Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

Psalm 9:7-8 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 2

Is God Cruel and Unfair? © Image by Julie Cochrane

Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says,But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: What gives your God the right to judge anyone? He’s supposed to support you, not execute judgment on people.

DAVID: I am a little confused here. Are you really saying that God Most High, higher than any authority on earth should not “judge the world in righteousness; that He should not execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (verse 8)? 

SKEPTIC: I am simply questioning a God who would destroy people. 

DAVID: No, you are questioning God’s authority to make righteous decisions based on His perfect character. You Are you saying that God Most High must have your values, your ideas of right and wrong, your standards? Must He do as you want Him to do, as your personal flunky? 

Let me ask you the questions that you are asking of God. “Are God’s plans higher than your plans, and if He is God Most High, then does He have the right of sovereign choice rather than simply obeying you and always agreeing with you, as a Houseboy Creator, Flunky God, Slave almighty. Are you responsible to God Most High or is He responsible to you?”

SKEPTIC: Strange, that’s what I am saying about you. It seems to me that God is responsible to you. You are the one praying that God will kill your enemies.

DAVID: Just as you can’t see that I am asking God to respond with Justice concerning my enemies, I can’t see why you demand of God Most High that He not judge people for going their own way, without reference to Him? 

My Psalm says God is absolutely just, in which case it is disastrous to stand against Him or His purposes?

SKEPTIC: He seems like a harsh God to me.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not known His love. I know Him as a God of Love AND a God of Justice. His purposes are designed for life to be lived to the full. In your New Testament Bible, John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

I admit, I am biased towards God after all these years as His follower. I don’t fully understand those who defy God Most High in their hearts, words and actions. I would rather do life with God than without Him. 

I regard life as a precious gift from God and I am here but a moment. I thank God that in that moment I can serve His purposes and stand in awe in His presence, and have a choice to live life to the full. Physical life is His gift and spiritual life is a gift and a choice. 

I choose life. 

SKEPTIC: But you don’t choose life for your enemies.

DAVID: I do not enforce my standards on my enemies. My Psalm says that the intimidating adversaries of spirituality continue to retreat in God’s presence. I believe that anyone and anything that seeks to steal the valuable resources for living spiritual life based on God’s Word will ultimately withdraw, give way, recoil, run and  fail. 

I have been invited to live life as an overcomer in a world that increasingly rejects and repudiates the claims of the Bible. I claim the words of your New Testament Bible which says in Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT), … For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

SKEPTICS: Well, we don’t have enemies trying to kill us today.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not been looking at your world. Does the author of this blog have anything to say on this.

PASTOR ROSS: According to https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/rita-panahi/christianity-is-the-most-persecuted-religion-in-the-world/news-story/fccadd1f30733117c2d9dd338a27e7cc Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth at the moment. I can’t help but think that the enemies of Christianity today are not so much the Skeptics like yourself, who are at least willing to consider the case for Christ, but the social engineers in our Governments, Universities and Schools seeking to eradicate any semblance of our Christian heritage from our society. Those who see the Bible as hate speech. This is a startling change of values in our society which I believe will lead to disastrous consequences, perhaps for generations to come. 

I love speaking with genuine skeptics, but increasingly, the social engineers of our society,  with an evangelical zeal, berate Christianity today, preferring followers of Christ to be seen and not heard, silenced from any platform that may challenge their agenda. 

It is no wonder that Romans 12:1-3 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you … Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Faith that is personal is also faith that it lived out in public. I pray that the Lord would help me to continue to develop my personal faith. Hopefully, without arrogance, I will privately and publicly respond to the principles of the Bible with confidence. May my faith in Christ be a witness in the public square and a gauge for others to consider the claims of Christ and that others will truly understand the awesome character of God. 

I claim the truth of Romans 1:16 (NLT) when it declares, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

To be continued…

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? If a believer prays will he automatically be able to curse his or her enemies with death? Read Part 3.

Pastor Ross

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Is God cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 1

Psalm 9:3 (NLT) says, “My enemies retreated; they staggered and died when You (God Most High) appeared.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: I have to wonder – is this how people see God when they are reading my Psalm? Is this what people think about God? If it is, then perhaps you have misunderstood me altogether.

SKEPTIC: I don’t think I have misunderstood you. You say your enemies staggered and died in the presence of God (verse 3), that He rebukes and judges people (verse 5), completely erasing them from the earth (verse 6), that this is the fate of all nations who ignore God (verse 17). You actually ask God to judge them (verse 19). 

DAVID: Strange. You have not looked at the full context of my Psalm to see what I am really trying to express about God?

