Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

Psalms 9 – THE POETIC WARP AND WEFT OF WORSHIP – Parts 1 and 2

PSALM 9:1 – WOVEN WORSHIP – Part 1

Woven in Worship © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Today (Sunday 4-8-2019) I finished a poem on worship. I don’t often write poetry, but Psalm 9 inspired me (see below) with a picture of worship I had not considered. 

Psalm 9 reminds me of a woven cloak made on a loom – two distinct sets of threads, praise and prayer, unique strands, with an array of colours forming a garment of worship intricately woven with subtlety, warp and weft, interlaced into a strong and beautiful design. 

In Psalm 9:1, King David says, “I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart; …” 

It seems it is a function of the heart of a believer to weave praise in and out of their lives, to create a beautiful pattern interwoven with prayer, a harmony of colours. 

David’s heart takes the thread of praise and skillfully propels it across the loom weaving it through the warp threads of prayer. 

It is because of a heart relationship with God, not because of a list of possible benefits that David praises the Lord. It is not based on what God has done, although what God has done is amazing, but in knowing who God is. He does not ask, “what’s in it for me?” but instead, “Whatever happens, Lord, I will praise You with all my heart.” Gradually the garment is created.

I have long loved the sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins so I have written this poem in a similar style to express what worship is like for me. I have related it the thoughts above, the warp and weft of prayer and praise …

PSALM 9:1-2 – WOVEN WORSHIP

© Ross Cochrane

Worthy are You, Lord, for woven things –

For warp of worship weaving colours into time;

For weft threads singing subtle, tonal groans of praise;

Soft braided, subdued songs, wordless strings;

Soul-scape, plaited with prayer-laced, twisted strands that climb

With purpose, hues clear, untangled, ablaze.

All loves fibres meandering, rare, whole,  

Beautiful in favour, honour, rhythm, rhyme,

Plaided patterns that proclaim Your ways;

Eternity’s robe: full hearts extol

Your Praise.

Pastor Ross

WOVEN WORSHIP – Part 2

Lord, I choose to praise You, with all my heart because of who You are AND because I am amazed at what You have done in my life and in the lives of others. 

Praise that is only woven with words and not with ALL my heart, slips from the warp and weft and creates holes and imperfections. All I am left with is lip-service. You then help me correct the design. 

In Matthew 15:8 (NLT2) God speaks of religious people who ‘… honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” I may miss a thread in my praise at times, Lord. Help me worship You with all my heart, to be fully engaged in worship. Lord, help me not be simply religious in my praise, but wholehearted. 

John 4:24 (NLT2) says, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” It seems wholehearted worship involves worshiping God in spirit and in truth, not “faking it until you make it”. Truth is being honest with God and allowing Him to be honest with us. Spirit to spirit. 

The design that is produced in me is not based on how I feel at the time, not on what I am going through in my life, but upon my relationship with Him. It is not based upon emotions or reason, but an inbuilt, unseen, honest to God, heart to heart, spirit to spirit love for God and His love for me.  

Psalm 9:1,2  “… I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of You. I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”   

FOR MARVELLOUS THINGS

For all You do that I see

Lord, help me be aware of Your interventions into people’s lives, to see the marvellous things You have done. When I look back I see the design you intended, crafted into the garment, it’s often difficult to visualise just what you have in mind, but the finished result is always so amazing. I can see how You have woven your intentions and purposes through my life. 

Sometimes, I find it difficult to do things Your way, but it is only when I acknowledge that You are the Master Craftsman and press on in praise and prayer, that miracles occur and something altogether magnificent is created. 

Lord, lead me to those with whom I can share these truths. Is that what praise is? Acknowledging what I see You crafting? Is it both public and private? I guess praise reminds me of what You have done in my life, but telling others of what You have done is like putting Your works on display for others to appreciate.

Even in difficult times

Even when I am going through a difficult time, help me praise You with all my heart and be a witness to others of the saving power of Your grace.

David was going through difficult times. He had individual enemies determined to dethrone him. Then, like today, nations were rising up, determined to annihilate Israel. Then there were the enemies of God Himself and His purposes on the earth, enemies who to this day seem to want to wage war on God and upon those who believe in His Word.

