Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

 

 

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

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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

Part 4 – Genesis 18:16-30 – JUST PASSING BY AND SAW YOUR LIGHT ON …

Saw Your Light On...

He slipped away into eternity peacefully the other day as we stood by his bed. The family and I held hands and prayed as an old man who loved the Lord and loved his family was in that moment absent from the body and present with the Lord. Peace and tears filled the room and I noticed one young woman held a baby in her hands. The next generation to be blessed in this Godly family.

How empty it seemed as I stand by the bed of other families who do not know the Lord. Emptiness fills the room and there was no eternal legacy or light shining for another generation to walk in. The contrast is stark and I feel the uneasy tension of those who have rejected God and do not want to talk to a Pastor.

So it is even more sobering as I read about these men in Genesis 18 were on their way to Sodom to visit those who had rejected God! Sodom would be destroyed.

So why did they stop off at Abraham’s place first? Just passing by, saw your light on and thought we would drop in? Lord, let me have that kind of light, but what was the point of eating a meal with Abraham and then going on? Why didn’t they just head towards Sodom straight away?

The only thing I can think of is that God passes my way when I respond positively towards Him and His Word. And as He gets closer, He TESTS MY RESPONSE to Him. He is always concerned with RELATIONSHIP.

When three strangers came to visit him, I don’t think Abraham knew that one of them was the Lord Himself. Abraham greets them with true Eastern hospitality. His response to strangers was to address their leader with respect. Abraham calls Him “LORD”, he bows to the ground in the posture the same as WORSHIP, He SERVES Him humbly and personally. And when he prepares a meal for Him there is a SACRIFICE involved.

Reminds me a little of Matthew 25:34-40 which speaks of when we die and stand before Jesus. It says we will say “…‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ ‘And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!'”

Hospitality and respect certainly wasn’t the kind of greeting these strangers received in Sodom! BIG CONTRAST between Abraham’s greeting and how Sodom responded to the presence of the Lord’s messengers. OUR RESPONSE TO THE LORD DETERMINES OUR DESTINY.

But I see another important principle here. When my response to God is one of WORSHIP, SERVICE, AND SACRIFICE, then and only then am I ready to begin to learn what HIS WILL for my life is. I will look for the opportunities He gives me to be a BLESSING TO OTHERS, to THINK GENERATIONALLY. I will accept God’s GRACE AND HIS JUSTICE, HIS PROMISES AND PRONOUNCEMENTS and they will begin to make sense to me in the enormous scheme of things. I will even understand what it means when God says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 NLT) and I will begin to see the BIG PICTURE OF FORGIVENESS BASED ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS.

This same principle of understanding God’s will is summed up in Romans 12:1-3. It says…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour 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.”

As Abraham worships, serves and is willing to sacrifice the best to God, God says “SHOULD I HIDE MY PLAN FROM ABRAHAM?” the Lord asked. “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be BLESSED THROUGH HIM. I have singled him out so that he will DIRECT HIS SONS AND THEIR FAMILIES to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” (Genesis 18:17-19 NLT)

God bless you Church as you respond positively to God’s Word and the message of the Cross. As you worship, serve and sacrifice the best to God, may you know His good and perfect will for your life today.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 8 – Part 2 – SAVE OUR ANIMALS! ARK OR ALTAR?

Julie and I move to Sydney on Monday night. We’ve done all the packing and I still need to pack away the last vestiges of files from my study, a never ending process. We are looking forward to getting to Sydney after a couple of days journey in the car. 26 hours driving time, so I can put on the timer and I won’t have to ask “Are we there yet!” I am looking forward to getting out of that car already at the other end and sorting out what we will be doing.

Noah stepped out of the ark to a whole new world. Now don’t get the wrong view of this. When Noah stepped off the boat, it wasn’t like I have seen in the picture books and children’s stories – all sunshine and a big rainbow, and the animals are all smiling. And there’s trees and there’s rivers and there’s green grass everywhere. I am sure that wasn’t what they saw.