I notice that you have conveniently forgotten that I describe God as One who is a shelter for the oppressed (verse 9), does not abandon people (verse 10), cares for the helpless (verse 12), saves and rescues (verse 14), and has mercy (verse 13). He does marvelous things (verse 1), and reigns forever (verse 7), In fact, He is the only One truly able to judge nations with justice and fairness (verse 4), yet there are some mere mortals who have chosen to defy Him (verse 19-20). 

SKEPTIC: Yet you can just pray to God and ask Him to wipe out people with complete impunity? How can you believe in a God like that.

DAVID: I find great joy in my relationship with God (verse 2) and so I began my Psalm with praise. God is not just anyone. He is God Most High (verse 2), higher in authority than anyone we may encounter on earth.

Impunity hardly applies to a just and fair God. It is not God that needs our impunity. Nowhere in my Psalm do I indicate that God is cruel, violent, intolerant and unjust, as you describe Him. 

My Psalm describes a God who is perfectly Just, not stupid or oblivious to what is going on around Him and He is only One who can respond appropriately in His own way and His own time, always doing what is right. 

Clearly my Psalm indicates that any person is free to defy God, but why would they think that putting their heads in the spiritual sand will somehow mean that a just and fair God will simply stand by. There are consequences for any of our choices, not only with other people but also with God. 

SKEPTIC: So you are OK with Him wiping out your enemies completely?

DAVID: I would prefer that I didn’t have enemies, but I do. By the way, my enemies are characterised by all the things that you attribute to God – cruelty, violence, intolerance and injustice. 

In this Psalm you can obviously see that my enemies are described as wicked (verse 5), oppressive (verse 9), cause trouble (verse 9), hate people (verse 13), appear to be flaunting any form of justice (verse 16), forget the needy (verse 18), destroy hope in people and afflict them (verse 18, 12). My enemies want me, and anyone who follows God, dead. The equivalent in your time is perhaps Isis or the Taliban.

SKEPTIC: So you pray that God will destroy them?

DAVID: I recognise that anyone who tries to stand against God Most High will fail. And yes, I pray for justice to prevail. 

I do pray to God. With all my heart (verse 1). But my prayer is a prayer of praise, not just an anxious cry for help. I am not seeking to be an arrogant man wanting to cause death and destruction to all who disagree with me. 

SKEPTIC: But you clearly think that God is on your side?

DAVID: No. Just the opposite. God is not my servant, like some Genie in a bottle. I am God’s servant. God judges with fairness (verse 4,8) and I do not anticipate God will simply stand aside while my enemies come to annihilate His servants. 

To be continued….

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? What gives Him the right to think He can demand things of me? What gives Him the right to judge me? Read part 2.

Pastor Ross

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-7 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 6 – Prayer, Faith and Victory

In Psalm 3, David invites you, through his example, to remind yourself of what the Bible says about God

c. God Answers Your Prayers (Psalm 3:4)

Apparently, the American President Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

In Psalms 3:2, 4 (NLT) David says “So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude … “I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Interlude”  

It seems that David’s enemies, led by his own son and those whom he once trusted, are trying to defame David’s faith and vilify David with denunciations and discouragement and blame, but rather than waste a response on these unrestrained voices of doom, David cries out to the Lord. He is not silenced by the enemy and God is not silenced by their malignant allegations and blasphemous presumptions.

The Ark of the Covenant, where God chose to reveal His presence may still be in Jerusalem’s holy mountain, but David hears heavens voice and experiences the presence of God despite being compelled to flee from his own son’s army into the wilderness. He prays and receives God’s answers while he is running away from those who once gathered with him in supposed worship.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says “… So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

1 John 5:13-15 (NLT) says, “… we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” 

d. God Watches Over You (Psalm 3:5)

Psalm 3:5 says “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” 

Grace meets my vulnerability as I sleep. Love dispels my fears with His peace. I may choose to be anxious but it’s better to trust that even Jesus asleep in my boat is enough. His presence is all I need to have peace. His trust in the Father is mine (Mark 4:39). He calms the tumultuous waves.

In Matthew 11:28 (NLT) Jesus says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

e. God Gives You Victory Over Impossible Circumstances (Psalm 3:6-7)

Psalm 3:6-7 says “I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from You, O Lord. May You bless Your people. Interlude”  

This is violent teeth breaking language. Those who know the horrors of war are familiar with such terms. He uses common expressions of his day. I need “Slap the enemy in the face” kind of courage to face my circumstances head on and “Shatter the teeth of the wicked” kind of victory against impossible odds.

