Posts Tagged ‘Wisdom’

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:7-10 – UNBELIEVABLE!

Was it while they were on their way, that anger erupted, and they plotted their plan for vengeance?

“Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done” (Genesis 34:7 NLT).

Jacob sends a messenger to his sons and they come immediately. Shocked and angry, at least they recognize that pedophilia and rape was something that should never be done; a disgrace! Finally, someone actually cares about what happened to Dinah and they are concerned for her personal well-being. Taking it as an offense to them as a family, they identify with her. Where is Jacob in all this?

JACOB, where is your leadership?

Jacob doesn’t say anything! Not a word. He doesn’t seem to take part in any of the proceedings until later, when murder gets in the way of his reputation and standing in the community.

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Why is Dinah still at Shechem’s house? Perhaps if Hamor had brought Dinah back to Jacob, humbly apologized for his son’s criminal actions, spelling out an agreement for terms of discipline, offered a huge amount of compensation and an assurance that he would not tolerate such actions in his community, it might have gone down a little better. Hamor, if only…

HAMOR, what are you thinking?

Hamor speaks nothing of his son’s behavior and instead points to the economic and community benefits of intermarriage. Unbelievable!

A child marriage is Hamor’s way of turning an awkward situation into an equitable arrangement. Wanting to put the whole incident behind him, Hamor just wants to carry out the wishes of his son and get a good trade deal along the way. Win-win, … except for Dinah.

It annoys me that some commentaries actually agree with Hamor’s suggestion! What kind of planet are they on?

Hamor is on-a-roll. He says, “In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”  (Genesis 34:9-10)

The economic advantages are significant. But still, not once is any consideration for Dinah taken into account. He wants friendly relations with Jacob, but Dinah’s rape is just a catalyst for his business transactions.

Settle down, trade, be partners with us, assimilate.

Abraham and Isaac had encouraged their children not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Xenophobia? Obviously not. Jacob had settled in the area, bought land, traded. He had set up an altar as a witness to his faith in God. It was not a hatred of other people groups, but a healthy disgust of their wicked cultural and religious influences which would put them in danger of compromising and defiling the heritage of their faith in God.

This story is so unsettling and so is the Christian commentary I have been reading on this chapter of the Bible.

I am left with so many questions. How do I show leadership when I am needed the most? What kind of compromises to my faith am I willing to make that may put the Christian heritage of my family at risk? How much do I water down my sinful attitudes and actions? Am I willing to call out evil for what it is? When it comes to the crunch, do I treasure the welfare of those around me or my own interests?

There is no wisdom here with Jacob, with Hamor and certainly not Shechem. Where is justice, leadership, wisdom and compassion when it is needed? The anger of Jacob’s sons proves later to have no God-given boundaries. 

Perhaps the author paints with a palette of black in Genesis 34 but the canvas is primed with light and gives me opportunity to clearly perceive the contrasts. Genesis 34 invites me to show compassion and love, especially to my own family, to apply wisdom, leadership and responsibility when I see evil, to treat people with respect and show repentance when I have wronged them, to be willing to pay the consequences and make reparation when needed, and not to compromise my faith. Most of all it invites me to ask for God’s wisdom, to include Him in my responses when confronted by those who accept the defiling influences of the world in which we live. Some serious things to think about here.

James 1:21 (NLT) says So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – GOD HAS AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE! – Part 2

Online Love

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…”

The most successful INTERNET DATING SITES today, according to Wikipedia, are very specific concerning those they target. To ensure compatibility many of them are advertised according to RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS. That would have suited Abraham if he had been able to access the internet. Many today would accuse him of being a racist because he did not want his son to marry a Canaanite.

Abraham sent his trusted servant out to find a perfect match for his son Isaac, but he was instructed to go to Abraham’s relatives. He didn’t want a marriage where race or faith in God would be compromised.

Today the servant could have linked into JDate (which is for Jewish singles) while avoiding the local dating sites such as CanaaniteDate.com.

