allowed his empirical rationalism to limit his ability to discern truth by relying only on his SENSES. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise FAITH as a valid system of perception. When Arnold, shackled and restricted to the evidence of the senses as he must be for his scientific research to be meaningful, refuses to acknowledge any OTHER pathways to truth but it’s own self imposed world of choices, then far from practicing science he is involved in “SCIENTISM” (as my geologist friend Bob calls it). Closing itself up to other possibilities outside the field of it’s own restricted measures of obtaining truth, scientism arrogantly seeks to cut us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives and from the divergent thinking that leads us to new discoveries. Should I restrict myself to my senses as the ONLY means to living life I could never be accountable to anyone but myself, limited by my “INGROWN THINKING”.

Erwin McManus speaks about the impossibility of trying to see something with the sense of smell or hear something with the sense of sight. It’s not that faith and science are diametrically opposed. They are not. It’s that we sometimes apply the wrong apparatus of perception when seeking truth.

It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. No-one should be more committed to pursuing truth than a follower of Christ, who says He is the way, TRUTH, and life and that the TRUTH will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32). He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 14:1-2 – BREAKING THE CHAINS OF MY LIMITATIONS

Breaking the Chains of My Limitations

One hundred and one years have passed and he still believes in a SUPERSTITION that once haunted Herod Antipas almost 2000 years ago. The centenarian I spoke with yesterday doesn’t like the idea of the afterlife, of heaven and hell, of continuing to live on past death, nevertheless he clings to a belief in REINCARNATION, that the soul is recycled. It is recorded that Herod Antipas also believed you could return and inhabit a different living person (Matthew 14:1-2). Reincarnation with a twist.

In delivering a series of messages based on The Truth Between Us, Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic, recently said that true atheists and followers of Christ both want to rid themselves of SUPERSTITION. Thankfully, both atheists and followers of Christ ask us “Is that really the truth?” and if we were honest sometimes the answer is “No, it’s more connected with superstition and rituals and our own biased desires.” It may even be based on our self imposed limits for discovering half truths.

Religion especially can be the hive of superstitious nonsense. But then again science and rationalism can also limit our ability to discern truth by relying only on our senses. Allowing for a multiplicity of ways to discern truth and not simply restricting and limiting discernment to the five senses allows me to exercise faith as a valid system of perception. When science refuses to acknowledge that we know things beyond our senses it becomes scientism. It cuts us off from the possibilities of discovering a more holistic range of truth for our lives.

No-one should be more committed to pursuing truth than a follower of Christ, who says He is the way, TRUTH, and life and that the TRUTH will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32). Sometimes the only verifiable truth I have is the truth evidenced by a changed life. It isn’t Jesus who is responsible for leading me to believe in superstition. He will never take me anywhere where truth is not.

When Herod hears that some people think that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead (Luke 9:7-9), with superstitious fear and a guilty conscience, he readily grasps at this explanation (2 Timothy 4:4). This is weird because he claims to be a Sadducee, and Sadducees don’t believe in life after death.

Years later Herod meets Jesus face to face when Jesus is on trial to be crucified (Luke 23:8–12) but even then He misses his opportunity to discover who Jesus really is and examines Him as a curiosity.

Strange that all the conclusions about Jesus that people come up with don’t include what John has been telling them all along. God has promised to them a Redeemer. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Saviour. Instead they come up with a quasi reincarnational theory.

Where does imagination stop and truth start? Children mix imagination and truth, but discerning that which is imaginary and that which is a possibility is the process that allows me to discover truth.

If I was not willing to accept Christ for who He is I guess I would be forced to come up with some fanciful explanation that allowed my atheism or superstition some credence and would not obligate me to come under God’s authority. Scientific or religious. It wouldn’t matter much which. There’s a downward trend here in Herod’s life that must tear him to pieces inside. He can’t explain away the miracles of Jesus and he desperately wants to maintain control of his world, so he must grasp at staws.