For all You do that I don’t see

I don’t always see Your hand upon mine. At times it gets dark and I just sort of get into a rhythm and do what seems right, feeling the way without seeing what I am doing. When morning comes I am often surprised that Your hand was upon mine all the time and the light of day reveals the wonder of how You led me through the dark of night. 

At other times, I give the garment away or I teach others how to weave and they take their new found skills away, and I do not see the results. I want to praise You for ALL those things that You do in me and in others, even those I don’t see. I want to acknowledge all that You have done whether I see it or not.

Worth sharing

Lord, there appears to be a public aspect of Praise and prayer. A time to put what You have created in us on display, to tell others about who You are and what You do. 1 Peter 2:9 (NLT2) describes who we are as followers of Christ. “… for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can SHOW OTHERS THE GOODNESS OF GOD, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”    

Let my heartfelt thanks to You always give occasion for sharing with others. When I receive too much praise I become arrogant, but when I praise You I find humility as I recognise who You are, the only One truly deserving of praise.

Thanks for giving me glimpses at what You are weaving into the fabric of my life. No threads are wasted. You use both dark and colourful. You know what you are doing.

Pastor Ross

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Dear Jacob (from last letter), 

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

… By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. Despite these horrific events, I’m glad you are moving. I am praying for your protection. 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross,

I must admit I was afraid that the nearby towns might bring violence to us in retaliation and revenge, but as we set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked our family. (Genesis 35:5 NLT). The horrible thing is that they probably feared being murdered too. I suppose it is no wonder they felt fear, after a whole town of men was wiped out by my sons, but this fear somehow seemed different. Terrifying and ominous! 

We do not deserve God’s grace. Now, I leave justice in God’s hands alone for the horrific actions of my sons and my lack of leadership. Only He knows what future awaits us. In the meantime, we have been spared.  

I once built an altar to God near Shechem. Now, however, that altar is associated with the massacre. It stands there as a silent witness, but an undesirable one. People from the towns near Shechem will blame God and be afraid of Him. I know that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 11:10 NLT), but this has not been a healthy fear, but dread. I can only hope their terror turns to reverence and God will bring something good out of all this. 

With sadness, 

Jacob 

P.S. The women and children that were captured are the responsibility of my sons, so you had better ask them about that. 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

So pleased to hear that you have been spared any more bloodshed. It made me realise that as I set out on this new part of my life this year, my prayer also needs to be that God will spare me and let no evil befall me or my family. 

God has been faithful to you, Jacob. What He promises, He will fulfil. All the best for your journey to Bethel.  

I wonder why you didn’t visit Bethel earlier. Afterall it is only 15 kms from Shechem and surely you journeyed to Hebron to see your father. Bethel is in between. Why did you avoid Bethel?  

Curious, 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Your right. I have been avoiding coming here for 10 years and now, finally, we have arrived at Bethel (also called Luz) in Canaan. (Genesis 35:6 NLT). This is the place where God first spoke to me so uniquely from a stairway to heaven.  

You have to realise that I allowed idols into my household and I haven’t exactly obeyed what God told me to do. Avoiding Bethel was an intentionally rebellious thing to do and has proved to be a big mistake. I have compromised along the way and it took tragedy in my family to get my act together.   

I made a choice to stay in Shechem. I now find myself asking“What have I got to show for it all?” My daughter was raped and I did nothing about it. My sons have massacred all the Shechemite males in retaliation and taken the women and children as slaves. They have sacked and looted the village including the pagan idols and still I did nothing.  

I am ashamed to say that all I did was complain that wouldn’t be able to live there any longer for fear of revenge. It doesn’t get much worse. 

But all this has brought me to my knees and to my senses. We are rid of idols and now I am in Bethel as God commanded me. I built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God appeared to me there when I was fleeing from my brother, Esau (Genesis 35:7 NLT). 

Back on track, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

Thanks for your very candid letter. You have now done what God called you to do. It is apparent that you are back in touch with God and recognise God’s presence in your life. You marked the spot where God had spoken to you many years ago with an altar. I like this. Your about 10 years late but you got there (Sorry. Couldn’t help taking a dig at you). 