How do you find a person who is COMPATIBLE? Today he could have surveyed Isaac and entered the data online to find the characteristics in a woman he wanted, such as age, gender, what city she was from, height, weight, education, income, sense of humour, her interest in sports, her political persuasion and medical condition. What if she has mental problems or severe disabilities? To go one step further, Abraham’s servant could have linked into a site that used a personality test to ensure compatibility.

It all sounds like a great way to go if you are looking for a marriage partner, but Rebekah takes a huge risk in following this servant of Abraham. She has no idea whether or not she is exposing herself to ruthless predators, only to find herself a victim of fraud or of being stalked or of sexual exploitation and violence. For all she knows she could end up as a victim of human trafficking!

If Rebekah lived today she could have asked for a police check on Abraham’s family. It would have revealed a few cautions against Abraham – abandonment of his son Ishmael and attempted murder of Isaac. God acquitted him as righteous but how would you feel about having a father-in-law like that?

At least two couples I know began their relationship on the internet. Recently Sharyn Cook said “I met my husband on the internet and he is definitely God’s answer to my prayers”.

The question the servant had to ask was “How do I find someone who will be compatible?” He decided to use GOD’S ONLINE HELP, the best and most successful dating site of all, accessed by the same password Sharyn used – “PRAYER”.

So the oldest and most trusted of servants goes to find a girl willing to go with him, leave her family, come to a totally new land called Canaan, marry and live with a man she has never seen before in her life. This is a big ask. No wonder the servant prays in Genesis 24:12 (NLT), “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham.” This servant obviously has a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD although I think he could have included a desire for a bit of lovingkindness for Isaac too. Afterall, he is the one who is going to be affected the most by this prayer. Prayer voice activates his faith and links him directly to GOD’S INTERNET DATING SITE.

God knows what He is doing as he leads the servant to Rebekah. Imagine if Rebekah was so off-line with God that she had not agreed to come. Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ was to come through the line of Isaac. Her positive response, however, shows that she is a right person for Isaac.

Should this servant give us advice as to finding someone who is compatible for marriage, he would say “Dedicate yourself to the purpose but let that purpose be guided by your prayer.” How different might be the results should this kind of online search be conducted today. Connected to God’s wisdom, our choices make so much more sense and have so much greater impact and fruitfulness. The invitation today is to be connected to God in every arena of our lives, especially in the decision of a life partner in marriage.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:53-58 – THE POWER OF STUPIDITY – Part 22

Unbelief

It’s the end of the world! Despite Acts 1:7 (NASB) where Jesus makes it clear that “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority”, recently some Christians predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011, spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign. Christians can so misrepresent Christ and His message at times! The power of stupidity!

However, the pendulum swing away from Christ and His message in the so-called “separation of Church and state” is just as ridiculous. Those who are not followers of Christ are just as guilty of intolerance and stupidity as Christians wearing signs about the world ending on a certain day. Apparently using terms such as “conversion,  believers, unbelievers, church, the cross, crucifixion, Christ, the blood of Christ, salvation through Christ, redemption through Christ, the Son of God or the Christian life”  are considered to be more and more offensive in our society.  

In Australia, Chaplains are restricted from sharing the message of Christ in schools because such a message might affect young lives. A message of unselfish living, discipline, absolute standards, loving God and your neighbour and the very foundational principles of being human emotionally, physically and spiritually are apparently no longer welcome or only welcome in doses that don’t offend. Such intolerance draws me back to a place called Nazareth and to the nature of unbelief itself.

It seems that UNBELIEF STILL HARBOURS DEEP RESENTMENT AGAINST JESUS. “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him….” (Matthew 13:57 NLT). The literal meaning of offended has to do with stumbling. His neighbours and friends stumble as much over Jesus then as they do now. “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Strange that familiarity with Him can become an obstacle to knowing Him personally.

In Nazareth UNBELIEF personified, dresses in a multicoloured coat in order to please everyone, knocks at many doors but is unwilling to wait for anyone to come, asks the right questions but is averse to hearing any of the answers. Bizarre! “Where does He get His wisdom and power?” (Matthew 13:54 NLT). No, don’t tell me!