The invitation that both Herod and John the Baptist gives to us is to seek the truth. In the palace Herod entertains the truth but allows superstition and pride to reject Christ for who he really is. In the dungeon John the Baptist speaks the truth and though he is beheaded by Herod, it is the Truth about Jesus that sets him free.

Perhaps the questions worth asking are “What superstitions am I willing to embrace when it comes to seeking for the truth about Jesus? Am I simply applying limited constructs in a desire to eradicate Christ and His authority in my life? Am I really willing to seek the truth about who Jesus is? Am I willing to act on truth that I perceive beyond my senses and beyond my superstitions?”

John 16:13 (NLT) speaks about God the Holy Spirit as “THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH” who “will guide you into all truth” John 16:8 (NLT) says “… He will convict the world of its sin …” of unbelief. Am I willing to look beyond myself for the answers I need in life?

Pastor Ross

Genesis 26:1-17 – LIAR LIAR!

Liar! Liar!

I will always remember him. He lay in a bed seat, slightly twisted and looking at me with one eye half open. I was finishing a small Bible study devotional with a group of aged people. With a croaky voice filled with the bile of his past and exposed by his dementia he shouted “He’s a fraud! He’s a fraud! Don’t listen to him! Don’t listen to him! He only wants your money! He’s a fraud!” It was disconcerting to say the least.

The Bible says that it is the devil who is a LIAR and a FRAUD! John 8:44 (NLT) “…He has always HATED THE TRUTH, because there is NO TRUTH IN HIM. When he LIES, it is consistent with his character; for he is a LIAR AND THE FATHER OF LIES.”

REBEKAH WAS BEAUTIFUL. Rebekah had been married for many years to Isaac but she could still turn the heads of men wherever she went. I am sure she wasn’t trying to do this, but she was the Audrey Hepburn of the ancient world (What do you mean you don’t remember Audrey Hepburn? How about Sophia Loren? OK, Catherine Zeta-Jones or some other aging movie star?)

I don’t know what it was about the Philistines, but Isaac didn’t trust them. He thought they would try to kill him just because he had a beautiful wife. Where did that thought come from? Even if I go through a bad part of town, I don’t expect to die just because my wife is beautiful. This passage has never made any sense to me. Isaac’s life in Genesis 26 is looking like a B grade RE-RUN of an old movie from Genesis 12:13 and Genesis 20:2.

Anyway, he passes Rebekah off as his SISTER. How this protects Isaac, I don’t know! It certainly puts Rebekah in danger. What kind of a husband does this? What is he trying to do? How is a brother any safer than a husband? And how did Rebekah feel about all this? She is the one most in danger!

You know the story. Abimelech sees Isaac caressing Rebekah and he confronts them. I like Abimelech. He has more character here than Isaac. He gives orders to his men not to touch Rebekah or Isaac (Genesis 26:8). Abimelech is more willing to protect Rebekah than Isaac. Is Isaac some kind of wimp who has to have a Philistine fight to protect his wife? Abimelech is more aware of sexual sin. He doesn’t want the guilt to rest on his men should they try to sleep with Rebekah because of Isaac’s deception. Where did he get such a healthy respect for God and being judged for sin? If he lived today would he have still had such a conscience? HE LOOKS MORE LIKE THE BELIEVER THAN ISAAC!

Well done Abimelech! At least he has some form of integrity which is more than I can say for Isaac. Isaac JUSTIFIES HIS LIE to Abimelech because he thought his life would be endangered by telling people he is married to this beautiful woman. Why do we think that we need to LIE in order for God to keep us safe? I mean, do we really think that God needs me to SIN in order for Him to help us? Der!

Isaac shows me that I can move to a different part of the country and still find myself in the same place spiritually. I can get a little older and still be just as immature. Maturity has nothing to do with aging. Believe me, I know. ROUND AND AROUND. The sins of the father.

God wants me to love my wife and respect her enough to protect her and our marriage. That alone will provide a great example for others, and apart from anything else my wife is worth risking death for. How would I respond in a situation like this? I’d like to think that I would come out of it with my WITNESS and my MARRIAGE intact, but I know that anyone is capable of falling. Lord, protect my marriage and my witness for both our sakes.