I like the way you changed the name of the place to El-Bethel – God of the House of God. It emphasises God and not the place. That says something to me about your relationship with Him. Bethel was already a place which held great meaning for you but you renamed it so you don’t have to live in the past. You have placed emphasis on God, the One who led you from your past experiences into the present.  

Building an altar is nothing without God. Building a house of God is nothing without worshiping God. It looks like you finally get it – God is now central to all things that have transpired in your life. 

When I read about how you emphasized the Name of God, I found myself praying more for God’s presence in my own life. What will it take to make sure I obey God?  

Of course, building an altar and actually worshiping God alone are two different things. I can’t help thinking of the healing needed in the lives of your children. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

The Get It button © Image created by Ross Cochrane

GENESIS 35:1-2 – GETTING A NEW START IN LIFE – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sometimes I wonder if I had the opportunity to get a new start and live anywhere in the world, where I would want to be?

Genesis 35 is about getting a new start in life, but it involves much more than simply getting away and moving house. It is a fitting story for the new year.

Who is this Old Testament Character? You may know him. Let me give you some clues…

WHO AM I?

  • I grew up in a dysfunctional family, getting by with my deceptions.
  • My Father favoured my brother but didn’t like me much, but I’ll get over it.
  • My mother encouraged me to get away with being dishonest and deceptive against my own brother to the point where he threatened to kill me.
  • I had to get out of there quick and run away from home because it would have been dangerous to stay.
  • I began living with my uncle who wanted only to get rich and tricked me into working for him for free for almost 14 years.
  • I was tricked into marrying a person I didn’t get along with.
  • I got together with the woman I loved and married her also. I loved her and tolerated the other one.  
  • I got away with having a number of illegitimate children with other women
  • Despite all this dysfunctional lifestyle, I was told directly by God to get away and move to a specific place back in my home country.
  • I ignored God, however, and instead got together with some people who lived immoral lives, trading and mixing with them, and even allowing their religious idols into my household.
  • The Mayor’s (kings) son raped my daughter and took her into his home and I let him get away with it.
  • My sons took action, however, and got even by retaliating against the terrible crime committed against their sister. My sons behaved like a terrorist group, getting out of control and going on a rampage, killing every male, and taking women and children captive and plundering the town.
  • In the midst of all this stress, sin and horror, when I just didn’t get it, God spoke to me directly again, and gave me a promise of protection and a new destiny?

Who am I?

Jacob

This is a story about getting a new start. No matter what you have done. No matter how dysfunctional your life is. No matter what mistakes you have made. No matter what kind of a parent, son or daughter you have been. How can you get a new start? How can you get back to God?

What would you do if you were the head of a totally dysfunctional family who is getting nowhere in life and you wanted to get a fresh start?

Fortunately for Jacob, God tells him what to do, because Jacob is a wimp. I know, he is chosen but he’s also a wimp. I know he’s a father of the faith, but I don’t really like him. God disagrees with me however. He’s sees in him something that I don’t and he encourages him to get up and go.

“Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau. 

1. GET READY

God says, get ready to make a new start. Get ready to become the person you were created to be. Get ready to start understanding your purpose in life.

If it was me, I’d probably say, Stop being so foolish and take some initiative in getting your life right with God and helping your family do the same. You’ve had plenty of opportunity.

God says, GET READY and secondly He says,

2. GET MOVING

  • Move to the place where you can hear from God.
  • Move to the place where you are least tempted by your sin.
  • Move away from the world’s values and towards God’s values.

But the main message is get moving. Get out of there and get going. Take action. Don’t just sit there and do nothing. Make a decision to act.

So God says GET READY, GET MOVING and then He says

3. GET BUILDING

Build an altar. In other words build a place of worship, something that shows your wholehearted devotion to God. Build an atmosphere of faith that will enable your family to find healing for their dysfunctional lifestyles. Build something of value that will last as a legacy and an example for you and your family.

And finally Jacob got it. He knew what he had to do in order to GET READY, GET MOVING, and GET BUILDING and it would mean burying things he needed to…

4. GET RID OF

Get rid of anything that would hinder you obeying God.