The obvious answer in neon lights only makes unbelief turn away. A worldview set in cement. Jesus spoke of hard, stony ground in His parable of the soils. UNBELIEF IS ALL TOO WILLING TO LIMIT THE PARAMETERS OF UNDERSTANDING to what I have always known or to whatever the social norms are for our society, no matter how twisted and perverse they may be.

A man declares that all he knows is that once he was blind but now he can see, but UNBELIEF remains blind and RIDICULES THE POSSIBILITY OF THE MIRACULOUS. Mark 6:5-6 (NLT) tells us “because of their unbelief, He couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.” UNBELIEF AMAZES GOD!

In NazarethUNBELIEF PUSHES CHRIST AWAY and embraces instead the tragic consequences of sickness, disease, death. Self-centred lifestyles continue their unrelenting and oppressive reign. I can be amazed at Jesus, astonished by His miracles of power and His wise teaching, but UNBELIEF CAN STILL ROB ME OF THE DIFFERENCE CHRIST CAN MAKE IN MY LIFE. Because of their unbelief, Jesus is only able to heal a few people inNazareth.

This is not the first or the last time that Jesus will be rejected. Most of the Pharisees and religious leaders reject Him, yet Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees gets it right. He connects the dots. He comes to Jesus and says in John 3:2 (NLT) “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

The ultimate rejection of our humanity was that we had the arrogance to hang Him who knew no sin upon a Cross. Even the men who are crucified with Jesus ridicule Him, until one of them recognises who He is and believes in Him (Luke 23:40-43). Luke 23:36-37 (NLT) says “The soldiers mocked Him, too” until one Centurion sees that He truly is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

Faith has great power. It has the power to bring to bear the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth as I believe and receive eternal life. But UNBELIEF ALSO HAS GREAT POWER – THE POWER OF STUPIDITY. Psalms 53:1 (NLT) says “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.””

Would I be a fool not to believe in Christ? The Bible says that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7 NLT). Romans 1:16 (NASB) says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, …”

“WHERE DOES HIS POWER AND WISDOM COME FROM?” The invitation is to be open to, not offended by, the answer to that question. But be warned. The next dilemma ,should the answer to that question be that it comes from God, will be “What will I do with Jesus?”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:53-58 – HOW TO MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY ABOUT JESUS – Part 21

Carpenter's Workshop

“Put it on the shelf for a while. You can always revisit it later with fresh eyes.” At least that’s what I tell myself when I get stuck with a writing project. Unfortunately it takes a while for me to revisit it. Well, not this time! Before Christmas I will be finished my first book and then I can move on to other things. The illustrations will be beautiful and the storyline will be compelling. At least I hope so. How will I know when I have finished? I’ll cross that bridge later.

How did Jesus know when it was time to finish His story telling and miracles and move on? What compelled Him to revisit His home town, Nazareth? Perhaps it was an unfinished story that needed to be told.

Like the city where I grew up, Jesus’ home town is close to a major highway. The only difference is that traffic moved a little slower in those times. Traders from all over the world passed by Nazareth. Did Jesus come into contact with them as a boy? Did He meet people of different nationalities and customs? He came into the world and it seems in those early years of His life the world came to Him, yet still they did not recognise Him, passing Him by, on route to other places to make money and a living. Not enough time to get to know Jesus for who He really was. We are all capable of missing the point concerning Jesus.

The world still passes by Jesus as wars, greed, poverty, terrorism and violence continue unabated. The Kingdom of God, the authority of Jesus, the answers for life are abandoned because of unbelief. UNBELIEF pushes Jesus away and refuses God’s wisdom and power. Unbelief builds a levy bank that redirects the flood of God’s blessings elsewhere and then complains of a drought.

He didn’t go to university and or have His masters in theology, nevertheless Jesus is THE MASTER OF THEOLOGY, the only way to God. All Jewish boys were educated in the local synagogue and of course in the home. He “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT).

And so years later, He enters the same synagogue, only this time He comes as a Rabbi. Everyone is amazed, astonished and they say “Where does He get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (Matthew 13:54 NLT). He gives them the opportunity to have their lives turned around and come under the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not take it. They MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY concerning Jesus.