Those of us who have never faced war back away from such forceful language and prefer less callous dentistry, but David asks for victory using warrior expressions, terms that describe much less than his enemies desire for him. They don’t only want to slap him on the face and break his teeth.

The New Testament describes our spiritual battle and the champion of our faith. 1 John 5:4-5 (NLT) says “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” 

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says, “… For God has said,  “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence,  “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”  

In Mark 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Psalm 3 invites me to remind myself of what I know about God. He is MY SHIELD – taking the brunt of the blows that come against me in life, MY IDENTITY – in Him I find out who I really am, MY FOCUS in times of need – answering my prayers, MY SECURITY – watching over me, MY VICTORY over impossible circumstances, MY BLESSING in life, My PEACE – peace with God means I can experience peace in whatever circumstances I face.

The invitation of Psalm 3 in the light of the New Testament is to come to know real peace despite pressure as we get to know God personally through Christ.

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Matthew 11:12 – WELL HE STARTED IT!

Crescendo of Violence

Since I had nothing better to do and everyone had gone out, I decided to watch the war movie “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”. It was some years ago now and I was at my daughter’s house and Joel, my son-in-law had just connected his TV WITH SURROUND SOUND. The movie was set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II and since it was directed by Steven Spielberg I thought it might be worth watching. THE VERY FIRST SCENES SHOCKED ME! They depicted the Omaha beachhead assault of June 6, 1944 and the intensity of the surround sound and slaughter of men brought me to the point of turning it off. I couldn’t watch or hear such a graphic portrayal.

As a Chaplain I speak with old servicemen who have encountered the horrors of war, and I can only begin to appreciate why they speak with tears running down their faces after all these years.

MURDERED! Beheaded! Violence of unspeakable proportion! And their legacy has been repeated. Those who followed their example were ruthlessly mistreated, flogged and threatened and some were never released except into the hands of God. No I’m no longer talking about World War II. I’m talking about the followers of Jesus throughout the centuries.

They were demonised by family members, beaten and bruised by the brutality of violent men, betrayed by the very people they loved the most!

But they didn’t give an inch and cut through the garbage of humanity with a message as sharp as a razor and as lethal to those who resisted as hell itself.

IF YOU’RE A PACIFIST DON’T READ MATTHEW 11:12! Although this is part of what Jesus said, the red letter part of your Bible, YOU WON’T LIKE IT! Jesus spoke of VIOLENCE AND WARFARE and said we would be in the thick of it.

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.” 

“Well he started it!” “No I didn’t, she did!” Sorry, I am just reminded of my childhood days when the arguments got too heated with my sister. But this is a slightly bigger battle. John started it and the repercussions of his actions have been ongoing.

Jesus has already made it clear to His disciples about the PERSECUTION that they will encounter when they go out to preach and heal. There’s a WAR THEME amplified with violence and heard through the sound system of their experience. Dare to follow Jesus and you may not get out alive.

John is in prison and soon to die because of his faith. There’s a SPIRITUAL BATTLE going on and demonic activity has spewed out volcano-like. The fault lines are moving and sin is surfacing in indescribable acts of violence. As the demonic hordes engulf them Jesus and His disciples cast them out with a force that stuns the Satanic world and disrupts ours (see Matthew 10:8 note).

You want to be follower of Jesus? It’s a breeze but the cold icy tentacles of violence may cause you to shudder. Jesus warned His disciples that they’d be tried in courts, flogged with whips, arrested, betrayed, rejected by family members, hated by nations, persecuted in various towns, called names, threatened, and even killed “because you are My followers” (Matthew 10:18). Why go through all this? Well, this was their opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about Jesus (Matthew 10:17-42). No other reason than that. NO OTHER CAUSE MORE WORTH DYING FOR. John would soon find this out at the hands of the savagery and violence of king Herod. HE WOULD BE MURDERED! Jesus Himself made it clear that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34). When it comes down to it this sword of truth cuts through the dissenting hearts of men. He of course was also murdered and those who orchestrated His death heard the crescendo of their violence at the Cross and it’s reverberation has been ringing in our ears ever since. It seems Satan isn’t going to take this lying down but the blows inflicted upon him will prove to be fatal for his purposes.

It was all John’s doing. HE STARTED IT! Stirring people up and calling them “a brood of snakes” (see Matthew 3:7 note) didn’t help. No half hearted, lilly livered coward here! The question is “AM I?”

God bless you Church in the Spiritual battle you face today as you take up the Cross and I’m not talking about petty things we have to put up with. In Luke 9:23-24 (NLT) Jesus describes the commitment level in this way “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.”

Pastor Ross