So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols,

How do I get a new start? Remove or get rid of your idols. What is it that gets in the way of you worshiping and serving God alone. Get rid of it.

If you are going to get a new start you have to make deliberate decisions to get tough and get rid of all the hindrances of your past life.

GET READY, GET MOVING, GET BUILDING, GET RID OF and Jacob says to his family,

5. GET CLEAN

 “PURIFY yourselves, and put on clean clothing.”  

Get clean inside and out. Repent of your sins. Get rid of the world’s influence and let God purify you from the inside out. Get right with God. Find forgiveness and get a new start in Christ

 Romans 13:14 (NLT) says, “… clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”  

Clean clothes and hands to symbolise clean lives.

James 4:8 (NLT) says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” 

5 things to do for a new start…

  • GET READY by making a Choice
  • GET MOVING by taking definite action
  • GET BUILDING by developing a culture of worship
  • GET RID OF anything that would hinder you from worshiping and serving God
  • GET CLEAN by confessing your sins to God and finding forgiveness that comes from believing in Christ alone.

If God can forgive and purify Jacob and his family, then anyone can come to Him to find forgiveness and get a new start. Any heart can be made clean.  

THE NEW YEAR IS COMING UP.

The new year often gives us opportunity for A NEW START. So the first lesson for the new year from this story is an invitation about getting right with God and getting rid anything that might get in the way of your relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT) says “… if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.”  

Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

God is saying to you like He did with Jacob, “GET READY to take some initiative and GET MOVING toward Me rather than away from Me. GET BUILDING the altar of worship in your life. GET RID OF the old way of life and embrace a new way by believing in Jesus. Jesus laid down His life for you so that you could GET BACK to God and find forgiveness.”

Hope you GET IT (the invitation of God), GET AFTER IT (salvation), GET ON WITH IT (your God-given purpose) and GET BACK (into a relationship with Christ), GET OVER IT (your past) by GETTING YOUR HEAD AROUND IT (Forgiveness) and finally GET AHEAD IN LIFE by GETTING SOMEWHERE with your GOD. (Couldn’t resist more GETS, but I am serious about wanting you to GET THE MESSAGE). 

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Pastor Ross

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 

 

 

windowwith-light-02

The Window © Ross Cochrane

THE STORY, THE WINDOW AND THE DANCE OF CHRISTMAS (Edit)

Matthew 2, Luke 2

A window frames our lives, gives us boundaries and is a place from which to explore our perspective of the world. It is a place to which our inquisitiveness comes, an interface from which we can safely navigate our domain. From here we experience light which shapes what we see, and interacts with the unknown beyond the window and walls.

A window is a time-frame of opportunity, to launch words and actions and intentions. Christmas is such a window. There is no shutter on this window. It is open for the world to look in and out from and glimpse a moment in time in all its raw honesty, the star, the manger, the stable where Jesus was born.

This window is not contained within a wall, but within the intentions of God. The Word of God in human form, a window to the universe from which we explore our faith, our heritage, our decisions, our legacy, our destiny, allowing us to explain the unknown by what is known, our window into the future, perspective from God’s Word in such beautiful language, simplicity and candid expressions of life.

They give gifts to the King, Saviour of the world. Here is the basis for my worship, the carols of life. Here is the theology of the heart, colliding with the theology of the spirit and offering practical rejoinders to the sinfulness of my humanity. Here is a window to the soul and an invitation to live an authentic life.

Joy to the world. Joyfulness is always the intention of God towards those attuned to His Spirit. But joyfulness has a prerequisite in the Bible which continues to shape it’s disposition; a dance of choices.

The angelic host calls me to Peace and Joy and this means I must choose to refuse to dance with those whose advice is disabled by their negativity and scorn, the media-driven voices of self-proclaimed authorities. Their only charm is a bitter tongue and a contemptuous spirit. I cannot keep in step with such awkward disregard for the dance.

I dance with joyfulness, musing on news of the new-born King in slow waltzing strides and an open contemplative heart to what the Spirit of God is saying.