They came off that ark, and there was death everywhere and desolation, and a landscape devastated by flood – incredible erosion and upheaval. I’m sure there was plant life, but it probably wasn’t profuse. It still had to develop and grow again. It certainly wasn’t like Eden. It would have been the opposite of that. It was a destroyed planet.

And when they walked off, maybe the first thing that they saw were carcasses and dry bones. Massive evidence of death and destruction, the aftermath of judgment.

I bet one of the questions Noah had was “Well lord, where do we go from here?”

That’s the question all of us ask when we’ve had the faith and trust to put your life into God’s hands, and Noah answers that question.

Genesis 8:20 (NIV) says “then Noah built an altar to the lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.”  

The first thing Noah did in verse 20 was build an altar. Where do you go when the world you knew has been ripped apart, and all you see is the aftermath of the storm – when you really come to grips with what life would be like without God.

Noah says to me and you, “Build an altar – totally surrender your life to Christ in an act of worship”

Genesis 8:20 (NIV) says “then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.”  

God didn’t command him to do that. It was a freewill offering. By the way, some people think that there were only 2 of every animal in the ark, but Noah was told to take 2 of every unclean animal and 7 of every clean animal (or domesticated animals) into the ark. (Genesis 7:2-3)

Noah’s reputation with the Animal Rights movement was good until this time, but in the Bible, a burnt offering is primarily a recognition of total devotion to the lord. There were some offerings where you put it on the altar and burned some of it and you ate some of it. But a burnt offering was totally consumed in the fire, and it was a picture of total devotion, total dedication to the Lord. You gave everything to the lord. You didn’t keep anything back for yourself. You just gave your all.  

If you just got off the Ark you would say, that is very generous offering. Remember, it’s not as if there’s a lot of animals around. In fact there was an animal shortage! Nevertheless, he didn’t say “Look, we don’t have a lot of animals here to populate the whole world, so I’m just going to hold back a little on the offering side of things. Things are tight at the moment. We have a severe animal shortage. He didn’t do that! He took from every clean animal and every clean bird he had, slaughtered them, and burnt them all totally on the altar, as an act of unrestrained worship. When it came to giving worship to God He didn’t hold back.

By this time the animal rights groups would have notified the authorities. As they held up their placards saying “SAVE OUR ANIMALS FROM EXTINCTION” Noah would have been fined thousands of dollars. Fortunately for Noah, it was the animal rights group that had become extinct!

If you just survived a worldwide flood, would you be giving up your livelihood by giving God the best of all you had. What did Noah need the most? The domesticated animals and he gave one seventh of his livestock to God, as a sacrifice.

This wasn’t just a tithe. Like one woman said to her pastor, “Pastor, I can’t afford a tenth of my income. I’ll have to give you a seventh instead!”

It requires faith to give to God and risk. If the storm is a financial storm, it doesn’t make sense to give.

There is a choice involved in obeying God, and building an Ark. And there is a choice involved in worshiping God and building an altar. No ark, no altar. You won’t know what it’s like to worship, until you appreciate what it’s like to be saved, and then your worship will never be something trivial. It will be a wholehearted expression of thanksgiving.

This is the first mention in the bible of an altar. Cain and abel gave an offering, but there’s no indication about an altar. This is the first time an altar is used for the purpose of sacrifice.

You may be asking like Noah, “Where do I go from here?” Here and now is your opportunity to build an altar, to totally dedicate your life to Christ.  

Romans 12:1 (NASB) says Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

So the altar is a picture of total devotion, total dedication to the Lord, where you give everything to the Lord. You don’t keep anything back. You just give all of yourself to the Lord.

God bless you Church as you declare “I’ve been saved in order to serve unreservedly, total commitment. It’s no longer ark building time. It’s altar building time!” It’s time to give sacrificially! Of time and talent and yes, of treasure. Worship for me must never be just being there on Sunday. It involves sacrifice, giving of myself completely to Christ. He want’s my heart.

Pastor Ross