Matthew 13:55, 56 says they SCOFF and say, “He’s just THE CARPENTER’S SON, and we know Mary, His mother, and His brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.” All His sisters live right here among us. Where did He learn all these things?” John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” 

Strange how differently you can view Jesus. They knew Him as just the carpenters son yet I have come to know Him as the master builder, creator of the world, with the wisdom and power to craft my very soul? As a carpenter, Jesus knew how to build a solid house on strong foundations, but He also knows how to build my life on the solid rock with a stability that only comes from knowing and trusting in Him. He worked with His hands, accurately and carefully according to a plan and places those same strong, skilled hands upon my heart to complete what He has begun according to the purposes of God.

Jesus knew how to place a corner stone and use it to align the components of a building but He is also my corner stone, the unchanging reference point for my life.

He probably fashioned a yoke for oxen but only He can say “Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29-30 NLT).

Yet Nazareth sees Jesus only as “the carpenters son”. Psalms 127:1 (NLT) says “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” That’s speaking about my life. Psalms 118:22 (NLT) says “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

Why did He go to Nazareth? Romans 2:4 (NLT) says “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

It seems Jesus always brings me to the place of choice concerning Him. I either reject Him or accept Him wholeheartedly. As I hear Him speak in Nazareth this morning, the course of my life depends upon my response to Jesus. Everyone of us must answer the question “Where does He get His wisdom and power?” And if it comes from God then what is my response to Jesus going to be? God bless you as you answer that question today and respond to Him in faith.

Pastor Ross

Hunger and the Hunt

Part 15 – Matthew 12:42 – THE HUNGER AND THE HUNT

“She was not beautiful but her eyes were magnificient. They were piercing and caught the light as jade shards and occasionally as she passed into shadows you could catch glimses of the hunger betrayed in the depths of their opalescent gaze.

As the inquisitive marvelled at her entourage, she walked with poise towards the door, her femininity couched in trained self assurance. No-one saw the dissonance of heart and mind as the huge doors opened and she was ushered into his presence.

She entered without hesitation as befitting a queen, her eyes adjusting to the light and her mind alert, enquiring, curious. She thought she heard a voice whisper her name as the doors shut behind her and the muted echo of it’s thud sounded within the hall, but surely no-one knew her name here.

It was beautiful, the curtains and tasteful articles of furniture, and as she met his gaze, she could see that her hunt was at an end. She would find the elusive treasure that would satisfy her soul, her mind, her heart?”  

Jesus speaks of this visit of the QUEEN OF SHEBA to Solomon’s court many years later. He describes her as one who came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. He says that as a result of that visit she will “stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it.” He says, “Now someone greater than Solomon is here-but you refuse to listen” (Matthew 12:42 NLT).  

I don’t know a whole lot about the Queen of Sheba but it seems as if she comes on a QUEST. She has an OVERWHELMING DESIRE to seek spiritual wisdom and her quest for truth leads her to SOLOMON. In 1 Kings 10:1 (NLT) it says “When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honour to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.” 

This isn’t just a cursory visit on the way home from a royal holiday. This is an INTENTIONAL SEARCH to discover spiritual reality. She leaves her kingdom responsibilities behind and enters into Solomon’s territory and sphere of authority. She comes PERSONALLY and travels a great distance to get there. There is a HUNGER and questioning thirst after the things of God. She is WILLING TO LISTEN. Surely when a woman is willing to listen that says something (and of course when a man listens it is no less amazing).

Jesus says that if I am to discover spiritual wisdom and truth then the queen of Sheba is an example in the INTENTIONALITY of that search. Proverbs 2:2-6 (NLT), written by Solomon, puts it this way “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” 

Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) speaks of our search for God and assures us that “if you SEARCH for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.” 

Jesus claims to be GREATER than Solomon. Not only does He HAVE THE TRUTH but He claims to BE THE TRUTH. He says in John 14:6 (NLT) “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” He goes on to say that it is only “…the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (John 14:16-17 NLT)

God bless you in your spiritual quest as you search for Him, listen to Him, respond to Him today. Solomon expresses the timeless response of God to your quest in Proverbs 8:17 (NLT) as He speaks to you today “I love all who love Me. Those who search will surely find Me.”

Pastor Ross