Like the Magi, only without a star, I must leave the window and find my way through the traffic, but I have paused at the window of the story of the Christ-child, bathed in His light and warmth and my heart has begun to dance in perfect timing with the music of His voice.

Happy Christmas!

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 22

When the day came for the Ark to be brought to Jerusalem, the sense of excitement was contagious and audible as people sang and danced on the sides of the road that led to Jerusalem waiting for the Ark to arrive. Young nobles were given room at the front so that they could see an event as important as this. Some of them had never seen the Ark of the Covenant but they had certainly heard of it and this day it would have a huge impact upon their lives. Here was something so precious that the king himself and all the leaders of Israel held it with the highest respect. This was a treasure of inestimable value and something to be guarded at all costs.

Absalom had one of the best positions of all. He stood with his father and all the great men of Israel who were there to celebrate and guard the Ark. The events of that day were to have a profound effect upon him and his view of his father’s God. He blamed David for what happened.

As the Ark came into view there was a subtle but audible change in the sound of the combined noise in the crowd. At first, it seemed like a thousand people suddenly taking a breath and then came the coos of astonishment and wonder at the beauty of the craftsmanship as those behind pushed forward, trying to gain a better vantage point. Shouts of worship rose above this noise as they heard the musical instruments being played and joined in to sing and shout. Such tumultuous joy had not been experienced in Jerusalem before and such celebration had not taken place since the anointing of David himself.

Now, as the Ark came closer, it seemed even more glorious than Absalom had recalled. It shines with the lustre of a king.

He remembered Zadok’s words; “It is the very throne of God.” Zadok’s voice had become quieter as if he was standing in the presence of God at that moment.

Absalom’s question had broken the moment. “But Rabbi, how can it be God’s throne? God is not like a person.”

“It is a little difficult to understand. God’s presence is somehow enthroned above the mercy seat between the Cherubim when He wants to make Himself known. Your father sits on a throne as a king. Thrones only belong to kings and God has chosen this place especially to make Himself known as the King of all kings.”

Absalom now found himself focusing on the space between the Mercy Seat and the Angels.

“But why would God need to sit on the Ark of the Covenant as His throne?” Absalom had asked. It all seems a little far-fetched.

“Let me ask you a question about thrones.” Zadok had said, “You have seen your father sit on a throne. For what purpose does your father use his throne?”

“It is a place where my father judges the matters that his people bring to him, a place of judgement.”

Zadok had been surprised at Absalom’s answer. This young man understands much more about being a king than I thought.

“You have identified the purpose of a throne well, my son. It is a place of judgement. It is where your father judges his people with righteousness and justice. These two things are important in the way God rules. God rules with righteousness and justice.”

That must be the names of the angels, Absalom thought.

Absalom now looked at the two magnificent creatures looking down upon the Ark. “Righteousness and Justice”, he said out loud, but his small voice was lost in the noises of the crowd.

“Behold, the Ark of God which is called by the name of Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of Hosts, who is enthroned between the Cherubim that are on the Ark!” David’s voice boomed with pride as the Ark made its way towards Jerusalem. Jehovah Sabaoth. The words seemed to echo in David’s mind from some far away valley. He had once declared them to a giant called Goliath. You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the Name of Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. It was a military name.

When Joshua took the city of Jericho they called on Jehovah Sabaoth. It showed God as One who has the might and power that His people needed to push back the enemy. The Ark was a picture of Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of hosts! They were under His influence and protection. When people met together in Shiloh to worship they also called upon the Lord of hosts. As David looked at the Ark he could see it all so clearly in his mind. The Ark has been right here in the middle of all the most glorious moments of our history.

David looked at the space between the two angels and could sense the very presence of God. The Lord of hosts is here. Suddenly he felt uneasy. Something is wrong! He didn’t know what it was, but he brushed the feeling aside quickly.

Matthew 17:6-8 – FACING TERROR ON THE MOUNTAIN 

In His Hand. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

In His Hand. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Terror wants you to be afraid of darkness and the light. Afraid of voices in the night. He pushes you to the ground and warns you to cover your face rather than be confronted with anything unknown. He is afraid that Trust will change you.