The false accusations of an old man crying out “You’re a fraud!” hurt me but they also made me realize that I need to stay close to Christ who is the Truth and to His Word, the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 in the Message version says “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” Galatians 6:7 says “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always REAP WHAT YOU SOW.”

Jesus said “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life…” (John 14:6). He is my Truth. He enables me to live a life of INTEGRITY. With Christ in my life I am able to live how God intends me to live and be GENUINE before Him and others and even myself, WITHOUT HYPROCRISY. Nothing fraudulent about that!

Lord, KEEP ME FROM EVIL so that I don’t bring disrepute to You or others or to myself. Let me live righteously before you today and in the joy of my salvation. Let me be a blessing to others today and live a life without hypocrisy.

God bless you as He replaces the habits of a lifetime with the habits of Holy living and the harvest of a fruitful life in Christ. In Him, you are not a FRAUD but a FORGIVEN, FAULTLESS, FAITH-FILLED FRIEND OF GOD, through Christ who strengthens you.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:51 – UNDERSTAND?! – Part 19

Understand?!

Why is He asking me this question? Yes, I understand! Well, not everything but I get most of what He is trying to tell me! Actually I miss quite a lot of what He is saying. OK, OK. I admit it. At times I so don’t get it.

My teacher in primary school slammed his cane down on my desk and said “Do you understand?”

My Mum scolded me with the rules of the house numerous times with “Do you understand?”

The Commanding Officer sharing with His Senior ranking Officers about the strategies of a major battle with the enemy says “Do you understand?” UNDERSTANDING is essential, especially when other lives are at stake!

If the preacher on Sunday morning asked me directly after the service “Do you understand these things” I’d have to say “Um.. which part?” but I must admit that it would FOCUS my mind the next time he spoke.

Jesus asks me that question right now and I have to say “No Lord. I don’t understand. Please teach me more so that I can understand.” He looks at me with eyes that pierce through to the heart and says “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge…” (Matthew 13:12 NLT). There is no rebuke or condemnation in His voice, but the importance of His words cuts deep into my soul.

Jesus repeats that idea of understanding in Matthew 13 quite a bit. He says “Anyone with ears to hear should LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND(Matthew 13:9, and 43). At least five times He speaks about the importance of UNDERSTANDING in Matthew 13:9,11,12,23,43. He doesn’t want me simply to hear what He teaches me. He wants me to GET IT! He wants me to listen carefully and comprehend His Word. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of others who come under the sphere of my influence. My understanding of His Truth will have an impact on those around me and in some way the world will change. Yes, I know, maybe the impact will be small, but the world has changed each time I get it right and share His Truth.

I notice that even the Disciples don’t understand all the time. They ask Jesus a lot of questions. Listening, being honest and asking questions is OK with Jesus. He seems to like the Berean heart. They “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11 NLT). I can’t live it and share His Truth if I don’t have some kind of understanding of it.

I just praise God that “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” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

When I’m not on track I just have to ask for wisdom (James 1:5) and the Holy Spirit “leads into all truth” (John 14:17). 1 Corinthians 2:16 assures me that I have access to “the mind of Christ”. He’s in charge of even my understanding when I come under His authority and get to know Him better. That means that I don’t have to be some kind of GENIUS when it comes to understanding my Bible.

Jesus said that He IS the Truth (John 14:6). Fear of the Lord (reverence for Him as King and ruler of my life) is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalms 111:10 NLT).

Jesus says in John 5:39-40 (NLT) “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to ME! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life.”

Jesus looks at me and you today and says “Do you understand these things?” These parables of life and faith. If I am honest I will reply “Not always.” The redeeming factor is that I have a relationship with the One who does. That makes all the difference. Every day.

Is it “what you know or who you know”? Or is it that “what you know helps you know He who knows you better than you know yourself”. Understanding = putting it all together about Christ.

The invitation to understand this morning is the invitation to come under the sphere of His influence for the answers you need in life by coming under His authority and giving your life to Him. God bless you with understanding as you take that incredibly important step today.

Pastor Ross