We had nowhere to run and Terror was forcefully persuasive about us collapsing with Fear. He is not really a strong person; just a little man who wields much more power than he really has.

That night Terror threw me to the ground when we saw the bright cloud, and heard the voice of God. He sniggered but it was a nervous laugh when he was confronted with Worship. Worship must have been working out. He is immense and in his company even Terror is intimidated. So much so that Terror stumbled backwards and fell himself.

When Worship reached out and touched me on the shoulder, I heard the words “Don’t be afraid!” and I saw the face of Jesus. Strange. I thought to be touched at this point, when my senses were flushed with the rush of adrenalin that it would scare the living daylights out of me, but somehow His touch and His voice immediately calmed all my fears and drove away the darkness instead. His voice sounded like His Father’s.

John saw Jesus again at Patmos, after He had ascended. He told me that once again “His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:16 NLT) John said he fell to the ground at first but then found himself with Worship and Trust as Jesus said “Don’t be afraid”.

Paul once told me about his first encounter with the Lord. He said “… As I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is useless for you to fight against My will.’ “‘Who are You, lord?’ I asked. “And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting” (Acts 26:13-15 NLT).

When Daniel experienced an encounter with the Lord he told me he lost all strength and said “How can someone like me, your servant, talk to You, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Then the One who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As He spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to Him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for You have strengthened me” (Daniel 10:17-19 NLT).

Why did You come to us? Why did You touch us? Was it just to let us know it was You? You said “Don’t be afraid!” but I was shaking. I was Afraid but Your touch and Your voice changed my name to Courage. I feel a little more at ease with You not shining like light at this point, however. Lord speak to me. I am terrified, not of You, but of life-wasting pursuits.

Visions pass, moments in God’s presence fade into everyday life. Joy on a mountain gives way to a daily walk with Jesus who does not recede. He is always there. He never leaves me. In Jesus presence we need not be Afraid.

With the touch of Christ we can boldly enter into the presence of God (Ephesians 3:12). No man can come to the Father except by Jesus (John 14:6). With the touch of Christ we exchange our anxieties for His care (1 Peter 5:7). With His touch He invites us and empowers us to make a difference. In His Hands. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 26:12-25 – FOREIGNERS GO HOME!

Foreigners Go Home!

He is not afraid to let others excel to the point where they are better than he is. He is not THREATENED by others rising to the top. I like that about Pastor Brian Houston. How can I expect to grow if I am not willing to encourage others to reach their full potential in life and be all that God intends for them to be?

The trouble is when I begin to focus my attention on great preachers all of a sudden my ability to make a difference seems so small in comparison. They have such incredible impact in people’s lives all around the world. I can choose to either praise God for their influence or get JEALOUS, CRITICAL and INTIMIDATED BY THEM. When Isaac begins to prosper, he gets up close and personal with the destructive consequences of jealousy.

On reflection Isaac didn’t exactly get things right along the way when it came to his relationships. He uses his wife as a shield to protect himself without considering what this would do to her. He is rebuked by the Philistine leader, Abimelech, and regarded with suspicion from then on. It’s like getting the Mayor of the city offside.

All this probably contributes to the REJECTION AND JEALOUSY of Isaac by the local residents in Gerar, especially when God starts to prosper him. You can almost hear them say Not only is he a liar but these foreigners are stealing our jobs and livelihood!” You know how the conversations go when overseas investors take over iconic homegrown businesses.

Not having a belief in God and therefore not having an appreciation of God’s blessing in another persons life, the Philistines express their PROVINCIALISM and JEALOUSY by vandalising Isaacs property. They fill Isaacs wells with dirt, leaving him without a water supply (Genesis 26:14-15).

This is the Bible’s first act of VANDALISM. I’m sure there was graffiti saying “FOREIGNERS GO HOME!” Obviously the locals in Gerar were threatened and intolerant of strangers. Without water Isaac is forced to move (Genesis 26:18-22).

What makes it worse is that these vandalised wells had been in the family for years, built by his father Abraham. If it was me, I’d feel a little angry. Filling in a well with dirt was equivalent to an ACT OF WAR, a crime, an act of terrorism. Isaac had enough men to take these guys down. RETALIATE! REVENGE! GET EVEN! Perhaps Isaac is too much of a WIMP to try this. He doesn’t do anything but dodge the blows. Some suggest that he is just a PEACEFUL man. Whatever.

Isaac takes the easy way out. He moves from Gerar to Beersheba, singing the “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. “… You got to know when to turn away, know when to run.” His relationship problems with his neighbours are reflected in the names he gives to the wells he dug. Esek – “argument”, Sitnah – “hostility”. He’s not having a good day by the time he gets to the end of Genesis 26. Ever feel like this? Alienated? Rejected? Excluded?

JEALOUSY and prejudice is a terrible thing. It’s like a splinter that irritates you and becomes infected. It also separates you in terms of your relationships. It seems that even Abimelech is jealous and intimidated by Isaacs wealth and power. And since a leader sets the culture, he orders Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.” (Genesis 26:16 NLT). “FOREIGNERS, GO HOME!” God promised this land to Isaac and his descendents but now he finds that he is a foreigner in his own land.

Jesus had the same thing happen to Him. John 1:10-12 (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. But to all who believed Him and ACCEPTED Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

God always has a way of turning CURSING TO BLESSING and Isaac keeps moving until God opens the way for him. It takes a while but I know that as I trust in God He dispels my fears and reaffirms His desire to bless me and impact future generations. He brings me to the place where, like Isaac, I can dig wells such as REHOBOTH, which means “the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22). That’s when I know that I am SUSTAINED by Him and, like Isaac, I build an altar to WORSHIP Him and spend time listening to what He has to say about my life (Genesis 26:23-25). I return to that place where I am closest to God.

Beersheba is an invitation to DRAW CLOSE TO GOD. It speaks of that place where God says to me “Be strong and courageous! …. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT). It is that place where God says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Philippians 4:6 (NLT) echoes these words “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” It is a place where you are ACCEPTED as a child of God. You can find Him waiting for you there right now.

Pastor Ross

Part 11 – Matthew 12:22-37 – THE MUSIC OF MY SOUL

“Where’s my…” “On the kitchen bench” “…keys”. “What happened to my…” “It’s in the washing machine. You wore it yesterday.” My wife knows my thoughts before I ask. It’s uncanny. “Do you know where my…” “On your desk” “…phone is”. She is intimately acquainted with my habits, thoughts and absent mindedness.

Matthew 12:25 (NLT) says that “Jesus knew their THOUGHTS…” because God is intimately acquainted with the ways, thoughts and WORDS of the human race. He’s even better than my wife at this and that is saying something.

The Pharisees reject Jesus but then they proceed to SLANDER His name before the people. They say in Matthew 12:24 (NLT) “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons.” They obviously didn’t say this directly to Jesus, but Jesus knows what they are thinking. Jesus replies powerfully, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” (Matthew 12:25 NLT)

How did Jesus know what the Pharisees were thinking? Did He just anticipate what they were thinking? Was this a WORD OF KNOWLEDGE? (1 Corinthians 12:8). I am aware of this when I pray – that I can’t keep even my thoughts from Jesus. So often in His presence, He asks me His probing questions and provides correction to the twisted pathways of my thinking and to my sinful attitudes. He aligns my thinking with His so that I am not double-minded and at odds with Him. He gets me thinking in terms of victory, not defeat. No compromise. And my life starts to SING.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew12:33 (NLT) “A tree is identified by its FRUIT. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” Great analogy! Jesus produces good fruit in the WORDS He speaks. He is speaking in the power of the Spirit. And that doesn’t mean He had to watch His words or that that His words were so WATER-WEAK, warm and affectionate to everybody that they had no impact. He is SCATHING in His words to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:34-35. He says “You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you SPEAK what is good and right? For whatever is in your HEART determines what you SAY. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” It takes courage to say this to powerful men.

But Jesus, of course, is right. Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) says “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” so how can I SPEAK from the treasury of a good heart? I am doomed if it all stops here? It gets worse in Matthew 12:36-37 “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you SPEAK. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”  

If my heart writes the music of my life then my WORDS are the LYRICS OF THE SOUL. I can tell from the lyrics what is in your heart. Open your mouth and I can hear what kind of song is in your heart.

David’s prayer in Psalms 51:10 (NLT) gives me HOPE. He cries out to God, “Create in me a CLEAN HEART, O God…” In Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT), as if in answer, God says “…I will give you a NEW HEART, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” As He writes the MUSIC OF MY SOUL a clean heart sings the most amazing harmonies. And all of a sudden my words are translated into worship. My confession becomes a song of destiny.

Romans 10:9-13 (NLT) says the words I speak will determine my destiny. “If you CONFESS with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” …. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

God bless you Church as your words are translated into worship today.

Pastor Ross

 

Part 4 – Genesis 21:22-34 – WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF…

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I was talking with a Jewish friend at work the other day. She said “I don’t like evangelicals!” I said that it was unfortunate because I was one, and that she was working for an evangelical organisation. She said “I don’t like people trying to convert me!” I said that as I share with people about Christ in my life and live out my genuine faith in Christ that I hoped that those around me will see in me something they will also want to have in their lives. She accepted that explanation of being an evangelical. She just didn’t want to be FORCED. I can understand that. I hope she understands that I want my influence to have eternal value.

What would it look like if I were to LIVE MY LIFE in such a way that people could see the PRESENCE OF GOD IN ME? Abraham lived his life like this. At one point a king called Abimelech comes to him and says, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do.” (Genesis 21:22 NLT)

2 Corinthians 8:21 (NLT) says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to SEE that we are honourable.” What is it that people see in me that indicates the PRESENCE OF GOD?

If you had asked Abimelech about his INITIAL IMPRESSIONS of Abraham were when he first met him, he would say that he was a LIAR and lacked integrity, untrustworthy and a believer who didn’t seem to have much trust in God, someone willing to put everyone in danger to save his own neck. Proverbs 12:19-20 (NLT) says “TRUTHFUL WORDS stand the test of time, but LIES are soon exposed. DECEIT fills hearts that are plotting evil; JOY fills hearts that are planning peace!” Proverbs 11:11 (NLT) says “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, ..”

1. I want people to SEE GOD IN ME as they see how committed I am to living a life of INTEGRITY.

I really like the way there’s an HONEST EXCHANGE here. Abimelech is so HONEST with Abraham. He comes right out and says, “Swear to me in God’s name that you will NEVER DECEIVE ME, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.” (Genesis 21:23 NLT) Abimelech has already been on the other end of Abraham’s deception. He wants some ASSURANCE OF ENDURANCE. He doesn’t want to be under God’s death sentence again. He also sees the benefit of connection with Abraham, a rich and powerful man. Abraham replies, “Yes, I swear to it!” (Genesis 21:24 NLT) What else could you say? This is a great way to MAKE AMENDS for being such a jerk.

2. I also hope that people see that I serve and honour God by the way I am willing to DEAL WITH CONFLICT head on. Let’s get things OUT IN THE OPEN before they cause a rift in my relationships. Abraham does this. He complains “to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants.” (Genesis 21:25 NLT) Abimelech can then do something about it.

3. I also want people to see God in me through my GENEROSITY. They make a covenant, a peace treaty, a business deal, but Abraham’s generosity goes beyond just making a legal agreement (Genesis 21:27). He gives a special gift to establish their relationship even more firmly. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says, “The GENEROUS will prosper; those who REFRESH OTHERS will themselves be refreshed.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Teach those who are rich in this world … to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” 

4. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree “and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.” (Genesis 21:33 NLT). God is eternal and connecting with Him has eternal consequences. John 3:36 (NLT) says “…anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”  

I want people to see God in me by the way I WORSHIP HIM. I don’t need to go around planting tamarisk trees but I do need to leave a LEGACY OF WORSHIP and look back on the times and places where God has met with me. Jesus used wine and bread once with His discipes to say, “Remember me”.

God bless you Church as people see your integrity, your willingness to deal with conflict, your generosity and mostly how you acknowledge and worship our eternal God. May people know through your words and actions that God offers eternal life through Christ. Make a difference that counts for eternity today.  

Pastor Ross